GPO Alternative for Windows

Written by Vince Lujan on August 30, 2019

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As IT organizations move away from Active Directory® (AD), the legacy directory services solution from Microsoft®, IT admins are in search of a group policy object (GPO) alternative for Windows®. The challenge is that there really hasn’t been a significant alternative to AD GPOs in the market, and with good reason too. 

After all, it has historically been next to impossible to beat Microsoft at their own game. GPOs, especially, have been the bread and butter of the AD platform for many years. Now, however, next-generation cloud directory services solutions have emerged that are essentially Active Directory and LDAP reimagined for the modern, cloud era. 

So, can any of them offer a true GPO alternative for Windows? Let’s take a closer look. 


Breaking Up with Active Directory

Don’t let your directory hold you back. Learn why it’s time to break up with AD.

GPOs Explained

First, let’s understand the logic behind traditional GPOs. 

Traditional Group Policy Objects are essentially templated configurations, commands, and scripts designed to enable IT admins to manage Windows system settings. GPOs came to be back when IT networks were primarily on-prem and based on the Windows OS (circa 1999). 

With so many Windows systems, especially in larger organizations, it made sense for IT admins to be able to manage common system policies. These included core IT functions such as screen lock timeout, password complexity, USB port functionality, full disk encryption (FDE), and more across their entire Windows fleet rather than having to configure them all individually. 

In short, GPOs meant that IT admins could configure policies on all of the Windows systems in their environment from one centralized location. 

Changes in the IT Landscape

Of course, as we all know, the IT landscape started to change dramatically in the 2000s with the introduction of macOS® and Linux® systems and, of course, the cloud. With respect to traditional GPOs, the introduction of macOS and Linux systems meant that IT admins could no longer configure system policies throughout their entire fleet as AD GPOs only worked for Windows. While this limitation was only a minor inconvenience at first (with a small number of macOS or Linux systems), now, it has IT admins pulling their hair out. 

Modern GPOs for Windows

Fast forward to today, almost two decades later, and modern AD GPOs still do not work for macOS and Linux systems (although there are plenty of directory extensions available to solve part of that problem). And, while we could go into all of the third-party tools required to extend AD GPOs to non-Windows platforms, the question here is really about a GPO alternative for Windows. 

Well, you might think that the obvious choice for a traditional GPO alternative would be Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure® AD DS platform, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. However, when you consider that Azure AD DS is still highly focused on Windows—and isn’t a true AD replacement as it still requires AD on-prem to manage systems that are not based in Azure—then it may make more sense to find a platform that enables policy management for all three major platforms (i.e., Windows, macOS, and Linux) from one centralized location in the cloud. 

GPO Alternative for Windows

JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service® features a robust library of system policies for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Similar to traditional GPOs, JumpCloud Policies enable IT admins to manage system policies such as password complexity, screen-lock timeout, USB port functionality, FDE enablement, and more—but this time it’s for cross-platform system environments both on-prem and remote, without the help of third-party tools.

JumpCloud offers over 1600 settings on the Windows platform, alone, that admins can control and manage through JumpCloud’s GPO-like Policies. So, if you’re looking for a cloud-based GPO alternative for Windows that also works for macOS and Linux without anything on-prem, give JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service a try. 

Learn More About JumpCloud

Contact JumpCloud to learn more about our GPO alternative for Windows. You can also sign up for a free account and schedule a demo to seem them in action today. We offer 10 users free forever to help get you started. 

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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