GPOs for Windows, macOS, and Linux

Written by Vince Lujan on May 28, 2019

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Is there an all-inclusive solution that offers GPOs (group policy objects) for Windows®, macOS®, and Linux® systems? It would certainly be helpful for IT admins in cross-platform system environments, which is the vast majority.

Unfortunately, traditional GPOs are Microsoft® constructs. As such, they are primarily for Windows-based systems unless you employ additional third-party tooling.

The good news is that a next generation Directory-as-a-Service®, by JumpCloud®, can provide GPOs-like Policies for Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. But first, let’s see what traditional GPOs are all about.

Group Policy Overview

Group Policy Objects have historically been one of the most powerful features of the Microsoft Active Directory® (AD) platform. GPOs basically enable IT admins to manage policies on fleets of Windows-based systems from a centralized control center.

GPOs can be used to configure screen lock timeout, password policies, guest access, USB ports, and a wide variety of Windows system policies. The key advantage with AD GPOs is that admins no longer have to configure system policies locally per system, but rather, remotely and in groups.

The challenge is that traditional GPOs only work for Windows systems in a pure AD environment. As macOS and Linux grow in popularity, it has become apparent that cross-platform GPOs for Windows, macOS, and Linux systems would be practical.

Of course, IT admins can layer add-on solutions on top of AD to extend GPO-like functionality to non-Windows resources. But the question is, is there an all-inclusive solution that offers GPOs for Windows, macOS, and Linux?

To answer that question, let’s break down the concept of GPOs even further.

Reimagining GPOs

We know that traditional GPOs are AD constructs, but what is a GPO? Well, at its core, a GPO is really just a templated command or script that is used to control a specific Windows system policy (through a registry setting, configuration, file or other process) such as one of the examples previously mentioned.

So, the concept of GPOs for macOS and Linux isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. The cross-platform approach is simply removing the Windows-centric focus of traditional GPOs.

To be fair, AD admins do have a library of GPOs at their disposal, which can be deployed from a centralized command center—but you don’t necessarily need AD for that either. All one really needs is a centralized command center that can be used to deploy a library of templated commands and scripts, and preferably for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

That’s where JumpCloud comes into play. Directory-as-a-Service is effectively AD reimagined. This comprehensive cloud identity management platform has taken a holistic approach to group-based policy management. Essentially, DaaS offers GPO-like functionality for Windows, macOS, and Linux—without the need for AD on-prem or additional third-party tooling.

Group Policy Management with Directory-as-a-Service

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is a next generation cloud identity and access management (IAM) platform that securely manages and connects users to their systems, applications, files, and networks. Cross platform GPO-like capabilities, called Policies in JumpCloud parlance, come standard.

JumpCloud Policies are effectively cross-platform, cloud GPOs. Just like traditional GPOs, they enable IT admins to configure many of the same system policies such as screen lock timeout, guest access, USB ports, and more.

JumpCloud Policies are also deployed from a centralized control center. The key difference is, of course, that JumpCloud Policies are delivered as a service and enable group policy management for Windows, Mac, and Linux, whereas AD is focused on-prem and really only supports Windows in a native sense.

Check out our whiteboard presentation for an in-depth description of JumpCloud Policies:

Learn More About Cross-Platform GPOs

Contact the JumpCloud team to learn more about GPOs for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can also sign up for a Directory-as-a-Service account and manage your cross platform IT environment with GPO-like capabilities today. Your first ten users are free forever to help you explore the full functionality of our platform at no cost.

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