What is Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS)?

Written by Kelsey Kinzer on July 26, 2022

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Updated on April 18, 2024

More and more companies are turning to remote and hybrid work models. For IT departments, that means taking extra measures to ensure secure employee access to company resources — wherever they work.

But in a remote environment, all the necessary identity and access management (IAM) authentications for applications, company servers, and resources can be daunting. 

That’s where Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) comes in. IDaaS provides IT teams with a cloud-based, centralized system for managing and authenticating user access to various resources.

In this way, IDaaS improves employee productivity and the organization’s security posture, providing users with one authoritative identity to use across apps, documents, and servers. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about IDaaS — how it works, its benefits, and what to look for in an IDaaS provider.

What Is IDaaS?

IDaaS platforms are cloud-based identity providers that securely manage and connect user identities to operating systems, applications, and networks.

While other forms of identity management exist, they cause IT sprawl, which, in turn, increases security and compliance risks.

Microsoft Active Directory (AD), for instance, can’t manage Linux systems. To plug that gap, IT admins need to use a free identity provider like OpenLDAP. And because AD and LDAP are on-prem, admins must also layer SSO on top.

Without it, employees can’t securely access cloud-based apps and devices. That means IT is responsible for managing three different solutions: Active Directory, OpenLDAP, and web application SSO — just for identity management.

IDaaS platforms, by contrast, manage all that and more. Unlike AD, they support Windows, Mac, and Linux, LDAP, and even cloud RADIUS. The best IDaaS platforms also include device management, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and True Single Sign-On™ — all managed from a single view.

How Does IDaaS Work?

Most identity and access management (IAM) solutions use APIs to ping identity providers (IdPs) like Active Directory and then extend user identities to web applications, cloud servers, and other back-end systems.

But IDaaS platforms act as IdPs themselves, saving, managing, and confirming user identities through built-in authentication, authorization, and access control:

  • Authentication to verify users are who they say they are.
  • Authorization to verify users should have permission to access specific resources, and to denote what level of permission they should have.
  • Access control to give users permission to access each resource.

Benefits of IDaaS

There are many benefits to using an IDaaS platform over traditional identity management. Just a few include:

Improved Security and Compliance

Modern IDaaS lets you tightly control access, maintain compliance, and centrally increase security through features such as password complexity management, MFA/2FA, SSH keys, and single sign-on (SSO). 

IDaaS also makes compliance logs much simpler to track and procure. Since every instance is vetted and recorded by the cloud system, it’s easy to retrieve event data in case of a security breach.

Simplified User Management and Access Control

Unlike traditional user management platforms, true IDaaS solutions don’t need to link to an on-prem directory like Microsoft AD. Instead, user management is seamlessly integrated into identity management, referencing employees’ digital identities and provisioning, changing, monitoring, and revoking access to anything they use to do their jobs, like apps, documents, networks, and devices.

Scalability and Flexibility for Growing Organizations

The best IDaaS platforms have built-in workflow capabilities, eliminating the manual work that can come from company growth and expansion. That means IT can set up specific user profiles once and automatically deploy the correct device and app permissions automatically — as soon as a new hire onboards or offboards.

Plus, it’s all done in the cloud. No more installing and upgrading software, backing up data, and taking other security measures that would be necessary for on-prem solutions.

Cost Savings and Operational Efficiency

With IDaaS, organizations no longer have to pay for three or more tools — identity, access, and device management are all rolled into one. With more wiggle room in their budget and more time and energy, IT can take on more interesting, strategic projects.

5 Key Features of IDaaS

Robust IDaaS solutions come with five main features:

1. Single Sign-On (SSO) Functionality

In the AD/LDAP paradigm, IT admins had to find web-based SSO to support identity management for cloud-based apps. As discussed, this meant they had to manage three different applications.

Comprehensive IDaaS solutions have True Single Sign-On™ (True SSO) built in. Because it’s already cloud-native, True SSO grants access to virtually all modern systems, applications, networks, and files, whether cloud-based or on-prem. All a user has to do is sign in.

2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

IDaaS increases security beyond SSO by requiring multi-factor authentication at each login. This extra layer of protection makes it harder to launch internal and external cyberattacks, keeping cloud-hosted applications, networks, and other resources safe. From the IDaaS console, IT admins can lock down systems further, requiring SSH keys to access on-prem and cloud-based server access. 

3. User Provisioning and Deprovisioning

Since true IDaaS platforms incorporate user management, they allow IT to create new group memberships, assign users to those groups, and adjust them over time. When a company adopts a new platform, IDaaS solutions make it easy to onboard users with the right permissions. And they also make it easy to revoke those permissions once an employee leaves the organization.

4. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC goes right along with user provisioning and deprovisioning. The best IDaaS platforms simplify role-based access control with customizable workflows that automatically deploy appropriate permissions when:

  • An existing employee gets promoted
  • A new hire is onboarded in a specific department and/or role
  • A new application goes live post-implementation

Or any other similar use case. They also have adaptive authentication capabilities, meaning IT and MSP teams can give folks conditional access to systems or documentation to complete a specific task for a given period of time.

5. Audit and Reporting Capabilities

These days, nearly every company has specific compliance guidelines they need to follow:

  • SOC 2
  • SOX
  • ISO
  • GDPR 

…the list goes on.

Modern IDaaS solutions build these audits into your identity and user management, enabling your IT admin or MSP to pull proof that all systems are performing within the necessary guidelines at any point in time. They also have backend reporting modules to reveal system insights that might present opportunities for boosting efficiency or security. 

Choosing the Right IDaaS Solution

There’s a lot riding on your IDaaS solution — employee productivity, IT team productivity, and, most importantly, the security of company and customer data.

Making the wrong decision can impact all three, wasting valuable time and resources and putting your organization at risk. Make sure your IDaaS:

1. Is Cloud-Native, Not Cloud Compatible 

By definition, all IDaaS solutions are delivered from the cloud. But there’s a big difference between platforms adapted to the cloud and platforms created specifically for the cloud. 

Adapting legacy, on-prem solutions to work with the cloud is called “cloud washing,” and it almost always involves a clunkier, or more limited management experience compared to on-prem and cloud-native solutions.

Take Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Microsoft’s cloud-based directory, for example. Azure AD was designed as a cloud-option extension of on-prem legacy AD. It incorporates more cloud functionality than legacy AD, but traditional on-prem functions, such as group policy management, organizational unit management, and legacy authentication functions, are taken away. 

IDaaS products have no limitations to their cloud capabilities. They’re designed with remote work in mind — not adjusted to accommodate it after the fact — shifting installation and maintenance to the third-party provider.

2. Provides Core Identity Storage Through SSO

In this day and age, the key to cybersecurity is managing and maintaining just one core identity for each user. And that’s just not possible with on-prem identity management.

When IT admins provision user access through Active Directory, core credentials only give employees access to their workstations and Microsoft-based, on-prem networks, servers, and applications.

But today’s average user must access a wide array of non-Microsoft and cloud-based resources to do their job effectively. Without that access, users tend to circumvent traditional IT processes – and the resulting shadow IT opens the door to data breaches and noncompliance.

With native, cloud-based SSO, IDaaS platforms guarantee people are who they say they are, and that they have permission to use applications, networks, and systems — whether they’re accessed in the cloud or on-prem.

3. Supports Mixed Platforms, On-Prem, and Cloud Applications 

Windows was the dominant platform 15 years ago, but Linux is now the de facto platform of choice for technical users, and Mac has grown significantly in popularity — not just among creatives but among executives and average users, too.

In addition to that mixed OS environment, IT admins must manage on-prem and cloud-based applications. As we’ve explained before, the two often have different authentication protocols and methods. Cloud applications typically use SAML as the protocol, while many on-prem applications use LDAP. Balancing all these requirements is near-impossible for older identity management approaches to support.

Look for an agnostic IDaaS solution that offers complete, end-to-end management for any applications or resources you need to secure, no matter the protocol.

4. Improves Existing Security

Identities are the number one attack vector, so choosing a platform with top security features is instrumental in protecting your environment. Make sure the platforms you’re considering have the following security features. 

  • Password complexity requirements: This feature allows admins to institute password conditions that cybercriminals can’t easily guess or access. You can require a certain length, a mixture of letters, symbols, and numbers, and additional parameters like not allowing words or identifying information as part of the password.
  • Multi-factor authentication: This feature requires at least a two-part login process, including something the user knows (typically their password) and something they have (usually a time-based one-time password [TOTP] or push notification to a personal device). 
  • Secure shell (SSH) keys: Delivered in pairs, SSH keys ensure only people who possess the necessary key sets can gain access to the guarded applications or resources.

Choosing a next-generation IDaaS solution with these features allows organizations to authenticate a singular identity to their assets, regardless if those are stored on-prem or in the cloud. This ultimately creates a more centralized, secure foundation for IT teams to build their infrastructure on, and through True SSO, users can gain access to everything they need to Make Work Happen®

IDaaS offerings in the market

A one-size-fits-all IDaaS platform is tough to find. But there are some standalone identity and user management solutions on the market that you can use to support IAM, such as:

Azure AD

Azure AD works on top of Microsoft Active Directory. It provides SSO access to Salesforce, Dropbox, Slack, Workday, ServiceNow, Office 365, and Slack.

Azure AD makes sense for companies who still use legacy Active Directory but also use Azure and other cloud-based tools. For identity management, you must sync Active Directory with Azure AD, which means IT staff must use traditional on-prem devices and need to be familiar with maintaining them.


Okta is one of the first cloud-based SSO web apps. While web app SSO solutions like Okta are referred to as “first-generation Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) platforms,” they are just one part of the identity and user management package. Admins must still pair apps like Okta with a core on-prem identity provider, like Active Directory.

A multi-pronged approach like this can work. However, you have to be willing to accept the inherent security, error, and integration risks and eat the extra costs associated with implementing and maintaining multiple systems.


OneLogin is another SSO web app that integrates with commonly used directories like AD. The platform also includes user management features and MFA.

But, it has the same downfall as Okta — you must combine it with an on-prem core identity provider, which increases IT complexity and introduces risk.

If your company is moving in the cloud-first direction, switching your entire identity provider to a true cloud IDaaS platform is far more logical than doubling up on Active Directory-focused solutions like OneLogin. 

Google Cloud Identity

Google Cloud Identity is Google’s competitor to Microsoft AD. It comes with Google Workspace or Google Cloud Platform services and works across all Google apps, like Drive, Gmail, Docs, Sheets, etc. There’s a free version with limited features, or you can opt for the premium Google Cloud Identity plan that charges per-user per month.

Although Google Cloud Identity enables authentication to Google Cloud resources and web applications via SSO, it’s not designed to authenticate systems, servers, networks, or other IT resources not housed within Google. Ideally, you need to combine Google with a cloud identity provider that can securely and seamlessly enable authentication to all resources.


Securely connect to any resource using Google Workspace and JumpCloud.

A New Approach

As IT infrastructure continues to shift in favor of cloud-based software, it’s vital that all applications, systems, and networks be secured with the help of next-gen IDaaS tools that deliver full-spectrum usability, visibility, and management. Your IT environment is heterogeneous, and your IDaaS platform should be, too. That’s where JumpCloud comes into play.

Identity Management With JumpCloud

Built from the cloud for the cloud, JumpCloud’s open directory infrastructure follows open protocols like SAML, LDAP, RADIUS, and SCIM, allowing any heterogeneous resources to be connected and managed from a single source.

With the latest and greatest SSO, MFA, provisioning and deprovisioning, auditing, and reporting capabilities weaved in, IT admins can manage identity, access, and devices from a single pane of glass.

No more suffering through inefficient, piecemeal processes prone to human error — any unusual sign-on attempts or locations are immediately flagged and reviewed. Should a breach occur, an admin can revoke a device’s privileges without ever leaving their IDaaS platform, minimizing risk and disruption and enabling IT to tackle more pressing projects.

JumpCloud’s secure, frictionless, fully integrated system also provides a more streamlined login process for employees. End users get a single set of credentials that gives them access to all the applications and platforms they need, creating fewer points of vulnerability and decreasing password reset requests — users only have to remember one password instead of many.

Next-Level Identity-as-a-Service with JumpCloud

At worst, patchwork AD + LDAP + SSO solutions can lead to a major cyberattack. At best, they take valuable time away from your IT team — with no added ROI.

Why keep spinning your wheels?

Consolidate your tech stack and empower your IT team with JumpCloud, an IDaaS platform that can securely connect users to all of their IT resources — regardless of protocol, platform, provider, or location.

Request a demo, check out our pricing, or sign up for a free trial to give it a try yourself.

If you want to learn more about JumpCloud’s other products, head to our Guided Simulations Page — we’ve got interactive demos of everything from password management to MDM.

Kelsey Kinzer

Kelsey is a passionate storyteller and Content Writer at JumpCloud. She is particularly inspired by the people who drive innovation in B2B tech. When away from her screen, you can find her climbing mountains and (unsuccessfully) trying to quit cold brew coffee.

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