Why is Active Directory® So Important

Written by Ryan Squires on December 24, 2018

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With more and more IT admins shifting their IT infrastructure to the cloud, many are wondering, “Why is Active Directory (AD) so important to my organization?” In fact, many are questioning why they need Active Directory on-prem at all when they are shifting to new systems, cloud infrastructure, and a whole slew of non-Windows/ Microsoft resources. In this blog post we’ll examine why an identity provider, not necessarily Active Directory, is so crucial.

Identity and User Access

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First, while the question of why AD is so imperative to an organization is an important one to answer, we should really broaden the conversation to a question about why controlling identities and user access is so essential for an organization. This field of IT is called identity and access management (IAM). Strong IAM allows IT admins to control who can and can’t access a given IT resource.

A robust directory service should allow you to quickly provision and deprovision user access to resources. It should also enable you to group users so each can access specific applications, files, and networks. This sort of power is what makes a directory so important.

Active Directory: Dominance by Design

Of course, Active Directory has become synonymous with identity and access management stemming from Microsoft’s historical dominance in the IAM space. Microsoft’s leadership in the on-prem identity space isn’t all that surprising because the computing platform most commonly used in the late ‘90s until now has been Microsoft Windows.

So, Microsoft was smart to create a Windows-based directory (AD) to manage the Windows systems where computing was happening at the time. That marriage made Microsoft the preeminent player in directory services for nearly two decades now. But, with the emergence of non-Windows resources, AD has struggled to enable access to them.

Active Directory: A Design Left in the Past

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As we know, the only constant is change. The IT landscape started to shift and morph to become more cloud-based and less Windows-centric. This shift has made a significant number of IT admins wonder why Active Directory is so important in the face of these changes. For many of the new resources they are tasked with managing, AD requires numerousf add-ons to make them work.

So, IT admins are wondering if there is a cloud-based alternative that isn’t so tightly tied to Windows. For example, non-Windows tools now in many IT environments include remote AWS® cloud servers, the G Suite™ productivity platform, Mac® and Linux® endpoints, cloud and on-prem file servers like Box™ and Samba, and many more. Each requires a different workaround or layer on top of AD, which is far from ideal.

An Active Directory Challenger Emerges

The good news is that there is a modern approach to directory services that is enabling IT organizations to replace Active Directory. In fact, it is a reimagination of Active Directory made for the cloud era. This reimaginiton is called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. It allows IT admins to connect their users to a wide array of new tools without the need for bulky add-on tools to Active Directory that require substantial time and capital investment. JumpCloud allows users the option to pick the tools they want, while providing IT admins the power to manage those choices with ease.

In this light, in a recent customer interview, Brian Kastor of AIS in Chicago has the same question that many IT admins may be wondering now. Kastor said, “I just don’t understand why someone would pay to run a NPS (Network Policy Server) – especially if they’re not running Exchange. What is it exactly that you’re using Microsoft for? You want to store files and login. Well, there’s better ways to do that.”

Learn More About JumpCloud

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When wondering, “Why is Active Directory so important?” take inventory of your environment. Maybe AD isn’t all that important for you with your evolving IAM needs. If that’s the case, sign up today for a free JumpCloud account. Your free account will allow you to manage up to 10 users and their systems for free, forever. Once signed up, get the most you can out of your account by visiting our Knowledge Base, blog, and YouTube channel.

Ryan Squires

Ryan Squires is a content writer at JumpCloud, a company dedicated to connecting users to the IT resources they need securely and efficiently. He has a degree in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.

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