Mac Group Policy Objects (GPOs)

By Vince Lujan Posted January 20, 2018


The concept of Mac Group Policy Objects (GPOs) is a hot topic in modern IT organizations. GPOs are one of the most powerful aspects of the Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) platform. The challenge is that GPOs are exclusive to Windows® systems. As the world shifts to Mac (and Linux) systems, there is a need for GPO-like capabilities for Mac.

The good news is that a next generation directory service platform has emerged, called JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service®, that can provide GPO-like capabilities for cross platform system environments. Before we discuss how that is possible, let’s take a step back and discuss the benefits of GPOs for Windows systems.

Characteristics of GPOs for Windows Systems

cross-platform device management

GPOs are effectively prescribed commands and scripts designed to help IT admins configure a wide variety of Windows system behaviors. Examples of GPOs include commands that configure screen lock timeout, disable USB ports, manage guest access, and more. The key benefit is that GPOs enable IT organizations to manage fleets of Windows systems from one central management platform.

Microsoft pioneered the concept of Group Policy when they introduced AD in 1999. Group based policy management has been a huge hit with IT admins ever since. In fact, GPOs are one of the primary reasons why AD quickly became the most popular on-prem management platform for Windows users and systems in the early 2000’s.

The challenge has always been that GPOs only work for Windows systems. In other words, you are out of luck if you want to leverage GPOs for Mac and Linux system management. Additionally, AD is an on-prem identity provider designed for on-prem IT networks. That means IT organizations must invest significant capital and resources towards an on-prem identity management solution, all the while knowing that AD can only solve part of their system management challenges.

Of course, these challenges weren’t considered issues in the early days of Active Directory, given that most systems were Windows based and on-prem to begin with. However, the mid-2000’s brought about a variety of new innovations that would fundamentally change the IT infrastructure in most organizations.

For example, Mac and Linux began to break into the enterprise system market that had been dominated by Windows systems. Cloud applications like Salesforce started to replace on-prem applications like Oracle. Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers like AWS could even move the entire data center to the cloud. While these new innovations offered tremendous benefits for IT organizations, one consequence was that management with legacy identity providers like AD became a stumbling block.

Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, the world is moving to heterogeneous system environments and cloud solutions. This is why the concept of a Mac GPO equivalent is so powerful, especially when backed by a comprehensive cloud identity management platform that is akin to Active Directory on-prem. Enter JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service.

Cloud Identity Management feature Mac GPOs

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is Active Directory and LDAP reimagined. This hosted identity management solution securely manages and connects your users to their systems, applications, files, and networks. Through its diverse support of protocols, JumpCloud ensures any application, network, or file storage resource can be centrally controlled, whether on-prem or in the cloud. Add cross-OS support for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and JumpCloud is also able to ensure your system endpoints are secure.

By leveraging a cloud-based directory service, IT organizations can choose the best IT resources for the business, while off-loading the heavy lifting of managing an identity provider. Mac GPOs are a great example. JumpCloud adapts to your environment, putting control back in the hands of IT.

Learn More about Group Policy for Macs

Watch our whiteboard presentation to learn more about JumpCloud Policies. You can also contact the JumpCloud team, or sign up for a Directory-as-a-Service account today to discover the benefits of GPO-like capabilities for Mac. Your first ten users are free forever to help you explore the full functionality of our platform at no cost.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and videographer at JumpCloud. Originally from a small village just outside of Albuquerque, he now calls Boulder home. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found doing creek stuff.

Recent Posts