Why Some Businesses Have No Directory Services

Written by Rajat Bhargava on February 10, 2015

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Directory services are at the center of a business’s network, perhaps as critical as the underlying network infrastructure itself. This is because the directory service is one of the most integral components to ensuring that every employee has the proper access to all of a business’s applications, software, devices, systems, networks, and other IT resources.

Yet, interestingly, some businesses have no directory service. The question, then, is why would any organization forgo this critical piece of infrastructure?

The truth is, no company can get away from controlling access to IT resources, but there are multiple ways that connecting users to IT resources can be accomplished. Most often, an IT admin uses a piece of software to help automate the process (a user directory store). In other cases, IT admins manage this task manually.

In talking with thousands of organizations all across the globe, JumpCloud® discovered that there are a wide variety of reasons why IT admins choose to go without directory services. However, we also know that some of these concerns are shortsighted.

Below, we cover what some of these are as well as provide evidence as to why some of these concerns have been alleviated with the rise of modern, cloud-based directory solutions.

“Our Organization is too Small”

small organization

Some organizations feel they’re too small to deal with the overhead of implementing a directory. For these companies, manual management of access control is easier. It’s less time consuming, cheaper, and offers direct control. Most of these IT admins manage the connections in their head because there are just a few of them. As an organization grows—even over 5 users—remembering who has access to what IT resources is difficult.

How DaaS Solves this Problem

A Directory-as-a-Service® (DaaS) model, which follows popular SaaS protocol, is a “pay-for-what-you-use” model. Scale your users and payments as your company grows so that you’re not paying for a software solution that’s too big for your company, but you have the ability to grow with existing processes and systems. If you use JumpCloud, the first 10 users are free forever, so there is no reason not to have a directory, even if you are small!

“We have no On-Premise Infrastructure”

Other organizations don’t have any on-premise infrastructure. These companies are “born in the cloud”, or in other words they are all cloud. They lack the infrastructure to have servers on-premise or the ability to manage them. Some companies may utilize outsourced IT management firms. Directory services historically have been placed on-premise and without the ability to host and manage the servers and software, a cloud-forward organization bypasses this critical capability.

How DaaS Solves this Problem

If your company is in the cloud, management of it can be as well. Cloud-based directories are fully compatible with cloud-based servers, integrations, devices, and employees. Your business and its management can both live without touching the ground. Thinking that there isn’t anything to manage because your resources aren’t on-prem is inaccurate, and a security risk.

“Directory Services are too Complicated to Implement!”

Complicated Directory

It’s true, directory services are complex and complicated. Virtually every IT resource—devices, cloud infrastructure, internal applications, web-based applications, and networks—needs to be connected to a directory. While some of these connections are straightforward, others are not. There are complications around OS platforms, protocol support, networking, and security. OpenLDAP, the leading open source LDAP implementation, requires significant technical knowledge to manage and maintain. While AD is a bit easier to install, configuring and managing all of the different pieces of functionality is a full-time IT role. For many organizations, the level of effort doesn’t match up with the perceived benefits.

How DaaS Solves this Problem

Why not outsource the heavy lifting? By using an outsourced directory service, the complicated configurations, management, and ongoing maintenance are shifted to the service provider, allowing your IT admins to focus on bigger problems.

“I don’t think Directory Services can Support Modern IT Infrastructure”

Many IT organizations have changed their infrastructure. No longer are they virtually 100% Microsoft nor are IT devices and applications exclusively on-premise. In fact, according to Forbes Microsoft is only 1 in 5 devices today. With the advent of the cloud, IT infrastructure is living off-prem, like SaaS-based Google Apps, Salesforce, Box, and many others. IT departments are also learning to leverage cloud-based infrastructures, or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). However, as IT professionals know, the cloud complicates traditional directory service solutions. AD and LDAP directories struggle to connect and manage IaaS and SaaS. For all of these reasons, modern companies often skip directory services!

How DaaS Solves this Problem

Your business and its management can both live without touching the ground. Cloud-based directories are fully compatible with cloud-based servers, integrations, devices, and employees.

“Too Expensive to Run”

As critical as directory services are to an organization, the cost to run the directory often outstrips an organization’s ability to pay for it. Of course there are hardware and software costs, but the real hidden cost of directory services is in the ongoing management. Users come and go. Devices are added and decommissioned. Applications are added into the mix. All of this requires IT admins to be engaged with their directory to update the connections. Further, a directory needs to be up 100% of the time and as a result it takes infrastructure and management. Current directories take time and money to run which is an impediment to a large number of organizations.

How DaaS Solves this Problem

Again, a Directory-as-a-Service model is a “pay-for-what-you-use” model. The clear ROI of Identity-as-a-Service allows businesses to responsibly manage their employees and resources without breaking the bank.

The Takeaway?

For some organizations the right answer is to have  no directory services. In most cases, however, the reasons to do so aren’t the right ones. Virtually all of these drawbacks can be solved through modern directory services. A solution such as JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service® takes the heavy lifting out of implementing and managing directory services but keeps the cost-effective pay-for-what-you-use SaaS model.

If you or your organization has opted to go without a central user store, take the time to re-evaluate. Look into Directory-as-a-Service and see if that can solve some of the drawbacks while giving you the benefits you are looking for.

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is co-founder and CEO of JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS). JumpCloud securely connects and manages employees, their devices and IT applications. An MIT graduate with two decades of experience in industries including cloud, security, networking and IT, Rajat is an eight-time entrepreneur with five exits including two IPOs, three trade sales and three companies still private.

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