Does Google Workspace Replace Exchange and Active Directory?

Written by Zach DeMeyer on October 27, 2020

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With the move to the cloud, and especially Google® Workspace™, the question at hand is, can Google Workspace replace Microsoft® Exchange and Active Directory®?

It’s a great question and really goes to the heart of what many IT organizations are trying to do. Ideally, they would like to move everything to the cloud and just leave their wireless access points local.

That means getting rid of Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory for many organizations. In a different era, those solutions were the core of just about every infrastructure. Today, that’s just not the case. So many organizations are looking to make Google Workspace the center of their IT universe.

Google Workspace: Complementary Productivity Solutions

Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, is a set of complementary productivity solutions. Perhaps the most important component is its hosted email. What started out as Gmail effectively is now an enterprise-class hosted email service. When you add in the ability to have cloud-based productivity applications, such as docs, sheets, presentations, video conferencing, chat, and more, you have the start of what many IT organizations believe is at the core of their IT services for their end users, hence the name Workspace.

Microsoft Replacements

The excitement for IT admins is the ability to provide high-quality services to their end users while also reducing their IT infrastructure footprint. Google Workspace’s email service is a direct replacement for Exchange. Their Drive product is a replacement for file servers. And, of course, their productivity apps can replace device installed Office and the cloud-based Microsoft 365™. With Google heavily targeting Microsoft replacements, it’s easy to see why IT organizations would think that Google Workspace could also replace Active Directory.

Limitations of Google Workspace Directory

Unfortunately, Google Workspace is not a replacement for AD. Google Workspace directory (in conjunction with Google’s Cloud Identity service) is really more of a user management system for Google Workspace, Google Compute Engine, and a select group of web applications. It doesn’t focus on natively authenticating systems (e.g. Mac, Linux), on-prem applications, cloud servers at AWS, or VPN / WiFi networks. Those are all things that IT organizations would want to do with a modern identity management platform. The good news is that a complementary solution, the JumpCloud® Directory Platform, can replace Active Directory and tightly integrate with Google Workspace.

JumpCloud ties one identity across all of those various and disparate IT resources, and specifically enables end users to leverage their same credentials for Google Workspaces across their Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, AWS and Azure cloud servers, on-prem and cloud application, physical and virtual data storage solutions, and WiFi and VPN networks.

As a combination, Google Workspace and JumpCloud can end up replacing the on-prem duo of Exchange and Active Directory. Better yet, the cloud directory service is independent, which means that organizations can use Windows, macOS, or Linux devices; a variety of Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers; Google Workspace or Microsoft 365; many different web applications; and much more. In a sense, it is a unified cloud directory.

JumpCloud and Google Workspace Replace Exchange and Active Directory 

If you would like to learn more about how Google Workspace and a cloud directory platform can replace Exchange and Active Directory, drop us a note. You can also try our cloud identity management platform. Your first 10 users and devices are free.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a Product Marketing Specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, music, and soccer.

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