Upgrade the Google Apps user store to a real directory

Written by Rajat Bhargava on October 3, 2014

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Google claims that over 5 million businesses are now paying for Google Apps. With the primary driver of Google Apps generally being hosted email, that’s a lot of businesses moving away from Microsoft Exchange to cloud-based email and a productivity suite. Assuming that the primary interest of Google Apps is the email component, the benefits of a cloud-based service are enormous. Small organizations (and even large ones) don’t need to manage the on-premise Microsoft Exchange along with everything that entails. Further, organizations can believe in Google’s scale and ability to manage and secure the email given the hundreds of millions of users they already have on the Gmail side.

For businesses, though, the enterprise Google Apps offering creates an interesting dynamic with two categories:

1. Google Apps And Active Directory

Some organizations have a foot in each camp. They have one in the cloud world and one in the traditional Microsoft on-premise world. That’s a tough place to be because you have to manage both models and styles of solutions. We’ll talk more about that in a separate post.

2. Google Apps And No Directory

Many smaller organizations go with Google Apps and opt to not have a central directory such as Active Directory or OpenLDAP at all. In this case, they use GApps as the de facto directory, even though it is not meant to be a full-fledged directory. Google does allow you to store some directory-like information. However, the challenge is that it doesn’t let you do two major things: you can’t authenticate your users and devices (note you can do some SSO with third-party Web sites/apps through OAuth and SAML) and you cannot manage your devices. Most admins that have used Active Directory think of a directory in a pretty broad and powerful way. GApps is a great hosted email. However, it doesn’t let you create a single, powerful user directory to authenticate, authorize, and manage users, devices, and applications.

If you would like to have a single user directory of record, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Google doesn’t solve that problem. If you have chosen enterprise GApps, though, the benefits of a cloud-based system are obviously not lost on you. So, choosing a new user directory solution that is cloud-based and syncs with the GApps’ model is critical.

JumpCloud® And GApps

A large part of the reason that we created our Directory-as-a-Service® solution was because of what we saw in the market with GApps. Google shifted the model of email from being on-prem and self-managed to be in-the-cloud and SaaS-based. Our goal with JumpCloud’s cloud-based directory is similar – to shift what is today a largely on-prem and self-managed solution to be outsourced and cloud-based. For organizations leveraging GApps, this is a powerful complement.

Users can be placed in JumpCloud and imported into Google, single sign-on solutions, or your cloud infrastructure (IaaS). Further, JumpCloud’s virtual cloud directory enables management of devices as well. Other critical features include LDAP-as-a-Service, hosted RADIUS, multi-factor authentication, SSO via SAML, and authentication event logging. In short, you have a nice alternative to Active Directory which is consistent with Google Apps’ model. Cloud-based. Third-party managed. Simple. Scalable. Effective.

Benefits Of A Real Cloud-Based User Directory

You get to leverage the power of GApps and marry it with JumpCloud, a real cloud-based user directory. The benefits are tremendous. You can now move some of the last pieces of on-premise equipment (Microsoft AD / domain controller) if you have it and shift it to the cloud. No more equipment to manage. You also can reduce your reliance on Microsoft and stop paying those expensive licensing fees. The other significant benefit is that you can now centralize your user directory to work with all of your users, devices, applications, and networks. For instance, you can get control over those cloud servers that can’t be easily managed by the Google user store or Active Directory.

Increasing security is generally on everybody’s mind. Especially with the compromise of credentials being one of the most significant ways people get in and steal data. With JumpCloud, you get to increase the security of credentials and control over devices. Managing devices is just as critical in the context of security. JumpCloud lets you do that across your different computer platforms.

Learn More About Directory-as-a-Service

For those of you on Google Apps and looking to take the next step with a user directory – a single user directory service for all of your users, devices, applications, and networks with the ability to manage your computers, drop us a line. We’d be happy to chat with you more about how to make it all work.

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