Why Are Directory Services Important?

Written by Kayla Coco-Stotts on February 20, 2020

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Why are directory services important? Directory services are meant to function as the authoritative identity provider (IdP) for all of an organization’s IT infrastructure, which means the directory you choose for your organization is incredibly important. It becomes the source of truth for authentication and authorization throughout your digital workspace. 

Below, we’ve outlined considerations most IT teams make when selecting their directory service, as well as a couple of providers they may evaluate when making these important decisions.

What to Consider When Picking a Directory

When considering which directory service is right for you, it’s important to understand the needs of your current infrastructure, as well as anticipate future demands. 

  • Are your end users authenticating to a number of web-based applications? 
  • What operating systems does your organization house? 
  • Are your users going to be working remotely? 

The list of requirements may be lengthy, but it should pertain to securing/authenticating users, their systems, applications, and networks. As a starting point, IT teams should evaluate directory services that securely manage the following:

  • User provisioning and deprovisioning 
  • Authentication to both on-prem and web-based applications
  • Securing network access over wired and wireless networks
  • System management across any platform, such as Windows®, macOS®, and Linux® 

Using these modern requirements as a guideline, IT teams can dramatically reduce time spent configuring and monitoring users and their applications, systems, and networks. By approaching this decision with your requirements already in mind, you can better narrow your choices and pick a directory service that works well for your specific use case. 

Choosing the Right Directory Service

As stated above, the search for the right directory service depends on the resources you need to connect your users to. In any case, we’ll be comparing two directory services that often function as the primary identity provider in an enterprise.

Active Directory

Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) is the most well-known on-prem directory service in existence today. For decades it served as the premier choice for identity and access management (IAM), as it authenticated users to all on-prem, Windows resources through a single interface.

However, as cloud-based software has exploded in popularity, AD has struggled to natively connect users to resources some organizations find vital. AD only natively authenticates to Windows systems, and it does not provide the same amount of secured control (such as with group policy objects) over macOS® and Linux® devices.

In addition, without the implementation of cloud-based SSO solutions (such as Azure® Active Directory), AD does not natively authenticate user credentials to web applications like Salesforce®, G Suite™, Office 365™, Slack®, and Dropbox. For most organizations, Active Directory can be made to work with modern IT infrastructure with the addition of third-party add-ons.

However, the bottom line is that AD is highly tailored for on-prem, Windows-centric environments. If your organization plans to utilize cloud software or non-Windows systems, AD may be a costly, time-consuming choice because of the number of third-party add-ons it would likely require.

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service

JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service® (DaaS) is an IdP with a focus on securely connecting users to all their resources. However, unlike AD, DaaS is platform-agnostic and cloud-based, so it authenticates users to virtually anything they may need.

Through protocols like LDAP, SAML 2.0, and RADIUS, IT teams can securely connect users to both on-prem and cloud-based applications and networks. In addition, DaaS provides system management across all major platforms, and through GPO-like Policies IT teams can manage fleets of systems efficiently.

DaaS is ideal for enterprises looking to adapt alongside technological innovations; it’s leveraged entirely from the cloud “as-a-service,” removing the upkeep associated with on-prem servers and other hardware.

Still Questioning Which is Right for You?

If you’re curious about the right directory for your organization, feel free to contact us. You can also sign up for a personalized demo to see DaaS in action, or you can register up to 10 users for free, forever.

Kayla Coco-Stotts

Kayla is a content writer at JumpCloud with a B.A. in Print Journalism from the University of Kentucky. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri, and loves to eat good food and hike Boulder's beautiful trails when she is not writing.

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