With so many facets of IT available from the cloud, many believe that the next big shift will be to a cloud directory service. It’s becoming more clear that Microsoft will be shifting customers away from their legacy Active Directory solution to something in the cloud, just as they are doing with all of their other solutions. At the moment, a couple of big hitters in the cloud directory space are Microsoft® Azure® Active Directory® (Azure AD or AAD) and JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. As IT organizations judge the best option for their needs, many are asking “why choose JumpCloud over Azure AD?”
The Cloud Directory Service Checklist
The question is a pertinent one, given JumpCloud’s position as an up-and-coming challenger in the directory services space (see JumpCloud’s reviews on G2 Crowd to see how well it is being received). JumpCloud’s platform is an all in one access control and device management platform. JumpCloud’s goal is to replace a number of other solutions to streamline your IT infrastructure. Specifically, JumpCloud aims to replace your on-prem IdP (identity provider), SSO (single sign-on) solution, MDM (mobile device management), MFA (multi-factor authentication), IGA (identity governance and administration), and more.
While no one solution will be a silver bullet for every organization, it’s best to dive into the aspects of each service to see which will best suit your organization’s needs. Generally, directory services are judged based on the following criteria:
Where does your organization operate best? Are you an on-premises enterprise, or do you want to be cloud-based? Have you completely shifted to remote work with the pandemic? Will you have a hybrid work environment after? Are you a managed service provider (MSP) with clients across the nation or even worldwide? All of these questions of location are essential when considering JumpCloud or Azure AD.
As a primer, Azure AD is used in a complementary fashion to the legacy, on-prem directory, Microsoft Active Directory (AD). By using Azure AD, IT administrators can link their on-prem AD instance to cloud-based resources — specifically Azure resources and select web applications. Besides that, however, Azure AD is designed more to be a user management system for Azure, rather than a cloud-based replacement to on-prem AD. Microsoft also assumes that you will be using Active Directory along with Azure AD and Azure AD Connect to bridge everything. Their reference architecture diagram is below.
On the other hand, the JumpCloud directory platform is completely cloud-based. For on-prem resources, JumpCloud takes advantage of the LDAP protocol to federate access to legacy applications, RADIUS for WiFi and VPNs, and the JumpCloud Agent can be downloaded onto any Windows®, Mac®, or Linux® system regardless of location. Of course, JumpCloud can also seamlessly manage access to resources in a hybrid or completely remote environment. With the JumpCloud web browser console, Slack app, PowerShell module, and APIs, user identities and access to systems, applications, file servers, and networks are managed from anywhere an admin is. JumpCloud also features a multi-tenant portal that enables MSPs to easily manage their spread of clients, all from a single pane of glass.
When it comes to systems, which OS does your organization need to deploy: Windows, Mac, or Linux? Or, perhaps all three? For many of today’s businesses, the answer is probably a heterogeneous blend of all three including possibly iOS and Android. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are also increasingly popular in organizations that value employee choice.
Azure AD, as a Microsoft product, is designed primarily for Windows 10 systems, and generally needs identity bridging software to include macOS® or Linux machines. Even when paired with Intune, Azure AD struggles to manage macOS and Linux user identities, properly configure those systems, and provide telemetry on each system. In short, even when paired with an MDM solution like Intune, IT admins and MSPs will likely still need more management control over their systems.
JumpCloud is platform agnostic, and provides largely the same functionality regardless of OS. JumpCloud’s system management capabilities include user management, multi-factor authentication, full disk encryption, GPO-like policies, and ad hoc command execution. Also included is Apple and Windows MDM functionality to enable deep configuration of macOS and Windows devices and security controls such as remote lock, wipe, shutdown, and more.
Also, with JumpCloud’s RADIUS-as-a-Service and Policy management, admins can tightly manage access to WiFi, VPNs and other networks, and remotely dictate how those systems behave in their IT environment. JumpCloud also leverages Zero Trust Security principles to ensure that the right identities are accessing the right resources through safe and secure devices and networks.
How does your company get work done? Are you based in Google Workspace™ or Microsoft 365™, or perhaps both? Does your infrastructure use AWS, GCP, or some other Identity-as-a-Service solution? In this case, JumpCloud extends user identities and control to these additional resources. While Azure AD is fairly adept at linking to web applications with a single sign-on (SSO) experience, Azure AD is designed first and foremost for Azure and Microsoft solutions, not necessarily ones from Google®, Amazon®, or others.
JumpCloud’s approach, however, creates a True Single Sign-on™ experience by providing users with one identity to access resources regardless of their solution provider, thanks to JumpCloud’s support for LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, and other standard protocols. A JumpCloud identity can be provisioned to a wide range of IT resources including key web applications via SCIM and Just-in-Time (JIT) provisioning.
Other key factors to consider include your organization’s approaches to security and compliance, as well as one of the biggest decision blocks, cost. JumpCloud’s data and telemetry services like System Insights™ and Directory Insights™ are embedded components to help organizations achieve compliance and enhance security. All of these questions and many others are critical when it comes to choosing between JumpCloud and Azure AD.
So, Why Choose JumpCloud Over Azure AD?
For organizations that are cloud forward and cross-platform, JumpCloud will be the right choice. For those that are mostly on-prem, Windows-based, and aren’t interested in leveraging the cloud (or only leveraging Azure), Azure AD may make the most sense. In either case, however, most companies will find that, in the long run, JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service platform is the more future-proof solution. Rather than purchase multiple solutions with Azure AD (e.g. Intune, AD, Azure AD DS, Azure AD Connect, Azure MFA, Azure VPN, etc. and more), IT admins and MSPs can simply leverage one cloud-based platform to cover identity and access management and control their systems.
Serverless and cost-effective, JumpCloud takes directory services to a new level: one that’s cloud-based and Makes Work Happen™ for most any organization. If your organization is considering choosing JumpCloud over Azure AD, contact us to learn more.
As always, your first 10 Directory-as-a-Service users and 10 systems are free, so by signing up for JumpCloud Free, you can take advantage of the platform for free, too. If you need a hand, our 10 days of premium 24×7 in app chat support can help get you going.