An MSP Lead Technician’s Perspective on Integrating their Product Stack with JumpCloud
Altitude Integrations is a JumpCloud Partner with the imperative to shift their client organizations to the cloud for rapid onboarding, centralized management, and enhanced cloud security. As described in the accompanying business-focused case study with CEO, Brett Ramberg, Altitude Integrations is a cloud-forward managed service provider (MSP) rising to meet the needs of local and global organizations scaling their business. Beyond searching for a cloud-based solution with rapid onboarding capabilities and minimal maintenance, Altitude Integrations needed to find the right cross-platform tool that would integrate effectively with their product ‘stack’. Jan Kalkus, Altitude Integration’s Lead Technician, was kind enough to sit down with us and detail how integrating with JumpCloud has improved their technical process for client management.
- Organization: Altitude Integrations
- Size: 11 employees; approx. 125 clients
- Location: HQ in Boulder, CO, USA
- Problem: Altitude Integrations needed to replace Active Directory and transform their business model from break-fix to cloud-forward integrators.
- Goal: Altitude Integrations is determined to revamp their product stack and move all clients to the cloud.
“I am the lead technician at Altitude Integrations, so I look into all of our technology options and offerings, as well as planning our roadmap,” Jan said. “We like to focus on cloud-based productivity suites, so we do a lot with G Suite, email, documents, and we focus on business continuity, transformations, and technology integrations.”
As described in the accompanying business case study with CEO and Owner, Brett Ramberg, Altitude Integrations has recently transformed their business model and is now focusing entirely on providing cloud-based services and being a cloud-forward integrator.
“We focus on a lot of cloud-based services because they scale well, they don’t require much—if any—on-premises resources, and they’re very resilient towards any sort of outage or disruption in service.”
Being based out of the Boulder area, Altitude Integration’s local clientele is built around startups looking to onboard employees as fast as possible, as well as large organizations that look easily scalable and manageable with identity and access management solutions.
“We initially looked into JumpCloud because our clients were starting small but they had plans to grow very quickly. Whether it was one location, or multiple sites around the world, our clients were looking to scale,” Jan said.
Rapid onboarding is really just the tip of the iceberg for Altitude Integration’s up-and-coming client organizations. As these clients double and triple in size, other crucial internal processes, like password management and basic security, can get left by the wayside.
“Some of the biggest challenges we’re facing are security and, for lack of a better word, accountability. We see all sorts of problems arise when people try to rename or reuse accounts or credentials.”
Small organizations growing at high speeds tend to struggle with the traditional, on-prem maintenance requirements of Active Directory. Altitude Integrations saw this firsthand, and soon realized there had to be a better way. Not just for their clients, but for their own business as well.
“We found that using typical, traditional hardware just didn’t scale well. Installing a server everywhere required a lot of man hours to maintain, and we didn’t want to run all of the infrastructure in-house in order to withstand outages,” Jan explained. “We needed something that was highly scalable and highly available.”
Once Altitude Integrations made up their minds that the cloud was the only true way to enable their clients to scale effectively, they then took the time to survey the best options for integrating cloud-based services into their product stack. Many services were able to check off some of the boxes, but only JumpCloud could provide everything Altitude Integrations needed to fully migrate their clients to the cloud.
“So we certainly looked at competing services, and there were plenty of solutions that offered part of what we needed, but there wasn’t a competitor that could offer all of the features and services that JumpCloud did with one solution. In the end, that’s what sold us on JumpCloud.”
Jan went on to explain that because JumpCloud is protocol-driven, Partners like Altitude Integrations are free to select technologies of their choice for integration. As a result, Altitude Integration’s product stack, offerings, and business are more flexible, and can support a wider range of customer needs.
“One reason I love JumpCloud is that it supports many standard protocols, like SAML, RADIUS, and LDAP, and supports our specific vendor partnerships. That’s been huge for us because it doesn’t lock us in,” Jan said. “If we find a partner that does something better than another, we can switch and still use JumpCloud for our identity and access management. With JumpCloud, we have more freedom, and so do our clients.”
Ease of Use
Jan discovered that not only was JumpCloud more flexible than the alternatives they surveyed, but JumpCloud was also easier to use and faster to operate.
“Working with JumpCloud as opposed to the alternatives is just quicker and simpler. I can log in with my credentials, I can set policies for one machine, one group, or the whole company, and I don’t have to wait or retry things.”
Jan continued, “For example, when we’re deploying JumpCloud with a lot of sites, we’ll use a software distribution tool that allows us to set up a package that takes care of deploying the JumpCloud agent, and everything on the backend. The beautiful thing is I can accomplish this anywhere. I could be in the office, at home, or I could even be out on a bike ride somewhere and, all I have to do is just flip the necessary switch.”
As stated previously, finding a solution that secured access to resources and limited risk for the end user was a crucial element for Altitude Integrations to manage their clients. Thankfully, JumpCloud’s single sign-on (SSO) capability and cloud-based access were able to meet their needs and more.
“The biggest improvement for us and our clients is providing them with one set of credentials that they have to remember. They don’t have to keep track of all sorts of different accounts and passwords,” Jan said. “Also, our clients like the fact that JumpCloud is cloud-based. So, as long as they have an internet connection, our clients can access all of the services JumpCloud provides,” Jan said.
Replacing Active Directory
While Active Directory has been a mainstay of IT organizations for the past 20 years, MSPs and their client organizations alike are doing everything they can to move past it’s limitations in the modern era. Altitude Integrations needed to find the right tool to make this possible, and JumpCloud was able to provide them with an effective migration and identity management solution.
“A huge piece of JumpCloud’s appeal to MSPs is the software agent that lives locally on the machine. We have one client that always had problems purchasing the right thing or justifying the purchase. For instance, getting the right Windows license for their Active Directory environment was always a problem—but now, it’s a non-issue,” Jan said. “Now, they can get devices that are non-Windows because they can just use the software agent and get the same functionality. In our opinion, JumpCloud works even better because it can manage systems regardless of where they are. Users can take their systems home, and JumpCloud still has control over them. You couldn’t do that as easily with Active Directory.”
Jan further expanded on how JumpCloud has helped Altitude Integrations overcome roadblocks with Active Directory, and explained how integrating with Macs has never been easier with JumpCloud’s software agent.
“Fortunately, all of the maintenance you’d have to take care of with Active Directory or building your own LDAP server is taken care of with JumpCloud. Also, it’s much easier to make changes and add any sort of machine,” Jan explained. “In the past, managing Macs with Active Directory was always a challenge, and sometimes it didn’t even work; but now, we don’t have to worry about that because of JumpCloud’s cross-platform support. We can install the agent on a Mac and the agent handles all of the complicated pieces like permissions and changing keychains.”
G Suite Integration
Another key feature of JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service platform that empowered Altitude Integrations to streamline client management was the deep integration capability with productivity suites, such as G Suite and Office 365.
“We love that JumpCloud seamlessly hooks into G Suite so that we can provision and deprovision users. We also do a lot of work with Cisco Meraki hardware and their enterprise system management, which, again, all ties into JumpCloud. We can install a single software agent, and through that we can add users, remove users, set permissions, and even set up per-user access to the networking infrastructure.”
Over the course of these first few months, Jan has already started to see some major improvements in terms of Altitude Integration’s operational efficiency and ability to quickly turnaround client requests. From remote management to rapid onboarding and offboarding, JumpCloud is giving Altitude Integrations the tools needed for full-scale, cloud-based client management.
“JumpCloud’s way more efficient than how we’ve had to work with other tools in the past.”
Jan continued, “We used to have to take hours or days to get something turned around, and now I can do the same thing within minutes. So it’s been huge for me—I don’t have to go onsite, I can do it all from my office, so it’s been instrumental in getting the most out of our time.”
Onboarding is one area of client management that required extra effort in the past, and remains an active process for Altitude Integration’s clientele of startup organizations. Since Altitude Integrations has been using JumpCloud, however, onboarding has been converted from a pain point to a point of pride.
“Most of the client feedback has been centered around how much quicker and easier it is to onboard a new hire. As long as the new hire has an email account, I can onboard them to any of the systems that are integrated with JumpCloud,” Jan said. “The client just has to tell their new hire to check their email and follow the instructions. After that, the new hire can log on to the machines that they need to and access network resources. That’s been the biggest feedback we’ve had, adding and even removing users has become quicker and simpler for us and for the client.”
Being on-call for emergencies and fixing faulty servers used to be the norm for MSP technicians like Jan. But now with JumpCloud at the center of their product stack, Jan is seeing greater client stability firsthand and receiving positive feedback from a range of grateful clients.
“The main priority for us is building resilient infrastructure for our clients, and JumpCloud let’s us do that. We don’t have to worry about an update or the internet going down,” Jan said. “JumpCloud is very scalable and accessible, and that’s important to the client. If we don’t have to bog clients down with the details, they’re happier, because they don’t have to worry about interruption to their business or IT service.”
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