UnternehmerTUM uses JumpCloud as a cloud directory, migrating away from Active Directory & implementing mobile device management

UnternehmerTUM is a nonprofit organization that serves as a startup incubator for more than 50 companies each year. Headquartered on the campus of the Technical University of Munich Garching, UnternehmerTUM also has an office in downtown Munich and oversees the MakerSpace, which provides high-tech workshops for machine, metal, and woodworking, textiles and electronics, 3D printers, and laserjet and waterjet cutting, among other things. The nonprofit, which was founded in 2002 by BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, has 400 employees.

Needing to modernize its tech stack to best serve its startups

When Danny Michalski joined UnternehmerTUM in February 2023 as the head of infrastructure and cybersecurity, he was tasked with modernizing the nonprofit’s tech stack which had grown organically since the company’s founding more than 20 years prior.

“We are always growing,” Michalski says. “Every day is a new challenge here, and that makes working here extremely exciting because it is everything but boring.”

UnternehmerTUM is a bit like the Silicon Valley of Europe; the organization is committed to helping early-stage startups reach their full potential. To fulfill this mission, the organization provides a combination of advisory services, education, workspaces, and technology, all of which help entrepreneurs accelerate their efforts and stay on the cutting edge of innovation.

“We have a very, very dynamic environment,” Michalski continues.

However, since the organization was founded in 2002, a lot of the tools in its tech stack have “been around for ages.” For example, the nonprofit was still relying on an on-premises instance of Active Directory to manage users when Michalski came on board.

“It’s a known fact that Microsoft Active Directory on site, regardless of how good you built it up, is the weakest link you can have in any security platform that you build,” Michalski explains. “It’s fact. It’s as simple as that. Not even Microsoft would argue that. If I had an Active Directory that started with five people and then all of a sudden it grew to be 400 people, it’s not going to be pretty.”

In addition to being difficult to manage, the nonprofit’s computing infrastructure was “antiquated” and therefore unable to meet the requirements of the startups the organization serves.

“In the space where we’re working with entrepreneurs, they have a different mindset,” Michalski continues. “They have this dynamic — it must move forward, it must be fluid. Active Directory didn’t give that.” 

Choosing JumpCloud for familiarity, feature-rich nature & because it ‘just works’

As Michalski and his team began looking for a solution, they first tried OneLogin.

“It was just as clunky as Active Directory,” he says. “Why? Because it used Active Directory as a source of truth.”

Michalski and his team continued their search. Ultimately, they wanted a solution that would not only help them improve their internal infrastructure but could also be an ideal product for the fast-moving startups they cater to.

Since UnternehmerTUM has a very small IT team with a limited skill set, Michalski had two options: either spend a lot of money to upskill the team or find a product that would solve their problem while also being suitable for a startup. 

At a previous company, Michalski used JumpCloud — the cloud directory that delivers secure, frictionless device and identity management — to manage users and devices. 

“JumpCloud was actually used by one of the startups I worked at six or seven years ago,” he says. “It was what we started on. And we grew our company on JumpCloud because it just works.” 

Recalling his real-world experience using JumpCloud, Michalski thought it might be the ideal solution for their dilemma, but he still had to sell it to the team.

At this point, Michalski spun up a trial of JumpCloud and showed it to team members who loved what they saw. “We even benchmarked it against Okta and it was obvious that JumpCloud was the product to go with,” he says. 

After their experience engaging with the pre-sales team, the decision was even easier. “They made sure we had every single tidbit of information that we needed. I think they went beyond what they should have done, but that’s a different story for another day.” 

Solving several problems at once with JumpCloud

Thanks to JumpCloud, UnternehmerTUM has been able to shore up its infrastructure and modernize its approach to device and identity management. At the same time, JumpCloud also gives the nonprofit another tool they can proudly recommend to the startups they advise.

“If I sell a startup Active Directory, I’m selling them a platform they need to figure out how to manage,” Michalski says. “JumpCloud is easy to use, and since we use it, our startups can learn how to use it directly from us.”

Fast implementation and rapid ROI

For Michalski, implementing JumpCloud was about as turnkey an experience as it could be.

“We had all these inherited complexities — 22 years of stuff running had to be lifted and shifted,” he says. “We lifted and shifted 28 applications in 8 hours. That’s how easy JumpCloud is.”

In addition to intuitive design, Michalski attributes this smooth implementation to the fact that JumpCloud maintains robust documentation that’s accessible over the public internet. 

“You can use a simple search engine, and if you can read, you can resolve issues,” he says. 

Additionally, the UnternehmerTUM team has taken advantage of JumpCloud University, enrolling in classes at their leisure to learn how to use the platform more productively and solve specific challenges.

Device management & patch management made easy

In addition to serving as an Active Directory replacement, JumpCloud has transformed the way the nonprofit manages its devices. 

Since UnternehmerTUM has a complex environment where users often come and go, they needed a tool that would give them full visibility into all of the identities and devices on their network.

“Until JumpCloud came in, we didn’t have any device management here, full stop,” Michalski explains, adding that the environment is roughly 75% PC and 25% Mac. “We had 400-odd devices. If I don’t know where the 400-odd devices are, I don’t know what trouble I’m in. I can’t tell where they are. I can’t tell their health.”

Lacking device management capabilities made it nearly impossible to update machines and keep them secure.

“They didn’t have a solution for accessing machines remotely, so it was just painful for them to service the devices.”

Since the nonprofit wasn’t managing devices before JumpCloud, it was impossible for them to ensure employees were following appropriate policies or applying patches, too.

“This is exactly what JumpCloud brings to the table,” Michalski continues. “Using patch management, we can ensure devices stay up to date. JumpCloud also lets us do simple things like ensuring encryption is on. It’s all turnkey. Click, click, done.” 

Business process improvement

Thanks to JumpCloud, UnternehmerTUM has optimized its user onboarding and offboarding processes.

“JumpCloud forced conversations, and they’re difficult conversations because they’ve been doing things for years on end, and it’s always been like that,” Michalski says. “But JumpCloud comes in and says, listen, we can map that.”

The cornerstone of a Zero Trust strategy

Currently, Michalski and his team are in the process of implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO). As the team continues shoring up the organization’s security stance, Michalski has his sights set on ultimately building a Zero Trust network.

“JumpCloud in my personal opinion allows me to get to that,” he says. “I needed a cornerstone solution, and that’s exactly what JumpCloud offers me.” 

Accelerated troubleshooting

Michalski is particularly impressed by JumpCloud’s logging capabilities, which help the team quickly resolve any issues that emerge.

“It’s quick to decipher where the problem is,” he says. “Is it something we’ve done on the configuration side? Is it something to do with a client? Then we can resolve the issue quickly due to a very strong API interface within JumpCloud that allows me to program a lot of the complexities and get tasks done. This is a big difference for me — that’s the game-changer.”

On the fence about JumpCloud?

“JumpCloud can make you a hero — it’s as simple as that.” 

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