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Azure Active Directory vs. Okta Workforce Identity

azure active directory vs okta

If there’s one lesson that 2020 taught us about our future, it’s that remote working and fully digitized workplaces are here to stay. This means that it’s more critical than ever for businesses to manage access restrictions with the right access management solution in place to provide user access in a tiered and effective manner.

In order to protect the safety of employees, vendors, other business relations and valuable business data, companies need a single unified dashboard to manage access across user types, locations, devices, on-premise utilities, cloud-based sign-ins and more.

Given the sheer number of different contexts, environments and technical complexities – it is indeed a Herculean task to keep all usernames, passwords and access records streamlined to ensure fast authentication access, troubleshooting and most importantly, overall security.

This is especially important for any businesses utilizing cloud access extensively and working its way towards establishing a Zero Trust environment. Having a foolproof access management solution in place is key to seamless day-to-day operations and user experience for your business.

Azure AD and Okta – Benefits of using leading IAM software 

When it comes to cloud-based identity and access management (IAM), there are two clear market leaders already established – Microsoft Azure Active Directory and Okta Workforce Identity solutions.

Both services are very popular and quite adept at removing many of the technical bottlenecks and frustrations that come part and parcel to traditional access management utilities. Moreover, they each offer extensive integrations with leading enterprise software and applications, making it incredibly easy for admins to apply distinct identity settings quickly to their architecture.

Security also plays a strong role in both IAMs with the use of authentication technologies such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO), along with unique digital business-focused access innovations.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory

The Basic version of Microsoft Azure Active Directory is, of course, bundled into Azure. Azure AD Premium, however, is an additional layer of the service that provides more extensive IAM capabilities. AD Premium is more targeted towards B2C but both versions are capable of servicing B2B clients as well.

Azure makes sense for businesses with considerable investments in Microsoft’s stack. IT admins also love Azure because it equips them with a suite of features that offer granular controls over user access to specific resources. User provisioning can be automated between servers and cloud applications such as MS Office apps, and compulsory MFAs can be set up as well.

A key advantage of Azure lies in its strict SLAs, which are designed to ensure that your business is never behind on compliance! On the flip side, however, a lot of user provisioning and de-provisioning needs to be managed through individual provisioning logs or may even require manual integration for servers that are not centralized.

Okta Workforce Identity

Okta is a cloud-based SaaS that takes an end-to-end approach to IAM and comes equipped with enterprise identity lifecycle management capabilities.

For both enterprise and developer editions, there are a bunch of common features including user access administration, application integration, provisioning and user authentication, along with reporting and mobile identity security. All of these are packaged in a single, easy-to-use and configure IT admin console and employees can log in with SSO through a comprehensive end-user portal to access internal apps and more.

Okta’s full range of offerings include everything from Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), adaptive MFA, Okta Single Sign-On (SSO), SSO (Mobile), Okta Access Gateway (for applications without existing integrations with Okta), lifecycle management, user provisioning and more.

Okta is a great choice for businesses that favor platform and vendor agnosticism, as it offers over 1,200 SAML and more than 6,000 pre-built integrations. These cover key applications, social media, cloud providers, human capital management systems (HCMs) and software popular with enterprise users – all of which can be accessed seamlessly through Okta.

Market Performance and Distinctions

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Access Management report

The Forrester Wave™: Identity as a Service (IDaaS) For Enterprise

Both Gartner and Forrester rank Okta and Microsoft’s Azure AD highly, with Okta gaining an edge as a quadrant Leader. Per Gartner, the focus is on providing centralized authentication, SSO, session management and authorization enforcement, and more advanced adaptive and contextual authentication for multiple usage scenarios in B2B, B2C and B2E.

Businesses understand the importance of both ensuring security and streamlining the work of an overloaded IT department with self-service identity administration, passwords, user provisioning, permissions, profile management and role-based access that’s made possible by IAMs. Both IAMs offer cutting-edge authorization of APIs using (OAuth2/ OIDC/ SAML).

Preference for one over the other Identity Management Software, however, will really depend on your business context and use case. It’s smart to research the offerings of both Azure and Okta feature-by-feature to determine which makes the most sense for your business. Also, be sure to look at pricing and add-ons for feasibility in both the short and long-term.

For ease of use, versatile application cases, platform-agnostic identity architecture and advanced use cases, like customer identities, Okta has the edge thanks to capabilities like Universal Directory and more. However, if your business already has a considerable footprint in the Microsoft stack, Azure would almost assuredly be the better choice.

But just because we’re comparing two top IAMs doesn’t mean you can’t have the best of both worlds. If you’re like us and loathe the idea of giving up on the unique advantages of both IAMs, we recommend keeping both (assuming budget is not a constraint).

For example, maybe your IT team likes to champion Azure AD’s strict tiered usage access and more, but Okta’s ‘plug and play’ compatibility with over 6,000 applications and a deep integration with Azure Active Directory for hybrid environments. This will be particularly relevant for larger enterprises as it allows for simpler integration with other identity solutions like Privileged Access Management (PAM) and more for better protection against cyberattacks.

Are you looking to eliminate weak password breaches and mitigate insider threats? Shamrock can help.

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson is the Vice President and Senior Network Architect for Shamrock Consulting Group, an industry leader in digital transformation solutions. Since his departure from Biochemical research in 2004, Ben has built core competencies around cloud direct connects and cloud cost reduction, enterprise wide area network architecture, high density data center deployments, cybersecurity and Voice over IP telephony. Ben has designed hundreds of complex networks for some of the largest companies in the world and he’s helped Shamrock become a top partner of the 3 largest public cloud platforms for AWS, Azure and GCP consulting. When he takes the occasional break from designing networks, he enjoys surfing, golf, working out, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife, Linsey, his son, Weston and his dog, Hamilton.

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