Top 20 Best Free Active Directory Alternatives (Pros and Cons)

Best Top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives (Pros and Cons). Do you need an alternate solution for Microsoft Active Directory? In this post, we have penned down some of the free and paid alternate sources that are compatible with platforms like Windows, macOS, and Linux. Active Directory has gained popularity over the years and is a trusted tool. Many Administrators often opt for Active Directory to track or monitor who accesses the system. 

What is Active Directory

Active Directory (AD) is a directory service that runs on Microsoft Windows Server. The main reason for Active Directory is to let administrators to manage permissions and control access to network resources. The data in Active Directory is stored as objects, which include users, groups, and devices. The Ad objects are categorized according to their name and attributes.

There are many other benefits of using Active Directory like determining which system belongs to which network, protecting your system from any unknown log in, changing profile look and more. Sometimes administrators need an alternative to performing similar actions. To resolve this issue, we have listed the top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives with their pros and cons to make it easier for you to choose on that fits your requirement the best. 

The Active Directory is designed for Windows domain networks and store information associated with changes made to the system and any updates performed.  But please take a look at the alternative solutions that are also compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux OS platforms and comprise advanced features.

1. ApacheDS

ApacheDS (Apache Directory Studio) is a top directory tooling platform compatible with LDAPv3 (latest LDAP version). It is the most popular LDAP based directory server on the market. ApacheDS is written in Java language, it supports Kerberos 5 and the Change Password Protocol.

 

ApacheDS was created to be a little easier to install, configure and manage.  The UI tools include an LDAP schema editor, LDAP browser, LDIF editor, access control editor, and more. The directory tool comprises many Eclipse (OSGi) plugins and can be used with any LDAP server to create triggers, stores procedures, queue and view data.

ApacheDS Pros

  • The trusted open source software that allows easy embedding of Java applications.
  • Apache Directory Studio supports Multimaster replication.
  • It allows easy management and configuration of servers.
  • Easy to add new controls, schema elements and network layers in the Apache Directory Studio.
  • It supports DSML and LDIF editors.
  • It is LDAPv3 Compliant.
  • Password Policy Support.
  • X500 Authorization in full. 

ApacheDS Cons

  • Administrators must perform configuration correctly, or it may cause a serious security threat
  • Creating personalized protocols may lead to new issues.
  • Not much documentation for best practices.
  • Ongoing maintenance is owned by the IT admin. Since it is a SaaS solution there is no option to outsource to focus on more important infrastructure.

2. OpenLDAP

OpenLDAP is a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) implementation by Kurt Zeilenga. Introduced in 1998, it is a free, open source platform designed to help configure and manage directories by IT admins at ease.

 

It has minimal UI and reliance on the CLI but needs good knowledge of the LDAP protocol and directory structure. The solution is to supplement OpenLDAP with a third party application, like phpLDAPadmin. This application assists admins to interact with OpenLDAP via a basic UI. 

 

Written in C language, the server software is fast and best suitable if you are looking forward to a commercial grade LDAP suite of development tools.

OpenLDAP  is a suitable option for Linux servers and Linux based applications. 

OpenLDAP Pros

  • OpenLDAP delivers Fast and Flexible Configuration and Management properties.
  • OpenLDAP provides LDAPv3 and IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) support solutions.
  • OpenLDAP supports Data Interchange Format (LDIF) version 1.
  • Linux servers and Linux based applications support solutions.
  • The tool is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

OpenLDAP Cons

  • Modifications and addition to the directory can be a daunting task as configuration and management in OpenLDAP is manual. Therefore it requires significant expertise.
  • Compared with other directory services, the tool has limited functionalities in terms of the LDAP protocol implementations.
  • Limited scope as it works only with LDAP compatible resources.

3. Univention Corporate Server (UCS)

Another choice for Best Top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives (Pros and Cons) is Univention Corporate Server (UCS). It is another free, open source Linux based directory application to administrate servers, services, clients, users, and virtualized computers in the UCS. Univention Corporate Server (UCS) has become one of the popular alternate software for Active Directory among users. Many people prefer the tool for managing virtualized IT environments as it has a friendly user interface and provides frequent updates on security and feature improvements. For automatization and extensions, the tool comprises command line, scripting and Application Program Interfaces.

UCS Pros

  • Highly cost efficient and provides easy administration of server applications.
  • A single UCS domain can manage servers for 1000+ clients.
  • UCS is an easy to install, scalable and easy to deploy tool and has a friendly user interface.
  • It is simple to connect UCS with the existing Active Directory domain and synchronize them.
  • Operates in local, virtual, as well as cloud environments.
  • The easy to use web interface allows the administration of servers and desktops centrally and across different platforms.
  • It provides Integrated IT management services, such as Kerberos, DNS server ,LDAP and DHCP.
  • Supports Multi Factor Authentication including Single Sign On (SSO).
  • APIs and Rest API.
  • Monitoring (Nagios).
  • Access Controls.

UCS Cons

  • As it is a German based tool, knowledge base and other information or articles are in German and less in English.
  • Customized features can be tricky.

4. Zentyal Active Directory

Zentyal is an Active Directory implementation best suitable for Linux users to manage IT infrastructure. Introduced by Microsoft, it is a free, open source email solution. If you run Linux for small or medium sized businesses or an office environment, choosing Zentyal as a Directory service software is the right option. The tool provides features, like file sharing in Windows environments, Single Sign On authentication, and more for domains. It incorporates incorporates all the network services like Directory & Domain Server, Mail Server, Gateway and Infrastructure Server.

Zentyal Pros

  • Supports Single Sign On authentication for domains and directories
  • Supports industry standard SMTP and POP3/IMAP mail servers.
  • Zentyal provides backup to the gateway, firewall, and HTTP proxy.
  • 24*7 customer support services for commercial Zentyal deployments.
  • Supports Group Policy Objects for domains.
  • Zentyal Active Directory provides Real time alerts.
  • Easily Synchronizes with mobile devices.
  • Easy to deploy LAMP, mail, FTP, file and print services.

Zentyal Cons

  • Does not support installation and configuration of a web server.

5. Samba

Samba is a free, easy to install and secure Windows interoperability suite distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It is another highly popular of the best top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives that performs in two modes – Domain Controller and as a Regular Domain member. Introduced in 1992, the tool uses SMB or CIFS protocol to provide stable, fast file and print service. The interface is similar to FTP utility and allows remote configuration via a web browser. Further, it allows creating a database on a Unix platform and functions as a client on Windows.

Samba Pros

  • It is a free, open source CIFS implementation.
  • Samba is easy to install and highly secure server software.
  • It is compatible with Unix and Windows platforms as a client.
  • The tool also supports non Unix hosts (NetWare, AmigaOS, and VMS).
  • Samba supports exclusive file server programs.
  • Samba outperforms even with heavy loads.
  • The tool requires no client license.
  • Good for large environments as it supports 100,000+ users in a domain.
  • Kerberos is seamlessly integrated with Samba, which eases the Active Directory process.

Samba Cons

  • Maintaining compatibility with Microsoft’s implementation is still a difficult task as the tool is still in development.
  • Supports Active Directory Functional Level 2008R2 only at the time of writing.
  • Do not support automatic File replication features.
  • The Active Directory Administrative Center will not work as it relies on Active Directory Web Services.
  • Manufacturer support is lacking.

6. JumpCloud

JumpCloud is a cloud directory platform as a service that unifies devices, provides secure identity management, and is the best alternative for Microsoft’s Active Directory and LDAP. One of the first Directory as a Service software. The tool is highly easy to manage and supports features like Single Sign On (SSO), Multi factor Authentication.

JumpCloud Pros

  • The Multi factor Authentication (MFA) feature keeps your servers, apps and network safe and secure.
  • It provides secure access to corporate resources from any location.
  • JumpCloud is one of the best tools to control and manage employee identities and devices.
  • It provides seamless User account management.

JumpCloud Cons

  • Domain name changes are not supported.
  • Persist user groups to Windows local user groups.

7. OpenDJ

OpenDJ is a free, lightweight, secure, open source directory server written in Java language. It is one of the best Active Directory Alternatives providing compliance with LDAPv3 and Directory Service Markup Language (DSMLv2) support. OpenDJ’s source code originated from working on Sun Microsystem’s OpenDS technology (LDAP/DSML server currently handled by Oracle Corporation).

OpenDJ Pros

  • The tool supports Multi master replication.
  • It allows you to access controls and use multiple plugins.
  • It provides performance results with a response time of 10000+ w/r per second.
  • It has a modern user interface.
  • You can add N number of entries in a single instance with OpenDJ.
  • The secure and trusted also supports data synchronization.
  • It allows sharing of real time identity data across different channels, such as cloud, enterprise, social environment.
  • You do not require LDAP expert skills to run OpenDJ.
  • Easy to embed and deploy tool.

OpenDJ Cons

  • The tool is designed only for evaluation purposes.
  • When used under a production environment, it may violate the license terms.

8. Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is Microsoft’s enterprise cloud service that helps access and manage the end user identity. It has free as well as paid versions and is a top alternative to Active Directory. You can manage access to the Azure Cloud applications and sync with on premises Active Directory. The single sign on (SSO) feature present in the tool allows users to sign up to multiple services from any location over the cloud. IT admins, app developers, and Microsoft cloud service subscribers often prefer Azure Active Directory over other alternate options as it includes top features.

Azure AD Pros

Azure AD Cons

  • The delegation of administrative tasks is difficult as the objects are not managed in organizational units.
  • No support for NTLM, Kerberos or LDAP.

9. Gluu Server

Gluu Server is a free, open source solution with advanced features for Identity & Access Management. Another of Best Top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives that can help keep your data safe from cyber attacks and threats. It provides highly secure, easy deployment and administration directory services to robust enterprise requirements. The tool is flexible and also allows the creation of special audit logs and implement advanced authentication workflows.

Gluu Server Pros

  • Directory Integration support services.
  • Supports Multi factor Authentication.
  • Gluu Server supports Social Sign On.
  • It allows access to management policies.
  • Supports 2FA mechanisms.
  • Allows automatic addition of more servers without any interruption.
  • It is highly flexible and maintains privacy.

Gluu Server Cons

  • Process mining facility is not available.
  • It provides less support for external users.

10. FreeIPA

If you are looking for an Best Top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives go for FreeIPA. It is a free, open source Active Directory alternative for Linux based network systems to manage user and client identities. Powered by Red Hat OpenShift Online, the tool provides a secure directory environment for all Linux users. Further, the tool use command line interface to manage Linux users and client hosts from one location. A FreeIPA server provides centralized authentication, authorization and account information by storing data about user, groups, hosts and other objects necessary to manage the security aspects of a network of computers.

FreeIPA Pros

  • The tool is written in Python but also supports JavaScript and C.
  • Supports Directory Server, PKI, NTP Server, Kerberos, DNS.
  • Supports multi master replication.
  • It allows configuration with other software.
  • Focusses more on ease of management, automation and configuration tasks.
  • It provides Python SDK and integrated SIM solutions.

FreeIPA Cons

  • Issues in coding and debugging may lock users

11. 389 Directory Server

An enterprise class free, open source LDAP used to store identities, groups and organizational information for Linux based network systems. 389 Directory server is a trusted alternate solution for Active Directory and real world usage. The High performance LDAP server comprises features like multi master replication and can handle some of the largest LDAP deployments. The tool is easy to install and free to download.

389 Directory Server Pros

  • 389 Directory server can manage thousands of operations per second.
  • From small businesses to the cloud, it can manage all your demanding environments. It is highly scalable.
  • Supports Multi Master Replication.
  • TLS and SASL allow Secure authentication and transport services.
  • Supports LDAPv3

12. GLAuth

GLAuth stands for Go-lang LDAP Authentication, a free, easy to use, lightweight, secure LDAP server. The server is a great replacement for OpenLDAP and Active Directory. It comprises fully featured with configurable backends, centrally manage SSH keys, two factor authentication (2FA). It is easy to manage multiple accounts across different platforms, like Linux servers, macOS from one location. GLAuth also supports other applications like Jenkins Server , Graylog2, Apache web server.

GLAuth Pros

  • Centralized Management of SSH keys and passwords for cloud servers.
  • User directory storage facility is available on internal storage and S3.
  • You can also proxy the stored data to existing LDAP servers with GLAuth.
  • Supports Two Factor Authentication.
  • It comprises multiple configurable backends.
  • It is compatible with Linux servers and macOS.

13. RazDC

RazDC Active directory alternatives

RazDC is a simple, free and light software for Linux systems with the features of Microsoft’s Active Directory. The software is designed for all small business owners who need an alternative for Active Directory. Also, it is secure and requires minimum hardware requirements.

RazDC Pros

  • It has a simple web user interface adjustable with any screen size.
  • Supports Automatic Cloud backups.
  • It comprises in-built diagnostic tools and log viewers.
  • The software manages Active Directory, DNS, DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).
  • DNS Forwarding.
  • RazDC is highly secure as it involves various forms of encryption.
  • MS Compatible Active Directory Domain Controller.

14. Oracle Directory Server Enterprise Edition

Oracle Directory Server Directory Server serves directory data to standards compliant LDAP and DSML applications. Directory Server stores the data in customized, binary tree databases, allowing quick searches even for large data sets. It is another free alternate solution for Active Directory that performs large deployments in carrier and enterprise ecosystems. You can say the oracle directory server enterprise edition is ideal for heterogeneous environments as it comprises tons of features. Web Administrative Console, Directory Proxy are a few features that make it one of the preferred choices by administrators.

Oracle Directory Server Pros

  • Supports Web administration console.
  • The server is best suitable for heterogeneous environments.
  • It comprises advanced features, like Active Directory synchronization, Embedded database, Directory Proxy.

Oracle Directory Server Cons

  • Avoid changing file permissions by hand. You need to install products and create server instances before making changes.

15. JxPlorer

JxPlorer is a highly flexible and free, open source client written in Java language for the LDAP browser. It is another alternate software for Active Directory that grants permission to find, read and edit LDAP or any similar directory service with an LDAP or DSML interface. JxPlorer is compatible with platforms like Windows, Linux, etc.

JxPlorer Pros

  • It allows the import and export of LDIF.
  • SSL/TLS support.
  • Supports offline editing of LDIF files.
  • The user interface makes it easier to perform complex searches.
  • GSSAPI support
  • Multiple Browser Windows.
  • Data copy between windows.
  • Written in Java, it is a customizable and flexible tool.
  • Schema support.
  • It comprises built-in reporting regulations
  • Supports SASL Authentication.

JxPlorer Cons

  • Saving passwords for LDAP servers is not allowed.

16. GOsa

Another choice for Top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives (Pros and Cons) is GOsa, another alternative for Active Directory. With GOsa, a user can manage applications, mail sharing lists, users and groups, phones effortlessly. It comprises dozens of plugins for usage and is a free app.

GOsa Pros

  • There are N number of plugins available for users.
  • GOsa is a free alternative to Active Directory.

GOsa Cons

  • Difficult to install GOsa.

17. eDirectory

eDirectory is a trusted software platforms that manage your directories effortlessly. It is easy to set up tools and launches faster. Thus, another best alternative to the MS Active Directory. It comprises advanced features and aims to create an online directory for the web.

eDirectory Pros

  • eDirectory is easy to install.
  • eDirectory is customizable online directory software.
  • Users can easily access the source code for designing and other purposes.
  • To enhance functionality, you are allowed to add plugins and services.
  • Supports SASL, DSML, and LDAP.

eDirectory Cons

  • No proper integration for payment gateways.

18. Red Hat Directory Server

redhat dc

Red Hat is a software company that has gained popularity over the years. It is an operating system that allows administrators to store data at a central location. All the stored data and files are saved in a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. Thus, making your system more secure. It is a paid directory service that makes the software easy to scale and manage in an LDAP based server.

Red Hat Directory Server Pros

  • Red Hat’s Directory server provides data protection.
  • It provides access control on user identity, domain name, etc.
  • Supports X.509v3 public key certificates.
  • It creates Policy replication for security purposes.
  • Supports certificate based authentication.

Red Hat Directory Server Cons

  • At times integration can a bit difficult with the Red Hat’s Directory server

19. Koozali SME Server

koozali

Another best free alternatives to Active Directory designed for for small to medium sized business is Koozali SME Server. It is a secure, stable and open source Linux server based on CentOS/Redhat sources. It is versatile in nature and introduced by a large skilled community. It is very fast and installation and comprises various features.

Koozali SME Server Pros

  • The server is fast to install and perform basic configuration.
  • It is highly secure as you can easily find CentOS and Redhat traces visible in the source code.
  • Supports Antivirus and antispam.
  • Remote access support.
  • Backup services and auto update features are available.
  • It is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Unix/Linux clients

Koozali SME Server Cons

  • The backup feature has a limit of 4GB.

20. OpenAM

OpenAM stands for Open Access Management, an open source that is extensible and highly scalable. The main purpose of Open Access Management is to manage and grant permissions for authentication, Authorization, Entitlements, SSO (Single Sign-On), Federation, and Web Services Security. It needs to embed OpenDJ for its configuration management. Also, it relies on LDAP directory servers to store.

OpenAM Pros

  • It is easy to find its repositories on GitHub
  • It can integrate with cloud applications without any modification

OpenAM Cons

  • In the old versions, OpenAM IDPs could not proxy all requests.

Best Top 20 Free Active Directory Alternatives (Pros and Cons) Conclusion

Above you have read best Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives that perform the same job with but have other advanced features. Check out their pros and cons of each alternative solution to make a better decision as per your system and business requirement.

 

In the Active Directory, the administrator verifies the credentials entered by the user, identifies and determines if it is a system administrator or a regular user. Accordingly, the domain controller grants permission to access certain resources. The Active Directory designed for Microsoft Windows operating system can read modifications and monitor any updates made to your device or system. It is one of the best tools that enforce security policies, installs and updates software.

 

Active Directories have been in practice for a long time, but there are other similar tools, like ApacheDS, Oracle Directory Server Enterprise Edition, GOsa, JxPlorer, OpenLDAP, Samba, JumpCloud, etc that are freeto use, install and configure. Choose the best one based on your infrastructure needs. .

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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