How Does Okta Work With Active Directory?
August 2nd, 2021

The growth in technology in our world has undoubtedly helped us all work smarter and faster. Okta was created out of the need to bring together a whole suite of apps on all manner of different devices to help us work even smarter, and even faster. 

While the abundance of cloud based apps and software is fantastic, not all organisations are ready to move from legacy on-premise technology and servers to a cloud based infrastructure right now or in the immediate future. Many organisations still have Active Directory in place but plan to move away from this type of on-premise directory store due to the increasing financial and resourcing costs to maintain.

This is where Okta can help to accelerate your organisation’s move to the cloud. Okta can integrate with both cloud based applications, AND legacy, on-premise technologies like Active Directory, bringing all user stores, attributes, and applications together in one central source of truth.

How does Okta work with Active Directory? Here, we look to answer that question to give you an idea of one of the ways in which Okta can transform your organisation and how you manage user authentication and authorization.

Okta Integrates With Active Directory 

It's possible to integrate your existing Active Directory user store with Okta to simplify and centralize user management. This is a lightweight process and does not require changes to your Active Directory domain or firewall. The integration requires some light configuration on your Okta tenant, then Okta’s Active Directory Agent is installed with a simple wizard to create a secure connection between your Active Directory and Okta.

You can then choose which users and security groups to import into Okta. All users and groups are available to view and manage within Okta’s Universal Directory (User Directory). You can continue to create and manage users in Active Directory and the changes will be reflected in Okta, based on the settings you choose.

A feature called Delegated Authentication can be enabled to allow users to log in with their credentials from Active Directory, directly into the Okta Sign in Widget. The user will be authenticated by Active Directory in the background, however the user will experience a seamless log-in to Okta’s end user dashboard.

With Delegated Authentication, no credentials are stored in the cloud, no passwords are in danger of ever being out of sync. Okta employs the use of continuous connectivity with Active Directory and its on-premises agents. As a result, if an Active Directory user signs in, Okta agents then go on to verify the password stored in Active Directory immediately.  

Cloud based applications which you have integrated to your Okta Tenant can be provisioned to users and groups from Active Directory. This allows users to take advantage of Single Sign On (SSO) to cloud based applications. SSO uses industry standard protocols for authentication like SAML and OAuth2 and passwords are not required per application. Further advantages are users do not have the chance forget passwords, store passwords in insecure places or create easily compromised credentials.

Access can be managed through Okta and administrators have the power to instantly suspend access to applications or even deprovision access. Administrators can easily access out the box reporting for internal metrics.

Advantages Of Using Okta With Active Directory

So, what does that really mean in practice? How does Okta’s ability to integrate seamlessly with Active Directory help a company and employees’ user experience? First, there is no need for multiple log-ins. That is crucial to support employee productivity on many levels. IT issues are a source of annoyance at best for employees. If they cannot log in to software that helps them to complete their tasks in a timely manner, the whole process becomes null and void. Minimizing the chances for employees to have difficulty logging in to a variety of applications is essential for them to be effective. Plus, by minimizing the amount of issues they have, the need for a large IT team also diminishes. 

An integration between Active Directory and Okta allows organisations to take advantage of past investments in Active Directory On-Premise applications and gives the flexibility to plan for a cloud based roadmap. At the same time, Administrators, IT and Management also increase their control and oversight over access rights.

Additionally, Okta offers a self service password reset and account unlock feature for user credentials. No more calls and emails to an IT Helpdesk are required, saving significant time and resources.

Okta And Active Directory - Key Takeaways

Okta is able to integrate easily and seamlessly with Active Directory, ensuring your organization experiences no interruption to service or data. More importantly, end users are not impacted by the integration. In fact, end users will benefit from the endless possibilities Okta offers to securely connect employees via SSO to applications required for daily usage. Employees will be able to access all applications they need with their existing Active Directory credentials in one place and not be required to set up and manage endless passwords for their day to day applications. This translates into reductions in operation costs for the organisation, a single source of truth for users, and a secure way to manage user identity.

For further reading, check out our other articles like What is Identity and Access Management System and The Okta Competitive Advantage.