Active Directory and FusionAuth CIAM Comparison

Compare FusionAuth and Active Directory for your identity and access management solution.


Published: September 14, 2018

Active Directory and FusionAuth CIAM often come up together in conversations about identity solutions for modern web-enabled applications. While they fall under the umbrella of “identity management solutions,” the truth is that Active Directory and FusionAuth have a substantially different set of features. Active Directory was originally developed for centralized domain management within Windows networks with hundreds of users. Over time they layered additional identity-focused services on the core hierarchical structure.

In contrast, FusionAuth was designed from day-one as a user management solution for applications with thousands to millions of customers. This shift in focus is a significant difference between an Identity & Access Management (IAM) solution and a Customer Identity & Access Management (CIAM) solution.

What Active Directory and FusionAuth Have In Common

Active Directory and FusionAuth do share some features. They both allow users to register and login to web and mobile applications, and both can manage multiple applications from the same system. Both solutions take advantage of OAuth tokens & API key management, and they both have detailed reporting with a user management interface that includes powerful user search capabilities.

Security is a first-tier concern for Active Directory and FusionAuth so both are capable of multi-factor authentication as well as offering a choice of on-prem or private cloud deployment options. This is an important feature as cybercriminals increasingly target SaaS-based solutions in order to access the data of multiple companies with one attack. (For more information about the risks and benefits of SaaS, private cloud, and on-premise options read our expert advice article covering single- and multi-tenant solutions.

While these solutions have similar core capabilities, don’t think that Active Directory and FusionAuth are the same. There are substantial feature differences in FusionAuth that provide essential benefits required by a true CIAM solution. (Learn more about the challenges of CIAM).

How Active Directory and FusionAuth Are Different

Active Directory and FusionAuth Feature Comparison.

Free for Unlimited Users

One of the biggest differences between Active Directory and FusionAuth is cost. FusionAuth is free for unlimited users. No strings, gimmicks, or tricks. No cost increases when you hit a certain Monthly Active User threshold. Much like a database or a web server, secure authentication is so essential that developers should be able to implement it quickly and easily without cost concerns. And unlike the free options from other vendors, we don’t feature-cripple or user-limit FusionAuth. You get the full unrestricted platform with every feature and benefit.

Email Customization

FusionAuth provides ultimate flexibility to maintain your brand throughout your communications with HTML email templates that let you design and deliver messages in the style, color, phrasing, and imagery that matches your standards. You design it and load it up and every email will be exactly what you need.

FusionAuth also allows you to trigger event-based emails for any custom event you like. Simply set up an API call for the event and create an email for it and you are all set. Want to send a message to the user when they’ve hit a milestone like “over 100 visits”? No problem. Want to send an email to active users from a specific region who achieve a milestone level during a unique week-long promotion? Got it. The possibilities for this are endless and can increase the interaction and engagement between you and your audience.

Email Localization

With today’s internet, customers can come from anywhere in the world, but many companies struggle to deliver their products and services to the wide range of languages they encounter. A feature unique to FusionAuth is the ability to create localized versions of any transactional email based on a user’s language preference. You can create customized HTML and text email templates for the regional languages you support, and easily add additional options as your community grows. Find out more in the FusionAuth Email Templates tutorial here.

Configurable Password Encryption

Not every application has the same security requirements. Some need to be HIPAA compliant, while others can be less stringent. We let you pick the level of security you need, and adjust it as quickly as your needs or threats evolve. We also allow you to use different password schemas for different groups of users, making it possible to consolidate multiple identity management systems into one efficient platform. This can be a completely transparent process without any downtime or customer friction.

For more details, read about how we migrated DataStax from their previous solution.

Enterprise Identity Unification (EIU)

Another way Active Directory and FusionAuth differ is how they can handle complex bulk merger challenges. In today’s fast-moving business world, companies merge with or acquire partners and competitors every day. It’s a difficult challenge to combine and manage the unique databases of users that each company brings into the system. This is the realm of EIU and presents many complex issues such as duplicate users, incomplete or conflicting data, and varying password schemas.

FusionAuth allows a parent company to create unique tenants to isolate distinct datasets while still providing a single user management system for the overall organization. It gives the administrators incremental control over how and when the information is merged, and can even engage the users to manage, filter, and unify their own profile data.

If you would like more information on how FusionAuth enables effective EIU across multiple identity management systems, contact us.

The Features You Need in a CIAM

It’s no secret that Active Directory is an established solution that is firmly connected to the wider Microsoft product ecosystem. In some ways, that can be great. But unfortunately for smaller companies, they will always develop and support features that apply to the largest “product-market fit” to benefit their bottom line, not yours. Smaller clients with unique needs have to make-do with a generalized solution that doesn’t quite fit and bundles in features they will never use.

FusionAuth is a small, bootstrapped company dedicated to our customers. We have successfully provided our core solutions with unique customizations and one-on-one support for our clients. We have eliminated the overhead, complex approval pipelines, and corporate red-tape that cripples large firms so we can deliver exceptional solutions for clients like DataStax, StrategyCorp, Deutsche Bank and IBM. If you have a specific challenge for managing users that we don’t already cover, we’ll work with you for a solution. This is an added benefit to having a single-tenant solution: your system can be customized to fit your specific requirements and specifications.

To see more details on how Active Directory and FusionAuth stack up, download this feature comparison and please contact us if you have any questions.

Learn More About FusionAuth

FusionAuth is designed to be the most flexible and secure Customer Identity and Access Management solution available at the best price. We provide registration, login, SSO, MFA, data search, user management and more, 100% free for unlimited users. Find out more about FusionAuth and download it today.

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