When trying to create the most secure network possible, it’s important for administrators to look at every facet of their system.

When trying to create the most secure network possible, it’s important for administrators to look at every facet of their system. Often that means comparing different methods of each protocol available – LDAP and RADIUS are a prime example of this. There is certainly some functional overlap between the two, so let’s compare and contrast the two and see which is more beneficial for your network.

What Is LDAP?

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is a software protocol that enables an entity to look up data stored in a server. The “data” can be any information about organizations, devices, or users stored in directories. LDAP is the protocol used by servers to speak with on-premise directories.

Data is stored in a hierarchical structure called a Directory Information Tree (DIT), which organizes data into a branching “tree” structure, making it easier for admins to navigate their directories, find specific data, and administer user access policies.


The function of a RADIUS, or the Remote Access Dial-In User Service, is to authenticate the user and their device and authorize them for network access. The authorization process occurs each time a user re-connects to the network, and it takes the guesswork out of determining who is using your network.

Using a RADIUS is an effective way to boost network security and visibility. RADIUS can authenticate credentials, OTP, hardware security keys, and is especially effective when configured properly with certificates, which we will delve into in the next section. 

Differences Between RADIUS and LDAP

While both LDAP and RADIUS are authentication protocols that enable users to access their organization’s resources, LDAP relies exclusively on unsecured credentials and with 10 million attacks targeting usernames and passwords occuring every day, it’s safe to say the usability and security flaws of credentials have accelerated. Not to mention many organizations are unsatisfied with credentials as authentication protection for their network due to IT help desk tickets and passwords sharing.

On the other hand, RADIUS is not limited to only one authentication method; RADIUS can use MFA to provide greater protection than any one single method.

Using RADIUS allows for a key security mechanism to be employed – server certificate validation. This guarantees that the user only connects to the network they intend to by configuring their device to confirm the identity of the RADIUS by checking the server certificate. If the server certificate is not the one that the device is looking for, it will not send a certificate or credentials for authentication. This prevents users from falling victim to a variety of different network attacks, such as a Man-in-the-Middle attack.

Another difference between LDAP and RADIUS stems from the use of on-premise servers. While historically both protocols relied on on-prem servers, RADIUS has evolved and can now be fully integrated into a cloud-based infrastructure. This is especially noteworthy due to the expenses associated with on-premise servers. These costs can be quite hefty, as they often demand at least some level of maintenance by a skilled professional, on-site security, as well as setup costs.

Furthermore, cloud environments offer stronger protection of data, easy access to authorized users, greater control over who has data access, and they are infinitely scalable as your organization grows. SecureW2 provides all the necessary tools to move your network to the cloud with our PKI and RADIUS services.

SecureW2 Solution For LDAP

While RADIUS backed, certificate-based authentication does not require LDAP, they have often been combined to enable Identity Lookup. During the authentication process, Identity Lookup validates that a user is active within the organization by checking the identifying information against a user list. This solution is helpful, but cannot make the transition to a cloud based network.

Luckily, SecureW2 is able to eliminate the need for LDAP in the identity lookup process. We offer an industry-exclusive identity lookup for SAML-based cloud directories that is used in tandem with certificate-based authentication to deliver excellent network security without the need for LDAP. 

The entire process becomes far easier to manage and more efficient for the end user and IT personnel by allowing organizations to move away from an expensive, on-premise LDAP infrastructure without losing any functionality. 

In the coming years, LDAP is simply not going to be able to withstand the transition to cloud-based infrastructure. Protect your network with the best possible Cloud RADIUS-backed solution, Check out our solutions page to see how Cloud RADIUS can work for you, and if you need more convincing see how we help our customers in this case study.

Eytan Raphaely

Eytan Raphaely is a digital marketing professional with a true passion for writing things that he thinks are really funny, that other people think are mildly funny. Eytan is a graduate of University of Washington where he studied digital marketing. Eytan has diverse writing experience, including studios and marketing consulting companies, digital comedy media companies, and more.

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