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The best multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions for Active Directory

Wondering what multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution is best for your team? Compare the best MFA solutions for Active Directory and evaluate the right fit for your organization.

Published Mar 6, 2023
The best multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions for Active Directory

Over 90% of Fortune 1,000 companies use Active Directory (AD) for identity and access management on Windows domain networks. As sophisticated cyber attacks often target user login credentials as the easiest point of entry, it's critical to protect AD identities with strong authentication measures.To help you find the right MFA solution for your organization, below you'll find a selection of the best on premise MFA solutions for Active Directory environments. For each, you can quickly review key features, benefits, and any potential downsides.

Multi-factor authentication for Active Directory

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) for Active Directory adds a layer of security to the login process, usually on top of a password. This means the user needs to provide two or more forms of authentication to gain access. Many industry-specific regulations, compliance standards, and cyber liability insurance providers now require MFA as standard.

If you have an on-premise or hybrid AD environment, your first step is to narrow down a list of Windows domain MFA solutions that integrate easily with your existing AD setup.

Second, you'll of course want your on premise MFA solutions to be convenient and effective. It should protect system access while allowing IT admins and employees to stay productive.

The best Active Directory MFA solutions will also allow you to configure MFA granularly so it can best fit your organization's needs.

UserLock multi-factor authentication (MFA) for on-premise and hybrid Active Directory

UserLock MFA is one of very few on premise MFA solutions specifically designed for on-premise and hybrid AD environments. This makes AD integration a breeze, and UserLock also doesn't modify your existing AD schema.

With the ability to apply on prem MFA granularly, UserLock puts the IT team in control of how, and when, to require MFA.

Using time-based and HMAC-based one-time passwords (TOTP, HOTP), UserLock helps admins verify the identity of their Active Directory accounts and provide secure access to corporate networks.

Benefits of UserLock for MFA

Here's how UserLock MFA helps Active Directory administrators boost security and efficiency:

  1. Deploy MFA alongside your existing on-premise Active Directory. By integrating seamlessly with an existing on-premise AD, UserLock builds on your investment in AD and uses the tools you already have in place to effectively scale MFA across organizations of all size.

  2. Extend on-premise access security for hybrid AD environments. With UserLock, it’s possible to implement MFA across various connection types. Administrators can also enable MFA on any computer or device with AD membership.

  3. Enable granular MFA application. The best MFA solutions allow administrators to configure MFA to avoid authentication fatigue. With its granular MFA, UserLock allows each organization to define:

    • Frequency: Choose how often you apply MFA every n days/hours/minutes.

    • Session type: Apply MFA by workstation, server, IIS, VPN, and SaaS.

    • Connection type: Choose to apply MFA differently for connections inside the network, outside the network, or both.

    This granularity helps avoid a frustrating end-user experience and maintains productivity, while enabling increased security.

  4. Provide contextual access controls. Different organizations have different authentication and user logon requirements. UserLock allows each to define its own access policies through contextual access management. Any authentication attempt that does not meet the requirements is then blocked.

  5.  Support multiple MFA methods. ​​UserLock works seamlessly alongside multiple MFA options like push notification services, authenticator apps, and hardware tokens.

  6. Maintain MFA without internet access. The best MFA options also cater to situations when users are offline. With secured on-premise hosting, UserLock’s offline MFA helps secure systems even without an internet connection.

  7. Prompt off-domain, VPN-less users for MFA. With remote working and widespread teams, it’s more crucial than ever to protect user access, even when they don't connect to the corporate domain LAN or VPN. With UserLock Anywhere, organizations can ensure off-domain MFA even when the user doesn’t connect to the network via VPN.

  8. Provide MFA on devices with AD membership or standalone terminal servers. Adding UserLock to new machines is straightforward. UserLock can automatically detect new endpoints, implementing the organization’s Windows domain MFA requirements straight away.

  9. Enable MFA across many connection types. It’s possible to implement UserLock MFA on IIS, RDP and RD Gateway, VPN, Windows login, and SaaS connections.

  10. Offer MFA recovery codes to use as a one-time password (OTP). UserLock provides a number of backup recovery codes for enrolled users. Should a user need to, they can provide an OTP to pass organizational MFA requirements and access the system.

  11. Provide simple MFA enrollment. With UserLock, new users can enroll in corporate MFA requirements quickly and efficiently. IT admins can also choose between adding new users themselves or enabling self-enrollment.

How does UserLock compare with some of the other MFA solutions on the market today?

Duo by Cisco

Cisco Duo Security is a multi-factor authentication solution that validates user identities through a mobile app and other MFA methods. Users can use the app to confirm or deny a login attempt, or provide a passcode. Overall, Duo is a popular and strong authentication option with potential benefits and drawbacks for organizations.

  • Duo Security is a cloud-based MFA solution that can help protect on-premise Windows logins. On-premise AD integration and capabilities, however, are an add-on rather than a native feature. Users must install an additional piece of software to integrate Duo with their AD environment.

  • Duo has plenty of options for adding new users — IT admins can onboard new users from services such as Microsoft Azure AD, on-premise AD, or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

  • While Duo offers a straightforward MFA experience, it lacks the overall network visibility provided to admins by Duo MFA alternatives like UserLock.

  • Duo allows admins to report on the deployment status of their MFA, but it might not offer enough session control for some organizations.

  • Duo offline MFA must be enabled by the user, and offline mode is intended as a temporary mode, instead of a functionality enabled by default.

  • Duo’s RDP MFA option does not allow for granular configurations, such as user or group-level settings.

Thales SafeNet Authentication Service (SAS)

Thales SafeNet Authentication Service (SAS) is an on-premise authentication solution. It offers secure authentication through various MFA methods.

Overall, SAS has a broad use case coverage. It offers support for many connection types, such as VPNs, VDI, cloud applications, local network access, and web portals. It also has other potential advantages and downsides.

  • SAS can be straightforward to implement and roll out to new users, although there is a degree of manual admin integration.

  • On-premise AD users may find that SAS does not offer granular MFA policies by user, group, organizational unit, or connection type.

  • Users that also require single sign-on (SSO) must install an additional piece of software.

  • Admins that want a large degree of session control and system visibility might find that SAS lacks certain functionalities when compared to other MFA solutions like UserLock — especially when reporting on Windows logins or RDP connections.


Okta provides a range of MFA tools for organizations looking to protect user access. It gives admins some granular options for configuring access controls, with context-based policies to reduce end-user frustration.

Depending on the organization’s needs, there are some potential benefits and disadvantages to Okta.

  • The Okta solution can require a lengthy and manual integration process.

  • Okta gives admins visibility over user activity and sign-on events, although it may not offer enough session control beyond MFA for some organizations.

  • Okta integrates well with many of the best MFA solutions. UserLock can work in collaboration with Okta and combine MFA without a connection to a cloud IP provider. The ease of integration with AD enables a smoother setup for on-premise AD MFA.

IBM Security Verify

IBM Security Verify offers various identity and access management (IAM) options, including SSO and MFA. The MFA solution can work with on-premise or cloud applications, with some pros and cons depending on organizational needs.

  • IBM Security Verify does not integrate with existing AD accounts, unlike UserLock.

  • Admins requiring system visibility can report on MFA user authentication, although there may not be sufficient session control beyond MFA.

  • Organizations might need to install a separate application that links IBM identities to on-premise AD.


ManageEngine offers several IT management solutions, including password management. Once installed, ManageEngine admins can link MFA policies to their password controls at the group or organizational unit level. As such, there are several potential benefits and drawbacks:

  • ManageEngine may not provide enough granular user-level controls for many organizations.

  • Admins can report on denied passwords and user login status.

  • ManageEngine might not provide the session control beyond MFA that many admins require.

Why UserLock for MFA?

When compared to some of the other best MFA for Active Directory solutions, UserLock offers several advantages:

  • UserLock combines MFA and SSO to give end-users secure and frictionless access to both network and cloud resources.

  • UserLock integrates with existing AD environments, without the need to create new directories.

  • UserLock can grow with organizations, proving scalable across all AD users.

  • UserLock combines MFA and session management to give admins deep control and visibility over their environments.

  • UserLock can authenticate users in any location, with MFA for remote and on-premise employees.

  • With UserLock, organizations can keep their AD access management solution, extending access security to protect corporate networks and cloud applications.

  • UserLock offers granular controls for admins to set MFA policies at the users, groups, and organizational unit levels.

  • Admins can report on a range of factors to gain deep insights into system security.

UserLock Customer Testimonials

Shift Technologies

Shift Technologies sought a two-factor authentication (2FA) system that could cater to multiple clients. They also had to obtain compliance with their cyber insurance policy MFA needs. Shift required the 2FA solution to function without an internet connection, manage all access attempts within the network, and allow for customization of individual user access.

Due to the client’s requirement for an on-premise solution that directly integrated with Active Directory, UserLock emerged as an obvious choice. The insurance company approved the use of UserLock, and the Shift Technologies team discovered that its 2FA was simple to deploy, user-friendly, and ensured secure access while allowing for continued employee productivity.

“I’ve never had a problem installing UserLock remotely on people’s systems. UserLock is very lightweight — once it’s installed, you don’t know it’s there.”

Ryan Olson, Technology Specialist at Shift Technologies.

A European Ministry of Defense

A European Ministry of Defense faced the challenge of finding an on-premise MFA solution that aligned with their national and NATO requirements. The solution had to be easy to configure with an existing AD infrastructure and allow remote enrollment to integrate with their automated mission deployments.

Ultimately, the Ministry of Defense selected UserLock to provide robust security for their many classified networks and admin accounts. UserLock’s capabilities met the Ministry of Defense’s national and NATO security standards and proved to be well-suited for the dynamic mission environment they operate in. As a result, the Ministry of Defense can now rely on UserLock to deliver strong MFA to safeguard their networks.

“We’d recommend UserLock to other government institutions or organizations that cannot be connected to the cloud.”

Security Architect at a European Ministry of Defense

Quebec Police Services

The Quebec Police Services are mandated to implement MFA to meet compliance regulations. The City of Trois-Rivières had 250 YubiKey tokens and needed to find an MFA solution that was compatible with them. UserLock emerged as the ideal solution due to its ability to support YubiKey to apply MFA on RDP and local connections.

As a result of installing UserLock MFA, the Quebec Police Services successfully met the regulatory requirements for MFA while simplifying their daily work. UserLock’s compatibility with YubiKey allowed for smooth integration with the existing tokens, and its centralized console and logon reports helped the City of Trois-Rivières manage and monitor user access.

“Userlock makes our life easier thanks to the simplicity of its installation and use. The installation only took a few minutes and the initial setup was very easy. The low cost of the solution, the ease of implementation, the quality of the documentation and the 30-day free trial convinced me.”

Mathieu Vandal, Chief Technician and System Administrator at Quebec Police Services

See how UserLock works for yourself

Are you looking for the best MFA solution for your on-premise or hybrid Active Directory environment? Easily enable MFA for Windows login, RDP, RD Gateway, VPN, IIS, and Cloud Applications with UserLock.

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