Difference Between Microsoft NPS and Cisco ISE

Microsoft NPS and Cisco ISE is a cloud-based networking service that allows for easier implementation of network access control, both within an organization and by allowing access to outside resources.


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Moreover, both services allow IT supervisors to quickly analyze traffic to ensure sufficient capacity for their business needs. As a result, both Microsoft NPS and Cisco ISE may seem exceptionally similar, yet they are different too.

Key Takeaways

  1. Microsoft Network Policy Server (NPS) is a RADIUS server solution for managing network access, while Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) is a comprehensive network access control solution.
  2. NPS provides basic network access control and authentication, whereas Cisco ISE offers advanced features like profiling, posture assessment, and guest management.
  3. Cisco ISE supports integration with various third-party systems, while Microsoft NPS is primarily designed for Windows-based environments.

Microsoft NPS vs Cisco ISE

Microsoft NPS is a built-in Windows Server feature that provides network access control for users and devices. It allows administrators to create and enforce network access policies. Cisco ISE is a network access control solution that provides centralized authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) services for users and devices. It is a server-based solution.

Microsoft NPS vs Cisco ISE

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Microsoft NPS can be used to monitor a wide variety of events in the network, including but not limited to bandwidth usage, protocol violations, port binding failures, and much more.

This allows NPS to give a complete view into the health of networks and alert administrators when issues arise.

Cisco ISE is intended to provide a secure way of defining, deploying, and managing endpoints by consolidating and integrating security policies, such as access control lists, user policies, and configuration profiles, into a single platform, which will then be applied to endpoints connected to the network.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMicrosoft NPSCisco ISE
DefinitionMicrosoft NPS relies on a concept known as network policies to enforce compliance on the network and thereby increase security. NPS can also be used to audit the effectiveness of the organization’s security protocols, an essential part of any high-security organization.
Shielding SystemCisco ISE runs on-premise; it is more shielded.Setup
Set-Up Microsoft NPS is fabricated for the small to medium business market. Cisco ISE is fabricated for enterprises and distributed deployments.
User AcessMicrosoft NPS does not let users manage users through existing authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) systems.Cisco ISE lets users manage users through existing authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) systems.
AdministrationNPS can also be used to audit the effectiveness of the organization’s security protocols, which is an essential part of any high-security organization. Cisco ISE is most often used to govern traffic flow in the organization’s network.

What is Microsoft NPS?

Microsoft NPS monitors the health of your servers and applications to detect anomalies in the data traffic. If any abnormalities are detected, it can alert the user that performance issues may be occurring in the environment.

Network policies are customized for each environment and can be created to enforce multiple rules for different ports, protocols, and server types.

Microsoft NPS is a relatively lightweight application that allows for quick deployment and setup in environments with or without existing Microsoft NPS infrastructure.

Microsoft NPS also helps diagnose the source of these issues by collecting information on what is happening at the location and how users could resolve them.

Microsoft NPS can also work with VPN servers, Firewalls, and Web Application Firewalls (WAF) to help with performance issues.

There are some limitations included with this tool as well, such as it cannot be used to provide server load balancing, HTTP load balancing, query performance, or application health monitoring.

What is Cisco ISE?

Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) is a comprehensive identity management solution that provides policy-based access control, application visibility and control, user self-service, security reporting, and authentication services.

Additionally, Cisco ISE utilizes the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) Connector module that integrates Cisco ASA firewalls, Cisco ASR routers, and other security devices from the company.

Cisco ISE provides an extensive set of features for managing both corporate access and guest access to the network.

Cisco ISE is ideal for customers with stringent security requirements that comply with regulatory frameworks such as PCI DSS or HIPAA. Cisco ISE also integrates with other Cisco products and offers integration with third-party security applications.

Cisco ISE provides a policy-based approach for access control and user self-service for wired and wireless users.

ISE provides encrypted communications to help keep the information confidential in transit, including IPsec VPN tunnels for network access control.

It also provides secure communications to help protect against man-in-the-middle attacks by certifying the identity of network devices and access points.

Main Differences Between Microsoft NPS and Cisco ISE

  1. The Microsoft NPS is a defence tool that helps troubleshoot network performance, whereas Cisco ISE is a security appliance and the central platform of endpoint security technology.
  2. The shielding system of Microsoft NPS is less safeguarding, whereas the shielding system of Cisco ISE is highly safeguarding.
  3. The setup of Microsoft NPS is constructed for the small to medium business market, whereas the setup of Cisco ISE is constructed for enterprises and distributed deployments.
  4. The user access of Microsoft NPS does not let users manage through existing AAA systems, whereas the user access lets users manage through existing AAA systems.
  5. The Microsoft NPS is an essential part of any high-security organization. In contrast, Cisco ISE lets organizations can more effectively manage and secure wired and wireless access to networks and applications.
  1. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4842-7741-6_1
  2. https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/62072/Havia_Tapani.pdf
  3. https://www.ghspjournal.org/content/6/3/413.short
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