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Two-factor authentication has emerged as a crucial security measure for organizations to enhance the security of their users. Duo and Microsoft Authenticator are two popular apps that provide this level of security.

Duo uses push notifications, time-based, one-time passwords, physical tokens and biometrics to verify the identity of users at login. Similarly, Microsoft Authenticator utilizes push notifications, one-time passcodes and can integrate with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory.)

While both 2FA options share some similarities, there are key differences that can sway your decision to choose one over the other.

Duo vs. Microsoft Authenticator: Comparison table

Features Duo Microsoft Authenticator
Push notifications Yes Yes
Biometrics authentication Yes Yes
One-time passcodes Yes Yes
Integrations with other products and services Very wide Microsoft-first and limited
Backup and recovery Yes Yes
Pricing Comes with a free trial and starts at $3 per user, per month. Offers a free version but comes bundled with Microsoft Entra ID (Azure Active Directory) and 365 Business accounts
Visit Duo Visit Microsoft Authenticator

Duo vs Microsoft Authenticator pricing

Below is how Duo and Microsoft Authenticator square up against each other in terms of pricing.

Duo pricing (Free plan; then starts at $3 per user, per month for next-level plan)

Duo follows a tiered system based on features and services you would like added to the application.

  • Free plan: The free version allows up to 10 users and offers fundamental security features.
  • Essential: This plan starts at $3 per user per month and includes additional features like single sign-on, verified Duo push, trusted endpoints and passwordless authentication.
  • Advantage: The Duo Advantage plan is $6 per user per month and includes all Essential features plus risk-based authentication, adaptive access policies, device health checks and complete device visibility.
  • Premier: This plan starts at $9 per user per month and offers all Advantage features and inclusions such as complete device trust with endpoint protection check, a comprehensive package for zero-trust access and VPN-less remote access to private resources. (Figure A)
Duo single sign on.
Figure A: Duo single sign on. Image: Duo / Franklin Okeke

Microsoft Authenticator pricing (Free; bundled into some existing products)

Microsoft Authenticator is free and comes bundled with all Microsoft Entra ID (Azure Active Directory) and 365 Business accounts.

For a full list of prices and features, you can visit our articles on Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Entra ID (Azure Active Directory).

Feature comparison: Duo vs. Microsoft Authenticator

Both Duo and Microsoft Authenticator present excellent features to users but here is a head-to-head feature comparison:

Application Programming Interface integration

Most enterprise organizations considering Duo or Microsoft Authenticator will want to integrate these apps with existing software or custom software and server applications.

Duo supports unlimited application integrations through its platform on all editions available.

On the other hand, while Microsoft Authenticator also integrates with other third-party products and services, it is far easier to integrate with Microsoft-supported services because it’s already bundled with some of them.

Security features

Both Duo and Microsoft Authenticator prioritize security and offer robust features to protect user accounts. Duo supports adaptive authentication, which assesses the risk of each login attempt and prompts for additional verification when necessary. It also provides granular access policies, allowing administrators to define specific authentication requirements based on user roles and conditions.

Microsoft Authenticator leverages the power of Microsoft Entra ID (Azure Active Directory) to deliver advanced security features, such as conditional access policies, risk-based authentication and seamless single sign-on experiences across applications. It also supports hardware-backed security keys for enhanced protection against phishing attacks.

Authentication methods

Both Duo and Microsoft Authenticator provide multiple authentication methods. Duo offers a variety of authentication options, including push notifications, WebAuthn and biometrics, tokens, passcodes and hardware security keys.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Authenticator supports push notifications, OTPs and biometric authentication (fingerprint, facial recognition) on supported devices (see Figure B).

Microsoft Authenticator push notification.
Figure B: Microsoft Authenticator push notification. Image: Microsoft / Franklin Okeke

Backup and recovery

Duo’s Restore feature lets users backup Duo-protected accounts and third-party OTP accounts for recovery to the same or new device. This allows you to backup your Duo accounts on cloud services like iCloud and Google Drive.

Similarly, Microsoft Authenticator offers backup and recovery options that allow users to securely store their accounts and settings in the cloud. This feature enables easy restoration of accounts on new devices or in case of device loss.

Verification for Duo push.
Figure C: Verification for Duo push. Image: Duo / Franklin Okeke

Duo pros and cons

While Duo presents many benefits to users, it also has some drawbacks. Here is a summary of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Single sign-on.
  • Passwordless.
  • Multiple authentication methods.
  • Push Phishing Protection.
  • Threat Detection.
  • Backup and recovery.

Cons

  • Duo Free accounts are limited to 10 users.
  • Slightly cluttered UI in certain places due to the wide variety of authentication options.
  • Security notifications sometimes take longer than expected.

Microsoft Authenticator pros and cons

Microsoft authenticator offers powerful two-factor authentication features, but there may be a few drawbacks some users say they have experienced while using the product. Below are some of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Passwordless sign-in.
  • Push notifications through mobile app.
  • The authenticator app can be used as a software token.
  • Backup and recovery support.

Cons

  • Multi-factor report option is only supported in the higher plans.
  • Pricing model may be complicated for some users to navigate.
  • May not be ideal for companies that do not have Microsoft ecosystems.

Methodology

In order to draw a fair comparison between Duo and Microsoft Authenticator, we started by going through the documentation pages of each product, where we learned about their key features and how they integrate with other technologies. We also checked out user reviews from trusted third-party review sites to get some opinions from verified users. The writer also uses Microsoft Authenticator, making it easier to discuss the product based on my experience. All these provided enough insight that helped shape our review.

This article was originally written by Franklin Okeke and was updated by Luis Millares to account for feature and product changes, like Azure Active Directory’s name change to Microsoft Entra ID.

Should your organization use Duo or Microsoft Authenticator?

Picking one 2FA software over another can be challenging, especially when many striking similarities bind the products together. For Duo and Microsoft Authenticator, the main point of reference when you have to decide between the two should revolve around your overall technology stack, ease of use and pricing.

If you heavily rely on Microsoft products such as Microsoft Entra ID (Azure Active Directory), Microsoft 365 and other Microsoft services, Microsoft Authenticator may provide a more seamless and integrated experience.

On the other hand, if you have a diverse set of platforms and applications, Duo’s broad compatibility and extensive integration capabilities make it a more versatile choice. Duo integrates easily with services like Slack, Atlassian, Salesforce, Dropbox and more.

You should also consider the pricing models and how they meet your business requirements and budgets. Duo’s pricing structure varies depending on the features and support level chosen, while Microsoft Authenticator is typically bundled with Microsoft Entra ID and Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

Duo’s pricing is more comprehensive and transparent, unlike Microsoft’s, which is more complicated due to its bundling with Microsoft subscriptions. Take time to evaluate your organization’s specific needs and consider the associated costs when comparing the pricing of these solutions.

Finally, look into each service’s user experience and ease of use. Both Duo and Microsoft Authenticator provide seamless user experiences, but preferences may vary depending on your organization’s tech stack, user base and how familiar they are with each platform. Use the free versions offered by each solution to get hands-on experience with each product. When testing, assess things such as the simplicity of setup, the intuitiveness of the authentication process, and any additional features that enhance usability.

Consider conducting a pilot test with both solutions to evaluate their performance and compatibility within your business environment. This will allow you to gather firsthand experience and feedback from your users and administrators before making a final decision.

For a more comprehensive evaluation of two-factor authentication based on security impact and strategic business initiative, check out this two-factor authentication evaluation guide.

Read next: Two-factor authentication: A cheat sheet


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