Taking your organization’s Active Directory to the Cloud can be an exciting and complicated event that businesses have had to do in some capacity over the past year in order to survive. Perhaps the initial transition was nothing but scaffolding, a hastily compiled structure that could accommodate your organization’s needs for the time being. But now that you are settled in your new Cloud space, you might want to make an important and permanent transition in hosting your Active Directory in the Cloud. It is obviously not as simple as copying and pasting your Active Directory’s data (if only it was!) but at MetrixData 360, we are here to help you with the transition, as we have helped many of our clients prepare for their move to the Cloud. So, what does a cloud-based Active Directory look like? How will it differ from your on-prem system as it currently exists? Keep reading and find out.

What is Active Directory

To know where you’re going, let’s look at where you’re coming from. At its most basic, your Active Directory is a directory service which allows for wide-reaching control over the desktops and users in your organization’s software infrastructure. The AD stores users, passwords, devices, and licensing entitlements, just to name a few. Since it is a single interface that stores a wealth of data, it is often extremely valuable for the IT department to deploy new technology, ensure compliance and optimization. As you might guess, the safety and accuracy of the data within the AD must be a top priority for organizations since the AD cannot deliver peak performance and results if the data it stores is not accurate and secure.

If you have spent any time on the Internet, you may have been asked to create a free online account by almost every website you’ve come across. The same is true when it comes to SaaS applications; in order to track users, every user needs an account for every application they will use, which means that every user may have dozens of usernames and passwords that the administration department will need to keep track of. For organizations with over a thousand employees, you can understand how quickly this could get away from you. This is where Azure Active Directory comes in. Azure AD provides users with a single username and password in order to access all the applications they have a license to use. In addition to keeping track of all the users in its system, Azure AD can also be used to:

  • Monitor access to applications
  • Provision Users
  • Enable federation between organizations
  • Extend existing on-prem AD implementations to your Azure AD

The Inherent Nature of the Cloud

Moving to the Cloud comes with Cloud related advantages and drawbacks and the Azure AD is no exception to this rule. As is the general nature of the Cloud, Azure AD’s main advantage is that the hardware and software needed for the operation of its service is hosted elsewhere, meaning you do not have to handle maintenance, deployment and security, your cloud solutions provider will take care of that. Pricing is much simpler being that you only pay month-to-month and pay only for what you are using, although Microsoft does still reward large upfront payments and yearlong commitments.

Main Benefits of Azure AD

  • Allows users to have a single log-in and password for every applicable SaaS application that your organization has on the Cloud.
  • Provide users with the ability to access these Cloud services from anywhere, allowing for secure remote access
  • Effectively manage your SaaS applications in a single location, increasing control, organization and security
  • Highly scalable at low costs compared to on-prem counterparts
  • High quality security at your fingertips

Azure AD Editions

There are a few options you can pick from when it comes to Azure AD, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Azure AD Free Edition
  • This version comes as a free edition available to every Azure subscription and offers a maximum 500,000 Directory Object creations. The only drawback with this edition is that it is not applicable with Microsoft paid services and applications like O365 and Intune.

  • Azure AD Basic
  • Allowing you to be both productive and cost-effective, Azure AD basic provides central cloud application access and self-service identity management solutions for the task worker who wants their infrastructure to exist exclusively in the Cloud. Basic also comes with many cost-reducing features like group-based access management, self-service password resets, and Azure AD Application Proxy.

  • Azure AD Premium P1
  • Premium P1 offers its customers a more empowered experience, with the ability to perform more demanding tasks in identification and access management. The P1 also comes with a wide variety of enterprise-level features to help improve identity management capabilities and allows hybrid users to access both on-prem and cloud services. Ideal for information workers, with the bonus of having Microsoft Identity Manager for on-prem identification and access management, P1 offers a full suite of options for security, identity management, and access management.

  • Azure Premium P2

    The Premium P2 encompasses all the features of the other editions plus some added features, including Identity Protection and Privileged Identity Management, allowing top of the line security for your organization’s most sensitive data.

Integrating Azure AD with On-prem Active Directory

If you currently have an on-prem Active Directory Solution and are thinking about moving to the Cloud, there is no need to choose between Active Directory on-prem and Azure AD since you can potentially have both. The two systems can be blended seamlessly, for instance, if you are using Office 365, you can have the usernames and passwords of users managed by on-prem AD while Azure AD takes care of the network logons while synchronizing the two systems so that if details are changed both ADs are updated.

Getting Your Azure AD Solution Under Control

Microsoft Azure AD is a great way for your company to improve the organization of your infrastructure on the Cloud, but it won’t matter how organized you are if you are not compliant. At MetrixData 360, we help our clients ensure they can safely transfer their applications to the Cloud without running the risk of falling out of compliance. This will provide you with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you have deployed in your environment and that you can use it. For more information on our services, you can check out our MetrixData 360 Cloud Services page.

About Mike Austin

Mike Austin is the CEO and team lead here at MetrixData 360. Mike brings more than 15 years of Microsoft licensing experience to his clients’ projects. He assists companies with negotiations of Microsoft Enterprise Agreements (EA), Premier Support Contracts, and Select Agreements, from Fortune 500 to organizations with as few as 500 employees. Mike's vast experience across multiple industries including financial services, high tech, manufacturing, media, health care, government, and retail give him an edge in any business environment. In addition to helping negotiate contracts, he assists clients with creating and implementing software asset management processes to prevent over-purchasing of licenses and ensures terms and conditions reflect actual usage.