Azure Active Directory Review

Easy to use, accessible from anywhere, and very stable

What is our primary use case?

A lot of our clients basically want to go to the cloud and they don't know how to proceed with doing so. The first thing we recommended is to make sure their identity is in Azure AD as a hybrid approach. We're not getting rid of their on-premises environment, and instead basically, if they're planning to go to Office 365,  they will be able to take advantage of the Azure Active Directory.

How has it helped my organization?

Especially nowadays, people are working from home and we have a client that we actually started migrating to Azure Active Directory and moving some of their applications into the cloud. Since COVID struck, and a lot of people are working from home, since the data center's on-premises, it is very hard for them to bring all of their users into VPN and some of them there are outdated and they can't really accommodate the number of users that are working from home.

However, with Azure AD, some of their applications we have in there they can access from anywhere - even from their home basically, as long as they have internet access. Some of the applications we brought into Azure AD include the Windows Virtual Desktop to basically run their application in the cloud. We built a gateway to their own premises data center and they go into the Windows Virtual Desktop and they can authenticate using Azure AD and then they can access their on-premises application. It's basically the transition from being on-site all the time to working from home. It's a smooth transition because of Azure AD.

What is most valuable?

The solution's ease of use is one of its most valuable features. You can access it anywhere and the integration into existing and some legacy applications is good. You can plug into single sign-on self-service, password reset, or conditional access. If you're inside, you don't need to do multi-factor authentication, MFA's, built-in. 

What needs improvement?

The licensing could be improved. There are premium one, premium two or P1, P2 licensing right now and a lot of organizations are a little bit confused about the licensing information that they have. They want to know how much they're spending. It's not really clear cut. 

Transitioning to the cloud is very difficult. They need the training to make it easier. They should probably put in more training or even include it on the licensing so that there are people that manage their environment have somewhere to come to learn on their own. Maybe there could be some workshop or training within Azure. 

The solution could offer better notifications. They do upgrades once or twice a year. They need to do a better job of alerting users to the changes that are upcoming - especially on the portal where you manage your users and accounts. There needs to be enough time to showcase the new features so your organization is not surprised or put off by sudden changes. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been at this organization since 2016, and therefore have been working with the solution for four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is pretty stable. Once in a while, we get notifications and do a health check if some things are not working or there is some feature or some issue that is acting up. However, that is very seldom.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is really not a problem. You don't have to really worry about that as it's more of a service. It's not like having your own AD that you need to span the main controllers or to purchase hardware. Scalability from 250 users all the way up to a hundred thousand users can be accommodated easily.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support can be hit and miss sometimes. You get like a first-year technician and you don't get the right person. It gets bounced around and eventually, it's either we fix it or somebody's smart enough to know what the issue is. If I was going to rate it from one to 10, say 10 is the best and one is worst, I'd rate it at 7.5 or so.

How was the initial setup?

We've been doing implementations for a while now so for us the initial setup is straightforward. It becomes complex if a company is coming from a complex environment in the beginning, however, nowadays it's straightforward.

While planning, the first thing we do is an assessment and then we go to the design phase from the assessment on what the company has. Then, from the design phase, we designed the Azure infrastructure and do the implementation. The first thing is, of course, the identity. In general, deployment takes two or sometimes three months.

What was our ROI?

The initial investment is high due to the migration if you have a legacy environment like an on-premise Active Directory. However, after that initial investment, you're just paying for the license to hold your information and that has your Active Directory. There's a return on investment probably after few months. In that time, you'll get your money spent back due to the fact that you don't have to purchase a lot of hardware initially. The initial investment is really only to migrate your information or your data. That's where there are costs for a company usually.

What other advice do I have?

It's offered as a service. We're using the latest version. We use it with various versions of the cloud (public, private, cloud). That said, a lot of the time the organization also has already some Active Directory on-premises, and that is something that we help out with in terms of bringing them to the cloud, to the Azure Active Directory.

I'd advise new users not to be afraid to go to the cloud. The cloud has a lot of benefits, including software as a service, SaaS applications. You don't have to worry about hardware updates, or maintaining a license for different applications. Just go start small. If you're worried, start as a hybrid, which is most of the time maybe 80%, 90%. You can go from lift and shift to Azure Active Directory. If you're a new company, just go right to the cloud. It's easy. You don't have the legacy infrastructure to worry about.

Going to the cloud is as secure as ever. I feel a lot of organizations when you go to the cloud, especially Azure Active Directory, think you're sharing a piece of a rack due to the fact that it's in the cloud with Azure companies. It is a bit more complicated than that. However, the security is there. Azure Active Directory and going into the cloud has been around for 13 years. It's no longer a new or scary subject.

Overall, I would rate the solution at a nine out of ten. If they fixed little things like notifications and licensing issues, I would give them a perfect score.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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