Azure Active Directory Review

Stable and scalable, but reliable user-training is lacking


What is our primary use case?

We use it mainly for our Office 365 files. The integration between the two is interesting. It's been a learning curve.

What needs improvement?

Overall, it's not a very intuitive solution.

When you have an Office 365 enterprise subscription, it comes with Azure Active Directory. We don't have a subscription to Active Directory, but our Active Directory connector puts our credentials into the Azure Active Directory. On the Office 365 side, we're also in the GCC high 365, so it's a lot more locked down. There are a few things that aren't implemented which make things frustrating. I don't blame the product necessarily, but there are links and things within there that still point back to the .com-side and not the .us-side.

There's a security portal and a compliance portal. They're being maintained, but one's being phased in and the others are being phased out. Things continue to change. I guess that's good, but it's just been a bit of a learning curve.

Our Office 365 subscriptions are tied to our on-prem domain — I have a domain admin there. With our Active Directory connector, our on-prem credentials are being pushed to the cloud. We also have domain credentials in the cloud, but there's no Office subscription tied to it, just to do the administration stuff. I moved my sync credential to have a lot more administrative privileges. Some of the documentation I was reading clearly showed that when you have this particular ability right on the Azure side, and then you have another ability on the Office side, that intuitively, the Microsoft cloud knows to give you certain rights to be able to do stuff. They're just kind of hidden in different places.

Some things are in Exchange, and some things are in the Intune section. We had a few extra light subscriptions that weren't being used, so I gave my microsoft.us admin account a whole other subscription. In the big scheme of things, it's roughly $500 a year additionally — it just seems like a lot. I didn't create a mailbox for that and I was trying to do something in Exchange online and it said I couldn't do it because I didn't have a mailbox.

You can expect a different user experience between on-prem and online. Through this cloud period, we have premiere services, we have a premiere agreement and we had an excellent engineer help us with an exchange upgrade where we needed a server. We needed an OS upgrade and we needed the exchange upgrade on the on-prem hybrid server. We asked this engineer for assistance because my CIO wanted to get rid of the on-prem exchange hybrid server, but everything that I was reading was saying that you needed to keep it as long as you had anything on-prem. We asked the engineer about it and he said, "Yeah, you want to keep that." In his opinion, it was at least going to be two years. So at least I got my CIO to stop talking about that. It's just been an interesting time in this transition between on-prem and in the cloud.

In a secure environment, a lot of this stuff is PowerShell, which is fine. It's a learning curve, but if you don't use it all time, then it's a lot of back and forth with looking at the documentation and looking at other blogs. If you're in a secure environment, the Windows RM (remote management) stuff can be blocked, and that's frustrating, too.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for roughly five months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's definitely both stable and scalable. I used to work in an environment where we had a couple of onsite engineers from Microsoft and I worked on Active Directory — I did that for four years. We did the Active Directory health check, so I actually worked with the engineer for a week and went through our Active Directory. At the time, Microsoft said it was one of the top five most complicated forests out there. We had 150,000 users and 18 domains across the globe supporting the military, so it was pretty big. 

How are customer service and technical support?

We have experience with their premier support. We have a live audit coming up shortly so we don't have a lot of time to waste, waiting for support to get back to us — unless it's very critical. 

How was the initial setup?

I wasn't involved in the initial setup, so I cannot comment on that. 

What about the implementation team?

We used an integrator, however, we don't speak of his name anymore. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I think we're on the E3 — I think it was about 35 dollars per user. We may go up to the E5, which includes Project Online and the telecom service in TEAMS. We're in the process of rolling out Office 365 internally. We've had really great feedback that people really like TEAMS and we want to move there. 

We had a roadmap meeting with Microsoft a few months ago. Some of the more accessible types of things were on the roadmap for the first quarter of this year. I know that Microsoft's working hard at listening to their customers, especially through COVID. Collaboration has changed. They also have military folks, that's why they created the GCC High. Once they got into the GCC high, they're like, "Oh, we need to collaborate a little bit more." So they've been pushing a little bit more on integration. We're not going to have that kind of clout where I am, but where I used to work, we would've. 

What other advice do I have?

Overall, I would give Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium a rating of four out of ten. They could really benefit from some better user-training. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Hybrid 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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