Azure Active Directory Review

Managed identities mean that people don't have to wait for a long time for manual intervention when they raise a ticket


What is our primary use case?

When we are deploying cloud applications we avail ourselves of the services of Azure AD. At the moment, we are mostly getting the data from on-premises to the cloud, as far as user entities go. We're trying to define policies based upon the company's and our projects' requirements, such as whether we need to make something public or private. This all has to be defined. We also use it for access management.

How has it helped my organization?

We have protected the entire tenant itself, as a federation. AAD has also become a great source of research.

Previously there were many tenants and many subscriptions within each tenant. We have been able to separate Office 365 as a separate tenant and not welcome any other applications into that. We are only using SaaS with that tenant. Later, we had different tenants, and we welcomed all types of PaaS and IaaS.

Recently, managed identities came into the market, and we are trying to adhere to automations and customization, the automation of groups, which is a major advantage. That way, people don't have to wait for a long time for manual intervention. If they raise a ticket, within a few minutes the answer can be in their mailbox with all the details.

What is most valuable?

The features I normally use are for authentication and authorization.

Single sign-on provides flexibility and helps because users don't want to remember so many passwords when logging in. It's a major feature. Once you log in, you have access to all the applications. It also enables us to provide backend access controls to our users, especially when it comes to groups, as we are trying to normalize things.

For the end-users, they can seamlessly log in to their web products, like their Outlook account. They have YAML services and SharePoint services. Everything is single sign-on and that makes them happy.

What needs improvement?

An area where there is room for improvement is the ease of use of the dashboards.

Also, if a user is working in India, and we suddenly see a login from the US, Australia, or New Zealand, we should be alerted, because we wouldn't expect that application would be used by that user in those locations at that time.

An area for improvement is that there is so much dependence on on-premises databases, in the on-premises directory services.

In terms of features we would like to see, we don't have domain controllers in Azure AD. We are also looking at how we can best migrate users from on-premises to Azure AD, and how we can welcome B2B users. We would like to see improvement in the B2B functionality. We hope that is already in the roadmap. We'd also like to see some functionality for how we can set boundaries for tenants. We have multiple tenants that we're trying to consolidate. It's definitely going to be a big challenge to consolidate two tenants, so we're looking for help in that area.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Azure AD for the last three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In terms of the solution's availability, I haven't seen anything negative. It's always available. There have been no issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I haven't seen any room for improving the scalability or performance. The capacity is good. We are managing about 5,000 users in Azure AD. We have an Ops team and there are about 10 people who maintain and manage users and groups for the production tenant. But in five months, with SaaS and PaaS services, that might go higher.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have had many discussions with tech support for Azure AD. We are trying to install read-only domain controllers or ODCs into the cloud platform. We have had many challenges with that in terms of the network side and the business requirements. Another issue we have spoken with them about is how to do automation of service principles and of groups.

Support has been great, but there is a little room for improvement. We have had to go through many iterations and we have had to wait for a long time until the next version of the solution comes out. Overall, we get good support, but their timelines could be better.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using Microsoft AD, on-premises. We are now syncing all the users who are in the on-premises version to Azure AD. We are not directly creating users in Azure AD because of the dependencies. Many legacy applications are talking to the on-premises directory services. When a user is created, we are sending that user from the on-premises to the cloud through Azure AD Connect.

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

We are using the Premium P2 licensing. 

To explore the solution, I had to create a personal version, because I can't play with the access that we get from the company. We explore those services in the personal version first, to see how it reacts.

From the company side, we haven't had issues because the licensing works well. But on a personal level, if I could enable more trial services, at least for a year, it would be much easier to explore and suggest the best solutions.

What other advice do I have?

It's an easy tool to explore if you have already worked with the on-premises data services. There is good documentation available on the Microsoft website. If Microsoft provided more time for new users to explore new features, that would help. Everyone could learn more and contribute more to their companies or to the projects that they're working on. But it is easy to learn.

Just be careful, because you are in the cloud. You have to be aware of access, AM, how the user is coming into their account, where the user is going and what the user actions are, and what access they have. Always try to enable single sign-on, so that if any fraudulent user comes into the picture, you can remove them as soon as possible. So enable those features for admin accounts and use privileged IT management, vaulting the password. You have to strictly follow the security standards, because it's open to the public when it is on the cloud. You have to be very careful about the project requirements, the end-user requirements, and what the business stakeholders need.

When we started with Azure AD, we didn't restrict much. Later, we restricted a few possibilities, such as users logging in with their social accounts, or email accounts like Yahoo accounts or Outlook. Initially it was open to all. Any user could invite a guest user and provide access, but later we restricted things with conditional management, and restricted users so that they could not connect to their Gmail accounts. We are coming up with more policies as well.

We have ongoing discussions with Microsoft Azure AD regarding how we can best protect our entities and what the behaviors should be. We have some more specific requirements in the company, related to project behavior. With IaaS, you have to welcome everyone. You have to put virtual machines in the cloud. You can use the password services and develop custom APIs and deploy them. 

We are trying to define our security policies as much as we can, as we are seeing many changes in the market and are trying to restrict as much as we can. Only users who are least privileged can have an all-access. The most privileged will have additional authentication. We're trying to differentiate.

We have to be very careful about the administrative part, so that operations can easily manage without any hassle. Because we don't have natural restrictions, we are trying to implement our own rules.

As we are moving to the cloud, we have to be very careful when it comes to Azure Active Directory. If there is a mistake and a random user can log in to the directory, they could have access to everything. A user should not have access to whatever he wants, so setting up the right level of authentication and authorization is important. Use IAM very effectively. Identity and access management is a powerful space where one has to be very careful in choosing and configuring policies and standard procedures. We're trying to define that and be careful when with all platforms, whether IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS. At the moment it's going well.

We are merging many things in the tenant. Before, we only had SaaS. We are trying to welcome PaaS and IaaS to use the same production tenant. We have to exercise caution for everyone, all the individual policies, groups, and service principles. We have to enable all the features that you are capable of, such as user sign-in permissions, and application sign-ins. That has to be continuously monitored.

We have a good rapport with Microsoft. We have good support. We'll be exploring all the new services, like the managed entities and their other services that have come up. We are trying our best to explore and use the latest features that are available.

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