Azure Active Directory Review

Feature-rich, good documentation, and the setup is not complex

What is our primary use case?

I am an operational engineer and consultant that assists organizations with their Azure Active Directory implementation. I primarily deal with administrative functions in my day-to-day tasks. I am responsible for creating and configuring Azure AD users and groups, as well as assigning the dynamic membership required by the organization to their users. Another common task is that I set up guest user access for organizations that want to grant access to users on a temporary basis.

For customers that want to use a cloud-based deployment, I can assist them with that. In cases where the customer wants an on-premises deployment then we will provide them with help using AD Connect, which is used for synchronization between cloud-based and on-premises data.

How has it helped my organization?

This solution helps to improve security for our clients using a specific directory structure and by using a variety of options. There is a default directory, which is owned by Microsoft, and in there you can create custom directories for your use. 

There is a panel available for the administration of users, groups, and external identities. 

Options are included for uploading your on-premises applications to the cloud, and they can be registered with Azure. This means that you can also create your own applications.

Identity governance is available for paid users.

Using Azure Active Directory has benefitted several of my clients, with an example being a startup organization. Startups have three or four things that they need to do in order to begin work. First, they need a domain, and after that, they need a DNS record to be created for their domain. For instance, these services are provided by or similar vendors. Once these steps are complete, they connect to Azure AD with the help of the DNS record that was created. At this point, Azure AD performs the role of a Platform as a Service. Once Active Directory is connected and verified, you can create the users and groups, and begin managing your processes. 

These are the only steps that are required for a startup. For an enterprise that wants to migrate its on-premises data to the cloud, there are several additional steps. For instance, you need to create a virtual machine and install your server. Alternatively, if you already have a server, it can be connected with the help of AD Connect.

This is a good solution for end-users because the vendor provides good documentation and if the users experience errors or issues, they get a popup alert to explain the problem. Furthermore, it can provide a solution to resolve the issue.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is Identity and Access Management. As an IT administrator, this feature allows me to manage access for users and groups.

This product is easy to use and easy to manage.

The application policies, licensing, and AD Connect options are valuable.

Multifactor authentication provides more security. Having a user ID and password is compulsory but after that, you can add different security features. For example, it can work with biometrics such as fingerprints, retinal scans, and facial recognition. There are many more options that may suit you better, as per your requirements.

When you log in to the Azure portal, there is an option available called Resource Groups. Here, you can add multiple things including printers and different servers. There are Windows servers available, as well as servers hosting many different flavors of Linux. Once a server is created, you can add in a database, for instance.

What needs improvement?

There are four levels of subscription and the security features are not available for free. At the free or basic level of service, Azure should provide identity protection features including single sign-on and multifactor authentication. These are the most important features for organizations and everybody should be able to utilize them for working remotely.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Azure Active Directory for approximately three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Worldwide, Azure has many servers available and in fact, they are the largest cloud organization in the world. As long as you are paying for the service, you don't have to worry about availability. There is a Microsoft backend team available that can provide you with what you need.

The availability is the best in the cloud industry.

You don't need to create or manage your own infrastructure, as it is handled by the Azure team. Also, through the Azure portal, you can add databases.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This is a scalable product. You can scale it to any number of users and any number of servers, and there is no issue. As your organization grows day by day, you can increase your users, your databases, and compute services including RAM, CPU, and networking capabilities. This will ensure availability on the platform.

If you are part of a very large organization, with between 50,000 and one million users, then you might generate between 500 and 1,000 terabytes of data each day. You have two options for uploading this data to the cloud, including an online option and an offline option. In the online option, you use a gateway. The offline option includes Data Box, which is a device used to transfer your data. These hold 800 terabytes and above.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have not used technical support from Microsoft myself. However, it is available and they can provide proper resolution to problems that people are having.

The support documentation that is supplied on the web page is very good. If anything changes then there is a section for notes in the documentation that explains it.

Using technical support is a more cost-effective solution than hiring somebody to maintain the product full-time.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is not a complex process. It is simplest in a cloud-based deployment and it will not take much time. If your current server is on-premises then you only need two things. One is your enterprise domain users, which have full access permissions. The other is a global administrator on the cloud side. Both sides need to be integrated and this is done with the help of Azure AD connect. Once this is complete, you can have interaction between your on-premises data and cloud data.

It is helpful to have a basic level of understanding of the product prior to implementing it.

What about the implementation team?

We provide support to our customers, depending on the error or issues that they are having.

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

There are four different levels of subscription including the free level, one that includes the Office 365 applications, the Premium 1 (P1) level, and the Premium 2 (P2) level. There are different options available for each of the different levels.

Everybody can get a one-month free trial.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

This product is cheaper than Amazon AWS and Google GCP.

I do not use the other Active Directory solutions, although I do check on them from time to time. One thing I have noted is that the Google platform charges you on an hourly basis. In the case where you need a virtual machine for only one or two hours, this is a good option. However, if you forget to log out of your machine, then the cost will be large.

AWS provides you with a one-month free trial so that you can test using the resources.

What other advice do I have?

At this time, Azure AD is the biggest cloud Platform as a Service that is available. They have 60+ cloud data centers available worldwide, which is more than any other organization. It is a service that I recommend.

My advice for anybody interested in this product is to utilize the free trial. Microsoft will not charge you anything for the first month. They will also give you a $200 credit so that you can use the services.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

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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