Azure Active Directory Review

Provides secure access to resources and a comprehensive audit trace of logins


What is our primary use case?

Our use case for Azure AD is principally to do the role-based access management for our resources. So, we essentially use it for authentication operations for our primary groups and users to secure access to resources.

How has it helped my organization?

It has helped in improving our security posture. It is modeled around that. It is an AD, which means it is a directory of users, objects, and resources, and there is a lot of security in terms of the access model and in terms of who is accessing those resources.

In terms of user experience, it is pretty seamless for any user to use Azure Active Directory. The way its security model works is that once you sign in to Azure Active Directory, you get access to a lot of applications and systems that have Single Sign-on enabled. So, Azure Active Directory works seamlessly as an identity provider for many applications such as Slack, GitHub, etc. That's one of the best parts of it. If it is used properly, only by using the Azure Active Directory sign-in, a person can access different resources, which really improves the user experience.

What is most valuable?

We've benefited from all the security or AD features of this solution. Azure Active Directory is the only directory we've been using, and we make use of pretty much all the features, including the user identity protection features such as MFA. The way it allows us to audit who is logging in and do our work in a secure manner is one of the best features of it.

Azure Active Directory provides access to resources in a very secure manner. We can detect which user is logging in to access resources on the cloud. It gives us a comprehensive audit trace in terms of from where a user signed in and whether a sign-in is a risky sign-in or a normal sign-in. So, there is a lot of security around the access to resources, which helps us in realizing that a particular sign-in is not a normal sign-in. If a sign-in is not normal, Azure Active Directory automatically blocks it for us and sends us an email, and unless we allow that user, he or she won't be able to log in. So, the User Identity Protection feature is the most liked feature for me in Azure Active Directory.

What needs improvement?

Generally, everything works pretty well, but sometimes, Azure Active Directory has outages on the Microsoft side of things. These outages really have a very big impact on the users, applications, and everything else because they are closely tied to the Azure AD ecosystem. So, whenever there is an outage, it is really difficult because all things start failing. This happens very rarely, but when it happens, there is a big impact.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been working as a DevOps engineer for the last four years, and I have been using Azure Active Directory during this time. I got to know it really well over the last two years in my current job and as a part of my Azure Security certification, where I get to know how to secure everything in the cloud by using Azure Active Directory.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is available most of the time. Only once in the last six months, we faced an issue. So, it is very reliable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is managed by Microsoft, so it is not something that is in our hands. We don't manage the infrastructure side and the scalability side.

My present organization is a startup with around a hundred people. There are 5 to 10 people who primarily work in the CloudOps and DevOps space, and we work with Azure Active Directory at some point in time. All people who have resources in Azure, such as the cloud administrators and people from the CloudOps team and the DevOps team, work with Azure AD.

In terms of resources, there are around 100 to 150 resources that we manage within it.

How are customer service and technical support?

Microsoft has extensive documentation on its website about how to set up things in Azure AD. There are also video tutorials. So, typically, we don't need to engage technical support to do anything.

Only when there is an outage or something like that, we had to engage someone from Microsoft. For example, when there was an outage, we didn't know what was happening. There were some strange behaviors in certain applications, and that's when we involved Microsoft's technical support. 

They are very reliable, and they are very fast to respond. The response time also depends on the support plan that an organization has with Microsoft. 

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

I haven't used any other Identity Provider solution.

What was our ROI?

Our organization has definitely seen a return on its investment from using Azure Active Directory. It ties really well with the Azure ecosystem, which is why it makes sense to use Azure Active Directory to access resources.

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

Azure Active Directory has a very extensive licensing model. Most of the features are available in the free and basic version, and then there are premium P1 and P2 editions. The licensing model is based on how many users you have per month. In Australia, for a P1 license, the cost is 8 dollars.

With P1 and P2 licenses, you get a lot of goodies around the security side of things. For example, User Identity Protection is available only in P2. These are extra features that allow you to have a pretty good security posture, but most of the required things are available in the free and basic version.

What other advice do I have?

I would definitely recommend this solution. I have been using it extensively, and it works really well. It is one of the best Identity Provider solutions out there. You have all the guidance from Microsoft to set things up, and if there is an issue, their technical support is highly available. 

It has been around for a while now, and most organizations leverage Active Directory as their on-premises identity provider. This is just Azure managing your Active Directory for you. It is pretty popular and rock-solid.

I haven't used any other Identity Provider solution, which makes it hard for me to compare it with others. Based on my experience and the things that I have done and learned over time, I would rate Azure Active Directory a nine out of 10. 

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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