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An introduction to Azure Active Directory

With the growing number of applications and cloud services businesses rely on, it has become a burden on business administrators and IT professionals to centralize end user management.

In the past, most of services and applications were locally hosted (on-premise) where end user’s management was being done through local directory services. Now, companies have a growing set of cloud applications that can cause delays on employee on-boarding as well as leave businesses at risk as discharged employees may not be completely cut off business applications.

Today, we have IDaaS (Identity as a Service). A service delivered through the cloud that help businesses provide SSO (Single Sign On) and other great features such as seamless on-boarding to new employees and MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) .

Today we will be discussing Azure AD, a Microsoft cloud solution.

Azure AD simplifies access and centralize identity management in the workplace. Through SSO, users can gain access to both cloud and on-site applications using a single set of credentials which minimizes risk and help desk calls as well as increase productivity.

SSO is also a great tool for your temp workforce who needs quick and easy access to business apps.

Let’s take a quick look at Azure AD.

Overview

Unlike the traditional Windows Server Active Directory which offers five directory services (AD DS, AD LDS, AD FS, AD CS, AD RMS), Windows Azure AD offers two services (WA AD) or Windows Azure Active Directory and Windows Azure Access Control Service which federates identities from external applications and providers.

Azure AD can be your business only Active Directory, however, if you have an internal Active Directory on a Windows Server, then you must extend your local AD to Azure AD which can be easily accomplished.

If you are an Office 365 or Dynamics CRM online user, you already using Azure AD.

Usage Scenarios

The decision on how you use Azure AD is based on your current infrastructure and where do you want to be. Today, there are two types of cloud infrastructures, Hybrid and Full.

  • Hybrid organizations are the ones who utilize on-premise directory services and applications as well as cloud based resources.  With Azure AD Connect, businesses can easily connect and synchronize identity to their Azure AD instance.
  • Fully cloud based organizations are ones that does not employ a local identity management solutions or directory services.

Cloud based organizations can start using Azure AD to centralize identity management and easily track users, accounts and connected applications through Azure AD.

Integration

The reason businesses and IT administrators fall in love with Azure AD is its continuously growing integration library. Besides the obvious deep integration with Microsoft products such as Local Active Directories and Office 365, Azure AD integrates with major cloud solutions such as Box, Adobe, Citrix and many more that you can find here.

Business Partners and Consumers 

With Azure AD, you can easily create a cross-organization relationship with Azure AD B2B. With B2B, you can securely grant external resources and partners access to your business

Business to consumer (customer) is also an option in Azure AD. You can enable access to your applications by integrating with their existing identities (such as Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) as well as enable self-service sign up, profile and password management.

There is more..

We talked briefly about Azure Active Directory, but there is more to cover. In the next few posts, we will be taking a deeper look into Azure AD setup, security and industry based usage.

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