Microsoft Azure Pros & Cons: Active Directory

Azure pros and cons

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Makenzie Buenning      

Active directory (AD) can be an essential component of an IT infrastructure. In fact, active directory is used by about 90% of Global Fortune 1000 companies. AD is a directory service that’s provided by Microsoft and runs on Windows servers. What makes Azure AD unique is that it’s a specific Microsoft product.

Azure AD is not the only directory solution available, so how do you know if it will fit your business’s IT needs? Let’s dive in to discuss Azure pros and cons, and compare Azure AD with traditional on-prem AD and directory-as-a-service solutions.

What is an active directory?

An AD is a database and set of services used for identity and access management. It includes information about your IT environment such as which users and devices are there and what their permissions are.

Every time you have a user trying to access a specified program or application, the AD steps in, checks their identity and permissions, and decides whether they are authorized. An AD has control over multiple aspects of a user’s account like controlling user permissions or membership and turning on/off certain user passwords.

What is Azure active directory?

Azure AD is a cloud-based identity and access management product that is part of Microsoft Entra. It is typically used by IT admins and app developers for various tasks, such as controlling access to applications, adding user authentication to apps, and creating custom apps based on existing data. Azure AD is ideal for those who are already subscribed to other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft 365 or Office 365, because then you automatically get Azure AD access and the free features associated with it.

Microsoft Azure pros and cons

Azure active directory pros

Cloud service (doesn’t require local infrastructure)
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) & Single sign-on (SSO)
Manages user and computer access
Includes mobile device management (MDM)
Part of Microsoft stack

Azure active directory cons

Need to be using Microsoft products
Doesn’t support organizational units and group policy objects
Flat structure
Lacks domain controller and domain services

Azure AD vs traditional on-premises AD

Traditional on-premises AD, also known as Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), handles requests from on-premises users for domain services. It is a central system for managing users and computers as well as groups and organizational units (OUs). Traditional AD keeps track of the devices, users, and servers that are trying to sign in to use organizational services. One disadvantage to consider with this solution is that you need to continually manage the servers and have people on-site to maintain it.

When compared to the traditional model of AD, Azure AD can provide a lot more flexibility with location because it is a cloud-based solution for managing identity and user access. It is also multi-tenant, meaning that it can serve multiple customers in a shared environment.

The traditional on-prem AD model is slowly dying as technology increases and more tasks can be completed remotely or on the cloud. It doesn’t give you the flexibility to work anywhere like a cloud-based AD like Azure does. However, many organizations may find that a traditional AD works best with their existing IT infrastructure.

Azure AD vs Okta (and other modern DaaS solutions)

If you have a remote workforce, you will most likely prefer to use either Azure AD or a modern directory-as-a-service (DaaS) solution such as Okta. Companies who do not already have an Office 365 subscription may find it difficult to implement Azure AD

DaaS is a modern user directory. Okta is a certain type of remote DaaS solution that, like Azure AD, also works through the cloud. This means that it is a solution well-suited for a remote workforce. Okta is also vendor-neutral, meaning that it can be compatible with a wide range of IT environments, and it has cross-platform capabilities. Okta allows your organization to add authentication and authorization to applications and application programming interfaces (APIs), implement SSO and MFA, and manage user access.

Azure AD and Okta both work efficiently for the purpose of identity and access management. Which one you choose will largely depend on your existing tools and IT infrastructure, or if you’re initially setting things up in your IT environment, which tools and devices you’d like to use.

Which active directory solution is right for your business?

Each of these AD solutions have a place, and there is a valid reason to use any of these solutions. For large companies that require an on-prem IT infrastructure, AD DS might be their preferred solution. Azure AD is a cloud-based solution that is ideal for companies who are already using other Microsoft products or Azure applications. Organizations who are remote-first and don’t subscribe to Microsoft may find that a DaaS solution is the perfect fit. Fortunately, there is a solution for just about every type of IT environment, and it is just a matter of incorporating one that integrates well.

NinjaOne can assist your organization with your active directory. Ninja provides active directory management, which enables you to monitor AD servers and manage AD users directly from the platform. Sign up for a free trial of NinjaOne today.

5 Bite-Sized Ways to Improve Your Business Every Week

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Join fellow growth-minded MSPs and feed your business with new tips and tutorials delivered straight to your inbox.

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