Azure Active Directory: An Integral Part Of Managed IT Services

What is Azure AD?

It’s the beginning of a new month. Or a new quarter. Or a new year. The time has come to review the data from the period that has passed, and you can’t wait to analyse the information at hand and develop strategies for growth in the year ahead.

But for the life of you, you can’t find the right spreadsheets. And the ones that you can find, you don’t seem to have the right access to – you can see them, but can’t make any adjustments, for example. Or they ask you to sign in. And as soon as you’ve signed into one platform, you need to sign into another, and another, until you’re not only frustrated but have wasted your valuable time.

Sound familiar? For far too many companies, it will.

For any business to operate effectively and efficiently, the right people need access to the right resources, at the right time. Anything less, and you’re going to face problems with productivity, endless frustration from both employees and management, and admin headaches galore. But at the same time, businesses can’t just provide all of their employees with access to everything they have, or allow for blanket access across the board. That would be a security nightmare!

How do you juggle accessibility with security? Thankfully, the answer is right in front of you: Azure Active Directory.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory As Part Of Managed IT Services 

When you work with an IT support or Managed IT Services provider like Solid Systems, Azure Active Directory is already part and parcel of the service that you get. We ensure that your Identity and Access Management is on point and that your teams are easily able to access the resources that they need while maintaining your data security.

Why do we do this? Because we truly believe that managed IT services don’t end at the technologies that you implement. It’s about more than just login details to us. It’s about the peace of mind that your business’ security is being taken care of. It’s about a smooth transition between platforms with no friction. It’s about making your business run as efficiently and effectively as possible because that’s how you end up making more money – when you aren’t spending your valuable time worrying about your data or how secure your apps and technologies are. Managing your Microsoft and MS Azure services and providing world-class IT support is just part of how we help your business step into the future with confidence.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look a little deeper into how Azure Active Directory (or Azure AD) works, and how it protects your business.

What is Azure AD?

If you think of your data as being in a building, Azure Active Directory is the security guard standing at the front, making sure that only the right people are allowed in. At least, that’s the very, very basic premise. But Azure AD is so much better, more efficient, and more secure than having a single security guard keeping your data safe.

It’s a cloud-based identity and access management (IAM) tool that: 

  • Manages and monitors access to your information,  
  • Helps you secure your login details through single sign-on and multi-factor authentication (MFA) features,  
  • Ensures data compliance, and so much more. 

And it doesn’t just do this for you. It’s a management tool for your entire business, ensuring that you can provide access to the people who need it, and no one else.

What Is The Difference Between Azure AD and Windows AD?

There may be a buzzer going off in the back of your mind telling you that all of this is familiar. If your business has been managing on-premises data for quite some time, or you are used to running a network, you’ve likely come across the Windows Active Directory IAM solution in the past. But while Windows AD manages identities and access locally, Azure AD is entirely cloud-based, managing your company’s and employees’ access to cloud-based and SaaS solutions like Microsoft 365.

Which may see you asking yourself: “Which should I be using?”

That will depend entirely on your business’s unique needs. But there is a high likelihood that you may even need both Azure and Windows Active Directories. Each offers identity and security management, but for different areas.

If you are a start-up, intending to only make use of SaaS or cloud solutions and infrastructure, then Azure AD might be the only solution that you need. But most established businesses who are making the move to the cloud aren’t giving up their existing infrastructure entirely, or are leaning towards hybrid cloud and on-premises solutions. While Azure Active Directory will be immeasurably valuable in managing your cloud services, Windows AD will remain your go-to IAM solution for your in-office network, servers, and device management.

Who Uses Azure AD and How Does It Work?

Whether you’re an IT admin, a developer, or just an average user or employee, there are plenty of Azure Active Directory benefits. Azure AD makes it easy to control access to resources, test and personalise app experiences, and access the files you need from whichever device you may be using.

How does it do this?

Well, when it boils down to it, Azure Active Directory is exactly that – a directory of usernames, log-in details, and permissions. Even though it’s cloud-based, it integrates with Windows AD to ensure that details are synched across the two platforms, which makes it ideal for hybrid server environments.

On top of ensuring that the right people have access to the right resources, Azure AD is also able to detect threats by notifying you whenever a user tries to access information that they don’t have permission for.

But one of the biggest benefits of Azure AD is its single-sign-on (SSO) capability. Because Azure Active Directory integrates with so many other apps and cloud solutions, users are able to log into Azure AD directly, and from there access all the tools that they need to work efficiently without needing to log in on each platform.

Who needs an onsite server room? 

Microsoft Azure’s got all the room you need!

What Are The Top Azure Active Directory Features?

Azure AD offers a wide range of features, but the ones that have the biggest impact on most businesses are:

  • App Management

Manage and sign in to your apps from a single portal.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication

Boost security across your business by making it more difficult for cyberthreats to access your data, even if they have access to login credentials.

  • Guest Users

It’s not just your own users who can gain access to apps and resources. You can create B2B or B2C guest users, making it easier to share information between partners or to manage client logins and gated content.

  • Hybrid Identities

When your business has resources based on-premises as well as in the cloud, hybrid identities allow them to maintain the access that they need, no matter where they may be.

  • Device Management

Another boost to security, with the help of Microsoft Intune, Azure Active Directory allows you to control which devices are able to access your network. This way, attackers using unfamiliar devices or coming from unrecognised networks will immediately be detected and prevented from accessing resources.

  • Monitoring & Reporting

From keeping logs on access and changes to your files, to running diagnostics, Azure Active Directory provides reporting that will help you ensure that your network is running optimally and securely.

Ready To Put Azure Active Directory Into Action For Your Business?

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of how Azure AD works, the role that it plays in your IT helpdesk support and Managed IT services, and the features that you can take advantage of, isn’t it time to put it to work for your business? Get in touch with us today to start making secure ease of access one of your company’s top priorities.

Daniel Avinir

Daniel Avinir

Head of Client Success at Solid Systems | Virtual CIO I have a love and passion for people, their minds, technology, and nature.I believe in empowering people to work in increasingly flexible and productive ways, helping them unlock the collaboration potential and leading the cultural & technological change of our time.

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