What is Azure Active Directory

Are you ready to dive into the world of mobile app domains and sanctuaries? Then, it’s time to get acquainted with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). Think of Azure AD as your personal guide in the vast cloud landscape, crafted by Microsoft. It’s like a magic wand that brings together all your work tools under one easy-to-remember login.

It’s a service that unites organisations under a single banner of convenience. It offers employees the magic key—a singular set of login details—unlocks a treasure trove of services across the cloud’s expanse. Are you curious to learn more? Then, read this blog to learn more about Azure Active Directory.

Table of Contents 

1) What is Azure Active Directory? 

2) How Does Azure Active Directory work?  

3) Features of Azure Active Directory  

4) Azure AD vs Windows AD

5) Key Considerations for Azure Active Directory

6) Understanding Service Audiences

7) Conclusion 

What is Azure Active Directory?  

Azure Active Directory (AD) is a service hosted in the cloud that manages identity and access. It includes a directory (database) that records user identities and their respective permissions. This service allows employees to authenticate their identities and access IT resources based on their authorisation levels. 

These resources can be internal, such as data and tools on your company’s intranet, or external, like Microsoft 365 and various Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. 

It’s crucial to note that Azure Active Directory is not merely an instance of Active Directory running on Microsoft’s servers as opposed to your own on-premises data centre. 

It is a distinct solution that forms part of the Microsoft Azure public cloud computing platform. However, on-premises Active Directory and Azure AD can and often do operate in tandem, creating what is known as a hybrid AD environment.

The key features of Azure AD include: 

a) Central repository for user identities: Azure AD is a central repository where user identities are securely stored. Organisations can efficiently manage access to applications and resources across the Azure cloud environment.  

b) Authentication methods: Azure AD supports a range of authentication methods, from traditional usernames and passwords to more robust options like Multi-factor Authentication. Additionally, it integrates with social identity providers such as Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.  

c) Integration with Microsoft products and services: Azure AD seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft offerings, including Office 365 and Azure. It also extends its capabilities to third-party applications and services.

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How does Azure Active Directory work?  

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is a purpose-built system by Microsoft, designed specifically to support cloud infrastructure. Unlike its predecessor, Windows Active Directory (AD), which primarily caters to on-premises environments, Azure AD focuses on managing user access to cloud applications and services. 

Let’s explore the details:

How Does Azure Active Directory Work

1) Flat structure and single tenant: Azure AD operates within a flat structure, encompassing a single tenant. Imagine this tenant as a circle that surrounds all your cloud resources. It simplifies management by providing a centralised directory for users, permissions, passwords, and more. 

2) Methods for populating users and groups

a) Azure AD Connect: This method syncs users from Windows to Azure AD. Enterprises already using Windows AD often adopt this approach. 

b) Manual creation: You can create Azure AD Management Portal users.  

c) Scripting and programming: Add new users programmatically using PowerShell or the Azure AD Graph API. 

3) Key considerations for adding users

a) Authentication and security: Establish authentication methods and password policies and enforce multi-factor authentication.  

b) Selective user addition: Only add necessary users to Azure AD. Leave service accounts or outdated accounts in Windows AD or delete them. 

c) Privileged access control: Limit privileged access in Azure AD, following Microsoft’s security guidelines. 

d) Group organisation: Organise users into groups, granting them access only to the applications and resources relevant to their roles. 

e) Device connectivity: Connect users’ devices (mobile phones, laptops, etc.) to establish data download and storage limits. 

4) Custom domains: To enhance User Experience during migration, consider adding a custom domain to Azure AD. The default Azure AD domain (e.g., @notarealdomain.onmicrosoft.com) can be cumbersome. Configuring a domain you own (e.g., @notarealdomain.com) will simplify user interactions.  

Features of Azure Active Directory   

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is a cloud-based service that empowers businesses to control user access to applications and resources. Azure AD ensures data security while providing efficient employee access by enforcing security regulations, mitigating risks, and enhancing user experience.  

Let’s explore the key features of Azure AD:

Features of Azure Active Directory

1) Single Sign-On (SSO)

a) Azure AD supports SSO, enabling users to access several applications and resources using a single set of credentials.  

b) This streamlines the login process and enhances the overall user experience. 

2) Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

a) MFA provides an additional layer of security. Users can verify their identity through text messages or mobile app notifications before granting access.  

b) It safeguards against unauthorised access and strengthens user authentication. 

3) Azure AD Connect

a) Organisations can synchronise user accounts and passwords between Azure AD and on-premises Active Directory using Azure AD Connect. 

b) This feature enables using single credentials for both on-premises and cloud resources without interruption.  

4) Reporting and Auditing

a)  Azure AD provides robust reporting and auditing features. 

b) Administrators can monitor user behaviour, track changes to user accounts, and manage permissions effectively. 

c) Compliance with legal requirements becomes more manageable, and potential security issues are promptly identified. 

5) Conditional Access

a) Administrators can create access policies based on particular conditions (such as location or device type).  

b) This feature ensures that security policies are enforced, protecting against potential threats. 

6) Application Management

a) Azure AD allows administrators to handle user access to both on-premises and cloud-based applications. 

b) Efficiently managing application access and executing safety policies provide a secure environment.  

Azure AD vs Windows AD

The various distinctions between Windows and Azure AD are as follows:


Azure Active Directory 

Windows Active Directory 


- Cloud-based service for modern environments. 

- On-premises for traditional network setups. 

- Supports communication with other cloud applications. 

- Communication within the local network using LDAP and Kerberos. 


- Provides Single Sign-On (SSO) for seamless access to multiple cloud apps. 

- Uses Kerberos and NTLM authentication for on-premises resources. 

- Supports multi-factor authentication (MFA) for enhanced security. 

- MFA options may require additional setup. 

Network organisation 

- Flat structure for a single tenant. 

- Organised into hierarchical forests. 

- Simplified management for users and permissions. 

- Hierarchical structure allows granular control over resources. 

Entitlement management 

- Manages user access to cloud applications and services. 

- Manages access to on-premises resources within the local network. 

- Integrates with Microsoft products and third-party apps. 

- Limited integration with cloud services. 


- Supports device registration and management for secure access. 

- Device management is separate (e.g., Group Policy for Windows devices). 

- Integrates with Microsoft Intune for mobile device management. 

- Device management primarily handled through Group Policy. 


- Azure AD Join allows seamless integration of Windows 10 devices with Azure AD. 

- Traditional domain join for Windows desktops. 

- Enables conditional access policies for desktops. 

- Group Policy controls desktop settings and access. 


- Azure AD Domain Services provides managed domain controllers in the cloud. 

- On-premises domain controllers (Domain Controllers) manage server authentication. 

- Azure AD Connect synchronises user accounts between Azure AD and on-premises AD. 

- Windows AD manages server authentication and authorisation. 

Key Considerations for Azure Active Directory  

Implementing Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for your organisation involves critical decisions. Let’s break down the key considerations:

Key Considerations for Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Licensing and Costs:

When considering the adoption of Azure AD for your organisation, it’s crucial to make informed decisions regarding licensing and costs. Azure AD operates on a monthly subscription model similar to Office 365 licenses. There are four tiers of licensing available:

a) Free: Included with subscriptions to Azure, Dynamics 365, Intune, and Power Platform.

b) Office 365 Apps: Part of your Office 365 subscription.

c) Premium P1: Offers advanced password protection, self-service password management, advanced group access management, and conditional access.

d) Premium P2: Includes all Premium P1 features plus additional capabilities.

It’s important to review the feature lists for both Azure AD and Microsoft 365 to fully understand the options available for your implementation strategy.

Choosing Your Scenario: Hybrid Azure AD or Azure AD?

If your organisation already utilises Windows Active Directory (AD), a Hybrid Azure AD setup might be the most suitable. For those building a cloud-only infrastructure, Azure AD is the recommended choice.

In a Hybrid environment, you can opt for Managed or Federated configurations. If you plan to create users in Windows AD, Azure AD Connect is necessary for synchronisation with Azure AD.

Device Management

If you intend to utilise device management features within Azure AD, ensure that all devices are running Windows 10.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Enabling SSO with Azure AD requires configuring your cloud applications and services to integrate with Azure SSO. Additionally, setting up a hybrid cloud environment for printing is essential.

User Provisioning

Decide on the method for adding existing users to Azure. Options include self-enrollment, Windows Autopilot, or manual enrollment by an administrator.

Understanding Service Audiences

Azure Active Directory is designed to serve three primary audiences:

a) IT Administrators: They play a crucial role in managing the sign-in procedures within an organisation. They are the first line of defence when solving authentication issues. Their responsibilities extend beyond just managing user access. They also ensure the system's security, implement policies, and maintain the overall health of the Azure AD environment.  

b) Application Developers: They leverage Azure AD services to build and manage applications. With many resources available, the development process becomes more efficient and streamlined. They can integrate authentication and access control into their applications, making them more secure and user-friendly.

c) Online Customers: These are the end-users who use services like Office 365, CRM services, and more. Azure AD ensures that their needs are met promptly and securely. Whether they’re accessing documents on Office 365 or using CRM services, Azure AD provides a seamless and secure experience. 


Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is pivotal in modern identity management. By offering robust features like Single Sign-On (SSO), Multi-factor Authentication, and seamless integration with cloud resources, Azure AD ensures secure access while simplifying user experiences.

Do you want to gain a competitive edge in the market? Then register now for our Microsoft Azure Certification!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Key Skills Needed to Excel in a Career Involving Azure Active Directory? faq-arrow

Essential skills that are needed to excel in a career involving Azure Active Directory are:

a) Expertise in identity and access management

b) Expertise in security protocols

c) Proficiency in Cloud Computing

d) Proficiency in integration and automation tools.

What Emerging Trends in Azure Should Professionals Watch for Career Growth? faq-arrow

Emerging Trends in Azure that you should watch for your career growth are:

a) Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning(ML) 

b) Improved security features

c) Improved multi-cloud capabilities

d) Advanced serverless growth

What are the other resources and offers provided by The Knowledge Academy? faq-arrow

The Knowledge Academy takes global learning to new heights, offering over 30,000 online courses across 490+ locations in 220 countries. This expansive reach ensures accessibility and convenience for learners worldwide.  

Alongside our diverse Online Course Catalogue, encompassing 17 major categories, we go the extra mile by providing a plethora of free educational Online Resources like News updates, Blogs, videos, webinars, and interview questions. Tailoring learning experiences further, professionals can maximise value with customisable Course Bundles of TKA. 

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The Knowledge Academy’s Knowledge Pass, a prepaid voucher, adds another layer of flexibility, allowing course bookings over a 12-month period. Join us on a journey where education knows no bounds.

What are the related Azure courses and blogs provided by The Knowledge Academy? faq-arrow

The Knowledge Academy offers various Microsoft Azure Certifications, including the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals AZ-900 Certification Course, Microsoft Azure Security Technologies AZ500 Training, and Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions AZ400 Training. These courses cater to different skill levels, providing comprehensive insights into Azure Dashboard.  

Our Cloud Computing Blogs cover a range of topics related to Azure, offering valuable resources, best practices, and industry insights. Whether you are a beginner or looking to advance your Cloud Computing skills, The Knowledge Academy's diverse courses and informative blogs have got you covered.  

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