What is Azure Active Directory?

Azure Active Directory is an identity and access management service offered by Microsoft Azure. It provides administrators the capability to manage who can access resources on Azure, as well as managing end-user identity.

Azure AD is almost similar to AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM). It enables cloud admins to enhance security by providing the least access privileges. Some of its top features include multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, password policy, and more.

With Azure AD, you can manage who accesses information, who can perform various tasks, and more. Azure AD also provides access to Microsoft 365 and other third-party applications.

How Does Azure Active Directory Work?

Azure AD packs numerous authentication functions to help manage access to Azure resources. It manages access to Azure servers and cloud-based applications using usernames and passwords.

Azure AD uses authentication protocols such as OAuth 2.0, OpenID Connect, SAML 2.0, and WS-Federation.

Through Azure AD, you can create identities for end users. Besides user identities, you can create groups for users with similar roles and provide access privileges for individual applications. When users leave the organization, administrators can deactivate the user identity to prevent further access, which helps to keep your data safe.

Users in Azure AD come in two types; users from inside your organization and users from outside but have a Microsoft account. Ideally, you can source users from outside the organization and grant specific permissions as if they were part of your organization.

Differences Between Azure AD and Windows AD

Azure Active Directory and Windows Active Directory are two different services. Azure AD manages access to cloud resources and other Microsoft accounts. Windows AD runs on Windows Server and manages access to networked resources.

Both directories use different protocols. Azure AD uses protocols such as OAuth and SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) while Windows AD supports LDAP(Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, Kerberos, and NTLM (New Technology LAN Manager), among others.

Another major difference is that Azure AD uses Azure Policy, while Windows AD uses Group Policy. Group policy is a hierarchical approach whereby an admin can implement configurations for users.


What are the Features of Azure Active Directory?

Azure Active Directory provides top-of-the-range identity and access management capabilities. Some of its features include:

Unified Identity Management

With Azure AD, admins can manage access to IT resources from a single dashboard. It provides visibility into applications, regardless of whether they are stored in the cloud or on premise. This scenario is hybrid identity, where Azure AD creates user identity for authorization and authentication to all resources regardless of where they are stored.

Azure AD provides secure digital experiences for customers, partners, and other organizations with a high level of control and customization.

Single Sign-On Compatibility

Azure AD enables single sign-on (SSO) and supports third-party integration to achieve this seamlessly. Single sign-on allows users to access all applications they need upon signing in once into a user account hosted in Azure AD. Upon signing in, users can access applications without the need for single authentication.

Azure AD allows integration with other SaaS applications, allowing users to sign in directly or launch them directly from the Azure Portal.

Continuous Monitoring and Threat Detection

Azure AD performs seamless monitoring of your user identities to ensure no unauthorized access or loopholes in the configurations. Upon detecting any anomaly, you will receive an alert notifying you.

Azure AD also enjoys state-of-the-art threat detection capabilities, including assessing users’ threat levels. It also uses multi-factor authentication to help mitigate threats.

Identity Governance

Azure Active Directory has built-in governance features that allow you to set the least privilege access and ensure your identity ecosystem remains as healthy as possible. It has controls that enable admins to ensure users have a suitable level of access. This feature comes in handy when you want to audit and verify the effectiveness of the controls at hand.

What are the Benefits of Using Azure Active Directory?

Several benefits arise from using Azure Active Directory. These include:

Ease of Use

Azure AD provides a seamless user experience thanks to its intuitive dashboards. The single pane of glass for all applications means less fuss with user credentials. In addition, there are fewer demands on your IT help desk, as the service is not complex, which saves you time and headaches.


Azure AD comes in handy if you want to protect your resources from unauthorized access. Azure leverages threat detection, identity management, and multi-factor authentication to protect cloud users.

Bottom Line

Azure Active Directory has all the ultimate features you want to manage access to your cloud ecosystem. It allows you to create user identities, set access privileges, and audit user activity, among other benefits.

At nOps, we step it to ensure you are running a secure cloud environment. We provide unmatched 360-degree visibility into your cloud environment, allowing you to configure the right security features.

Start your nOps free trialright away, or schedule a demo to see it live in action!