What is Azure Active Directory and why you need it

With the move to hybrid work, it is essential that employees can work effectively and securely from anywhere, on any device. To make this happen, businesses need a comprehensive identity and access management solution. One solution is to have an on-premises active directory that employees can use a VPN to connect to, however, many businesses are making use of cloud-based solutions, such as Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).

What is Azure Active Directory?

Azure Active Directory is a cloud-based identity and access management solution that enables employees to access external resources, such as Microsoft 365 applications, and thousands of other SaaS applications. Although it is a cloud solution, it can also sync with an on-premises directory with Azure AD Connect. Simply put, Azure Active Directory provides a single place to manage identity, security and compliance for employees, external collaborators and IT systems.

Easily deploy multi-factor authentication

With Azure Active Directory, businesses can easily enable multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA works by requiring two or more of the following authentication methods: something you know (typically a password), something you have (typically a trusted phone or hardware key), and something you are (typically biometrics, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition). This simple feature prevents 99.9% of account compromise attacks, as even if a password is phished, the cybercriminal is unable to obtain the second factor of authentication. 

Enable Single Sign-On

Employees typically use many different applications and services daily. As each of these require login and authentication, this can result in a significant waste of time as employees have to re-enter their credentials multiple times. Furthermore, as each of these services should have a unique, complex password, many employees require their passwords to be reset if they forget them. To solve these issues, businesses can enable Sign Sign-On (SSO) with Azure Active Directory. 

Single Sign-On is a session and user authentication service that allows users to use a single set of login credentials to access multiple applications. With SSO, employees can use their standard login credentials once, and are able to access all the applications, systems, and cloud services necessary to do their job. This increases security, improves the user experience, and can allow IT teams to spend less time dealing with password reset requests and more time working on other projects and priorities. 

Collaborate externally

In some businesses, there are periods of time where external users need access to internal systems. With Azure Active Directory, businesses can invite external guest users into their directory. This is especially helpful for short-term projects with a defined set of participants. Within Azure AD, administrators can define what resources the external user is able to access, ensuring that they only have the level of access required for the project. After the project is complete their access is revoked, which simplifies the management of user lifecycle.

Make use of Conditional Access

The move to hybrid work has create a challenge for organisations as the security perimeter now extends beyond the network to include user and device identity. With Azure Active Directory, organisations can set up Conditional Access policies to use identity-driven signals as part of their access control decisions. Some of the signals may include device types, IP location, application, risk level and user or group membership. With carefully considered Conditional Access policies, businesses can mitigate many of the security risks associated with hybrid working.

Options to suit all organisations

For organisations with an on-premises directory, this can be synchronised with Azure AD for authentication when accessing cloud and on-premises applications or resources. For organisations that do not have an on-premises directory, with Azure AD they may never need to buy one. Either way, Azure Active Directory is a streamlined solution that protects your business with a universal identity platform the increases employee productivity.

If you have any questions about Azure Active Directory and how simplify identity and access management, please get in touch. 

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