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Active Directory Vs Azure Active Directory

Brass Contributor

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Active Directory (AD) and Azure Active Directory (AAD) are both identity management solutions from Microsoft, but they serve different purposes. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between AD and AAD and when you might want to use one over the other.


Active Directory (AD)

Active Directory is a service provided by Microsoft that is used to manage users, computers, and other resources in a Windows-based network. It was first introduced in Windows 2000 and has since evolved into the core identity management solution for most organizations that use Windows-based systems.

AD is a domain-based directory service, which means that it is designed to work within a single organization’s network. AD stores user and computer account information, authentication and authorization data, and security policies. It also provides services such as Group Policy, which allows administrators to configure and enforce policies for users and computers in the domain.

AD is typically deployed on-premises and requires a domain controller to operate. Domain controllers are servers that store and manage AD data and provide authentication and authorization services to users and computers in the domain.


Azure Active Directory (AAD)

Azure Active Directory is a cloud-based identity management solution that is used to manage users and groups, control access to cloud-based applications, and integrate with other cloud-based services. It is a multi-tenant directory service, which means that it can be used by multiple organizations at the same time.


AAD provides many of the same features as AD, such as user and group management, authentication and authorization, and security policies. However, AAD is designed to work with cloud-based applications and services, and it does not require a domain controller.

AAD is often used in conjunction with other cloud-based services, such as Office 365, Azure, and other SaaS applications. AAD provides a single sign-on (SSO) experience for users, which means that users only need to log in once to access all of the cloud-based applications and services that they have access to.


When to use AD vs AAD

AD is still the go-to solution for managing identity and access in on-premises Windows-based networks. If you are running a Windows-based network and you need to manage users, computers, and other resources within your organization, then AD is the right choice.

AAD is best suited for organizations that are using cloud-based services and applications. If you are using Office 365 or other cloud-based services and you need to manage users and control access to those services, then AAD is the right choice.

It is also possible to use both AD and AAD in a hybrid environment. In this scenario, AD is used to manage on-premises resources, while AAD is used to manage cloud-based resources. This allows organizations to maintain a consistent identity and access management strategy across their on-premises and cloud-based environments.


Active Directory and Azure Active Directory are both powerful identity management solutions, but they serve different purposes. AD is designed for on-premises Windows-based networks, while AAD is designed for cloud-based services and applications. Depending on your organization’s needs, you may choose to use one or the other, or a combination of both in a hybrid environment.

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