How to Migrate from On-Premises Active Directory to Azure AD: A Guide

How to Migrate from On-Premises Active Directory to Azure AD: A Guide

Josh Wittman
March 3, 2023

If you are considering migrating from your on-premises Active Directory (AD) to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), you are in the right place. This article will provide an overview of the process and considerations for making the transition. 

Migrating to Azure AD can provide many benefits, including improved security and access control, more efficient user management, and greater scalability. It also provides a unified identity platform that can be used across multiple services and applications. However, it is important to understand the implications of this transition before taking the plunge. 

In this article, we’ll cover: 

  • Why you should migrate from on-premises AD to Azure AD 
  • What to consider before making the transition 
  • The steps involved in migration 
  • Tips for a successful migration  

By understanding what is involved in migrating from on-premises AD to Azure AD, you can make an informed decision about whether this transition is right for your organization. Let’s get started!

Why Migrate from On-Premises Active Directory to Azure AD?

Migrating from an on-premises Active Directory to Microsoft Azure AD can provide your organization with many strategic advantages. Here are a few: 

Increased Scalability: Azure AD allows you to manage and scale your directory in the cloud, allowing you to quickly add users and resources as needed without having to worry about the overhead of maintaining an on-premises infrastructure. 

Improved Security: Azure AD provides built-in security features such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and device management, which help protect against malicious attacks and unauthorized access. 

Cost Savings: By eliminating the need for expensive hardware, software licenses, and IT personnel, you can save money by moving to a cloud-based platform like Azure AD. 

Improved Collaboration: With Azure AD, users can securely access corporate resources from any device, anywhere in the world. This makes it easier for users to collaborate with one another regardless of location or time zone constraints.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Migrating from AD to Azure AD

Before you decide to make your move from on-premises Active Directory to Azure AD, you should stop and ask yourself a few questions. Your answers will determine if migrating to cloud services is the right choice for your organization.

  • What is the size of my organization and what is the user base? 
  • What authentication methods do I need to support? 
  • Do I need to use a hybrid Active Directory setup?
  • What is my budget for migration and ongoing maintenance? 
  • What other applications, services, and functionalities will I be integrating with Azure AD? 
  • How will I manage user identity data, such as passwords and profile information? Should I be implementing Conditional Access Policies (CAP)?
  • How will I ensure secure access to sensitive corporate data stored in Azure AD? 
  • How will I handle domain name changes, if required? 
  • Are there any regulatory or compliance requirements that must be met when migrating to Azure AD?

A Step-by-Step Framework for Migrating to Azure AD from On-Premises Active Directory

Moving to the cloud allows for greater scalability, increased security, improved availability, and access to a wide range of services and applications. Learn to migrate to Microsoft’s cloud-based directory service and access management platform with this framework:

Analyze Your Existing Infrastructure: Before you begin the migration process, it’s important to take a detailed inventory of your existing infrastructure. This includes understanding your current active directory environment, user accounts, group memberships, and any applications or services that rely on Active Directory for authentication.

Plan Your Migration Strategy: Once you have a good understanding of your existing infrastructure, the next step is to plan your migration strategy. This includes deciding which users and groups will be migrated to Azure AD and how it will be done. It’s also important to consider any changes that may need to be made in order for the migration to succeed.

Set Up an Azure AD Tenant: The next step is provisioning an Azure AD tenant in which you can create and manage user accounts and group policies related to your Azure AD implementation. This involves creating an administrator account and configuring settings such as password policies and security settings.

Migrate Users & Groups: Once the tenant has been created, you can begin migrating user profiles and groups from your on-premises active directory environment into Azure AD. This can be done by using a variety of different tools such as Azure AD Connect or Microsoft Identity Manager (MIM).

Configure Applications & Services: After users have been migrated, you need to configure any applications or services that rely on Active Directory for authentication so they will work with Azure AD. This may involve reconfiguring application settings or creating additional user accounts for them to work properly with Azure AD authentication mechanisms such as OAuth or SAML protocols.

Test & Validate Your Migration: Once everything has been set up and configured correctly, you should test the entire system before going live with it in production. This includes validating that all users can authenticate successfully with their new credentials as well as ensuring that all applications are working correctly within the new environment. 

Monitor & Manage Your Environment: After going live with your new solution, it’s important to monitor it closely for any potential issues or areas of improvement that could benefit from further optimization or troubleshooting over time. Additionally, you should regularly review security settings and ensure that access control policies are being enforced appropriately across all resources within your environment.

Best Practices for Migrating from On-Premises AD to Azure AD

For the best results, follow the DevOps model closely when migrating from on-prem Active Directory to Azure AD. Implementing continuous deployment and monitoring practices not only makes things more efficient, but it also helps avoid costly errors further down the line.

  • Use the Azure Active Directory Connect tool for synchronization of your on-premises Active Directory with Azure AD.
  • Plan the security settings for your cloud environment before you begin migration.
  • Ensure that all users have valid accounts in both environments before you start the migration process.
  • Create a backup of your on-premises Active Directory environment prior to starting the migration process.
  • Utilize features like Hybrid Identity, which allows you to use the same user accounts and passwords across both environments.
  • Consider using a third-party identity management solution or an Identity as a Service solution (IDaaS) to help manage identities and permissions across both environments. 
  • Make sure that all applications are compatible with Azure AD before beginning the migration process. 
  • If possible, use automated tools such as PowerShell scripts or Azure Automation runbooks to manage migration and configuration. Or better yet, use a premium app like Simeon Cloud!

Using Automation to Simplify Your Azure AD Migration Process

Migrating from an on-premises Active Directory (AD) to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) can be a complex process. However, there are options available to automate it.

The first option is to use a third-party tool such as Azure AD Connect. This tool automates the synchronization of users, groups, and passwords between an on-premises AD and Azure AD. It also provides features such as single sign-on, group policy synchronization, and more.

The second option is to use PowerShell scripts to automate the migration process. This approach requires some scripting knowledge but can be used to migrate users, groups, and other settings from an on-premises AD environment into Azure AD in a repeatable way.

The third option is to use a cloud migration service such as Microsoft’s FastTrack or SkyKick’s Cloud Migration Suite. These services provide automated tools that can simplify the migration process by providing step-by-step instructions and guidance on how to migrate users, groups, and settings from an on-premises environment into Azure AD. 

No matter which method you choose for automating your migration from an on-premises Active Directory environment into Azure Active Directory, it’s important to ensure that the security of your data remains intact during and beyond the transition period.

You’ll also need something to automate the management of your Azure AD tenants once your migration is complete. If you’re new to Azure AD, that will help reduce the margin for errors and help you create a better setup the first time. For that, you can use a configuration-as-code platform like Simeon Cloud.

Using Simeon to Automate Azure AD Tenant Management

Simeon Cloud is a premium configuration management tool that helps you simplify the process of administrating multiple Azure AD tenants across your organization. Whether you’re an enterprise organization or an MSP, Simeon can help you save time and cost by reducing the amount of manual input required for the day-to-day maintenance of Azure AD.

A few features that come with Simeon’s platform include detailed audit logs, real-time configuration monitoring, automatic cloud backups, multi-tenant management support, etc. Together, they help optimize your organization’s configuration management process and get rid of repetitive tasks from your workflow.

What configurations does Simeon support? For a full list of supported Azure AD configurations, you can see our GitHub. Our platform helps automate tens of configuration policies, including MDM, MAM, and CAP. 

Want to learn more about how Simeon can help your organization’s Azure AD migration and management process? Sign up for a one-on-one sales demo!