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Azure Active Directory Basic Plan Now Available

Microsoft today began offering a new Azure Active Directory Basic licensing option.

The new Basic plan for Microsoft's cloud-enabled identity and access management solution is available today as a "general availability" release, meaning it's ready for commercial use. Previously, Azure AD had only been available as a free offering and as a Premium one. The Premium offering, designed for enterprises and part of Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite licensing, was rolled out as a product back in April.

The new Basic option adds to this product mix and is designed for organizations with "deskless" employees or employees who use just a few software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps. For instance, retail-store employees or employees without offices might be a fit for this so-called deskless employee profile, according to Microsoft's announcement of Azure AD Basic.

The Azure AD Basic licensing option is limited to groups of employees that use 10 SaaS apps per user at maximum. In contrast, Microsoft's Premium Azure AD offering has no limits on the number of SaaS apps per user. The Basic plan will initiate an alert should a user should attempt to exceed the 10-SaaS app limit.

"When an admin attempts to assign the 11th application to that employee, they will get an error message notifying them the action is not allowed unless the user has an Azure AD Premium license," a Microsoft spokesperson explained, via e-mail.

While the free Azure AD offering also supports the use of up to 10 SaaS apps per user, Microsoft adds a few perks to the Basic offering that are lacking in the free one. Those benefits over the free offering include:

  • A service level agreement of 99.9 percent: An SLA at this level amounts to about eight hours of service downtime per year. However, organizations have to calculate their monthly downtimes and report them to Microsoft get any service credits from the company under this 99.9 percent SLA plan
  • Group membership controls: IT pros can manage access to SaaS apps based on group affiliation, using either hosted Azure AD or premises-based Active Directory
  • Self-service password reset: provides a means for users to reset their passwords, avoiding help-desk calls
  • Company branding: the ability to add company logos to sign-in pages, and the ability to change color schemes

Microsoft's announcement listed seven capabilities in the Premium Azure AD offering that aren't available with the Basic plan. For instance, only the Premium plan permits the use of the "Identity Synchronization Tool." Microsoft likely is referring to a preview tool that lets organizations use Azure AD to reset passwords on premises, as well as in the cloud. It also works across multiple AD forests. Microsoft plans to roll out this new Azure AD Sync tool, replacing its current DirSync tool, perhaps by the end of this year.

Other capabilities only enabled in the Premium Azure AD offering include "self-service group management," "self-service password reset," "advanced usage reporting," "MFA [multifactor authentication] cloud and on-premises (MFA Server)," and "FIM CAL [Forefront Identity Manager Client Access License] + FIM Server."

Using the Premium Azure AD offering requires having an Enterprise Agreement established with Microsoft. In order to obtain an Enterprise Agreement, an organization needs to have licensing with "more than 250 PCs, devices and/or users" as part of three-year agreement. An Enterprise Agreement is also necessary to use the new Basic plan, although Microsoft may loosen that restriction.

"Today it [Azure AD Basic] is available only through an Enterprise Agreement. We are working on making it more broadly available this fall," the spokesperson explained.

The company's Azure AD pricing page did not list the Basic plan at press time. However, the Basic price apparently is $1 per user per month.

"The [Basic] list price is $1.00 per user per month and the standard Microsoft volume licensing discounting amounts apply," the spokesperson stated. "Customers interested in purchasing must contact a Microsoft representative to get a price for their organization."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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