Azure Active Directory feature deployment guide

It can seem scary to deploy Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for your organization and keep it secure. This article identifies common tasks that customers find helpful to complete in phases, over the course of 30, 60, 90 days, or more, to enhance their security posture. Even organizations who have already deployed Azure AD can use this guide to ensure they're getting the most out of their investment.

A well-planned and executed identity infrastructure paves the way for secure access to your productivity workloads and data by known users and devices only.

Additionally customers can check their identity secure score to see how aligned they're to Microsoft best practices. Check your secure score before and after implementing these recommendations to see how well you're doing compared to others in your industry and to other organizations of your size.


Many of the recommendations in this guide can be implemented with Azure AD Free or no license at all. Where licenses are required we state which license is required at minimum to accomplish the task.

Additional information about licensing can be found on the following pages:

Phase 1: Build a foundation of security

In this phase, administrators enable baseline security features to create a more secure and easy to use foundation in Azure AD before we import or create normal user accounts. This foundational phase ensures you are in a more secure state from the start and that your end-users only have to be introduced to new concepts one time.

Task Detail Required license
Create more than one global administrator Assign at least two cloud-only permanent global administrator accounts for use in an emergency. These accounts aren't to be used daily and should have long and complex passwords. Azure AD Free
Use non-global administrative roles where possible Give your administrators only the access they need to only the areas they need access to. Not all administrators need to be global administrators. Azure AD Free
Enable Privileged Identity Management for tracking admin role use Enable Privileged Identity Management to start tracking administrative role usage. Azure AD Premium P2
Roll out self-service password reset Reduce helpdesk calls for password resets by allowing staff to reset their own passwords using policies you as an administrator control. Azure AD Premium P1
Create an organization specific custom banned password list Prevent users from creating passwords that include common words or phrases from your organization or area. Azure AD Premium P1
Enable on-premises integration with Azure AD password protection Extend the banned password list to your on-premises directory, to ensure passwords set on-premises are also in compliance with the global and tenant-specific banned password lists. Azure AD Premium P1
Enable Microsoft's password guidance Stop requiring users to change their password on a set schedule, disable complexity requirements, and your users are more apt to remember their passwords and keep them something that is secure. Azure AD Free
Disable periodic password resets for cloud-based user accounts Periodic password resets encourage your users to increment their existing passwords. Use the guidelines in Microsoft's password guidance doc and mirror your on-premises policy to cloud-only users. Azure AD Free
Customize Azure Active Directory smart lockout Stop lockouts from cloud-based users from being replicated to on-premises Active Directory users Azure AD Premium P1
Enable Extranet Smart Lockout for AD FS AD FS extranet lockout protects against brute force password-guessing attacks, while letting valid AD FS users continue to use their accounts.
Block legacy authentication to Azure AD with Conditional Access Block legacy authentication protocols like POP, SMTP, IMAP, and MAPI that can't enforce Multi-Factor Authentication, making them a preferred entry point for adversaries. Azure AD Premium P1
Deploy Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication using Conditional Access policies Require users to do two-step verification when accessing sensitive applications using Conditional Access policies. Azure AD Premium P1
Enable Azure Active Directory Identity Protection Enable tracking of risky sign-ins and compromised credentials for users in your organization. Azure AD Premium P2
Use risk detections to trigger multi-factor authentication and password changes Enable automation that can trigger events such as multi-factor authentication, password reset, and blocking of sign-ins based on risk. Azure AD Premium P2
Enable combined registration for self-service password reset and Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication Allow your users to register from one common experience for both Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication and self-service password reset. Azure AD Premium P1

Phase 2: Import users, enable synchronization, and manage devices

Next, we add to the foundation laid in phase 1 by importing our users and enabling synchronization, planning for guest access, and preparing to support more functionality.

Task Detail Required license
Install Azure AD Connect Prepare to synchronize users from your existing on-premises directory to the cloud. Azure AD Free
Implement Password Hash Sync Synchronize password hashes to allow password changes to be replicated, bad password detection and remediation, and leaked credential reporting. Azure AD Free
Implement Password Writeback Allow password changes in the cloud to be written back to an on-premises Windows Server Active Directory environment. Azure AD Premium P1
Implement Azure AD Connect Health Enable monitoring of key health statistics for your Azure AD Connect servers, AD FS servers, and domain controllers. Azure AD Premium P1
Assign licenses to users by group membership in Azure Active Directory Save time and effort by creating licensing groups that enable or disable features by group instead of setting per user. Azure AD Premium P1
Create a plan for guest user access Collaborate with guest users by letting them sign in to your apps and services with their own work, school, or social identities. Azure AD External Identities pricing
Decide on device management strategy Decide what your organization allows regarding devices. Registering vs joining, Bring Your Own Device vs company provided.
Deploy Windows Hello for Business in your organization Prepare for passwordless authentication using Windows Hello
Deploy passwordless authentication methods for your users Provide your users with convenient passwordless authentication methods Azure AD Premium P1
Configure cross-tenant synchronization (preview) For multi-tenant organization scenarios, enable users to collaborate across tenants. (Currently in preview.) Azure AD Premium P1

Phase 3: Manage applications

As we continue to build on the previous phases, we identify candidate applications for migration and integration with Azure AD and complete the setup of those applications.

Task Detail Required license
Identify your applications Identify applications in use in your organization: on-premises, SaaS applications in the cloud, and other line-of-business applications. Determine if these applications can and should be managed with Azure AD. No license required
Integrate supported SaaS applications in the gallery Azure AD has a gallery that contains thousands of pre-integrated applications. Some of the applications your organization uses are probably in the gallery accessible directly from the Azure portal. Azure AD Free
Use Application Proxy to integrate on-premises applications Application Proxy enables users to access on-premises applications by signing in with their Azure AD account. Azure AD Premium P1

Phase 4: Audit privileged identities, complete an access review, and manage user lifecycle

Phase 4 sees administrators enforcing least privilege principles for administration, completing their first access reviews, and enabling automation of common user lifecycle tasks.

Task Detail Required license
Enforce the use of Privileged Identity Management Remove administrative roles from normal day-to-day user accounts. Make administrative users eligible to use their role after succeeding a multi-factor authentication check, provide a business justification, or request approval from approvers. Azure AD Premium P2
Complete an access review for Azure AD directory roles in PIM Work with your security and leadership teams to create an access review policy to review administrative access based on your organization's policies. Azure AD Premium P2
Implement dynamic group membership policies Use dynamic groups to automatically assign users to groups based on their attributes from HR (or your source of truth), such as department, title, region, and other attributes. Azure AD Premium P1
Implement group based application provisioning Use group-based access management provisioning to automatically provision users for SaaS applications. Azure AD Premium P1
Automate user provisioning and deprovisioning Remove manual steps from your employee account lifecycle to prevent unauthorized access. Synchronize identities from your source of truth (HR System) to Azure AD. Azure AD Premium P1

Next steps

Azure AD licensing and pricing details

Identity and device access configurations

Common recommended identity and device access policies