Windows Server Essentials Microsoft Online Services Integration versus Azure Active Directory Connect

As discussed in a previous post, Azure Active Directory Connect has been released, so I thought I would do a compare and contrast with the Azure Active Directory capabilities inside of Essentials. Before we begin, let's take a look at the capabilities of the Azure Active Directory editions as they currently exist.

To be clear, neither the AAD Connect or Essentials Integration module expose all of this functionality, you need to sign in to the Azure portal in order to do that, it's really the user provisioning element that they have in common. AAD Connect synchronises user accounts on a scheduled basis, and you can perform a variety of different filtering and manipulation functions to copy the user account details across. Essentials creates the user account in Azure AD at the time the AD account is created, or you can choose to do it later. What Essentials does do though is make it very easy to assign the Microsoft Online Services licenses for the users you are adding.

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Inside the Dashboard we just go to Users, and on the right hand task pane we can see “Add a user account” as one of the options. When we select that, we see that the start of the wizard is just like a normal on-prem only user.Azure Integration 46

Once we go to the next screen in the wizard, we can see the Microsoft Online Services account options appear, where I can create a new online account, assign the new user to an existing account, or not assign an account if it isn’t required.

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This is the step that really simplifies one of the integration issues for some users, they would have either had to use PowerShell or the web portal for those services to assign user licenses, and here you can see I can do them all from a central place, and very easily. As new services or changes are introduced for Microsoft Online Services, these will be automatically exposed if you are subscribed to them. Here you can see I’ve got an E3 Office 365 plan and Intune, but you can also see that AAD Premium and MultiFactor Authentication premium are also subscriptions I have taken up. If you have subscribed to Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite, that would show up in here instead of Intune, AAD Premium and Azure RMS.

I'll dig into the benefits AAD Connect provides in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.

Comments (2)
  1. So is it a good idea to install the Azure AD Connect tool on a Server Essentials 2012 R2 server or not?

  2. Hi Frozenwaffles – provided you were using it instead of the AzureAD/Office365 module in Essentials it seems to be okay, it’s not specifically addressed in the AAD Connect pre-reqs page at For a smaller organisation the benefits of the Essentials integration would usually outweigh the capabilities of the potential
    of AAD Connect unless the customer had some specific filtering or password writeback options they needed to address. Installing AAD Connect on a DC is supported, so that part is covered.

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