Local Domain Controller or Azure?

carrgater31 used Ask the Experts™
We run a small IT company.
For customers with between 5-25 users, we've always installed the Essentials version of Windows (e.g. WIndows Server 2012 R2 Essentials). We've always found this a good solution for smaller businesses.
I'm curious to understand how people are now designing solutions for their clients with the rise of Azure - are people still installing on-premise domain controllers? Or are they using Azure instead?
I've read that nothing is Azure can really replace a domain controller?
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Michal ZiembaIT Administrator
It all depends of:
  • budget - some companies (even small) do not want to invest in on-premise solutions and have enough budget to use Azure.
  • fast and reliable Internet connection with a possibility to establish a VPN to Azure or even better ExpressRoute to Azure - well, without this forget about Azure
  • a topology of your customer facilities - are users work from one location within a local network or are they working remotely
  • available of the local IT/technical support to maintain the on-premise server - without that kind of person you need to support the installation on the customer's site (sometimes remote administration is not enough to replace a faulty disk in the array). If you don't like it you might consider Azure
  • available of the local infrastructure (room with AC, backup of power and data, etc.). Having solution in Azure you don't need to worry about that
Distinguished Expert 2018
I've designed cloud-only business solutions. I've designed on-premises (aka domain controller solutions). I've designed hybrid solutions.  All have their place.

Can Azure AD replace a domain controller?  It really depends on the meaning of the question.  Azure AD is *not* a drop-in replacement for ADDS.  But if the business is "cloud-first" then it may not need a drop-in replacement.  It needs a re-thinking of how they do business, and Azure AD alone may be a good fit.  

A car was not a drop-in replacement for a horse and carriage.  And getting a car meant thinking about things like "where to get gas."  And electric cars...which is arguably a smaller change, still has that challenge of charging on longer road trips.  But each was a replacement for what came before, and eventually did (or will) fully phase out the old tech.  I conjecture Azure AD will eventually do the same, despite its massively different approach.


Thanks all.

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