If you’re using Office 365 and/or Azure, you may have run into this scenario. If you want detailed information about Microsoft Accounts vs Work or school accounts, read this comprehensive article.
For people who set up a Microsoft Account on a work email address, and then configured it for Office 365/Azure, you’d be used to seeing this screen every time you log in:
It’s necessary, but annoying when you’re signing in a lot. I’m not sure how long this has been around, but you can change the email address associated with your Microsoft account, and move it away from your work email address.
And you may notice, there’s that ‘Tired of seeing this?’ message. My brain blocked that out, so you can follow that link too :)
Atwork have a writeup on how to change the email address (the first link gives a 404 message, but you’re still in the right place to make the changes). I tested this on my own account, and within a few minutes I was no longer seeing the choice between Work or Personal when signing into Office 365/Azure services.
A few days ago, an updated version of Azure AD Connect was released – 1.1.371.0 (download). This included the public preview of Passthrough Authentication and Seamless Single Sign-on which lets an internal domain connected computer authenticate against an internal domain controller and sign into Office 365 resources. This gives a great cheap option to do this rather than requiring ADFS on premise to do this or just entering user credentials to authenticate against Azure AD; but there are caveats I’ll cover below.
After you’ve updated the client (regardless of the authentication type chosen), there’s a quick ‘gotcha’: The Azure AD Connect application shows a different message when you launch it:
“Synchronization has been disabled to allow changes to your current configuration. Azure Active Directory will not receive further updates until reconfiguration is complete.”
This is very different from previous versions:
As I was testing passthrough authentication at the time, I misunderstood this message to mean that something was being configured, and I had to wait. What it actually means is that by launching the application, syncs are now paused until you go finish with this program; either by making a configuration change or just exiting.
This also means that if you leave this window open, synchronization will not occur again until it’s closed – even if you have multiple servers set up. If you get an email alert saying synchronisation hasn’t occurred for a while, this is the first thing to is to check that someone didn’t leave the application open.
Azure AD Connect Passthru Auth
I’ve been waiting all year for this option, but there is a lot of misinformation around what it actually can do. After having the privilege of speaking to the Senior Program Manager on SSO and Passthru Auth for Azure AD Connect Ross Adams for two hours (thanks Ross for your invaluable time!) I found out about these key points:
Passthrough Authentication right now does not give you a pure automatic authentication experience. It avoids the requirement of having to retype your password, you still need to choose your account
Azure AD App Proxy is required for Single Sign-on and Passthrough Authentication, but won’t function for actual application proxying when in this mode. You’ll need a different box running App Proxy if you use it this way.
Appending your domain onto supported urls with WHR (Custom login page e.g. https://login.microsoftonline.com/?whr=contoso.com) will reduce the amount of clicks a user needs to get in – generally a single click to pick their account
This doesn’t quite match the experience compared to having ADFS on premise, as I confirmed with friend Ken Goodwin. This is his explanation of the ADFS experience:
If you just go to office.com to logon, after you type in your email address it’ll redirect you to the adfs server which will automatically log you on (assuming internal). If you pre-specify the domain using https://login.microsoftonline.com/?whr=domin.com, then the logon will be automatic.
This might act differently if you’re able to enable auto-acceleration on your SharePoint sites at least which drops the WHM requirement – as long as you have Azure Active Directory Premium.
Keep in mind, Passthrough Authentication and Single Sign-On are still in public preview so this may change and improve. I’m still having a mixed experience on a few items, so don’t go too crazy with rolling this out to your live setup yet. I expect we’ll see some updates soon, and finish up with a really solid new feature to improve the experience for all.
Update: Another tip – if you disable and re-enable Pass Through Auth then your old Kerberos tickets will be invalid. Wait 10 hours or run the command “Klist purge” on an affected PCs – otherwise you’ll get weird authentication errors when trying to log into a site.
Softerra Adaxes is an Active Directory management & automation tool which I’ve grown very fond of.
First I reviewed Softerra Adaxes, then I actually bought Softera Adaxes and even did a brief case study for them. I thought it would now be good to share how far we’ve come through using this tool, and what the experience is like for those considering this option of automation. Here’s my thought process and how I personally approached the rollout, along with my experiences along the way:
Initially to me, the idea of having an ‘Outlook rules’ style approach to building a system that automated user management was enough to me. We’d been creating accounts manually for a long time, and the process was documented but took 20 minutes or so to perform. There was also a lot of room for human error, especially when someone was interrupted while creating an account.
There was of course the ‘selfish’ reason of not wanting to do these user management tasks myself, but it’s hard to pass those tasks off with the inherit risks or lack of knowledge of the tools being used to ease the process. This is what had held me off writing my own giant PowerShell script to automate all the steps.
After mucking around with the Adaxes basics, I started to realise that this software solution seemed to actually deliver on what I was personally looking for – something that wasn’t complex, but also let me define whatever criteria, business rules and caveats to the user creation process that I wanted. On top of that, there was inbuilt webpages where I could deliver these options to other staff requiring no software installs, and the ability to show or lock down whatever I chose, to both control and protect the Active Directory environment.
It did take a few weeks to set up properly, but I wouldn’t have really spent more than an actual day’s worth of work in those few weeks doing it. That was just to create a new user in all the various systems I wanted, with our unique user setting requirements. I wouldn’t say the entire system is so simple and easy to navigate that you can get cracking, but it’s also not complex. Once you find the setting or understand how Adaxes achieves a solution, it’s not difficult to set things up.
The inbuilt functionality of website templates – where you can create multiple sites displaying whichever fields you like to whichever users you like – is a good way to deliver the solution to end users. You can have a page for IT and another page for Finance with completely separate functions to best fit each use case.
For me, it was great that I could create websites with zero programming requirements. It’s all driven by a GUI, and somehow it’s still very flexible in what it can do. It might be frustrating to someone who actually writes code, but that’s not who would normally be using this solution. I really feel it’s aimed at someone like me, the IT Pro/Sys Admin who wants to automate and allow others to use the tools, without needing to code or expect others to run PowerShell commands themselves.
Basic site with one option – menu and right side options can even be hidden if required.
Once I’d finished the user creation process and published the method of doing so to a website, I had internal staff muck around with it and use it, purely for new user creations. The feedback I received was immediately positive – that 20 minute or so process had been reduced to a few minutes, and even generated out an email saying the account creation was done. This in itself to me was the tick of a successful project, and I knew I could do a lot more around automation and empowering others to do repeatable tasks.
Some of the problems I hit on the user creation automation were:
After upgrading from Lync 2010 to Skype for Business 2015, there were intermittent errors popping up for creating a SfB user. This was a known problem to Softerra, and took several months to resolve with a new version of Adaxes. I did have a workaround luckily, so it only took some rule modifying to work around it until a proper solution was found.
‘User unknown’ – I ran into some problems where I’d create the user or enable them for Exchange, but then the next command wouldn’t find the account. Adaxes was faster than what other systems could replicate changes, so some tactful ‘start-sleep’ PowerShell command steps during the workflows to allow replication to occur before the next step triggered. This does mean that the overall process can take a minute or two, and the person who triggered the user creation has to wait for it to finish.
Not all functionality was available that I needed in the GUI. For example, creating a Skype for Business user is easy, but you can’t assign a policy. Instead you need to use PowerShell commands to do what you want. That took a bit longer and needed more testing, but wasn’t much of an issue once I found that out.
When a new user was created that already existed (e.g. another John Smith – john.smith) I hadn’t considered that scenario. I asked in the Adaxes forums and was told how to run some pre-checks to make sure the username and phone number were unique and bomb out if they weren’t, rather than half creating an account and having to clean it up afterwards.
The upgrade process isn’t painful when a new version of Adaxes comes out (which came out while I was doing the user creation and I wanted to try upgrading early on), but there’s a few more steps than next, next finish. An uninstall is required with backing up a few files, then a fresh install and importing what you backed up. I’m hoping that will be streamlined a bit in the future.
After the user creation process was settled, I started to create more automation tasks. Deprovisioning was an obvious one, and was a lot easier than user creation as well as taking a lot less time to set up. This command would clean up all the bits and pieces from an account, including home drives and Exchange settings (along with moving the mailbox to a different database). This was rolled out relatively quickly.
I should also note, the logging is very helpful. If someone triggers a command from the website, they can see if it was successful or not, or where it failed. It made testing easy to do, but I was also able to read through logs via the GUI on the server to find out more about what failed and why.
Updating options on one of the web interfaces – no coding required.
I then decided to wait for common scenarios to come up and build them as needed. We often had ‘returning staff’ which if their Active Directory account still existed, I couldn’t use my user creation method when the account already exists. This took a rethink of how I’d designed my rules so far, and decided to re-do a lot of it in a more modular fashion. Because there’s the ability to copy and paste rules, this was a lot easier than I expected. The end result was that I’d have a list of modules to run against a task – e.,g. a new user would call commands such as ‘enable email’ and ‘enable Skype for Business’ which my new ‘returning staff’ would call ‘re-enable email’ but the same ‘enable Skype for Business’ command as a new user. This now meant I could move a mailbox from one database to another and unhide the user from the Global Address Book when they returned, but because all users have their Skype for Business disabled, that step was the same in either scenario.
Another valuable idea I had was to let users control the membership of Active Directory groups that they were the owner of. After some mucking around, I created a website solely for that purpose. The great part about it was that whomever logged onto the site (with passthrough authentication so no extra typing required) could only see groups they were an owner of, based on the Manager field in Active Directory. This gives anyone in the company who is in control of a group, the ability to add or remove members without any IT assistance required. Perfect for application owners who control who can get to their application or not via a security group.
My next task will be the automation of a user name change. With the updated modular design, I can copy out the steps that I need and modify them to my new requirements; of course finding the hour or two to build and test this is the hardest part. (Note: Between the week of writing this and publishing, I’ve now done it.
I’ll give praise to both the Adaxes forums and their helpdesk support via email- almost always, within 24 hours max (and usually 4-5 hours) I’d get a specific and clear answer on how to do something I couldn’t work out personally, and it was from someone who knew the product rather than a basic 1st level helpdesk type response.
I hope this gives a real impression of my experience and opinion of Softera Adaxes at a high level, after using it for an extended time. There’s no real gaps to the product that I’ve found. and you can pick and choose as to how much customisation you want to do through PowerShell scripting. I’m still happy with the product, and it will continue to evolve with us.
We started having issues with new enrolments to Intune. Nothing had changed that we were aware of, but registering a new device brought up the error “Couldn’t enroll your device. You can try again or send the error information to your IT admin in an email.” iOS or Android, didn’t matter:
Intune Enrollment Error
After testing multiple accounts and multiple devices, I logged a call with Office 365 support, and eventually we worked out that for my account, I didn’t have a license applied. Intune sits under our Enterprise Mobility Suite package:
Intune License is “Off”?
After checking other users, I found that everyone was in this ‘Off’ state. Weird, because we hadn’t done this, and Intune licensing was being managed by a group via Azure AD as per these instructions. That configuration was still in place too when I checked. I decided to do the logical thing and ‘turn it off and back on again’ – so I disabled the assignment on that page, then re-enabled the same group with the Intune license.
After then going back to the Office 365 User search, I found that all the users had now changed to ‘on’ again. The only recent event in the last few weeks was a renewal of our licenses, so I wonder if something happened in the back end as a part of that?
Anyway, if you see the ‘Couldn’t enroll your device’ message when using the Intune Company Portal app, make sure the user has their Intune license enabled!
I keep forgetting some of the main URLs I need for Microsoft’s online cloud based services. Instead of going direct to where I want, I log into one point I know and follow the bouncing ball to get to my destination – hardly efficient.
Instead, here’s my list of important Azure and Office 365 URLs to get where you want. The ones that require your domain as part of the URL aren’t hotlinks.