What is Azure?
To fully understand what Azure Active Directory Business to Consumer (AD B2C) is and what it might mean to your business, you must first understand the benefits of Azure itself.
Cloud computing has been a real game changer for business development, business management, and pleasurable customer experiences. In particular, Azure provides endless benefits. One key benefit of Azure is a reduction in company hardware costs, which can be seen in a few ways:
- Maximal efficiency because you only pay for what you use
- No need to buy hardware, manage redundancy (think buying hardware in replication), manage downtime of hardware for maintenance, or actual maintenance of the hardware
- You won’t need to manage the update of OS or other PC software if you are using SaaS components. Your IT folks will appreciate this.
- You also get the benefit of dynamic and configurable scaling of your resources. Think of it in these terms: Azure ‘magically’ provides you with more compute time, RAM, and storage based on increases in demand on your web infrastructure. Plus, it will decrease these resources after the demand recedes … which is important because we are only paying for what we use, remember?
- You’ll also have high availability; which Microsoft takes care of on your behalf.
- Then there is security; not just security of the communication between components, but physical security of your data as well.
This is just a taste of the benefits that you get from Azure cloud services. Now let’s talk Azure AD B2C!
What is Azure Active Directory B2C?
Azure Active Directory Business to Consumer – defined by Microsoft as ‘… a cloud identity service allowing you to connect to any customer who puts your brand first.’ While this is succinct, I rather like this explanation better: ‘Azure AD B2C is a cloud identity management solution for your web and mobile applications.’ Identity Management Solution; a way to manage the online identities of your customers with respect to your business. Let’s now delve into that consumer/manufacturer relationship.
As an example, say that you are a manufacturer of a piece of Equipment that has Wi-Fi connectivity. You offer a web solution to your customers that allows them to manage this Equipment, adjust some settings, get a helpful graph of recent data or maybe do some scheduling. You need a way to allow your customers access to your web solution in a secure manner, however you surely don’t want to add them to your corporate identity management solution. Certainly you’d like to keep your business IDM separate from your customer IDM, plus you really don’t want your IT personnel involved deciding groups and permissions for each new customer. AD B2C is designed for these types of situations. The customer can create an account with your business and securely access appropriate and defined resources. You can design your processes in such a way that allow you to see your customers and business in meaningful ways. A customer may not register your product, but they surely will want to remotely control it … so we can now use our IDM for metrics on the user base, like customer location. AD B2C can be used in this complimentary and data supplementary fashion.
What can I do with AD B2C?
In the example above, we talked about accessing an equipment-related web resource, however there is no need to stop there. With a single AD B2C instance, you can secure your entire web presence. With credentials that the user has garnered from the log in process, the user can access your web application. If configured properly, and the appropriate ‘scopes’ are included, the user can then access a web API backend solution, secured with the same credentials of the web app. Is this limited to just web apps? Most certainly not, these web resources can be mobile apps as well. Yes, mobile applications can be secured through AD B2C also. These secure communications can ensure that your user has the appropriate access to API calls, individual endpoint calls if desired, thereby allowing secured communications to Azure SQL or other storage solutions. A very powerful notion, for sure. One log in and the consumer can access your entire, pre-configured world.
Let’s not stop here though. Say you are a manufacturer that has grown via merger or have acquired other complementary lines of business. AD B2C allows you to unify the online experience of your customers within your multiple line of business products into a single user experience. A single account with a single credential that allows your loyal customer an easy-to-access, simple yet elegant experience on the web and on mobile devices.
Now you have the opportunity to build on the customer experience & enhance your customer’s association with your products. Through email, text, app notification or even web page advertising, you can enlighten the customer to all the different aspects of your business world. The possibilities are unbounded.
Would you like to learn more about AD B2C, Azure, or the dynamic world of the Internet of Things (connected devices)? Get in touch! We can help you determine the Azure capabilities that make sense for you to enhance your business process.