A challenge for most administrators managing more than one or more Azure subscriptions or Office 365 tenants is having to continuously login and out with different credentials to do so.
Many have developed techniques to work around this challenge by using Incognito Windows or Private Browsing and others use multiple Browsers. Even with these methods, you are still limited to using two accounts particularly with Incognito Window or Private Browsing technique.
In this post I share my method that enables you to login to multiple Office 365 & Azure accounts in the same browser, on the same device at the same time!
Here’s an example of how many accounts I toggle between:
Microsoft Account for Corporate used for Azure Management Portal, Intune, Visual Studio Online and MSDN
Personal Office 365 account
Multiple Customer accounts (or through Delegated Administration using my Corporate Office 365 account).
Multiple Developer Office 365 accounts
Multiple Demo Office 365 accounts
Sure, a password manager might help with the login process by storing credentials but this still doesn’t solve the challenge of being signed in to multiple accounts at the same time.
The technique I have started using is a feature available in Chrome. Chrome allows you to create multiple user accounts from the Settings page.
I’ve created users for each of the Microsoft accounts I commonly use. Each Chrome user has its own settings such as the plugins installed, the bookmarks that are available, browsing history and the crucial part cookies and Browser sessions.
Now when I want to jump between Azure subscriptions or Office 365 tenants I can toggle between Chrome users. The user menu is available in a number of places.
Chrome Users is also available on the PC version of Chrome. I hope you find this technique of switching between Azure or Office 365 accounts useful.
Often a difficult task for some, once up and running with Microsoft Azure, is how to get files in and out of Storage Accounts or Containers. For these particular scenarios there is a really simple tool called Azure Explorer.
There is of course the ability to upload/download files or blobs through the Azure Portal. Obviously this is not that great for large files due to timeouts etc. Then there is the Azure PowerShell cmdlets but this requires subscription information and experience of using PowerShell particular with Microsoft Azure which not everyone has. Alternatively there is software available called Azure Explorer from Cerebrata.
The software provides users with a familiar experience to that of Windows Explorer. You’re also able to configure multiple storage account and can create/delete new blob containers.
Azure Explorer lets you quickly browse and manipulate your Microsoft Azure blobs with ease.
A Premium version called Cloud Storage Studio is also available which enables you to work with tables and queries.
Next you’ll need to get the access key for your Storage Account from the Microsoft Azure Portal. To get your access key browse to the Storage section of the Azure Portal and select your Storage Account from the list of those available. Then click on Manage Access Keys from the toolbar at the bottom and copy your Primary Access Key.
Open Azure Explorer, click on the File menu and select Add Connection. Enter the name of your Storage Account and Access Key you have just copied.
You’ll then see the Storage Account become available in Azure Explorer. From there it is simply drag & drop or copy & paste.
Accessing Azure Explorer Logs
You can also access the logs to troubleshoot any issues you experience by right clicking on the window title and selecting Open Current Log File.
I use this tool an awful lot to move files across multiple Storage Accounts in Microsoft Azure and my desktop. By having it installed in my VMs, I can get access to files that I have uploaded from my desktop such as software installers or ISO images etc. The interface really quick and easy to use and is a tool that I recommend to customers. Give it a try and see how easy it really is.
It’s official you can now customise the Office 365 login page with your own branding – ok not quite yet but Microsoft have just released a preview feature that will soon allow us to.
The dull Californian highway image that we are all accustom to can now be replaced with your own image along with your own logo and login information which is impressive in itself but these elements can also be localised for different languages. This is all achieved with a preview feature Microsoft have recently released for Windows Azure Active Directory Premium which of course underpins Office 365. Pricing for this feature is not yet available but I imagine it will be published soon.
What can be customised?
Microsoft have made the following elements of the login page customisable.
The “Banner Logo” which is displayed on the sign page and access panel.
The “Sign In Page Illustration” displayed on the sign in page to the left of the login form.
The “Sign In Page background color” visible when there is no sign in page illustration present or for low bandwidth connections.
The “Sign In Page Text” that appears below the login form and can be used to give more information to users such as where to get support.
The “Tile Logo” which is not used but might be used to replace the “organisational account” pictogram.
A “User ID Label” which again is not used but could be set to “Company email” or “User ID” .
Browse to the Active Directory page and select your Office 365 directory.
Click on the “Enable Active Directory Premium” link on the summary page.
Then from the summary page click on the “Customise your organisation’s Sign In and Access Panel pages” link where you will be able to upload your logo and other assets.
As this is a preview feature Microsoft have decided for the first few weeks of the preview that users must opt in on each device to experience the customised sign in page. To opt in you must visit https://login.microsoftonline.com/optin.srf.
Demo customised sign in pages
Microsoft have also provided to demo fictitious sign in pages that you can get access to experience a customised login page.
Update: while the VIP address is guaranteed for the lifetime of the deployment – a customer recently lost their VIP address which resulted in their custom domain name become unresolvable. Whilst this was acceptable as we were still in a phase of testing it did cause me some concern. Why had the VIP address changed without our knowledge – we had not made any configuration changes to causes this.I did some further research and found an article (Using custom domain names with Windows Azure Cloud Service) in the Documentation section on the Windows Azure website were it advised you should use CNAME records and point these to your *.cloudapp.net domain name. I asked the customer to do this and we have been able to use the system since.
This post describes how I configured one of my Windows Azure hosted Virtual Machines with my domain name registrars DNS – this meant that I could make SharePoint 2013 available using my domain name.
On the virtual machine instances page in the Windows Azure Management Portal (https://manage.windowsazure.com) browse to the virtual machine you want to configure with your external DNS.
On the right in the “Quick Glance” section you will see that a “Public Virtual IP (VIP) Address” is listed (this is shown in the image below but for security purposes I have changed my VIP to 126.96.36.199). The VIP address is the IP address I need to direct my external DNS to.
“If that is not possible (e.g. you must delete/deploy), then a little planning beforehand can still help here: just create a new hosted service, update CNAME and A record to new hosted service (but keep old deployment there). Wait 24 hours and it should be safe to delete the older deployment.”
I also decided to add a shorter TTL to my A record just in case the VIP address does ever change for whatever reason and I need to propagate a change quickly. I’m not sure if this is advisable or not and am seeking confirmation on this.
A quick test you can do before making any changes to your DNS is to browse directly to your VIP address (http://188.8.131.52). This in my case took me to the default IIS site however this will depend on your configuration.
After I confirmed that the VIP address was accessible I then proceeded to make changes to my external DNS through my domain registrars control panel – in this example I wanted to point a host record (or an A record) to my virtual machine.