I just wanted to write and tell you all about a fantastic new feature built into the AAD Connect tool. It’s name is ‘Staging Mode’ and it has a dual purpose; a) it allows you to have a server which is essentially on standby, and b) it can be used just as it’s name suggests, in a kind of test mode where you can see what is being imported before it all gets sent off to Azure AD.
In real life it would be utilised thus:
Customer A has a functional installation of AAD Sync / AAD Connect which is synchronising objects and attributes between Azure Active Directory and the On Premise Active Directory. They then build an AAD Connect server in their DR datacentre (or wherever they fancy), and during the initial configuration, enable ‘Staging Mode’. Apart from this setting, they configure it just like their existing, live AAD Sync / AAD Connect server. They even leave the scheduled task enabled and running. All of a sudden, DR strikes, and the live AAD Sync / AAD Connect server goes offline forevermore, cast into the computer graveyard in the sky. Rather than restore the server from backup, they simply log into their second AAD Connect server and disable ‘Staging Mode’. This server then starts synchronising with Azure Active Directory in earnest, without having to miss a beat.
What Staging Mode does is very simple. It acts just like a functional AAD Connect installation, except for the fact that it exports nothing to Azure Active Directory or your on premise Active Directory. It also does not perform any password sync or password write-back functions. The metaverse is fully populated and ready to start exporting data, giving you the easiest possible way to have a server on standby. Unfortunately there is no replication between your two synchronisation servers, so any configuration changes need to be replicated manually, but this is another step to making AAD Connect fully HA, which is becoming much more desirable as Azure Active Directory gains traction.