What Is Active Directory? - ITU Online

What Is Active Directory?

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Active Directory (AD) is a directory service developed by Microsoft for Windows domain networks. It is included in most Windows Server operating systems as a set of processes and services. Initially released with Windows 2000 Server, it has become an essential tool for managing and securing IT environments. Active Directory provides a centralized and standardized system that automates network management of user data, security, and distributed resources, and enables interoperation with other directories.

Understanding the Core Components of Active Directory

Active Directory works by organizing information about the network’s components into a data store, the AD database, that administrators can easily manage with its rich set of access and identity management services. The core components of AD include:

  • Domain Services (AD DS): Provides the ability to create domains, users, and manage authentication and authorization. Domains are the primary building blocks of Active Directory and represent administrative boundaries.
  • Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS): Offers a more lightweight, flexible directory store without the dependencies on domain or domain controllers, suitable for application-specific data.
  • Certificate Services (AD CS): Allows the creation, distribution, and management of public key certificates, enhancing security by providing secure communication and digital signatures.
  • Federation Services (AD FS): Supports identity federation and single sign-on (SSO), enabling users to access applications across organizational boundaries.
  • Directory Synchronization: Facilitates the synchronization of AD objects (like users, groups, and contacts) across different AD instances or with cloud services.

Benefits of Implementing Active Directory

Active Directory streamlines administration, enhances security, and improves scalability in a multi-user and computer environment:

  • Centralized Management: Administrators can manage policies, update software, and oversee user accounts and groups from a single location.
  • Improved Security: It offers robust authentication and authorization mechanisms, including Kerberos protocol and access control lists (ACLs), for securing network resources.
  • Scalability: Designed to scale from small installations to large enterprise environments, accommodating thousands of users and computers.
  • Interoperability: Supports various directory services standards, making it easier to integrate with other systems and services.

How Active Directory Works

Active Directory uses a structured data store as the basis for a logical, hierarchical organization of directory information. This store, known as the directory, contains information about Active Directory objects, including users, groups, computers, and printers. Objects are organized into organizational units (OUs) within a domain, and the directory can span more than one domain organized into a hierarchy that can be viewed at multiple levels.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Active Directory

What is Active Directory and how does it work?

Active Directory is a directory service developed by Microsoft that provides a centralized and standardized system to automate network management of user data, security, and distributed resources, and enables interoperation with other directories. It organizes information about the network’s components into a data store, managing authentication, and authorization of users and devices.

What are the core components of Active Directory?

The core components include Domain Services, Lightweight Directory Services, Certificate Services, Federation Services, and Directory Synchronization.

How does Active Directory improve security?

It improves security through robust authentication protocols like Kerberos, authorization mechanisms, access control lists (ACLs), and the management of public key certificates.

Can Active Directory be used in small businesses?

Yes, Active Directory is designed to scale from small installations to large enterprise environments, making it suitable for businesses of all sizes.

What is the difference between AD DS and AD LDS?

AD DS (Active Directory Domain Services) provides the ability to create domains, users, and manage authentication and authorization within a network. AD LDS (Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services) offers a more lightweight directory service without dependencies on domains or domain controllers, ideal for storing application-specific data.

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