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How Does Active Directory Function and What Is It?

Organizations all over the world today are using Active Directory to manage access and permissions to their network resources. According to Alex Simons, the Vice President of Program Management for the Microsoft Identity Division, it was used by 12.8 million organizations in 2017. This figure alone is enough to show the popularity of Active Directory.

But what exactly is Active Directory? How does it work? You will find the answers to these and more questions in this blog. 

What is Active Directory?

Developed by Microsoft, Active Directory is essentially a directory service. It is a database that stores information, including your assets, users, and which assets are accessible to which users. However, that’s not all it does. It also lets organizations manage permission, authenticate users, and control access.  

Active Directory is available for Windows domain networks. It is based on Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). You can easily customize how you store your information and provide access to authenticated users. If you are interested in learning more about it, you can take an Active Directory certification course.

Benefits of Active Directory

There are many benefits of using Active Directory. Some of them include the following

● Helps organizations secure their network resources through access management

● Can be easily aligned with organizational needs and structure

● Has a centralized data repository that enables admins to access and modify Active Directory from anywhere in the network

● Has in-built auditing capabilities that help in understanding security threats

● Enables single sign-on, which allows a user to access the relevant systems through a single password

● Can support millions of objects in one domain and can be scaled easily

What are Active Directory Domain Services?

In Active Directory, the data is stored as objects, and the storage follows a hierarchy. Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) is the primary service in Active Directory. It is responsible for interacting with the domain and the user and storing information. It also manages access to the users and authentication.

AD DS follows a hierarchical structure while storing data. The structure is as follows.

Domains: A domain refers to a group of objects. The objects have the same AD database.

Trees: When one or more domains are grouped in a logical hierarchy, it is called a tree. All the domains in a tree trust each other.

Forest: Much like a real forest, the forest in AD DS is made of trees. All the trees in a forest trust each other and have the same application information and directory schemas. The forest is also AD’s security boundary.

Organizational Units (OU): Organizational units organize computers, users, and groups. OU provides structure to your network resources.

Containers: These are much similar to OUs, except for one difference. It is not possible to link Group Policy Objects to container objects.

Structure of Active Directory

Active Directory has three tiers: domains, trees, and forests. Multiple domains form a tree, and trees make a forest. It can have more than one forest. The forest can represent your organization or a subsidiary of your organization.

The forest is also the security boundary, which means objects from different forests cannot interact with each other. Once administrators forge trust between forests, the interaction becomes possible. 

How does it function?

AD DS is run by domain controllers (DC), and each DC stores a copy of the whole domain’s directory. This enables firms to make changes on an organizational level. If a user account is deleted from a directory on a specific DC, all the other DCs will delete the account directly.

Other directory services provided by Active Directory

Active Directory also provides many other directory services. Some of them are as follows.

● Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS): This offers a part of AD DS features and is suitable for directory-enabled applications.

● Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS): AD CS allows you to create, share, and maintain digital certificates securely.

● Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS): AD FS provides a smoother user experience by enabling them to access several applications through one credential.

● Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS): This helps organizations keep their data secure by managing their security technologies.

An active Directory is a powerful tool that allows organizations to ensure the security of their network resources. Intrigued by the technology? If you want to make a career in this field, you can get an Active Directory certification. A Microsoft certification holds much value in the market and can help you begin and further your career.

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