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What is Active Directory?


Understanding Active Directory

The IAM domain has witnessed tremendous evolution. But the relevance of the Active Directory remains the same even in the age of SaaS. As the industry takes on the cloud, we thought of demystifying active directory – which happens to be poorly understood despite being inherently present within technology ecosystems.

The Active Directory (AD) dates to 1999 when Microsoft introduced the concept. A year later, the Windows 2000 server included the Active Directory and ever since, with every new version of the Windows, AD carried new updates and features and today, we have a popular cloud-based Active Directory.
So, what exactly is Active Directory? Put simply, the Active Directory helps you store, organize and provide access to the information within the operating system. It is the most critical database of every company, regardless of its size and function.

An Active Directory typically includes components such as Contact, Printer, Computer, Shared folder, Group and Organizational Units (OUs)

These components are stored in a single organized repository, giving seamless and secure access to each.

Setting up your Active Directory

Active Directory is an integral part of every Windows server and it comes preinstalled. However, if you are setting up a new domain, this is how you set up an Active Directory;
Start > Administrative Tools > Server Manager.
Once you install the AD, you can find it the administrative tool.

What are the different kinds of Active Directory services?

How you store your data and manage its access depends on the kind of Active Directory service you opt for. Generally, there are 5 types of Active Directory services:

Domain Services

The Active Directory Domain Service or also known as AD DS is run by a ‘Domain Controller’ and is the most popular AD type. It includes members of the domain such as, devices and services besides verifying the credentials and gives clarity on the access rights.

The Domain Controller authenticates the users, user requests and tracks accesses across the network.

As of today, Domain Services is the most chosen AD service by Microsoft server technologies such as Group Policy, BitLocker, Domain Name Services, Remote Desktop Services, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server.

Your organization will greatly benefit from AD DS as your resources are centralized and secure.

Lightweight Directory Services

Often known as AD LDS, it performs similar functions to AD DS, the only difference being the fact that it does not require a Domain Controller. You can store your data in the Data Store and directory services are provided with an LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) Directory Service Interface.

AD LDS makes for an excellent choice for Password Management. You can use LDAP for all your critical applications and eliminate the need to add, delete and regularly update passwords.

Certificate Services

Active Directory Certificate provides an infrastructure for on-premise public key certificates. Certificate Services help create, revoke and validate the public key certificates for an organization’s internal use. However, to avail a certificate service, one needs an Active Directory Domain Service infrastructure.

As you opt for Certificate Services, you are assured confidentiality and authentication for all your critical data.

Federation Services

Active Directory Federation Service (AD FS), also commonly known as Single Sign-on, allows you to sign onto multiple applications with just one credential. It is secure and helps manage accesses effortlessly. Just like the Certificate Services, Federation Services also need an Active Directory Domain Service infrastructure.
This is yet another fantastic database for Identity and Access Management. You can sign on to multiple applications with just one solid credential. Think of all the time you will save by eliminating the need to remembering and updating so many passwords!

Rights Management Services

Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS) manages the information rights of the employees. It limits access to important documents, e-mails, webpages etc.

Rights Management Services helps in Identity Governance and Administration significantly.

Why does Active Directory play a crucial role within your organization?

Active Directory is inherently present within your windows server. With its new features and regular updates, AD is something every business already depends upon. However, if you are yet to make the best use of Active Directory, you should start doing so. Here’s why;

Optimizes IT resource costs

Typically, an IT Admin would spend hours organizing, reviewing and governing the various accesses within the organization. This is both tedious and expensive. On the other hand, making good use of the Active Directory is viable. The data is stored in one place and accesses are well managed which means the process becomes remarkably cost-effective.

An excellent tool for Access Management

When all the important data is in one repository, AD services such as Federation Services, certification services, rights management services etc., you may opt to integrate your IAM solutions with the Active Directory for an effortless Access Management.

Provides Enhanced Security

When data is scattered, and employees take undue liberty in accessing the data or applications, there is a massive potential for consequential security risk. Active Directory acts as a master data-base where all the crucial data, information, applications etc. is organized, well-monitored and secured so that with the right software provider, you can govern and manage this access.

Improves overall Productivity

When the IT admin’s effort is reduced, managing multiple access becomes easy by integrating your IAM solutions with the AD and all your important data, applications and information is automatically well secured. This improves the overall productivity of the employees, and certainly benefits the company at a macro level.

Enhance the user-experience with Active Directory

Now that you know of the important role an Active Directory plays in your organization, you might as well try and enhance your user-experience. This is how you may do so;

  • Follow best practices that secure it from potential hacking/phishing.
  • Set up an Active Directory and make it compatible with every operating system, not just Windows.
  • Make the installation process simpler and give basic training and knowledge about the importance of Active Directory to all the employees

Unarguably, the importance and functionality of Active Directory is becoming increasingly popular and Ilantus has understood the significance of AD particularly in the IAM domain perfectly well. As a result, every IAM solution that Ilantus offers has a seamless integration to the Active Directory across multiple domains. Drop in a line if you want to know more!