A Guide to Active Directory & Active Directory Management

BY IT GLUE | April 25, 2022

Providing employees with the right level of access is a significant challenge even in today’s digital world. When you give too many people access to critical information, you are putting your data security at risk. However, you also need to delegate work to the lowest level in your organization to ensure higher productivity. You can achieve that with the help of Active Directory.

In this blog, we’ll explore all the critical aspects of Active Directory Management and how you can use it to manage user access.

What is Active Directory?

Active Directory is a directory service offered by Microsoft for those using the Windows Server. Active Directory is the de facto directory system used in over 90% of the enterprises today, where it acts as a user identity repository.

The core function of the Active Directory is to help organizations manage their user access and permissions for network resources. For instance, when a user logs in to a network, the Active Directory validates the username and password provided by the user against the information in its directory before authenticating the entry into the network.

Another key function of this directory is to restrict user access based on the level of permissions they have. A network may have hundreds of user accounts. When these users request access to critical information, approval is provided only if these users have the right permissions to access resources.

The Active Directory stores its data as objects, and these objects are organized as users, groups, applications, devices, etc. User access to devices in a network is determined based on various factors like job titles, passwords, connected network, phone number, etc.

What components can you manage through Active Directory?

The Active Directory is a database with critical information about various objects in an IT environment. The two main objects you can manage with the help of Active Directory include users and devices. Let’s discuss how these components contribute to the security of your IT network.

Managing user accounts in Active Directory

User accounts can be created and stored in the Active Directory Domain Services as objects. You can create, edit or delete user accounts whenever you want, as required. Organizations can create internal users manually or automate user provisioning with the help of a different tool. These accounts are mainly used by human users to log in to a computer. Sometimes, even system services require their own user accounts to gain access to a computer.

When a user attempts to log in to a computer, the system compares the account name and password provided by the user against the object stored in the Active Directory server. If the account is found to be valid, the server creates an access token for that session. This token contains data about the user identity and the memberships associated with the user. This token also has a record of all the processes executed by the user during the session.

Anyone who wants to access the shared resources in an IT environment must have a user account in the Active Directory server. A group may contain multiple users and other groups. These groups can also be used to manage user access in an organization. Sometimes, it is much simpler to assign permissions to groups instead of individual users.

Once you have created user accounts, you can group them based on their job roles and functions to provide them with access privileges applicable to the whole group.

Managing devices in Active Directory

Active Directory has a feature to domain join all the devices in your network and manage them all through a group policy. Once you have joined a computer to an Active Directory domain, a computer account is automatically created to manage the device and to identify it as a part of the network. You can use the group policy to update any changes and use the user list in the Active Directory to manage who can access the device.

You may deliver commands to devices using Active Directory Users and Computers. To see the commands available, right-click the device listing and choose All Tasks. Shift-click and Ctrl-click can be used to select multiple devices. The device gets unenrolled if the commands are muted.

Mobile devices are not supported by default in the Windows Active Directory. You may need to use a third-party solution or switch to Azure Active Directory. Azure is a cloud computing service offered by Microsoft. Microsoft Intune, a mobile devices management solution, is already integrated into Azure AD, and this enables mobiles device management in Active Directory.

Types of Active Directory environments

There are three different types of Active Environments and each of them can be deployed in a different way for different purposes. Let’s find out the differences between them.

On-premise Active Directory

This is the default Active Directory system used in most organizations across the world. It stores various objects including user identities, devices, applications, groups and more. This provides centralized administration of all user accounts, and it is ideal for managing user access to shared sources and providing authorization for internal users whenever required.

Azure Active Directory

To overcome the limitations of the on-premise Active Directory, Microsoft came up with Azure Active Directory, which is a directory service hosted in the cloud. It is mainly used in organizations that use a myriad of devices including mobile devices at work. In addition to being the authorization mechanism for Office 365 and Intune, Azure Active Directory can also be integrated with many third-party user authentication systems.

Hybrid Active Directory

What if you have legacy software as well as modern tools in your IT network? This is where the Hybrid Active Directory comes in. This helps you synchronize your on-premise Active Directory data with Azure Active Directory. Rather than using two different sets of credentials, you can use an onsite domain controller to replicate Azure AD and manage all your internal user permissions.

Benefits of implementing an Active Directory network

Active Directory can enhance security in an organization by providing users only with the right level of access. As a result, it makes life easier for IT administrators. Let’s check out some of the key benefits of implementing an Active Directory network.

  • Centralized, policy-based management: Administrators can control all aspects of user management and network access. This prevents unauthorized access to critical data in a network.
  • Seamless user experience: Once authenticated, users can seamlessly access any shared resources in the network. This enables better collaboration with multiple stakeholders in a project.
  • Single sign-on: Active Directory also features single sign-on for users to access network resources in the server once they have logged into the domain.
  • Better representation of the network: With Active Directory, you can plan how your organization’s network can be organized. You can customize your organization’s data and manage everything as per your requirements.
  • Management of resources: Network administrators may use Active Directory to manage and store data about user accounts, machine settings and resources.

Active Directory documentation with IT Glue

Managing multiple environments is challenging. While some of your clients or sites might use hybrid, some may use the cloud. You need to centralize all your Active Directory users and devices alongside SOPs for user provisioning and de-provisioning. IT Glue can help you with that.

IT Glue is a robust documentation platform with a strong Active Directory integration. Active Directory (AD) data collected by Network Glue can help create new IT Glue contacts or enrich existing contacts by automatically matching them to AD information. This allows you to easily automate and manage all your AD user documentation directly within IT Glue.

To learn more about how you can leverage Active Directory user data in IT Glue, request a demo.

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