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Active Directory – AD

What is an Active Directory?

The Active Directory is a network directory introduced by Windows, in which information about devices, resources, and settings is hierarchically managed. In a hierarchical order, elements are organized either on the same level or above or below each other. The individual elements have properties that can apply to all subordinate elements, allowing for the creation of overarching rules or permissions. The "Active Directory" is somewhat similar to a phone book. Every company has such an internal phone book, storing information about employees, such as departments, phone numbers, or names. The Active Directory is also like a phone book, but it also contains additional information, such as access rights to certain programs, printers, or user passwords.

A concrete application example of the Active Directory

Imagine a company with 100 employees, and now, 50 of them need access to a new program like Photoshop. It would be a tremendous effort to individually install licenses for all 50 employees, having to go from computer to computer. But what can you do now? An administrator makes Photoshop available for all 50 employees in the phone book (Active Directory) and triggers the synchronization process on their computers. Through an update, the employees' computers synchronize with the phone book, and after a restart, Photoshop is automatically downloaded from the phone book. This is the strength of the Active Directory. A similar process occurs when an employee changes departments. Instead of manually providing the employee with new programs, folder usage rights, and printer access, they are simply moved to the new department in the Active Directory, and they immediately gain access to all of the aforementioned resources.

What role do domains play in Active Directory?

An administrator creates a domain for a department in advance. They then precisely define which printers, folders, and other resources may be used by this department. This domain serves as the framework for the department and can be created as often as necessary. The printer is hierarchically under the department, allowing it to be used only by users within that department. In the case of cross-departmental changes in a company, an employee's account is moved to the appropriate domain, and the employee is immediately ready for deployment. This form of centralized management in an Active Directory saves a considerable amount of work and is particularly essential for larger companies.

Why could it also be relevant for you?

Wie an unserem Beispiel schon deutlich wurde, ist die zentrale Verwaltung von Ressourcen einer der bedeutendsten Vorteile der Active Directory. Ein weiterer Vorteil: Wachsende Unternehmen können sich auf das Active Directory verlassen, eine Skalierbarkeit nach oben ist möglich. Wie sieht es mit dem Sicherheitsaspekt aus? Durch die Vergabe von Zugriffsrechten an Nutzer werden empfindliche Dateien vor Zugriffen geschützt. Die Passwortstärke bei der Accounterstellung kann im Vorfeld festgelegt werden und verdächtige Nutzeraktivitäten können überwacht werden. Dadurch wird eine große Zahl an Fehlerquellen ausgemerzt. Zu guter Letzt: Verbindungen zu anderen Programmen. Das Active Directory ist eng mit anderen Microsoft-Produkten wie Windows-Server, Sharepoint und Microsoft-Azure verbunden.

As our example has already made clear, centralized resource management is one of the most significant benefits of Active Directory. Another advantage: growing companies can rely on Active Directory as it allows for scalability. What about security? By assigning access rights to users, sensitive files are protected from unauthorized access. Password strength during account creation can be predetermined, and suspicious user activities can be monitored. This helps eliminate many potential sources of errors. Lastly, connections to other programs. Active Directory is closely integrated with other Microsoft products such as Windows Server, SharePoint, and Microsoft Azure.

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