Microsoft Active Directory: Everything You Should Know

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Microsoft’s Active Directory tool is something you should know about if you work in the IT field. In this article, we will break down what it is and whether your company can get some use out of it. It could turn out that this particular tool can help your business succeed.

What Exactly is Microsoft Active Directory?

Before we answer some common questions about Microsoft Active Directory, it helps to understand its origins. The company developed it in the late 1990s, and it’s an on-the-premises directory service. Some in the IT field might also call it an identity provider, sometimes abbreviated as IdP.

It’s tough to overemphasize how much this tool meant to the modern identity management niche when Microsoft introduced it. While other Microsoft tools have risen to prominence since it first appeared, and other companies have introduced competitors as well, you might still enjoy some of the more popular features that it offers. Let’s talk about some of those.

What Are Some Active Directory Basics?

Active Directory is part of many products the company now offers, both in the directory field and outside of it. It is both an identity provider and directory service tool. Using it, an admin can connect their users to various Windows-based IT resources.

The other common thing an admin might do with Active Directory is to secure and manage any Windows-based applications and systems that your company happens to use. Since it could be that you utilize many of those every day, you can start to see why Active Directory still matters, even though about twenty-five years have elapsed since the company first came out with it.

What Else Does Active Directory Do?

Aside from what we’ve mentioned so far, Active Directory also lets you store information about network objects. Those might include digital assets, applications, systems, networks, groups, and individual users. It also keeps track of their relationships with each other.

In other words, this is a great system for keeping track of what your network is doing at any given time. If you want to locate something, you can use Active Directory to do it, and you can also usually find any unauthorized individual or device that’s using your network with little difficulty.

If you have assigned an admin to watch over your network, they can use this system to give someone login credentials when you hire them. They might also grant credentials to a contractor you only use some of the time. They can provide a new client network access so they can look at a project you’re working on with them.

Other Active Directory Uses

The admin will look at your company’s domain, in which controls and access exist. A domain is a way of saying your network excludes and includes various access points for individuals and devices.

This system came into being because of physical objects staying in certain locations. Mostly companies that used servers found this system useful. This is the on-premises model, which some in the IT field shorten to on-prem.

The on-prem model still works for some companies, but the cloud has allowed others to move away from it. The businesses that still go with the on-prem model might do so if they have the money to afford the physical servers and the financial resources to retain them in a particular location.

Doing this has some advantages, but one disadvantage is that it makes remote work more challenging.

If a user wanted to access your network, and you had an on-prem company model with Active Directory, they would have to set up and use a virtual private network, or VPN. This approach worked pretty well, and VPNs became popular with many different companies and individuals.

At this point, Active Directory is still a popular favorite for business entities that want to set up a network for their company, either one that’s on-prem or one that many individuals use from different physical locations with VPNs. The features that Microsoft introduced remain useful, and the “active” part of Active Directory is still a key selling point.

The system is active because it regularly updates the information you store in the network you create. That goes back to what we said before about your admin being able to see who uses your directory at all times.

Active Directory remains a system it makes sense to use if you want to keep careful track of who’s using your network at any given time.  


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About Kristin

Master reviewer of all types of products. Love XL Fountain Sodas!! Cheer Mom extraordinaire. Socialite to all things small town and founder of Come socialize and connect with me.


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