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How Does Active Directory Help with Access Management?

by | Apr 7, 2022 | BLOG

Active Directory started with Windows Server due to the convenience of using the same password to perform several activities in a company, such as authenticating on a computer, accessing a system, and opening an email.

In its database, one can store information about domains, organizational units, trust relationships, computer accounts, users, groups, group members, and passwords, among other objects.

This solution brings several other benefits, such as the centralization of security features, the use of a single management point for resources, and the simplification of the search for the desired resource.

In this article, we explain the concept of Active Directory and unravel its advantages, among other countless information. To facilitate your reading, we divided our text into topics:

  • What is Active Directory?
  • What Is the Importance of Active Directory?
  • Benefits of Active Directory
  • Active Directory in Practice
  • How Active Directory Is Structured
  • Functioning of AD in Two Perspectives
  • About senhasegura
  • Conclusion

Follow our text to the end!

What is Active Directory?

It is a database and set of services performed on Microsoft Windows Server, whose main purpose is to enable the management of permissions and the control of access to network resources. 

Through this solution, one can store data as objects, including users, groups, applications, and devices, categorizing them according to their names and characteristics.

What Is the Importance of Active Directory?

Active Directory is important in many ways. It consists of a directory service that makes it possible to store data about networked objects, making this information available to administrators and users. Also, it is a Microsoft software used in Windows.

It was developed to organize the search for required information in daily activities and centralize this data, and its advantages are availability, security, and performance. In addition, an Active Directory can have multiple domains with different administrators and security policies. That is, administrators do not need to have access to all domains.

In Active Directory:

  • Each user can have only one name to access network resources. Their accounts are stored in the AD database;
  • Users need to log on once to access any network environment;
  • Domains can grow unlimitedly without changing the form of administration;
  • Active Directory-based domains enable centralized management. Data related to accounts, groups, and network resources can be managed in a single environment. 
  • If a company needs to have a single location, Active Directory allows users to have access to all network resources with a single password. 

Benefits of Active Directory

Active Directory provides several benefits for users, and we can highlight some of them:

Centralization of Security Features

In a single location, one can manage and protect network resources and related security objects. A company can manage AD based on a business model, organizational model, or the types of roles it manages.

This is the case for organizations that manage Active Directory by dividing their users according to the departments in which they work, the physical place where they work, or a combination of both.

Active Directory allows one to manage the security of all network resources and extend interoperability with multiple applications and devices. When this feature is implemented and protected in the right way, it makes it possible to implement a company’s policy and procedures involving cybersecurity, resources, and network services in a detailed manner.

Single Management Point for Resources

In AD, network resources are accessed from a single management point. This is because a single logon is used to gain access to network resources located on all servers within the domain.

In practice, the user is identified only once. After that, they connect to access network resources, depending on their roles and permissions. 

It Simplifies the Task of Finding the Desired Resource

Active Directory simplifies the task of finding the desired resource as it allows publishing files and print resources to the network. Publishing an object enables network resources to be securely accessed for search in the AC database.

To do this search, the name, location, or description of the object can be used. If you want to search for a shared folder, for example, just use the network in Windows 10 or Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and click the search button.

You can configure the search scope without using the shared folder name and keyword as requirements. 

For more specific results, just provide more information. For example, if you set up the same keyword in multiple folders, a search for the keyword will return many results, which will make it more difficult to find the folder you are looking for.

Suppose you have access to a network with dozens of servers, in which each one has several resources required to perform your activities. In this case, it would be difficult to identify which server provides each resource.

This task can become even more difficult when you have mobile users, who need to locate devices from somewhere else.

Trust Relationships Between Various Domains

AD makes it possible to establish efficient management of trust relationships between several domains. That is, a trust relationship can be established between two websites. In this way, one can use the features on both websites with a single username and password.

Improved Scalability

Through the concept of organizational units (OUs), Active Directory makes it possible to improve scalability in large companies. An OU consists of a collection of users and computers. 

An organization with large domains can organize them into OUs. For example, a company has a large department that has an administrator managing the domain. In this case, one can create an OU to which all user accounts and computers related to that department can be moved.

Multi-Master Replication

This concept is another advantage of an Active Directory environment. In an AD multi-master replication environment, each domain controller contains a copy of the directory. 

When a change is made to AD, the nearest controller will be updated. Other domain controllers in the environment will also update. 

That goes for websites, too. Each website has its domain controller, that is, when a user of a website updates Active Directory, the changes are reflected in it. 

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 Active Directory in Practice

Active Directory consists of an administrator network of the logins responsible for releasing access to resources. Through it, users can access one or several rooms, depending on their needs, with a single login and password, eliminating the need to create numerous accesses. 

It works as a free protocol used to manage information from distributed directories over an IP network, which enables users to access network resources by performing a single logon.

It is organized with the use of domains through a hierarchy, with an administration that is based on the tree and forest concepts, which supports the organization of the domain structure and eliminates the need for individual visits to desktops.

In this context, each domain is equivalent to a maximum administrative unit within the network. The forest would be the “set of trees”, which we cover in more detail in the next topic.

How Active Directory Is Structured

Active Directory has the function of storing data about network users and resources in a structure formed by domains, trees, and forests.

When we talk about a domain, we refer to a collection of objects, such as users and devices, that share the AD database. 

A tree, on the other hand, is a collection of domains with a contiguous namespace, which have a common DNS root name.

A forest, in turn, refers to a collection of trees that share the same scheme, global catalog, and directory configuration, without being part of a contiguous namespace. It works as a security limit on a corporate network.

Within a domain, objects can be grouped into organizational units (OUs), which enables administrators to create organizational units that allow them to mirror business, functional, or geographic structures and apply group policies that simplify management. 

Functioning of AD in Two Perspectives

The AD operation can be understood through two perspectives: the technical and the user one. Here’s how they differ:

Technical Perspective

Generally, data stored in Active Directory encompasses user contact, printer queue, and desktop or network configuration information.

The Active Directory Data Store contains directory data, such as information about users, groups, computers, objects that these users can access, other objects, and network components, allowing full access administration.

Directories are still used to manage software packages, files, and user accounts. The administrator uses the AD tree and forest concepts, which do not require individual visits to desktops.

User Perspective

With AD, users can access available resources on the network by logging on once to the local network environment.

When the user enters their login and password, Active Directory confirms the validity of the information to grant authentication. As already mentioned, AD is organized hierarchically through the use of domains. 

About senhasegura

Present in 54 countries, we are one of the units of MT4 Tecnologia, a group of companies focused on information security founded in 2001.

Our purpose is to guarantee cybersecurity to the organizations we provide services to, acting on the control of privileged actions and information. In this sense, we avoid problems such as: data leaks and thefts in virtual environments and their consequences for our customers.

We understand digital sovereignty is a right of citizens, organizations, and society, so we work around this goal, believing that applied technology is essential for the promotion of prosperity.

Our job is to address the lifecycle of privileged access management, be it before, during, and after access, considering that machine automation is a current need, as manually managing digital privileges has become an insufficient task. Therefore, we seek to:

  • Avoid interruptions due to expirations and increase the efficiency of organizations;
  • Automatically audit the use of privileges;
  • Automatically audit privileged changes to anticipate detection of privilege abuses;
  • Ensure successful deployments and satisfied customers;
  • Provide advanced PAM capabilities;
  • Provide resources that reduce risks in a fast and advanced way;
  • We also bring companies into compliance with audit criteria and standards such as PCI DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley, ISO 27001, and HIPAA.

Conclusion

By reading this article, you saw that:

  • Active Directory came up with Windows Server due to the need to use the same password to perform multiple tasks;
  • AD is a database and set of services that have the main function of enabling the management of permissions and the control of access to network resources;
  • It was created to organize the search for necessary information at work and centralize this data;
  • Through it, users log on once to access any network environment;
  • Active Directory-based domains enable centralized administration;
  • An organization can manage AD based on a business model, organizational model, or the types of roles it manages;
  • Active Directory allows one to find a resource more easily, making it possible to publish files and print resources on the network;
  • Through AD, one can establish trust relationships between several areas;
  • Through the concept of organizational units (OUs), AD allows for improving scalability in large organizations;
  • Active Directory has the function of storing data about network users and resources in a structure formed by domains, trees, and forests;
  • The AD operation can be understood through two perspectives: the technical and the user one;
  • The directories are used to administer software packages, files, and user accounts, among other functions;
  • After a user enters their login and password, Active Directory confirms the information is valid and authenticates.

 

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