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Active Directory: Why You Need It

Ironically enough, as networks grow bigger with more computers, in many ways they become easier to administer and require less staff resources per computer. One reason is that there are tools and technologies that are cost prohibitive for smaller offices to implement that provide economies of scale for larger offices. One such technology is Active Directory. In the past, this type of technology was reserved for companies with hundreds of computers, but today a company with as few as five computers can benefit from it.

With Active Directory, instead of performing administration on each computer individually, you simply make settings changes on one computer (your server) which in turn programs the settings onto each of your other computers. When you consider the amount of time involved in setting up a new computer to work in your organization and dealing with computer problems, this is an immense time-saver that can save your organization from down time and keep your technology soft costs under control.

The main benefit of Active Directory is that it ties your entire organization together through a domain. Staff members have one username and password that can be used to login from any computer. Users can then be placed into groups such as Accounting, Managers, or Sales which determines the userís level of access to the system. With this setup, it is very easy to program the system to give the salespeople rights to the sales software but no access to the accounting system.

Because your organization is joined through a domain, it is much easier to share resources such as files and printers on the network. With this model, all files are kept on the server, making it much easier to secure and backup. If a userís workstation breaks down, it is not a problem that requires immediate attention because they can still login to another computer and continue their work where they left off.

Active Directory also includes a number of other services such as Group Policy, Roaming Profiles and the Distributed File System. Group Policy enforces your Acceptable Usage Policy. Roaming Profiles allows a user to have the exact same desktop profile settings, regardless of which computer they login to. The Distributed File System mirrors files between different servers and different sites for the highest reliability and security.

In order to use Active Directory, you must have the Professional Edition of Windows on each workstation. Please note you cannot use Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8 Home or Starter Edition. Your must have a server with Windows Server or SBS Server Operating System. As a best practice, we recommend having two servers to run your Active Directory so that your network will still work if one server goes down.

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