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Active Directory – What Is It? How Does It Work?

Active Directory (AD) is a directory service responsible for organizing and managing network resources such as user accounts, computers, printers, and other devices connected to your domain.

In this article, we will discuss Active Directory, and why is it important. How does it work? Benefits of using Active Directory.

What is an Active Directory (AD)?

Active Directory is a network-wide directory service that organizes information about systems and makes it simple for IT professionals and users to find and utilize.

It relies on a structured data store as the foundation for a logical, hierarchical structure of directory information.

It provides single sign-on capabilities for all of its members. This makes life much easier when trying to access different machines.

What are the services in Active Directory?

There are other Active Directory services as given below

  • Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS)

Active Directory Domain Service (AD DS) is one of the main services in Active Directory which stores information about hierarchically structured data and makes it accessible to network users and administrators.

  • Lightweight Directory Services

Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS) provides directory services for applications without infrastructure features.

Active Directory Lightweight Directory service (AD LDS) provides a data store and directory services to access the data store. AD LDS uses API to access the application data.

AD LDS doesn’t have the infrastructure capabilities of Active Directory.

  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)

LDAP is a set of protocols for querying and modifying directory services running over TCP/IP. LDAP directory service is based on the client-server model.

A common use of LDAP is to provide a central place to store usernames and passwords. This allows many different applications and services to connect to the LDAP server to validate users.

  • Active Directory Certificate Services ( AD CS)

Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) implements public key infrastructure (PKI) functionality, supports personalities, and provides security functionality on the windows domain. It can create, validate, and revokes public key certificates.

AD CS is a server role in Windows Server that provides customizable services for issuing and managing public key certificates.

  • Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS)

Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) allows users to authenticate with a single sign-on (SSO) experience while accessing the systems and applications located across the organizational boundaries.

AD FS allows for the creation of claims that can be used to provide a single sign-on between your domain and applications in the cloud or other organizations.

  • Active Directory Right Management Server (AD RMS)

Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS) is a server role that works with AD to provide encryption and rights protection of data.

AD RMS allows individuals and administrators through IRM policies to specify access permissions to documents, workbooks, and presentations. This helps prevent sensitive information from being printed, forwarded, or copied by unauthorized people.

Why Active Directory is Important?

Active Directory is crucial for most organizations as it makes them more efficient by providing a method of organizing their resources while keeping track of user information easily across large networks.

It can be used to control permissions on resources for users based on their object type, group membership, or both.

  • Active Directory hierarchical database makes management of network resources and access easier.
  • Security – It provides features such as superior security, advanced management tools, and fast access to information. Active Directory also has many advantages over other directory services which you can read here about Active Directory Advantages.
  • Scalability – It enables organizations to manage large objects in a single container, unlike other directories due to its multi-master replication model.
  • It provides users with strong security options. Active Directory Data Protection capabilities protect the data from being viewed by unauthorized users.
  • It provides automated security updates which ensure that your device is safe and secure at all times without any manual intervention.
  • It provides strong security and compliance features like password policies, data encryption, and auditing which can be applied to specific objects or containers within Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS).
  • Active directory installed with predefined objects like user accounts, and groups. These objects’ properties can be modified and new objects can be added as required.

Cool Tip: How to open the Active Directory Users and Computers UI using PowerShell.


I hope the above-detailed guide on Active Directory and its core component like active directory services are helpful to you.

Active Directory is an enterprise-level directory service. It can be used to centralize authentication and authorization, store information about the network’s users and computers, and control access to files and other resources in a company or organization.

PowerShell has an Active Directory module to work with the active directory and manage the active directory using its cmdlets.

You can find more topics about PowerShell Active Directory commands and PowerShell basics on the ShellGeek home page.