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Advantages of Active Directory Account Management
Windows NT, as it came out of the box, was not a particularly secure operating system. There are several
reasons for this. First, during the timeframe in which NT was initially developed, security was not as big a
concern in the corporate environment as it has become in the past several years. Second, security is not
traditionally as crucial in smaller network environments as in large ones, and NT was not in widespread use
in large-enterprise situations. Finally, Microsoft’s focus in designing NT was ease of use; there will always
be a trade-off between security level and accessibility. With Windows 2000, security is built right into Active
Directory.
Active Directory will support a much larger number of user objects (more than a million) with better
performance than the NT Registry-based domain model. Maximum domain size is no longer limited by the
performance of the security account repository. A domain tree can support much larger, complex
organizational structures, making Windows truly suitable for enterprise networking.
Since account management is the foundation of any NT or Windows 2000 security plan, it stands to reason
that the easier and more specific management of user accounts is, the better it will be for security purposes.
Account management is an important issue. Every user initially enters the network through a user account;
this is the beginning point for assignment of user rights and permissions to access resources, individually or
(as Microsoft recommends) through membership in security groups (see Figure 4.2).
Figure 4.2 The user account is the entry point to the network and the basis for security.
In Windows NT 4.0 Server, user accounts were administered from the User Manager for Domains and
computer accounts were managed via Server Manager. In a Windows 2000 domain, both types of accounts
are managed from a single point, the Active Directory Users and Computers MMC snap-in. To access this
tool, follow this path: Start menu ½ Programs ½ Administrative Tools ½ Active Directory Users and
Computers.
Figure 4.3 shows the separate folders for computers and users (showing the Users folder expanded).
Tip: Group names, as well as individual user accounts, are included in the Users folder.
Figure 4.3 Accounts can be managed with the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.
This one-stop account management setup makes it easier for the network administrator to address the issues
that arise in connection with the security-oriented administration of users, computers, and resources.
Managing Security via Object Properties
In Active Directory, everything is an object, and every object has properties, also called attributes. The
attributes of a user account include security-related information. In the case of a user account, this would
include memberships in security groups and password and authentication requirements. Windows 2000
makes it easy for the administrator to access the attributes of an object (and allows for the recording of much
more information than was possible with NT). Figure 4.4 shows the Account property sheet of a user account
and some of the optional settings that can be applied.
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