Active Directory management tools

Active Directory (AD) and, more recently, Azure AD have become the de-facto standard for most organizations for controlling what their users have access to and how information flows, depending on memberships within the organizational structure. Some organizations can have hundreds to tens of thousands of Active Directory instances. Active Directory services play a large role in the provisioning and de-provisioning of identities by being an authoritative source for the organization, as well as playing a role (in the case of on-premises AD) in Microsoft operating system management. So, in turn, Active Directory management tools have become essential to maintaining the security of enterprises. Groups those user accounts belong to, policies applied to those groups and, by association, what assets they can access are all managed via Active Directory management tools. 

System-Provided Active Directory Management Tools vs. Third-Party Tools 

System-provided Active Directory management tools let you perform many basic functions, but can be clunky as you add more domains, integrate Azure AD, manage ever-increasing accounts and access to machines, etc. System-provided tools are a great starting point for getting things set up and understanding what type of structure you want to build in your AD or Azure AD environment, but after that, as your organization grows and you have multiple directories to manage and different products leveraging those directories, you will want to make sure that things are not slipping through the cracks in normal day-to-day operations. Security vulnerabilities, such as users having more privileged access than what they need to get their work done, can easily remain undetected with system-provided tools, unless you go through the trouble of running an audit or performing some other discovery process to understand what has been assigned to whom. Third-party Active Directory management tools have no such limitations. 

Streamlining Administrative Processes with Third-Party Tools 

Third-party Active Directory management tools streamline not only your day-to-day administrative tasks, but also more advanced business processes through the use of attribute-based access control with dynamic groupings and the ability to manipulate multiple directory services (including both AD and Azure AD at once) to deliver just the right amount of access without having to touch multiple portals and administrative consoles. 

Let’s take a look at some specific ways third-party Active Directory management tools can streamline the administrative process: 

Controlling Access 

  • Controlling access through delegation using a Least Privilege model 
  • Create attribute-based access controls (ABAC) for groups of users by using dynamic rules-based groups. In some of today’s tools, it is possible for you to establish a virtual structure that allows you to aggregate multiple ADs and Azure ADs into a big picture view. From there, you can manipulate more advanced access control, not just for group membership, but also share access to applications and dynamically assign access based on changes in a user's attributes. 
  • Utilize a streamlined administrative portal that can be monitored and controlled for more secure access to administrative functions to service millions of users 

Automate Account Administration 

  • Streamline the creation of user accounts and groups in AD and Azure AD. For example, as soon as a user has been promoted and you assign them to a virtual group, the user will get access to exactly what they need to perform their day-to-day functions without any overlap 
  • Extending AD/Azure AD-based account administrative actions to non-Windows servers/systems and SaaS applications, such as Linux, Macs and Unixes, using bridging 
  • Streamline the creation of mailboxes in both Microsoft Exchange and Exchange Online  
  • Populate groups across multiple AD and Azure AD environments 
  • Streamline the assignment of AD/Azure AD controlled resources 

Easily Manage On-Premises and Azure AD Environments 

  • Eliminate the cumbersome, error-prone and unnecessary challenges that come with using separate system-provided tools and manual processes that require you to touch each user individually to manipulate their permissions and attributes 

Integrate with the “bigger picture” of your enterprise security strategy: SIEM, IGA, Audit and Compliance, etc. 

  • Ensure authoritative AD information (including day-to-day functions, names, groups, etc.) is always correct so that other systems (such as governance tools and all other tools that at least partially rely on AD information) continue to run smoothly. 

Streamlining AD management processes with third-party Active Directory management tools saves a lot of time without compromising security. If you try to add users or modify existing user permissions without third-party tools, you will have to touch each user individually to manipulate those attributes. There are scripting tools and other things you can get for free, but getting a third-party AD tool that can perform all those types of functions en masse and in an administrative way with good checks and balances makes admins’ lives easier. So, streamlining the usage of AD and Azure AD with third-party tools not only helps the day-to-day administration process, but also helps businesses be more efficient and deliver a better service to the end user without allowing too much access to each user account. 

Added Bonus: Third-party Active Directory management tools also help you achieve Zero Trust and least privilege. As you prune the weeds from your AD processes, you can tighten things up so that each user gets the access they need, only when they need it. You are also able to leverage just in time provisioning and then manage access granted to your user accounts and groups through your third-party tool. So, it all flows together. Essentially, the third-party Active Directory management tool is not just for managing changes on a day-to-day basis. The tool also helps you streamline everything that involves AD and Azure AD to your end users a lot faster. 

Are you looking to centrally manage user authorizations? How about hunting for a solution to streamline the compliance reporting process? Do you wish that you could automate security alerts so that you know when something needs your attention as soon as possible? The best Active Directory management tools can help network administrators get the most out of an important, albeit unwieldy, platform.  

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