Active Directory is Microsoft's trademarked directory service, an integral part of the Windows 2000 architecture. Like other directory services, such as Novell Directory Services (NDS), Active Directory is a centralized and standardized system that automates network management of user data, security, and distributed resources, and enables interoperation with other directories. Active Directory is designed especially for distributed networking environments.
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Active Directory features include:
- Support for the X.500 standard for global directories
- The capability for secure extension of network operations to the Web
- A hierarchical organization that provides a single point of access for system administration (management of user accounts, clients, servers, and applications, for example) to reduce redundancy and errors
- An object-oriented storage organization, which allows easier access to information
- Support for the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) to enable inter-directory operability
- Designed to be both backward compatible and forward compatible
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