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.
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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