As public cloud services like Office 365 become more readily available, and organisations migrate to online/cloud based software applications, the question of whether your organisation requires a Windows Server (for Active Directory) is certainly worth consideration.
While there is no easy answer to this question, Diamond’s Director and Technical Services Manager, Martin Thurgate provides this guide for any organisations examining…
- Whether they still require a Windows Server including a full Active Directory environment, OR
- Whether they can/should migrate to a public cloud Active Directory environment like Azure Active Directory.
What are my Server choices?
So, what is the difference between a Windows Server with Active Directory (also known as a Domain Controller) compared to Azure Active Directory?
Well, there are a range of areas where these environments are different, but primarily the difference is functionality. While Windows Server with Active Directory (either on premise or in a private cloud) is ‘fully featured’, Azure Active Directory is cut down and doesn’t have components such as Group Policy. Group Policy is a powerful, granular tool that gives system administrators a high level of control over the organisations IT environment.
What Server is best for my business?
But does your organisation need the power of Windows Server Active Directory, or will Azure Active Directory suffice? Although there is no easy answer to this question the guide below will certainly help. 7 organisational characteristics have been listed with explanations whether that particular attribute makes your organisation more or less likely to need a Windows Server Active Directory environment.
1. The location of your file server/storage and emails (exchange)
- You’re less likely to need one if - Your organisation’s file storage and exchange email are within Microsoft Office 365, or can easily be migrated to Office 365.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Your organisation has on premise (or private cloud) File/Exchange server(s), in this case a domain controller is essential.
- Why? Organisations using Office 365 including SharePoint Online and Exchange Online can use Azure Active Directory for authentication and control of these systems.
2. Your line of business software
- You’re less likely to need one if - Your line of business software is cloud based.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Your line of business software requires a Windows Server.
- Why? Line of business software that requires a Windows Server typically requires a domain controller to control access to the application.
3. How centralised your workforce is
- You’re less likely to need one if - Your workforce is highly decentralised ie; majority of staff work on the road or from home.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Your workforce is centralised in one or more locations, and shares resources such as printers, MDF, etc.
- Why? A highly mobile workforce using personal resources will not get much benefit from a domain controller, whereas a highly centralised organisation that requires stringent access and control to shared resources (such as WiFi, shared PCs, shared printers, etc) will benefit from a domain controller.
4. Importance of security
- You’re less likely to need one if - Security and monitoring is not a high priority for your organisation.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Security and monitoring is a high priority for your organisation.
- Why? A domain controller (using Group Policy) can enforce a wide range of security policies. System Administrators can control staff activity, such as restricting administrative access to local systems (thereby reducing the threat and impacts of ransomware). System Administrators can also ensure that computers adhere to strict standards, such as automatically installing security software onto newly purchased systems
5. Business compliance requirements
- You’re less likely to need one if - Your organisation has low compliance requirements.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Your organisation works in an industry with high compliance requirements.
- Why? A domain controller is able to enforce a range of compliance requirements, such as blocking users from installing non-sanctioned software.
6. The size of the organisation
- You’re less likely to need one if - Your organisation is a micro/small business, and growth is unlikely.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Your organisation is midsize to large, or small but growing rapidly.
- Why? Smaller organisations don’t typically require stringent IT controls, whereas larger organisations typically do.
7. The number of Bring Your Own Device and non-Windows systems
- You’re less likely to need one if - Your organisation has a high number of staff using their own systems, or non-Windows systems such as Mac’s.
- And you’re more likely to need one if - Systems are Windows and owned by the organisation.
- Why? Domain Controllers cannot control personal devices or non-Windows systems, so a workplace with a high percentage of these types of systems won’t benefit from a domain controller.
How can Diamond help?
With the growth of Cloud Computing, the question of whether your organisation requires a Windows Server is certainly worth consideration. Contact us today for more information on how we can work together with you on your IT Infrastructure, Managed IT Services and other IT and Communications needs through – call now on 1300 307 907 or via our online contact form below.