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What Is a Domain Controller?

What Is a Domain Controller?

One of the most important aspects of managing a business network is security. Many businesses store sensitive information — such as contact information for customers and clients. If third parties could easily access that information, it could create dangerous liabilities for your business.

So, how do you protect it all?

Network security is a large topic, but the very foundation of it falls on authentication. You simply need to prevent the wrong people from seeing or accessing protected information, and one of the best ways to do that is with a domain controller.

How Domain Controllers Work

To begin with, a domain controller is a type of server. This is a computer with a specific function within a network, and that function revolves around managing security requests.

Specifically, domain controllers work with network security and identity security. Their primary role resides in the arena of authentication and authorization. When a user tries to access any part of a network’s resources, the domain controller verifies the user’s identity and authority.

Beyond that, the domain controller limits user access across the network according to their credentials and what they need. As an example, a user with the highest level of authority might still see restricted access to specific data groups if the session doesn’t require that access.

This layer of security helps to protect the network and data stored on the network.

Benefits of Using Domain Controllers

Naturally, security is a good thing for networks, but when you utilize a domain controller, you gain a few notable benefits.

The first is that domain controllers operate across the whole network. This means you can implement security policies with the domain controller, and they will proliferate across the rest of the network. The most common example of this is ensuring password adequacy. You can set policy limits for what types of passwords are acceptable, forcing every user on the network to use a strong password. This eliminates one of the most common sources of data breaches (weak passwords).

More importantly, you can implement any policies that benefit the network via the domain controller.

On top of that, domain controllers centralize authentication management. As just mentioned, the controller can proliferate policies. With this in mind, you can manage all of your authentication rules and updates from one controller, and it automatically applies those rules across the network. This centralization saves a lot of time and labor costs.

Lastly, the domain controller allows connected devices to share resources. Even though the controller will restrict access to assets depending on the request, the controller can also grant access when it is appropriate. This makes it easier to share resources from one device to another, giving your network more flexibility along the way.

Common Use Cases for Domain Controllers

Now that you know more about what domain controllers are, how they operate, and how they can help you, we can take a look at practical applications. In every case, the domain controller is protecting your network through authentication, but what does that really mean? When do you actually need a domain controller?

While the concept can get pretty deep pretty fast, we can simplify everything by looking at two possibilities. Either you keep all of your data stored in the cloud, or at least some of it is stored locally on devices you control. From that perspective, we can see when domain controllers are needed and when they can be skipped.

Protecting Customer Data

A domain controller operates to prevent unauthorized access to privileged resources on your network. In most cases, it prevents the wrong people from seeing sensitive data.

In other words, if you store customer data on your own hardware or network, then you need a domain controller. It protects that data from easy access. This is important for company trust. It’s also a matter of compliance in many cases.

Cloud Services

In fact, it’s easier to think about cases where you don’t need a domain controller, and that case involves the cloud.

If all of your data and sensitive resources are stored exclusively in the cloud, then your network does not require a domain controller. Instead, cloud security and policies will handle authentication and authorization.

But, if you do keep anything stored locally, then you need a domain controller. It really is a binary decision. If you have data, protect the data. It’s as simple as that.

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