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User Authentication vs Domain Controller

Aug, 2017

Many smaller business environments make use of an "workgroup" network environment as opposed to an user-authenticated network and server environment. Here we discuss the differences and why user-authentication offer more options.

A "Workgroup" networking environment is an infrastructure where a computer shares the business documents with other users without users having to authenticate themselves. This is the easiest way of sharing documents however, the most unsafe way.

Because of the security issues, Microsoft has built their later desktop operating systems (Windows 7 and later) with more strict policies around file sharing, making the setup often troublesome.  This environment also has the caveat of distributed files.  It is therefore often difficult to do version control or to restore files in the event of file corruption.  When these business documents are on a Notebook share, they are not available when the Notebook is not connected to the network.

The preferred solution is to use a Domain Controller and user authentication.  This type of infrastructure provides a centralised server where all business documents are stored, making backup and recovery of documents much more controlled and guaranteed.

A Server requires a Server Operating System (like Linux or Windows Server).  The server acts as a domain controller and offer various other networking services like DNS, DHCP (IP address management etc.) and more importantly, user authentication.  Users are therefore created on the Domain Controller with customised user rights and assignments providing much more granularity in what users may access and do with business files.  When users log in on their desktops, the Domain Controller check if the user exists, and authenticates the user against his/her username and password.  THe user then has access to the shared folders on the Server with the access rights determined by the business rules and policies.

A Server environment also provides auditing and monitoring functions which enables business to determine who accessed which files.

It might be a more costly solution due to the licensing requirements of proprietary server software like Microsoft, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  If costs are indeed limited, an Open Source Solution may be used. 

We offer support both on Microsoft as well as Linux environments with certifications and experience to back it up.

Super User

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