What is Active Directory?

You can think of Active Directory as special software that connects your computer to the services you need and helps keep your operating system and programs secure and up to date.  It’s not something you “use” like Microsoft Office or Outlook, but it can make using your computer safer and easier.

At it's most fundamental level, Active Directory is a database that keeps track of all the shared resources on our network. This allows your computer to find the network drives, shared printers, and the applications it needs, without a call to the Service Desk for each one. For example, if your department or college adds a shared printer, that resource will show up automatically on every computer in that department or college that needs it.   

Active Directory works with both Windows and Mac computers.

What are the benefits of Active Directory?

Active Directory promises to improve your technical support experience, shorten the time it takes to deliver new applications and services, and make it easier to keep your computer secure.
  • Logging into computers with your university e-mail address and password.  Just one login to remember, no matter how many computers you have.
  • Not having to keep track of security updates.
  • Access to the personal storage, departmental file shares and networked printers you need. 
  • Getting the most recent versions of programs like Outlook and Office automatically – no CDs, DVDs or download pages to visit. 
  • Faster answers when you call the Service Desk.  With a click of your mouse, you can let the tech on the other end see what you see on your computer screen. 
  • Departmental IT staff can spend less time doing digital housekeeping and more time supporting your research, teaching and administrative needs.   


Why is having a single Active Directory important?

We are implementing Active Directory to help improve service and security.  AD is the most cost effective way to accomplish this goal.  It also supports Mac and Linux systems.

Without a central Active Directory, when someone needs access to an IT Service like file sharing or networked printing, setting that service up is a manual process.  If there's a problem, resolving that problem also is a manual process. A lot of time gets spent waiting on something to happen, or trying to find information on what should be happening.

With Active Directory, access to many common services will be automatic.  When there is an issue, a lot less time will be spent trying to find out why.  Many issues can be troubleshot remotely, saving you the hassle from having to wait for someone to come out to your office.  Also, security and application updates happen automatically with Active Directory.

How will the migration affect me?

The process of joining your computer(s) to Active Directory is designed to be as low impact as possible. 

Before your migration starts, we will contact you via e-mail to arrange a "house call" from either an OIT or departmental IT representative.  During this house call, the technician will join your computer to Active Directory and make a few simple configuration changes. This process will take from 5 to 15 minutes and should have no noticeable effects on the way you use your computer.

After your house call is done, we will notify you again when it is time to complete your migration.  This time, instead of visiting you in person, we will use an Active Directory tool to remotely migrate your local workstation account overnight. Your data stays on your computer throughout this migration.  In most cases, you shouldn't even notice that the conversion has happened. 

Once the process is done, you will need to get in the habit of using your university e-mail address and password to log into your workstation.

Will my computer have to be "rebuilt?"

In the vast majority of cases, no.  Occasionally, we find computers that need repair or upgrade, but we do not rebuild computers as a routine part of joining them to Active Directory.

Will I have to remember a new username or password?

If you know your university e-mail address and password, then you already know your Active Directory login.

Depending on your current settings, the way you log in to your computer may change. If your computer has no password, a user name that is different from your university e-mail address, or is set to auto login, then you’ll have to get used to entering your e-mail address and password each time you start your machine.  

What benefits will I see?

Active Directory deals mostly with network management, security, and shared resources like network drives and printers, but it will have several tangible benefits for you:

  • Ability to log into workstations using your university e-mail address and password - just one login to remember, no matter how many computers you have
  • 2 GB of personal, backed up, secure network storage space
  • File sharing for those departments who need it
  • Automated, verified security updates for your operating system
  • Automated downloads and updates for programs like Microsoft Office and Outlook
  • Faster troubleshooting when you call the Service Desk - with a click of your mouse, you can let the tech on the other end see what you are seeing on your computer screen
  • Departmental IT staff can spend less time doing digital housekeeping and more time supporting your research, teaching and administrative needs

What if I forget my password?

Password resets will work like they always have.  You can see the existing password reset policy here.

What if I have security concerns about the data on my computer?

If you are concerned that data on your computer may not be appropriate for a managed network environment, please contact us.  We can assist you with classifying your data, performing security scans, and making sure that any sensitive items are properly encrypted and stored.

Is there a cost to use AD?

No.  The IUC has licensed the software for all universities in Ohio to use without direct cost.

What if my department already has its own Active Directory?

OIT has a well established process for setting up one way/two way trust relationships between departmental implementations and the central Active Directory. 

What about Macs and Linux?

Active Directory supports both Mac and Linux operating systems.