When we talk about consolidating Active Directory groups, we refer to the process of cleaning up the clutter of groups accumulated over the years, so that only the relevant groups exist in the directory.
Consolidating Active Directory groups is one of the most daunting tasks that IT administrators must undertake. Poor cleanup procedures can expose organizations to cyberattacks and security breaches, which can cost tens of millions of dollars. So, to help you effectively manage your AD groups, we will share the best practices for consolidating groups in this article.
Table Of Contents
Active Directory group consolidation best practices
Identify each group before you begin
Get input and assistance from those closest to a group’s apparent purpose or function
Understand the assigned permissions of the group
Delete unnecessary groups from Active Directory
Always keep your directory up to date
Automate Active Directory group cleanup processes
How does GroupID help consolidate Active Directory groups?
Why is it important to consolidate Active Directory groups?
Why don’t groups get the attention they deserve?
Active Directory Group Consolidation Best Practices
Here are some best practices you should follow when consolidating groups in Active Directory:
- Identify each group before you begin
- Get input and assistance from those closest to a group’s apparent purpose or function
- Understand the assigned permissions of the group
- Delete unnecessary groups from Active Directory
- Always keep your directory up to date
- Automate Active Directory group cleanup processes
Identify Each Group Before You Begin
There is nothing worse than consolidating two groups only to realize that there is a third one that requires consolidation. This causes you to start the whole process all over again, wasting time and effort.
Therefore, we highly recommend that you document everything there is to know about groups in your Active Directory. The objective is to gather all the necessary information, such as group name, description, members, managed by, members of, and whether owners can modify the group’s membership or not.
With this information sorted, you are better positioned to decide which groups to merge and consolidate with each other.
Get Input and Assistance from Those Closest to a Group’s Apparent Purpose or Function
In most cases, the IT department is the farthest away from a group’s use. They might assist in a group’s creation, but they usually do not know the purpose of its existence.
To understand the purpose or function of a group, you should get in touch with someone like a department manager or a line-of-business owner because they can provide reasonable input regarding the group’s existence and usefulness.
Understand the Assigned Permissions of the Group
To consolidate two or more groups, you need to figure out what permissions are assigned to them. In some circumstances, the same permissions may be assigned to each of them, which is why you will have to consolidate the permissions as well. Again, you should work with people closer to the group’s function to understand the purpose of the permissions and then assign the appropriate permissions to the single consolidated group.
Delete Unnecessary Groups from Active Directory
Instead of consolidating unwanted groups in AD, simply delete them. This would enable you to maintain a cleaner directory with only necessary groups and fewer complications.
Always Keep your Directory Up to Date
The mess in your directory is simply a result of negligence. Instead of piling up group management tasks, sort the groups regularly by monitoring their functions and objects. This way, you will be able to identify unwanted groups as soon as they become obsolete. Taking action there and then will keep your directory clean and up to date.
Automate Active Directory Group Cleanup Processes
To mitigate security risks and prevent outdated groups from affecting your directory’s performance, make sure that group cleanup processes are initiated at regular intervals. Though you can conduct cleanup tasks by writing scripts, you certainly cannot automate the processes without using a tool that is particularly designed to ensure a clean directory.
We recommend GroupID Self-Service, as it accelerates cleanup processes, minimizes human error, and ensures adherence to AD group consolidation best practices.
Read More: Active Directory Security Groups Best Practices
How does GroupID Help Consolidate Active Directory Groups?
As organizations grow, the number of users and groups in Active Directory also increases. If enterprises rely on manual scripts to accomplish group management tasks, the list of chores can quickly get out of hand, resulting in the accumulation of obsolete groups in Active Directory.
IT administrators should resort to automated processes to maintain a clean directory. GroupID gives them the freedom to automate multiple AD-related tasks that would be performed regularly.
Here are some of the ways you can get rid of group clutter by using GroupID’s web-based Self-Service portal:
- Attest groups regularly to expire those that are not needed anymore
- Identify similar groups and consolidate them
- Automate group expiration and deletion
More often than not, your directory contains groups that exist without serving any purpose. These groups are a potential risk to the enterprise because admins might not be paying any attention to their memberships and permissions. GroupID’s group attestation feature can help you here.
Group attestation requires group owners to attest to their groups after a certain period to ensure that the groups are still in use. Owners have to verify the following during attestation:
- Group membership, to ensure that the group has the required members only.
- Group attributes, to verify that the attributes have the right values.
- Decide whether the group should continue to exist or expire.
For instance, let’s say a group is set to expire after 6 months. After 5 months – 30 days before its expiration – an email is sent to its owner to attest the group membership and attributes. At this stage, the owner must affirm that all the members and attributes of the group are accurate and that the group is good for renewal.
Identify Similar Groups
At times, various groups in Active Directory carry the same members with the same attributes and permissions. To reduce group glut, you need to consolidate them into one group. GroupID’s Similar Groups feature helps you identify similar groups so that you can proceed to consolidate them.
Based on group type (security or distribution) and membership, GroupID displays the groups that are similar to one another, so that you can easily pinpoint groups for consolidation. This way, you end up with a much cleaner directory with only the groups that are relevant and useful to the organization.
Auto-Expire and Delete Groups
Active Directory does not provide an option to expire groups. So, deleting a group is the only way to get rid of it. In this process, group memberships and permissions are permanently deleted from the directory, without an option to renew them in the future.
In GroupID, group deletion is subject to checks and controls. The Group Lifecycle policy in GroupID enables administrators to specify an active period for groups, after which they auto-expire and ultimately get deleted. Before expiry, GroupID alerts the group owner to attest to the group and renew it as required. If the group is not renewed, GroupID auto expires it. Expired groups are disabled and locked for any activities.
GroupID deletes expired groups after a certain period. Yet, renewing these groups with their memberships and permissions intact is an easy task.
Auto expiry and deletion of groups is a great way to prevent unwanted groups in the directory, creating a safer environment for your company.
Why is it important to Consolidate Active Directory Groups?
You should consider consolidating Active Directory groups for several reasons, some of which are:
- Groups are the foundation for granting permissions
- Groups connect users to the organization’s resources
- Groups strengthen the security of your organization
- Group consolidation makes AD cleaner and easier to manage
Groups are the Foundation for Granting Permissions
Groups in Active Directory are objects that are granted permissions to resources on the network, such as file systems, enterprise applications, and corporate data. Group members are entitled to those permissions.
Groups Connect Users to the Organization’s Resources
IT administrators grant rights and privileges to users through security groups, so that they can access the required resources to accomplish their tasks. In addition to this, groups can also be created based on user roles, such that users with similar responsibilities can be grouped and assigned the same permissions.
Groups Strengthen the Security of Your Organization
With groups, administrators implement strong and stringent checks for cybersecurity. By evaluating the controls and ensuring that users only have access to the resources they need to perform their duties, admins prevent misuse and loss of crucial data.
Group Consolidation Makes AD Cleaner and Easier to Manage
By eliminating all the unnecessary groups and only keeping the ones that matter, your directory becomes much more organized and easier to manage. You can conveniently locate the groups and other objects in the directory, and more importantly, you know why each group exists and what permissions are assigned to it.
Why don’t Groups Get the Attention they Deserve?
Despite knowing that your Active Directory has loads of unused or unnecessary groups, consolidating them is just one of those tasks no one wants to take on.
There could be many reasons for this, such as:
- In many organizations, IT administrators have a ton of other important tasks and group management often falls to the bottom of their priority list.
- At times, admins have no idea about why some groups were created in the first place or what their proper permissions should be, and therefore, they are reluctant to deal with them.
- No one wants to meddle with a group because they are not sure if it’s tied to an application.
Whatever the excuse, you’re here reading this article because you know deep down that consolidating your groups is something that you should be doing.
Indeed, if the following propositions sound familiar, it’s high time to consolidate your Active Directory groups:
- Groups have no memberships.
- Groups are nested for no particular reason.
- Groups have unnecessary permissions or you are not sure why certain permissions are assigned to them.
- Groups fulfill no purpose.
Consolidating AD groups is not an easy task but if you value your organization’s security and want to mitigate the risks, you should follow the aforementioned best practices to clean up the clutter in your system, leading to a well-managed Active Directory.
Jonathan BlackwellView Profile
Since 2012, Jonathan Blackwell, an engineer and innovator, has provided engineering leadership that has put GroupID at the forefront of group and user management for Active Directory and Azure AD environments. His experience in development, marketing, and sales allows Jonathan to fully understand the Identity market and how buyers think.
The hard part is trying to delete obsolete groups that nobody knows anything about.