Automate Active Directory with Netwrix GroupID Smart Groups
Active Directory allows administrators to manage assets across networks. No matter how big or small your organization is, managing objects, authentication, and authorization across the networks can be a daunting, time-consuming task. Active Directory helps by keeping tabs on the network objects, access to resources, and permissions. However, even with Active Directory in place, these tasks can become difficult when managed manually. This has created a huge demand for automation tools.
Table Of Contents
What Tasks can be Automated in Active Directory?
Many network-related operations can easily be managed manually with Active Directory. However, when such operations are managed in bulk, the possibility of errors increases. For effective Active Directory management, the following tasks should be automated:
- Create and modify users
- Create and update groups
- Handle users’ requests
Create and Modify Users
In Active Directory, each user is created individually by adding all the attributes’ information for it. Now imagine that you have to create 20 users immediately. Chances are, you might miss or enter incorrect information in a few fields. Again, if employees’ information (address, designation, department, etc.) changes, IT has to update each user’s profile in the directory. With continuous changes in the organization, these tasks become more complicated and might frustrate the IT department. However, automation makes these tasks quicker and safer. Instead of creating individual users, you can create users in bulk in a single step.
Create and Update Groups
Just like users, manually creating and updating a large number of groups is a hectic job. Adding and removing members individually while keeping in check their eligibility as a member can take all the time in the world. With automation, you can create groups and update their memberships with a set of filters.
Handle Users’ Requests
To manage changes to their directory profiles, users contact the helpdesk team for assistance. Compared to this, it is much simpler to provide self-service automation tools for users to manage their profiles on their own.
Automation Tools for Active Directory
The IAM market has become extremely competitive, resulting in multiple vendors offering out-of-the-box solutions to address the growing demand of enterprise level bulk group and user management. The main considerations in the integration of any solution or a tool within the IAM tech stack of an enterprise are:
- The solution or tool’s reliability in terms of security and support
- The degree to which the solution or tool provides end-to-end solutions.
Companies prefer vendors offering end-to-end solutions over multiple solutions being integrated into silos. Hence, solutions consolidation is dominant across enterprises within the IAM industry. In this context, the following tools address the core automation needs of companies across industries:
- GroupID Automate – Automates Group Management
- GroupID Synchronize – Automates User On-boarding/Off-boarding in Bulk
- GroupID Self-Service – Attests Users & Delegates Group Management
Let’s discuss each of these tools here:
GroupID Automate – Automate AD Group Management
Automate simplifies managing group memberships within Active Directory by converting static groups into query-based Smart Groups. GroupID Dynasties is another feature that enables IT admins to achieve accuracy in bulk group membership management, saving IT time while ensuring organizational security. With a change in user information in the directory, Automate updates the membership of relevant groups. This allows administrators to maintain large groups without manually adding and removing members.
Using Automate, you can:
- Create criteria-based groups
- Update dynamic groups
- Import group members using external data sources
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Create Criteria-based Groups
With GroupID Automate, you can specify a query for each group through the Query Designer. This is similar to how Azure AD creates and updates groups through dynamic membership rules. Azure AD creates and updates groups quickly by adding expressions. Automate goes beyond the basics and offers far more comprehensive options to auto-determine group memberships.
The Query Designer in Automate is used to define queries for Smart Groups and Dynasties. These queries provide a quick and consistent way to retrieve directory objects. Here is how the Query Designer works:
- General tab: Specify object types that you want the query to search in.
- Storage tab: Apply a filter to the mailboxes you want the query to return. This setting is available for messaging system recipients only.
- Identity Store tab: You can add additional filters to your query such as company, department, location, and more.
- Advanced tab: Combine an external data source with the directory to determine a group’s membership. Automate connects to the external database and queries the directory server for matching records.
- Include/Exclude tab: Include or exclude an object from group membership regardless of whether it is returned by the query.
- Smart Script tab: Use the scripting feature to manipulate group memberships.
Update Dynamic Groups
With the movement of employees, users must continue to join and leave groups. Instead of a manual process, GroupID Automate lets you auto-update groups through scheduled jobs. You can associate a job with dynamic groups (Smart Groups and Dynasties) for scheduled membership updates. When the job runs, it updates group membership with the records fetched by the query.
Import Members via External Data Sources
In addition to scheduled updates, you can specify an external data source containing a list of objects to add as members to a group. When importing, Automate compares the data in the external data source with the directory using a key field, and then adds matching objects to group membership.
Following is a discussion of Automate’s Import Group Membership wizard.
- Membership Lifecycle:Choose whether the imported members should be added permanently or temporarily to the group membership. For temporary membership, you can specify the membership duration, after which they are automatically removed.
- Data ProvidersSelect and configure the data source that contains the members for import. Supported data providers are:
- Microsoft Text Driver (*.txt, *.csv)
- ODBC Data Source
- Sun ONE iPlanet Driver
- Lotus Notes
- Microsoft SQL Driver
- Import OptionsSelect the source container and map the fields for the data source and the directory. The wizard matches the values of the mapped fields to determine what objects to import to the group’s membership.
- CompletionThe Completion page displays a summary of the settings specified on the previous pages. It also displays a log of the errors encountered during the import process.
GroupID Synchronize – Bulk User Management Tool
Synchronize is another automation tool that ensures the accuracy of user data in Active Directory. You can connect two data providers through Synchronize, where data from a source provider is synced at the destination provider. You can further manipulate data after retrieving it from the source and before it gets saved at the destination.
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Timely User Onboarding and Offboarding in Bulk
With an influx of employees joining and leaving an organization, IT is taxed with creating and deleting accounts on the network. If you use a Synchronize job, you might make your life easier by reducing this entire process to one step. Here is how you create a Synchronize job.
- Source and Destination ProviderThe Select Source and Select Destination pages are similar. You just need to select a provider and enter the connection details. The job will sync data from the source provider to the destination provider, such as from an HR database to Active Directory.
- Sync Object OptionsLet’s say you are creating new users in Active Directory. You have already mentioned the data source containing these users and the destination (Active Directory) where these users are to be created. On the Sync Object Options page, you should select the required object type and the ‘Create’ option for it. If you want to create mail-enabled users or contacts, you will have to select a messaging provider too.
- Select FieldsSelect the attributes that you want to sync at the destination.
- Field Map(s)Once the fields are selected, you can further map the source and destination fields and in some cases, apply transformations to manipulate the data.
- NotificationsEvery time a job runs, it is necessary to have someone keep a check on the job outcome. For that matter, you can mention the email address of the recipients who need to be informed when the job runs. You can either set the notification to trigger always or on specific events.
Once these steps are complete, you can preview the job. The preview will highlight if any errors may arise in job execution. Remember to save your job.
Synchronize provides more settings for your job, such as scheduling a job and specifying if all records should be updated every time the job runs.
GroupID Self-Service – Delegate Group Management to Users
Self-Service explains itself through its name. It allows end-users to manage their profiles and groups to limit the number of tasks that fall on administrators. In Active Directory, administrators manage everything from a user’s profile to groups. GroupID provides a web-based portal where users can:
- Perform searches in the directory
- Update and maintain their directory profiles
- Create and modify other directory objects (users, contacts, groups)
- Join and leave groups on their own
- Join and leave groups on behalf of peers and direct reports
Two prominent features of GroupID Self-Service are:
- User profile validation
- Group attestation
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It is highly recommended to always have an updated directory. With Self-Service, your end-users can be forced to update and validate their directory profile. Failure to do so within a specific period will disable their domain accounts.
While validating their profiles, users can:
- Update their directory profile information
- Change their primary manager
- Transfer their direct reports to another manager
- Terminate their direct reports
Just like users, groups need to be updated in the directory as well. Self-Service forces group owners to verify that the right users are members of a group, and those who do not serve the purpose are removed immediately. Group attestation can highlight groups that are no longer required, groups with outdated attributes, and groups with no members. This prevents group glut and promotes a cleaner directory.
Though Active Directory is a huge contribution to the IAM (Identity and Access Management) domain, it has certain shortcomings and limitations. With the automation tools provided by GroupID, you can unlock features that not only benefit the IT department but also your end users. Each tool serves a distinct purpose that contributes to the overall well-being and security of your organization.
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.