Consulting with a Conscience™

A cruciallogics blog

Written by Omar Rbati
on October 23, 2018

Active Directory's long history stretches back to 2000. Many companies now find themselves managing outdated deployments plagued by years of accumulated issues. An Active Directory migration, which involves restructuring or upgrading your core identity management system, can modernize your IT infrastructure, enhance security, and boost competitiveness – but it can be expensive.

Is an Active Directory migration right for your organization? Let's look at the reasons why you might consider it.

Yellow to blue migration to signify active directory migration

When Should You Consider an Active Directory Migration?

Active Directory (AD) is the foundation for user and device management in many organizations. However, as business needs evolve, the current AD setup might not suffice. Here are some key reasons why organizations embark on AD migrations:

  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Combining multiple companies often leads to multiple AD domains. Migration helps consolidate these into a single, unified structure for better manageability and security.
  • Infrastructure Modernization: Upgrading to newer operating systems and Active Directory versions unlocks improved performance, features, and enhanced security.
  • Security Enhancements: Migrating allows organizations to address vulnerabilities in older AD environments and implement advanced security practices like multi-factor authentication.
  • Streamlining Operations: Consolidating numerous domains into a simpler structure reduces management complexity and IT costs. 

Active Directory Domain Consolidation and Restructuring

Active Directory migrations often involve consolidating or restructuring your existing domains to achieve a more streamlined and secure IT environment. Domain consolidation involves merging multiple domains into a smaller number or even a single domain. OU restructuring means reorganizing the way objects (users, computers, etc.) are arranged within your domain hierarchy.

When determining the ideal domain structure for your migration, it's crucial to consider factors such as trust relationships between domains (one-way vs. two-way, domain vs. forest level), the potential to upgrade domain and forest functional levels for enhanced features, and the careful use of migration tools like ADMT alongside thorough planning and an understanding of SIDHistory.

Single Domain Advantages

A single domain is a unified environment where all resources, users, and devices are managed under one domain name. Its benefits include; 

  • Simplified Management: User accounts, groups, computers, and Group Policy Objects (GPOs) are all centrally managed. This reduces administrative complexity and the potential for configuration inconsistencies between domains.
  • Improved Security: Security policies can be applied consistently across the entire domain. Auditing events from a single domain simplifies monitoring and facilitates compliance efforts.
  • Cost Savings: Consolidating into a single domain structure may reduce licensing costs for domain controllers and management overhead.

Multiple Domains Advantages

Despite the advantages of consolidation, there are scenarios where multiple domains make sense:

  • Strict Isolation: To meet regulatory requirements or internal security policies, multiple domains can strongly enforce the segregation of data and systems.
  • Administrative Delegation: Distributing control across separate domains can empower IT teams in large organizations, particularly those with distinct subsidiaries or geographical locations.
  • Performance and Scalability: In very large or distributed environments, multiple domains can improve login speeds and optimize replication traffic by strategically placing domain controllers.
  • Political or Regulatory Reasons: Mergers, acquisitions, or existing legal agreements may necessitate the preservation of a multi-domain structure.

OU Restructuring

In addition to consolidating domains, a migration presents an opportunity to restructure your Active Directory's Organizational Units (OUs). A well-designed OU structure can:

  • Simplify Delegation: Align OUs with business functions or administrative responsibilities to easily delegate control.
  • Improve Policy Targeting: Apply Group Policy Objects (GPOs) precisely to groups of users or computers based on their OU membership.
  • Enhance Security: Structure OUs to enforce granular permissions and limit the potential scope of security incidents.

Steps for a Successful Active Directory Migration

1. Planning

This is the cornerstone of the migration. Identify every resource involved, from servers and user accounts to applications relying on AD. Determine migration order, create a detailed schedule, and ensure the necessary tools and hardware are ready. Find and address any AD vulnerabilities in the source environment in advance.

2. Design the New Active Directory 

Carefully design the target domain structure based on your organization's specific requirements. Consider factors like scalability, performance, desired security levels, and how you want to manage it. Think carefully about mergers and acquisitions, as this may entail merging AD forests or creating trusts.

3. Prioritize Security

Assess your existing AD for vulnerabilities like weak passwords or outdated systems. Implement security best practices in the new environment by configuring strong password policies, encryption, firewalls, etc. Fix identified flaws before migration to avoid inheriting security problems.

4. Create a Test Environment

Replicate your production AD in a separate test environment. This allows you to refine migration procedures and troubleshoot issues without affecting live systems. Any mistakes made here are lessons learned, not disasters.

5. Migrate Users and Groups 

Prioritize a seamless experience for users and groups. Use tools like Active Directory Migration Tool to migrate accounts while preserving permissions and access rights. Be mindful of SIDHistory attributes to ensure users retain access to resources even in a new AD forest.

6. Move Resources, Applications and Dependencies 

Carefully assess and migrate resources like printers, file shares, and especially applications. Pay attention to compatibility with the destination environment, complex permissions, and dependencies on specific OS versions. Update hardcoded usernames, distinguished names, or server references where necessary.

7. Test, Validate, Monitor, Document 

Before the production cutover, rigorously test your target AD's domain controllers, user authentication, group policies, and application functionality. Maintain constant monitoring even post-migration to catch any issues early. Provide extensive training for users and IT staff, and document everything thoroughly for future reference and troubleshooting.

Active Directory Migration Tool (ADMT)

Active Directory Migration Tool is a powerful tool designed to facilitate seamless migration within an Active Directory environment. It simplifies the often complex tasks involved in migrating objects between domains.

With ADMT, you can effortlessly migrate users, computers, groups, and various other objects. Its extensive array of wizards simplifies complex tasks, yet it's important to acknowledge that it doesn't entirely eliminate the possibility of encountering challenges.

While ADMT excels in many areas, it's important to note its limitations. While tasks like user migration may be straightforward, others can be more intricate. Prior to executing a full-scale migration, it's advisable to conduct thorough test cases and consider a phased approach over time to minimize disruptions.

Let the Experts Guide You

Successfully migrating or restructuring your Active Directory environment is a significant step towards a more efficient and secure IT infrastructure.  Remember, modernization is an ongoing process. If you're ready to explore how a well-planned secure migration can transform your IT environment, the experts at CrucialLogics are here to guide you.

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