A directory is a hierarchical structure that stores information about objects on the network. A directory service, such as Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), provides the methods for storing directory data and making this data available to network users and administrators. For example, AD DS stores information about user accounts, such as names, passwords, phone numbers, and so on, and enables other authorized users on the same network to access this information.
Active Directory stores information about objects on the network and makes this information easy for administrators and users to find and use. Active Directory uses a structured data store as the basis for a logical, hierarchical organization of directory information.
This data store, also known as the directory, contains information about Active Directory objects. These objects typically include shared resources such as servers, volumes, printers, and the network user and computer accounts. For more information about the Active Directory data store, see Directory data store.
Security is integrated with Active Directory through logon authentication and access control to objects in the directory. With a single network logon, administrators can manage directory data and organization throughout their network, and authorized network users can access resources anywhere on the network. Policy-based administration eases the management of even the most complex network.