What Are the Differences Between LDAP and Active Directory?

Active Directory or AD directly integrates with several products like Microsoft Office and performs the role of the service provider by keeping assets organized. On the other hand, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is a protocol that is directly involved in the query process and solves the problems of different directories, including Active Directory.

Today we will go through the detailed concept and discussion about Active Directory and LDAP. Our main focus is to understand the difference between both of the protocols.

Let’s dive in!

What Is Active Directory?

The core purpose behind the creation of Active Directory is to make the process of management easier. Basically, when people use various IT software, it can become difficult to handle all of them simultaneously. While using and switching between various software services like Windows Desktop and Windows Server Sharepoint, the IT environment requires each software system to be secure.

As a result, users must create separate passwords for the software. In this way, it can become difficult to handle all of the software, and the problem worsens when IT admins want to group people together while managing multiple computers and printers.

Active Directory was created as an all-in-one solution to all of such management problems, especially those related to information storage. Active Directory is also aimed at simplifying password setups. In other words, Active Directory is basically a single directory in which all the user and computer software information is stored, meaning a person needs to log in with a password to access the software.

What Management Problems Can a Company Face Without an Active Directory?

If you have ever worked with a company without a directory, you may have noticed numerous management issues that made it difficult to produce positive outcomes. Moreover, a company that finds it difficult to manage users and computers will end up wasting time and effort.

Let's look at some of the problems that a company faces without an active directory.

  • Whenever you log in to the application, you must provide a username and password every time. This can create a lot of confusion because companies have to deal with multiple applications at a time.
  • IT admins will have to manually assign each application’s user login.
  • If you change your username or password while using Microsoft, you will have to change every username and password with every application in which you have an account.

Active Directory plays a vital role in providing a centralized service and keeping everyone’s information in a single place. It also makes it easy to secure an organization’s computers and other assets.

How Are Active Directory Assets Sorted?

Active Directory assets are sorted into one of three tiers.

  1. Domains: Users of the Active Directory database determine the domains. When employees and computers are working on the same Active Directory and are associated with the particular company, niche, or organization, they become part of a domain.
  2. Trees: As the name indicates, a trees’ main purpose is to connect different domains together and ensure trustworthiness between them. They also determine who can access different parts of the organization. Moreover, they also make it possible for IT admins to manage users and devices.  
  3. Forests: Being quite a large entity, forests are responsible for handling large organizations and the mutual relationships between them. In other words, forests play a vital role in grouping domains together. Whenever one company acquires another company and promises mutual cooperation, forest trust development takes place.

All of these tiers have different communication privileges and unique rights.

What Are the Security Features Included in Active Directory?

It is very important to ensure maximum safety and security while using Active Directory. For this reason, Active Directory includes various security features and ensures the maximum protection of data.

Some security features included with Active Directory are:


Active Directory ensures that the user is entering the correct information while accessing the network’s resources. In other words, it double-checks whether the user is providing the right logins or not. It also detects the number of wrong attempts.

Security Groups:

The organization and grouping of users give rise to the formation of strong security groups. They are independently assigned to the apps. These groups provide convenience to the admins and do not require much administration. These security groups are basically self-sustained and work in collaboration with one another.

Group Policy:

Active Directory includes various group policies responsible for determining remote access for computers and configuring browser security settings.

Active Directory is basically a secure system that authenticates the user in a variety of ways. For example, it supports a LAN manager too.

The main purpose of Active Directory was to make it easy for all users to have access to an organization’s resources and also enable administrators to securely work within their boundaries.

What Is LDAP?

Simply said, LDAP is an information protocol. The main reason for the creation of this protocol was to immediately gather and sort out user information. LDAP was primarily made for applications and web-based systems that are looking for user data.

LDAP is mainly used in the airline and telecommunication industry where it serves as the protocol for thousands of employees and computer systems. Remember that LDAP is not like other security and information storage protocols. Instead, it is a product agnostic protocol. It is worth mentioning that Active Directory was mainly associated with the use of LDAP.

What Is the Role of LDAP as a Protocol?

To better understand the role of LDAP, it is important to see the parameters involved.

Directory Structure:

Every entry in the Active Directory system has detailed unique information and other attributes. So anyone who wants access to any of the entries must know the distinguished name (DN) of the user while creating the directory.

Data Implementation and Upgrades:

LDAP makes it possible to quickly search through data and find the required information in no time. Moreover, it also makes it easy to read the data.


LDAP is a protocol in which you “bind” yourself to the service. This binding involves the authentication of a username or password.

How Do LDAP and Active Directory Compare?

Essentially, LDAP is a protocol while Active Directory is the product or service that is particularly designed to meet the management needs of IT businesses.

The statement of the Okta can also give you an idea of the difference between Active Directory and LDAP. It says:

"Active Directory was designed for enterprises with maybe a few thousand employees and computers. LDAP was a protocol designed for applications powering the telephone wireless carriers that needed to handle millions of requests to authenticate subscribers to the phone networks."

Remember that LDAP servers are more compatible with large-scale applications where millions of subscribers need to be gathered on a single platform. On the other hand, Active Directory is fairly limited in choice and is only good for applications with a few people, users, or groups.

In other words, when it comes to handling large enterprises, large-scale businesses, or a huge single community of users, Active Directory may not be the most efficient option and can only manage tasks in the localized domains and forests.

On the other hand, LDAP servers have the potential to authenticate millions of users at a time. Active Directory and LDAP are excellent in performing their own core jobs. However, LDAP is just the protocol and not a service or product.

Both of these protocols can provide maximum security and safety to users. Based on your company’s needs, you can opt for both Active Directory and LDAP environments at the same time and enjoy the best setup for your organization.

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