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Domain Or Not?

By A.P. Lawrence

Computer networks are often just automatically set up without much thought: if it's a business, it's set up as a domain, if it's home, it's not.

Often nobody even asks the owners of the computers what they might want or bothers to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. If it's business, the users authenticate to a domain, if it's home, they don't.

But not every business needs or even wants a domain login, and some home networks could find it quite useful.

Some things to consider

You don't necessarily need a domain to share resources or protect those shares from improper access. Even if you do use a domain for those purposes, you don't necessarily need a domain login because you can authenticate to specific resources.

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Running simple shared resources, either wide open, password protected or with user authentication required, can be much simpler if you have a mixed bunch of servers. Linux and Unix servers running Samba can act very much like a Windows domain controller if desired, but Samba can also be much more flexible and less complicated. The Windows domain model is really at its best when deployed in a large organization with complex security needs, and can be extreme overkill when applied to a small business.

Advantages of a domain login

On the other hand.. having a single point to manage logins, passwords and the user's login environment can make the system administrator's life much more pleasant. If you have complicated security needs, the domain model allows you to finely control who has access to what. You can control who can log in and what happens after they log in, setting the level of control the user has to their own machine if desired. This sort of control is often necessary in a larger organization, but can be useful even in a small home network where you want to prevent children or visitors from making changes to systems. This can move most of the responsibility to the system administrator, and as policies can be applied to groups of users, the administration doesn't have to be particularly burdensome.

If you don't understand all the possibilities, and are unsure of what to do, you really should discuss this with a professional before allowing someone to set up a network that may not be right for you.

*Originally published at APLawrence.com

About the Author:
A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com

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