What Is an Active Directory Health Check?

Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) is a critical part of most enterprise networks. If AD DS isn’t healthy and secure, your entire business will be at risk. Much like an annual trip to the doctor’s office for a check-up, a periodic health check on your Active Directory forest can detect potential configuration problems and security risks before they become an issue.

Configuration and Operational Risk

Enterprise networks have used AD DS for nearly twenty years. During this time, multiple administrators might have been responsible for all or part of a company’s Active Directory management. With this disparate administration comes inevitable discrepancies in configuration settings, best practices that have not been adopted, and other hidden surprises. Ravenwood Technology Group’s automated AD DS health check process looks at hundreds of configuration settings, including DNS, FSMO roles, Active Directory replication, sites and subnets, Group Policy, performance indicators, backup procedures, security settings, patching, operating system settings, and more. Through automated data collection, we can quickly gather all of this data to analyze it and make remediation recommendations.

Each finding includes a description of the problem and actionable steps to resolve the issue. One common problem we encounter is the misconfiguration of DNS scavenging. When scavenging is disabled or not configured correctly, stale DNS records can accumulate forever. The sample in the following image shows how the health check report identifies this problem.

Microsoft Directory Health Check

The health of your Active Directory forest isn’t all about its configuration, though. You might have a directory that is perfectly configured but is run haphazardly or as an afterthought. Although a clean configuration will undoubtedly result in a reliable directory with strong uptime, poor operational practices will come back to haunt you when they matter most. We look at operational practices such as backup and disaster recovery procedures, monitoring, service level objectives, lifecycle management, and change management.

AD Replication

Conducting a health check is crucial for maintaining the integrity and performance of a network. It plays a significant role in identifying and resolving active directory replication issues within the AD environment. Replication is essential for ensuring that all domain controllers within the network are consistent and hold the same data. During a health check, various tools and scripts are used to analyze the state of domain controllers, checking for replication status by reviewing event logs, running diagnostics like dcdiag, and inspecting the replication topology for any anomalies or failures. This process helps administrators to pinpoint specific problems such as latency issues, failures in replication between sites. Addressing these issues promptly through a regular health check prevents potential disruptions in services and ensures that the directory services remain reliable and up to date across the entire network. This proactive measure enhances overall network stability and security, keeping the business operations smooth and efficient.

Security Foundations

Today’s networks are constant targets for hackers. If a hacker can compromise your Active Directory environment, they can potentially gain access to virtually every system on the network and all the data associated with those systems. The fallout can be catastrophic. Fortunately, good practices can make it extremely difficult for an adversary to compromise your AD DS forest.

As part of the health check, we look at security settings and privileged access procedures that often provide avenues for hackers. Key components of this assessment include separation of administrative identities, two-factor authentication, tiering of privileged access, and protection of privileged user accounts in Active Directory.

Similar to the tactical analysis of AD DS configuration, each security finding is accompanied by actionable recommendations that can be used to resolve the problem and implement a best practices-based approach.

When Was Your Last Active Directory Health Check?

Ravenswood Technology Group can perform an Active Directory health check remotely or on-site in conjunction with your team. Whether you have a small forest with one domain controller or a complex global Active Directory installation, we can work with you to provide a comprehensive assessment of your directory’s health. Learn more about our Active Directory health check service or contact us today to schedule your Active Directory health check.

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