How to Neutralize Active Directory Restoration Challenges

By CIOReview | Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Incorporating Active Directory in organizational operation offers a centralized solution for managing servers and users. For server management, Active Directory provides a single point of management for all user accounts and associated rights for an organization’s staff, along with required security lockdown processes. For user management, Active Directory proffers a centralized, yet safe means to extend access rights to users outside of an organization. By centralizing server and user management, hosting organizations can enhance staff competence and decrease operating costs. Active Directory automatically manages the communications between domain controllers to ensure the network remains viable—where users can access all resources on the network for which they are authorized through a single sign-on. It can be said that all resources in the network are confined by a robust security mechanism that authenticates the identity of users and the authorizations of resources on each access.

Active Directory also offers domain services called Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) that are provided by big enterprises—Microsoft, which has its various versions of Windows Server the latest being Windows Server 2016 which is in its introductory stage and Amazon providing similar tools. It can be said that restoration has been the biggest challenge faced by an enterprise’s CIO while reviving AD DS. So it is important for a CIO to know the challenges and then mitigate the issues by implementing various troubleshooting methods and tools.   

Fundamentally, AD DS stores information of all the members which are included in the domain—devices, users, credentials and access rights. The server which holds such information is termed as ‘Domain Controller’. When the backup file of a Domain Server is restored, concerns regarding replication of missing objects, questions regarding current state of Domain Controller after restoration and Flexible Single Master Operations Roles (FSMO) affect the restore process. To avoid such errors during restoration, a CIO must choose an appropriate restore method which will help in mitigating such restoration challenges. For an enterprise using a Microsoft Windows Server here are some general restoration methodology which needs to be followed:

Firstly, recognize failure when a server crashes it is mandatory to analyze the cause of failure. Some failure may be caused by Active Directory data corruption or hardware breakdown. Active Directory data corruption failure occurs when a corrupt data has been replicated to myriad other domains. On the other hand, a hardware breakdown can be mitigated by installing a new hardware or fixing the old one. After root cause analysis, now choose the best practice to restore the server.

For a MSDN Windows Server user, there are two ways to restore AD DS—Authoritative and Non-Authoritative method of restoration. To restore the Active Directory through Authoritative method first restart the Directory Services Restore Mode, select the backup file for authoritative restore and state an alternate location to restore SYSVOL and then restart the system in normal mode; make sure to recheck the Active Directory after restore. The tools required to perform this are, NTBackup.exe, Ntdsutil.exe, Event Viewer, and Repadmin.exe. Further to perform a Non-Authoritative restore just restart the Domain Controller in Directory Services Restore Mode and select non-authoritative restore locally or remotely then after successful completion, verify the restore.

To restore a backup without any errors, a CIO must ensure and execute a proper guideline for the backup and restoration process. The guidelines must be designed by taking into consideration the available tools in the market and the current third-party software. This may help during restoration of entire Active Directory database which could be hundreds of megabytes in size. Lastly the Windows Server version of 2012 has a more improvised Active Directory Recycle Bin option than the 2008 version. Today in the year 2016, Windows is planning to launch Windows Server 2016 and is offered free by Windows to those users who have switched their workloads to Hyper-V.