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We are a progressive company (about 100 employees) and would like to hear other's input.

In today's XaaS/cloud world where most of the services and applications are in the cloud (file sharing, calendar, crm, cms, erp, email/gmail, etc...) do you still need Active Directory?

The entire notion of getting Windows Servers to manage single sign on, software updates, restrict user access to their machines, seems all very IT 1.0.

If you assume that 80+% of your applications/services are in the cloud, and you run a mixed environment (win, mac, linux) what value does Active Directory, and the rest of the Windows stack really bring?

Other than employ more Windows IT VARs/Consultants?

Aren't these desktops basically just thin clients that have a web browser? Sure you will have some applications such as MS Office, or perhaps some Graphical tools like Photoshop or alike, but other than that most everything that is "mission critical" is in the cloud. These desktops are essentially disposable.

Why would one need Active Directory?

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closed as not constructive by Ward, Shane Madden, andol, RobM, Zoredache Nov 17 '11 at 7:30

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
As is, this is too vague to be answered. It depends on which 80% of apps/services are in the cloud (and how that 80% is measured.) –  Ward Nov 17 '11 at 5:43

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You don't need it — you never did, there were always other ways — but you will find that Active Directory is exceptionally helpful at keeping 100 workstations operational, efficient, and working together. You will also find there are some things you do need, such as dns and dhcp services, that Active Directory makes very easy.

Once you're up past about 50 machines, your name resolution and dhcp services aren't going to live on a consumer level cable modem any more. You're gonna need a old-school server of some kind to handle this. Active Directory can do that for you. Of course, so could OS X server, CentOS, or a few other free linux alternatives.

What Active Directory is really good at for a Windows shop that the alternatives don't do yet is that, as an administrator, when you join your computers to the domain a random person off the street can't just walk up and log in to one of your employees machines. There's a certain amount of real security there. This isn't a whole lot out of the box, as there are tools that can trivially reset passwords, but if you're willing to go with whole-disk encryption, which AD can enforce, you can get there. At the same time, as an administrator you can walk up to any machine you're responsible and log in with an account that will grant you administrator privileges on the machine. Your users will be able to log in to any computer you control (including the brand new one you just gave them because they broke their old one) and easily find their old files. If you want to restrict the users to only their assigned computer, that's easy to do also.

As the company grows, this kind of segmentation will become more important. Most data breaches are inside jobs, and one of the functions of IT that is important is to help prevent this kind of leak.

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