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We have an Active Directory network with < 20 XP clients and one 2k3 server running in 2000 forest mode. On a zero budget, I'm trying to avoid more MS license dollars going out the door than I need to when we upgrade the server to something with > 4GB RAM (which 2k3 won't support.) We don't seem to use any of the features that make AD an advantage over, well, nothing, like Group Policies or anything like that. Is there a downside to just having local accounts that map the same network drives?

Reasoning: Someone on slashdot said that's how their network was configured, I think without even a domain controller, and it never occurred to me to try it this way, since the desktops and server were purchased many years ago as a package and installed and set up without much participation (hence not really making use of advanced AD features.)

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I would like point out that whether or not you use Active Directory or not, that if the "Server" is still serving files, your legally required to maintain the same licensing. You could do it cheaper with a cheap NAS however. – SpacemanSpiff Jun 13 '13 at 0:19
Spiff makes a good point - if you're upgrading the hardware and will continue a version of Windows Server on it, you don't save any money by not using AD. – mfinni Jun 13 '13 at 0:33
That's what I mean--if I don't need AD, then the Samba-AD-naysayers don't apply here, and I could use Samba non-AD-style for everything instead. – Kev Jun 13 '13 at 13:48
The potential saving you might make, is insignificant when compared to the extra cost of your time supporting what you're proposing. – Bryan Jun 14 '13 at 22:13
I find it interesting that my question is currently -2 and its answer is +11. :) – Kev Jul 18 '13 at 2:38
up vote 11 down vote accepted

If you're not using anything, then there's no real advantage.

However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't use a domain. I'd argue that if you're at 20ish clients and you're not using GPO, software deployment, and SSO for file and print services, then you're Doing it Wrong™

In your current configuration, it sounds like you could get rid of AD with minimal fuss, but I really think that you should consider leveraging the benefits instead.

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I think we do use SSO: a user logs on when Windows starts, and thus gets the appropriate H: drive mapped for their home files and S: for shared, and access to the communal printer. Do I need AD for that? – Kev Jun 13 '13 at 13:46
It sounds like you're using either Group Policy or a logon script deployed over Geoup Policy for that. So, yes, you need AD, or you have to create a drive mapping manually on each and every computer. – MDMarra Jun 13 '13 at 16:09
If you're doing it that way, then you did it wrong. That attribute was from the WinNT days. In GPO, you can configure it using User Policies > Windows Settings > Scripts > Logon. Define it once for an OU and call it a day. Really, it sounds like you're looking for excuses to get rid of Windows, so far be it from me to stop you, but you should consider getting some training on AD. It doesn't sound like you've even scratched the surface of what it can do and how you should be using it. – MDMarra Jun 13 '13 at 21:27
Sounds like you've got your mind made up, then. That said, I think it's generally irresponsible to make a decision like that without really understanding what it means. I mean, there's a reason that Active Directory is used at almost every single company larger than a handful of computers. If you view it as "locked in" and not as a solid and flexible management platform, then I think you've missed the bigger picture. But again, to each their own. – MDMarra Jun 14 '13 at 13:19
I think you'll find that many companies with decent IT staff will have some active directory somewhere in their organization. Is it necessary, no. Can it make things easier if you know how to leverage it and save you time (remember time=money)? Absolutely. There are significant gains with Active Directory (or really, any enterprise directory - Novell, doing some LDAP implementations, etc) that you should probably research on your own. Debating the overall positive/negatives to make your decision is probably going to go beyond the scope of ServerFault. – Rex Jun 14 '13 at 17:44

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