Difference Between Active Directory and Domain

Active Directory vs Domain

Active Directory and Domain are two concepts used in network administration.

Active Directory

An active directory is defined as the service which provides the facility to store information on a network so that this information can be accessed by specific users and network administrators through a log-in process. This service is developed by Microsoft. Entire series of objects in a network can be viewed using the active directory and that too from a single point. Using active directory, the hierarchal view of the network can also be obtained.

A wide variety of tasks are performed by active directory that includes info on hardware attached, printer and services such as emails, web and other applications to specific users.

• Network objects – Anything attached to the network is called a network object. It may include a printer, security applications, additional objects and end users applications. There is a unique identification for each object which is defined by the specific information within the object.

• Schemas – The identification of each object in a network is also called characterization schema. The type of info also decides the role of the object in the network.

• Hierarchy – The hierarchal structure of active directory determines the position of the object in the network hierarchy. There are three levels in the hierarchy called forest, tree and domain. The highest level here is the forest through which the network administrators analyze all the objects in the directory. The second level is the tree which holds multiple domains.

The network administrators employ active directory in order to simplify the maintenance process of the network in case of large organizations. Active directories are also used to provide permissions to specific users.


Domain is defined as the group of computers on a network that share common name, policies and database. It is the third level in active directory hierarchy. The active directory has the ability to manage millions of objects in a single domain.

Domains act as containers for administrative assignments and security policies. By default, all the objects in a domain share common policies that are assigned to the domain. All the objects in a domain are managed by the domain administrator. Furthermore, there are unique accounts database for each domain. The authentication process is done on the basis of domain. Once the authentication to the user is provided, he/she can access all the objects that come under the domain.

One or more domains are required by active directory for its operation. There must be one or more servers in a domain that act as domain controllers (DCs). Domain controllers are used in policy maintenance, database storage and also provides authentication to the users.

Difference between Active Directory and Domain

• Active directory is a service that allows network administrators to store information and to provide access of this information to specific users whereas domain is group of computers that share common policies, name and database.

• Domain is part of active directory and comes at the third level after forest and tree.