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Many people who discover Active Directory for the first time wonder, “What is it?” Let’s answer this question while also discussing the repository’s terminology and structure.


Server A computer that performs one or more roles in a domain.
Domain controller The server where the directory is located. The task of the controller is to service user requests to the directory. Also, a domain controller can act as one of the FSMO roles (Schema Owner, Domain Name Owner, etc.)
Domain Minimum structural unit of Active Directory (consists of users, printers, computers, and other resources)
Domain Tree A hierarchical system of domains with a single root – the root domain.
Domain Forest A set of domain trees that are in various forms of trust relationships.

What is AD?

System administrators frequently utilize Active Directory technology to store and arrange network objects, including as users, printers, computers, external storage, and other resources, into a safe, logical hierarchical structure.

The logical framework is built on domains and forests. Domains can be structured into trees, and then into forests, to provide data and service independence (but not isolation), as well as optimization and replication. Separating logical and physical structures can increase system manageability by lowering administrative expenses. This is due to the fact that changes to the physical device have no effect on the logical structure. The logical structure is then utilized to govern data chunks.

AD data can come from a multitude of sources. A vast number of distinct data sources, as well as many different types of data, necessitate the adoption of some kind of standardized storage mechanism by Active Directory in order to guarantee the integrity of stored information.

Objects in AD use directories to store information. The schema defines all objects. Object definitions include details such as data type and syntax. The directory uses this information to confirm the storage’s legitimacy. Data is only stored in the catalog when it has been declared in the schema. By default, the schema contains all the object definitions and descriptions necessary for AD to work correctly.

When a directory is accessed via a logical structure comprised of domains and a forest, the directory is implemented via a physical structure comprised of a database. All domain controllers in the forest store the database.

All database access is handled by the AD store.

In turn, the data warehouse is made up of physical files and services that govern access permissions, data reading and writing activities within the database on each controller’s hard drive.

Storage architecture and Active Directory structure

Domains and Forests

The major components of AD’s logical structure are organizational units (OU – Organization Unit), domains, and forests. The forest denotes a security border and establishes a single directory. Forests include Domains.


DNS is used to resolve names in the hierarchical architecture that AD uses.


The schema contains the definitions of the objects that are used to create them, stored in the directory.


The data store is part of the directory that manages the storage and retrieval of data on each domain controller.

You can find more details on the materials on the official website .

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