Looking for a better way to manage Active Directory? You’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll be reviewing the nine best Active Directory (AD) management and administration tools that are designed to help sysadmins stay organized and on top of their game.
Here’s our list of the Best Active Directory Αdministration Τools:
- SolarWinds Access Rights Manager – EDITOR'S CHOICE Covers compliance audits, permission auditing, and features a number of time-saving features that enhance AD.
- Dameware Remote Everywhere – FREE TRIAL Ideal for MSPs who also need a remote management solution.
- Passportal Excels at password management and offers web, mobile app, and extension-based AD account management.
- ManageEngine ADAudit Plus Focuses on the auditing aspect to automate and generate compliance reports for numerous standards.
- Microsoft Active Directory Explorer Free tool that gives AD additional functionality and time-saving features.
- ManageEngine ADManager Plus Focus on permission management, and makes visualizing account changes easy over time.
- Microsoft Active Directory Topology Diagrammer Free tool that moves AD objects into Microsoft Visio for graphical presentation
- BeyondTrust Privilege Explorer A simple but powerful Active Directory management tool.
- Lepide Last Login Report Simply reports the last login times of any account that exists in the OU you point it to.
If you’ve spent any time in Active Directory, you’ll know some tasks can be clunky at best. Like finding password lockout details, or viewing inherited permissions based on groups. Third-party Active Directory management tools act as an extension to AD, giving it much more flexibility and functionality.
The Best Active Directory Αdministration Τools
SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (ARM) is one of the most enterprise-ready solutions for medium- to large-sized AD environments. ARM allows you to easily view group policy distribution, audit access management, and monitor for changes across AD.
The platform really helps add much-needed visualization features into AD that help sysadmin ‘see’ how permissions are delegated and view exactly who has access to what. ARM achieves this by taking the raw permission details and displaying that information as a chart, allowing you to easily see how permissions are inherited, which groups have access to what, and if there are any permissions that were added manually to an individual user.
For HIPPA, PCI, and GDPR compliance, the user access monitoring feature can automatically generate audit reports and alert you if there are any changes that need to be made in order to meet compliance. Reporting can be run manually or set on a schedule. A full audit trail can be viewed and sent in report form to display compliance and support network investigations.
The ARM tool also features a number of automation abilities, allowing you to create users, set permissions, and perform automatic provisioning and de-provisioning on the server. The Access Rights Manager can automatically identify accounts with insecure configurations and lock them while sending an alert to the administrator.
SolarWinds Access Rights Manager is really a multifaceted tool that positions itself as a sysadmins swiss army knife. From compliance reporting to AD user management, ARM works to make AD tasks simpler.
You can test out SolarWinds Access Rights Manager free through a 30-day trial.
- Automation tools
- HIPPA, PCI, GDPR compliance scans
Dameware Remote Everywhere is a tool that can not only provide Active Directory administration, but also monitor and manage remote devices in Windows, macOS, and Linux environments, making this a popular tool for larger organizations and MSPs.
On the Windows administrative side, Remote Everywhere allows you to remotely manage and control an AD environment without having to log in to the server. This is great for help desk teams who only need to perform certain tasks or busy sysadmins who just need to quickly unlock an account.
From the dashboard, you can manage users, computers, groups, and any AD object or OU that you would otherwise be able to manage from Active Directory. Passwords can be reset, accounts can be unlocked, and user objects can be modified all from a single remote dashboard.
Additionally, Active Directory services and hardware status can be monitored remotely as well. It allows you to restart services, kill tasks, and skim through event viewer. The flexible pricing makes Remote Everywhere a popular tool with small- to medium-sized MSPs and organizations that are on track for growth.
Pricing is based on the number of technicians using the platform and currently starts at $407 for a single perpetual license. Volume-based pricing is also available for larger teams. You can test drive the Dameware Remote Everywhere tool-free with a 14-day trial.
- Cross-platform compatibility
- Flexible licensing
- Integrates with the Dameware software suite
Passportal is part of the SolarWinds MSP platform that allows administrators to manage AD user accounts via an Active Directory integration. This is a great lightweight option if your main needs for management revolve around changing user AD objects.
The Passportal dashboard can be accessed via a web interface, mobile app, or browser tool which gives on-site technical support access to critical passwords they may need for server access along with management options for user accounts without having to authenticate to the Active Directory server.
In addition to password resets, Passportal can modify the Active Directory user account rotation policy, ensuring passwords aren’t getting overused, as well as lock and unlock user accounts quickly.
The tool also can automatically restart and update services that are dependent on Windows authentication, meaning that the user will immediately be re-authenticated or removed from the service depending on the change you make right away.
Synchronization can be set across the entire AD server, or selected for specific OUs. While Passportal is mostly only used for user account management, it’s still flexible enough to efficiently manage multiple AD environments, making it an ideal choice for Active Directory user management in an MSP setting.
Technical support can even have the option to access user accounts that are stored in Passportal as that user. This can come in handy when users fail to leave their credentials for after-hours maintenance that must be done on their profile. With that said all-access inside of Passportal is audited and saved in an internal audit change to prevent any abuse.
A handy audit section can give you a quick overview of compliance, on a user, client, or domain basis. This helps administrators see in real-time if users are changing their passwords regularly, or picking poor passwords when enforcement is not in effect.
- Two-way active directory synchronization
- Mobile app
- Password policy auditing
4. ManageEngine ADAudit Plus
ADAudit Plus is another multifunction Active Directory administration tool that puts a focus on security and compliance auditing. The tool utilizes user monitoring, configuration tests, and security reviews to automatically monitor AD and provide detailed reporting and alerts as soon as issues are found.
The tool tries to be as thorough as possible, and can administrators visualize users, groups, computers, OU architecture, and other AD objects through topology maps and over 200 pre-configured reports to choose from.
While most auditing tools cover the basic HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI, ADAudit Plus goes a step further and gives insight into possible insider threats built on user actions, permission changes, and access audit trails. This can help administrators quickly review actions that are deemed suspicious, and act on them if needed. All of the details are saved, meaning you can view the audit trail to see which machines were compromised and need to be reviewed.
User logins are also recorded and audited constantly for suspicious activity like RDP login attempts, constant lockouts, or login attempts on unauthorized servers. Sysadmins can be alerted to these events in real-time through email alerts, or through daily reports.
Data collected with ADAudit Plus can be stored in an archive for forensic analysis and historic records. This data can be exported into XLS, PDF, or CSV format and moved to a separate drive. This is great for larger environments that need to keep their disks from being bogged down with tons of historical data.
You can test out ManageEngine ADAudit Plus for free with a 30-day trial.
- Insider threat detection
- Historical data archiving
- 200+ pre-configured reports
5. Microsoft Active Directory Explorer
Microsoft Active DIrectory Explorer (AD Explorer) is a more intuitive way administrators can interact and manage their AD environment. Intuitive features such as a favorite locations feature allows you to quickly return to specific areas in AD that are often nested in a folder and essentially work quicker when performing tasks on the server.
Through this tool, you can view any AD object properties or attributes without having to click through dialog boxes or scroll object tabs to find what you’re looking for. You’ll also be able to make permanent changes, view schema, and object locations, and execute advanced AD searches that can be saved for later.
One of the most notable features of AD Manager is the ability to save an offline snapshot of the AD database for offline viewing. This is great for long-term audits while traveling or just to keep as a historical reference. This feature works nearly identical to the online version and even has a built-in comparison feature that can highlight the difference between two offline snapshots.
AD Manager is a free addition to Active Directory supported by Microsoft.
- Offline object auditing
- Saved search queries
- Simple schema and attribute navigation
6. ManageEngine ADManager Plus
ManageEngine ADManager Plus works very similarly to its ADAudit Plus tool but focuses more heavily on managing objects rather than auditing them. You can manage objects, OUs, users, and groups from a single dashboard.
I think many sysadmins can agree that aesthetically Active Directory leaves much to be desired. ManageEngine streamlines the Active Directory management process by bundling all of the features administrators need into an elegant GUI.
If you find yourself doing a lot of repetitive tasks in AD, ADManager Plus will help cut down the time you waste clicking through menus and digging through tabs to find object attributes and location.
The platform is also useful for reporting during compliance audits as well. While ManageEngine ADAudit has more compliance-focused features, ADManager Plus can still offer some key features that make auditing significantly less time-consuming and stressful.
Automated report generation can be scheduled to run during specific times, and those reports can be sent straight to your inbox, giving you more time to be proactive prior to a third-party investigation.
ManageEngine ADManager Plus can be tested completely free through a 30-day trial.
- Clean and intuitive interface
- Automated reporting
- Streamlined AD object access
7. Microsoft Active Directory Topology Diagrammer
Microsoft Active Directory Topology Diagrammer (ADTD) works to help administrators better visualize their Active Directory environments by integrating directly with Microsoft Visio to produce topology maps based on your network.
These maps include accurate representations of organizational units, sites, services, domains, and domain controllers hierarchy. While this tool won’t directly help you maintain your AD server remotely, it will help you better visualize your environment so you can make and plan changes based on the results.
This tool is great for larger, more complex environments and helps sysadmins who rely on visuals to better understand their Active Directory architecture. Once the diagram is in Visio, you can add additional objects into that representation if needed as well.
Microsoft Active Directory Topology Diagrammer works in multiple Windows environments including Windows 2000 Server, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Microsoft .NET Framework Version 2.0, and Microsoft Office Visio 2003 and higher.
ADTD is a Microsoft tool and can be downloaded for free.
- Integrates with Microsoft Visio
- Available for a legacy version of Windows
- Helps visualize your current AD environment
8. BeyondTrust Privilege Explorer
BeyondTrust Privilege Explorer is an Active Directory management tool that gives administrators the ability to easily see what user has access to certain objects on the network. While the interface may seem a bit outdated, Privilege Explorer still does an excellent job at keeping things simple and providing sysadmins exactly what they’re looking for.
The platform allows a live look into the permissions and usage of AD objects but also features the ability to track permissions and changes over time. This allows you to identify possible internal threats or privilege abuse by simply choosing the account you want to audit and viewing the logs inside of the PowerBroker Auditor.
While this doesn’t have any anomaly detection built-in, it still provides a simple look at changes over time, that should be able to paint a picture as to who was accessing which resources at any given time. Changes are highlighted and easily visible allowing modifications to ‘pop out’ easily.
Currently, pricing is not publicly available, but you can test drive Privilege Explorer through a free trial.
- Permission tracking
- Simple layout
- The historical permission auditing tool
9. Lepide Last Login Report
Lepide Last Login Report is a free tool with a simple but helpful interface that allows you to view when users have last logged in. Information such as the first name, common name, and object path are all displayed alongside the last login time.
Admittedly there are now tools that can do this plus more, but for those who just want to keep it simple, and need an easy and free utility that pulls last login information, this does exactly that. Reports can be generated from the information pulled, and that information can be exported to HTML or CSV format.
Lepide Last Login Report gives low-budget IT departments a free option for account auditing, at least in terms of when the account was last accessed. This tool can be downloaded for free on the Lepide site.
- HTML or CSV report format
- Last login time easily visible
- Free and easy to use
In almost all cases SolarWinds Access Rights Manager is going to be the best choice for any size network for AD administration and management needs. Access Rights Manager covers permissions, compliance, and reporting all from a single interface making Active Directory incredibly more efficient.
For companies on a budget, who are just looking for a little bit better experience in Active Directory, Microsoft Active Directory Explorer is a great free tool that can help save time on searches, and navigate through schema quicker.
Lastly, if you’re really just looking to manage user AD objects and modify accounts on the fly, Passpotal is a great option that allows you to manage users via web, mobile app, or browser extension.
Do you think features in Active Directory are lacking? Let us know in the comments below.