If you’re a Microsoft Windows Server or network administrator, then chances are you already know a thing or two about group policy and group policy objects (a.k.a. GP/GPOs). However, we’ve found that though many network administrators have heard of group policy for years and even used it on occasion, many still don’t fully understand what it is, what it can do, and how to properly manage it on a network to achieve the best possible results and really leverage its usefulness. With proper knowledge and use, group policy can be a huge time-saver and transform an otherwise chaotic and unmanageable network into a highly managed and secure one. Conversely, when group policy implementation is done incorrectly, it can quickly grow into another management nightmare all its own, with undecipherable and possibly even security-jeopardizing results.
What is Group Policy?
As Wikipedia defines it these days, “Group Policy is a feature of the Microsoft Windows NT family of operating systems that control the working environment of user accounts and computer accounts. Group Policy provides the centralized management and configuration of operating systems, applications, and users’ settings in an Active Directory environment.” Group policy is perhaps better described as an infrastructure that can be utilized to apply specific configurations or collections of settings over an entire group of computers or users. As the Wiki description mentions, this is typically done within the context of an Active Directory (AD) environment running on Microsoft Windows Server. The infrastructure itself is made up of both the storage and definition of Group Policy Objects (GPOs), as well as a set of extensions running on Windows devices. The extensions are the part of the set-up responsible for writing the policy settings themselves onto the individual targeted computers or users.
How Can Group Policy Management Help me Manage my Network?
If you know enough about configuring group policy to achieve exactly the effects you’re after, then you’re one of a lucky few. However – thankfully for the rest of us – group policy is like a lot of things out there. There are plenty of useful tools that can help you make the best of a sometimes complicated and confusing situation – 3rd party group policy management. This category of tools includes both group policy freeware and commercial/paid group policy administration tools. If there’s a specific function that you feel could make managing your company’s group policy a lot easier, the chances are excellent that there’s a group policy management tool out there for you. Here’s a look at a couple of the most popular types or categories of group policy management.
- Group Policy Automation: Everything tends to go a little more smoothly when automation is part of the picture and this is no less the case with group policy set-up. Easily automate changes to existing settings across multiple GPOs. Even leverage the benefits of PowerShell to help you manage your GPOs.
- Group Policy Reporting Software: This type of group policy management allows you to compare one collection of settings to another across whole GPOs. This makes it a snap to hone in on and fix redundancies and mistakes. In fact, this type of software program is considered so effective that it’s considered by experts to be the number one way to consolidate info across GPOs.
Group policy management helps take the guesswork and headache out of a situation that is – to some – frustration personified. Give it a try for yourself and see what it can do to improve your life as a network administrator.