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LDAP is an acronym for Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. It is accessible by everyone to locate data about persons, organizations or files over an Internet Protocol (IP) network. Through the LDAP, applications are able to communicate with other directory services servers.
LDAP was developed to be a lightweight alternative for users to communicate with X.500 directory. Since it was so well received, multiple update versions of the LDAP have been integrated since the inception of the original version in 1993. To date, it still remains one of the most commonly used protocols.
How does LDAP work?
LDAP is the sstandard protocol for accessing network-based directories. It functions by firstly the user requesting to extract some information from the directory, such as user credentials or any other data related to the organization. The information is retrieved for the user by the LDAP then since it processes the request into a language understandable by the internal systems. Once the user has received the required information, the LDAP detaches itself from the server.
LDAP Security – what is it?
Since the LDAP is constantly communicating between users and the Active Directory, it accesses a lot of information that is most likely sensitive. From a data privacy perspective, it is essential to keep employee and organizational information confidential and protect it from any possibility of cybercrime.
To prevent any parties with ill intent from accessing the information being transferred, LDAPs can use SSL to encrypt its communications. This adds an additional layer of security and ensures that organizational communication channels are protected. The LDAP on its own is not as secure, which is why it’s always recommended to consider a separate SSL extension.
Uses of Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
The LDAP stores key information like usernames and passwords allowing for a central location for user authentication. Therefore, it can be used with multiple sites and applications to verify users. It is useful for organization if the following situations:
- If users need to access a single piece of information regularly
- Data is present in the form of lots of small data files
- Smaller data files need to be stored in an accessible central location in which the format of organization is not important
To summarize, the LDAP allows organizations to store and check user credentials every time they try to access an LDAP directory. The data stored is not just limited to usernames and passwords. LDAP can also help you store other information such as addresses, contact numbers and organizational hierarchies.
Challenges with LDAP
LDAP as a protocol is challenging because it requires the presence of highly skilled personnel to implement and maintain for its proper functioning. These personnel need to have proper know-how of how to provide individuals access to the IT infrastructure without compromising on internet security and data privacy. Once the software has been setup and undergone rigorous testing, it still requires a high level of maintenance.
Difference between LDAP and Active Directory
An Active Directory stores a lot of data and is the medium for communication between users and domains. LDAP is the mode via which a user communicates with the Active Directory. The Active Directory is basically a directory server which uses the LDAP to exchange information between different users. However, the main underlying infrastructure is provided entirely by the Active Directory.
Overall, LDAP is a terrific solution for organizations looking to manage and store data, ensure employees can safely access applications, and communicate securely. It supports employees significantly in being able to perform their roles free of interruption. That’s why it’s a protocol that network administrators should definitely look into.