Mr. Roboto

At Your Self-Service

Directory Update puts users in charge of their own Active Directory administration.

Do you use Active Directory as your authoritative directory service, and make its information available as a company directory or phone book? Do you have applications that leverage AD user information, and spend more time than you'd like to updating user account information?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, wouldn't it be helpful to let your users take control of their own information? There's a utility that can help make this dream a reality. Directory Update from Ithicos Solutions is an ASP.NET-based application that allows you to let your users self-service their own Active Directory administration. It's licensed per domain, regardless of the number of users.

Because Directory Update is based on ASP.NET, you'll need a Windows Server 2003-based server running Internet Information Services 6.0. It doesn't require Exchange, although you can install it on the Exchange server. (One of the people behind Ithicos is Exchange MVP Jim McBee.)

Technically, you could install it on a Web server running SharePoint. You'll have to jump through some SharePoint hoops to get it to work properly, though, so that's definitely not a recommended approach. Windows Server 2008 doesn't officially support version 1.6 -- the current version -- but I was able to install it with a few minor tweaks for testing purposes.

Customize with Ease
The install is relatively simple and creates a new virtual directory under Default Web Site. Directory Update's primary appeal is that you can customize everything by editing a few XML files. You can decide what properties a user can see and what they can update.

Want to make sure everyone uses the right value for the department? You define the department names that will appear in the drop-down list. Do you have multiple offices? Define an office and when the user selects it from the drop-down list, the address fields are appropriately updated. If you've extended your schema for Exchange and are using the extended attributes, you can also manage those with Directory Update.

The downside to all this functionality and flexibility is that you'll have to make a few modifications to the XML configuration files. You can use Notepad or an XML editor like PrimalScript. The files are pretty simple to figure out, even if you don't have a lot of XML experience. You have to enable or disable properties and provide values -- that's basically it. I was up and running with minimal configuration in less than 20 minutes.

The customizations also extend to presentation elements. If you have a corporate visual identity defined by a CSS file, you can configure Directory Update to use that file. Here are some other key features:

  • Field types can be drop-down, text or a combination, and you can hide fields or entire sections.

  • You can enable or disable Custom Attributes 1 through 15, as well as the Employee ID, Employee Type and Employee Number, Web Page, Description, Notes, Phone Number, Additional Telephone Number, Manager, Secretary and Assistant properties.

  • The application has the ability to use forms-based or integrated Windows Authentication.

  • You can validate required fields with regular expressions so that a phone number looks like a phone number.

  • Customized help strings, help page, titles and attribute labels are available.

  • There is support for a user photo.

Take a Test-Drive
You can learn more by visiting www.directory-update.com. You can also download evaluation software with no forms or registration, and test-drive Directory Update online here. This product offloads less-critical tasks to your users, improves the AD data quality and gives users access to "hidden" organizational information, such as a user's manager or perhaps a custom property for their designated parking assignment.

Based on my discussions with Ithicos Solutions, they seem very open to customer suggestions for new features and utilities. Even if this doesn't interest you, it's worth your while to keep an eye on their site.

About the Author

Jeffery Hicks is a multi-year Microsoft MVP in Windows PowerShell, Microsoft Certified Professional and an IT veteran with almost 25 years of experience, much of it spent as an IT infrastructure consultant specializing in Microsoft server technologies with an emphasis in automation and efficiency. He works today as an independent author, trainer and consultant. Jeff is a regular contributor to a variety on online sites, as well as frequent speaker at technology conferences and user groups. Keep up with Jeff and his projects at http://jdhitsolutions.com/blog.

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