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-- by Art Brieva
Ask network administrators to name NetWare 4.x's top feature, and they'll likely answer "Novell Directory Services." But if you ask them exactly what a directory service is, many of them will fumble for an answer.
Simply put, an enterprise directory service is an electronic list or a database of users, resources and physical locations of network devices. This database is distributed or shared across servers on a network. For end users, a directory offers a list of conventionally named resources that ease network navigation. For example, when a network printer jams, a user can leverage the directory to reroute documents to another printer, provided the administrator has given the printers fairly intuitive names, which are doled out to the user by the directory service.
Changes to the directory are replicated throughout the entire network-a process that occurs seamlessly, without intervention by administrators or users. On systems without a directory, network changes are a complicated task. For instance, an administrator granting access rights to multiple servers first has to create each user on every server. Also, users who lack directory services must log onto a local server, then attach to all other servers on the network through personal log-in scripts. In other words, each attachment to another server requires a separate, time-consuming authentication. Unless, of course, you're using advanced directory services such as NetWare 4.x's NDS.