What’s the difference between a workgroup and a domain?

Quite simply, a workgroup is defined as a network of multiple computers, configured to share resources, with out the use of a domain controller (primary sever).

A domain, on the other, is a network of computers, configured to share resources, but controlled by a centralized server or “domain controller”.

So, now let’s dig in a little deeper and contrast the two.

Workgroups are also called peer-to-peer networks ( P2P ) because each node on thew network is an equal peer. All user accounts, resources, and permissions are controlled on the local machine level. And each computer must be configured individually to reflect the settings of the other nodes on the peer-to-peer network.

Workgroups share resources, such as files, printers, and drives that are stored on each individual machine. Since administration for all computers on a workgroup must be setup and configured on each local machine, it makes the task of administration a nightmare. Too many computers connected to a workgruop can make it very difficult to keep track of the user accounts and permissions set forth on each node.

For this very reason, Microsoft recommends a maximum of 10 computers for any workgroup environment. Any more than that and you need to implement the use of a domain.

Domains have a primary server that is responsible for centralized administration of user rights, shares, access permissions, and all shared resources across the entire network.This helps to simplify administrative tasks by giving one central point of administration.

Domains are also more secure because they have a single repository for all of the user accounts and permissions stored on the domain controller, known as the Security Accounts Manager database ( SAM ).

Within a domain environment, the network administrator can make a single change on the domain controller and that change will propagate across the network and reflect the change on all nodes connected to the domain controller.

Generally speaking, a domain will have multiple servers, all acting in different  roles for the network. Usually, the scenario is to have a primary domain controller and a backup domain controller to provide redundance and a fail-safe in the  event of interrupt or catastrophic failure.

If you have over 10 computers to network together, then it is recommended that you incorporate the domain model architecture for the network.

Not only are domains more secure, but they are also easier to manage.

Computer networks are an awesome thing – when they are configured and managed properly. The main thing to remember is that it is a big waste of your time and energy to try and make a large network operate with the workgroup model. If you have more than 10 computers to connect together, then by all means, go out and get a server. You’ll be happy you did!