Build a 3$ Active Directory Lab in 15 minutes

Note: This article assumes you’re old enough to have a credit card, and already created an Amazon Web Services account. 

Traditionally, building an Active Directory lab would take a lot of time and resources. It seems like a daunting task to a lot of people, and that might prevent them from doing it. While the cumbersome manual process is good for beginners to do in my opinion, as it provides a valuable learning experience, it might not always be practical. 

To resolve this, I’ve written a quick guide to launch an Active Directory lab using a CloudFormation template Amazon provides. It costs about $3 USD to operate per hour.

  1. Go to this website:
  2. Click “Launch Quick Start”

      3. Open the Designer by clicking “View/ Edit Template”, and edit the ADServer1 and AdServer2 values to the instance type of your choice. This article uses T2.large for these values. Then modify the Remote Desktop Gateway Server value to “T2.medium”. Note, you will also need to add “T2.large and T2.medium” to the allowed instance types list, just modify out some other value and you’re good to go. 

      4. Click “Validate Template” in the designer, then Launch Stack.

      5. It’ll bring you to a page where you have to fill out some options. Set your domain name, netbios name, and Domain Admin credentials to whatever you want. You’ll also need a privatekey file to decrypt your rdp file. Use a local user account to RDP to the gateway, and from there RDP to the servers you created. 

Where it asks for your IP, that’s your public IP. Just google “what is my IP” if you don’t know it and type that in with a /32 at the end. ex.

Leave all the other settings as they were automatically generated.

Click through the menu and launch your CloudFormation Stack. You can view your running instances in EC2 Manager when you’re done.  

Use the local administrator account to RDP to the gateway, and from there RDP to the servers you created as necessary (Or do whatever you want to test out in your new lab)

When you’re done using the lab, you can stop the instances to prevent Amazon from billing you. Note that CloudFormation will keep your instances automatically running, so to prevent Amazon from billing you for unused hours, you need to terminate the CloudFormation Stack first before you can terminate your lab. 

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