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One large group policy vs many small group polices

This is a question on best practices.  I want to know which works better for system speed, one or two large group policies or many, like over 10 smaller group polices that would be targeted to specific ou's and groups?

I am looking for overall login speed.  We are revising what we have and trying to decide which is better.  From an administration point of view it seems that the many smaller polices will make it clearer which policy we need to go into to adjust settings.  We are concerned that all the extra policies will increase login time.  We are looking to go from 2 large group polices to about 10 to 15 smaller ones.

Breaking out settings for particular systems like an SCCM policy, a network policy, a security policy.  Where all of these settings we in a default policy before.

I am looking for an explanation of why one way is better than the other.  Preferably with some industry documentation to back up the statement.

4 Solutions
Joseph MoodyBlogger and wearer of all hats.Commented:
Smaller specific GPOs.
When you have a large GPO, it will contain many settings that every computer doesn't need. When you narrow down your policies to which machines specifically need which policies, the machines have less settings to process the first time (or anytime the policy changes).
So let us say that your large policy has 100 settings. Anytime you change just one setting in the policy, the version number increases by one. This means that your computers have to download the entire policy.
Now let us say that you have 10 policies with 10 different settings. If you change one setting in policy 1 but do not make changes in 2-10, only policy one has to be replied. This means that 90 settings are not checked again.
While I don't have any documentation, I have experience doing the same thing. The company I'm with had 3 large policies (default domain, extra-restricted, un-restricted) when I started with them, which over time I have branched out into 19 separate policies. The benefit of this is that as you mentioned, you can target specific OU's and groups for specific settings. We haven't noticed (or had any complaints about) longer login times, my guess is that despite the number of GPOs, when a user doesn't have the Apply Group Policy permission to a GPO it skips right over it seemingly without any performance reduction. We did in fact test this ahead of time as we were worried about login times as well. Although there are 19 GPO's typically no more than 5 or 6 will apply to any one user, which should be easily handled at login
Overall I wouldn't say that one method is inherently better or more preferred than the other, it really depends on the type of settings or restrictions you need to apply to your users and computers. If you have a mostly equally standardized workstation environment, then a few GPOs may be all you need. If you have several departments with varying programs and needs (as I do) then a dozen or more GPO's can give you that flexibility you need.
I like Jmoody10's point as well, you may actually impove login times
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Will SzymkowskiSenior Solution ArchitectCommented:
There really is no "best practices" when it comes to defining and creating gpo's. This is all based on your own needs in your environment.

I personally find that breaking out the policy's are the best way to manage policy's as you can quickly link, or remove a link to a speific OU etc. This is also better for managing machines that need different policies applied to them. The only best practice you should be following is what you are putting in your default domain policy.

The default domain policy should only include authenticate policys, password policy and certificate policies. Other than that you basically create your structure based on your business needs.

When it comes to managing the performance it is very hard to measure. Take a look at this link as it will give very detailed information on Group Policy performance. This is a little bit of a read but has good information...

Hope this helps~!
Mike KlineCommented:
It really depends on what is set - no definite answer here
+1 to that link that Spec01 sent, that is from one of the top gurus in the GP world.
I personally like breaking them out a bit but more because they are self documenting that way (just easier for me...not because of perf)
Joseph MoodyBlogger and wearer of all hats.Commented:
mkline71: "I personally like breaking them out a bit but more because they are self documenting that way (just easier for me...not because of perf)"
Completely Agree! So much easier to know exactly what a GPO name IE Settings does than a GPO named General Computer Settings.
tdisalvoAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all that replied.  Spec01 that article was exactly what I was looking for.  
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