The configuration settings that are finally used for a given entity is determined by merging the configuration settings of that entity and those of its parent entities on the client side. For instance, the settings for a user take into account the policies assigned to that user and those assigned to the organizations that the user belongs to. The merging works by inheritance, that is, the user inherits the settings specified in the upper levels of the organization structure. This process is illustrated in Figure 5–2, which shows how the settings of the "marketing" organization are inherited by one of its members, user "jclarke". The configuration settings of user "jclarke" override some of the inherited settings.
The three strata are merged to form the final set of configuration settings in the same way that the configuration settings are merged in the policy stratum. The user stratum takes precedence over the policy stratum, which in turn takes precedence over the default stratum. It is possible to mark configuration settings in the policy stratum so that configuration settings in the user stratum are no longer considered during the merge process, so that users not allowed to override settings made by an administrator with the Configuration Manager on their own client machines. This is called protection.