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Mark Minasi on Mastering Windows Server 2003:

I've just released a new book to coincide with the release of the newest member of the NT family, Windows Server 2003.

But this book is a bit different than my previous books, as its title understates the book's goals by a trifle.  As the title suggests, it covers Windows Server 2003 fairly completely.  But it's also the follow-on to my older Mastering Windows 2000 Server book.  In many ways, it's Mastering Windows 2000 Server, Fifth Edition. I want to explain what I mean by that, as well as giving you an idea about what the book covers, in this page.

 


Well, we've got a new version of Server and, always, that's a mixture of good news and bad news.  (More good than bad, thankfully!)  

But what does Server 2003 offer that earlier NT 4 and Windows 2000 Server didn't?  Is it worth the upgrade?  Will it "play well" with NT 4 and Windows 2000-based domains?  Will moving to Server 2003 shake up my network as much as moving to 2000 Server did?  Then, assuming that I do upgrade, how do I get the most power out of the new OS?  What must I do to plan for it? How do I secure it, tune it, and troubleshoot it?

Those were the kinds of questions that I tried to answer when planning my new book, Mastering Windows Server 2003, and if you've got a copy of my Mastering Windows NT Server or Mastering Windows 2000 Server books, then the structure of the Server 2003 book will be familiar.  But one thing makes this book different from my previous Mastering books; this is sort of two books in one.  Think of it like this:

   
Mastering Windows Server 2003 = Mastering Windows 2000 Server, Fifth Edition + Understanding and Using Server 2003
 
When laying out the 2003 book, I of course wanted to cover its new features, and it's got a lot of them — certainly enough to convince me to upgrade my servers from 2000 to 2003.  For example, Active Directory now contains a new domain rename and forest reshaping ability, forest-to-forest trusts, and several enhancements that make AD far friendlier to those managing numerous branch offices.  DNS's new stub zone and conditional forwarding features simplify DNS design for people who want to secure their DNS with a split-brain design but that have more than one domain.  2003's now got a free POP3 e-mail server, a redesigned Web server, and a cut-down version of SQL Server 2000 right in the box.  You can accomplish far more things from the command line, and, well, I could go on, but that's what the book's for, and you can read more in the free Chapter 1 download available on my Web site.  That, then, was a big part of my task in this book:  to comprehensively cover 2003's new goodies.

2003's improvements are quite welcome.  But truthfully the sheer volume of changes from 2000 to 2003 are tiny compared to the changes that we saw between NT 4 and 2000 — where 2000 was a "1.3-to-2.0" change, 2003 is really a "2.0 to 2.1" change.  Simply taking Mastering Windows 2000 Server, Fourth Edition, and revising it only to reflect the changes in Server 2003 would, then, have been a fairly simple task.

The "Fifth Edition:"
Why 2000 Admins Will Benefit From This Book Even If They're Not Upgrading to 2003 Yet

But I wanted to accomplish something else as well; I wanted to do yet another revision of the 2000 Server book.  Even if 2003 hadn't appeared, I'd have revised the 2000 book, as I've done annually for the past few years, so that I could expand the book's coverage.  As every year goes by, I learn new things about keeping Microsoft-based networks running, and I want the chance to get that information out to readers.  So I didn't just refresh the 2000 book's text with new things from 2003, I also added entirely new planning, troubleshooting and maintenance advice and techniques, as well as clarifying the text for those wanting more step-by-step examples.  That's the "Fifth Edition" aspect of Mastering Windows Server 2003 — new text of value to those running either a 2000 or 2003-based network.  (I suppose I could have called it Mastering Windows 2000 and 2003-based Server, but it'd have been too clunky a name.)

A Series Of Integrated Examples

For example, in the basic TCP/IP chapter, I reworked all of the examples so that they work in a particular subnet (192.168.0.x).  In the following DNS/DHCP/WINS chapter, all of that chapter's examples build on the preceding TCP/IP chapter's examples.  Additionally, the DNS chapter takes a major step forward in that it takes the notion of "split-brain DNS" — a must-do in today's times of security woes — and moves it from the "you might want to do this" section of DNS to the very beginning.  Readers learn from the very start of the DNS chapter to build a secure DNS, building a mythical domain named bigfirm.biz.  In the next chapter, on Active Directory, readers then use that DNS foundation to create an Active Directory named bigfirm.biz.  Using that domain, you then see how to set up sites, migrate users and servers from other domains, and learn dozens of other skills.

New Techniques

Active Directory has seen slow adoption in the Microsoft networking world; I'd guess that more than three years after 2000 Server's release, only about 60 percent of the folks using an NT 4 domain have moved to AD.  But I think that many of the remaining 40 percent were just waiting for "Windows 2000 1.1" — that is, Windows Server 2003 — before makng the move to AD.  So I guessed that readers would need better coverage of two topics: migration and AD maintenance.  This book takes you step by step through using Microsoft's free Active Directory Migration Tool 2.0 to migrate users and servers from one domain to another, exploiting ADMT 2.0's welcome new ability to migrate a user's password over along with the user.  The book also covers SID histories in depth, something barely touched upon in my previous books.  And, by the way, is a great example of why this is a useful book even if you're not upgrading — SID histories are a "must-know" for admins running Active Directories both in 2000 and 2003.

Once that AD's running, then you soon realize the Bad News ... congratulations, you're a database administrator!  At its heart, AD is a complex database and brings with it many of the headaches of any standard database.  You've got to know how to check the database for integrity problems, how to compress and compact it.  How to restore a damaged copy of a database, and how to bring a dead database server (that is, a domain controller) back to life.  The new book covers these things.

Running Networks, Soup To Nuts

Finally, this book aims to cover all practical aspects of planning, setting up, installing, maintaining and troubleshooting a Microsoft-based network.  All of the techniques and step-by-step examples have been tried to ensure that they work, because we've found that while 2003's Help files are pretty good, sometimes the what the software does and what the software's documentation says it'll do are, well, not exactly the same thing.  (Also, Help's pretty good at telling you what the operating system will do, but falls strangely silent on what it doesn't do.)

A Fully Searchable E-Book

As I've done with previous versions of the book, this book includes a CD-ROM version of the book in PDF format that you can read and search on-line. 

What's Inside:  Some Details

If you're still with me, then permit me to tell you just a bit more about what's inside the book, as well as to introduce my co-authors, with an excerpt from the book's Introduction.

In Chapter 1, I briefly list and explain what’s new in Windows Server 2003. As you’ll see, Server 2003 is basically “2000 Server, version 1.1.” But when you consider what a big product Windows 2000 Server is, and what a major change it was from NT 4, then you’ll understand that even just a “1.1” version of 2000 would involve a lot of changes — this chapter outlines them. (If you've not already done so, you're welcome to download the full text of Chapter 1 at http://www.minasidownloads.com/Minasi2003Ch1.pdf

(Please note that Sybex generated this file with Adobe Acrobat 5.1; please ensure you've got the most up to date Adobe reader.  People with earlier readers have reported errors and freezeups around page 16.  Apologies for any inconvenience.  If the above server doesn't respond or is busy then you can alternatively download a zipped version at http://www.minasi.com/2k3ch1.zip.)  

In Chapter 2, I offer a basic answer to the question “why do we network?” for those who are just joining us. Folks who have no idea what a domain is, or why they’d want one, should take a look in Chapter 2 and in no time you’ll sound like a grizzled network veteran.

Lisa Justice, an old friend and long-time Microsoft and Solaris expert, then shows us in Chapter 3 how to navigate the Server 2003 user interface. Thank God it wasn’t as large a change as the NT-to-2000 shift, and that it doesn’t come out of the box configured in the XP “playskool” user interface. But you’ll find a few things have changed and Lisa will guide you through the new stuff. She also walks you through the process of creating your own user interface with “task pads,” a great way to build customized tools for administrators.

The user interface is one way to control Server 2003, and that’s why Lisa covers it in Chapter 3. But the other way is via the Registry, 2000’s place to store system settings and home to hundreds of undocumented or poorly-documented switches, dials, knobs and levers. No NT, 2000, XP, or 2003 techie can last long without a bit of Registry work, and so in Chapter 4 I introduce it.

By now, you’ll be itching to load it up and try it out, so in Chapter 5 I show you not only how to shove a CD into a drive and answer questions, but also cover scripting 2003 installs, using the Remote Installation Server, and finally how Sysprep can make setting up systems and cloning them easier. Microsoft has made automated rollouts — scripts, RIS, and Sysprep — quite a bit easier and more powerful. Study Chapter 5 and you’ll see how to deploy 2003 with style and grace… but mostly with a minimum of effort on your part!

Chapters 6 and 7 permit me to explain how TCP/IP works, both in a general sense and in the specific sense of configuring Server 2003 to use it. In Server 2003, Microsoft has taken another baby step toward making the NT platform an IP-only platform, as NetBEUI is no longer even an option for protocols. Chapter 6 explains the basics: how to get on an internet, how IP addresses, subnet masks, and routing work, and how to use a Server 2003 as a router. Chapter 7 then explains the three basic TCP/IP services that every Microsoft network needs: DHCP, WINS, and DNS. Server 2003 doesn’t really do much that’s new in DHCP and WINS, but DNS now offers several new features, all of which the chapter covers. The biggest changes in the chapter, however, are in the structure of the DNS section, which now spans almost 200 pages. It’s not only a primer on DNS; in this edition I completely re-oriented the discussion and the examples around building not just any DNS infrastructure, but a more secure infrastructure, using split-brain DNS techniques — and if you don’t know what that means, then don’t worry, the chapter covers it all. You’ll also see in Chapters 6 and 7 that I’ve worked hard to unify the step-by-step examples so that they all fit together, allowing you to follow along and build a small network that is then completely ready for Active Directory… which is the next chapter’s topic.

Chapter 8 is basically a medium-sized book in itself, at 81,000 words and 110-plus figures. It takes you from the basics of “what is an Active Directory and why would you want one?” to designing an AD, implementing one, managing it, optimizing it, re-arranging its structure when necessary, and fixing it when it breaks. Server 2003’s changes permeate this topic, as you’ll see. The migration section is much larger than in the 2000 Server book, and it and the rest of the chapter offers many step-by-step examples that allow you to build a small working AD.

Lisa returns in Chapter 9 to explain the ins and outs of creating and managing user accounts. That’s a big topic, as it includes user profiles and group policies, which Lisa explains in detail. She also showcases 2003’s new Resultant Set of Policies troubleshooting tool for group policies. GP fans will love it — and Lisa shows you how to use it in Chapter 9.

Windows 2000 handles storage differently than NT did, and 2003 changes things a big more, as you’ll learn in Chapter 10. In that chapter, Michele Beveridge shows you how to connect, partition, and format drives, as well as covering Windows 2000’s RAID functions. I was very fortunate to get Michele’s help on this book, as she’s responsible for the University of Georgia’s Active Directory, both design and implementation. Her years of real-world, in-the-trenches experience with NT in its various forms shows through in her coverage of both this and the companion Chapter 11. That chapter covers shared folders, including how to secure those shares with both share and NTFS permissions, as well as coverage of Windows 2000 and Server 2003’s Distributed File System and the File Replication Service. You’ll also learn in that chapter about the Encrypted File System — which has changed in some subtle but important ways since Windows 2000 — and offline folders, a modification of the network redirector that offers greater network response, laptop synchronization support, and network fault tolerance.

C.A. Callahan joins us in Chapter 12 to describe one of 2000, XP and 2003’s nicest features for desktop support folks: central software distribution. Callahan has been in the technical teaching business for many years and has a well-honed talent to dig into a topic, get excited about it, and explain to you so that you’ll be excited about it as well. (She’s also a Mac geek, which is why she re-wrote the Mac chapter (Chapter 16) completely and made it about ten times larger than it was before.) Christa returns in Chapter 13 to describe how to network printers under Server 2003. Lisa then explains, in Chapter 14, how to connect client PCs to a Server 2003 network, whether those PCs are running DOS, Windows, or whatever. And you may be surprised to hear that its now impossible to connect a DOS or Windows 9x system to a 2003-based Active Directory… unless you know the trick. (Of course, Lisa lets you in on the secret.)

Christa then warms to a favorite topic of hers in Chapter 15, where she covers the built-in Terminal Services feature of Server 2003 and remote server administration in general. And if you have no idea what Terminal Services does, check out that chapter: Terminal Services makes your Server 2003 system a multiuser computer, in many ways combining the best of the PC and the mainframe! Then in Chapter 16, Callahan “cracks the Mac,” as I’ve already mentioned.

Once your organization is connected to the Internet, you’ll probably want to get a Web server up and running. Server 2003 includes a Web server, as did NT 4 and Windows 2000, but 2003’s IIS 6.0 is built to be both more secure and more reliable, so you won’t want to miss Lisa’s coverage of Internet Information Services version 6, including not only the Web piece but also the FTP server piece, the SMTP mail server, and 2003’s new POP server. Yes, that’s right, Server 2003 now comes with a complete e-mail server service built in, and you can read about it in Chapter 17.

Then, in Chapter 18, Christa offers some advice and instruction on tuning and monitoring a Server 2003–based network, and then in Chapter 19, she looks at disaster recovery—never a happy topic, but a necessary one.

Michele then returns for a lengthy and quite complete look at dial-up, ISDN, and frame relay support in Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) in Chapter 20.  Callahan then finishes the book with coverage of NetWare coexistence.

Thanks for staying with me through this overview.  Sorry it was long, but heck, the book's over 1750 pages.  I hope you'll pick up a copy and let us know how you like it.  Thanks again!