Microsoft Windows 2003 has been out for a while and many books have been released about it, some general, some covering specific topics. What I have before me is a huge hardcover title covering a lot of ground. The title certainly does promise a lot. Does it deliver? Read on to find out.
About the author
Bill Boswell, MCSE, is an independent consultant and trainer. His firm, the Windows Consulting Group, is based in Phoenix, AZ. Bill is a Contributing Editor for MCP Magazine and a sought-after speaker at TechMentor and other conferences.
Inside the book
At the very beginning Boswell notes that the chapters in the book are laid out roughly in the order you would perform a production Windows Server 2003 deployment. Naturally this title begins with a discussion on installation and configuration. You see what the new features of this Windows release are, a comparison of the four different versions of the OS, as well as various hardware recommendations. You are guided through the installation and afterwards served with recommendations concerning common setup problems and a best practices checklist.
In case you're upgrading from Windows NT4 or 2000 then you'll get the relevant information in the following chapter that covers also automated installations using scripts and the Remote Installation Service (RIS). Boswell provides a myriad of details and offers an insight into what you might expect while performing an upgrade. Often you are guided step-by-step and this, combined with the high level of detail makes sure you don't get lost along the way.
Next you find material on adding hardware, managing NetBIOS name resolution and managing DNS. You get an overview of the DNS domain structure and you learn how to design a DNS architecture and how to perform specific configuration steps. Screenshots are provided when necessary and several procedures are explained in detail.
As we move on the author presents an overview of Active Directory services, Active Directory replication and the process of designing and deploying Windows Server 2003 domains. Boswell illustrates the technical issues, offers advice and presents best practices. Once you're done with the theory and you move on to deploy an Active Directory domain the author will show you how to upgrade a classic Windows NT4 and 2000 domain to Windows Server 2003 and migrate from a Windows NT4 or Windows 2000 domain to a Windows Server 2003 domain. This part of the book presents a rock-solid foundation for working with Active Directory and successfully brings its intricacies closer to the reader.
What follows is a chapter that provides an understanding of network access security and Kerberos where you read about the three A's of network security: authentication, authorization and auditing and how the OS handles them. Since Windows Server 2003 introduced new security features, you get a list of what's new with brief descriptions of every addition. There's a plethora of details on password security and Kerberos.
Boswell explains how to create, distribute and manage group policies. Before all the hands-on details, for all you new to the concept of group policies, the author explains their purpose and presents their components. What comes next is a discussion on Active Directory security where you learn about Active Directory administration using permission delegation, using groups to manage Active Directory permissions, the Secondary Logon Service (SLS) operation and how to use RunAs to avoid doing daily operations with your privileged administrator account, etc.
The author touches the subject of configuring data storage before moving on to discuss managing file systems where you get an overview of Windows Server 2003 file systems, NTFS attributes, reparse points, quotas, and much more. In the following chapter the author covers network services and how you can make them available to clients - file, printer and fax sharing. Presented are also the new features in Windows Server 2003 along with those Windows 2000 services that continue to be useful.
Windows Server 2003 comes equipped with an enhanced version of the the Encryption File System (EFS), introduced with Windows 2000. Boswell writes about the components involved in file encryption and also gives some step-by-step procedures for deploying and managing file encryption. Don't let the subject scare you, even though the author says: "File encryption is a complex beast." He did a good job of explaining the concept and the procedures.
The scope of the following chapter is to show you how to plan and implement a Windows Server 2003 Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The author lists the cryptographic elements in Windows Server 2003, public/private key services, certificates, command-line PKI tools, and more.
The following two chapters are all about customizing Windows Server 2003 for your desktop and providing dial-up and VPN solutions to your users. These are packed with tips and concrete answers to various common problems and configuration needs.
A system will probably fail at some point. To close the book, Boswell decided to dedicate some space to serious problems that can make a system crash. He teaches you how to find out what happened and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. Some of the topics presented here are: backing up and restoring system and data files, using safe mode to restore stable operations, working with the recovery console, etc.
My 2 cents
The audience of this book consists of everyone who wants in-depth knowledge about Microsoft's latest server OS. This title is not for complete beginners though; the author does assume you have experience working with Windows.
From what I've read I can say that this book will certainly aid you in the understanding of the numerous features of Windows Server 2003 as well as issues you might encounter during a migration process. The title is packed with a massive amount of details and the organization makes it easy to browse. Boswell managed to present everything very clearly and his writing makes the material easy to follow. The screenshots are included when necessary and the illustrations are excellent, much better than in some other books.
This is a serious book for a serious audience so if you're working with Windows Server 2003 you want this book.