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Life's Great with Windows Server 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008 in Technical Articles (Views: 2538)
We have upgraded our servers to Windows Server 2008, well, all except for one, which is the very web server you are viewing this page on. :)

So far, I have to say I am impressed with Windows Server 2008, and honestly for a change an upgrade worth spending some money on. If it weren't for my Microsoft and MSDN days, I wouldn't have upgraded. A home user doesn't need to spend that kind of money. :)

Right now, I am still playing with Windows Server 2008, but here are some observations I've made and some things that I would like to try in the near future, in typical numbered (and in no particular order) fashion:

1. Group Policy Management is much more detailed

There are so many more options for Group Policy. One downside for Microsoft is that it uses the GPMC, and no longer supports the "Group Policy" tab. I liked the old way, but the GPMC isn't bad either, just need to get used to it.

Some examples of Group Policy additions is how seperate folder redirection is. For example, My Documents and My Music can go to completely seperate locations, as opposed to My Music being a subfolder of My Documents.

2. Terminal Services is much more improved

It didn't take much to see this, but Terminal Services outperforms its Windows Server 2003 counterpart. Not much to say there except it looks like some applications, including the Windows desktop and Windows Explorer are much more optimized for remote access.

I do want to look into the Terminal Services Gateway function, now that looks incredibly interesting.

3. Faster Install means more security

How did I come up with this? Well, it's a simple theory. A faster install means nothing is installed out of the box. You get a basic Windows Server OS, and then need to add "features" and "roles" as appropriate.

In Windows Server 2008, roles are things like "Domain Controller" or "DNS Server", and features would be the same as "Add/Remove Programs and "Windows Features" in Server 2003.

4. The install is clean

This is to be seen for the upgrade of the Web Server, but in the case of the other boxes, the install is pretty good. If you have a previous Windows installation and choose NOT to upgrade, it's no problem. Install a clean OS (tell it to use the existing partition) and Windows will install a clean OS, while preserving the old files and settings into another folder.

Here is what happened in older versions:

* You tell it to install a new copy of Windows in the existing partition

* Documents and Settings, Program Files are overwritten as necessary and left there

* The registry is overwritten, short of the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive, also known as ntuser.dat in the local profile.

* The main Windows folder is erased and overwritten.

In Server 2008, here is what happens:

* A folder is created called Windows.old

* The Documents and Settings, Program Files, and Windows folders are moved into this directory

* New folders called Documents and Settings, Program Files, and Windows are all created and populated.

This way, the old folders aren't overwritten and you have a mix of the old and new.

5. The management tools are intuitive

Of course, at a price. They changed the look and feel, but once you get used to it, the tools are better overall.

6. Some backwards compatibility is nice

Microsoft sometimes can have an "upgrade or die" mentality. Honestly my biggest issue with past Windows releases was that the whole architecture needed to be scrapped and rebuilt.

Some compatibility is good, especially trying to upgrade the web server. I am not stuck using IIS 7, even though it might support my ASP.NET 2.0/IIS 6 site. There is compatibility built in for me out of the box.

Overall, I like Server 2008. It definately is different than previous versions, actually outperforms older versions, and seems to be more secure. Once I start loading other apps on it such as Update Server, SMS, and Virtual Server (to name a few), we'll see how it goes.


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