Speed up your Windows Server 2008 setup

Windows Server 2008 gives network administrators two choices: go with the GUI or not.

Previous versions of the product required users to install a base operating system and then add a number of components, including security and management tools. According to Microsoft Canada’s Bruce Cowper, Windows Server 2008 includes instead a “Server Core” installation option, whereby users can switch to command line scripts, where they can add the features and functionalities they need without the full graphical user interface. If you’re concerned with server uptime, not having to worry about graphical updates can be a big load off, he says.

The other option is Server Manager. “We tried to make it a lot easier for administrators to get to grips with managing and maintaining the system, to bring all of the other tools they’ve used previously into a single place,” says Cowper. “If you need to add a role to the server, it’s the same tool as for managing that role, or for providing things like configuration changes.”

Server Manager can also be useful for what Cowper calls role separation: administrators could stipulate an administrator for one of the company’s Web sites, for example, while another might be an administrator of the whole of its Internet Information Services (IIS).

“When I was a system admin, one of the challenges I had was the interface between the keyboard and the chair,” Cowper jokes. “Everything you can do on the server manager can be done through the command line. What we’re talking about is reducing the possibility of making a mistake by clicking on the wrong button. There’s a Powershell so that everything you can do from a management/maintenance perspective can be scripted in a straightforward way.”

On the other hand, users that want to minimize the learning curve and pick up a familiar interface they are used to with Server 2003 can opt for Server Manager as a straightforward way to pick up where they left off, Cowper said. Microsoft has also built in a number of Wizards that take users through common tasks such as server hardening, and automated other tasks such as securing services and updating.

One of the best ways to prepare for Windows Server 2008, Cowper suggested, is to do an inventory of the processes and demands placed on your IT environment before installation even begins.

“It’s important to know what services and resources you need those servers to provide,” he says, “You have to think, ‘What do I actually need this box to do?’”

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