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May 27, 2009

5 Great Things About Server 2008 — Is an Upgrade Worth It?

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The recent buzz surrounding Windows 7 has been the big news about Microsoft these days.

However, Microsoft did just release SP2 for Windows Server 2008. Can IT get just as excited about the new server OS?

Here are five great things about Windows Server 2008 and information that will help you decide if upgrading is worth it.

1. Virtualization

Server 2008 comes with Hyper-V a virtualization technology that runs natively on Server 2008. New licensing terms that better align with business in the real world are a huge plus, but the improvements don’t stop there.

While load-balancing is probably still usually best done via a hardware solution, the virtualization in Server 2008 provides numerous opportunities to give flexibility to those with large or complicated infrastructures. Being able to create a new virtual server running a software upgrade or new install on it while leaving the old one completely functional is an enormous boon to the savvy IT department.

If there is any trouble with the new virtual server, the old virtual machine is rolled back in its place, allowing for more testing or troubleshooting while having to worry about neither too much downtime, nor taking too long to roll out new systems caused by “over-testing.”

2. Core Server Installs

Sometimes all you need is a server to sit there and handle just one little thing, and nothing else. In times past, that meant “wasting” a full server installation to handle little, but critical tasks. Securing those servers and then keeping all the patches and upgrades current often seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

Thanks to Core Installations of Server 2008, you can create a Windows Sever that not only does just one thing, but is only capable of doing that one thing rendering it a much less vulnerable system whether to bugs or attacks.

Even better, Server 2008 is smart enough to only bother applying patches that apply to what is actually installed and running on the core server which eliminates numerous updates from ever having to run (and possibly harm) these core servers.

3. Read Only Domain Controllers

Somewhere along the line, domain controllers ended up scattered across many enterprises primarily for speed and fault-tolerance purposes. Generally, while perhaps a slight overkill in many situations, this practice was relatively harmless.

Then, somewhere along the way, the physical security of domain controllers became an uncontrollable factor as remodels or personnel changes left domain controllers sitting under the receptionist’s desk or in the corner of a conference room. While not a widely used tactic, compromising a domain controller and then using its replication features to infest an entire Active Directory with numerous administrator level accounts became a real fear.

Fortunately, the Read-Only Domain Controller solves this problem by allowing for placement out in the field beyond the control of corporate IT but without the ability to send any junk data back into the main network.

4. PowerShell

Real administrators never stopped using the command line to manage servers. Between scripting repetitive or error prone tasks, to just flat out getting something done fast without having to load up any point and click GUI — firing off commands with a few keyboard strokes has always been useful.

But, with PowerShell even admins who gave up the command line are coming back. Doing something to multiple servers is easier than ever with PowerShell. And even better, those 2:30 AM pages from the monitoring system can be addressed remotely from the command line without even putting on your robe, especially if you pre-write some scripts before anything happens.

5. TS RemoteApp

When I first read about TS RemoteApp I was underwhelmed. Frankly, I liked the idea of having a remote desktop and then picking and choosing what to run there. Apparently, that is a system admin mentality.

For users, nothing could be more confusing that having a remote desktop in addition to the local one. After the 800th user asked me which desktop was their “real” desktop, I realized the value of TS RemoteApp.

With RemoteApp, an application is run remotely, just like the old days, but the big difference is that it launches straight into the application, no desktop, no “second” double-click, no confusion about where the files “really” are located.

Windows Server 2008 Upgrade Is Worth It

Add in all of the performance and stability improvements that Server 2008 brings to the table and you have yourself a solid server OS upgrade.

Many companies will follow the tried and true method of upgrading as new hardware comes online. However, there are many instances in which certain applications, certain server functions, and certain servers outside of the corporate IT server rooms would benefit from an upgrade to Server 2008.

In those cases, it is worth it to schedule upgrades ahead of the hardware lifecycle. Also, with server power increasing faster than many enterprises take advantage of it, waiting for a hardware based need might mean waiting too long.

A smart solution is to evaluate your current server environment and evaluate which servers could benefit most from an upgrade to Server 2008 because of additional needs or limitations that the current servers have. Once those servers have been taken care of, move on to your newest and most powerful servers.

Chances are that they are not being fully utilized. Those servers are prime candidates for Hyper-V and taking on more functionality and responsibility. The same servers will of course be the ones the furthest away from hardware needs based upgrades as well.

Working ahead on sever OS upgrades in this manner can shorten the overall migration time while still providing minimal disruption to the currently functioning server environment, and that is a Win-Win for everyone involved.

About the Author

(MCSE, CNA) is a professional freelance writer and small business owner with the freelance writing business ArcticLlama, LLC. Brian’s experience includes network and systems administration, financial planning and advising, and he even has a degree in Biochemistry. Brian specializes in several areas of highly technical writing for ArcticLlama including technology, science and medical. He is also a freelance financial writer specialist. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Brian contributes articles on Windows Server 2008 and other related topics.

Author's Website: http://www.arcticllama.com/


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