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Learning Windows Server 2003 by Jonathan Hassell

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Microsoft’s server-oriented Windows operating systems have grown by leaps and bounds in their capabilities, complexities, and sheer number of features since the release of Windows NT Server in the early 1990’s. With each release, system administrators have found themselves grappling with new concepts, from domains, directory services, and virtual private networks, to client quarantining, disk quota and universal groups. Just when you’ve mastered one set of changes, another comes along and suddenly you’re scrambling once again to get up to speed. A vicious cycle is this IT buiness.

One source of help for the beleaguered administrator has always been the technical book market and its communities of authors, publishers and user groups. Major releases of popular operating systems have always been accompanied by the publication of books written to support them, often encouraged by the software manufacturers. Some tout themselves as complete guides to their software compadres, while others approach their subject gingerly, as though their readers were a questionable intellectual capacity. But over the years, many of these books have become as complex and accumulated as much detritus as the operating systems they explain. You now see on the shelves of your friendly local bookstores 1,200-plus-page monstrosities that you might find useful, but only if you enjoy dealing with 30 pounds of paper in your lap or on your desk, and only if you find it productive to wade through references to “how things worked” four versions of Windows NT ago. After all, there’s a limit to how many times you can revise something before it’s best to simply start from scratch. Do you need all of that obsolete information to do your job efficiently?

I’m wagering that you don’t (my luck in Las Vegas notwithstanding), and it was in that spirit that I set out to write Learning Windows Server 2003. I wanted to trim down the content of this volume so that I included just enough theory on a subject for you to understand how different features and systems work in this version of Windows. I wanted you to come away from reading sections with a firm understanding of what’s happening under the hood of the system, but without the sense that you’re taking a graduate course in OS theory. Most of all, I wanted this book to be a practical guide that helps you get your work done—“here’s how it works, here’s how to do it.”

The result of that effort is the book you’re either holding in your hands right now or reading online: a book with a more compact presentation, a lower price, and a tighter focus on tasks than other books on the market. I hope it meets your expectations, and I hope you turn to it again and again when you need to understand the massive product that is Windows Server 2003.


Beginning to intermediate system administrators most certainly will find this book a very helpful reference to learning how Windows Server 2003 works and the different ways to administer machines running that operating system. This book has step-by-step procedures, discussions of complex concepts such as Active Directory replication, network access quarantining, and server clustering. Although I’ve eliminated material that isn’t relevant to day-to-day administration, you still will find the chapters full of useful information.

Advanced system administrators also might find this book useful for discovering new concepts and components outside of their realm of expertise. I’ve found that senior system administrators often focus on one or two specific areas of a product and are less familiar with other areas of the OS. This book will provide a steppingstone for further exploration and study of secondary parts of the operating system.

One other item to mention: throughout the book I’ve tried to highlight the use of the command-line in addition to (or in some cases, as opposed to) graphical ways to accomplish tasks. Command-lines, in my opinion, are fabulous for quickly and efficiently getting things done, and they provide a great basis for launching into scripting repetitive tasks. Microsoft has done an excellent job of integrating command-line functions into this revision of Windows and I’ve attempted to do the effort justice within the text. But that shouldn’t shy you away from this book if you are a GUI aficionado: you’ll still find everything you’re accustomed to within this volume.

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