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July 30, 2004 • Vol.26 Issue 31
Page(s) 3 in print issue

Your Windows NT Upgrade Path
When It’s Time To Migrate, Here Are Your Options

If you're running servers on WinNT, you don't need people to preach at you to upgrade your systems. At the end of the year, Microsoft will discontinue support for NT 4.0, and by now it is likely that you don't need a nudge. Instead, what you really need is a plan.

Now that you've finally made the decision to upgrade, the question is, what path do you need to take to get your systems up-to-date?

Server 2000 vs. 2003

Horror stories abound from the days when shops first started upgrading from NT to Windows Server 2000. The initial difficulties associated with migrating from NT Domains to Active Directory resulted in plenty of foot-dragging.

In this case, procrastination has some definite benefits. With the subsequent release of Windows Server 2003, administrators now have an operating system that includes all of the benefits of Server 2000 minus some of the migration headaches. When it comes to migrating to the new OS, Server 2003 has improved migration tools over 2000. It can also simulate a WinNT domain controller, allowing you to more gradually make the shift to Active Directory.

Last year's launch of Server 2003 unveiled a number of featured improvements over Server 2000. These improvements include improved interoperability between Active Directory and other directory services and better load balancing. There are also more simplified network configuration tools, better support for wireless LANs, and improvements to Active Directory.

Also available is a new Active Directory "lite" mode called ADAM (Active Director in Application Mode). This new feature gives smaller organizations the ability to take advantage of some AD features without worrying about the overall complexities of AD.

Because 2003 is essentially the same as 2000 with better tools, it is a clear no-brainer to skip an intermediary upgrade to 2000 before moving to 2003. After all, the savings are negligible on the software, and you'll save on admin training costs by jumping to the most recent edition immediately.

But the reasons are two-fold. Unfortunately for those who spent years perfecting their 2000 systems, the end for this software is sooner than one might think. Microsoft recently announced that it will kill support for Server 2000 in less than two years.

It is important to note that there is one exception to this scenario. If you've still got some servers chugging along on versions prior to NT 4.0, you will be unable to upgrade directly to Server 2003. Server 2003 family products only support upgrades from NT 4.0 and Server 2000 products.

Which 2003 To Pick

Choosing the path directly to Server 2003 may be an easy decision to make, but from there, things get a little more complicated. The Server 2003 family has a number of products to pick from. Choosing the right application for your shop will be a balancing act between budget and needs.

The four main choices include Server 2003 Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, and Web Edition. The first two are fairly straightforward upgrades. The Standard edition is just that: It is designed for the typical use of an average business and will act as a good replacement for NT4 Server. The Enterprise Edition is designed for larger deployments and is the recommended replacement for NT4 Server Enterprise Edition.

Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition is the replacement for Windows 2000 Data Center Server. It is designed for implementation of mission-critical applications and puts an emphasis on availability and scalability.

The newest Server-line product is Server 2003 Web Edition. This low-cost alternative has a definite price break, but because it is designed specifically for deploying Web services and applications, there are some limitations that should be understood before locking into this choice.

Some of these limitations include a limited number of connections per media type when set up as a VPN server, as well as a lack of support for remote services, printer and fax sharing, or IR devices. Web Server also cannot be installed as part of a Server cluster or be established as a domain cluster. However, it does include the .NET Framework, as well as ASP.NET. It also features the load-balancing features of the 2003 versions.

If you are a part of a small organization with 75 users or fewer, a final option is Windows Small Business Server 2003. With Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 wrapped together into a reasonably priced package, this new solution is a dream come true for many small-business owners.

by Ericka Chickowski

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