The Windows Server line of products offers a considerable amount of features directed towards many different kinds of users. Among these include the famous Active Directory domain, Group Policy Management, IIS, WSUS, and many others. In this guide, I will first run through the installation process for Windows Server 2003, and then explain some of the most commonly utilized features in this operating system.
Requirements, Cost Analysis, Purchasing Windows
We begin by discussing the hardware requirements of Windows Server 2003. Microsoft says that you need
Computer and processor
PC with a 133-MHz processor required; 550-MHz or faster processor recommended (Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition supports up to four processors on one server)
128 MB of RAM required; 256 MB or more recommended; 4 GB maximum
1.25 to 2 GB of available hard-disk space
CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
VGA or hardware that supports console redirection required; Super VGA supporting 800 x 600 or higher-resolution monitor recommended
However, as you are probably well-aware of, requirements and recommendations do not always equate, and generally speaking, I would personally recommend (for any serious server environment) at least 1 GB of RAM and a 2.6 Ghz. Intel / 1.8 GHz AMD processor. In addition, remember what the purposes of your server will be, and adjust the amount of space available to your server accordingly. For example, a simple domain controller does not need terabytes of space, but the budding Exchange or file server may require much hard disk space. Use common sense here.
Now, the more important question is, “Why?” Why use Windows Server 2003 and pay exorbitant amounts of money to Redmond when you can use Windows 2000 or XP (clients) and run all of the same programs that you can on Server? If you didn’t know, very few (if any) programs exist that can only be run on Windows Server products, and the ones that do exist are generally Microsoft products. Everything from Oracle to Apache can be run on any Windows 2000 or XP client. Now back to our original question, “Why?” Simply put, when you pay for Windows Server 2003, you are really paying for Active Directory and all of its inherent sub-features.
Active Directory allows Windows to utilize LDAP (a directory protocol) in a natively Windows environment. In short, it allows users to connect, logon to, and interact with a central server that acts as a mediator between client PC’s. The implications are enormous. Through Active Directory, you can force automatic software installation, mandate the Automatic Update system, define security zones for IE, and so forth. The point is that Active Directory allows a systems administrator to achieve more work in less time, and that’s music to everyone’s ears.
It is important to note, however, that not everybody can benefit from Windows Server and Active Directory. A systems administrator of a company with more than a few computers can definitely benefit from Windows Server, but if you use your PC to play games and read email, there is absolutely no reason for you to bother with it. Windows Server 2003 is on the pricey side, and to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on Server would be a tremendous waste of money if Server does not save you time (and therefore money). How then do you know if Windows Server 2003 is right for you? I recommend that you read through this guide, take a look at some of the things that Server 2003 can do, and then decide that for yourself.
Once you have read through the guide and decided to spring for Windows Server 2003, there are a plethora of places that you can purchase Server from, and some even offer very nice pricing. I would personally recommend (for larger companies) an organization like CDW that deals with customers regularly and understands the software business well. However, for smaller operations, it may be beneficial to purchase Windows Server 2003 from one of the many small online retailers. Here are a few that I found after a quick search on Google (note that neither PC Mechanic nor I endorse any of these retailers):