Book Reviews

Pocket Protection for Windows 2003

Day-to-day admin duties spelled out in detail in 285 short, narrow pages.

At MCP Magazine, we've reviewed our fair share of Windows Server 2003 books, with most pushing the upper limit for detail, pages and sheer bulk.

Danielle and Nelson Ruest, who've also written a whopper of a Windows 2003 book, went the opposite way with Windows Server 2003 Pocket Administrator. In contrast to the Ruest's 490-page Windows Server 2003: Best Practices for Enterprise Deployment, the Pocket Administrator is positively puny. At just 285 pages including the index, and narrower than the average softcover, it's small enough to replace your pocket protector.

There are two ways to look at this little book: It's ideal for those who've waded through the big ones and already have some form of Windows 2003 installed. The idea is to carry the Ruest's book and refer to it when handling day-to-day admin tasks. But these 285 pages also serve as a neat, easily-consumed intro to Windows 2003, and a handy outline for installing and managing the still relatively new Microsoft OS. [Editor's note: The Ruests are frequent contributors to Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.]

As an on-the-job reference guide, Pocket Administrator is organized to the max. You can't go through a single page without encountering a highlighted security tip, set of procedures, or advice on how often to perform a particular task. And the authors hope readers add to this with highlights and scribbled notes of their own.

The guide is set up as a logical progression, and starts with general administration. The text assumes you know what you're doing, but doesn't write over a typical Windows aficionado's head. The practical aspects are apparent almost immediately, as page 2 includes a detailed schedule of administrative tasks, along with their precise frequency.

After 60 some-odd pages of general info, the Ruests launch into File and Print servers, the bread and butter of the Windows networking world, and most often the first, and sometimes only, services used. Always practical, this chapter begins with a schedule of weekly, daily, and ad-hoc tasks for print, file and cluster services. The Ruests understand that they aren't the end-all, be-all of Windows 2003 administrative information, and point constantly to other resources. In the case of file and print, they suggest Microsoft TechNet Script Center, a gold mine of handy and sometimes critical scripts.

The next 34 pages focus on administering network infrastructure servers, and delve into the intricacies of DNS, DHCP and WINS. Because DHCP and WINS have become so reliable on Windows, most tasks are done on an ad-hoc rather than regular basis. Even still, it's nice to have the detailed schedule the Ruests provide. This section also explains exactly how to manage deployment servers and remote access/VPN services.

Active Directory fans will be tempted to leap ahead to the chapter "Administering Identity Servers." Here you'll learn all the ins and outs of managing domain controllers and DNS servers. This section is peppered with tips, schedules, resources and screen shots. And the Security Scan items warn against actions that could compromise the network.

Application Servers conclude the book, which makes sense as a lot of administrative groundwork should be laid before allowing users to share applications. Different tasks are defined for different categories of applications, including dedicated Web servers, application servers, terminal servers, and performance and monitoring services. While each of these could fill a book, the Pocket Administrator offers the fundamentals and a framework for managing day-to-day application operations.

This is a terrific book for Windows 2003 admins, and if you're a manager, a great way to make sure your employees know what they're doing.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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