Book Reviews

SMS Classroom

All this training kit leaves out is the live instructor.

Microsoft Press has attempted to take the contents of the official classroom curriculum for Systems Management Server (SMS) 2.0 administration and convert it to a self-study book and support CD. The group that developed the Microsoft Systems Management Server 2.0 Training Kit was made up of the very people who developed the Microsoft Official Curriculum, so it wasn’t by chance that they met this challenge.

You open the box to find a book of over 750 pages and two CDs. One of the CDs is a 120-day evaluation copy of SMS 2.0. The other contains practice files, examples, and movies explaining key concepts. The book is an excellent guide and makes a handy reference even after you’ve completed your training.

This course supposes that you possess the working knowledge of a Windows NT 4.0 MCSE. This isn’t an extraordinary assumption; SMS is a product that requires its administrators to understand Windows NT networking thoroughly. If you don’t already know how to work with matters like user accounts and group maintenance, domains and subnets, or even file and share permissions, you’ll have a difficult time understanding the material.

The order in which the material is presented is mostly well thought out and sensible. In line with the classroom curriculum, each chapter ends with a quiz about the key issues explained; answers are in Appendix A. Additional questions are scattered through the text, just to keep you alert. Labs, which surface in most chapters, give you a practical taste of what you’re learning; to perform them you’ll need two computers capable of running as NT servers in a network.

You start with the requisite introduction to SMS chapter and move on to site installation. After your site is set up, you collect inventory. Once workstation data is in inventory, you can distribute software. If you have software, you may require metering to make sure you stay within your license agreements. Once you have users on workstations running applications, you’ll want your help desk staff to support them using remote tools.

Network monitoring, site configuration, security, inter-site communications, reporting, monitoring and troubleshooting, and other details come after these basics. There’s even a section explaining the use of the SMS Installer. Oddly, and this is the one instance where the information is out of order, planning is in Chapter 9. Planning is such a primary concern, it should have been introduced before any installation information.

It would have been nice to see a section dedicated to scripted installation since the available documentation from Microsoft, even in the BackOffice Resource Kit, is insufficient. Scripting is useful for multiple site installations, and there are some situations where you may have no choice but to run an automated, scripted installation.

This is one of the best self-study training kits available from Microsoft. It thoroughly covers every aspect of the product. If you’re thinking about using this as your primary means of study in order to prepare for exam 70-086, Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Systems Management Server, this kit will give you a great start. You’ll still need to install and work with the product if you expect to pass, but no more so than if you attended the class. Also, seriously consider reading the SMS 2.0 information in the BackOffice Resource Kit.

About the Author

Stan Spotts, MCSE+Internet, MCSD, MCDBA, MCT, MCP+Site Building, MSS, CCA, A+, is a managing consultant at a leading international full service provider for growing e-Businesses.

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