Inside Windows NT Server

Planning, Installing, and Managing
a Windows NT Server NetworkCan Be a Snap

Instead of following the convention of discussing each module or utility in turn, Drew Heywood has designed Inside Windows NT Server around the tasks the user wishes to perform. The example he uses, the User Manager for Domains, performs many functions, including establishing trust relationships. Rather than try to explain everything a utility does all at once, Heywood refers to the utility when explaining the sequence of tasks involved in setting up a Windows NT Server. He suggests that readers who are new to NT go through the book chapter by chapter, rather than dipping into it as if it were a reference manual. When you have more experience, the book will serve as a useful resource.

Inside Windows NT Server
Author: Drew Heywood
Publisher: New Riders Publishing
Indianapolis, 1995 ISBN 1-56205-472-4
Price: $45.00, 789 pages

The earlier chapters cover the basics of networking theory, including the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model. Heywood explains how NT Server provides the capabilities essential to a network operating system. He goes beyond the usual list of NT virtues, such as multitasking, multithreading, and the large memory model, to emphasize ease of administration, support for multiple networking protocols, interoperability with other networks, and remote access dial-in. These features are more important to the network administrator, at whom the book is aimed, than to the average user.

The author devotes a short chapter to understanding network administration before getting down to details of the physical network. Whether you are putting in a network from scratch or you inherited it, the cabling, connections, and topology will influence how the logical network is built. Administrators should lay out a new network before beginning to install hardware and software, and Heywood offers some useful advice on how to plan the network.

More of Heywood's useful advice comes during the discussion of server and workstation hardware, which concludes the background information. To PC users, discussing the different types of bus topologies, or IDE vs. SCSI disks, or even the Intel family of processors may be repeating what they already know. Users should remember that NT is aimed at companies that are downsizing from mainframes. For anyone migrating from a mainframe, or even a UNIX environment, these chapters provide a good introduction to PC architecture.

Then, the author moves into the basics of installing a network with NT Server, beginning with configuring the server hardware. He explains how to add network interface cards with the correct memory addresses and interrupts. He also covers hard disk installation. Most servers will be using SCSI drives, which are a little more complex to configure than IDE drives.

Once the hardware is ready, it's time to install the NT Server software. Heywood points out that a computer can be configured as a primary domain controller (PDC) only during installation, and the first server in the domain must be the PDC. Other servers in the domain can be configured as backup domain controllers or just as servers. To avoid problems later, including having to reinstall NT Server, planning is time well spent.

The actual installation process is relatively straightforward, and the book includes a step-by-step description. Reading the text would actually take longer than installing the software, but it is useful reference material. The section most people will value is the discussion of configuring network cards, adding network software, and managing bindings.

Whether you are a network neophyte or an experienced administrator with the scars to prove it, anyone new to NT Server should pay attention to Chapter 8. It covers user accounts, groups, domains, and trust relationships. Microsoft chose to use domains and trust relationships as the building blocks of the network. Once network administrators are thoroughly versed in these concepts, they can build an enterprise network that's easy to manage and works well for the users. Domains borrow concepts from directory services and workgroups, both of which are described briefly. When an organization reaches a certain size, it may be beneficial to add more than one domain, and, once that decision has been made, the issue of trust relationships arises. Inside Windows NT Server does a good job of explaining these relationships, including the Master Domain Model favored by Microsoft, the Multiple Master Domain Model, and the Complete Trust Model. Although he mentions it and Microsoft lists some advantages for it, the author makes it quite clear that he does not like the Complete Trust Model because of its lack of centralized security.

Windows NT Server can be used in a network that includes a mix of centralized, traditional network services and peer-to-peer workgroups. Users can be part of a workgroup at the same time they are part of the domain. Assigning users to groups is the recommended way to manage accounts, and the book does a good job of explaining the difference between local and global users and groups. This is always a source of confusion because the terminology is not used quite the way you would expect. This section of the book deserves close attention. NT Server comes with several built-in users and groups, all of which are detailed here.

"Proper management of domains and trust relationships is extremely important and can have critical implications for network security and performance," Heywood writes. As the network needs of the organization change, the administrator will have to add domains, add computers to domains, install backup domain controllers, and so on. At some point, the primary domain controller will be down for maintenance or upgrades. The administrator could save a lot of time, trouble, and confusion by reading this section of the book before making major changes to the domain setup.

If any one sentence in the book strikes a chord with the system administrator, it is the statement: "LAN administration would be considerably more pleasurable if LANs did not have to have users." But it wouldn't be much of a challenge either. NT Server has a suite of tools for making the LAN administrator's job less tedious, if not less stressful. Chapter 10 describes the User Manager for Domains in considerable depth. According to the author, setting up user accounts involves two seemingly contradictory goals: allowing users access to the resources they need, and keeping them away from everything else on the network. By the end of the chapter, you should know how to do both.

Once users have logged on to the network, they need to be able to access the resources. Inside Windows NT Server explains how to share resources, including drives, directories, files, and printers. Some of the concepts will be familiar to users of Windows for Workgroups, but now there are the added complexities of permissions, policies, and security. The author is careful to explain that Microsoft has confused users with its terminology--a printer is not the same as the physical printing device. This makes sense once the book explains it. Administrators moving from a mainframe may not know that LPT1 normally uses IRQ 7 or be comfortable with serial printers, so Heywood provides an overview.

In many companies, the obvious client for Windows NT Server is either Windows 3.1 or, preferably, Windows for Workgroups 3.11. In a few cases, there may also be DOS clients and some companies opt for Windows NT Workstation clients in the interests of security and stability. The network administrator will be responsible for installing or maintaining these clients, so the author explains how to set up all of them as a network client.

Connectivity is a big part of any enterprise network, and Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is rapidly becoming the enterprise standard. Heywood does an excellent job of explaining how to install and configure TCP/IP services, including Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) options.

Now that the network is installed and running smoothly, Heywood devotes the rest of the book to network management. This covers disk subsystem management, including mirror and stripe sets, backup and restoration of the files on the network, and administration of the server itself. He discusses the tools provided in NT Server, remote access services, directory replication, and integration with NetWare.

The book achieves its stated objective of leading you through the planning, installation, and management of an NT Server network. And it does a great job of filling in the gaps for an administrator migrating from a mainframe. The index and table of contents are thorough. It is a welcome change to see a book which is not a rewrite of the manuals. If you are looking for a book which skips the details of the paintbrush and calculator applets and gets right to work, Inside Windows NT Server may be just what you need.