Notable and tantalizing improvements that you can look forward to

Windows 2000 (Win2K) has the most changes and improvements of any Windows NT release to date. However, not every aspect of the OS includes significant changes and additions. Although Microsoft improved Win2K's RAS and DUN components, the changes don't represent major overhauls of NT 4.0's RAS and DUN components. Win2K's RAS changes are primarily a reflection of other changes in the new OS. The following list introduces you to a few of the notable and tantalizing improvements that you can look forward to in Win2K's RAS.

Integration. Win2K's RAS is better integrated with the networking subsystem, which makes RAS more transparent to the user. Unlike NT 4.0's approach, in which you manage RAS almost entirely through its array of configuration dialog boxes, tools, and options, Win2K remote networking leverages many of the configuration utilities and dialog boxes that you use for regular network connections (e.g., Ethernet LAN connections). In addition, Win2K's RAS administration utility is a standard Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in rather than a separate management utility with a unique interface. This seamlessness makes managing connections easier for administrators and simplifies operating connections for users.

Creation and management of remote connections. On the user side, one of Win2K's most important management features is the Network Connection Wizard. Unlike its primitive Add New Phonebook Entry Wizard predecessor, Win2K's wizard provides a comprehensive set of configuration dialog boxes that help even the most basic users successfully configure RAS connections. The Network Connection Wizard provides customized configuration questions for different network connection types, including VPN, Internet, corporate networks, computer-to-computer (e.g., via infrared or serial cable), and incoming (i.e., RAS server) connections. In addition, Win2K's DUN features simplify the process of establishing complicated, multistage VPN connections via one RAS connection entry.

Connection sharing. The connection-sharing feature in Win2K Professional (Win2K Pro) simplifies establishing and sharing a remote connection with other users. For example, a user can establish one ISDN adapter or modem-based Internet connection, then let other users share that connection and gain access to the Internet through the first system. Small or home-based networks that can't afford high-speed Internet connections or multiple simultaneous dial-up accounts will benefit most from Win2K Pro's connection-sharing feature. Although sharing a remote connection theoretically works with any remote network, this feature is most useful when you use it for Internet connections.

VPN support. In addition to NT 4.0's PPTP VPN support, Win2K supports new VPN and security technologies. Most notably, Microsoft has added support for the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), which is an open, multivendor Layer 2 encryption solution, and IP Security (IPSec), which is an open encryption standard that uses a Layer 3-based encryption technology and requires Win2K or other OSs using IPSec-capable IP stacks.

RRAS. In Win2K, Microsoft has combined RAS and RRAS into one entity. In addition, if beta 3 is any indication, RRAS administrators will notice marked improvements in Win2K's RRAS stability, particularly in relation to server-to-server VPN connections over the Internet.

Telephony settings and custom dialing features. Users welcomed NT 4.0's telephony features because they permit users to define locations that have different dialing properties. Microsoft has improved these features in Win2K. For example, you can define special dialing strings and configurations on a per-connection basis, instead of on a global basis only—as is the case in NT 4.0. Win2K's RAS also benefits from the changes and improvements in WINS, which receives much-needed stability and robustness in Win2K, and DHCP, which sports better fault-tolerance and enhanced configuration features in Win2K.

Whether the lack of radical changes in Win2K's RAS is good news or bad news depends on your point of view. In Win2K's RAS, Microsoft keeps the good features from the previous version, adds support for Win2K's new features and protocols, provides better management features for RAS administrators, and simplifies and streamlines the user interface (UI) to make it consistent with the rest of the OS.