The latest and greatest Windows server platform, Windows Server 2003, boasts a plethora of new features—far more than one article or column can cover. In this month's Top 10, I narrow the field to my very favorite features that Microsoft has introduced in Windows Server 2003.

10. Windows Server 2003, Web Edition—Web Edition is one of the most anticipated components of Microsoft's line of server products. Specifically designed for use as a specialized Web server and in Web farms, Web Edition is a lower-cost version of Windows Server 2003 that focuses solely on Web serving. Web Edition dispenses with many of the high-overhead features (e.g., full Active Directory—AD—support, server clustering, Remote Installation Services—RIS) that you'll find in the other Windows Server 2003 editions.

9. Integrated support for the .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR)—All Windows Server 2003 editions will come bundled with the CLR, which is a vital stepping stone for future adoption of the .NET Framework. CLR will let .NET applications immediately run on the Windows Server 2003 platform without requiring additional runtime components.

8. The Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) service—All versions of Windows Server 2003 except Web Edition will support the UDDI service. UDDI is essentially the Web services "yellow pages." Running the UDDI service locally lets you host your own Web services directory to support local Web service applications.

7. RIS support for Windows server installations—Another welcome addition to Windows Server 2003 is the ability to use RIS to perform Windows server installations. The Windows 2000 RIS enables client (e.g., Win2K Professional) installations but doesn't support server installations. You can use the new .NET RIS feature to install all versions of Windows Server 2003 (except Datacenter Edition), Windows XP, and Win2K.

6. Headless server operations—A long-overdue Windows server feature is support for headless operations. In headless mode, Windows Server 2003 can run without a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. The platform's Emergency Management Services (EMS) lets you remotely manage and even restart the system through a serial connection. One caveat: Only select systems have special BIOS settings that let you run without a video card.

5. Microsoft IIS 6.0—You'll find some big changes in IIS 6.0, which is bundled with all editions of Windows Server 2003. Now locked down by default, IIS 6.0 sports a more robust architecture, an XML-based metabase, and an automatic application-recycling feature that can programmatically restart failed applications.

4. Install Replica from Media—In Win2K AD, performing an initial replication to a branch-office domain controller (DC) over a WAN link can be a painfully slow experience. Windows Server 2003 solves this problem by letting you replicate a complete copy of the AD database to media (e.g., tape, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM), thereby avoiding slow links for the initial AD population.

3. Resultant Set of Polices (RSoP)—Addressing another Win2K shortcoming, Windows Server 2003 includes a new RSoP feature that lets you study the net effect of policy settings on users and computers. RSoP can be a powerful aid in debugging policies, particularly because the new planning mode lets you see the effects of new policies before you deploy them.

2. Active Directory Domain Rename—AD's unforgiving nature has always been a big drawback to setting up AD on Win2K. Windows Server 2003 adds some friendliness by letting you change a domain's DNS and NetBIOS names, thereby eliminating the need to create a new domain, then migrate old domain objects to the new domain.

1. Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)—One of the coolest Windows Server 2003 gems is its VSS feature. A volume shadow copy is a point-in-time copy of a given storage location. You use either the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Disk Management snap-in or the MMC Shared Folders snap-in to enable VSS. This feature provides a better file-backup structure, in which administrators and users can easily recover previous file versions from network shares.