A Guide for Installing and Maintaining NT Networks

The first thing you learn when you crack open Networking Windows NT 3.51 is that, "Windows NT is not a microkernel operating system....It's more accurate to call Windows NT a client/server operating system." Once you learn this lesson, you won't be surprised to discover that NT is also an excellent network operating system.

As Windows NT becomes more firmly entrenched as an enterprise network operating system, more of you network administrators are installing it and finding that you have to maintain it. This book will be a valuable reference for you.

The first chapter focuses on the basics of Windows NT and on the features that make it suitable as a foundation for your enterprise network. The book allocates more space to Windows NT Server features, such as fault tolerance and domain administration, than to the benefits of Windows NT Workstation. However, the book does not neglect workstation benefits: Security, connectivity, and ease of administration apply to both servers and workstation.

Before you install NT, the authors suggest you analyze your needs and plan the physical layout and the locations of your servers and network hubs. The book goes into detail about hardware requirements, which could be overkill for experienced PC users, but many of you will find this detail imperative. Regardless of your experience, careful planning pays off. When you're ready to install NT, the book explains the whole installation process, including CD-ROM and over-the-network installs.

Next, the authors tell you how to set up user accounts, groups, security, rights, and permissions. They define the duties of a network administrator and offer tips on how you can fulfill your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Because the network administrator is usually the person who is blamed for poor network performance, the authors introduce NT's Performance Monitor (Perfmon) so that you can use it to optimize and tune the operating system and meet the demands of your users. The book briefly covers disk configuration, Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) setup, and backup and restore. Ruley, et al. have provided a good introduction to NT scripts and command-line functions, which is information you usually don't find.

In addition to its resource-sharing capabilities, NT Server offers a variety of networking features such as Mail and Schedule+. The authors cover these topics adequately and don't spend so much time on these easy-to-use applications that you lose interest. They also show you how to use the command line to control resource-sharing.

If you are used to working from a command line, you will relate to this chapter. And if you think you can do everything from a Windows environment, you will want to read this section carefully.

After the book describes how to install your system, connect your users, and share your resources, it returns to performance and tuning. From there, the book makes a natural progression to troubleshooting and recovering from system problems. The authors list various problems and suggest possible work-arounds.

Often, your NT Server installation will have to coexist with other networks, so the authors cover TCP/IP and explain how you can integrate it with NT Server's built-in networking. They also cover Domain Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Telnet, and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).

Because Microsoft intends for you to use NT Server to build enterprise networks (and some of you might plan to construct such a network), Ruley, et al. explain how an enterprise network is different from a simple LAN. Specifically, they discuss domains and describe various domain-administration models and replication.

If you are planning an enterprise network, consider this section required reading. The authors suggest you use TCP/IP as your backbone protocol, but they also give you instructions about multiprotocol binding tuning. NT Server has a built-in WAN capability, using Remote Access Service (RAS), and the authors show you how to effectively set up RAS connections.

The book does not neglect the popular clients for a network, Windows for Workgroups (WFW) and Windows 95. It even covers how NT Server takes over from LAN Manager. WFW and Windows 95 emphasize sharing over security, so you can expect some changes in your system when you integrate them with NT. The book clearly outlines these changes.

Another network that lets you connect to NT Server is Novell NetWare. The authors warn that the relationship between Microsoft and Novell is less than amicable, and they remind you to seek information from several sources. The advice in the book consists of some ideas that neither Microsoft nor Novell has approved.

The authors explain the NWLINK protocol and tell you how to configure it. Next, they discuss Client Services for NetWare (CSNW) and Gateway Services for NetWare (GSNW). The authors give credit to Microsoft for providing some well-designed software to allow connectivity to NetWare servers. Of course, the "preferred" method is not to use NetWare at all and simply migrate your servers to NT Server.

The other side of this coin is using Novell's NetWare Client for Windows NT to access NT machines. The authors carry this scenario to the extreme and tell you how to disable NT's built-in networking. They also give you instructions on how to use the various components of NetWare to share files and printers.

Other networking systems, such as IBM LAN Server, IBM SAA Networks, Digital Equipment's Pathworks, Banyan Vines, LANtastic, and UNIX can connect to NT Server. Because connectivity products to each are still under development, the authors give you an overview of each and a list where you can obtain further information.

In the final chapter, Ruley, et al. return to their opening theme that NT is a client/server operating system. The authors discuss client/server architecture, distributed computing, and the future of NT. They set the stage by discussing the concepts of client/server computing and why it is important in the corporate world. They provide a list of companies that offer NT database software and a list of companies that produce client/server development tools for use in the NT environment.

The authors say that NT is not quite ready to replace mainframes. Author John Ruley has expressed the same thinking elsewhere: Without chargeback accounting, user resource quotas, and cluster support, Windows NT is not a substitute for the mainframe. Well, you might see user quotas, but as resources become cheaper, why will you need them? As for chargebacks, let's hope that the idea of using significant amounts of CPU time to figure out who is using significant amounts of CPU time dies with mainframes. As for cluster support, Microsoft is already talking about clustered NT systems, and you need to remember that the concept of clustering was quite well developed in Digital's Virtual Address eXtension (VAX) systems. Expect the same functionality in NT before long.

The book concludes with useful appendices on NT programming considerations, networking theory including the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model, and protocols. Other appendices cover legacy applications (DOS and Windows applications rather than those old mainframe green-screen programs), the Windows NT Resource Kit, and how CPU architecture affects performance. Although the information in the appendices is worthwhile, I have to ask why it wasn't integrated into the body of the text. Perhaps this book, like others on NT, has been upgraded and extended with each release of the software.

The index is spotty and could use some work. For example, "sound card" shows up not under S, but under Troubleshooting. "Boot Failure" shows up not under B or even under T, for Troubleshooting. It is under "Installation" and then under the subcategory, "Troubleshooting." A book like this deserves a better index.

Overall, Networking Windows NT 3.51 is well written. It's more than a how-to manual: It also explains the "why." I recommend it to anyone who has to evaluate, plan, install, and maintain an NT Server network, especially in a mixed environment.

Networking Windows NT 3.51, 2nd Edition
Authors: John Ruley, Martin Heller, David Methvin, Arthur Germain III, and Eric Hall
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1995
Price: $29.99
435 pages
ISBN 0-471-12705-1