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Do I need to install Active Directory?

Posted on 2005-04-03
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Last Modified: 2011-09-20
I am setting up a Windows 2003 standard edition server to replace a windows nt server.  They need to replace it is because mas90 doesn't support nt servers anymore, altho it's strictly a file-sharing operation, not client server.  

The site has 6 users, who basically need the server only for file sharing.  They will also replace their win98 computers with xp pro computers. They have no client/server apps, only file sharing for the mas90 accounting package.  They have two user groups.

They have no in-house network admin, and don't have a static ip address for remote support.

I have read several references on 2003 that recommend ADO "for all but the smallest environments", altho they don't describe what they consider these environments to be.  Other references seem to assume ADO as a given for w2003, altho they're also assuming the workload will be greater.

So based on the above factors, my question is: do I really need to install Active Directory services, since the benefits it offers will not be used in a single server environment with 6 users.  In this environment, ADO seems to offer complexity without benefits.
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Question by:reh2
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15 Comments
 
LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:gjohnson99
ID: 13692534
Yes if want to share files, Its no big deal to install the wizard take though it.
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LVL 10

Accepted Solution

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plemieux72 earned 750 total points
ID: 13692627
There are many benefits in installing AD in your environment (even with 6 workstations)... with AD, you create and maintain user accounts and groups only on the AD domain controller instead of having to update accounts on each XP computer AND the server.  It's therefore much simpler.

With that said, I would definitely install AD.

However, you must make sure you have a correctly functioning DNS infrastructure PRIOR to installing AD.  Without a good DNS, AD is going to give you nothing but headaches.  If you have access to Windows IT Pro magazine, check out the article instant doc ID 43582.

Also, ensure all internal computers (and your server) point to ONLY internal DNS servers.  Use your ISP's public DNS server for the external stuff.  This is sometimes called "split-DNS" or "split-brain DNS".
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Expert Comment

by:plemieux72
ID: 13692676
Here is an excellent article by Mark Minasi on what you need to get split-brain DNS setup prior to installing AD:

Steps To Assembling The Perfect Split-Brain DNS System For Your Active Directory
http://www.minasi.com/showdoc.asp?docname=nws0301.htm
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Author Comment

by:reh2
ID: 13693137
Plemieux72,
Thanks for the input. The dns headaches you mention above, and other possible gotchas,  are some of the reasons I'm wondering if AD is worth installing. It seems like those issuses are more involved than updating info on workstations would be.  Thanks for the info, I'll look at the articles you mentioned.
reh2
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 13693559
When you install AD on the server, and you don't already have another DNS server installed, a DNS Server will be installed automatically. So there is no real headache installing AD and maintaining it.
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LVL 5

Expert Comment

by:simonenticott
ID: 13694069
personally i would install AD and lock the server down so the users couldn't damage it or have any "accidents", but you dont' have to do that to achieve what you want.

If you just want to share files thats fine too, add the server to the same workgroup as the clients, add a user account for yourself and all 6 users on the server with the same password they already have, create a group called something like "all_users" and add all the user accounts you created in to it as well as the servers administrator ID, now just use this group to give permissions to the shares on the server.

As for no fixed IP address you could look at some of the free dynamic IP services that will map a dynamic IP to a hostname, this would let yo access the server whenever you need to by just going to the host name.  Take a look at www.dyndns.org i've used them for years and they're great.

hope that helps,

Simon.


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LVL 4

Expert Comment

by:Justin Malone
ID: 13694260
on another note mas90 is a pain in the ass not only to use but also to install. the company that owns it seams to always have there head up there ass.
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LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:nader alkahtani
ID: 13695594
Why don't use Windows Small Business Server 2003 it is used to small networks up to 75 workstation just ?

Today's business environment demands that small businesses do more with less. The majority of small businesses have limited IT resources, employees, and time. Now, there's help.

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Windows Small Business Server 2003 provides many of the networking features used by large companies, without the complexity typically associated with server technology. Windows Small Business Server 2003 delivers a complete business server solution for small businesses with up to 75 workstations and is available in two editions: standard and premium.


http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/sbs/evaluation/overview/default.mspx
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LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:nader alkahtani
ID: 13695598
Correction : it is used to small networks --->  it is used for small networks
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LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:fixnix
ID: 13696860
Definately go for AD.  You'll be glad you did later when you want to do something new and all the howto docs assume you're running AD.

Prime example:  when XPSP2 was released...without AD you'd either be downloading that monstrosity 6 times for each workstation or you'd do some digging for the 250MB or so network install package.  With AD it's very simple to set up a SUS server and have all your workstations go to it for updates (which are only downloaded once for the network instead of once per wprkstation).

It's also easier to to apply global changes (group poilicy can be a wonderful thing...even with only 6 workstations, you're making changes once and hitting everyone instead of doing the same thing 6 times at 6 different physical locations).

I typically loathe MS products in favor of open source 'nix-like os's and applications for server environments, but AD does offer some nice bells and whistles...and if your choice is MS without AD vs MS with AD, it's a no brainer to use AD unless you're running it on a 128Meg P450.
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 13696973
Well, fixnix, AD isn't that old yet and when it was launched M$ said it was something really new and great.
Novels Netware, on the other hand started with NDS when version 4 was launched. NDS is still better than AD, particularly when it is used in a large network where a lot of servers replicate the directory. AD has to replicate the complete thing. NDS only replicates things changed. Also, AD is based on the opensource ldap, so it can't be all bad.

Anyway, we all hail 'nix.
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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:plemieux72
ID: 13697070
<<AD has to replicate the complete thing.>>  

Actually, that is not correct.  AD replication was fixed in Windows 2000 and further improved in Windows Server 2003.  You are right that NDS is a more mature product than AD however.  Anyway, the question clearly states it's for a small deployment so we don't have to worry about replication.  

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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:plemieux72
ID: 13697120
I agree with fixnix, install AD.  Yes, it requires more work up front but it's much better for the long term.  If you can get your DNS correctly setup, you are well on your way!
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Author Comment

by:reh2
ID: 13697330
Thanks, all for the input. I'm going to install AD today, hopefully without too many problems.
Nadir, you may have a point on SBS, but I have purchased standard edition, so that's a done deal at this point.  
Thanks again, any tips still welcome.
reh2
0
 
LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:nader alkahtani
ID: 13711007
If you have purchased standard edition , control ,speed , safe and improve your netwrk by using Active Directory .
good luck
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