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Windows 2003 server died.  Do I really want another one?

Posted on 2009-07-13
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Last Modified: 2012-05-07
We have a single server running 2003 with Exchange.  We stopped using exchange a year ago when we moved to Google mail and all of our apps are in the cloud.  It's only used as a file server these days.

It died over the weekend.  Motherboard failure.

What options do I have?  Is a NAS box practical for an office with 20 computers (all running XP Pro on a single domain).  We'd only need rudimentary permissions. What happens to all the clients that will still think they're part of a domain without a DC?

Any ideas?
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Question by:BasilFawlty001
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by:Lee W, MVP
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EBay is great for replacement motherboards when you don't have it under warranty.

NAS devices can usually provide rudimentary permissions.

Keep in mind you are going to create a nightmare for yourself in the future if you don't restore the domain.  Migrating from workgroup and NAS settings can be an expensive process and permissions don't usually translate.  Plus, your users will not be able to log in to just any machine as they SHOULD be able to now if you setup the domain properly.   Plus you'll lose the centralized management of the workstations that you have now.
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by:Datedman
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You need the domain.  Makes things simpler, just buy a motherboard!  
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by:flyingsky
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your workstations will work fine, even though there's no DC. they will just use local cached credential to authenticate users.
The problem is, you will have no control over all the domain users, they cannot change password, etc. Is this ok with your? you will also have no control of the machines from a single central location (I mean GPOs), it this ok with you?
As of file share, it's easy enough to achive no matter it's in a domain environment or workgroup one.
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by:BasilFawlty001
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It's rare that our users would ever share a machine but that is something to keep in mind.

We only have 3 folders that have restricted access so I think a NAS box should take care of that part.

With only 20 computers, there's not a lot of central management going on right now anyway but I guess it might be a problem in the future, if we start to grow.

My biggest concern is how seamless the transition would be for the user.  I suspect that would be my biggest headache.
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by:Lee W, MVP
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I imagine your biggest headache is having 20 machines that are not properly managed.  I can see 2-5 machines in a workgroup (even then I recommend a server), but 20 begs for management.  I would suspect you're doing a lot of things manually that you wouldn't need to.

I also suspect that you are virtually ignoring security, remote access, and other technologies like Shadow copy that could increase productivity and prevent data loss and theft.
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by:flyingsky
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if you decide you don't want an AD domain anymore, you will want to get users logon to their workstation using local account, not domain account. You will have to do this on every single machine. it won't be seamless as it will be a different user profile.
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by:BasilFawlty001
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Not using shadow copy,  and since our apps are all in the cloud, remote access isn't really something we need.

Security will be an issue though.  I don't like the idea of users managing their own antivirus and other security settings.  That right there might be the reason to stay with the server.
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You also wouldn't be able to make any NTFS permissions to allow/change domain users, because it would want to contact the server to find out about the accounts.  Therefore you'd really be forced to migrate to local/workgroup accounts, rather than use the existing/orphaned domain accounts.

Remember that workgroup accounts can only access each others' computers if the same user/pass exists on the other machine.  So you'd have to manually create 20 users on each machine, or make everyone use the same account.  A password change is not fun on 20 computers.  You're losing much flexibility and security here.

You'll have to then create new local profiles for the users (as replacement for their domain profiles), in which case you're likely to change their profile path and hence bugger up some of their settings (unless they just need a simple copy of the Desktop, Documents and Favorites).

I think even buying an old P4 and installing your existing domain onto it would be better.  But heck I guess there's no harm in you remaining as you are right now for a week, to see how it impacts you.  It will work for a while.  You could even migrate 3 or 4 users to local profiles to be guinea pigs for a week..
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