Mapped Drives or UNC Paths, Domain or Workgroup? - best practice for Windows 7?
Posted on 2011-05-04
Should I stop operating in a Windows workgroup and start using my domain controller?
Should I stop using mapped drives and switch to UNC paths?
My small biz network has been very simple since Win 95 days. All workstations run as administrator. Everyone has read/write access to every file & folder on 3 or 4 mapped drives. We're all on one workgroup. I've used batch scripts to map the drives after each reboot. Up through Win XP, this worked well for our 70 employees and 35 workstations for years. (Yes, some people are sharing PCs, such as cash registers and reference workstations).
As I start to poke around with my first couple of Windows 7 PCs, I'm finding that some apps don't like mapped drive letters. They want UNC paths. An MS Support person, for one of my MS apps, suggested that "mapped drives aren't recommended any longer...."- which made me scratch my head.
It looks as though I can use UNC without adopting a domain. Is that true? Do I just change my NET USE syntax in the scripts?
Should I use a domain? I have a Windows Server 2003 (maybe R2?) that has been configured as a domain controller. Its main job is an instance of SQL Server for MS Dynamics SL accounting. It just has the 5 CALs. 40 or so workstations have been able to map S: to a shared folder on that server. All PCs are doing NET USE S: \\SLSERVER\MyFolder\ , logging in as ADMINISTRATOR. [I've suspected that only 5 PCs are actually using that folder at any given time, but I'm not sure. It just works.] Using the Domain Controller and the Active Directory, can I define another user (regularGuy), and use that login from multiple workstations? Or, will I need a bunch of CALs? Does the domain controller decision interact with the mapped vs. UNC decision?
We have a minor, minor business need to limit access to some folders. In the past, the need for simplicity and uniformity has trumped the need for user-level access control. Now, it looks like the whole world is using domain controllers and UNC paths. It looks like simple workgroup networking might be squeezed out of future editions of Windows. Should I bite the bullet and make the transition to a domain?
I also have a Samba server for the workgroup. If I adopt the domain controller for use with the Windows Server shared folder, can I still use the workgroup and mapped drive letters to the Samba folder?
Thanks for reading.