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Windows Server Authentication and Group Policy in the Cloud

A couple of months ago, I priced out moving our Windows 2008 Server to the cloud via managed hosting or a managed co-location. While there are many companies now offering this service, it's still prohibitively expensive. Then I had an epiphany. What if I started moving "server components" to the cloud instead of the entire server.

File Server - File Hosting Services (FHS) have come a long way in the last few years. Moving this functionality to the cloud is absolutely doable. (I'm confident many Experts-Exchange experts will disagree with me on this point.)
Antivirus with Server Console - Many of the antivirus companies now offer a web-based server console.
Exchange - We've been using Google Apps for several years and love it.
Backup and Recovery - There are lots of options associated with FHS.
CRM - The cloud is where it's at.

So what if I wanted to get rid of my Windows Server 2008 entirely? There are two big impediments to this:

Authentication - I'm not sure how I'd handle the Domain authentication w/o the Windows Server in-house or without a traditional cloud-based managed location or managed colo (which, as noted earlier, are prohibitively expensive).
Group Policy and Login Scripts - We use both pretty extensively in the office. Just like authentication, I think I'm stuck with an in-house server or a a traditional cloud-based solution.

I'll bet there are several experts out there who have some ideas. Feel free to suggest anything. (For example, I'm not wedded to Windows. I'd be willing to consider a Linux solution.)
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jdana
Asked:
jdana
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Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
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jdanaAuthor Commented:
Mutawadi and Jaihunt,

These are great articles. Thank you. Microsoft has done a good job of embedding itself in the millions of LANs around the world. Once they get their foot in your door, it's no small task to extricate them.

J
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