Change from Domain to Workgroup

A friend has a small business with only 7 computers in a Server 2003-based domain.   The server is acting up; and is also rather dated, so he's asked me to move him to a new system with as little expense as possible [emphasis on "small" business :-) ]    

This is not a business that's likely to ever grow in terms of employees (small bakery), or computers.     Their e-mail, web site, and e-commerce (on-line ordering) are all done via external providers with no ties to the local network.    The current server is used purely as a domain controller and file server, and there's no IT staff to administer it, so it's been hands-off for several years (fortunately without issues).     What they'd like to do is just move to a Workgroup, with a Win7 Pro (or possibly Win 10)  system doing the file serving, and a small NAS (or possibly just a RAID array on that system) set up for automated backups.

My question is what is the best process to move the clients off the domain to a local login without losing any of their current data?    Should I simply attach an external drive to each system and copy that client's data before making any changes?    The clients are all fairly old systems -- ranging form XP to '7  (nothing newer).    Is there anything special I need to do to remove a system from the Domain?  ... or is it as simply as just checking Workgroup instead of Domain?

Basically, the plan is to (a) backup all of the data for each of the 7 clients;  (b)  change all of the workstations to a Workgroup;  (c)  shut down the server;  and (d)  set up the new PC with a share for each of the users.

I know a new server with Server 2012 would be a "better" choice ... but cost is a major factor here; and with only 7 users a workgroup should work just fine.   Just want to be sure I haven't forgotten anything regarding transitioning off the domain, as I do NOT want to lose any of their data !!
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Gary CaseRetiredAsked:
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Dell PowerEdge T110 II server with Windows Server 2012 Foundation Edition (up to 15 users, NO CALs) - $659 according to Dell's web site with 8 GB of RAM and single 500 GB hard drive.

Use Essentials instead (+$166) and you can backup the workstations (probably want a larger hard drive; maybe two for RAID 1)

In my experience, Workgroups are flaky to to support for file sharing.  And considering the low cost and benefits of the domain, I'd definitely suggest you look at this instead.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
small NAS (or possibly just a RAID array on that system) set up for automated backups.

And remember - RAID is NOT backup.  (You know this!)
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Rob WilliamsCommented:
I agree with Lee's suggestions.  Perhaps they can save hardware costs by not buying a server, but they will spend that much on labor managing all devices individually.  
A server manages backups, data access, PC management, reporting and more, all of which would save you enough labor over the life of the server to pay for it.  $1/day for 3 years will pay for a low end server, which is not much more than a PC , and it will keep them much more secure.  

Personally I like using 2012 R2 Essentials in small businesses because of the easy to manage console, daily automated reports, and as Lee said it not only manages it's own backup, but backs up all PC's and makes them easily restore-able if a drive fails or they get a serious virus.
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SommerblinkCommented:
I COMPLETELY agree with the other experts here, but if your small-business friend would like to execute his plan as-is, then I would recommend the programs from ForensIT, https://www.forensit.com/domain-migration.html. The cost is low and the software is easy to use and top-notch.

The program will (generally) painlessly transfer a single-user profile from a domain member computer to a workgroup member computer. I say generally because I've had odd issues with printers and local shares in a recent 'devolution' of a client we had.

Good luck!
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
I've already suggested a new server, but my friend is pretty convinced he just wants to use a workgroup, as he's very comfortable managing that himself.   In fact, I already suggested a T110 ... exactly what LeeW noted.   But he already has a nicely configured spare Win7 system that can be repurposed for this, so he's pretty focused on just doing that.

I MAY convince him otherwise ... but suggestions to do that aren't what I was looking for her (I'm well aware of the advantages).

In any event, what I really am looking for here is an answer to my question r.e. the best approach for moving the individual workstations from the domain logon to a local logon without losing any data.

LeeW:   Yes,  I'm well aware of what is/isn't a backup.    I actually suggested a small NAS to backup the "server" (whether it's an actual server OS or a workstation) ... and the "server" will also have a RAID-1 array for all data => so the data will be on a RAID array that's backed up to a RAID array in another location.

Also, what have you found "flaky" r.e. file sharing support via Workgroup?    This company actually only has two shared folders on their server -- one "Global" that everyone uses; and one other that's only accessed by two users.    The biggest difference between a domain setup and workgroup setup for this situation is the location of the user's profiles ... but virtually all of the data they use is on that global share -- NOT in the user profiles.


If I can convince him that a new server is a better way to go, I have a few additional questions:

(a)   Are CALS not required?
(b)   What's involved in moving the domain logon from a 2003 server to 2012 Essentials?
(c)    What client OS's does the automated backup in Essentials support?    (and does this automatically do image backups?)
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Rob WilliamsCommented:
If all the data is currently on the server, where it should be there should be no need to retain profiles on the workstations, but I do appreciate there are probably desktop items, e-mail configuartions, etc.
Two simple ways of retaining the same profile are:

1) Profwiz/Forensit, my preference and Sommerblink's suggestion,  which basically changes all file permissions of an existing profile.  I have blogged about its use, but the steps displayed in the blog are more moving from SBS 2003 to a new DC.  The free version will work fine for your needs
http://blog.lan-tech.ca/2011/05/19/sbs-and-profwiz/

2) You can log in as a different admin, and copy the profile to a local profile.  After the user/s you wish to affect have been logged in you must reboot before trying to do so or you will be denied access.  See: http://go.veeam.com/what-is-sql-server.html?utm_source=doubleclick&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=sqlserver&st=doubleclick

NOTE:  Just in case you are not aware, when you disjoin the domain you will need a local admin account.  Make sure you have one and know the password before doing so.

To re-iterate what we have said before; the reason so many ITpro’s hate workgroups is they are so much work, seriously.  However I know you have been around long enough Gary to appreciate the differences.

As for your questions.
(a) Are CALS not required?
       Not with Foundation or Essentials.  Foundation is limited to 15 users, and Essentials 25
(b) What's involved in moving the domain logon from a 2003 server to 2012 Essentials?
        There is a white paper on doings so.  You install Essentials in "migration mode" and walk through the steps.  It is quite simple as you are not moving Exchange and Sharepoint.  SBS to SBS used to be a pain in the neck, but       Essentials is straight forward.  You can also just manually disjoin the domain and move the profiles with Profwiz
(c)  What client OS's does the automated backup in Essentials support?    (and does this automatically do image backups?)
          Essentials uses a modified version of NTBackup to do daily server backups to rotating USB drives, or to Azure cloud services.  The client backup will do a daily backup of  all connected PC using file de-duplication, it will work with home or pro versions as well as Apple versions.  I am not sure if the latest Essentials version will backup XP.  The server backup is image based (vhd), the PC's are not.  To restore a PC you put in a bootable USB key or CD (wizard to create it and same one for all PCs)  and point to your system and the date to which you want to restore, then walk away.  You can also restore individual files or folders from a PC, and of course from the server.  

Essentials also integrates with Office 365, has remote web access as well as VPN access, generates and e-mails a daily report, and more.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
Bottom line is there's simply no $$ to do any significant upgrading -- so a new server isn't in the cards.    This is a small pie bakery struggling to stay out of bankruptcy -- they have a very loyal clientele for their pies, but it's also not at all likely to grow beyond their fairly static, stable size.    I don't want to commit a lot of time for this (doing it pro bono for a friend) ... I'm just going to be sure they've got a very robust backup in place and help with the initial configuration.

After spending a couple hours looking at all 7 of their computers, it turns out only 2 folks had any personal data stored in their profiles ... and there was very little of that, so it's trivial to just save it to an external drive (done).   ALL of the data they actually use is stored in a single share on the server accessible by everyone as a mapped drive (G: for "Global").     They have one key program that's used on a single computer (with install disks) and another that's used on several programs to generate labels for their boxes that they print on a network printer.    Other than those programs and QuickBooks there's virtually nothing to move.    As I noted earlier, all of their e-mail is hosted online; as is their web site and web store for all sales.    All they use locally are browsers and the programs I mentioned.

So ... doing what they want to do is VERY simple.   In fact, they're going to drop down to only 6 workstations and repurpose a Windows 7 system as their workgroup "server" ... which will host their global share and share their printers.    Virtually nothing to buy, except a small RAID-1 NAS I'm going to set up as their local automated backup (in addition to an automated cloud backup).

I may "play" a bit with the Profwiz/Forensit utility, just for the experience, but it seems there's not really anything I need to capture from it [although if it makes it simpler to change the workstation logon from domain to local that'll be handy].    So I'll give credit to Sommerblink & Rob for that suggestion, which I suspect is indeed the answer to my actual question, "... what is the best process to move the clients off the domain to a local login without losing any of their current data?" ... even though it turns out there's not really any data to worry about losing :-)
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