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Windows Server 2003 and Friends

  So you have a new system in and everything is dandy but some of the suggested costs were a little to much to bear. The Antivirus company just wanted silly money for their network wide and email protection system and all of the desktop machines seem to have Norton Antivirus, well yours does at least. The old system was working for years and never had any serious problems and Dennis the office boy copies everything onto a CD every night anyhow so what's the problem?

And well you might ask. There is definitely a case for saying, in these enlightened days, that Windows NT4.0 was pesky, it didn't have any Plug and Play support and until Service Pack 3 it would blue screen at least every Thursday afternoon as your staff were trying to process the payments, but hey, it ran. It wasn't a multi-purpose do-anything go-anywhere enterprise level mega-system  that could still handle your MP3 player and had cute wallpaper. Windows 2003 is a very complicated animal. It is basically Windows 2000 with knobs on. The Microsoft Active Directory running over Microsoft Kerberos 5 is still there and is almost unchanged since 2000, but has had an XP style facelift, a new version of IIS that supports even more ways to control systems from the Internet (Eeek!) and is just that bit more hungry for memory and processor speed. Most of the changes (Volume Shadow Copying, and Clustering as standard) are all to benefit the enterprise level customer. I guess this is the main part of the market. To us SMEs is it really productive to have a server system that has so many features that the hackers find ways of using them against us? If you read the 'top 10 reasons to upgrade to Small Business Server 2003'  then you will find that nearly all of them could apply to any of the older Windows Server operating systems. OK, so Windows NT4 didn't support Windows Mobile users but you could always just buy an add on and any hackers sniffing you out by checking on your SMTP or POP server response will most likely glean you over because they got bored of hacking Windows NT4 back in 1999.

There is no doubt about it. When you are exceeding 10 million lines of code with an OS then there will always be holes, at least for a few years after release and, lets face it, this is a big part of why 2003 is just 2000 with knobs on. Microsoft are  undoubtedly  world leaders in the security problems for servers market and I can say that just from looking at the Windows Server section of because nearly everything on the opening page is about virus threats, incompatibility and hotfixes. And so they are making less and less ambitious jumps in their OS now. They no longer need compete against Netware and NDS because even though Netware 4 had NDS and NT4 had unreliable machine to machine replication, NT4 still stole the market. Undoubtedly there were a lot of jobs riding on the success of Windows 2000 and a lot of deals were made in order to persuade some of the biggest players to take it on but the truth is that Windows 2000 is a far better system than NT4. How can I say this? NT4 was more sensible in concept, it  was more modular which everyone agrees on as more sensible and longhorn is going back there, it had a separate IIS server system that was not loaded unless specified, it was very easy to understand on many levels and it did not get targeted by viruses because the scripting on it was almost non-existent. Every virus was after the functionality in Office and Active-x and spread from desktop to desktop rather than server to server. Now, as soon as you install your Windows 2003 server, if it is on the Internet it will begin restarting because of security vulnerabilities that hit is so often you cannot download the updates to fix the problem between restarting -but all of this is evolution-. Once SP1 is on your windows 2003 system, things begin to improve. I cannot say that I believe having tutorials at every turn in the system is a good idea but I guess it does help to learn. I think it probably builds more problems from people trying stuff on a whim but that is their own fault. Windows 2003 is a better system than anything Microsoft has done to date because it is a new generation of an OS that is gradually evolving. The stupid changes that came about with NT4 have disappeared and the system has picked up a lot of sensible ideas from XP. Whether you hate the new GUI look or not it is definitely quicker to use and dropping the mandatory page file is a real plus. If Longhorn or 2006 or whatever it is called shows a little more 'If I want it I'll ask the computer to load it for me' and a little less 'I can do anything out of the box' it will be good for all concerned. You cannot begin as an expert with these things and most of us have had to learn the hard way at one time or another. Perhaps if we make it difficult enough to load, less unqualified people will get to mess around with it. Somewhere between Unix and Windows there is a happy medium and the sooner someone fills the gap the better.



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