posted by Will Senn on Mon 26th Jul 2004 07:34 UTC
IconWhen I was first asked to review this book, I was somewhat taken aback by the title. I wondered if it could be construed as blasphemous. The dictionary came to my rescue with this definition: damn, adj., beyond doubt or question.

Considered in this light, my curiosity was sated - not blasphemy, merely bragging. I only needed to decide, if the book was - indeed, beyond doubt or question, the best Windows Server 2003 book, period. I have to say that it is, without a doubt.

The book is well written and covers every topic of interest to the server administrator. I am reminded of the Windows Resource Kit of old. At just over a thousand pages of 9-point typeface, this is one hefty tome for the administrator to lug around and it is packed with information.

Topics include:

* Windows Server 2003 Overview
* Server Management Tools
* Server Roles and Security
* Security Templates
* Physical and Logical Disks
* Cluster Services
* High-Availability Strategy
* Monitoring Network Activity
* Active Directory Infrastructure
* User, Group, Computer Accounts
* User and Group Strategies
* Forests and Domains
* Trusts and Organizational Units
* Active Directory Sites
* Domain Controllers
* Global Catalog Servers and Schema
* Group Policy
* Deploying Software via Group Policy
* Active Directory Availability
* Name Resolution Strategy
* TCP/IP Infrastructure
* Routing Strategy
* Internet Protocol Security
* Public Key Infrastructure
* Routing and Remote Access
* Web Servers and IIS 6.0
* Terminal Services

I know it is a long list, but I think you need it to get a good idea of the scope of this book - it is both wide and deep. The author, Susan Snedaker, has collaborated on this book with eight other contributors, all of whom are experts in their own right. The book's depth is a reflection of their years of combined experience. The only criticism that I have of the book is that each section is not attributed to its contributor.

I found the discussions relating to security to be particularly interesting, relevant and well presented. The author has made security a priority and weaves this topic into nearly every section. In today’s kiddy-scripting world, where Microsoft is the target of choice, security has become a prime concern of the Windows administrator and the author has taken the topic head on.

The security conscious administrator will find the chapter, Public Key Infrastructure, of great interest. In it, the author covers planning for PKI, implementing certificate authorities, enrollment planning and distribution of certificates, and even spends time detailing the use of Smart Cards in the PKI environment. According to the author, "The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is the method of choice for handling authentication issues in large enterprise-level organizations today." She then goes on to detail the tactics, strategy and implementation of making PKI an integral part of a Microsoft-centric solution.

Administrators casting a dubious eye on the standard GUI snap-ins will be glad to know that Microsoft has provided command line tools galore. The author explains these command line tools in depth. She appears to try and balance her coverage of the GUI administrative tools with the corollary command line tools and I believe that she does it very well. More pages are dedicated to explaining the use of DSADD for managing Users, Groups and Computers, for instance, than on the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in that it mimics. In the chapter, Working with User, Group and Computer Accounts, the author says, "As you can see, a considerable number of options can be set in using the DSADD command, which are not available when initially creating an account with Active Directory Users and Computers." This nod to command line users is a welcome change and should empower the administrator with finer granular control over her system, which should aide in providing a more secure operating environment.

Syngress, the publisher, has created a resource site to compliment the book. I registered my copy of the book and took a look at what was available. In addition to links, errata, author contributions, and faqs, there are four e-booklets that can be downloaded, that I think are worth mentioning:

Developing the Network Services Design
From: MCSE Exam 70-297 Study Guide

Securing Network Services and Protocols
From: MCSE Exam 70-298 Study Guide

Securing the Outlook Web Access Server
From: CYA Securing Exchange Server and Outlook Web Access

Product of Fate: The Evolution of a Hacker
From: Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent

I would advise anyone who is administering a Windows 2003 Server, be it a stand-alone server, a member server in a homogenous Microsoft environment or a server in a heterogeneous network, to pick this book up. It will serve as both a resource and a reference, and it will be a valuable addition to your library.

Book Information:
The Best Damn Windows Server 2003 Book Period
By Susan Snedaker
Publisher: Syngress Publishing, Inc.
Target Audience: Administrators, System Implementers
Recommended Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Rating:

Category Rating
Clarity9
Accuracy9
Organization9
Artistic Design7
Overall Rating8.5
Note: Rating is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best

The book is available online, through Amazon: Best Damn Windows Server 2003 Book Period: Everything You Need to Know About Managing A Windows Server 2003 Enterprise

About the author:
Will Senn is a Systems Architect, living in the Dallas area. He is also the project owner of Minix from Scratch.

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