Quick ROI Hits for Your Windows Infrastructure

Any new Microsoft operating system offers a few flashy improvements where a quick upgrade of a server here and a server there for a valuable feature guarantees an immediate benefit. Windows Server 2003 is no exception.

Here are five key areas where organizations can upgrade to a Windows Server 2003 and expect to see immediate administrative savings, user productivity improvements or newly freed server resources that can be reassigned to other tasks. Another minor benefit of doing any of these targeted upgrades is that it gives your IT staff some familiarity with the production operations of Windows Server 2003 in advance of any widespread deployment.

Shadow Copy Restore [administrative savings, user productivity]

Demonstrate or explain this feature to any user, including your boss, and watch his or her eyes light up. Basically the server automatically makes invisible point-in-time copies of files in folders for which this feature is enabled. If a user accidentally saves over important information in a document, that user can go back without administrative help and restore an earlier version of the document. No panicked help desk call required. And if the help desk calls do come, your users will find their problem quickly fixed and be really, really impressed with their IT department.

Consolidating File Servers [administrative savings, free server resources]

While you're looking at file servers for Shadow Copy Restore, consider consolidating some of your file servers to reduce your management requirements and to free up some servers for other tasks.

Microsoft claims to have improved file server performance by 100 percent over Windows 2000, which was no slouch in performance in the first place. But Microsoft has gone further with better support for Storage Area Networks through Multipath I/O and the Volume Shadow Copy service.

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Multipath I/O is not exactly a feature of the operating system. It's actually a DDK for storage vendors. But when it's enabled, the high availability function allows for up to 32 paths from the host to the storage device, complete with load balancing. The Volume Shadow Copy service, which is the foundation for Shadow Copy Restore, improves backup windows by allowing off-host, online backups at the SAN.

Consolidating Print Servers [administrative savings, free server resources]

Printer servers are another area where Microsoft says it's achieved a 100 percent performance improvement over Windows 2000. There are manageability enhancements in print servers, along with support for five times more print queues per server.

Windows SharePoint Services [user productivity]

The last two items in this list fall under the "out-of-band" feature set of Windows Server 2003. With Windows Server 2003, Microsoft made the decision to finalize a large number of features after the operating system was released to manufacturing. The features that are being delivered slightly later via downloads are referred to as "out-of-band" releases.

One of those is called Windows SharePoint Services. It's the follow on the Windows SharePoint Team Services of the Windows 2000 family of products. This time it will be available as a component of the server operating system alone, as opposed to being delivered through Office and server extensions.

What Windows SharePoint Services enables is for end users to set up their own workgroup or project Web sites, complete with document storage, document check-in and check-out, document versioning and presence information. Administrators can preset storage limits for team workspaces to minimize the risk that teams will take up all the storage on a system and to minimize the administrators' involvement in the workspaces. This technology is in the Beta 2 phase, which means the final release should come fairly quickly.

Group Policy Management Console [administrative savings]

This is another out-of-band release, and unlike all the other changes in this list, the Group Policy Management Console is available for use with Windows 2000 as well as Windows Server 2003.

One of the most powerful, and dangerous, features of Windows 2000 was Group Policy, and GPMC make the technology both easier to manage and safer to use. Features like Resultant Set of Policy make it possible to check for any negative or catastrophic effects of a Group Policy change before the change is deployed in an environment.

This feature is a quick win on ROI for organizations that are using Group Policies now without a third-party tool like FAZAM 2000. For organizations that haven't yet thought out deployment of Group Policies, the planning required makes use of the GPMC a longer-term ROI win.

For more long-term ways that Windows Server 2003 can be used for saving money, see the related story "Long-range ROI with Windows Server 2003 Migrations."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.