In-Depth

The Guide to Windows 2000 Wisdom: "Dear Microsoft..."

Our readers speak — loud and clear — about how they are (or aren't) getting along with Windows 2000.

I believe Windows 2000 has some great features that a lot of NT administrators will be thankful for. However, there’s no rush to migrate in the company that I work for.

A move to anything new in my industry (air transport) is considered very carefully. One of our products is Windows NT 4.0-based and has had a lot of time to mature significantly since NT was released.Let me begin by refreshing your memory. Last year, in an April essay, I stated that what I liked best about Windows 2000 was its improved IP networking features. I spoke about true NAT, Internet Connection Sharing, VPNs and the like. My opinion of these features hasn’t changed. I still think it’s great that they’re part of the core operating system. Unfortunately, I don’t use these features on a daily basis. Our office uses a third-party firewall solution with built-in VPN capability, so Internet Connection Sharing means little to me in my day-to-day routine.

It’s also IP-based, but doesn’t have useful things like DHCP or DNS. (Smart terminals don’t need Internet access, and our networks are surprisingly static.) The company is working on a worldwide DNS strategy now, and it looks like it’ll be going with Microsoft DNS — so Win2K is a natural step. However, companies with legacy clients (like ours) are still going to need native NT support, and we wouldn’t realize the full benefits of Active Directory until all of our site servers are converted.

I think Microsoft misjudged how quickly companies would move to throw everything NT out the window and migrate to a new domain structure. We’ll probably go against general advice and migrate the workstations first, since that’s where we’ll see the most benefit in increased performance and uptime.

In a nutshell, Win2K isn’t for everyone. Professional is a very stable workstation platform, but I think Server is going to have some acceptance issues, at least in the short term.
—Eric Torbenson, MCSE
Stony Brook, New York

I don’t think the product has had universal acceptance yet, and sales of the product will always be market-driven. If companies determine that Win2K won’t benefit them in a substantial way and they’re running NT 4.0, why switch?

Also, the lack of competent people out there to support the product is still a big issue. Win2K should gain greater acceptance in the next year or so provided Microsoft doesn’t introduce another product.
—Jeff Go, MCSE, CCNA
Orlando, Florida

I’ve been using Win2K Pro and Server since the beta and am happy with the interface and functionality of the OS. AD makes my job easier by letting me control the entire environment from one MMC snap in. The integration of Terminal Services is also a big plus for me. It’s saved travel time by allowing me to fix a server over the Internet through a terminal session. Finally, the replication function of AD has kept me assured that my entire network is up to date when I make any changes without having to build a trust relationship (i.e. NT 4.0).

The only downside is the limited documentation that I’ve found on Win2K Server regarding errors in the event log. I understand that the product is new but it’s extremely hard to find the answers when you need them.
—James Brister II, MCSE, MCT, A+
LAN administrator
New Orleans, Louisiana

Microsoft really has a great product here. It’s intimidating at first, but once you dig deep into the OS you’ll begin to understand it more and more. A few things I must point out when training on Win2K or even deploying it.

Because this is such a big OS, there’s a tendency to immerse yourself. Take time to dig yourself out, take a step back and look at the big picture. Ask yourself what are my primary goals? (What do I want to accomplish?) Am I still heading in that direction? Or have I veered off course? Do some reflection and look at the notes you took when you talked to those in charge.

Listen to the higher-ups and even the employees when you do your research of what Win2K can do for your company. In the real world, and even on the tests, there are people making small comments to you about the current environment — what works, what doesn’t. So be aware of these comments when documenting your strategy.

Ask for that organizational chart. You may get some grumbling from those in charge, but you have a valid reason to ask for it…Win2K. Trust me when I say this: You’ll be talking to those in charge. Not just the CIO, but also the CEO, CFO, managers, employees, HR, and maybe even the board of directors. So bring your spices with you because you’ll be grilled, especially on costs, ROI, asset allocation, and re-organization.

Last, try to learn about the business you’re working for, or even the industry. Learning is life-long. Having your certifications won’t make you a success overnight. You must continue to learn and grow. Over time you’ll become more of an asset to your company, and your opinions and suggestions will count with those who never considered your side to begin with.
—Courtenay Bernier, MCP
TEKsystems Inc.
Seattle, Washington

I’m the IT department head/network administrator for a metal stamping company in Waterbury, Connecticut. I’ve been working with Win2K Professional in our live environment since March 2000, and we’ll be upgrading our servers in the first quarter of 2001. That will be a good story in six months, but — for now — I’d like to share some thoughts on Win2K Professional.

I’ve had a couple of strange blue screens and mysterious reboots with no explanations, but none since Service Pack 1. I’m pleased overall with the stability and features, with one glaring exception — the VPN. My VPN users are mostly salespeople (i.e. computer illiterate) so I have some compelling reasons to make VPN access as easy as possible. I’ve shared my concerns with a number of people at Microsoft with not much help.

Here’s a description of my Win2K Professional VPN issue:

Goal: Let remote users connect to the network via VPN in the quickest/easiest way possible and run their NT 4.0 server script files (until we upgrade the servers) to map their network drive connections. (Win2K Professional “remembers” network connections, but what if they change?)

Problem: If one connects to the network via a VPN after logging onto a notebook computer, the NT 4.0 script file won’t run. If one connects to the network via a VPN using the initial logon screen (what I’d prefer), there are other difficulties. One of the things that kept throwing me off in setting up a VPN — which I would like to say is a major case of shortsightedness on Microsoft’s part — is that the logon names and passwords won’t stay unique to each “Network and Dial-Up” connection. In other words, no matter what the settings are for saving the logon name and password, it all needs to be retyped for each connection (VPN and ISP). Even if I configure the system to remember one and not the other, the previous name and password show up, so it must be overwritten. (This is the behavior only if using the initial logon screen and a dial-up connection. When logging onto the ISP, the VPN logon information is displayed — and vice versa — every time you go through the procedure.)

Since it’s a major pain to type in all of this logon information, I’m now faced with the question of what’ll be easier for my users. I’m leaning toward doing everything manually — connecting via VPN after the initial system log on and running a manual script batch file if necessary, so the user needs to remember only one password. (Making the ISP and Network logon information the same isn’t an option. First, I think it would be imprudent security; second, the logon name from an ISP isn’t always configurable; and, third, our network passwords are changed every 90 days, so we’d have to implement a procedure to change the ISP password at the same time. Big pain.) Maybe I’m still overlooking something that will make this all far easier on the users. I certainly hope so.
—David C. Poppel, MCSE, MCP+Internet, Network+, A+
IT department head
Waterbury, Connecticut

I’m running Win2K Professional and have an Athlon 600, with Gigabyte 7IXE motherboard and 128MB SDRAM. I’ve been using Win2K for 11 months, and I love it! It’s simply amazing and stable! Microsoft has done its best!
—Mansoor Mughal, A+
Network administrator
Karachi, Pakistan

When I tried upgrading my Toshiba Tecra 8000 laptop from Windows NT Workstation 4.0 to Win2K Professional, during setup it gave a message saying, “Internal modem and LAN card won’t be supported,” so I dropped the whole idea of upgrading. I’m quite happy with my present NT 4.0 workstation. It’s remarkably stable and fast.
—Vivek Mathur, MCP+I, MCSE
Systems Manager
Lucknow, India

I’ve been working with Win2K for a year and have used Professional, Server and Advanced Server. To put it simply: This is the best thing to happen to the IT industry, and Win2K is the best product Microsoft has ever produced.
It’s simply great and user-friendly — easy to configure, set up, tune, troubleshoot and so on. I’ve used many different types of applications, including some legacy software and graphic-intensive applications, and they all work excellently.
The new features, like routing and remote access, Recovery Console, Group Policy (particularly for software maintenance), IXFR, DDNS, DHCP authorization, Dynamic Disks, MMC, ICS and APIPA, are great.
Fault tolerance is another aspect I really appreciate — let it be with multiple DCs or with AD-integrated DNS zones, which increases the availability and the performance.
After using Win2K, NT 4.0 really looks legacy. I mean it — particularly when I have to reboot the NT server after a small change in the Network Properties.
Features like automatic undo of important files like .SYS are really cool and totally dummy-proof. (But don’t make the mistake of deleting hal.dll, in which case, you have to use Recovery Console and copy the required files to get your system back.)
Some hardware had minor glitches, but that’s because they didn’t have the right drivers or other required files.
—Dakshina Murthy Anjanappa, MCSE, A+
Tech Support Engineer
Australia

I completed my master’s degree in computer science this year and am preparing for the MCSE exams. I’ve worked on Win2K Professional and Advanced Server.
On the plus side, Win2K:

  • Is the most stable OS.
  • Negligible system crashes.
  • Provides great security (AD).
  • Has excellent memory management.
  • Offers a user-friendly GUI.
  • Provides easy user and network management.
  • Includes a remote installation feature

On the negative side, it’s a resource-hungry OS.
Win2K is the most stable operating system today and will stay in the market more than four to five years. Most likely, ISPs will also switch over to this because of its stability, security and performance.
—Ali Raza Aejaz
Pakistan

I’m a building designer, and Win2K has worked well for me. My Chief Architect CAD program crashed more than once a day on Windows 98, costing minutes or hours each time. It doesn’t crash on Win2K. I’ve lost my HP CD burner and my scanner. I miss the CD burner, and HP says it should work, but I don’t have the time to fool with it. I’m a happy camper with Win2K.
—Norm Driscoll
Building designer
Dallas, Texas

While I’ve used Win2K Professional for only six months, I think that’s long enough to make some conclusions. First, the stability of Win2K is unmatched in the Microsoft OS family. Previously, I ran Win98 (for Direct X game performance) and was forced to reboot at least three times a day. Win2K Professional runs for six to seven days at a time without a hitch, even after running a grueling regimen of programs.
In particular, the task manager built on the NT kernel is much better than the 9x version, which sometimes didn’t work and gave no hints as to processor usage or resource allocation. Should a problem arise, I can confidently shut the application down without fearing the anomalous behavior that plagues 9x systems.
Direct X performance in Win2K is far behind that of the 9x OS. Games run at crippled rates in Win2K on more advanced hardware than in Windows 98. Also, Win2K isn’t compatible with all games. I still enjoy an occasional video game, and the entire suite of games by EA Sports is incompatible or horribly crippled with Win2K.
User log in, Kerberos security and IP/UDP filtering makes Win2K truly a great system when utmost security is required — such as a private LAN carrying highly sensitive information.
Win98 required the user to restart the computer whenever the slightest system change occurred; Win2K can change IP addresses, install applications, and never ask to restart.
In conclusion, I love Win2K. This is the first Microsoft OS I’ve been proud to use. I can greatly increase my work efficiency, as my computer doesn’t randomly lock up or reboot during the day.
—Randolph Addison, MCP
Johns Hopkins University

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