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Q&A With Gary Olsen: Active Directory

Gary Olsen, a solution architect for Hewlett-Packard's Technology Services organization, a Redmond magazine contributor and a Microsoft MVP,  takes some time to answer some of my questions on the status and future of Active Directory.

And for those attending this year's TechMentor conference, don't forget to catch Gary's speaking engagements.  

Q: How do I know if my Active Directory infrastructure is healthy?
A: Sometimes you don't. Active Directory is often self-healing in that it will still "work," but not efficiently. If you aren't watching, it will lull you to sleep until something really bad happens.

Q: Do I have to spend an arm and a leg?
A: No -- that's the point of my session ["Active Directory Health Assessment and Troubleshooting -- Five Answers You'd Otherwise Pay For"]. All these tips use native tools, but you have to know which ones to use and how to interpret the data. That's not hard, as you'll see in my session.

Q: What kind of tools does Microsoft have?
A: Very basic ones that have been around since Windows 2000, just waiting for someone to wake them up! In my session we'll explore Repadmin, event logs, ipconfig and dcdiag -- and MPSReports, which is a free download.

Q: Do I just use these tools once, and then I'm all set?
A: That would be nice, wouldn't it? Because they're free they don't have fancy monitoring capabilities, so you have to do more manual intervention. However, periodic checks are easy when using a tool like MPSReports, which runs a plethora of these tools and can be scheduled to run if you like.

Q: What happens if I don't give Active Directory a checkup?
A: Possibly nothing. But just like anything else, you run the risk of something breaking and causing an outage. I saw one case where the admin reported a domain controller was not replicating. Looking in the logs, it hadn't replicated in more than three years. So while you could say it wasn't broken, it wasn't efficient, either -- and if you let enough of these slide, it can lead to a disaster.

Q: Do you expect Microsoft to update these tools as new OSes arrive?
A: Microsoft updated these tools regularly until Windows Server 2003. Many of the old standbys are obtained from the Windows Server 2003 resource kit, and some were added to the Windows Server 2008 OS as native tools, but most have not been updated. The basic ones I'm going to demonstrate are available and still work well in Windows Server 2008. We'll see about Windows Server 2012.

Want to learn more? Gary will be speaking at our Techmentor 2012 conference, being held at Microsoft HQ in August.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/10/2012 at 1:19 PM


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