Practically Painless NT to Windows Server 2003 Migration: Implementation and Beyond

Windows NT to 2003 migrations are serious business, but they are not impossible. Beth Cohen and Hallett German continue a new series of articles designed to help you plan and administer a successful, and practically pain-free, NT/2003 migration.

By Hallett German | Posted Sep 10, 2003
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As has been widely published in the technology press, Microsoft has announced it will terminate support for Windows NT by 2005, forcing all the small and mid-sized businesses currently running Windows NT to upgrade and convert or risk business disruption from running obsolete systems. Unlike with previous Microsoft conversions, though, moving to Windows 2003 and its greatly enhanced features and toolset can be both relatively painless and beneficial to your business. And fortunately, there are many tools and techniques to help with this momentous task.

As an example, the NT to Windows 2003 migration for the mid-sized law firm of Kalowe, Gaffin, and Zeigler has been proceeding smoothly. Several NT domains and legacy systems have already been retired or consolidated, and the users have so far been only minimally affected. Because Jennie York’s small but valiant two-person IT team made most of the needed planning decisions in advance, the team is now ready and adequately prepared for the design and the implementation phases. The team has already planned the next steps, so Jennie is confident that they will be as uneventful as the previous ones.

Like Jennie, you can also accomplish a painless Windows NT to 2003 conversion if you follow some simple suggestions. In our previous article, we discussed pre-installation tips, decision points, and staff/organizational concerns. For this discussion, it will help if you have a good understanding of Active Directory components. If this is not the case, please review our previous two articles that go into the details of Active Directory.

We will first dig into guidelines for designing your Active Directory tree and then follow with an exploration of some implementation tools from Microsoft and third-party companies that can greatly simplify the conversion process. Finally, we will review some post-implementation implications that need to be considered.

Design Guidelines

More Active Directory implementations go wrong at the initial design stage than at any other stage. Because AD is still not very forgiving about mistakes made at the very earliest architecture phases, it's vitally important to have a full understanding of what you are trying to accomplish with your design. If you keep the following items in mind when creating your Active Directory design, you will be able to avoid the common pitfalls.

  • Start with a simple design – One forest containing one domain. Set up a clear and objective set of criteria to justify adding additional forest and domains.

  • Develop a design that can handle unexpected organization/site changes or growth spurts. An inflexible design means potential downtime when reactively adjusting the forest/domain to changing circumstances.

  • When creating your OUs (Organizational Units) design, keep in mind the group members and the required security policies.

  • Site design is important but can always be easily changed since it is a logical grouping of network components. Focus your critical design decisions on the components that are more difficult to change retroactively.

Page 2: Implementation Tools

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