Win2k3 R2: Two Simple Features with High ROI
Released just over a year ago, Windows Server 2003 R2 has some great new features that are guaranteed to save you a headache or two. The upgrade from Windows Server 2003 w/SP1 to R2 is as simple as inserting the 2nd R2 installation disk and clicking "Next" a few times (the 1st disk is actually just Win2k3 SP1). So…if you're using your R2 media for a coaster while you wait for "Longhorn" server to arrive, put your coffee cup on the latest AOL CD and get moving.
There are two new features in R2 that have a particularly high ROI for the time it takes to set up: File Server Resource Manager and Print Management Component
The File Server Resource Manager (FSRM) will be a lifesaver if you have multiple departments or other entities within your organization fighting for disk space on a single volume. The problem with this type of situation is that if one of your departments is a disk hog, you have no choice but to increase the size of the volume when it gets full. It's not fair, or advantageous to your career, to make the other departments suffer while trying to teach one department that they shouldn't archive their DVD collection to the network share. The FSRM will allow you to set quotas on a per folder basis. Previous to R2, the only quotas available to a Windows admin were per volume or per user.
If you didn't add the FSRM when installing R2, go to Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs -> Add/Remove Windows Components -> Management and Monitoring Tools -> Details… -> File Server Resource Manager. Click the check box, OK, and Next. To access the new FSRM console go to Start -> Administrative Tools -> File Server Resource Manager. From here you can set folder level quotas, file screens and run or schedule an assortment of storage reports.
To create quotas or file screens, the first thing you will need to do is pick one of the existing templates or create a new one of your own. For quota templates you can pick the disk usage limit, and for file screens you can pick the file extensions that you want to block. Both templates also allow you to add notifications when a quota limit is reached or a file has been blocked. The notifications can send an e-mail to the end user and/or administrator, add an event to the event log, trigger a script, or run one of the prepackaged storage reports.
Once you have the quota and/or file screen template(s) they can be added to one or more directories. The templates can be set to apply only to the directory it was attached to, or to any existing and new subdirectories. Later when you want to update the template you will be given the choice to apply it to derived quotas that match the original template, all derived quotas, or none of the derived quotas.
The new Print Management console is a great new tool that is certain to get a lot of use. It will allow you to view all the print queues from all your print servers in one place. It provides one-stop shopping for all of the drivers installed on the printer server; deleting or adding new drivers to the server is a cinch. No longer will you have to manage ports on your print server through the cramped interface of a Properties dialog box from an existing printer. It even has a place to create custom filters so you can view, for example, all the print queues that are not in a "Ready" state.
If you are running Vista on your desktop now then you will be able run the Print Management console on your desktop, or add it as a snap-in to an existing MMC console. Those still running XP will have to run the Print Management console directly from an R2 server.
On a side note, MMC 3.0 (standard with R2 and Vista) adds a few handy features such as the ability to re-order snap-ins that were added to a custom MMC console. R2 uses the MMC 2.0 view by default, but you can use the following procedure to view the new interface:
- Start the registry editor (regedit.exe)
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftMMC
- From the Edit menu, select New -> Key
- Enter a name of "UseNewUI" and press Enter
Along with the Print Management console comes the ability to manage network printers on the desktop with group policy! This is a giant leap forward for anyone out there with limited resources and a plethora of desktops.
For a detailed description of how to deploy printers with group policy see the "Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Printers with Group Policy" link under "Additional Resources" below. There is one gotcha before you begin. You will need to update your Active Directory schema before using group policy to deploy print queues. The update is fairly easy and requires that your run "adprep /forestprep" from the "CMPNENTSR2ADPREP" folder on the R2 disk. You will, of course, need to run this as a Schema Admin on the domain controller that hosts the Schema Master FSMO role.
With "Longhorn" server due out sometime in 2007, R2 may seem like old news, but if you're not running R2 now it's definitely worth the minimal effort required to upgrade. And if you're still not convinced, keep in mind that there's going to be a lot of new code in "Longhorn" server. It may be a good idea to wait for a service pack (or two).
A complete list of updated features included with R2:
- Administration Tools Packs
- Hardware Management
- MMC 3.0
- Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM)
- Active Directory Federation Services
- Branch Office
- Distributed File System (DFS)
- Common Log File System (CLFS)
- File Server Management
- File Server Resource Manager
- Microsoft Services for Network File System
- Storage Management for SANs
- Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0
- Windows Sharepoint Services
- Identity Management for UNIX
- Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications