The Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit
Technical books are expensive. Anyone who works in IT and buys books for their discipline is used to paying $50, $60, or even $70 on a regular basis. In extreme cases, books for $100 may offer features and information that are absolutely essential, but for $299 you expect a fairly hefty return on your investment. That's the list price for Microsoft's Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit--but does it deliver a $300 value? In this article, I'll give you my opinion.
|No substitute for training|
Be aware. The Resource Kit is a reference. With a few exceptions, it assumes that you already understand a certain amount about the Windows platform and related technologies, and about general computer networking. It can make a valuable reference for someone learning about Windows 2000, but it's not a replacement for training materials.
The Resource Kit is comprised of seven separate books, totaling a mind-boggling 7,296 pages. Each book covers a different area of Windows 2000-related technologies. Some are divided by function, others by technology. Here is a list of the titles along with some of the key topics covered:
- Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Distributed Systems Guide--This weighty tome provides almost 1,500 pages of in-depth technical information on Windows 2000 multiserver networks. Topics covered include Active Directory design, implementation, troubleshooting, and recovery. Security gets a healthy level of coverage, as does group policy and software installation and maintenance. The section on network load balancing provides only basic information on clustering concepts and technologies, and seems disproportionate to the following section on interpreting the cluster log.
- TCP/IP Core Networking Guide--With TCP/IP playing such an important role in the Windows 2000 network, it is no surprise that Microsoft chose to include a volume dedicated to the subject. As well as going into the fundamentals of TCP/IP generally, special attention is paid to the TCP/IP-related services, such as WINS, DNS, and DHCP, that provide vital services in a Windows 2000 network. The troubleshooting section is adequate, but could be more detailed in terms of both topic and content.
- Internetworking Guide--For those managing large and complex networks, this book is essential reading. Coverage includes detailed discussions on topics such as RAS and dial-in services, as well as cross-platform connectivity for Unix, Macintosh, NetWare, and IBM host services. It visits issues such as remote authentication and provides detailed explanations of the technologies involved. The chapter on ATM is particularly good, providing an excellent overview of the technology generally, as well as discussing its role in a Windows 2000 network. The inclusion of network packet structures and traces may be of limited use, but they do serve to reinforce text- based examples.
- Server Operations Guide--This book is designed to address the issues that a Windows 2000 Server administrator may face on a daily basis. Disk and storage concepts are covered, along with an excellent disk troubleshooting section. The chapter on printing is a little basic, but contains enough information to configure printing services for clients on other networking platforms including Mac, Unix, and NetWare. A detailed discussion of processor, memory and processor performance monitoring is included, with recommendations on which configuration changes to make under what conditions. The repair, recovery, and restore chapter is particularly good, focusing on the steps needed to correct potentially complex situations. There is also an excellent chapter on Windows 2000 stop messages.
- Internet Information Services 5.0 Resource Guide-- Windows 2000 brings IIS 5.0, and the IIS 5.0 Resource Guide provides an excellent source of information for anyone considering implementing this, sure to be popular, Web platform. The section on migrating to IIS 5.0 is detailed indeed, covering literally all of the bases, as does the section on capacity planning. Coverage of IIS related-network and memory parameters is excellent, and includes detailed tuning and optimization information. The inclusion of a case study on the Microsoft.com Website structure is of questionable relevance, but makes interesting reading nonetheless.
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 Resource Guide--While at first it may seem like an odd choice, the inclusion of the Internet Explorer Resource Guide is actually a smart move by Microsoft. The browser has become one of the most important productivity tools available to PC users, and it has long since transcended the role of simply displaying Web pages. This guide provides an in-depth look at the configuration and deployment of customized Internet Explorer software in a corporate environment--a task which many a network administrator will find themselves up against.
- Server Deployment Planning Guide--For those considering a Windows 2000 implementation, the Server Deployment Planning Guide provides page upon page of planning, design, deployment, and configuration information. Much of the material is approached in an almost tutorial manner, with explanations provided for new concepts and technologies. Detailed instructions on setting up a test environment are included, along with detailed coverage of subjects such as terminal services deployment and security implementations. One of the greatest achievements of this book is that the authors manage to remember that the deployment of a new operating system is more a process of supporting business needs than implementing technology for technology's sake. A complete set of sample planning worksheets is included in the appendix.
In addition to the books, the Resource Kit includes a CD with more than 200 Windows 2000-related tools and utilities. Some of the utilities are a little esoteric in nature, but many are of use to anyone who works with Windows 2000 networks. As usual with Microsoft resource kits, there is the normal collection of utilities that youthink you'll never need--until you need them. A complete list of the utilities can be found at the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit page. The CD also includes electronic versions of the Resource Kit books, which makes it easy to search on specific topics. It is worth mentioning that with the Windows 2000 Resource Kit, as with Microsoft's other resource kits, the utilities provided on the CD are provided with "best effort" technical support. In the event of a problem, Microsoft Technical Support will do their best to help, but there are no guarantees.
|An independent version|
If you prefer a resource kit from an independent viewpoint, consider Mark Minasi's Windows 2000 Resource Kit, published by Sybex Inc. ISBN 0782126146. It's actually a collection of Windows 2000-related books from Sybex's Mastering series by the same author. It does come with a CD, but does not include any utilities.
Is it worth the money?
The Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit offers a great deal of information in an easy-to-read, highly understandable format. The utilities on the CD, if used in a business environment, will most likely pay for the resource kit many times over. Even if you pay the list price, the resource kit still represents a great value for the money. Microsoft's resource kits have always been a valuable resource for those working in depth with a product, and the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit is no exception. Due in part to its vast size, but more particularly to its range of content, it could even be said that it is a step up from previous resource kits.
For more information on the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit, visit Microsoft's Windows 2000 Resource Kits Home Page. //
Drew Bird (MCT, MCNI) is a freelance instructor and technical writer. He has been working in the IT industry for 12 years and currently lives in Kelowna, Canada. You can e-mail Drew at firstname.lastname@example.org.