NT Domains to Active Directory - Time to Upgrade?

Microsoft has launched an initiative to 'encourage' the many companies that still have Windows NT 4 servers running to upgrade to one of its newer server releases, but the challenge of migrating from NT Domains to Active Directory remains one of the critical inhibitors to upgrading, especially for smaller and mid-sized companies. Beth Cohen and Hallett German delve into the murky details of converting to Active Directory with the goal of helping you pull off a NT/Windows Server 2003 migration project with aplomb.

 By Hallett German
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While Microsoft might wish otherwise, many companies have a few Windows NT 4 servers still kicking around functioning quite happily as web servers, application servers, or NT domain controllers. Systems administrators have long put up with NT's slow performance, older technology, and constant server reboots because of squeezed budgets or fears that an upgrade to Windows 2000 servers could be too disruptive -- particularly in the case of migrating from NT Domains to Active Directory.

Two recent announcements by Microsoft may finally force companies to retire those functional but obsolete systems. First, in January 2003, Microsoft announced a phased plan to retire Windows NT for good. After July 2003, NT will no longer be available for purchase through any channel, and by January 2005, Microsoft will have completely withdrawn official support for NT.

Fortunately, Microsoft is not leaving NT customers completely stranded. In its latest attempt to unseat the vast hordes of legacy systems, Microsoft started shipping Windows Server 2003 this past April. To lure reluctant upgraders to finally switch systems, Windows 2003 includes easier NT migration tools. It also has some tempting new network features for the nervous foot draggers, including easier network configuration, enhanced support for wireless LANs, improved network and remote access support, and most significantly, major enhancements to Active Directory. In other words, it's time to give serious consideration to cutting the NT cord.

Given that some type of Windows server upgrade is likely to be in your near-term future, let's delve into the murky details of converting to Active Directory. We will start with a brief history, then review the Windows Server 2003 improvements, and finally present an overview of some important reasons to convert. This will help you plan your upgrade path, and will hopefully offer a boost of confidence that allows you to pull off a NT/Windows Server 2003 migration project with aplomb!

Page 2: The Birth of Active Directory

This article was originally published on Jun 23, 2003
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