Practically Painless NT to Windows Server 2003 Migration: Preparation and Planning

For Windows NT-based network admins, the decision to migrate your NT servers to Windows Server 2003 is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. To this end, Beth Cohen and Hallett German kick off a new series of articles designed to help you plan and administer a successful, and practically pain-free, NT/2003 migration.

 By Hallett German
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Over the years, Lillian Rose’s small New England company’s corporate IT environment has grown haphazardly, continually adding servers and system patches in an ultimately futile attempt to meet Moment Of Glory Insurance’s ever-growing corporate needs. The company has finally outgrown its aging Windows NT infrastructure. Lillian, the IT systems manager is thrilled; after months of pleading, company management has finally given the OK to upgrade the servers to Windows 2003/Active Directory.

Now that the initial exhilaration is past, though, it's time to figure out what this migration will really entail. Fortunately, help is available that can make a Windows Server 2003 Active Directory migration as painless as possible.

With Microsoft phasing out NT support by 2005, many NT administrators are beginning to plan their migration to Windows 2000 or 2003 to beat the inevitable degradation of support. For a larger company with a complex infrastructure, Gartner suggests this process can take as long as 12-18 months to complete. For smaller companies, with fewer servers, legacy systems, and users, the deployment is likely to need only 3-9 months.

Such a large-scale project is a tall order for any company, and one that can put stress on fragile systems and scarce IT resources. So let's get started with an exploration of Microsoft utilities, best practices, tools, and tips for minimizing the mountainous task of migration.

Because the topic is so large, we will remain focused only on the Windows NT to Windows 2000/2003 migration. Considerations of migrating from UNIX or Windows 2000 to 2003 and third-party migration utilities are outside the scope of this article (but if you'd be interested in seeing such articles, let us know).

Pre-Installation Planning

You have heard it so many times before — the best way to ensure any project’s success is planning, planning, and more planning. An NT migration venture is no exception. Before the first install even begins, many decisions need to be resolved and many tasks completed.

Your first tasks are determining and documenting your existing environment and evaluating your environment’s readiness for migration. With that information as a baseline, you can then determine and resolve key decision points early.

Evaluate Your Environment

It's well worth the time and effort to document your environment in the early planning stage. There is nothing worse than finding out about nasty and expensive surprises about your environment halfway through deployment. And even if a thorough evaluation has been conducted in the past, it's not likely to be current. Your documentation should include at least the following:

  • Network diagrams
  • NT domains (number of accounts, usage profiles, domain controllers, etc.)
  • A hardware and software asset inventory (see below for more details)
  • Internet connections
  • Security measures and policies
  • Applications that currently use the NT directory and how they interface with NT (any attributes imported/exported, etc.)
  • Applications that will use Active Directory
  • Other directories that will synchronize with Active Directory
  • File and print services

Page 2: Simplify Your Environment

This article was originally published on Sep 3, 2003
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