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Windows 2000 Server: Domain or Workgroup, pros and cons?
hd1840 Jan-16-02 04:10 PM
Larry,

I saw your very reasoned and well thought out advice on a recent reply about dedicated vs nondedicated file servers in an office environment. I wonder if I can try your patience and ask your advice about my situation.

Background: I'm a professional who telecommutes from home at times and am also married to a surgeon who also has robust IT needs. I have a 100 Mbs LAN at home which uses a 1.5 Mbs aDSL connection to access the internet. I have a standard gateway router with an uplink to a hub and from there to the individual ports. I also have a networked HP printer with network card. I have 3 pcs on the network, all running a version of Windows 2000. Two are desktops that I built using AMD processors, one is an old Pentium II 333 IBM laptop.

My questions center around what is the best implementation for file and print sharing on the network. I have tried a peer to peer network and also a client-server network. Currently I'm using a client-server network with Windows 2000 Server installed on one of the AMD desktops. I'm also using it as a workstation. Both have things that I like, but there are some things that are a real pain. I really enjoy the power that windows 2000 server gives with advanced disk management, print server, file server etc. I also have an active directory configured. I have no end of problems setting up the DNS server because even though I do have a registered domain with network solutions, I don't host it on any of my machines. There are a lot of issues with active directory.

Other things to consider:

Security is not my primary concern
The ability to log on to any machine is important
The ability to share files and the network printer is important
Shared internet connection is important(currently using the server included in the router to dish IPs to the network with the corresponding DHCP service turned off in Windows 2000 server)

Question 1: What is the best solution for what I need? I really don't like the hassles of Active Directory, but do enjoy the other features of W2K
server. I've been thinking that perhaps the best bet would be to use W2K server with a workgroup rather than a domain (which I'm using now). In the peer to peer that I had, it seemed like every time you wanted to use a file on another machine, you had to remember the password you used on that
machine, and it became very confusing. If I just reinstall W2K server with a workgroup, and don't use AD, will that give me the best of both worlds?

Question 2: As you know, using a server also as a workgroup can be fraught with peril. Is it reasonable to load W2K server on the laptop and just let it sit in a corner and act as the server for this network? I'll miss it, but would gladly make the tradeoff if it meant a stable environment. Now it seems that I lose my network printers requiring a reboot, and the like. Or,if I go the W2K server route using a workgroup, can I get away with the non-dedicated server? As you can tell, I'm loathe to take a step back to the peer to peer environment if I can avoid it.

Question 3: Is there a way to use AD (and thereby have a domain) when you don't host the domain on the network? For instance, my domain is located on a host in another state, but for lack of anything better, I used the same domain name in the home environment when setting up W2K Server. When I look at the error log, there is no end to the AD messages, especially that QoS (I think that is right) is not properly configured. Considering that I have two DNS servers for my domain (although not on my network) is it possible to use them and keep AD content? All attempts so far have met with negative success. I have Minsai's book (both for server and pro) and use it for most of my reference needs.

I've been chasing myself around in circles, and admit that I really like to push the envelope. Considering that this a very small Lan, and I have some expertise, I want to use the most robust solution I can without pulling my hair out with reboots and other problems. If there are some things that will allow me to use a full blown domain and W2K Server, that would be preferred. What can you recommend? Looking for advice on the best way to proceed. Thanks!


1. RE: Windows 2000 Server: Domain or Workgroup, pros and cons?
lbyard Jan-16-02 05:17 PM
In response to message 0
>I've been thinking that perhaps the best bet would be to use W2K server with a workgroup rather than a domain (which I'm using now). In the peer to peer that I had, it seemed like every time you wanted to use a file on another machine, you had to remember the password you used on that
machine, and it became very confusing. If I just reinstall W2K server with a workgroup, and don't use AD, will that give me the best of both worlds?

Coincidently, I have a network similar to yours (three home offices; 5 computers) and I just retired my NT server because I do not need a domain controller, DNS, or WINS. A Windows 2K Pro computer replaced it for shared data. Another reason is I cannot see purchasing Windows XP Pro vs. XP Home just for the ability to connect to a domain. If you don’t need the security and all the bells and whistles in 2000 Server, why run it (or NT server or Novell…). A router works great for this sort of network, especially if it also has a print server. A simpler solution than DNS for a local web server is to use hosts tables. Search C: with *.sam for a sample and instructions.

> Is it reasonable to load W2K server on the laptop and just let it sit in a corner and act as the server for this network? Or,if I go the W2K server route using a workgroup, can I get away with the non-dedicated server?

I have a dedicated server mainly for the accounting database. Don’t confuse a computer dedicated to sharing data, etc. and not also acting as a workstation with a domain controller and all of those other bells and whistles. You do not need a powerful computer for a server. I use old, pass-me-downs for that function. My present server has a 300 Mhz K6-2 processor, 32 Mbytes of memory, and a 6.4 Gbyte drive. I plan to upgrade the memory to 64 Mbytes. I’d like a bigger drive for backups, but the current one is fine for shared data (which is backed-up regularly to one of the other PCs). I am planning to load Linux on the computer I was running NT server on and try it out as a server. That computer has a 166 MHz processor. Which is fast compared to my first server. It had a 12 MHz 286 processor, 1 MByte of memory (perhaps it got up to 2-4 Mbytes before we replaced it with a 386 and two mirrored 240 MByte drives), a 40 MByte drive and was networked to 8-10 computers.

I’d get rid of the local domain and certainly would not use a local domain that was the same as one I had running on a hosting service. I called my local domain DUXHQ for exactly that reason—so as not to have a problem with duxcw.com, which also hosted remotely. Larry


2. RE: Windows 2000 Server: Domain or Workgroup, pros and cons?
hd1840 Jan-16-02 05:32 PM
In response to message 1
Larry,

Thanks for the advice on the hardware issue. It sounds like my laptop will work as the server in whatever configuration I use.

A further question and clarification. It sounds like you recommend against the hassles of having a domain controller and full blown AD in a setup like I have.

However, I am unclear on the merits of using W2K Server in a client-peer network using a WORKGROUP as opposed to just reverting back to peer-peer and using a regular W2K Pro machine to handle the same function. Can you tell me the pros and cons of these two options now that the field has been narrowed down a bit? Won't all the hassles of DNS, WINS and the like go away when running a workgroup? If there is a reference that addresses this issue in print I'd be grateful to know what it is so I can read up on it. Thanks in advance.


3. RE: Windows 2000 Server: Domain or Workgroup, pros and cons?
lbyard Jan-17-02 04:26 PM
In response to message 2
>I am unclear on the merits of using W2K Server in a client-peer network using a WORKGROUP as opposed to just reverting back to peer-peer and using a regular W2K Pro machine to handle the same function.

I think you answered your own question... I am using Win 2K Pro and it works just fine. If I wanted all of the server bells and whistles (and expense), I would take the time to install NT Server on the 300 MHz computer. I was running a domain controller as a holdover from the days when I had a 9-person, million a year storefront shop/business (see About Dux). Now I have is 750 sq foot shop/office attached to my home, my Wife and her office, and my son and his office, and I do not need nor want to bother with the security and complexity of a domain controller. I think one of the worst mistakes Novell ever made was to implement Directory Services and make their server software more complex and harder to use than small businesses and home offices need. Perhaps Microsoft is repeating that mistake. Why make a small server more complex than it needs it to be. A server should sit in a corner gathering cob webs and serving without complaint or attention day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out, 24 hours-a-day, and one shouldn’t have to log into one when at home, unless desired. Simple is better. Larry


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