Windows 2003 Server

Yes, that is the final name for this much-anticipated upgrade to Windows 2000 Server. First released in beta test form way back in December 2000, Windows 2003 Server has gone by many other names, including Windows 2002 Server and Windows .NET Server. Though the latter name resurrected many old Windows NT jokes (Windows .NOT, Not There yet) early indications are that Microsoft has greatly improved its server platform.

Although Microsoft again increased the minimum hardware requirements to run Windows Server 2003, reports are that it runs a bit faster than Windows 2000 on the same hardware. In contrast to previous versions Windows 2003 Server installs in a secure configuration. This is in line with Microsoft's new Trustworthy Computing initiative which promises software will only ship after it is as secure as possible. For example add-on services like Microsoft's IIS web server, so often the target of viruses and crackers, is disabled by default in this version.

Like Windows 2000, Server 2003 will run on Active Directory. However the new version is not compatible with Windows NT domain controllers, which must be eliminated before upgrading a LAN containing both Windows 2000 and Windows NT servers. Active Directory is a directory service which allows programs like Microsoft Exchange and Office 2003 access to the network user list, security objects, and other resources. Though overkill for small networks, Active Directory is necessary for some heavier-duty applications.

Another feather in Windows Server 2003's cap is improved management. Simplified graphical tools provide easier, deeper access to managing server processes. While improved management tools will have more of an impact on administrators, hopefully that will translate to a lower cost of ownership, especially for larger sites.

One interesting new feature is Volume Shadow Copy, which allows administrators to make snapshot copies of critical data. Users can then restore these files later without resorting to tape backup.


Windows Server 2003 will come in several versions: Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, and Web-server-only. Pricing is expected to be about the same as Windows 2000 Server, with the new web-only version retailing for just under $400 in an effort to gain market share from Unix web servers. As with previous versions, client licenses will be required to access the server for file and print sharing as well as for remote computing via Terminal Services.

Overall most of the new features in Windows Server 2003 will be irrelevant to organizations using only file and print services, so there may not be a compelling reason to upgrade. Organizations looking into Exchange 2003 and other Microsoft server technologies will probably have to upgrade, sooner or later. The improved performance and management tools however make Windows Server 2003 the way to go for new servers. Even so many industry watchers recommend organizations delay upgrading until Service Pack 1 is released. Reportedly that will appear in about six months.

April 2003

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