Windows Server 2008 Reviewers Guide – Reviewed

After spending a bit of time on Amazon I noticed that books, movies, and other random things you can buy all had customer reviews.  I started to think, why don”t white papers and technical documents have the same?  Today I”ve decided to take action against poorly written technical papers and ensure that those companies are held accountable to what they are publishing.  OK, maybe I”m not that gun-ho about it but I do think it would be nice to give a review here and there on stuff i”ve read through.

Today”s review is on the Windows Server 2008 Reviewers Guide.  How interesting to start my reviews on a Reviewers Guide.  From what I can gather this guide has been available since early February and is in two forms, Full and Short.  The Full version weighs in at just under 11 MB while the Short version is just over 8 MB.  Not much a difference on the size.  The Full version is a whopping 250 pages while the Short version is 116 pages.  I actually thought the Short version would have been much shorter.  This review is for the Full version.


Usually when I download these Guides I notice that they are 100% marketing speak and 0% technical.  I was pleasantly surprised that this Guide had only a few areas littered with  marketing junk.  If you can get past the first few pages you are presented with several tables detailing which features work on which edition of Windows Server 2008.  Since this is a new OS i”m quite fond of it since i”m trying to figure out what goes where.

Section 2: Server Virtualization – I really hoped to gather a lot out of this section and quite frankly it did not deliver.  It provides a good high-level overview of Hyper-V but not much of anything when it comes to technical details.  I”m also not sure why there is even a page on Server Core here as it is really out of place.  Feel free to skip this section if you have been working with Virtualization for some time now.

Section 3: Centralized Application Access – This section was all about Terminal Services (TS).  Since there is quite a bit of changes with this service in Windows Server 2008 I again was looking forward to this section.  For me, this one delivered.  It went over all the new features and the best part of the entire section was that it gave you Group Policy locations to configure certain TS options! 

Section 4: Branch Office – All i”ve been hearing about with Sever 2008 is branch office this and branch office that.  Because of that I expected to see a lot of stuff in this section. The Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) part was decent.  It actually gave some info that I didn”t expect to see like detailing which Active Directory Services attributes that were added to the schema to support RODCs.  I also thought a decent job was done on the BitLocker portion as it went into commands to help install it and Group Policy settings. As for the DFS portion I really wanted to see more.  This one lacked some of the details in the other products from this section.

Section 5: Security and Policy Enforcement – At over 80 pages this was the largest of all sections and covered a wide range of features within Windows Server 2008. The first few areas go over some definitions and can be used for a good reference at a later time.  There were so many in fact that I had to skip ahead because I felt I was studying for an exam. The Routing and Remote Access Service portion was very light and only highlighted some new technologies and removed ones (thanks for finally removing OSPF…it never belonged on a server).  I wanted to see more in the next section on how some of the services would work with IPv6. There was very little detail on that.  The Firewall portion of this section did a good job explaining what changed in Server 2008 from previous versions (client and server).  The Cryptography Next Generation portion provided nothing more then an overview. 

Now we began the Active Directory portion of this section.  Starting with an excellent write up of the Active Directory Certificate Services.  I felt that it was adequately covered hitting all major points of interest.  This portion was followed up by Active Directory Domain Services and the team did another good job on this area.  There isn”t a lot of technical How-To stuff here but it will inform you on what is new.  Federation Services was covered next and there was some good reading there with a nice flow chart to follow along with.  Let”s just say that the Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services was…well…light.  Finishing up Section 5 was an area that I really wanted to read up on, Active Directory Rights Management Services.  I was disappointed but only because I wanted to read more technical information on this product. Perhaps a scenario or two here with some flow charts would have been beneficial.

Section 6: Web and Application Platform – I”ve been a big fan of IIS since all the great changes that were made with IIS6.  I haven”t had time to look into IIS7 with great detail but this was about to change.  I felt empty after readying this portion.  What about FTP being completely redone?  Nothing!  The last portion is about Transactional NTFS, I think that page and a half will only confuse people and have them wondering how do I turn this on.

Section 7: Server Management –  The first three portions of this section are a very basic introduction to Server Manager.  It is nice to have a reference of all the Roles and Features in Server Manager though. The next area goes over a brief introduction to PowerShell.  As much as I would love to see more technical info here, this is the one area that I can give that a pass on.  PowerShell is not something you want people learning from a Reviewers Guide.  To my dismay there were a total of 4 pages on Server Core and all of them marketing!  I really wish there would have been some more info here.  The same marketing theme was put into the Backup portion but that is ok with me because not many mid-to-large companies use the built in backup tool.  An area I thought would have been really nice was the Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor.  Again there really lacked any details about the feature. The only thing I would have liked to seen added to the Windows Deployment Services (WDS) portion would have been some sample scripts or commands…also any Group Policy settings that apply to WDS.  The Group Policy portion finishes this section off and saves the section in my opinion.  Great job to the people that put that area together.

Section 8: High Availability Introduction – Why is it every guide I read through lacks information on clusters and network load balanced systems?  All 7 pages are marketing and nothing to get the technical person excited about high availability. 

Section 9: Better Together & Section 10: Miscellaneous – Feel free to skip these areas now.  Section 9 is a sales pitch to put Vista and Server 2008 together and Section 10 should have been put in the first section.

It”s now time for my rating.  This is 100% totally subjective to my opinion and only my opinion.  If you feel it should be different let me know by proving feedback in the comments section.  I will rate each section on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 being the best possible.  Then I will rate the entire guide but it will not just be the average of all the scores.  I will rate it on usefulness to the community.

Brian”s Official Rating Scale
1 = Why were calories spent on this?
2 = Save some trees and don”t print this one
3 = Some areas are good but some aren”t so good
4 = Kept my technical interest and definitely printable
5 = Excellent – Print it out and keep it as a reference in your office


Rating on a scale of 1 – 5
Section 1 2
Section 2 2
Section 3 5
Section 4 4
Section 5 4
Section 6 1
Section 7 3
Section 8 2
Section 9 1
Section 10 1
Windows Server 2008 Reviewers Guide 3

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