Book Review: Windows Server 2008 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant

Author: William R. Stanek

Publisher: Microsoft Press

ISBN: 978-0-7356-2711-6

This is the second edition that has been updated for Windows Server 2008 R2.

As usual I am applying my three main criteria for judging a book:

· Is it technically accurate?

· Does deliver the material it claims to deliver?

· Is worth the cost of purchase and the time I spend reading it?

The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the book. At 8 inches by 5.5 inches by 1.75 inches and 694 pages it is a weighty tome. I don’t know what size pockets you have but mine aren’t that big!

Inside the book is divided into 20 chapters covering:

1. Overview

2. Deployment

3. Managing servers

4. Processes, services and events

5. Automation (GPO)

6. Enhancing computer security

7. Using AD

8. Core AS admin

9. Understanding User and group accounts

10. Creating User and group accounts

11. Managing User and group accounts

12. File systems and drives

13. Volume sets and RAID arrays

14. File screening and storage reporting

15. Data sharing, security and Auditing

16. Backup and Recovery

17. TCP/IP networking

18. Printers and Print services

19. DHCP

20. DNS

I don’t propose to comment on each individual chapter. My remarks will be generic with some specific examples to illustrate the point.

The book sets out to “deliver ready answers for the day-to-day administration of Windows Server 2008 R2”. For the most part it does deliver to that aim with all of the core administration tasks fully covered though the level of detail is not necessarily consistent between topics. The best practice and troubleshooting functionality that ship with Windows Server 2008 R2 are not mentioned, for instance, so I don’t think the book can be viewed as the complete answer to administering these systems.

The book delivers its answers by using the GUI to perform the administrative tasks. It would have been useful to present the PowerShell equivalent where it exists. PowerShell v2 is briefly mentioned but the range of functionality that is now available from a PowerShell prompt is not fully explored. This, I think, is a major missed opportunity.

A quick flick through the book and you would have difficulty telling if it was Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008. This is partly a consequence of the way windows builds on previous versions but I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the new features of R2. If I had the first edition of the book I’d be hard pressed to justify buying the second edition as the changes don’t stand out.

One issue that I think isn’t clear is the intended audience. My take on the book is that it is aimed at the junior administrator or the part time administrator in the small one/two man IT shop. In that case it would be very useful as a ready reference. When I was working as a consultant attending multiple customer sites in a week I wouldn’t (couldn’t) have carried it - I need something much more technical.

I would like to see a book in this series that contains the information that we occasionally need but is always difficult to remember where it is - for example:

· The meaning of the useraccountcontrol values

· The DHCP scope options

· IPv6 address prefix meanings

There is some of this information in the book but I would like to see more. More of a pocket reference rather than a pocket consultant. That I would buy and use!

I would also like to see the best practice callouts from the book collected and made available as a download.

Judging against my criteria:

· Is it technically accurate? I didn’t spot anything explicitly wrong from a technical view point. In a few places the wording is ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. The level of technical detail is more than sufficient for what I am assuming is the intended audience. I would give the book 8/10 for technical content. I’m reserving a few points because I think there is material that should be covered in greater depth.

· Does it deliver the material it claims to deliver? I think the book more or less delivers on this point. There is a enough depth to the coverage that a junior administrator could use it as his day-to-day guide. On that premise I would have to score it at 8/10.

· Is worth the cost of purchase and the time I spend reading it? From my perspective I would say it isn’t worth the time I spent on it BUT I don’t think I’m in the intended audience. I have been working with Windows since the 1.0 days so I’ve have seen the material that forms the bulk of the book many times. These days I’m only interested in the new features. HOWEVER for someone new to administration or the part time administrator I think it could be a useful purchase so I will score it a t 7/10 (More PowerShell would have upped the score).

Overall this is a book that will either be very useful to you or you will never touch it. It deserves an overall 8/10 because the material covered is the bulk of the day-to-day tasks an administrator will face. It won’t solve all your problems but it will solve a lot of them.

A discount of 40% is available at www.microsoft-press.co.uk

Readers can enter the code: MVPT894 at the checkout when they purchase before the end of April 2010.

 

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