February 18, 2020
Score 7 out of 10
Read Aaron Pinsker's full review
Pros and Cons
- Windows Server acting as a domain controller allows for very comprehensive management of computers and workstations across an organization, specifically when it comes to Active Directory and Group Policy.
- Active Directory allows for comprehensive managements of users within a domain (or organizational unit). User groups can be created with different permissions for various network resources, and users can be added to multiple different groups. In addition, login scripts can be created that are linked to each user allowing for automatic mapping of network drives and printers (among other items) every time a user logs in. As such, with the correct login script, a new user can login for the first time and have access to all the necessary resources within an organization.
- Once a domain is created, adding computers to it is quick and easy. Any computer that is a part of a domain can be logged in by any domain user. Removing a computer from a domain, via Active Directory, immediately revokes all domain users ability to login to that computer.
- Group Policy, an integral part of Windows Server, is a vast and comprehensive tool to push out settings to domain computers and users. Settings can be anything from adding or removing mapped network drives, adding or removing printers, turning on and off specific Windows settings. Group Policy can be managed on both a computer basis and a user basis.
- Windows Server's built-in file sharing capabilities allow it to be used as a powerful file server. Permissions for shared folders can be set on a per-user basis and/or via group membership. Using advanced sharing features, a file or folder can be shared via multiple names with different permissions for each shared name.
- Windows Server includes a powerful DNS server that works in conjunction with the Domain Controller functionality. The DNS server supports forward and reverse zones as well as manually adding items into a DNS zone.
- Hyper-V is included with Windows Server, providing a powerful and first-party way to create virtual machines.
- Windows Server includes a built-in DHCP server that can be used in place of a standard network router.
- Windows Server includes a built-in web server hosting functionality via IIS (Internet Information Services)
- Windows Server is extremely complex, and while newer versions have eased the initial setup process, setting up a server is still a very time consuming and difficult task.
- The complexity of Windows Server also makes troubleshooting any problems that arise extremely difficult, both in tracking down the actual issue and then resolving the issue. Often times a problem can manifest itself in more than one way, making searching for the specific problem also difficult.
- Windows Server is also very expensive, with complex and confusing licensing terms. In fact, Microsoft provides a 32-page PDF guide on Windows Server licensing, which is in and of itself dense and confusing to follow. To make matters more complicated, there multiple different version of Windows Server itself - Nano, Essentials, Standard and Datacenter edition, and each edition has different licensing terms. Licensing terms include items such as the physical processor's cores of the server, how many users will be accessing the server (called a CAL - client access license), and a plethora of other items.
- Microsoft's support for Windows Server can be extremely frustrating at times. While Microsoft hosts a very active user forum, Microsoft employees who frequent those forums often provide only stock answers to questions (without actually reading the details) or no answers at all. For more in-depth - phone support can be quite expensive.
- Upgrading a Windows Server from one major version to another (i.e. 2012 to 2016) is a frustratingly complex and dangerous procedure, as many things can go wrong during the upgrading, essentially breaking the entire setup. In fact, Microsoft doesn't even suggest doing an in-place upgrade, but to perform a backup of the existing server, doing a clean install of the new version, and migrating the information from the older version to the new version. In general, it is not even recommended to upgrade from one version to another as the risk significantly outweigh the benefits.