Help for Implementing AD

I get quite a few questions about setting up and using Active Directory (AD). Most of these questions come from IT folks who use Windows 2000 in Windows NT 4.0 domain-based networks. These network administrators have made the transition to Win2K Professional as their client of choice, but their Win2K Server installations are as member servers in an NT domain. These folks are intrigued by the client-support benefits that Microsoft claims for AD—with tantalizing glimpses of directory-based policy management, IntelliMirror, and easier client management—but the idea of dealing with AD scares them.

If these administrators have staff members who have or are getting Win2K certification, they know someone who can walk them through AD concepts. Most of the people I hear from don't have anyone to hold their hand through an AD setup and configuration, or they are consultants who want to stay a couple of steps ahead of their savvy small-business customers.

I suggest that these people start with one of the many books available about AD, and that they take the time to set up and configure an AD structure on their own. Many administrators have taken that advice, and often, the next email I get from them starts with "Where do I get general information about DNS?" For years, I've recommended the O'Reilly book "DNS & Bind," by Albitz and Liu, currently in its fourth edition. The new edition includes specific information about DNS and Win2K.

Setting up a single-computer AD network doesn't give administrators much of a feel for working with AD. And many of them don't have the time, space, or available resources to set up anything more complex. I've uncovered a possible solution to this problem on Microsoft's Web site—the site for the discounted Hands-On Lab experience. During August, Microsoft is offering a 3-hour, hands-on lab training class on AD for only $49. If you live near one of the lab locations, you'd be hard pressed to find a better jumpstart on both AD and DNS within the context of AD. Given that many AD books sell for at least $49, this class is a bargain. But appearances might be deceiving, so if any of you have had experience, good or bad, with this Microsoft hands-on lab model, let me know. If these classes are anything like the hands-on labs at conferences such as TechEd, I would expect them to be well worth the time and money.

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