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Determining Server Roles

The whole point of networking computers is to provide users with the ability to connect to network resources (and to each other). For resources to be available, a computer running a network operating system must be available to “serve up” the resource to the requesting client. A number of server roles exist, such as those of file, print, database, and application server. Let’s look at some of the common server types you might have to deploy in your network.

Domain Controllers

As already mentioned, a Windows Server 2008 domain requires a domain controller. The domain controller authenticates users to the Active Directory as they attempt to log on to the network. The domain controller also provides the Global Catalog for the domain, which contains a subset of all the objects in the domains of the forest, such as users, groups, and printers.

Because domain controllers must validate users and devices, additional domain controllers are often deployed on a very large network. This enables user accounts to be validated more quickly because any domain controller in the domain can handle the authentication.

On large networks that consist of multiple forests or sites, a domain controller or controllers can serve as Global Catalog servers. These servers contain information on resources that span the domains in a forest, making it easier for users to find the resources that they need.

Windows Server 2008 also provides you with the option of creating read-only domain controllers (RODC). A read-only domain controller hosts a read-only copy of the Active Directory database. This type of domain controller is ideally used in environments where network security is an issue and also in environments where a limited number of users (such as in a branch office) need to access Active Directory resources. For more information about Active Directory, including installation, see Hour 8.

File Servers

A file server’s job is to serve as a repository for the files that users need on the network. These files are typically held in what is called a public folder, which can include private folders that are specific for a particular user.

Windows Server 2008 actually makes it easy for you to package file resources that are held on any number of file servers so that users are not aware of (and don’t need to know) the actual location of the resource files. This system is called the Distributed File System (DFS). DFS and the creation of network shares on a Windows Server 2008 file server are discussed in Hour 12, “Working with Network Shares and the Distributed File System.”

Print Servers

A print server is used to host a network printer. It is basically the control conduit for the printer. Because print jobs are usually spooled (placed on the computer before they are sent to the printer) before they are printed, the print server supplies the hard-drive space needed.

The print server also queues up all the print jobs being directed to the printer. The network administrator can delete print jobs and change the queue order of print jobs by accessing the print server. Providing print resources in the Windows Server 2008 environment is discussed in Hour 14, “Working with Network Printing.”

Web Servers

Web servers provide you with the capability to create a website that can be accessed by the general public via the World Wide Web. Web servers can also be used to create private web called intranets that enable employees to use web browsers to access internal company information.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 provides Internet Information Service (IIS) 7.0, a full-featured web server platform that also provides other services such as FTP sites and NNTP newsgroups. IIS is discussed in Hour 23, “Using the Internet Information Service.”

Application Servers

Application servers host various applications, such as specialized databases. Even typical desktop applications such as word processors and spreadsheet software can be stored on an application server. This makes updating software applications much easier because the software doesn’t actually reside on every client workstation; users start these applications from their local computers, but the application software is actually stored on the server.

By the Way

Although we typically look at the Internet Information Service provided by Windows Server as a web service, the addition of XML applications and other platforms for web applications (such as ASP.NET) has prompted Microsoft to consider IIS an application-server platform.

Messaging Servers

A messaging server runs specialized software that enables users on the network to communicate and collaborate. It provides services such as electronic mail and discussion groups. Microsoft Exchange is an example of a communication server software package. It is installed on a server that is already running one of the Microsoft network operating systems, such as Windows Server 2008.

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