Build Your Skills: Windows 2000 Server book breaks the mold

How to master Windows 2000 Server

In today’s technology environment, the best IT professionals are often characterized not by how much they know, but by knowing how to efficiently find the information they need to solve a problem. For IT pros looking for answers to Windows 2000 issues, I think you’ll find that Mark Minasi’s Mastering Windows 2000 Server is the definitive textbook and reference guide to the subject.

In this article, we’ll crack open Minasi’s 1,830-page tome, examine the subjects it covers, and evaluate how well it covers them. Along the way, I’ll share some of my favorite features and discuss some of the best ways to use this valuable Windows 2000 resource.


Mastering Windows 2000 Server by Mark Minasi

Minasi as a Windows NT/2000 authority
Certainly, anyone who’s been involved with managing Windows networks for any length of time should be familiar with the name Mark Minasi. He’s been one of the featured authors in Windows 2000 Magazine (formerly Windows NT Magazine) for many years. If you have attended any of the big Windows NT/2000 conferences, conventions, or seminars in recent years, you’ve probably heard Minasi speak, since he’s one of the most ubiquitous and sought-after speakers in Windows networking. In short, Minasi is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on Windows NT/2000.

Not only does Minasi have extensive knowledge of Windows networking, but he also knows how to communicate its complex topics in a clear, concise, and humorous manner. I also appreciate that he doesn’t pull any punches. He candidly tells you where Windows has problems and weaknesses and lets you know the things we should not be letting Microsoft get away with.

Cracking open the book
For this article, I reviewed the newly released Third Edition of Mastering Windows 2000 Server. The fact that Windows 2000 Server was released only a little over a year ago and this book is already in its third edition says something about the maturity of the text itself in relation to other books on the market. In addition, Minasi preceded this book with seven editions of Mastering Windows NT Server.

As I mentioned above, the latest version of Minasi’s book is 1,830 pages, so it’s no treat to carry around. Fortunately, it also includes a CD with the full text of the book in searchable PDF format. In my previous job as an IT manager, I carried the CD in my briefcase along with my laptop so that I could fire it up as a quick reference whenever the occasion demanded it.

Minasi has focused this book on helping administrators, IT managers, and network engineers correctly design and deploy Windows 2000 Server solutions and solve real-world problems. In the introduction, he says, “The goal of this book is to help you get your job done.” In large part, he does accomplish this goal, as we will see.

However, Minasi adds, “Having said what the book is, let me say one thing that it’s not, or at least not intended to be: an MCSE study guide.” Nevertheless, while the book does not have quizzes at the end of each chapter or sample exam questions, the content of the book makes it a great prep tool for professionals who are both working in the industry and studying for MCSE exams.

When you take into account that the new Win2K MCSE exams place more emphasis on hands-on learning, I think you will find that Minasi’s focus on actual examples in this book make a valuable companion in MCSE studies. Although it certainly should not be used as the only text for exam preparation, it’s especially useful in helping to study for the following MCSE exams:
  • 70-215: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
  • 70-216: Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
  • 70-221: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
  • 70-240: Microsoft Windows 2000 Accelerated Exam for MCPs Certified on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0

Figure A shows a list of the chapters in Mastering Windows 2000 Server. Generally, the book is organized well, and the third edition has been reorganized so that the chapters do a better job of building on the content in previous chapters. This makes it a friendlier read for those brave souls who read it cover to cover.

Figure A
A list of the chapters in Mastering Windows 2000 Server

The only weakness in the book’s organization is that some of the chapters are very long—upwards of 100 to 150 pages. Some of them could definitely stand to be split into separate chapters, especially Chapter 7, which covers DHCP, WINS, and DNS in one 168-page super-chapter.

As you can see by the list of chapters, Minasi covers all of the major Windows 2000 topics, and he does so with at least a minimum amount of thoroughness. In the next section, I’ll look at which topics are covered extensively and which ones are touched upon only at a basic level.

Kudos and caveats
Several factors set this book apart from other Windows 2000 books, although there are also a few key shortcomings to consider before purchasing it. First, let’s look at the book’s strengths and unique features.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the anecdotal approach Minasi takes in explaining many issues. He often provides a sample scenario and then walks you through the right solution. You almost feel like you’re getting inside information on the product or being able to apprentice with the Yoda of Windows networking.

Throughout the book, Minasi also throws in real-world insights and tips. For example, in the discussion of uninterruptible power supplies in the disaster recovery section, Minasi says, “Personally, I’ve had very good luck with the American Power Conversion Smart UPS series.” Granted, APC would be an obvious choice for many administrators, but the fact that the book provides these kinds of useful tidbits is one of the main features that sets it apart from many of its dry counterparts.

The book also distinguishes itself by including unique chapters and sections you won’t find in other books. I particularly liked the section “Preventing Stupid Accidents” in Chapter 21. The facts in this section are pretty basic, yet all administrators should make sure they’ve implemented these basic steps for mitigating preventable disasters.

In addition to being well-written, the book does an excellent job of providing screen shots and diagrams. Many of the Windows 2000 books on the market use screen shots too sparingly. Since Win2K is almost entirely dependent on a graphical user interface for administration, a good tutorial needs to show you a picture of what you’re going to be working with.

As I’ve already mentioned, the book is very thorough in its coverage of Windows 2000—but keep in mind that it covers only Windows 2000 Server and not Windows 2000 Professional. Minasi has written a thinner book on Win2K Pro, the client edition of Windows 2000 and the successor to Windows NT Workstation 4.0.

Mastering Windows 2000 Server provides extensive content on setting up, managing, and troubleshooting Windows 2000 Servers and administering Windows 2000 networking. It does not provide extensive coverage on Active Directory deployment, migrating from Windows NT, or managing the Windows 2000 registry. If you’re looking exclusively for in-depth content on any of these three areas, this is not the book for you.

In part, this book omits certain topics by design. Sybex, the book’s publisher, offers separate books that address those topics: Mastering Active Directory and Mastering Windows 2000 Registry, although they’re written by different authors. Sybex actually offers a bundle called Mark Minasi’s Windows 2000 Resource Kit, which includes both of Minasi’s books and these two books. Unfortunately, at the time that I am writing this, the kit includes the Second Edition of Mastering Windows 2000 Server. Because there are so many improvements in the Third Edition, I would recommend purchasing the books separately even though it’s a little more expensive.

Bottom line
If you’re responsible for setting up or managing networks based on Windows 2000 Server, you’ll find this book to be an indispensable resource. It offers thorough coverage of the topic and valuable tips and insights from a Windows master. Not only is the book a valuable on-the-job reference, but it can also serve as an asset in your Windows 2000 MCSE studies.

If you were to read this book cover-to-cover and work through the scenarios on a testing machine, I believe you’d have a more thorough grasp of Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 networking than you’d get from many of the high-dollar training courses on those subjects.
We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.

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