Editor’s note: We recently asked our members to tell us about their experiences with Windows 2000 Professional. Kevin Jones, a LAN and Web site administrator for Arlington, VA-based Manufacturers Alliance, shared the details of a recent migration to Win2K. Compare his experiences to a recent article on the same subject in our IT Manager Republic.

By Kevin Jones

At the beginning of December, I finished a migration to Windows 2000. We originally had Novell 4.11 on three servers and Windows NT 4 on all of the workstations. We were using Novell’s GroupWise 5.2 for messaging.

I started the migration process last August by purchasing a new mail server with Windows 2000 preloaded before installing Microsoft Exchange 5.5 and Trend Micro’s ScanMail for Exchange. The idea was to have GroupWise and Exchange coexist for some time while the Outlook rollout took place.

However, because of prior issues with the Novell server and a lack of cross-vendor support, GroupWise became unstable. I had to do an emergency migration to Exchange and an Outlook rollout in a weekend in October.

I purchased a workstation for backup operations and installed VERITAS Software’s Backup Exec, and I was able to use my existing tape drive. I thought it was important to have a new backup system in place before migrating to Windows 2000. If there were any problems at that point, I could copy data to the remaining space on my Exchange server. While this wasn’t the best solution, it would work if something happened that kept me from getting my third and final server up and running in time.

Because of the office workload in the fall, the migration of the workstations and the remaining server was pushed to the beginning of December. In the meantime, I used Norton Ghost to create an image of the desired configuration. The image consisted of Windows 2000 Professional, Office 2000 Professional, and a commonly used screen print utility. I had priced the multicast version of Ghost and been quoted a price of $28 per workstation. But since I had only 43 workstations to image, it was more economical to hire people to image them than to purchase the licenses.

The inevitable snags
During the migration, I had to overcome a few unforeseen issues. For example, I discovered that Backup Exec must be installed on a domain controller to properly back up another domain controller. And my first install on the backup workstation corrupted Active Directory because of low memory. I had to increase its memory to 384 MB and then reinstall the OS and software to make it run properly.

In light of this, I purchased additional memory for the Compaq server that was to perform all of the file-and-print operations. The Exchange server and file and print server seem to work very well with 512 MB of RAM.

Users and training
The Windows 2000 user interface is similar enough to prior systems that users shouldn’t have any problems if you’ve been running NT or Windows 98. My users have asked very few questions about the use of Windows 2000 or Office 2000. The majority of the questions I receive are about Outlook, since it operates so differently from GroupWise. In my company, as in most, the users don’t use most of the features an OS has to provide, making it easier for tech support personnel to provide enough information and documentation to get users up and running.

I don’t believe outside training is necessary for most environments. Tech support personnel should use Windows 2000 Professional on their desktops for a few months before deployment throughout the organization. This should make them familiar enough with the system to provide adequate support to users.

LAN administrators, on the other hand, will benefit from training so they can conceptualize the difference in technology and work with the interface changes. Training will also help provide the administrator with the knowledge necessary to plan a Windows 2000 migration. For instance, they should know how to implement DNS, which is required for Active Directory.

Final thoughts
Overall, the migration went fairly well. I now have an all-Windows 2000 network that has been very stable so far. I was able to complete all of the Windows and Office licensing, plus all hardware and additional software, for less than $50,000. I recommend looking around before purchasing software since the price can differ considerably from vendor to vendor.

Microsoft has upgrade pricing for Windows 2000 Pro, Windows 2000 Server, and Office products. It also has competitive upgrade pricing for non-MS products (GroupWise to Exchange). The savings were significant with upgrade pricing over retail pricing. I was able to save somewhere around $10,000 in licensing on my small network. With the competitive upgrade pricing structure, it was actually less expensive to migrate to Windows 2000 than to upgrade the OS and messaging systems I had.

One last note: Make sure you’ve tested all aspects of your migration plan before implementation. I was unable to get RIS to obtain an IP address from the RIS server and therefore had to find another solution. Something as simple as not realizing the Net Use command defaults to a persistent connection in Windows 2000 can prevent your users from accessing their shared directory until you figure out what happened—after considerable lost time. This is also a perfect opportunity to upgrade your virus protection so that all files introduced in to the new system are clean. Good luck!
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