Windows Server 2008, which is due out in March 2008, is in the testing phase and already shows quite a few promising features. Here are three improvements in the new version that I find extremely worthwhile.
The installation process
This installation process is very user friendly; the installation exists primarily in a GUI environment and handles most of the initial work for you. For example, while I was installing Windows Server 2008, the installer asked me for a product key (which I was expecting), and then it proceeded to complete the task without further questions. The whole process took around 35 minutes and didn't require any more attention on my part.
The fact that the only information Windows Server 2008 needed from me was the product key left me wondering how Windows had any clue about settings I might need to handle, such as whether I had an Internet connection or wanted to get the time zone corrected. I didn't miss these questions at all. I thought the Windows XP installation process took much too long, so this was a welcome change.
The Server Management console
The Server Manager has been popping up on the first run of the desktop since Windows 2000 Server, but it has never been quite so useful. In addition to allowing the administrator to add server roles and configure server details, Windows Server 2008's new Server Management console allows for time and time zone configuration, Windows Update settings configuration, and all of the other questions that used to pop-up during the installation process. This pleasant setup reduces hands-on installation time and gives you an interface to review and modify a host of settings for your server.
Start menu search
I was happy to see that the search feature is available from the Start menu. I was an early tester of Windows Vista, so I am already accustomed to the Search box's presence on the Start menu and was thrilled to find this feature on Windows Server 2008. Being able to find any console, application, or Web site right from a dialog box on the Start menu is a great help. The search methods available in Windows Server 2003 are sufficient, but the type-and-go method used by the next-generation software is amazing.
Weighing an upgrade to Windows Server 2008
I like what I have seen so far in the latest release candidate of Windows Server 2008. As this progresses through betas and release candidates, I plan to put together a server running Windows Server 2008 above the minimum system requirements and try to fit each of my organization's must-have applications on it — first one at a time and then together just to kick the tires.
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Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.