As with any exam, it will vary from person to person as to what is deemed to be difficult. Some of the topics you may have trouble with are Server Roles, Services, Active Directory, RAID, Performance Monitoring, and Windows Server Update Service. Each of these topics is outlined below.
After you install Windows operating system on a server, you can choose a role to install. A role is a function that the server is responsible for doing. Some roles, such as DHCP Server, should only be installed on one server in your network. Depending on the resources in your server, it may be capable of performing several different roles such as DHCP server and DNS Server. The different server roles that can be installed are
- Active Directory Certificate Services
- Active Directory Domain Services
- Active Directory Federation Services
- Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services
- Active Directory Rights Management Services
- Application Server
- DHCP Server
- DNS Server
- Fax Server
- File Services
- Network Policy and Access Services
- Print Services
- Terminal Services
- Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration Services
- Web Server
- Windows Deployment Services
- Windows Server Update Services
By default, when you install Windows, it will run services. A Windows service is a program that performs specific functions and which is designed not to require user intervention. A service can run even if a user is not logged into the computer. You can choose to have services run automatically or only when you start them. A service can be paused, stopped, or disabled if not needed. Some services, such as Internet Information Service, are considered security risks and can be disabled after installation. Depending on the task a computer is performing, some services are required to be started.
Active Directory was developed by Microsoft to provide a variety of network services. Active Directory stores all information and settings about your network structure in a central database. It allows an administrator to assign policies, create objects, manage organization units, deploy and update software. Active Directory networks can be comprised of a few computers and users or have thousands of computers and users, such as an enterprise system that spans a large geographical area. Some of the services provided by Active Directory are
- Central location for network administration and security
- Single sign-on for user access to networked resources
- Synchronization of directory updates across servers
- Ability to delegate authority in order to decentralize administration
Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID)
Setting your server disks in a RAID configuration can provide benefits such as fault tolerance and/or speed. Some servers allow the RAID to be controlled by the hardware of the server itself. You can also use the Windows Operating System to setup your RAID configuration. Some of the different types of RAID configurations are outlined below.
Disk Striping without Parity (RAID level 0) provides no data redundancy and is not fault-tolerant. It requires a minimum of two disks and can be formatted with FAT or NTFS partitions. It offers the highest level of read and write performance of any available disk management strategy by allowing concurrent requests to be processed on all drives simultaneously.
Disk mirroring (RAID level 1) supports only two hard drives. Mirror sets are the only form of fault tolerance that can include system and boot partitions. It has both drives running off the same controller. Disk duplexing is the same as mirroring, except it uses two disk controllers instead of one (a hardware enhancement vs. a software enhancement). Disk mirroring is the least cost effective disk management strategy because you lose half of your disk capacity.
Disk Striping with Parity (RAID level 5) provides fault tolerance. It requires a minimum of three physical disks and can have as many as 32 disks. All partitions in a stripe set are the same size. If you select free disk areas of different sizes when you create a stripe set, no stripe will be larger than the smallest free disk area. For instance, if you have 200MB, 400MB, 600MB, and 800MB free on each of four drives, only 200MB is used on each drive. The entire stripe set will be 800MB in size. The space equivalent to one partition is used for parity information. So, in this case, one fourth is used for storing parity information (200MB), and only 600MB of data can be stored on the stripe set. Regardless of how many disks are used in a stripe set with parity, data is recoverable only if no more than one disk is lost. If two or more disks are lost, the data is unrecoverable.
A volume set allows you to combine free space from 1 to 32 disks and create a single volume with a single drive letter that is transparent to the user. Volume sets provide no fault tolerance; if even one area of disk space in the set is lost, all the data is lost. Volume sets are the only Windows NT disk partition management option that allows more than one area of disk space in the set to reside on the same physical hard disk. Volume sets are the only Windows NT disk partition management option that allows the individual areas of disk space making up the volume to be of different sizes. The main advantage is that they allow the most efficient use of hard disk space. System and boot partitions cannot be part of a volume set, while all other partitions can. Because disk access is performed by only one drive at a time, a volume set is the slowest access method of any.
Monitoring your server’s performance is an important part of maintaining and administering your Windows installation. Performance data can help you understand your workload and the effect it has on your system’s resources. You can observe changes and trends over time, which will help you plan for future upgrades. Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that combines the functionality of previous stand-alone tools including Performance Logs and Alerts, Server Performance Advisor, and System Monitor. It provides a graphical interface for customizing performance data collection and Event Trace Sessions. Some counters in Performance Monitor will help you diagnose problems and target components or processes for optimization. You should configure the Performance Logs and Alerts to report data for the counters at regular interval. The logs should be retained over an extended period of time. This data can be used by a database to perform queries. You should not run Performance Monitor in graph view all of the time. Monitoring too many counters at once or sampling at intervals less than three seconds apart can degrade system performance.
Windows Server Update Service (WSUS)
In order to keep your servers up to date with the latest patches, hotfixes, and service packs, Microsoft offers a solution in their Windows Server Update Service (WSUS). Loading WSUS on a server allows it to be a central point of contact for Microsoft updates. This server would receive the updates and then distribute them across your network to the other servers you have specified.