Getting more life out of Windows Server 2008 R2

Just because Windows Server 8 is right around the corner, there is no need to toss Windows Server 2008 R2 out the door.

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Microsoft is getting ready to launch an assault on the server operating system market.

The company has been preparing Windows Server 8 and when it pulls the trigger, many early adopters will be sure to hop on the bandwagon.

The only problem is that moving to Windows Server 8 is going to cost a bit of money and will require some training. That alone may make some IT managers want to stretch some additional value out of their Windows Server 2008 R2 systems, before making the leap to Windows Server 8. However, making that happen will take a few tricks and tips:

Leverage Server Core. Windows Server 8 will offer even more capabilities for Server Core, making it a key feature of the new NOS. You might as well get used to Server Core under Windows Server 2008 R2 and manage it to reduce your server footprints, speed up operations and distribute server roles across systems.

A Server Core installation provides a minimal environment for running specific server roles, which reduces the maintenance and management requirements and the attack surface for those server roles. A server running a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 supports the following server roles:

  • Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS)
  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS Server
  • File Services
  • Hyper-V
  • Print Services
  • Streaming Media Services
  • Web Server (IIS)

Install Remote Server Management. The days of managing a Windows Server directly on a server-class system are coming to an end. Windows Server 8 will come with enhanced remote management capabilities – so it just makes sense to start managing your Windows Server 2008 R2 systems remotely as well. Luckily, all of the pieces are already in place to do that, it is just a matter of using Microsoft's own Server Manager on a Windows PC to reach out and touch a server. Other tools, such as RDP and Terminal Services, make remote management an easy task. Server Manager is installed as part of Remote Server Administration Tools on a computer that is running Windows 7. This can be used to manage roles and features on a computer that is running either the full or Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2. To install Server Manager on a Windows 7 machine you will need to install the Remote Server Administration Tools (or RSAT).

Slim Down Windows Server 2008 R2. Many features are installed by default and some are never used, taking up space and affecting performance of the server. Getting rid of those unneeded features is a sure way to free up space. With Windows Server 2008 R2, the chore is accomplished using Server Manager:

  1. In Server Manager, select Features in the left pane, and then click Remove Features in the Features pane. This starts the Remove Features Wizard. (If the wizard displays the Before You Begin page, read the intro text and then click Next. You can avoid seeing this page the next time you start the wizard by selecting the Skip This Page By Default check box before clicking Next.)
  2. On the Select Features page, the currently installed features are selected. To remove a feature, clear the related check box. If you try to remove a feature that another feature depends on, you’ll see a warning stating that you cannot remove the feature unless you also remove the other feature. Click the Remove Dependent Feature button to remove both features.
  3. When you are finished selecting features that you want to remove, click Next and then click Remove.

Add features to Windows Server 2008 R2. Some features are not installed by default, especially when narrowing the server’s role. At some point in time, you may want increase what the server is capable of, or leverage a newly discovered feature. In Windows Server 2008 R2, you configure operating system components as Windows features that you can turn on or off rather than add or remove. To add server features, simply do the following:

  1. Launch Server Manager (Start > Administrative Tools > Server Manager). In Server Manager, select Features in the left pane and then click Add Features in the Features pane. This starts the Add Features Wizard. (If the wizard displays the Before You Begin page, read the intro text and click Next. You can avoid seeing this page the next time you start this wizard by selecting the Skip This Page By Default check box before you click Next.)
  2. On the Select Features page, select the feature or features you want to install. If additional features are required to install the feature you selected, you’ll see the Add Features Required For dialog box.
  3. Click Add Required Features to close the dialog box and add the required features to the server installation.
  4. When you have finished selecting features that you want to add, click Next, and then click Install.

Back up (and restore) the Server System State: Windows Server 2008 R2 has 50,000 system state files, using as much as 4 GB of storage in a 64-bit install. Those files are critical for a speedy recovery if there is a system failure. The fastest way to back up those files (and restore them) is with Wbadmin.

Wbadmin offers a command, START SYSTEMSTATEBACKUP, which creates a backup of the system state for a computer. That system state can be easily restored using the START SYSTEMSTATERECOVERY command. To back up a server’s system state, type the following at an elevated command prompt:

  • wbadmin start systemstatebackup -backupTarget:VolumeName, where the VolumeName is the storage location for the backup, such as F:
  • To restore a server’s system state, type the following at an elevated command prompt: wbadmin start systemstaterecovery -backupTarget:VolumeName, where VolumeName is the storage location that contains the backup you want to recover, such as F:

Other options include the –recoveryTarget parameter to restore to an alternate location or the –machine parameter to specify the name of the computer to recover. If the original backup location contains backups for multiple computers, the –authSysvol parameter offers the ability to perform an authoritative restore of the SYSVOL. You can also recover the system state by using a backup that includes the system state or by performing a recovery.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frank Ohlhorst
 is an award-winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with over 25 years of experience in the technology arena. He has written for several technology publications, including TechTarget, ComputerWorld and PCWorld. Ohlhorst was also the Executive Technology Editor for Ziff Davis Enterprise’s eWeek. You can contact him at fohlhorst@gmail.com

This was first published in December 2011

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