Microsoft Windows Server 2016 is still a valid choise in the market and organizations are already asking their IT experts to evaluate its added value and possible challenges that one may encounter when moving from the current systems to the new server platform. In addition to the features found on Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 presents new possibilities and capabilities that are missing on previous Windows Server platforms. Any new Windows Server Operating System that breaks the market gets more attention. Windows Server 2016 had made tremendous improvements to its Active Directory.
The best approach to take before implementing Windows Server 2016 is to test its readiness by looking for ways of minimizing the likely impact of migration. Another way to look at it would be to identify organizational needs and how they can be integrated for future implementations. The reason Administrators would want to try on the Windows Server 2016 Active Directory is to provide an opportunity for growth, offer flexibility, and enhance security setup in the organization.
Why Does Windows Server 2016 Matter
Windows Server 2016 is a representation of combinations from different principles that define computation, identity, management and automation, security and assurance, and storage. All these are broken down into the core elements of the Server Operating System that consists of Visualization, System Administration, Network Management, and Software Defined Network (SDN) technologies, Cloud Integration and Management, Disk Management and Availability. All these are supposed to bring organizations to the future of technology without the need to discard some of the infrastructures being used in the current environment.
Windows Server 2016 is a full-featured server Operating System boasting of solid performance with modern advancements. This new server shares so many similarities with the Data Center edition that incorporates support for Hyper-V containers and new storage features and enhanced security solely to protect virtual machines and network communications that have no trust configured between them.
This article should help you the reader learn more about Windows Server 2016 features, factors to consider before moving from old to a new setup, and how to optimize your Active Directory. More details on how to prepare to move and migrate efficiently by managing the new environment effectively.
Windows Server 2016 New Features
Several features and enhancements form part of this server operating system. Here are some of the highlights:
Temporary Group Membership
This form of membership gives Administrators a way of adding new users to a security group for a limited time. For this feature to work, Windows Server 2016 Active Directory must be operating at the functional level. System Administrators need to know beforehand all the system installation requirements during and after the transition.
Active Directory Federation Service
There are essential changes that come with Microsoft Windows 2016 Server Federation Service:
Conditional Access Control
Active Directory in previous installations had straightforward access controls because the assumption had always been that all users would be logging in from a computer joined to a domain with proper Group Policy Security settings. The conditional access gives users access to resources that have been assigned to them.
In the current technological setup users’, access resources from different types of devices that are not connected to the domain and usually work outside the organizations operating norms. This is a direct call for the improvement of security by introducing a Conditional Access Control Feature enabling administrators to have better controls over users whose requests should be handled on per application basis. For example, administrators may enforce multi-factor authentication when the compliant devices try to access business applications.
Support for Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) v3
Another change that has been introduced in line with regard to the Active Directory Federation Systems is the Support for Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. The capability makes it easier to centralize identities across different directories. For example, an organization that uses non-Microsoft directory format for identification and access control can centralize identities to office Azure cloud or Office 365. LDAP v3 making it easier to configure a single sign-on for SaaS applications.
Domain Naming Service (DNS)
Active Directory and DNS go hand in hand because of the dependency of Windows Server systems on DNS. There have been no significant changes in the Windows Server DNS service until the arrival of Windows Server 2016. The following are new features under the DNS:
The inherent ability to create new DNS policies is said to be the most significant. These policies enable administrators to control the way DNS responds to different queries. Some examples of these policies are load balancing and Blocking of DNS requests coming from IP addresses whose domain have been listed as malicious.
Response Rate Limit
The rate of the server response to DNS queries can now be controlled. This control is designed to help defend against external attacks such as denial of service by limiting the number of times in a second a DNS can respond to a client
Microsoft IP Address Management (Microsoft IPAM)
The most significant improvement to the DNS is in its IP Address Management System that helps in the tracking of IP address usage. The integration of Microsoft IPAM feature on DHCP has been robust while the DNS one is minimal. The introduction of Windows Server 2016 brings in some new changes like DNS management capabilities by recording inventory. The support for multiple Active Directory forests by IPAM is a welcome feature. Supporting multiple forests is only possible if there is already an existing trust between them and that IPAM is installed on each forest.
Planning is critical when moving from an earlier Windows Server version to Server 2016. The goal of any migration should be minimizing its impact on business operations. Going ahead with the migration should be an opportunity for administrators to set up a scalable, flexible, compliant, and secure platform.
Understanding the Existing Server Environment.
It is a rookie mistake to jump into implementation without a proper analysis of the current server environment. Assessment at this stage should look at users, groups, distribution lists, applications, folders, and Active Directory. On the business side, there is a workflow, emails, programs, and any infrastructure used that should be assessed before making the big move.
It is also vital that you:
- Understand what needs to be moved and what is to be left as it is. For example, there is no need of moving inactive accounts and old data that is no longer relevant. All active data stores, mailboxes, and users are part of what you should not leave behind.
- You will also want to analyze applications, users, and processes that needs access and should be migrated to ensure that the relevant resources are available during and after the transfer.
Improving Active Direct Security and Compliance Settings
Another critical factor to consider during migration is security and delegation by controlling who makes changes to Window Active Directory objects and policies. Most organizations choose to give access to Active Directory objects to solve an immediate problem and never clear the permissions. Proper controls should be in place to manage what can be added to the AD and who should be responsible for making such changes.
Continuous monitoring of activities in the Active Directory to ascertain if they comply with both internal and external performance regulations should be ongoing. Microsoft Windows Server and AD can audit events with visible output and can be implemented quickly in a busy setup. Having a coherent AD audit cluster with analytical capabilities is critical for marking unauthorized changes, spotting inappropriate use of the AD and related resources, tracking users in the entire infrastructure, and give compliance reports to the auditors.
Ensuring Application Compatibility
Before making an effort to initiate migration, make sure that all software and third-party application used on your organization are compatible and can work with Windows Server 2016. All the in-house applications should also be tested to make sure they work correctly in the new environment.
Minimizing Impact on Business
Minimizing in-house software compatibility is one aspect of reducing the cost of migration on the business. As an Administrator, you need to know how the issue of downtime will be handled when moving from legacy to new system. One thing you need to avoid is underestimating the impact of migration on users and operations by failing to analyze all access points. Many such challenges can be avoided by scheduling resource intensive migration tasks during off-peak hours.
Failure to have a smooth transition between legacy and the new system can lead to service disruptions lost productivity and increased the cost of doing business. The co-existence of both the old and the new system is essential in any Active Directory migration because users still need to access resources to ensure continuity. Directory synchronization is important at this stage to make sure that users can access their data.
Restructure the Active Directory
Moving from your legacy system to Windows Server 2016 should be taken seriously and not treated like any other routine IT task. This is an opportunity to restructure your Active Directory to meet its current and future needs. Every time there is a significant system upgrade, changes in organizational models and requirements may have prompted it. Changes in the IT technology is also a major force that influences restructuring of the Active Directory.
Determine the number of domains and forests needed. Examine the need to merge some forests or create new ones. You can also take an opportunity to join new infrastructure to remote offices that may not have been in existence in the legacy system.
Active Directory Management and Recovery
Every IT management faces challenges when managing the Active Directory on a daily basis. The configuration of user properties is time-consuming and error-prone when dealing with a large and a complex Windows Network. Some of these duties have to be performed manually leading repetitive and mundane tasks that end up taking up most the Administrators time. However, when you decide to accomplish the above tasks using Windows Native Tools or the PowerShell means that you must have a deeper understanding of how the Active Directory and its features work.
The use of software to manage the Active Directory repetitive tasks simplifies the process. You can also get detailed reports on tasks and their status. Using software offers solutions that help in the planning and execution of an efficient AD restructuring, which will eventually help you, implement a secure system. Managing AD using a software gives a common console where the management can view and manage Active Directory, users, computers, and groups. Some software’s enable the administration to plan for a secure way of delegating repetitive tasks and perform controlled automation of the Active Directory Structure.
Two popular software being used in the management of Active Directory optimization tasks are:
They both can help in the restructuring and consolidation of Windows Server 2016 in a new environment.
The ADManager Plus has additional features such as sending and receiving customized notifications via SMS or emails. The search options make it easier for IT managers to search the directory with ease through its software interface panel. Using the ADManager Plus, the IT department can execute windows optimization tasks with ease in addition to the integration of utilities such as ServiceNow, ServiceDesk, and AdselfService Plus.
Active Directory User Management
ADManager Plus manages thousands of your Active Directory through its interface. This property helps you create and modify users by configuring general attributes, exchange server attributes, and apply exchange policies, terminal service attributes, and remote logon permissions. You can set new users in Office 365 and G suite when creating the new accounts in the Active Directory. You can design templates that can help the help desk team to modify and configure user accounts and properties by a single action.
Active Directory Computer Management
This solution allows for the management of all computer in the existing environment from any location. You can create objects in bulk using CSV templates by modifying group and general attributes of computers, move them between organizational units, and enable/disable them.
Active Directory Group Management
The management of groups is made more flexible using the software modules used in the creation and modification of groups using templates and conduct all configuration attributes in an instant.
Active Directory Contact Management
You can use this software management tool to import and update Activate Directory contacts as a single process. Therefore, this implies that you do not have to select individual contacts for an update.
Active Directory Help Desk Delegation
The ADManager Plus delegation feature can help administrators to create help desk administrators, and delegate desired tasks related to user attributes. The various repetitive management tasks for users, group, computers, and contacts can be delegated using customized account creation templates. The help desk users can share the workload of the administrators which frees them up giving them more time to work on core duties.
Active Directory Reports and Management
The ADManager plus provides information on different objects within the AD which allows for the viewing and analysis of information on its web interface. For example, you can see a list of all inactive users and modify the accountant accordingly.
Quest software takes a different approach because it deals with preparation, recovery, security and compliance, migration, consolidation, and restructuring.
During preparation, Quest helps in the assessment of the existing environment with the enterprise reporter gives a detailed evaluation of the current setup that includes the Active Directory, Windows Server, and SQL Server. During this assessment, Quest can report the number of accounts you have in the Active Directory and isolate the active and the disabled ones. Knowing the exact status of your environment is paramount before the migration begins.
Quest helps discover identities and inventories on application servers that are dependent on the Active Domains that are being moved to enable you to fix or redirect them on the new server.
Migration, Consolidation, and Restructuring
The Migration Manager for Active Directory gives the Zero IMPACT AD restructuring and consolidation. The Migration Manager offers a peaceful coexistence to both the migrated and yet to be migrated by maintaining secure access to workstations and resources.
Secure Copy offers an automated solution for quick migration and restructuring files on the data server by maintaining the security and access points. Its robustness makes the tool to be rated as perfect for planning and verification of successful file transfers.
Migrator for Novell Directory Service (NDS) helps administrators move from Novel eDirectory to Active Directory. The tool also moves all data within Novell and re-assigns permission to new identities in the new server.
Security and Compliance
The change Auditor for Active Directory gives a complete evaluation of all the changes that have taken place in the Active Directory. The evaluation report contains information such as who made the changes, what kind of changes was made, what were the initial and final values before and after adjustment, and the workstation name where the change occurred. The change auditor tool also prevents changes, for example, you can disable the deletion of or transfer of Organization Units and changes that can be made Group Policy Settings.
Active Roles modules ensure that security of the AD complies by enabling you to control access by delegating tasks using less privilege. This gives an opportunity to generate access rules based on defined administrative policies and access rights. You can use the Active Roles to bring together user groups and mailboxes as well as changing and removing access rights based on role changes.
Centralized Permission Management
The Security Explorer facilitates the management of Microsoft Dynamic Access Controls (DAC) by enabling administrators to add, remove, restore, backup, and copy permission all on a single console. The tool can make targeted or bulk changes to server emissions made possible by the enhanced by Dynamic Access Control management features such as the ability to grant, revoke, clone, and modify permissions.
The InTrust enables the secure collection, storage, and reporting alerts on the data log that complies with both internal and external regulations surrounding policies and security best practice. Using InTrust, you get an insight into user activities by auditing access to critical systems. You can see suspicious Logins in real time.
Management and Recovery
The easiest way the IT administrator can manage user accounts, computers, and objects via the Group Policy. Poor management of the Group Policy Objects (GPO) can cause many damages. For example, if your GPO is assigning proxy settings with wrong proxy values.
GPO Admin will automate Group Policies, and it has a workflow to enable the checking of changes before being approved by the GPOs. When GPO’s are used in the production industry, the management team will be impressed by the reduced tasks as it improves security.
Recovery is a critical process in any organization that runs its system based on Windows Server 2016. You can also recover the wrong entries and accounts that were removed. The Recovery Manager for Active Directory gives access to other features that report on the differences and help restore objects that were changed.
It is important to be prepared in readiness for disaster and data recovery. In case your domain finds itself in the wrong hands, or the entire network setup is corrupted, use the Recovery Manager for Active Directory utility.
Windows Server 2016 has a wealth of new features and capabilities to streamline and improve the management and facilitate better user experience. A successful implementation means that the Active Directory has a sound consolidation process. Administrators who have already tested this Server Operating Services should take advantage of the new capabilities.
The benefits of Active Directory tools and utilities are numerous because they help in setting up a flexible and secure Windows Server 2016 and Active Director that will work for your current and future environment. These utilities help managers who are not well conversant with some IT related Active Directory management tools who need to switch to the new server to comply with regional and international standards.