Network Administration: Workgroups or Domains

One of the decisions which must be made before you install Windows Server 2008 R2 is whether you are going to use workgroups or domains. Microsoft says that workgroups should be used only for very small networks. In fact, any network that is large enough to have a dedicated server running Windows Server 2008 R2 is too large to use workgroups. As a result, if you’re installing a Windows server, you should always opt for domains.

A domain is a method of placing user accounts and various network resources under the control of a single directory database. Domains ensure that security policies are consistently applied throughout a network and greatly simplify the task of managing user accounts on large networks.

A workgroup is a simple association of computers on a network that makes it easy to locate shared files and printers. Workgroups don’t have sophisticated directory databases, so they can’t enforce strict security.

After you decide to use domains, you have to make two basic decisions:

  • What will the domain name be? If you have a registered Internet domain name, such as, you may want to use it for your network’s domain name. Otherwise, you can make up any name you want.

  • What computer or computers will be the domain controllers for the domain? If this is the first server in a domain, you must designate it as a domain controller. If you already have a server acting as a domain controller, you can either add this computer as an additional domain controller or designate it as a member server.

You can always change the role of a server from a domain controller to a member server and vice versa if the needs of your network change. If your network has more than one server, it’s always a good idea to create at least two domain controllers. That way, if one fails, the other one can take over.