Network Server Setup: Software Configuration Decisions

When you install network operating system (NOS) software, you have to make some decisions about how you want the operating system and its servers configured. Most of these decisions aren’t cast in stone, so don’t worry if you’re not 100 percent sure how you want everything configured. You can always reconfigure things. However, you’ll save yourself time if you make the right decisions up front rather than just guess.

The following list details most of the decisions that you’ll need to make. (This list is for Windows Server 2003 and 2008 installations. For other network operating systems, the decisions may vary slightly.)

  • The existing operating system: If you want to retain the existing operating system, the installation program can perform a multiboot setup, which allows you to choose which operating system to boot to each time you start the computer. This is rarely a good idea for server computers, you should elect to delete the existing operating system.

  • Partition structure: Most of the time, you’ll want to treat the entire server disk as a single partition. However, if you want to divide the disk into two or more partitions, you should do so during setup. (Unlike most of the other setup decisions, this one is hard to change later.)

  • File system: Windows servers provide two choices for the file system to format the server’s disk: FAT32 and NTFS. In every case, you should elect to use NTFS. FAT32 should never be used for a server operating system.

  • Computer name: During the operating system setup, you’re asked to provide the computer name used to identify the server on the network. If your network has only a few servers, you can just pick a name such as Server01 or MyServer. If your network has more than a few servers, you’ll want to follow an established guideline for creating server names.

  • Administrator password: Okay, this one is tough. You don’t want to pick something obvious, like Password, Administrator, or your last name. On the other hand, you don’t want to type in something random that you’ll later forget, because you’ll find yourself in a big pickle if you forget the administrator password.

    You should you make up a complex password consisting of a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, some numerals, and a special symbol or two; then write it down and keep it in a secure location where you know it won’t get lost.

  • Networking protocols: You’ll almost always need to install the TCP/IP protocol, the Microsoft network client protocol, and file and printer sharing. Depending on how the server will be used, you may want to install other protocols as well.

  • TCP/IP configuration: You’ll need to know what IP address to use for the server. Even if your network has a DHCP server to dynamically assign IP addresses to clients, most servers use static IP addresses.

  • Workgroup or domain: You’ll need to decide whether the server will join a domain or just be a member of a workgroup. In either case, you’ll need to know the domain name or the workgroup name.