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Free tools for Windows Server admins

By Eric Geier, Network World
February 24, 2014 06:21 AM ET

Network World - There are endless software tools and utilities out there to help you in managing your network. Here are some of the best free ones. They can help you with deploying, maintaining, troubleshooting, and upgrading Window Servers, your domain, and aid with other miscellaneous network tasks.

Best Practices Analyzer

Microsoft provides the Best Practices Analyzer tool right inside Windows Server, starting with Windows Server 2008 R2, available on each role’s home page in the Server Manager console. It scans and analyzes key settings of the server roles and reports compliance of them compared to the best practices standards. This can help you identify potential issues that may affect security and performance.

It scans for a variety of rules, including those relating to predeployment, security, performance, and configuration. Statuses shown in the results include compliant, noncompliant, and warning. (Watch the slideshow version of this story.)

Core Configurator

Starting with Windows Server 2008, there’s a Server Core installation option. It’s great if you want a minimal installation, but it only gives you the Command Prompt for the interface. However, there are tools that give you a GUI on the Core editions of Windows Server. You can setup and configure most features via the GUI rather than being forced to use text commands.

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Core Configurator 2.0 supports Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 and Corefig is for Windows Server 2012 Core and Hyper-V Server 2012.

Exchange Server Deployment Assistant

Microsoft offers the Exchange Server Deployment Assistant, an online tool that asks you deployment related questions and then generates a custom step-by-step checklist to use during an Exchange install or upgrade.

It asks questions about your current configuration, desired deployment environment (on-premise, cloud, or hybrid), migration questions, and desired features/functionality. In the end you’re presented with a wizard type of checklist, which is saved so you can return later and can be printed out as well.

Role-based Access Control (RBAC) Manager

By default, you must use PowerShell commands to manage the new role-based access controls of Exchange, which debuted in Exchange 2010 and eliminates the use of access control lists (ACL). However, the Role-based Access Control (RBAC) Manager provides a GUI to edit these role-based access controls, which gives you the ability to easily add/remove cmdlets and edit cmdlet properties and assignments.

The RBAC Manager supports Exchange 2010 SP2, Exchange 2013 Preview and Office 365.

Exchange Reports

Exchange Reports provides you with insight on your Exchange server and environment, supporting Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013. It helps keeps you up-to-date with the server status, changes, and stats. It provides a group report and details on individual groups, mailbox report and details on individual mailboxes, an environment report, and it supports message tracking.

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