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MCSA/MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit: Managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Environment (Exam 70-218)

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An excellent beginners' guide to the basics you'll need to know in order to get through the rest of the MCSE/MCSA exams, Managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Environment should be the first book you buy--and it'll continue to come in handy with the rest of the exams you'll take.

Essentially, this book is the absolute minimum you need to know in order to set up and maintain a Win2K environment--how to share a file, how to manage disks, and how to use TCP/IP properly. Advanced users will know these concepts in and out, of course, but this book isn't written for them; it's aimed squarely at the beginning user who's starting from scratch, or close to it.

One of Microsoft's strengths has always been explaining introductory concepts--not necessarily going over every last aspect of each program, but telling you what the program is supposed to do when it's working right--and that's continued here. If you don't know what DNS is or WINS is you'll have a solid idea of what a well-functioning DNS server looks like by the time it's all over.

The writing is heavy on exercises--about a quarter of the book consists of recipes of simple tasks that can be done with two networked computers. The exercises invariably go over what you've just learned, and help to reinforce the basic concepts. An even nicer touch is that certain exercises ask you to purposely "break" something within Windows 2000, then ask you to try what would normally work and see what sorts of error messages you get--this is rarely done, but it's a nice attempt at teaching elementary troubleshooting, and a welcome reminder that not everything goes right in the real world. (Don't worry, they show you how to set it right after you're done.)

Some aspects of the book are a dramatic improvement over past Microsoft books--the section on NTFS permissions, for example, is miles ahead of anything Microsoft has done before, nailing down the reasonably complex issue of overlapping permissions with ease and grace. The section on disk drives is also well done, and while I doubt that anyone will ever be able to write a section on the monstrously dry TCP/IP protocol that could be called enjoyable, Managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network nicely communicates the essentials of TCP/IP, DNS, and DHCP.

Likewise, a weakness in previous Microsoft books was real-world experience--the exam itself consists mostly of troubleshooting networks gone awry. This is still a problem, and the book is in no way a substitute for hands-on experience, but the troubleshooting sections sprinkled throughout the book (they give lists of basic problems encountered in Win2K networks and their solutions) are a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the most complex portions of Windows 2000--the infamous Active Directory and Group Policies--are the book's weakest sections. Where the reader really needs some handholding to get them through the moderately complex set of concepts associated with Active Directory, the book instead falls into lists and exercises. Novices will definitely need some hands-on effort here to get their minds around it, and will probably have to read these sections several times.

Another minor problem is that the questions--which, in a near first for Microsoft, actually have MCSE-style multiple-choice questions--still come in essay form, and are relatively simple questions that don't test your ability to fix broken networks. There are also relatively few questions, with perhaps three to five at the end of every section; more would have been an added bonus. However, the book comes with a 120-day trial version of Windows 2000 Server, allowing you to get your hands dirty with your own version.

In short, Managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Environment isn't for experts--but then again, experts will probably pass this exam without really needing a book. For the at-home student and the novice, this book is a top pick. Highly recommended. --William Steinmetz

This official MCSA TRAINING KIT teaches system administrators how to manage a Microsoft Windows-based network environment-as they prepare for MCP Exam 70-218, a core requirement on the new Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) track. Students learn through an integrated system of skill-building lessons, hands-on exercises, and self-assessment tools. Topics map directly to the objectives measured by the exam, including managing file, print, and Web resources; configuring network infrastructure; monitoring servers and client computers; managing Active Directory organization units and Group Policy; and implementing and troubleshooting remote access. An economical alternative to classroom instruction, this MCSA TRAINING KIT enables students to set their own pace and learn by doing!

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