“NT crashes more often than desired… Is extremely resource hungry”

What do you have to watch out for, while
implementing an NT network? Who knows best, but one who has just done it. Dipak Sehgal,
(Manager Operation Support Systems) of Essar Cellphone, Chandigarh, has just set up an NT
network. He shares his experiences….

You have recently gone in for an NT
implementation. Prior to this, which network OS did you have?

We are a startup organization hence it would be right to say that we deployed NT from
ground zero up. However, we did experiment with various network structures viz. a Windows
95 workgroup and a Windows NT 4.0 Workstation workgroup before deploying a full-fledged
Windows NT domain.

What were the key factors that
prompted you to go in for an NT implementation?

A major factor in deciding on Windows NT was our outsourced billing application which
required Windows NT 4.0 as the operating system. However, we decided not to restrict
Windows NT 4.0 to our billing PCs alone but to also deploy it on all our PCs across the
organization. This was basically to achieve better stability, data security-Windows NT is
leagues ahead of Win95 as far as security is concerned-and better management of resources
and users.

What were your expectations from
the operating system and the solution?

First, we deployed a 10-node Windows NT 4-based workgroup. We faced major problems there.
The NT 4.0 workstation is simply not conducive to a workgroup kind of deployment. There is
no unified network logon with each machine maintaining its own password database. We faced
user access problems even for something as mundane as printer sharing or accessing your
mail on the workgroup post-office. Thus, we had to deploy a Windows 95 machine hosting
these services. We also found that Windows NT is extremely resource hungry. If Office 97
Professional is loaded on a PC you do not get acceptable performance on any machine less
than 166 MHz Pentium with 32 MB RAM. If you are planning a fairly heavy MS Access database
deployment, then seriously consider a more powerful configuration. The lack of usable
documentation with which NT is shipped also rankles. In fact, the online documentation
available on the NT CD ROM is minuscule and not really of help when it is actually
required. We have found that NT crashes more often than desired. Crash recovery is neither
documented nor easy. It is during instances of an NT crash that the absence of
documentation is most noticeable.

What were the problems you faced
during the implementation?

Most of the network logon problems were addressed by the move to NT domain. However, the
move itself created some problems e.g. when the user logged onto domain from his machine,
a new user profile and a new user directory was created and the user’s old data was not
accessible to him. This entailed a major exercise in copying old user data from the old
user directory to the new one. This had to be repeated for each user on each machine.

What is the current status of the
NT implementation?

Currently, we have two servers running Windows NT 4.0 with 128 MB of RAM in each, 8 GB
hard disk in one, and 12 GB hard disk in the other. One server is dedicated to Exchange
Server while the other is dedicated to our billing application. There are 40 users on the
NT network. Presently, we are also in the process of expanding our NT domain to eight more
sites across WAN links. We shall be deploying a BDC at each site. This expansion will also
include a major Exchange and SMS deployment.

What is your advise to those who
are considering a new NT implementation?

I would recommend the following: Do not deploy Windows NT 4.0 workstation in a workgroup.
If you do deploy Windows NT 4.0 workstation then ensure that an NT Server and domain are
in place before deploying NT workstation. NT is resource-hungry, plan a minimum of 166 MHz
Pentium and 32 MB for just the workstation.

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