Understanding Workgroups

The workgroup was the original form of networking supported by Windows, and it’s really still the basic form of all Windows networking. The concept of a workgroup was originally defined around peer-to-peer networking, where any machine on a network can act as a server and any machine can act as a workstation. Even today, Windows Server 2008 has both the Server and the Workstation services that provide these two roles. You can use your Windows Server 2008 server as a workstation if you want — no one can honestly say that this functionality is unavailable. Of course, Microsoft now has the Server Core version of Windows Server 2008. Theoretically, you can use Server Core as a workstation, but I don’t know of anyone who’d want to.

The other standard form of networking is client/server. In this form of networking, you don’t use the server as a workstation. In fact, when working with operating systems such as NetWare (http://www.novell.com/products/netware/), you can’t use the machine that has the operating system installed as a workstation. It’s simply impossible to use a NetWare server as a workstation because no functionality exists to do it. The advantage of client/server setups is that they’re very light and reliable. The server uses all its resources to perform tasks on behalf of the client. However, this form of networking lacks flexibility. All workstations are always workstations, and all servers are always servers.

Understanding the pros of workgroups
Workgroups are convenient because you don’t have to have one super machine to handle everyone’s requests. Any workstation can also act as a server, so you can attach a laser printer to one workstation and an inkjet to another workstation. With the proper settings, everyone has access to both printers even though the printers appear on different machines. Sharing occurs on many levels. A workstation with an exceptionally large hard drive can share some of that hard drive space with everyone on the network. Likewise, a workstation with an Internet connection can share the connection with everyone else. Peer-to-peer networking is all about sharing whatever a workstation has in excess with everyone else on the network so that everyone benefits from that excess.

Most administrators also find workgroups easier to manage, at least when they’re small. If someone wants access to a particular workstation, their name must appear on the list of users for that workstation. When a workstation wants to share a particular asset, you must configure that asset for sharing and define who can use it. All of the settings are localized and easy to understand. You don’t have to worry about global security policies, Active Directory, or anything else that’s overly complicated.

A workgroup need not exist as a separate entity. You can use a workgroup network setup at the departmental level and a domain or client/server setup at the enterprise level. The concepts behind a workgroup work equally well in the departmental environment as they do in standalone mode. One question with workgroups is finding out how large can you make them before they reach their limit. The best way to answer this question is to determine how the administrator configures the workgroup, know whether the workgroup contains the proper number of dedicated servers, and what you expect the workgroup to do. If your only goal for the workgroup is to share files and print documents, a workgroup of any size is possible. As you add tasks, such as database management, the potential size for a workgroup decreases because you’re asking it to perform more work. A workgroup configuration that includes e-mail, file, print, and database management services is probably limited to 100 nodes. However, a skillful administrator could potentially increase that size.

Understanding the cons of workgroups
Using a workgroup becomes less advantageous when you begin using a number of custom applications and require centralized management for help desk support and other needs. Adding remote users and other enterprise requirements increase complexity and the need for centralized management, which usually means obtaining a central management application. For example, if you plan to use Microsoft’s System Center Operations Manager, or SCOM (http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/opsmgr/default.mspx), you need a domain. Consequently, the workgroup meets its match in complexity, not necessarily in size.

Workgroups also tend to provide poorer security than does a centralized network (client/server or domain). Because everyone is sharing resources freely, it can be difficult to lock down those resources and ensure that they’re shared only as required to accomplish tasks within the workgroup. Because of the poorer security, workgroups often encounter problems with adware and viruses where one machine’s woe automatically becomes every machine’s woe.

Source of Information : For Dummies Windows Server 2008 For Dummies

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