One of the questions customers frequently ask us is “Where can I learn all this stuff?” A great deal of our knowledge comes from practical experience and exposure to a wide array of issues. Think of it in these terms – an IT Administrator may only have one or two environments (or areas within an environment – such as Printing or Firewall Management) to maintain or troubleshoot at any given time. A consultant may have a half-dozen or so customer environments to manage. As Support Engineers, we may deal with a half-dozen different environments on a daily basis through our customer support incidents. In many of these instances, our customer is in a “business down” scenario. Therefore, we may have to understand not only the nature of the specific problem, but oftentimes also the quirks of the individual environment in order to troubleshoot an issue in a time-sensitive situation.
That having been said, having a good understanding of the foundation of the technology areas we deal with is essential to our troubleshooting process. So we thought we would share some of the resources that can be used to build that foundation:
Windows Internals (4th Edition): This is THE definitive book about the core components of Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Beginning with foundation concepts such as the difference between Kernel Mode and User Mode memory and ending with Crash Dump analysis, this book provides the “under the covers” look at the Windows Operating System Architecture. Chapter 7 on Memory Management is an absolute gem!
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Administrator’s Companion (2nd Edition): The Administrator’s Companion covers Windows 2003 from Deployment to Troubleshooting. Topics such as Disaster Recovery and Clusters are touched on briefly – enough to provide some basic knowledge for Administrators who may not have a wealth of experience in that area. Part VI of the book covers Performance Monitoring and Troubleshooting.
Microsoft Windows Registry Guide, Second Edition: Managing and manipulating the registry is something that many Administrators are uncomfortable with. This book shows you how tweak and troubleshoot the registry – including best practices to back up and restore the registry.
Active Directory for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Technical Reference: Covers Active Directory from Design and Deployment through to Maintenance and Disaster Recovery. The book also includes information on Authentication, Kerberos and other Security Features.
Microsoft Windows Group Policy Guide: Streamlining an environment using Group Policies can be one of the most challenging tasks for an Administrator. This book explains how to simplify and automate common administrative tasks including System Updates, Software Installations and Network Resource Management.
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 TCP/IP Protocols and Services Technical Reference: In-depth guide to TCP/IP from the basics through routing and IPv6. Includes information on the Application layer protocols and services such as DHCP, DNS, WINS, IAS and IIS.
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services: More environments are leveraging Terminal Services to reduce system overhead and support costs. This book provides guidance on planning, deploying and configuring Terminal Services. Advanced topics such as access portals, third-party add-ons and TS farms are also covered.
There you have it – a fairly broad range of resources to build up your foundation of knowledge. Good Luck!