Benefits of a Domain over a Workgroup

Posted on by Robert Collar

Many businesses operate simply but effectively on a workgroup, nominating a workstation on the network as the “server” and using this PC as the central repository for shared files and folders, available to all the other PC’s on the network.

But what makes a server a true server? Increasing the RAM in a nominated PC to 8Gb, installing a fast processor and labelling it as the “server” does not make it a server. What truly differentiates a server from a powerful PC, is the operating system and the functionality that this provides to other users on the network

In a workgroup, no PC is in overall control. Each machine operates in a “peer to peer” environment with no individual PC in charge of the network. If Windows 7 is installed on the nominated server it does a pretty good job of sharing resources with other users on the network and with the built in security features, NTFS file permissions, the access levels to files and folders can be set for individual users and groups, but a dedicated server operating system such as Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 with the built in email server Microsoft Exchange 2010 provides a much greater range of options.

A full domain based server is known as the Primary Domain Controller or PDC and as its name suggests, there is scope for network expansion when necessary by installing a secondary Domain Controller or Backup Domain Controller. The central principle of a PDC is that all aspects of the users and computers on the network including the user rights and security and access permissions, are held in a directory on the server called the “active directory” which although more complex to set up initially, makes managing the network far simpler in the long run than managing a collection of individual PCs.

Both internal and external email becomes centrally managed, shared and backed up for all users, rather than each individual PC collecting their own email from an external source and potentially risking data loss from corruption or breakdown of individual PCs.

Centrally managed email has the added advantage of reducing network traffic and being able to share calendars and inbox with any other user on the network.

Those businesses already using SBS 2011, or the earlier versions SBS 2008 and SBS 2003 are probably unaware of some of the benefits of the hidden features, not enabled by default.

In summary, a workgroup can be effective in a small network environment if the only features required are for users to share the resources of the network from a central “server” running the Windows 7 operating system. Shared resources may include files, programs and the Internet, but for a true server based environment there has to be a dedicated server based operating system such as Small Business Sever 2011 installed with Microsoft Exchange 2010 acting as the internal post office for the email distribution.

At TAB Computers, we have over a decade of experience setting up and maintaining dedicated servers throughout the UK and we are happy to offer advice on improving business workflow, enabling disabled features or simply getting the most from your existing network, whether that be a workgroup or a domain. Give us a call on 0800 321 3427 or fill in the contact form and a member of our team would be delighted to call you back

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