When logging into your company’s computer at work, have you ever wondered how the computer knows that your login credentials are correct? Have you ever been curious about how your boss is able to share files with all the employees in the company? These and other crucial business tasks are handled by your company’s server operating system.
One server operating system is Windows Server. Just as you can interact with your personal computer through your operating system, so too can a system administrator interact with the company’s servers and with work devices through Windows Server.
What Is Windows Server?
Windows Server is an operating system for servers. Used by businesses around the world, Windows Server is used for a variety of use cases, from managing print servers to hosting files on a shared network.
Windows Server competes with Linux as one of the most popular server operating systems. Why might some system administrators choose Windows Server? Windows Server and Windows have the same code base, which means that you can do many of the same things on both.
If your computer’s operating system is Windows, it makes sense to use Windows Server. There is less of a learning curve and you have the functionalities you are used to. With Windows Server, you can interact with the computer using a GUI (Graphical User Interface) or command line. Linux requires you to use a command line.
You may be trying to decide if you or your company should use Windows Server. A lot of it comes down to what applications you are currently running and which server operating system will be compatible with those applications.
A big difference between Windows Server and Linux is the cost. Windows Server 2019 is the most recent version of Windows Server. As of this writing, this software costs $1,528. Linux, on the other hand, is free. You can download a 180-day trial version of Windows Server to practice using this technology.
What Is Windows Server Used For?
As a server operating system, Windows Server allows you to interact with your server. Here are some server management tasks that Windows Server can help you with:
- Authentication. Windows Server allows you to manage access to systems across a network. You can manage login credentials to verify user identity. For example, say that you manage a network of computers at a company, and you use Windows Server to manage the interactions of those computers with the server (which could be your computer or a different server). You can have a database containing user login information. Using the settings in your server operating system, you can make sure that when a user logs into a computer in the network, their login credentials are checked against the login information in the database.
- Domain management. A domain is the “space” you buy on the Internet to feature your website. The domain name is the URL for that website. With a server operating system like Windows Server, you can manage your company’s domains. If you work for a large, well-known company, that company may have purchased multiple domains. All of those domains require regular maintenance. Maintenance tasks involve renewing or terminating domain name registration and making decisions about hosting providers.
- File sharing. You can use Windows Server to share files with other computers connected to your network. For example, if you own a small business, you probably use software to keep track of inventory, expenses, and so on. Your employees need access to this information when they come into work every day. You can share any files with the computers that are connected to the network. These computers are sometimes called “workstations.”
Learning Windows Server
There are many opportunities to use your Windows Server knowledge. As of this writing, on LinkedIn, there are 24,271 job positions that mention Windows Server in the United States. These include positions like Windows Server administrator, technical writer, and technical consultant. Glassdoor lists over 26,000 jobs that mention Windows Server. Roles include IT support specialist, systems administrator, and infrastructure engineer.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Windows Server?
It will take you about two months to learn the basics of Windows Server so that you can list it as a skill on your resume. If you are practicing Windows Server on your own computer, this includes time to get the technology set up (see the steps below). It also includes the time needed to take some courses or read books about how to use Windows Server.
As you learn Windows Server, familiarity with the regular Windows operating system will likely be useful because these operating systems have a similar interface.
How to Learn Windows Server: Step-by-Step
Ready to start training for the role of Windows Server administrator, IT support specialist, or another job that requires this technology? Windows Server comes with a hefty price tag, but you can do a free 180-day trial and install it on your computer so you can practice. Here’s how you can get started:
- Learn about the Windows Server interface and its capabilities. Before actually installing Windows Server on your computer, it’s a good idea to become familiar with how the interface works and its capabilities. Taking a course, reading a book, or watching a video (see resources below) can help you prepare.
- Set up a virtual machine (VM) on your computer. A virtual machine is a separate operating system. When you install it on your machine, you can work on projects, such as learning Windows Server, without affecting your regular (or “host”) operating system. To get this set up, you need to install a virtual machine like Virtual Box.
- Install the trial version of Windows Server. Once your virtual machine is set up, go to Microsoft’s Evaluations page for Windows Server products and resources. Here, you can select which Windows Server trial version you want to use. In this video, you will learn how to install Virtual Box and the Windows Server 2019 trial version.
- Do a guided walk-through. Watch a video like this one and follow along as the instructor guides you through the Windows Server interface. Note that in this video, the trial version is referred to as the “evaluation copy.”
- Keep learning. Once you install Windows Server and get your feet wet, continue to grow your skills by taking courses and reading books.
The Best Windows Server Courses and Trainings
Get started or continue your Windows Server training with these fantastic courses that will boost your confidence in your skills.
With no prerequisites, this option is great for absolute beginners. You’ll learn how to be a network administrator with Windows Server 2019. The skills you’ll learn include how to create and use virtual machines and a virtual laboratory, how to create a domain using Active Directory, and how to block the execution of dangerous programs.
You’ll get six hours of video content and nine other resources, lifetime access, and a certificate upon completing this course.
Cost: $49.99 for course. Free with LinkedIn Premium ($29.99/month)
In this course, you’ll learn many Windows Server skills, such as how to set up different server environments, configure identity and access, and manage the Admin Center.
This course assumes you have some experience with Windows Server. It’s best to take it after you have done some research, or as a follow-up to a complete beginner’s course. There are seven chapter quizzes, and you’ll get a certificate of completion.
Taught by four IT professionals, this course explores the exciting world of Windows Server 2019, including how to use Windows Server with Azure. Azure is Microsoft’s cloud hosting service and is often paired with Windows Server.
You’ll enhance your server management skills with tools like Server Manager, Windows Admin Center, and PowerShell (a command line interface for computers with a Windows or Windows Server operating system). You should have some understanding of servers and server operating systems before taking this course. Course content includes two and a half hours of video content and a certificate of completion.
Windows Server Books
Books can supplement your understanding of Windows Server. Here are our top picks:
Mastering Windows Server 2019, Jordan Krause
With this book, you’ll learn the ins and outs of installing and configuring Windows Server 2019. Common admin tasks, such as monitoring different servers across a network, are also covered. Other topics include how to use remote technologies and how to harness the power of virtualization as a server admin. Microsoft Azure, PowerShell, and the new Windows Admin Center are covered.
Windows Server 2019 & PowerShell All-in-One for Dummies, Sara Perrott
This book is a great reference to have on-hand as you learn Windows Server. PowerShell is the command line interface that comes with Windows and Windows Server operating systems, so it’s a useful skill to have. If you’re just starting out with Windows Server, a book for beginners like this one should be on your bookshelf. You’ll learn how to install and set up Windows Server, how to configure and administer this operating system, and how to manage the security of your system.
Hands-On Microsoft Windows Server 2019, Jason Eckert
Another fantastic resource for beginners. This book will give you a solid foundation in basic server administration. You’ll understand how to manage servers, whether you are dealing with a small or large network. Topics like configuring and managing server storage, troubleshooting performance issues, and file sharing are also covered. With hands-on projects and activities, this book gives you plenty of opportunities to practice your Windows Server skills.
Windows Server Resources
In addition to courses and books, here are some more great resources to help you get started with Windows Server.
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One of the best resources for learning how to use any new technology is its documentation. Microsoft offers a comprehensive documentation website for Windows Server. Expand your knowledge of Windows Server with how-to guides and information about troubleshooting, virtualization, and networking.
On this YouTube channel, the creator covers a variety of IT topics, including Windows Server. He discusses how to do the initial installation and configuration process for the trial version of Windows Server 2019. There is also a video for beginners about Active Directory Domain Services, a key element of Windows Server that allows you to manage user authentication. These are helpful videos if you’re just starting out with Windows Server.
Note: In his installation video, ittaster doesn’t talk about installing a virtual machine on your computer, which is something you’ll want to do before installing Windows Server 2019. To get your virtual machine set up, you can watch this video (the creator installs Windows Server 2012). You can then come back to ittaster for the Windows Server 2019 installation.
If you’re wondering what Windows Server actually looks like on a desktop, check out this video. The creator shows you a side-by-side comparison of the Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 operating systems. You can see the similarities and differences so that you know what to expect if you choose to install Windows Server on your machine.
Should You Learn Windows Server?
Windows Server is a server operating system. You can use it to perform tasks like authenticating users, managing domains, and sharing files with other computers that are connected to a server. A server operating system is also typically responsible for the security of the network and protecting it from malicious software.
Some jobs in tech require an in-depth understanding of server operating systems like Windows Server. Some examples are system administrator, IT support specialist, network administrator, and infrastructure engineer.
As one of the two most popular operating systems for servers, Windows Server is a valuable skill to learn. Its compatibility with Windows applications makes it a great tool to add to your repertoire.
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