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We are a company of 10-15 people and are planning to take a server with windows 2008. We would like to know if it is beneficial to use the domain controller instead of configuring a workgroup. What are the pros and cons of each and how easy is it to migrate from workgroup to Domain Control if at a later date we plan to switch between them.

We don't plan for a System admin on board (in the near future) hence our objective is that the login mechanism to be simple to use with lesser troubles.

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As far as I understand, domain control would make life easier for at least the following tasks:

  • single login on any machine, if people sometimes use different computers;
  • implementing and changing common policies, security, printer settings, etc. for all/group of computers;
  • the possibility to tie login to any other software that supports AD/LDAP, such as project management tools, some version control software, etc.
  • auditing

Whether it is worth it in a 15 people company, probably depends. Last time I worked in a 10 people company I didn't use it, however, now that I work with 400+ people I find it extremely useful and would quite possibly do it in a 10ppl company, too.

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The more people you have in a network, the more difficult your transition to a domain will be.

I would not recommend Windows Server 2008 for a small company. A system based on Small Business Server 2008 would be more appropriate. Its cost is comparable and it includes many features that are simply not available in standard server. This includes remote access features as well as Exchange Server for shared Calendars, Contacts, Tasks, and Email.

Domains provide many benefits:

  • Centralized logins. With a workgroup you have to define user accounts on each system and to permit easy access to the server, the accounts must be identical as well as the passwords. With a domain, you create one account and it's used on all systems.
  • Centralized Administration. You can manage all workstations remotely as well as the server with ease and create policies to configure all workstations at boot.
  • Vastly improved security. Much easier group management and assigning of permissions to use.
  • Software deployment. For example, create a share, a Group Policy package, and you can install office on all your computers without ever having to touch the machines.

And I'm probably forgetting others. For me, Domains provide easily configured networks that frankly, I rarely have to touch more than typical windows updates.

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+1 for mentioning SBS - far more cost effective for small Co's are too often overlooked or not recommended by IT providers in my experience. – Chris W Sep 9 '09 at 7:40
Ugh, SBS. It's a total nightmare to migrate from SBS to Standard edition when you grow. If you foresee growth, don't get SBS. – tomfanning Sep 9 '09 at 8:33
How do you figure? What's so difficult about it? And why wouldn't you migrate to EBS after SBS? If you know the product, I don't see any difficulty in migrating - other than a possible loss of Remote Web Workplace and reports... but migrating to standard server should be pretty easy... add it as a DC and demote the SBS box off the network. That assumes you don't use the transition pack. What was your experience. – Multiverse IT Sep 9 '09 at 14:01

There is a crossover point where the additional overhead of managing a domain has to be balanced against the overhead of not having one, so it depends on how you work in your current environment. If you find that you're sharing a lot of data between users and fooling around with multiple local accounts, then yes, a domain is going to give you substantial benefit.

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I presume you're not planning on growing head count suddenly in which case taking an SBS server on board would be a great place to start - it really isn't difficult to administer and you certainly shouldn't find yourself needing a dedicated admin to look after it unless your looking to do anything other than the very basic vanilla install that the wizards will help you with. There's a lot of great communities out there that support it that will answer any questions you may get.

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