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Taking stock of Windows Server management tools

Microsoft provides a mix of server management tools that administrators can choose from to control the machines that run the business. This comparison can help steer your decision.

The right Windows server management tools keep the business running with minimal interruptions. But administrators should be open to change as the company's needs evolve.

Many organizations run on mix of new and old technologies that complicate the maintenance workload of the IT staff. Administrators need to take stock of their systems and get a complete rundown of all the variables associated with the server operating systems under their purview. While it might not be possible to use one utility to run the entire data center, administrators must assess which tool offers the most value by weighing the capabilities of each.

For these everyday tasks, administrators have a choice of several Windows server management tools that come at no extra cost. Some have been around for years, while others recently emerged from development. The following guide helps IT workers understand why certain tools work well in particular scenarios.

Choose a GUI or CLI tool?

Windows server management tools come in two flavors: graphical user interface (GUI) and command-line interface (CLI).

Many administrators will admit it's easier to work with a GUI tool because the interface offers point-and-click management without a need to memorize commands. A disadvantage to a GUI tool is the amount of time it takes to execute a command, especially if there are a large number of servers to manage.

Administrators can use both PowerShell versions side by side, which might be necessary for some shops.

Learning how to use and implement a CLI tool can be a slow process because it takes significant effort to learn the language. One other downside is many of these CLI tools were not designed to work together; the administrator must learn how to pipe output from one CLI tool to the next to develop a workflow.

A GUI tool is ideal when there are not many servers to manage, or for one-time or infrequent tasks. A CLI tool is more effective for performing a series of actions on multiple servers.

This tip offers more specifics about the two interfaces used with server management tools.

Windows Admin Center: A new management contender

Windows Admin Center, formerly Project Honolulu, is a GUI tool that combines local and remote server management tools in a single console for a consolidated administrative experience.

Windows Admin Center is one of Microsoft's newer Windows server management tools that makes it easier to work with nondomain machines, particularly those running Server Core.

Windows Admin Center can only manage Windows systems and lacks the functionality IT workers have come to expect with the Remote Server Administration Tools application.

Administrators interested in using Windows Admin Center as one of their primary Windows server management tools should be aware of potential security issues before implementing it in their data center.

This article provides additional details about the features of this tool.

A venerable offering expands to new platforms

Now more than 10 years old, PowerShell is one of the key Windows server management tools due to its potent ability to manage multiple machines through scripting. No longer just a Windows product, Microsoft converted the automation and configuration management tool into an open source project. Microsoft initially called this new offering PowerShell Core, but now refers to it as just PowerShell. The open source version of PowerShell runs on Linux and macOS platforms. Microsoft supports Windows PowerShell but does not plan to add more features to it.

Administrators can use both PowerShell versions side by side, which might be necessary for some shops. At the moment, Windows PowerShell provides more functionality because certain features have yet to be ported to PowerShell Core.

This link offers more information about the differences between the two versions that administrators need to know.

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