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The 10 best free Microsoft server tools for IT admins

These downloads are an adequate substitute for paid-for versions

When it comes to Microsoft, 'free' is a term rarely associated with the company's offerings, especially at the server end of the spectrum with products including Exchange Server, SQL Server, SharePoint and Hyper-V. However, there is the wealth of server tools available from Microsoft for free. We've rounded up the 10 best.

IT admins know functionality comes at a price. When it comes to Microsoft, 'free' is a term rarely associated with the company's offerings, especially at the server end of the spectrum with products including Exchange Server, SQL Server, SharePoint and Hyper-V.

However, there is the wealth of server tools that Microsoft offers for free, some of which can, in the right contexts, provide an adequate substitute for the paid versions of Microsoft's more intriguing server products.

Of course, by and large, Microsoft's free server tools are aimed at offering value to paying customers. Keeping customers from straying has provided Microsoft great incentive to deliver some very powerful tools for free. Many are invaluable assets for administering Microsoft's paid products. Others provide a free entry-level solution for large IT organisations to begin experimenting and small IT organisations to implement. All are well worth checking out. To help you get started, we have compiled an overview of the 10 best free server tools Microsoft has to offer.

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2

We all know the value of virtualisation, and Hyper-V as an add-in server role for Windows Server 2008 is becoming a well-established method for providing server virtualisation within your Windows environments. But did you know Microsoft offers a free version of Hyper-V called, simply, Hyper-V Server 2008 R2? This is a stand-alone product that contains only the hypervisor, the Windows Server driver model and virtualisation components, resulting in a small overall footprint. Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 offers all the key features, including host clustering, live migration, large memory support, support for up to eight processors, and more. Some features are missing, of course. Application failover and guest virtualisation rights are two notable features that will require moving to the Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter versions of Windows Server. That said, there is ample room for this free version of Hyper-V to become a significant contributor to your IT environment. Testing and development, branch office consolidation, and hosted VDI (virtualised desktop infrastructure) are just a few of the ways you can leverage Hyper-V Server in lieu of Windows Server.

Remote Server Administration Tools

Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) are an excellent choice for IT pros who wish to manage servers environments from their desktops. The toolset comprises two categories of tools, Role Administration Tools and Feature Administration Tools. Role Administration includes tools such as the Hyper-V Manager snap-in for managing Hyper-V on the server or a remote system.

Feature Administration gives you access to tools like the Failover Cluster Manager snap-in and the cluster.exe command-line tool for administering failover management. If you've installed Support Tools for Server 2000/2003 as ADMINPAK.MSI, you will find the tools included within Server Manager on Windows Server 2008 systems. You can add these tools to Vista or Windows 7 by searching for RSAT downloads from Microsoft and then installing them on your systems. After installing the tools, you will need to enable them through the Programs and Features , then Turn Windows features on or off.

Note: The tools do not install on all editions of Windows Vista or Windows 7. For example, with Windows 7 you need to run Enterprise, Professional, or Ultimate edition.

NEXT PAGE: SQL Server 200R2 Best Practices Analyzer

  1. Adequate substitutes for the paid-for versions
  2. SQL Server 200R2 Best Practices Analyzer
  3. Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer
  4. Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit


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