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Planning for domain controllers and member servers

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Planning for domain controllers and member servers

With Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition; or Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition; servers in a domain can have one of two roles: domain controllers, which contain matching copies of the user accounts and other Active Directory data in a given domain, and member servers, which belong to a domain but do not contain a copy of the Active Directory data. (A server that belongs to a workgroup, not a domain, is called a stand-alone server.) It is possible to change the role of a server back and forth from domain controller to member server (or stand-alone server), even after Setup is complete. However, it is recommended that you plan your domain before running Setup and change server roles (and server names) only when necessary.

Multiple domain controllers provide better support for users, compared to a single domain controller. With multiple domain controllers, you have multiple copies of user account data and other Active Directory data; however, it is still important to perform regular backups, including Automated System Recovery backups, and familiarize yourself with the methods for restoring a domain controller. In addition, multiple domain controllers work together to support domain controller functions, such as carrying out logon validations.

For more information, see Active Directory server roles.

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