Current State of Active Directory (Server 2012)?

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http://serverfault.com – I've ran active directory in the past in the 2003-2008 era. I remember multiple headaches i had back then: I wanted to upgrade the domain controller hardware which was going to cause a rebuild. I'm not a network guy by trade but rather a programmer. I tried to do a trying to backup / restore my active directory network but i wasn't successful in the end. AD & all the services would bog down the machine. It took forever to boot and the machine was slow. I decided to not run a domain any more and just run a simple workgroup at the time. Now trying to constantly learn new things in progra (HowTos)