Jul 19

Windows 8 to be available on October 26th

That’s right, Windows 8 will be available this next October 26th. Users will be able to get Windows 8 on new PCs or upgrade their existing computers to Windows 8 starting on that date.

I’ve been playing with the customer preview releases of Windows 8 and Server 2012 for the past few months, and I am starting to like a few of the features. I am still not a big fan of the new Metro interface though, but I am sure I will grow to at least tolerate it as time goes on.

Microsoft also announced the release timeline for Windows Server 2012. It will be available to hardware partners in August, and customers can buy equipment with Server 2012 sometime in September.

Microsoft is starting to invest a lot of energy and money in the tablet and phone markets. So much so that this next release of Windows has a user interface designed around these touch screen devices. We’ll just have to wait and see how that works out for them.

Sep 21

Microsoft Releases SBS 7 Preview (Beta).

I just received an e-mail from Microsoft stating that SBS 7 Preview has been released to the public. SBS 7 is the next installment on their Small Business Server lineup. It is the successor to SBS 2008. SBS 7 is built on Windows Server 2008 R2 code. It also includes Exchange Server 2010 SP1 and Microsoft Sharepoint Foundation 2010. I am actually eager to try it, and I will be downloading it and installing it as soon as I have time. I’ve been playing with SBS code name Aurora for the past month, and this new release  will keep me entertained for quite some time. You can read more about it on the SBS site. You can download the software at the Microsoft Connect Site.

Sep 13

Configure Remote Access (a VPN Connection) to your SBS 2008 Network.

I believe Small Business Server is a wonderful solution for small and medium sized businesses. It offers many great features and technologies at an affordable price. My consulting business caters towards small and midsized businesses, and most of my customers are running on the Small Business Server platform.  Once the platform is properly set up and businesses start taking advantage of the technologies offered by it, they become more efficient and can do their job faster. Let’s face it – I am happy when my customers are happy.

One of the technologies offered by SBS 2008 that makes my customer’s lives easier is Remote Access. SBS 2008 makes it simple to set up remote access. Just follow the next steps:

This guide assumes that your server is properly set up for internet access and that you have registered and configured your public domain so it resolves to your server’s public IP address.

  1. Log in to your server using an administrator account.
  2. Open the Windows SBS Console and click the Network tab.
  3. Under the Network tab click the Connectivity tab. Check the status of the Virtual Private Network. It should be off. If it’s on, it means it’s already configured.
  4. Under Tasks (Tasks is the right pane on the Windows SBS Console) click Configure a virtual private network. This will open the Set Up Virtual Private Networking wizard.
  5. Click the Allow Users to Connect to the Server by Using a VPN option. This will start the configuration, and the server will do all the required tasks for you in the background. It will configure RAS for you and set up the right permissions, and, if your router is UPnP compatible, it will configure it for PPTP pass through. If your router isn’t UPnP capable, you will have to configure it manually.
  6. Once the wizard finishes successfully click finish to close the wizard. The wizard may give you a warning if your router isn’t UPnP compatible. This means that you will have to set up the router for PPTP pass through manually. This is accomplished differently depending on your router and your network topology, and doing this is beyond the scope of this guide. If you need help just let me know in the comments and I will try to help. In essence, you will have to make sure that your firewall/router allows inbound traffic to your server on TCP port 1723 and IP protocol ID 47 (for PPTP and GRE respectively).
  7. Once the wizard finishes, your server is ready to accept incoming VPN connections. Now you just need to allow users to connect to the server via VPN. To do this click on the Users and Groups tab.
  8. Under the Users and Groups tab make sure the Users tab is selected and select the user you want to allow to connect remotely.
  9. Under the Tasks section click the Edit  user account properties option. This will open the user’s properties window.
  10. On the User account properties window select the Remote Access option and select the User can access virtual private network check box. Click OK. By selecting this check box, you are adding the user to the Windows SBS Virtual Private Network Users group. Users have to be members of this security group in order for them to be able to access the network using the VPN we just set up.
  11. That’s it. Your server is ready to receive connections, and your users are ready to connect.

To establish a VPN connection from a client running Windows 7 follow the next steps:

  1. Click the Start Menu, click Control Panel, click Network and Internet, and click Network and Sharing center.
  2. Click Set up a new connection or network under change your network settings. This will open the Setup a Connection or Network wizard.
  3. Select Connect to a workplace and click Next.
  4. If you already have a dial up connection set up, the wizard will ask you if you want to use that connection or if you want to create a new one. Select create a new connection. If you don’t have an existing dial up connection configured skip to the next step.
  5. Select use my internet connection on the how do you want to connect window.
  6. For the Internet Address type the public domain that resolves to your server’s public IP address (example: remote.domain.com)
  7. Type a name for the connection (It can be anything descriptive) and click Next.
  8. Type the user account name and password and the internal domain of your network.
  9. Click connect, and you should be able to connect to your network. To connect or disconnect in the future, click on the network icon on your system tray and select the connection and click connect/disconnect.

To connect to the network using Windows XP follow the next steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel and go to the Network Connections.
  2. Start the New Connection Wizard and click next until you get to the New Connection Type.
  3. Select Connect to the Network at my Workplace and click Next.
  4. Select Virtual Private Network Connection and click Next.
  5. Type a name for the connection and click Next.
  6. Type the public domain that resolves to your server’s public IP address and click Next.
  7. Click Finish to complete the Wizard.
  8. The connection window opens. Type a user account name and password and click Connect.

Microsoft makes it simple to connect Windows XP and 7 to the VPN. Running the network connection wizard with the default settings is enough to establish a connection.

One thing you should note if you are going to have more than 5 users connecting remotely to your SBS network, is that by default the server limits the amount of PPTP connections to 5. This limit can be increased. Just be sure to have the limit in mind when setting up users for remote access.

To increase the connections limit follow the next steps:

  1. Open Routing and Remote Access on your Small Business Server.
  2. Expand the server name, right click on Ports and click Properties.
  3. Select the WAN Miniport (PPTP) and click the Configure button.
  4. Under the Maximum Ports section adjust the port limit to a number that fits your needs.
  5. Click OK twice to close the properties windows and close Routing and Remote Access.

That should be all you need to do to set up Remote Access to your SBS 2008 Network.

Jul 12

Microsoft announces next versions of Small Business Server.

Microsoft announced today at their Worldwide Partner Conference that they would be releasing the next version of Small Business Server  for testing to the public by the end of summer.

Two versions will be released for preview – Small Business Server 7 Preview and Small Business Server Code Name “Aurora” Preview.

The first one, SBS 7, will be an update to their existing SBS 2008  Product. This version will include updates to the major components in the Small Business Server Suite (Server 2008 R2, Exchange Server 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2, etc…). The second one, code name “Aurora,” will be introduced as an entry level solution for small businesses with 25 or less users (The standard version of Small Business Server 2008 and 7 supports up to 75 users/devices).

I was wondering for quite some time now if Microsoft was going to update the current version of Small Business Server 2008 to include Windows Server 2008 R2, and this announcement answers my question. I like the changes introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2, and I welcome them to the SBS world. What does this mean for the existing users of SBS 2008 though? I’ve migrated a lot of my customers to SBS 2008, and they love it. Will there be an easy upgrade path to SBS 7? Will it make sense to upgrade, or will we just be better off waiting for the next upgrade cycle? Because if it’s not broken, why fix it, right? I am pretty sure all these questions will be answered with time. In the mean time I’ve registered to be a beta tester, and you can be sure that I will be playing with this release as soon as it is out.

Small Business Server Code Name “Aurora” is an interesting concept. A “lightweight” version of Small Business Server targeting the entry level market – businesses not ready to make the jump (financially) to the standard version of SBS. From experience, I can say that most of the customers that haven’t made the jump to the SBS bandwagon haven’t done it for financial reasons. Most times we can find ways to finance the investment, and the problem is solved. I don’t know how effective it would be to have an entry level version to target this market segment, and I can’t tell for sure until I play with it, know the features, and know the pricing structure.

You can find out more about these two new versions by going here. Also, if you are interested in trying the beta versions when they are released, go to the Small Business Server site and register.  I’m already registered and can’t wait to try them out.

Mar 05

Microsoft to discontinue future development of EBS.

Microsoft Windows Essential Business Server was Microsoft’s offering to Mid-Sized businesses with up to a Maximum of 300 users and/or devices. It was released during the third quarter of 2008.

Microsoft announced today  that it will discontinue future development of this offering starting June 30th 2010. You can read more about it here.

From the EBS Blog:

“Today, we announced the decision to streamline our server product portfolio and will discontinue future development of EBS, effective June 30th, 2010.

Since the launch of EBS, several changes have occurred that drove our decision to streamline our server product portfolio. First, midsize businesses are rapidly turning to technologies such as management, virtualization and cloud computing as a means to cut costs, improve efficiency, and increase competitiveness. Those capabilities are already available through other offerings, including Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft System Center and the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).”

What does this mean to the small and mid-sized business community? It just means that Microsoft will no longer ship/sell this server offering. Any other versions will not be affected.

What about customers that currently have EBS installed on their networks? Microsoft thought about this, and they are offering for a limited time the individual components of EBS 2008 to licensed customers for free. You can check the Microsoft EBS site for more information about this offer – http://www.microsoft.com/ebs.

What about support? Here’s what the EBS development team has to say about this:

Current EBS customers can look forward to a support cycle that holds true to the Microsoft five-year mainstream and five-year extended support lifecycle. All service packs will also be supported according to lifecycle support. For more detailed information, please visit http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle.

If you are a customer that has EBS currently deployed on their network and need advice, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Until Next Time.