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.

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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.

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Mar 21

Use WebDAV folders to manage Sharepoint Libraries in SBS 2008.

Microsoft Sharepoint is a powerful product that allows companies to collaborate using a web based medium. It is installed when you deploy Windows Small Business Server. It can be used out of the box by employees and members of an organization. I’ve deployed Windows Small Business Server to most of my customer’s networks, and they love using Sharepoint.

One of the features Sharepoint has is Document Libraries. You can upload, modify, and mange documents right in Sharepoint, and it becomes a really powerful and efficient tool when you use it right. Working with folders and files from within Sharepoint can be cumbersome and inefficient when you are used to the usual “Windows Explorer” that comes with all versions of Windows. Wouldn’t it be nice to work with Sharepoint libraries using this familiar interface? Well, it is possible. Sharepoint supports a technology called Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV).

WebDAV makes it possible to modify and work with documents in Sharepoint libraries as if they were on your computer.

Here’s a Wikipedia description of WebDav:

Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning, or WebDAV, is a set of extensions to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that allows computer-users to edit and manage files collaboratively on remote World Wide Web servers. RFC 4918 defines the extensions. The group of developers responsible for these extensions was also known by the same name and was a working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The WebDAV protocol allows interactivity, making the Web a readable and writable medium, in line with Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision. It allows users to create, change and move documents on a remote server (typically a web server or “web share”).

Microsoft didn’t make WebDAV available on all versions of Windows by default. So make sure your version supports it. Also, Microsoft released an update that fixes some issues with WebDAV folders. You can get this update here

Download and Install the update before proceeding.

The following steps walk you through configuring web folders for Sharepoint libraries:

  • First, click on the start menu, right-click “computer,” and click “Map Network Drive.”
  • On the Map Network Drive Window choose a drive letter, type in the path to the Sharepoint Library (http://companyweb/<library name>, in this case http://companyweb/workorders). Make sure the “Reconnect at Log On” option is checked. Then click the “Finish” button.
  • A window asking for credentials will show up. Type in your domain credentials in the format DOMAIN\username and your password. Click OK.
  • After doing this, the Sharepoint Libary will show up in “My Computer” as if it was a drive. You can work with folders and files as if it was a drive on your local computer. Any changes will show up in the library when you browse it in Sharepoint.

This procedure assumes you are working on a computer with local access to the Sharepoint server. In Windows Server 2008 you can access the Sharepoint Website from a remote computer. To access the Sharepoint Library from a remote computer type the remote path to the library instead of the local path. The remote path may be different depending on how it was setup by your network administrator. The path is usually https://remote.<yourdomain.com>:987/<library name>. You enter this path in the map a network drive window.

There you have it. This will make it easier to work with Sharepoint Libraries in your organization.

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