Data Centers

Deploying Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition

Microsoft created Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition (WSBE) to make life easier for small businesses that need big business computing solutions. Here's what you need to know to deploy WSBE.

Microsoft created Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition (WSBE) to make life easier for small businesses that need big business computing solutions. Rather than having to purchase and install multiple programs, Microsoft also streamlined the installation process. Here's what you need to know to deploy WSBE.

First things first

Before you start, make sure have you WSBE CDs in hand, are sitting at your server console and ready to do a full installation of this product including Windows Server with Active Directory and Exchange.

To get started, insert the first CD into your server and turn it on. If you've ever installed a Windows Server before, the first few screens will look mighty familiar as they're Microsoft's typical screens that tell you which drivers are being loaded for the installer (Figure A).

Figure A

Driver information for the setup process

Once all of the drivers load, the Windows installer asks you to make a decision: Press [ENTER] to Install WSBE, [R] to launch the repair console to repair a damaged server installation, or [F3] to exit the installation. I'll assume that, for this article, you want to perform an installation. After you make this selection, you're asked to accept the terms of Microsoft's ever-so-generous license agreement.

Next, like a typical Windows Server install, you're asked to create a partition for the new server and can allocate as much space as you like, up to the maximum amount available on your disks (Figure B). For this installation, I'm installing WSBE onto a 4-GB partition on a system with a 1.6 GHz Pentium-M processor and 256 MB RAM.

Figure B

Decide how much space you want to allocate to WSBE.

After decided how much space to allocate to the server installation, you can choose either NTFS or FAT for a file system type. These days, anything less than NTFS isn't usually a good idea because of the security features inherent to NTFS and missing from FAT. Moreover, Active Directory requires an NTFS partition for its database. Subsequent to you making this selection, the text portion of the installation completes and you get a pretty, familiar GUI.

The GUI portion of the installer

Most of the questions asked at the beginning of the GUI portion of the WSBE installation are pretty standard, such as regional selections including language, currency, and keyboard language options.

The second screen in the GUI asks for your name and company name followed by a screen requesting the now-ubiquitous 25-character product key. Following the entry of the product key, choose a name for your server and assign an initial password for the administrator account as shown below in Figure C.

Figure C

My sample server is named WSBE – original, eh?

The next screen—the date and time—probably doesn't seem important, but is can be, particularly if you are running Exchange and/or your server is a domain controller. If the time or time zone on the server is not set correctly, Active Directory has synchronization problems, and your users might claim that e-mail date and time stamps are wrong. Lesson: Even for something seemingly innocuous like the date and time, be careful and make sure to check the time zone! After this set of screens, Windows completes the initial installation and the system automatically reboots.

After the reboot…

Once you log into the server after the reboot, the next part of the installer is launched, which is where the additional applications, including Exchange and SQL Server, are installed and is also the utility that helps you configure Active Directory and other server components. See Figure D for a snapshot of this utility.

Figure D

The installer tells you exactly what it plans to do

Before you get to the good stuff, WSBE wants to know some information about you such as your phone number, fax number, address, etc. This information—shown in Figure E—is used later on to help configure components.

Figure E

WSBE wants information about your company.

Domain information

The next step in the installation starts the domain and Active Directory portion of the configuration. You are asked three questions:

  • The full internal DNS domain you'd like to use
  • The NetBIOS name you'd like to use
  • The name of the server

The only one you have to fill in is the first one, as the NetBIOS name is generated from your internal DNS name, although you can override it if you want and use the machine name that was specified during the initial installation.

There's a reason that the default name specified in the internal DNS domain box ends with .local rather than .com, .edu, .org, or .whateverelseyoumayuse. In most cases, you probably don't want to use the same internal and external DNS name spaces. Since .local is not used anywhere in the Internet, you don't have to worry about overlap. Down the line, when you install Exchange, you'll probably be happy that your DNS namespaces don't overlap and your DNS mail-exchange records will work. If you overlap name spaces, mail routing becomes tricky sometimes.

For this example, I've named the internal domain example.local and accepted the default NetBIOS name of EXAMPLE as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Internal domain naming information

Network adapter selection

Remember that WSBE 2003 includes powerful routing and remote access functionality meaning that you don't necessarily have to have a separate hardware router on your small network. You do need to have multiple network adapters to support this capability. The next screen in the installation asks you to select the network adapter that will access the local network. In Figure G, notice that I have selected the first Ethernet adapter—at 172.16.1.101—as the one that will be attached to the local network. Later, the second adapter will be configured to access the Internet. It's using a private address right now since my test machine is set up in my lab.

Figure G

The first network adapter will connect to the local network.

After network adapter selection, the Microsoft DHCP server is installed to provide dynamic IP addressing to your clients.

Next, to make sure your IP address is set up correctly and is static, which it must be, the installer asks you to set the server's LAN IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway. My selections are shown in Figure H.

Figure H

Local network adapter configuration

Security

Let's face it…Microsoft isn't the first company that comes to mind when you utter the word security, unless your sentence starts with an expletive. The next step in the installation asks if you want to have the system automatically log in when you boot (Figure I). Ok, if you're in a small office with just trusted people, sure—this can make life easier. If you're not, though, don't do this as your log has full administrative rights to the system.

If you do want to allow the system to automatically log in, type the administrator password in the box. Otherwise, select Log On Manually. Click Next.

Figure I

System logon information

After this step, it takes up to 30 minutes for the server to run through your selections and configure the server (Figure J). During this time, the server will reboot, but the installation will continue on. Once this part is done, you'll move on to application installation.

Figure J

The server configuration progress screen

Component installation

With the initial server installation and configuration under your belt, you're ready for the icing on the cake: the additional applications that give WSBE some guts. Note that I am using the Standard Edition of WSBE, so SQL Server is not available, but I will be installing the server tools and Microsoft Exchange server. Figure K shows you the initial installation screen.

Figure K

The component selection screen

Everything in WSBE is configurable, including the destination paths for each component and some dependencies. The next screen provides you with details on where each component or dependency will be installed and provides you with an opportunity—see Figure L—to adjust the location. For this example, I'll use the defaults.

Figure L

Use the Change Folder button to change the location of a component.

The server component installation process takes a little time and also presents you with a pretty status screen like the one in Figure M.

Figure M

The server components installation dialog box

When the process is complete, your server will restart.

The "to-do" list

Congratulations! At this point, you have a functional WSBE server running Exchange and Share Point portal services. After the obligatory Windows reboot, WSBE pops up a To Do list, just like the one in Figure N, detailing the next steps that you should take to complete this server's installation. The to-do items are explained below in greater detail.

Figure N

After installation, a number of tasks still remain.

View Security Best Practices

This to-do item features a detailed list of steps you should consider taking to secure your newly installed server. For example, components of this item include configuration of the included firewall, an analysis of user names and passwords, and other bits and pieces that make for a more secure server. This is mostly a list of documents outlining steps, rather than a wizard that walks you through the various steps.

Connect To The Internet

This starts a wizard that walks you through your networking configuration, including firewall and Web site settings. The wizard asks for your Internet connection type—dial-up or broadband, how you connect to your ISP (whether through a local router or via a direct connection), the networking configuration information from your ISP (including DNS server addresses and the IP address of the default gateway), and information on which connections belong to your ISP.

Yeah, a lot of this seems redundant since you did some of it during the installation, but if you ever need to change things, this is a good place to do it. The part that is most important in this step is the firewall configuration. Via this step, you can enable or disable the firewall and then select what services you want to allow. If the service you need to add doesn't appear on the list, you can add it if you know its TCP and/or UDP port number. See Figure O. In Figure P, notice the ability to allow/disallow specific Web services to be accessible from the Internet.

Figure O

The firewall configuration step; here, e-mail is allowed into the server

Figure P

The Web services configuration window

The next step in this item is to create a server SSL certificate either locally or by making use of one from a trusted issuing authority.

Subsequently, you can either enable or disable mail to and from the Internet. If you want a local mail server only, disable Internet e-mail. If you enable Internet e-mail, you can either route all mail using separate DNS lookups for each recipient for each message or you can forward all mail to your ISP's SMTP server for delivery. See Figure Q. When possible, I highly recommend forwarding mail to your ISP's mail server. You'll use up much less of your Internet bandwidth, and your server won't be as busy processing mail.

Figure Q

Decide how you want to send your Internet e-mail.

Even more! Your WSBE-based mail server provides a number of different ways for your users to receive e-mail (Figure R). First, you can use an included connector that attaches Exchange mailboxes to external POP3 accounts. And second, you can just use Exchange directly, either with or without your ISP being in the middle.

Figure R

Configure your e-mail retrieval method.

The next e-mail configuration steps ask you to verify your external DNS name—in my case, I used example.com and set up a mail schedule, which you need to do if you use the POP3 connector option or decide to have your ISP hold mail until you pick it up. The default pick-up schedule is every hour.

You are also asked which attachment extensions you want to allow and disallow to your e-mail server. This step is important as it can directly affect how much time you spend managing your server. By default, Exchange severely limits what can be attached to incoming messages, so if you need to allow something, look for it on the list provided.

Once you're done, the configuration is updated and your new settings take effect.

Configure Remote Access

Your new WSBE server also acts as a Virtual Private Network [VPN] or dial-up remote access server, allowing you to securely access your files, folders, e-mail and other resources from anywhere. I don't have a modem in my server, so I only get an option to set up VPN services when I click this option in the To Do list.

The first step in the VPN configuration is to provide the full Internet name of your server. Be sure to provide the external DNS name for your server and not the local name. In my case, this would be WSBE.example.com, not WSBE.example.local.

That's it!

Activate Your Server

Microsoft requires that all new servers be activated within 14 days of installation or they'll stop working. Clicking the options starts the familiar "Let's Activate Windows" wizard.

Add Client Licenses

The title for this option is a little misleading as it also includes the ability to transfer client license from another WSBE server or to reactivate client licenses after you make a significant hardware change to the server.

To add licenses, you need to enter the 25-character product key that came with your license order. You can activate these licenses either over the phone or over the Internet.

To transfer licenses, you must use the telephone option presented in this item and call Microsoft for help.

Add A Printer

This is pretty self-explanatory and lets you add shared printers to your server to be used by multiple users.

Add Users And Computers

This wizard allows you to add new users and computers to your domain by using a simple wizard. With this wizard, you can create the users login account, e-mail mailbox, home folder, define his group memberships, configure his SharePoint access, and enforce disk quotas.

The wizard works on the basis of templates. Templates for normal users, remote users, power users, and administrators are supplied out of the box and you can also create your own custom templates. For an example, I'll create a new Power User using a template, as in Figure S.

Figure S

Create a new power user using a template.

Once you select a template, you can either apply it to existing users or create a new user by following the simple instructions on the screen. I created a new user named ScottLowe and applied the Power User template.

That's all there is to creating a new user. The template idea makes this management task very simple.

Configure Monitoring

One of the new features in WSBE is the Configure Monitoring option that lets you set up alerts and provides you with server performance and usage reports.

The first screen in this wizard asks you to pick what kind of reports you'd like to receive via e-mail. You can choose performance and/or server usage reports which will also show up in the server management utility; see Figure T. On the next screen, type the e-mail address to which the reports should be sent.

Figure T

Decide what kinds of reports you'd like to receive.

The monitoring wizard also lets you send usage reports on business units to the appropriate manager, if you like.

Another very useful feature is the ability to more proactively manage server events such as low disk space, stopped services, and performance threshold violations. You can configure your server to send you an immediate alert when one of these events happens as shown below in Figure U.

Figure U

Configure your server to send an alert.

Configure Backup

The final option on this server is the ability to backup your data, which is a critical task! Make sure your server has a tape drive big enough to hold all of your data, and follow the steps in this wizard to get it going.

That's all there is to it

Small Business Server 2003 is definitely a full-featured product, but Microsoft has made a serious attempt at usability by providing you with an easy To Do list that walks you through the important steps. The installation is easy and familiar and seamlessly sets up complex environments like Active Directory.

Editor's Picks