Management tasks you'll face with Mobile Information Server

Adding Mobile Information Server to your network will give you a whole new list of things to do. In this Daily Feature, Jim Boyce explains how to accomplish some of the more pressing MIS management tasks.

Microsoft Mobile Information Server (MIS), which provides wireless devices with access to Exchange Server and other LAN resources, is a boon for wireless users. MIS lets wireless users synchronize their wireless devices to their Exchange mailboxes, browse Web-based resources, and receive notifications from Exchange. With all of these great features, you can probably guess that adding MIS to your enterprise will substantially increase your workload. But, if you think you don’t have the time to manage MIS, you might want to rethink your schedule. The pluses of having MIS in your enterprise could far outweigh the time you’ll spend installing, managing, and administering it. Especially once you consider the ease with which this product is managed. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you some of the more urgent management tasks you will face with MIS, including the configuration of general properties, authentication options, and user devices.

Editor’s Note
This Daily Feature details a number of specific management issues you’ll face with MIS. To see a broader view of what this product has to offer your enterprise and how to install it, see the Daily Drill Down “Keep mobile users in the know with Mobile Information Server 2002” and the Daily Feature “The ins and outs of installing Mobile Information Server 2002.”

Configuring general properties and password expiration notification
As with most other Microsoft server products, you manage MIS through a Microsoft Management Console (MMC). The MIS System Manager installs when you install MIS, or you can install it separately on a workstation to enable remote management of MIS. You can perform many different configuration and administration tasks using System Manager, but one of the first things you should do after installation is configure some of MIS’s general properties.

Open the MIS System Manager and expand the left branch. Right-click MIS Installation and choose Properties. Doing so will open the MIS Installation Properties sheet, which contains three tabs. The Mobile Information Server Properties tab lists the current properties for the configuration, including such things as the location of various MIS directories, cache settings, and message limits. Some of the properties are read-only, while others can be modified with a double click. The Installation Information field provides a place for you to type installation or configuration notes. The text box doesn’t word wrap, but you can press [Ctrl][Enter] to start a new line.

At this point, you might also want to configure authentication options through the Authentication Settings tab. The settings here determine whether a notification is sent to users when their passwords are about to expire. You specify the time period and frequency for password notification. In order to support notification, the carrier’s WAP gateway must support HTTP authentication and cookies. If the carrier’s WAP gateway doesn’t support HTTP authentication and cookies, you should disable password expiration notification. If you don’t know if HTTP authentication and cookies are supported, check with the carrier before making any changes to this property.

Setting up intranet browsing
One of the things MIS makes possible is browsing intranet sites from WAP-enabled wireless devices. These intranet sites can provide a wide range of information to wireless users, including inventory, sales and pricing information, project notes, and lots of other targeted information. The first step in making this information available is creating the content. Creating Wireless Markup Language (WML) content is a bit outside the scope of this article, but I will tell you how to configure your servers to host WML content.

If you’re going to use IIS to host WML content, you need to configure MIME types on the server accordingly. Open the IIS console and open the properties for the site in question. This is typically the default Web site because that’s where the virtual directory gets created by default. Click the HTTP Headers tab and then click File Types. Click New Type in the File Types dialog box. In the resulting File Type dialog box, enter .wml in the Associated Extension field and text/vnd.wap.wml in the Content Type (MIME) field.

Next, you need to consider which sites will be available to wireless users. Naturally, there are some limitations to take into account. First, if you selected the option to use a new wireless forest for authenticating wireless users, you won’t be able to restrict access on an individual or per-group basis by setting ACLs on the pages or their folders. You can’t restrict access in that way because MIS uses the generic Access User credentials to authenticate on the site. This also precludes individualized content because IIS has no way to determine the user’s primary credentials.

Exchange Server is another consideration when using the Access User security model. If you choose this security model and the Exchange Server contains accounts for wireless users, you should not add Exchange Servers to the list of available intranet sites because adding the server in this situation would allow wireless users to be able to view other users’ mailboxes.

Your next step is to configure MIS to either allow access to all intranet sites or specify the allowed sites. The Intranet Browse Sites tab of the MIS Installation Properties sheet lets you control the WML-formatted sites that users can browse on the intranet from their WAP-enabled devices. Select Allow Access To All Intranet Sites if you don’t want to limit the sites that users can access through MIS. Otherwise, click Add and specify the server that hosts the site root. Add an entry for all servers to which you want to provide access.

Adding carriers
Another important setup step is adding the carriers that provide services to your wireless users. Your MIS servers can communicate with the carrier using either SMTP or HTTP. When you add a carrier to MIS, you specify the default device type, protocol, carrier address, and any extended properties required by the carrier.

To add a carrier, open the MIS console, right-click the Carriers branch, and choose New Carrier. Enter the information in the New Carrier dialog box, making sure to select the appropriate protocol. In the Carrier Address field for an HTTP carrier, enter the URL to the carrier’s Web server, specifying the complete path to the virtual directory that services notifications. For an SMTP carrier, enter the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) of the carrier’s SMTP server.

After you add a carrier, it will appear under the Carriers branch in the left pane and its properties will appear in the right pane when you select it. You can add as many carriers as needed, each with unique settings. To change the settings for a particular carrier, click it in the left pane and then double-click the property in the right pane that you want to change.

Configuring devices and managing users
The Devices branch of the MIS console includes four device types: CDMA, GSM, SMTP, and TDMA. You can’t add new device types, but you can configure extended properties, if needed, for the access methods supported for each device type. Click a type in the left pane to view its properties in the right pane. In most cases you won’t need to change existing settings or add new ones.

You can also configure devices at the user level, specifying the devices used by a user, the carrier for the device, and related properties. Go to the Active Directory Users And Computers console, open the user’s account properties, and click the Wireless Mobility tab.

The first step is to allow the user wireless access, so check the Enable Wireless Access option. Then, click Add to add devices for the user. In the Add Device dialog box, choose the device format type (such as SMTP), the carrier for the device, a description (which helps identify the device for administrative purposes), and an address. The address you enter depends on how the data gets to the device. If the carrier is not running MMIS Carrier Edition, you will generally enter a phone number or pager number as the device address.

If the carrier is running MMIS Carrier Edition, you can still enter a phone number or pager number. However, if the carrier is using MMIS to control wireless access, you need to enter the user name assigned by the carrier as the device address. The carrier’s MMIS installation then takes care of forwarding the messages accordingly. You can add multiple devices for a user and set one device as the default.

The last thing to check is the option that allows users to synchronize their Exchange Server mailboxes from their wireless devices. To allow this capability, enable the option on the Wireless Mobility tab before closing the account properties.

Now, turn the wireless configuration over to your users. Those who want to receive notifications need to customize their settings by pointing their browser to http://<server>/airweb, where <server> is the site hosting the MIS Personalization page, which you installed on the Exchange Server along with the Event Source. The Personalization page lets the users configure devices, browse settings, and define the types of notifications they want to receive on their wireless devices.

Get going!
As you can see, MIS adds quite a few items to your to-do list. However, because MIS uses a standard Windows 2000 MMC, you won’t have much of a problem accomplishing these management tasks—even if you’re already crunched for time. Once you configure these basic MIS qualities, you can focus on getting your users comfortable with MIS. Then, of course, you can get back to the non-MIS items on your to-do list.

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