TechRepublic member and network administrator Todd C. submitted the topic for this pop quiz solution. If you’d like to submit a topic, please drop us a note.

The situation:
Here’s the situation Todd described: “I have a WAN that connects four offices. Four servers run on the WAN, all of which belong to the same domain. They are all running Windows NT Server 4.0. Here’s the problem: I have laptop (Windows 95) users who travel from office to office, and their default login scripts map drives to their home office. If they are in a different office and try to access programs, the laptop comes to a complete halt because it is trying to access data from their home office.”

The challenge:
Is there a way to have a login script determine which server is authenticating the user’s password, and then map drives to the appropriate server?

The solutions:
This quiz is one for which there is no single correct answer, so we decided to present several different solutions for you to consider. Here are the highlights:

NT and 95 solutions
Ushakov wrote: “Todd can select one of two ways. Way 1: Install WindowsNT WS on laptop and use following command in logon script:
net use <drive_letter>: \\%LOGONSERVER%\<Name_of_share_resource>

where %LOGONSERVER% is the WindowsNT environment variable that is initialized at logon. Regrettably, this way does not work on Windows 95. 🙂

Way 2 (for Windows 95): First, create manually on _each_ appropriate server in NETLOGON (%SYSTEMROOT%\SYSTEM32\repl\import\scripts) folder SRVNAME and put file srvname.bat with the following content:
set SRVNAME=<name_of_appropriate_server>

(Doing so prevents this folder from replication in domain.)

Next, add following string to default login script (before map drives):
Call SRVNAME\srvname.bat

Use variable SRVNAME in Map drives command, for example:
net use <drive_letter>: \\%SRVNAME%\<Name_of_share_resource>

The KISS approach
Lance Rizzo, MCSE, CNE, N+, A+, wrote: “The ‘Kiss Principle’ (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is always best. I’ll give the answer and follow-up with an explanation.

First, map four network drives for each office in the login script (use quick logon to compensate for the WAN connection):
net use l: \\office1\apps
net use m: \\office2\apps
net use n: \\office3\apps
net use o: \\office3\apps

Next, create a program group for each campus with the shortcuts pointing to the appropriate applications:

  • Office1 Program Group
  • — Accounting package
  • — Word
  • — Excel
  • Office2 Program Group
  • — Etc.

Finally, use policies or traveling desktops to manage those program groups so you don’t have to update each laptop when you install a new app.

That’s the best answer, and here’s why:

  • The entire company is in the same domain, and there’s no GUARANTEE that you will be authenticated by the server in that office. In fact, it’s likely that you won’t.
  • If you HAVE to access an app at another site, it’s possible.
  • It’s simple to explain to users and simple to implement.

And the winner is…
To select the winner of the $25 gift certificate to, we put everyone’s name in a hat and selected one name at random. Congratulations to our winner: Lance Rizzo.
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