SolutionBase: Build an intranet for your business with Windows Small Business Server 2003 Remote Web Workspace

Building an intranet needn't be an expensive undertaking for small businesses. Here's how to build an intranet using Remote Web Workspace under Windows Server 2003.

One compelling new feature in Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS 2003) is the remote access capability that this product brings to small businesses. With this capability, you can install a portal and read your mail, collaborate with other users via SharePoint, and manage your server all from the comfort of your home office or a hotel room.

Everything you need to enable these features—a database and a Web server—is standard fare in both the Standard and Premium editions of SBS 2003. Even better, at the client side, all you need in order to use these new features is a decent Web browser.

It all starts with the installation process, where you make sure the right components are selected. Next, there's a short configuration process to go through. Finally, your users can start using the Remote Web Workspace. By the end of this article, you'll have an SBS 2003-based Remote Web Workspace up and running with the default options.

What is the Remote Web Workspace?

The Remote Web Workspace is a sort of "meta intranet" for your SBS 2003 installation in that it encompasses all of the usual elements of an intranet—in this case, all of the features of SharePoint as well as additional functionality depending on the access level of the user connecting to the server. For example, in addition to being able to use the SharePoint intranet services, administrators are also provided the ability to connect to Windows XP workstations on the network using Remote Desktop and remotely manage the SBS 2003 server. Finally, Outlook Web Access is also included for environments that have opted to install the incorporated Exchange server.

Installing the Remote Web Workspace

Without installing it, your Remote Web Workspace won't go very far. Fortunately, Remote Web Workspace is a default component in the SBS 2003 setup.

After you reboot from the first part of the SBS 2003 installation, Setup continues and allows you to add more components such as Exchange and, for this article, the intranet services. On the first screen of the installation—the component selection screen shown in Figure A—just verify that the Intranet component is selected.

Figure A

The Intranet component installs the remote Web services.

If you're running the Premium edition of SBS 2003, you'll also have the option of installing SQL Server as the backend data store for the intranet. However, Standard edition users aren't left out in the cold; the installer includes Microsoft's run-time edition of SQL Server: MSDE.

The next screen of the installation verifies installation paths for the various components. For this example, these are the SQL Server MSDE installation path, the shared folders, and the path to client applications. To change a path, select it and click the Change Folder button.

The last screen of the installation wizard verifies your choices. Click the Next button to proceed with the installation. This will take a few minutes, and you'll need to change CDs a couple of times. After the software installation completes, you'll be prompted to reboot your server.

Using the Remote Web Workspace

After the server reboots, you can immediately start using the newly minted SBS 2003 server to increase your productivity. At the server console, browse to http://companyweb/default.aspx. The companyweb DNS entry is a pointer to the DNS entry for your server name and was created automatically as part of the server installation. If you want to call your intranet something other than companyweb, use the DNS configuration tool to create a different name.

The first screen has four selections:

  • My Company's Internal Web Site: This is a link to the standard SharePoint installation.
  • Network Configuration Wizard: Provides an easy way to add a computer to the SBS 2003 domain.
  • Remote Web Workplace: Launches the Remote Web Workplace. You have to provide a username and password for this section, as shown in Figure B.
  • Information and Answers: Help and information for your SBS server.

Figure B

Provide a login for the SBS 2003 Remote Web Workplace.

The connection speed setting on the Remote Web Workplace screen lets you define how fast your connection is, which helps later on when you try to use Remote Desktop services to manage servers and workstations on your network. For example, if you're on a dial-up connection, you should use the appropriate option from the drop-down menu so that your RDP connection can be properly optimized. For this example, I'm on the same network as the SBS server, so I selected Small Business Network.

Once you log in, you'll see a screen similar to the one in Figure C. You may have more options depending on your version of SBS 2003 and the options you selected at installation.

The only useful item on the screen in Figure C is the ability to remotely connect to a server's desktop. This is particularly useful when you're on the road and need to add a user or fix a printer problem.

Figure C

The Remote Web Workplace main menu

At this point, if you've been following along, you may have other options on your menu. It's safe to use them, but make sure any users that can log in and might be able to manipulate the server's desktop have strong passwords to protect you from the outside.