I believe technology consultants supporting Microsoft Windows Small Business Servers (SBSs) succeed by leveraging the platform's numerous integrated wizards when performing common tasks. The wizards help the consultant complete operations accurately, quickly, and more efficiently. Most importantly, SBSs properly configured using wizards (as Microsoft intends) work more reliably.
What SBS wizards can do
These wizards, used for everything from connecting SBSs to the Internet to creating new users, are essentially pre-programmed scripts that perform a wide range of actions. SBS wizards also exist for migrating from Windows SBS 2003, setting up a public Internet address, configuring Smart Hosts for email, adding trusted certificates, and configuring backup operations, among other functions.
The Internet Connection wizard, for example, attempts to detect a hardware-based firewall, existing DHCP services, and other parameters so the wizard can help adjust firewall and network settings as required. Critical services and settings are ultimately implemented as a result of the information the wizard detects, and the decisions it makes. In other words, there's more to the wizard than just detecting a default gateway and specifying a recommended LAN IP address — the wizard makes critical network and service accommodations, too.Figure A
The Internet Connection wizard
Unfortunately, much of the wizard's work may occur behind the scenes. Then, when a well-meaning administrator attempts to circumvent the scripted routines by manually changing IP addresses or completing other tasks, firewalls, services, and other processes may fail or work improperly.
SBS wizards aren't dumb-downed macros
Many consultants believe the wizards are dumb-downed macros or eye candy that only amateurs would be caught using, but don't be misled. SBS wizards do much more than just guide admins and consultants through rote steps; these carefully crafted powerful processes are designed to minimize interaction and simplify administration.
My organization has inherited the responsibility of administering many SBSs in which the previous admins did not use the wizards, and those servers have typically been messes. Possible issues that may arise include traffic might flow slowly, new user accounts may not work properly, and Exchange logs might not clear when backups run.
Wizards aren't perfect
I'm sure there are exceptions (though I'm hard pressed to think of one) in which a consultant must work outside the system's intended configuration and resort to manually making changes to critical underlying services and processes to meet a client's specific or unique needs.
Share your experiences
If you support clients' SBS environments, do you use the integrated wizards? Have you had to manually circumvent Microsoft's wizards? Maybe you've inherited a system so badly mismanaged that even re-running wizards wouldn't correct all of the system's issues. Join the conversation.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.