Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Introducing a new line of Network Storage Servers for SMB

WD Sentinel DX4000

Only yesterday, a third product that I worked on over the past little while called Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials was announced, on hardware provided by Western Digital.

Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials is a mid-way point between Windows Home Server, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.  And by in between, I mean you have a business class Home Server.  So you have media streaming, but no domain controller, and a limit of 25 users instead of 10 that Home Server has. 

One other unique feature it has is the ability to join a domain, that Windows Home Server does not have.  You can join any size domain, but limit (via AD security group) the number of users down to 25 who can use the NAS box.  You can only use it for up to 25 users.

This is a great solution if you want to add client backup to 25 clients on any SBS 2008 or SBS 2011 Standard networks, or just a standard server network.  Furthermore, it does have RWA with it, which means you can add an RWA solution to your standard server network if you want.

The WD Sentinel DX4000 looks pretty awesome from a hardware perspective as well.  You can jump on over to the Western Digital WD Sentinel DX4000 website to learn more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Home Server and SBS Add-in to Automate Client Backup of your MAC

One of the most popular posts on my blog is how to enable Apple’s Time Machine backup to backup to your Windows Home Server 2011 or Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.  As it turns out, a company named Orbital Technologies has decided to build an add-in that enables this functionality without the need for you to walk through the steps of creating those confusing sparse files.

UWHS - Orbital Backup Configuration for MacThat add-in has been reviewed over on the famous UsingWindowsHomeServer blog, specifically in a blog post here, covering the preview of the Orbital Backup Configuration for Mac.  They additionally covered the add-in again when it was available.

Simply install the add-in, open up the dashboard on the MAC client and go to add-ins, Orbital utilities and follow along.  All you  need to know is your username and password to the server.  easy right? also free!

Keep in mind that you can still do the manual steps provided in my post if you prefer not to install anything as all this add-in does is the configuration pieces for you.

You can download the add-in directly from the Using Windows Home Server Forums, or We Got Served forums. The add-in should work fine on Windows Home Server 2011, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, and also Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials.  If you’re using any other Windows product, the manual steps are for you.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Using your Home Server for more than Storage, Backup and Remote Access

Back in 2006, I was without power for 4 days in November.  It was cold, but I had friends, and an offline Small Business Server 2003 R2.  Of course I ran everything out of my house, why wouldn’t I?  Being offline my server started sending NDRs and I didn’t have access to anything, as it was all offline.  While I had been toying with adopting the cloud for the amount of spam I was getting, this pushed me over the edge.  It was at that time I decided to adopt the cloud.  My email and most things that I own are all hosted in various cloud services so if the power goes out at my house, my stuff keeps running. 

Trust me, I did a cost benefit analysis and in order to keep things running for me at home, I’d have to pay for hosting services anyways, and given I was running a “business class” server, I was forced into “business class” prices.  I am not a business, I am a consumer.

However, there are certain things that I don’t trust the cloud for, and hence I want my own cloud storage that I run and have total control over.  Enter Windows Home Server stage left. Home Server has been my personal cloud storage location since 2007, I now run WHS 2011.

Enter Cloud computing.

My Windows Home Server is perfect device to do computing for me, and it can just chug away on it all the time.  The one draw back is that there is only one account “Administrator” that has total access to the server.  this obviously isn’t good computing practice, so let me show you how to create a working account that you can have do things for you.

First step, let’s create a new user account on the server.  We’ll do this using the normal Add User Wizard in the dashboard.  I’ll call the user Working User.  I gave the user access to the shared folders it needed access to (where I can interact with Working User’s storage), and nothing more.  I didn’t even give this user remote access.

Now, by default all users created don’t have access to log into the server, we need to grant this permission.  This will make the user a standard user on the server, so it will have access to do things the same as a standard user would have access on a client PC (running applications, a /user folder with full control, and access to those folders you gave it.  it won’t be able to mess with the OS or install things.  PERFECT!

  1. On the server console, click Start, then Run, and type in gpedit.msc to edit the local policy on the server
  2. Expand down Local Computer Policy, Computer Configuration, Windows Settings, Local Policies, and click on User Rights Assignment
  3. Scroll down the list on the right until you find Allow log on locally and double click to open the property page
  4. Click the Add User or Group… button and type in the username that you created in the first step inside the Add User Wizard. Allow Log on Locally Properties Page
  5. Click OK and then OK again and close the local group policy editor.

Now this Working user has access to log in to the server locally.  Of course it can’t do any administration of the server as it’s not a member of the administrators group.

Next I want to use something as this user, say the command prompt.  I simply use a command line like the following: C:\Windows\System32\runas.exe /USER:SERVER\Working /savecred "C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe"

The /savecred will save the credentials you typed in as Working User (alias “working” in the above) and will remember it for future runs.  I actually just created a shortcut with this command in.  Now that you have a command prompt open, anything you run from this command prompt will run as the Working User.  So you can load up any application and have it work in the context of this non-administrative user.  So if you do hit something that wants to modify your system, you’ll get a UAC pop-up or an access denied (I haven’t hit anything like that yet in my set up).

Just be careful what you do, because there is no free Anti-virus for your server, and I highly recommend getting an anti-virus for your server if you plan on connecting this user up to the Internet to do anything directly on the server.  I have Antivirus on my system.