In my last post I outlined the steps we had taken at the Stan Hagen Center for Families to replace their ageing SBS system with something modern and NOT Cloud based.  I then outlined the steps to follow in order to bring up the Server Essentials Experience Role on a Server 2012 R2 domain controller.

In this post and the next (Part 3) I will look at the various bits and pieces that are installed as part of the Role.

If you ever dealt with SBS you know there was a fairly big management piece installed on an SBS box that enabled you to manage all of the aspects of the server and the SBS roles from one place.  The Server Essentials Experience does much the same thing through the Dashboard which is accessed from a link on the server desktop or via the Remote Web Access (RWA) webpage or via the Dashboard link which can be installed on joined workstations.

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Clicking on the Dashboard icon takes you here:

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From here you can manage the domain and system through various wizards.  The orange items are major categories for configuration.

Setup gives you access to al of the basic setup steps that you should perform and you can see and access those steps via the grey links on the right.  As with SBS in the past, all of this is configured so that you can roll through the steps to fully configure a working domain with configured uses (Add user accounts), configured file shares (Add server folders), configured server backup (Set up Server Backup, only used if you are not going to use a third party backup product) and configured Remote Web Access and/or VPN access (Set up Anywhere Access).

From a Client computer perspective you can access instructions to connect client computers to the domain, or at least give them easy access to shared resources (Connect Computers) and also set up easy client data restorations (Set up Client Restore Service).  One really important thing to note is that Essentials provides the backend methodology to allow you to easily connect Windows Pro, Windows Home, and Macintosh machines to the shared resources.  The Connector software that is installed on a machine does all of this.  While Windows Home and Mac’s can’t be joined to the domain like Windows Pro machines, they can still be managed to a degree and users allowed shared resource access just like domain joined machines.  This is a big plus for many non-profits as the mix of machines at most non-profits is generally more “eclectic” than you would normally see in “regular” businesses (hey, you work with what you get).

Services gives you access to integrate with other Microsoft services:

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The Online services we’ll leave for now as this discussion is all about how to do things when you cannot utilize Cloud services.  However, you can integrate with an on-premise Exchange server (Integrate your Exchange Server) which provides some of the integrated abilities that SBS provided in that you can use the Dashboard wizards to create users along with their Exchange identity (more on this in a later post).

Add-ins is another link at this point to Online services.

Quick Status gives you a birds eye view of your system:

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The links across the top of the page – Home, Users, Devices, Storage, Applications – take you to specific areas of the system.  Home is the main page.

Here is Users:

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And Devices:

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And Storage:

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And Applications:

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To effectively set up your server with Essentials you really need to get your storage properly configured on the server which includes setting up file shares.  You can then look at users and groups and get those configured then you can look at connecting client machines.

    • When you set up storage what you are really doing is defining the shared folders (“server
  • folders”), their location and access rights.  By default, the Essentials role will create five top-level sets of server folders:

1. Client Computer Backups

2. Company

3. File History Backups

4. Folder Redirection

5. Users

  • What is important to understand is that all of these shares (because that is what server folders are) are created beneath a top-level folder named Server Folders which is created, by default, on your C: drive.  This is really an extension of the shared folder concepts from SBS and, like SBS, you have the ability to move the folders to a different drive on your server (which you should do).To move folders to another drive you utilize the tools from the Storage link:image

The Server Folders tab displays the folders that you have configured and, on the right, tasks associated with folders.

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The Hard Drives tab displays information about your drives.

As you can see form the screen shots, I have space on my E: drive so I am going to move ALL of the folders to E.  I’ll move the Client Computers Backup folder by highlighting the folder (as in the screenshot above) and then clicking Move the folder:

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You follow the same process to move all the other folders.

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NOTE:  You can use this tool to “shuffle” folders around over time as your storage needs grow.  If you add more disk space to the server you can easily move one or more of the folders to the new storage without disturbing the “share” on the network.

Managing users is also pretty easy with the tools provided by the Users link.

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If we look at an already created user, Sam Beagle, we can see the settings that you need to think about.

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Pretty standard stuff,here.  Let’s look at the tabs:

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This one is important to discuss.  While we have noted that there are five default server folders the only one that is directly “available” to a user is “Company”.  Here we can define what access this user has to the folder.  If you have created additional shared folders they will show up in the listing and you can set access rights on each as required.

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This is also important to discuss as it defines the access the user will have via the externally published links to the server.  Shared Folders allows the user file access to the Shared Folders they have rights to access on the server.  Computers will give the user RDP access to client computers they are authorized to access.  Homepage links will give the user access to any links that you as the admin add to the RWA homepage.  Server Dashboard is only available to users that are part of the Administrators group.

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The above screen is empty as I have not joined any client machines to my server.  I’m going to do that so that we can close the loop and see how Sam will have access to resources as listed in our previous screen shots.

Back on the Home screen if I click on Connect Computers I’ll see this:

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So, on a client machine that has DNS pointing to the server I’ll go to the suggested link:

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I’ll click on the download link:

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And I’ll run the connector:

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The above appears after a screen momentarily displays connection info as the program scans for an Essentials server on the network.  I have seen the scan fail and then have had to enter the info manually so just be aware of this in case you get stuck at a screen not documented here.

NOTE:  Unlike SBS this connector wants a user’s credentials and not an administrators!!!  Supply creeds for the user you want as the user on the PC being connected.

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The PC will reboot.  Once it reboots and you login you’ll eventually get to this screen:

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“Myself” is the desired user, the one you used to run the Connector.  The second option allows you to specify additional users to be connected to this machine.

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You can change the above settings at any time.

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If we now check Sam’s user properties we’ll see that she has access to “user-PC”.

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Part 3 of this series will focus on remote access and what is made available to the user based on everything we have done to this point.

Non-profit? On SBS? Can’t go to O365? Here’s what to do! (Part 2)
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