Windows Small Business Server Setup

When a business is first getting off the ground, it often starts out with a handful of networked computers. As the business grows over time and more people and computers are added, it soon becomes pretty tough to keep track of where important data files are stored, who is allowed to access them, and how-or even whether-they’re being backed up. When you arrive at this point, it pays to invest in a server to give your business centralized data storage, access control, and backup. Microsoft’s Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, which is a simplified and streamlined version of its Windows Server 2008 for large companies, provides all of these features and then some. It’s designed for small firms with 25 or fewer users, and you don’t need to be an IT guru to use it. We’ll show you how to set up an SBS 2011 Essentials server and connect your computers to it. Computer Repair Las Vegas NV

What You’ll Need

SBS 2011 Essentials has pretty modest system requirements, so it will run quite well on an entry-level, sub-$1,000 server. You can view the detailed requirements at tinyurl.com/4ux9eo. (It’s worth noting that SBS 2011 Essentials should not be confused with SBS 2011 Standard, a more powerful and expensive version for businesses with up to 75 users.) As of this writing, major server vendors aren’t yet offering products with SBS 2011 Essentials installed (though they likely will before long). An alternative to purchasing a server with SBS 2011 Essentials included is to buy one without an operating system and pick up a copy of the software separately to install yourself. A good choice for a basic server is the HP ProLiant MicroServer ($329; www.hp.com), which is small and quiet, reasonably powerful, and relatively inexpensive. You’ll find the SBS 2011 Essentials software for about $400 from a variety of online vendors. If you’d like to take SBS 2011 Essentials for a spin before buying it, download a 60-day trial version from tinyurl .com/4n63qw2.. You can extend the trial period twice for a total of 240 days visit support.microsoft .com/kb/948472 to see how) and convert the trial version to a licensed copy if you decide to keep it. (The steps outlined below apply whether you’re working with the evaluation or purchased copy.) In addition to your server computer, you’ll also want to get a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), an Internet connection via a UPnP (Universal Plug and Play)-compatible broadband router, and for backup purposes, an external hard drive (USB, eSATA, or Firewire) with storage capacity equal to or greater than your server. The computers you connect to your SBS 2011 Essentials server can be running any version of Windows 7, Vista, or WinXP, including Home and Starter editions, or Mac systems running OS X 10.5 or higher. (This article focuses on setting up Win7 systems.)

Install SBS 2011 Essentials

Before installing SBS 2011 Essentials (which we’ll just call SBS from now on) on a server, be sure it has a wired Ethernet connection to your router and is plugged into the UPS-you don’t want the server to lose power, particularly during the lengthy setup process. Also, be sure there aren’t any external hard drives attached to the server just yet because they can cause the installation to fail. To install SBS, you must boot the server directly from the operating system DVD, so turn on your server and immediately look for a boot/startup menu option (often F2, F10, or F12) that will let you do this. When the SBS setup wizard starts, choose New Installation, verify that your server’s hard drives have been detected, and then click Install. SBS will carve out a 60GB partition on the primary hard drive for the operating system, and the remaining space/ drives will be available to store your data. If the wizard doesn’t detect any or all of your server’s hard drives, you’ll need to click the Load Drivers button and provide a disc that contains the necessary drivers. At this point the wizard will start copying files, and when it’s finished, SBS configuration can begin.

Initial SBS Configuration

The SBS setup wizard will now walk you through a number of basic server configuration steps. You’ll be asked to set the server’s date and time and enter your operating system license key (if you don’t have one yet, you can skip it for now). Then the wizard will prompt you to enter your company’s name, choose an internal domain name for your network, and name your server. Next up is to create a pair of user accounts. The first is an administrator account, which will only be used to manage the server. The second is your standard user account, which you’ll use to log in to the server for normal day-to-day activities such as accessing files, etc. (We’ll tell you how to set up additional user accounts later.) Note that SBS 2011 Essentials requires the use of strong passwords by default, so it will tell you if the passwords you choose for either of your accounts don’t make the grade. After you specify your server’s automatic update options (it’s a good idea to let the server update itself so it always has the latest security patches, etc.), SBS will begin configuring itself in a process that can take 30 minutes or longer and will involve several automatic reboots. When the wizard is complete, your server will greet you with the Windows Desktop sporting wallpaper that warns against using the system as a general purpose workstation. In fact, you generally won’t need to touch the server at all, because SBS is designed to be remotely managed from a PC via a Dashboard app. Log off the server now; it’s time to connect your first computer to the server, after which we’ll be able to continue with server configuration.

Connect Your First Computer

Go to your desktop or laptop, open your Internet browser, type http://<servername>/connect in the Address bar (where <servername> is the name you gave your server earlier), and click the link to install either the Windows or Mac software as appropriate. (Use the Run option rather than Save). If the above URL doesn’t work, open Windows Explorer and look for your SBS server under Network. Double-click it, and it should automatically open your browser to the appropriate page. When you run the connection software, it will install any necessary components your computer may be missing. Like the server installation, this process can take some time, and it will require at least one reboot. You’ll eventually be asked to provide the login information for your user account on the server-this is where you’ll enter the username and password you created for the standard account. After a reboot, you’ll get a few more questions, including whether you want to move your existing Windows account documents and settings from your existing Windows account to your new server account. (Unless you are setting up a brand-new computer, the answer should be yes.) When all is said and done, press CTRL-ALT-DELETE and log in to your server for the first time. After you log in, you’ll see shortcuts to the Launchpad and Dashboard applications on your Desktop. Launchpad puts various aspects of your server within easy reach, including shared folders, remote access, and the Dashboard, where remote server management is performed. There are a couple more things we need to configure on the server, so launch the Dashboard and log in sing the server’s administrator account. Beneath a row of tabs for managing users, computers, and server folders/hard drives, you’ll see a list of Getting Started tasks to perform (the check marks will turn green as each task is completed).

Configure Server Backup & Remote Web Access

Because you’ll be storing all your important business data on this server, it’s critical that you configure server backups ASAP. To do so, connect your external hard drive to the server and then click Set Up Server Backup. Proceed through the wizard to choose your backup drive (it will be formatted, so be sure it doesn’t contain any data you want to keep), and customize the backups if desired, though the default settings are fine SBS will automatically back up the entire server twice a day, at noon and 11 p.m. If you want the ability to access the Dashboard, your server’s data, and remotely control your computers from outside the office, you should set up the SBS Remote Web Access feature. Click Set Up Remote Web Access and then click the Turn On button to start the configuration wizard. SBS should be able to configure a UPnP router automatically, then it will give you the option to set up a domain name for free through Microsoft’s Windows Live service. If you prefer, you can opt to buy a dedicated domain name from a list of third-party providers or use a domain name you already own.

Create User Accounts & Shared Folders

You need to create accounts for additional users before you can set up their computers. To do so, click Common Tasks in the Dashboard and choose Add A User Account. Here, you’ll be able to create an account name and password, grant permissions to the company data folder (a personal data folder will also be created), and decide whether the person can use Remote Web Access. Once all of your users have accounts on the server, you can go to their respective computers and run the connect procedure just as you did with your own system. In addition to users’ individual data folders, which are found within the Users folder, SBS sets up a shared folder called Company where you can store all your business data. To create additional folders, use the Add A Shared Folder link under Common Tasks (you’ll be able to customize access to the folder for each of your user accounts).

What’s Missing

There are some features SBS 2011 Essentials doesn’t offer, such as an email server and the ability to maintain a public Web site for your business, but these are things most small businesses get from hosting providers anyway. It’s worth noting that Microsoft plans to integrate its Office 365 online subscription suite with SBS 2011 Essentials in the near future. If you’re currently trying to manage and protect your business data on collection of individual computers, you’ll find the task much easier with Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.
Smart Computing | October 2011 p.52

 

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