October 2008 - Posts
OK, this one is for all you SBS administrators who spend time making sure the workstations and servers are updated with critical updates and service packs. Perhaps you're like me, and tried using WSUS 2.0 with SBS 2003, but were not thrilled with the work required to review and schedule updates. Or perhaps you tried WSUS 3.0 when it came out, but still weren't sold on using it. Or maybe you tried cutting your teeth on the product, and finally gave up because of the lack of time.
Well, the good news is that in SBS 2008 we have a much better user interface and integration with WSUS 3.0 (now SP1), and the whole process is down-right simple. Server updates are automatically downloaded and you, as the administrator are notified so you can review and release updates on your schedule. By default, workstation updates are automatically downloaded and installed. But it's a simple click of a check box if you wish to manage and approve updates for release.
The WOW factor for me is that WSUS with SBS 2008 is a time saver for me. And time is everything! Since it comes built into SBS 2008, I am not wasting my time trying to get it installed and configured, or spend time searching through the various newsgroup posts on problems and issues. It also saves me time because it just works, and is easy for me to review on a regular basis, and complete my work in short order.
As they say in the commercial, "Try it ... you'll like it!"
SBS 2008, as you know, will only run on a 64 bit platform. But there's more processor terminology out there than I can keep up with. We have Xeon, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, Quad this, Quad that. Makes you wonder what happened to Core Single? And then you wonder if your system will support virtualization (Hyper-V in Microsoft's world).
If you have had to ask yourself whether a machine you are working on is capable of supporting SBS 2008, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Steve Gibson, from Gibson Research, has a great little tool caled SecurAble - it will tell you whether you computer is (a) 64 bit, (b) if hardware DEP is enabled, and (c) if it will support virtualization. It's easy to run, and easy to interpret. And if you want even more information on your processor and system, check out CPU-Z. This is another free little utility. Nothing to install ... simply unzip it and run the included .exe file.
So, you're happy that OWA (WOW Fact #1) and RWW (WOW Fact #2) are improved in SBS 2008. But, now you're wondering: Is there anything else in this release that will get my attention, or more importantly, my customer's attention, or drive a new sale of SBS 2008?
For me, one of the new WOW features in SBS 2008 is the ability to generate, purchase and install a third-party SSL certificate directly from the SBS 2008 console. With SBS 2003, installing a third-party cert was a series of manual steps, but with SBS 2008 it is all done inside a wizard. Start the wizard, select a name, select a certificate vendor, enter a credit card number, and Voila!, you have an installed SSL cert and access to your server via a https://remote.yourservername.com URL. Click here to learn how to use the SSL Certificate Wizard in SBS 2008.
Yes, SBS 2008 still allows you to create a free self-issued certificate (click here to learn how to distribute an SBS 2008 self-signed cert). But for less than $20 you can get yourself a trusted SSL certificate that works with your mobile devices and eliminates those certificate warning messages your users will see with a self-issued cert.
Why is this important? Security! This is letting your customers know that securiing their server is a vital part of the design of SBS 2008. And whether it is accessing it via remote email, sharepoint, or RWW, they will know they are doing so within a secured connection.
One of the most requested "please, give us this feature" with SBS 2003 over the years was: can we control which workstations a user could access when they log in via Remote Web Workplace (RWW)?
Well, your wait is over! From the SBS 2008 console you can easily select which computers each user should be allowed to access. Once a user logs into RWW, they simply select from their drop down list of workstations. And, if the user is only allowed to access a single workstation, then thre's no drop down list. They simply click and go to their designated workstation. Click here for Nicholas King's overview on RWW in SBS 2008.
You want more? How about the ability to customize the RWW screen with your company logo? Click here to learn how.
You want more? Let's say you have a second server you are using as a terminal server. And now you want certain users to only have access to that term server thru RWW. With just a few clicks, it's all set up for you. Whem they login to RWW the only remote system they can connect to is the Term Server!
You want even more? With Windows 2008 server you now have the ability to setup Terminal Server (TS) Remote Apps (also called TS Web Apps). This one feature will probably help you sell additional servers in your SBS clients. In a nutshell, TS Remote Apps will allow you to give users access to a specific application on the Term Server, but hide the fact that it's on a Term Server. Click here for an example on setting up TS Web Apps.
Let's say you have Quickbooks installed on your TS, and you have several users that need to access Quickbooks. Previously, you would have to teach them how to login to the TS and teach them the fact that they now have two different Windows Desktops -- which can be quite confusing for most users. But now, with TS Remote Apps you create a Quickbooks icon on the user's desktop, and when the user clicks on the icon Quickbooks will appear to simply startup. But it's actually running on the Term Server. Click here for more on Quickbooks and TS Remote Apps.
So, are there any negatives with RWW and Term Server and TS Remote Apps. Not a lot. One issue for me is a licensing issue. If you buy SBS 2008 Premium, it comes wiith a copy of Windows 2008 Server Standard, which you could use to implement a Term Server solution. Only problem is that no TS Cals are included. So, remember thart you will have to buy TS Cals.
I'm sure everyone will have (or should have) their own list of things that they really like about SBS2008. Consultants will find things that benefit a sale or installation, whereas an IT professional or an office person using SBS every day will find other things that are attractive to them. My list of SBS 2008 WOW factors tend to be right down the middle ... some have the end user in mind, while others will have either the IT administrator or consultant in mind. With each WOW factor, I will also point out things that are lacking or missing. Perhaps some of these items can make it into a future service pack or R2 release.
The very first WOW factor on my list has to be the improved OWA (Outlook Web Access). I used OWA in SBS 2003 quite a bit. But whenever I showed it to a customer, my conversation usually went something like this: "Yes, there is a web version of Outlook available in SBS. It's called OWA, but you really only want to use it to view and reply to incoming emails ...". I then went on to tell them more about the limitations in OWA, such as the effort required to find contacts or access public folders, rather than the features of OWA.
Although OWA in Exchange 2007 is still not perfect, it's come a long way, baby, from its 2003 days. The UI is cleaner and resembles Outlook 2007. Searching for contacts is easier, it interfaces with Sharepoint, and you can easily access other user's mailboxes without having to logoff. Additionally, the ability to create and manage Rooms and Equipment as users will be well received by many of my customers. The calendar interface has been completely redesigned.
What's missing? My number one complaint with Exchange 2007 / Outlook 2007/ OWA 2007 is the lack of an integrated, single source signature system for end users. A user should not have to set up their signature in Outlook, only to have to setit up again in OWA or in Outlook on a Terminal Server. For now, we must still rely on third party solutions from companies such as Symprex or Exclaimer.
Want to learn more about OWA 2007 in SBS? Check out these links:
Client Features in OWA
New Features in OWA 2007 (pdf)
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I arrived home last night at 9pm after attending a week long in-depth training session on the new Windows SBS 2008 Server platform. My interest level in SBS 2008 might have been described as lukewarm, at best, prior to this week. But now I can't wait to get some customers on board with this latest version of SBS.
As I write this post, I'm thinking of the scene in The Music Man, where all the town folk are lined up along the side of the street in anticipation of the Wells Fargo Wagon arriving bringing the brand new band instruments. And the anticipation builds and builds!
I see this SBS 2008 release in a similar light to convincing the people in the town of River City, Iowa to invest in the purchase of band instruments for their children. SBS 2008 may look like just another server release without a lost of sizzle and "wow" factors on the outside. But once you touch it, hold it, and start working with it, there are many things that will catch your interest, and perhaps say, "Wow, this is exactly what my customer has been asking for!".
What are some of those "Wow" factors?
Well, you're going to have to stay tuned for further posts from me this week to see my list of "Wow" factors. Meanwhile, you can start humming along: "Oh, oh, the Wells Fargo wagon is a-coming down the street..."
Two great friends and fellow MVP's - Amy Babinchak and Eriq Neale - have combined forces to start ThirdTier, a new business venture providing support to the IT professionals in the SMB marketplace. Here is their press release:
Eriq Neale and I have launched a new company today. It’s called Third Tier. The company formalizes the remote support services that we have both been offering from some time. We will be adding subject matter experts to cover a wide variety of software in use today at the SMB.
Support Services for IT Professionals
Contact: Amy Babinchak
Phone: (248) 890-1794
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2008
IT Support Services for Professionals
Royal Oak, MI, October 3, 2008: Amy Babinchak and Eriq Neale, MS MVP’s, Authors and Speakers, have teamed up in a new business venture to provide remote support services to IT professionals. By formalizing and centralizing the remote support services of highly skilled professionals across a wide range of products ThirdTier.net will be the place where IT professionals turn to when they need assistance to resolve that tough problem for their client. Third Tier will also offer SMB focused vendors the solution to the difficult problem of supporting a wide variety of skill sets in the SMB market space, thus making it easier for them to offer their products to small business customers.
· Central location for IT Professionals to contract experts on a wide variety of technologies to remotely assist in problem resolution.
· Experts providing vendors the solution to product support in the SMB market space.