Learn to Troubleshoot Windows Essential Business Server 2008

Microsoft has made troubleshooting its SME server bundle pretty simple for non-technical operators, but only up to a certain point. Learn how to correct errors the easy way, and learn when it's time to call in advanced support.

By Jabez Gan | Posted Jul 15, 2010
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Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008 is targeted at small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers, and most SMEs do not have skilled IT administrators. With this in mind, EBS has been designed to help non-technical operators easily pinpoint and troubleshoot issues as they occur.

We'll cover how you can troubleshoot EBS both the easy and hard ways.

First, the easy way:

"If you see an error, just right click on it."

EBS is that simple: If you see an error, the first thing you'll need to do is to collect information about the error and troubleshoot from there. Luckily, collecting information and troubleshooting from there can be done by just right-clicking on the red error icon, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1: System Health
Figure 1: See an error? Right click and View Recent Alerts.

Clicking View recent alerts opens up System Center Essentials (SCE), which has far more information and troubleshooting tools than Event Viewer. On the Actions pane in the figure below, you'll notice that there's a whole list of tasks you can perform to test the health of a system.

Figure 2: System Center Essentials – Alerts.
Figure 2: System Center Essentials – Alerts.
Figure 3: System Center Essentials - Resolution for alert.
Figure 3: System Center Essentials - Resolution for alert.

Once you click on the alert error, Alert Details will provide resolution on how to resolve the issue. Non-technical users just need to follow the steps shown to resolve the error. But what if the resolution doesn't solve the problem? That's why troubleshooting EBS can be hard, too.

Event Viewer is nothing new to experienced administrators, but for non-technical personnel managing an EBS server, it could prove unfamiliar. However, Event Viewer can be launched from a context menu, so I think it's worth the highlight. EBS has SCE built in, but Event Viewer is still an important source for errors and informational details.

Figure 4: Event Viewer in EBS is still an important source for errors and informational details.
Figure 4: Event Viewer in EBS. It's still an important source for errors and informational details.

When Things Stay Broken

If you've tried out the suggested resolution in SCE, but it didn't help resolve the issue; and if then you've tried clicking the Event Log Online Help in Event Viewer, but the suggested resolution didn't resolve the issue, what's next?

More technical users with some knowledge of Windows Server services or Exchange could attempt to log in via remote desktop to start the troubleshooting process. The fix could be something simple, like starting or re-starting a service; or reconfiguring some system configurations. Since EBS relies on server technologies (DNS, DHCP, IIS, WSRM, etc) to work, any experienced Windows administrator or support engineer should be able to troubleshoot EBS easily.

Exchange 2007

EBS comes with Exchange 2007, and Exchange 2007 is a whole new topic on its own. How can non-technical personnel be expected to troubleshoot it when even seasoned IT professionals need to attend Exchange 2007 trainings? Maybe simple troubleshooting is possible through the use of Toolbox, but anything more than that requires an expert.

Figure 5: Exchange Management Console in EBS.
Figure 5: Exchange Management Console in EBS.

Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG)

Formerly known as Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA), Microsoft has redone the entire interface and branded it part of Microsoft's Security Suite. Using TMG requires knowledge of firewall policies, networking and Web access policies, among other things. It's definitely not an area where you want a non-technical personnel messing around.

Figure 6: Forefront TMG in EBS is the same full-fledged TMG standalone product.
Figure 6: Forefront TMG in EBS is the same full-fledged TMG standalone product.

Internet Information Services

IIS7 is also an area I wouldn't recommend any non-techie work on. There are tons of settings and configurations involved with IIS7 that have confused many IT professionals out there. If it's already hard just to configure IIS, troubleshooting is going to be a bigger mess.

Figure 7: IIS7 in EBS.
Figure 7: IIS7 in EBS.

Seeing that EBS is made from many components from other Windows Server technologies, whatever command line tools that you could use with your traditional Windows Server standalone can be used in EBS.

Conclusion

Troubleshooting is always the hardest part in a system lifecycle, and Microsoft didn't make it any easier in EBS to troubleshoot issues. Companies who are planning to deploy EBS should consider having a maintenance contract to ensure that they receive the necessary support if anything goes wrong.

What does this mean to the users? Before you deploy EBS, ensure that your users are trained and ready to manage the system; else add up the cost of the maintenance contract to make sure that EBS is still lower in terms of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

For servicing companies out there, EBS' relative simplicity doesn't preclude offering your services to deploy and provide maintenance contracts to companies as a value added service.

Additional Resources

Properly Handling an EBS 2008 Setup Failure


Thanks to HP Malaysia for loaning Enterprise Networking Planet an HP ProLiant ML150 for testing purposes.

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