Just Browsing with Win 2003 HTML Remote Administration - Page 2

 By Drew Bird
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When you first connect to the server, you'll see the screen show in Figure 1. This Welcome screen provides links to a number of the more commonly performed administrative tasks. You can configure the Web site to either show this Welcome page by default, or the Status page, which provides information on the current state of the server such as pending information alerts or warnings.

Figure 1. The Welcome Screen
(Click for a larger image)
In addition to the Welcome and Status pages, there are five other administration pages; Sites, Web Server, Network, Users, Maintenance, and a Help page. The Sites page allows you to perform basic administration tasks for Web pages on the server, while the Web Server and Network pages allow you to configure selected settings for those features. The Users page provides two links through which you can launch the user and group management features of the Administration Web site. One slightly confusing thing here is that even on a domain controller, the user management shortcuts are labeled as Local Users and Local Groups. If you are using the Administration Web page on a member server, then the shortcuts do link to the local user and group databases. However, on a domain controller, you are able to manage user and group accounts for Active Directory.

Figure 2. The Maintenance Tab
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The final tab, Maintenance, which is shown in Figure 2, is by far the most useful. As well as providing shortcuts to log files held on the server, the page also provides options for shutting down the server, and other less common tasks like configuring the date and time.

Also on the Maintenance screen is a shortcut for a Web based Remote Desktop feature. This uses a Microsoft provided ActiveX (define) control that allows complete access to the Server Desktop. In reality, this one single feature, shown in Figure 3, renders all of the other features in the HTML Remote Administration Tools obsolete, but it negates the benefit of having a basic set of tools easily available through a simple to use interface. Note, however, that you must have enabled Remote Desktop access (Start, Control Panel, System, Remote, Allow users to connect to this computer remotely) for this feature to work.

Figure 3. The Web based Remote Desktop
(Click for a larger image)
If, after using the HTML Remote Administration Tools, you do not want them permanently enabled, the Administration Web site can be stopped (like any other Web site) through the IIS Manager MMC. A number of basic settings for the site can also be edited through this interface, such as the connection port numbers, location for log files, and authentication methods. These settings can also be edited through the HTML Remote Administration Tools, so it becomes a case of which tool you are more comfortable using.

A Word About Security

With any kind of remote administration tool, security should be a major concern. There are some basic precautions you can take to secure the HTML Remote Administration tools such only allowing secure (HTTPS) connections to the administration Web site. You can also specify an IP address from which all remote administration requests should originate. This can be configured from within the HTML Remote Administration Tools, or through the IIS Manager MMC. It almost goes without saying that allowing access to any remote administration tool through a firewall connected to the Internet is not ideal. If you do have the need to create remote administration capabilities from the Internet, it is worth considering a more robust solution such as Terminal Services. You should also consider additional security measures such as advanced authentication and encryption.

This article was originally published on Aug 23, 2004
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