Microsoft’s Essential Business Server 2008 is targeted at the small- and medium-sized Enterprise (SME), and most SMEs do not have skilled IT administrators. For this reason, EBS needs to be easy to use and administer. In this installment of our four-part look at EBS 2008, we’ll cover some of the features that help make EBS easy to manage.
EBS Administrative Console
Just like Windows Small Business Server 2008, EBS is equipped with an “all-in-one” Administrative Console, allowing management, monitoring and basic troubleshooting to be done from a single spot. Since EBS consists of three servers, each increasing the complexity of the environment, Administrative Console adds a lot of value: If you have something to accomplish, the first step is to run Administrative Console from the management server.
EBS Administrative Console allows you to:
- Monitor system health
- Monitor network/PC security
- Manage company’s PCs
- Manage users and groups
- Manage EBS licenses
As shown in Figure 1, the system health tab allows the monitoring of directory services (Active Directory, DNS, DHCP), email (Microsoft Exchange) and Internet services (Internet connectivity, IIS, SharePoint). It will pull health information from the security and messaging servers. If errors are shown the administrator can launch the event viewer to gather additional information with the click of a button without worrying about which server stores the needed information. To resolve the error from the action pane, the administrator can click on “Connect to Server” to gain remote desktop access into the appropriate servers.
Figure 1: System Health
Ensuring that the network is secured is very important. This includes ensuring that the endpoints (Internet, client PCs, servers) are secured.
The following are the security aspects monitored by EBS:
- Firewall/Threat Management Gateway (TMG) (formerly known as Internet Security and Acceleration Server, or ISA Server)
- Security updates
How does EBS monitor? It collects the event logs and if there are any alerts, they will be shown.
Since TMG and Microsoft Forefront for Exchange are hosted on different servers, Administrative Console will use RemoteApp to stream TMG or Forefront for Exchange application from the remote servers for a seamless experience — all through a single console.
Figure 2: Security
Computers and Devices
While the Security tab allows you to monitor the security aspect of the entire network, the Computers and Devices tab allows the administrator to monitor specific computers/servers, including event logs, updates, software deployment and alert notifications.
One common headache for companies is software deployment. EBS supports up to 300 devices. Through System Center Essentials (SCE) which is built as part of EBS, software deployment can be done with just a few clicks.
Figure 3: Computer and Devices
Users and Groups
When user management comes up, the first thought to cross the mind of most experienced administrators is Active Directory Users and Computers. When I was still new to Active Directory, I always confused myself with Active Directory Users and Computers, Sites and Services and Domains and Trusts. For that reason, the Users and Groups tab allows a simplified method of creating users and groups without needing to know concepts like Organizational Units (OU) or security groups (universal, global or domain local).
While creating a new user, the following can be specified:
- user information (first/last name, email address, telephone number
- group membership
- mailbox size
Figure 4: Users and Groups
For Microsoft, licensing is very important as it’s a major sources of profit. For every user that uses its software, Microsoft requires a fee. EBS — like any Windows Server — is strict in terms of licensing. If not enough licenses have been purchased by the company, some users will face issues utilizing EBS resources.
One of the post installation to-do tasks we outlined in our previous article is to install additional Client Access Licenses (CALs). By having the adequate amount of CALs, users will have uninterrupted access to all features as part of EBS, which includes email and file sharing, etc.
For those who are unfamiliar with Windows licensing, there are two types of CALs: Device CAL or User CAL. If there are multiple users using a single computer, it is cost effective to assign a device CAL. If a single user uses multiple computers/devices, user CALs should be used. Licensing is one of the most confusing part for customers (and even Microsoft partners), so please refer to the bottom of the article for some helpful links.
Figure 5: Licensing
“What? You’re concluding the article? But you’ve only covered Administrative Console!”
That is the beauty of EBS (and Small Business Server 2008): You only need this single console to start managing your infrastructure. Of course, for advanced administrative tasks (configuration of distributed file systems — and I’ve already lost some of you), you will still need to contract a professional to handle configuration, and that pro won’t be using the Administrative Console.
Any other tools that you need to know of? If the EBS box is to be managed by a non-IT staff, Administrative Console is more than enough; otherwise, check out the Administrative Tools through the Start menu.
Previous Articles in This Series
- Sizing Up Windows Essential Business Server 2008
- Installing and Configuring Windows Essential Business Server