Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Remote Server Administration

In an modern environment, the majority of server administration tasks are performed remotely. In this article we are going to introduce to you some of the tools you can use to remotely administer your Windows domain.

The Admin Computer

Before you can perform any remote administration, you'll need a computer to perform the remote administration from. Administrators normally maintain a computer with the latest administrative tools on it which is often also their everyday computer. To administer your Windows domain Unit34.co, you will need a Windows computer, ideally domain joined to your Windows domain.

We recommend using the latest version of Windows as your admin computer with the latest version of whatever admin tools you are going to use installed. This is a common practice as the latest tools can often also administer systems that are older than the tools are. For the purpose of this blog, we are going to assume you will be doing most of your administration from a Windows 10 or later computer.

Remote Desktop

The easiest remote administration tool most administrators learn first is Remote Desktop Connection. This is mainly because this tool is included in Windows.

Remote Desktop is also a pretty simple concept. When you connect to the remote computer, you will see the desktop of the remote computer on your screen. You can then basically interact with the remote computer as if you were physically there.

There are some disadvantages however. As a graphical tool, Remote Desktop can consume quite a bit of resources, especially bandwidth. You'll notice performance decreases on slow servers and connections. Remote Desktop is also a tool that uses one-to-one connections, making management of a larger number of servers time consuming.

In Windows and Windows Server, receiving Remote Desktop connections is not allowed by default. You must enable this on each computer you want to connect to in the Remote tab of System Properties. Many administrators enable and enforce this setting for computers in a domain using Group Policy.

In older versions of Windows, Remote Desktop Connection was also known as the Microsoft Terminal Services Client (mstsc).

Windows Remote Management (WinRM)

Without going into too much detail, Windows Remote Management (WinRM) is not a tool but a implementation that underpins remote management tools in recent versions of Windows. WinRM is turned on by default in the server editions of Windows (Windows Server 2012 onwards) however is off by default in the client editions.

There are two tools that rely on WinRM that we are going to look at.

Server Manager

Server Manager is a dashboard-like management console in the server editions of Windows. Server Manager allows IT professionals to manage multiple Windows-based servers, both locally and remotely from their desktops. On Windows Server installations with a full GUI, Server Manager comes installed by default and starts automatically when you log in.

Server Manager can be installed on client editions of Windows and is a part of the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) that you can download from Microsoft. You'll need to find the matching version of RSAT for your version of Windows. Installing RSAT will also install other Microsoft Management Consoles (MMC) snap-ins which you can use to manager your server. Server Manager is good for managing small to medium sized environments.

PowerShell Remoting

PowerShell is a powerful command-line interface (CLI) and scripting language for the administration and automation of Windows and Windows Server. It is preinstalled on all modern Windows-based operating systems.

Compared to other tools, PowerShell has a steep learning curve however it is the most powerful, especially in large environments. Administrators are strongly advised to acquire skills in using PowerShell. If you are new to PowerShell, we recommend getting started by doing the free Getting Started with PowerShell 3.0 Jump Start course from the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

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