Nov 062017
 

Something that has bothered me for a very long time has been the fact that mobile devices (using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync), automatically send read receipts if the sender has requested it without prompting the user. This means that if someone sends you an e-mail, requests and read receipt, and you open it on your mobile device; it will send a read receipt without prompting you or giving you a choice in the matter.

This is bad for a number of reasons such as spam (this is a big one, where they try to validate e-mail addresses), legal reasons, you don’t have the time to respond and don’t want a read receipt sent yet, or you simply don’t send read receipts…

Now, with Microsoft Exchange 2016 you can disable this so that mobile devices don’t automatically send these read receipts out. It’s a simple procure using Outlook on the web (previously known as Outlook Web Access, a.k.a OWA).

To disable automatic read-receipts:

  1. Log on to your OWA (Outlook on the web) server.
  2. Click on settings (the gear) on the top right
  3. Expand the “General” settings menu, and select “Mobile Devices” (as shown below)
  4. Check the checkbox for “Don’t send read receipts for messages read on devices that use Exchange ActiveSync”.

You’re done!

Nov 062017
 

After doing a migration from Microsoft Exchange 2013 to Exchange 2016 I noticed that my Offline Address Book (OAB) wasn’t being made available to Outlook clients.

When trying to perform a manual download (Send and Receive -> Download Address Book), it wasn’t in the list. Also when using the “Test EMail AutoConfiguration..” (by holding CTRL and right click on Outlook System Tray icon) to examine the AutoDiscover information, there was no OAB URL (OABUrl in XML) being sent to the clients.

I spent 3 hours trying to find out why this was happening (I assumed it was configuration and/or IIS authentication related). All my virtual directories and URLs were fine, and the OAB was being generated fine without any issues. It simply wasn’t being passed to Outlook clients. I couldn’t find any references of this occurring to other users.

I finally discovered that the “WebDistributionEnabled” configuration flag was marked to False, when it needs to be marked as True. This flag when set to true, allows it to be distributed (Note/Fun Fact: There’s a separate and different flag for older Exchange versions where the OAB is inside of the Public Folder Store). There’s also a different flag “GlobalWebDistributionEnabled”, which is recommended to be enabled as well on Exchange 2016. When setting this second flag to True, it also sets the first one above to True as well.

To fix it we’ll use Exchange PowerShell:

Let’s find the name of your Offline Address Book by running the command below:

Get-OfflineAddressBook

Now let’s set the “GlobalWebDistributionEnabled” flag to True using this next command:

Set-OfflineAddressBook -Identity “Default Offline Address Book (Ex2016)” -GlobalWebDistributionEnabled $true

And finally let’s confirm to make sure the changes take effect and look for the values of “GlobalWebDistributionEnabled” and “WebDistributionEnabled” using the command:

Get-OfflineAddressBook | fl

 

After making the above changes I recommend issuing an “iisreset” or restarting your Exchange Server. There will also be a delay where you’ll need to wait for your Outlook clients to refresh their autodiscover configuration. You can run the “Test Email AutoConfiguration…” to see if the OAB is now being passed to your clients.

Nov 052017
 

Today I came across an issue that I experienced with Microsoft Exchange 2013, and Microsoft Exchange 2016. The issue relates to using MAPI over HTTP with Microsoft Outlook 2016 (however I’m sure this affects earlier versions) clients.

MAPI over HTTP is used standard on Exchange 2016, or can be enabled manually on Exchange 2013 via running the command:

Set-OrganizationConfig -MapiHttpEnabled $true

 

You’ll notice that when domain joined computers are internal to the LAN, they will work fine and there will not be any password prompts coming from Microsoft Outlook. However, when a domain joined user leaves the LAN and is external to the network, they will start to receive password prompts like below:

Outlook Password Prompt

 

After spending hours, I found this fix resolves the situation and applies to both Exchange 2013, and Exchange 2016:

 

Open up Exchange PowerShell and change the authentication methods on the MAPI virtual directory. We will be removing the negotiate authentication mechanism. Use the command below:

Set-MapiVirtualDirectory -Identity “YOURSERVERNAME\mapi (Default Web Site)” -ExternalURL https://YOURSERVERNAME.YOURDOMAIN.com/mapi -IISAuthenticationMethods NTLM,OAuth

We now need to modify the Authentication settings inside of IIS to remove Negotiate from both the mapi and EWS directories. The command above may have removed it from mapi, but it’s still good to confirm and we still need to change it for EWS. Open IIS Manager, Expand “Default Web Site”. Select “EWS” on the left hand side, and then select “Authentication” on the Right side as shown below:

Select Windows Authentication and then click “Providers” on the right Action Pane. Now remove “Neogiate” from the list so that only NTLM remains, as shown below:

Repeat for the mapi on the left as well (Select “Default Web Site”, select “mapi” on the left hand side, and then select “Authentication” on the right side), and confirm that only NTLM is in the list of providers.

Open up command prompt and type “IISRESET” to reload IIS, or restart your Exchange Server!

Nov 052017
 

Around the end of September, I posted a blog article talking about Outlook 2016 prompting for password credentials due to a Office 2016 click to run update bug when using Microsoft Exchange. While they did just recently fix this by deploying a new update, I have since come across a new bug in the latest update.

I noticed multiple computers with Outlook 2016 Version 1710 (Build 8625.2121 Click-to-Run) started getting stuck with the Outlook icon on the system tray showing that it was sending and receiving. When opening Outlook, and hitting Send and Receive, nothing is shown.

When you hold down CTRL and right click on the Outlook icon, choose “Connection Status…”, then select the “Local Mailbox” tab, you’ll notice it gets stuck on “Email@address.com – Saving synchronization log” (as seen below).

I went ahead and tried all the usual troubleshooting steps like deleting and recreating the OST and Outlook Mail Profiles, but it still had no effect. I went ahead and completely uninstalled Microsoft Office, and reinstalled an older version. The issue DID NOT occur on the older version. Once updating to the latest, the bug re-occurred.

I’ve been scouring the internet for 2 days now trying to find information on this however I haven’t received any. This is most likely a new bug produced in the update that resolved the last bug. I will be posting updates when I hear more.

Sep 292017
 

There is a new issue starting to be visible in the last couple days that I’ve noticed across 3 fully patched systems (Windows 10 running Outlook 2016 connecting to Exchange 2013).

When using Microsoft Outlook 2016 with Microsoft Exchange 2013, a password prompt becomes visible when opening an attachment in an e-mail. The attachment will open, however the prompt occurs after it’s opened, and only appears if an attachment is opened in the first place. The prompt will not appear if an attachment is never opened or highlighted (selected).

Outlook Password Prompt

When entering AD credentials, the prompt keeps re-appearing. When you hit cancel, Outlook will continue to function. You may also see the prompt shown below.

Exchange Password Prompt

After troubleshooting, I can confirm this is NOT related to any of the traditional “Outlook password prompt” issues that users normally experience due to misconfiguration, and I have a feeling this is related to either an Outlook 2016 update, or an update for Microsoft Windows 10 (and/or Microsoft Windows 7).

I’ve only found one other mention of this occurring on the internet which appeared a day ago, where multiple users are experience the same issue with Microsoft Office 365 with Microsoft Outlook 2016 with multiple operating systems (Windows 10 and Windows 7).

Microsoft Office Version: 1708 (Build 8431.2079)

As of right now I have no information on a fix, but I wanted to post this before other admins start ripping apart their Exchange servers trying to resolve this.

Please see below for a fix!

Update October 2nd, 2017: I’ve read that someone used the downgrade guide from Microsoft and downgraded their Outlook 2016 client to an earlier “Click-to-Run” 2016 version. This stopped the password prompt so it appears this issue has to do with the latest updates for Microsoft Office (Office 2016 and Office 365).

Update October 23rd, 2017: Still not fix, however Microsoft has finally acknowledged this issue. Information on their workaround can be found here. Essentially they’re recommending downgrading to a previous “Click to Run” version of Office.

Update November 3rd, 2017: Our Reader AC reported that Microsoft released a statement saying that they addressed this issue in the most recent flights (updates revisions for a line of products). I updated my Office 2016 Click-to-Run instance, and I am no longer receiving the password prompts. I will update in a few hours to confirm it stays this way!

To Update:
1) Open an Office Product (Such as word, outlook, etc…)
2) Click File
3) Click “Office Account”
4) Click “Update Options” on the right side
5) Click “Update Now” from the drop down

Update November 5th, 2017: I can confirm that the latest updates have fully resolved this issue, but create a new issue as well.

Sep 232016
 

There’s quite a few of us that started off deploying Small Business Server (SBS2008, SBS2011) environments back in the day, loving the handy all-in-one package taking care of everything from Active Directory and Exchange, to disaster recovery and business continuity. However, some of these old environments are starting to catch up with us. I wanted to open a discussion on a big issue I had a couple years ago in one of my first migrations from SBS 2008, to Windows Server 2012 R2 with the Essentials Experience role installed, with Exchange Server 2013.

As most of you know, SBS comes packaged to push “.local” domains on initial domain configuration. This used to be considered best practice, and most of us even configured .local’s on non-SBS environments. This has never really posed any problems for us I.T. guys, except for a few configuration considerations when setting up Outlook clients, DNS, etc…

Now if you’re like me, another thing I always configured, was user accounts that didn’t match e-mail addresses. An example would be “John Doe”, with the username of “JohnD”, and the e-mail address of “John@contoso.com”. Also, our buddy John Doe would have a AD UPN JohnD@internaldomain.local (this was automatically populated on user setup)

User’s Name: John Doe

SAM Account Name: INTERNALDOMAIN\JohnD

Username: JohnD

AD UPN: JohnD@internaldomain.local

E-mail Address: John@contoso.com

 

I always liked this as it provided some protection if the users password ever got compromised (in a phishing attack, fake e-mail logon page, etc…), as the password could not actually authenticate when using the e-mail address as a username (the username was never actually provided in the attack, only e-mail).

Now let’s flash forward to this migration from SBS 2008, to Windows Server 2012 R2 with Essentials Experience, and throw Exchange 2013 in to the mix. Right off the bat, everything is working fine, Outlook 2010 is working great, Outlook 2013 is working great. Then BAM, Outlook 2016 comes out!

Outlook 2016 does not allow manual or custom configuration of Exchange accounts. They do this for “reliability” and ease of configuration. This means that you HAVE to have autodiscover setup, and working fluidly. No more manual configuration. Internally inside of the LAN this is all automatic if you configured Exchange properly, but you will have to configure autodiscover externally.

Internally on the LAN, Outlook 2016 clients have absolutely no issues, and authentication is working fine (no password prompts). However, when configuring external users, while you can eventually get it configured, the user is constantly prompted for credentials on every Outlook start.

On these password prompts, you’ll notice it’s authenticating for the users e-mail address. In this example, it’s asking for “John@contoso.com” and you enter: “INTERNALDOMAIN\JohnD” and their password, it work for the session, but keeps prompting on every fresh Outlook start.

I did massive amounts of research and seriously I could not come across one article that actually provided all the information I needed, it almost seemed as if this problem was specific to this single environment. Of course, this makes me think I have something configured incorrectly, and I literally spend forever searching for information, checking my VirtualDirectories on my Exchange server, checking logs, wasting tons and tons of time.

Finally after checking my configurations 6-10 times each and spending weeks, I realized it had nothing to do with anything configured incorrectly.

Outlook 2016 does all the configuration automatically, and expects to find everything it needs via auto discover. Putting it simple, the user’s UPN must match their e-mail address.

This means we have to change John Doe’s Active Directory UPN to match his e-mail address. The SAMAccountName still remains the same, so his login to his computer will not change, however after the change he will now be able to log in both with INTERNALDOMAIN\JohnD and John@contoso.com.

First we have to add the UPN suffix (which is the actual e-mail address domain name) to the Active Directory Domain and Trusts. Instructions are available here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/243629

After adding your e-mail domain to the UPN suffix list. When you go in to “Active Directory Users and Computers”, and view a user’s properties, you’ll notice in the UPN section, you can drop it down and change it from internaldomain.local, to contoso.com (using my example domains). You can also change the username inside of the UPN.

 

Essentially for Johny boy, his AD properties window now looks like:

User Logon Name:

John@contoso.com (we changed the name, and chose the external domain in the drop down to the right)

User logon name (pre-Windows 2000):

INTERNALDOMAIN\ JohnD (we left this the way it was)

 

John can now login either using “INTERNALDOMAIN\JohnD” or “John@contoso.com”. As far as John is concerned we haven’t changed anything and he still logs in using the same format he always has, totally unaware of any changes.

Surprise surprise, autodiscover is now fully functioning for this user. Not only for easy configuration on mobile devices (iPhones, Windows Phones, etc…), but he can now load up Outlook 2016 away from the LAN on the Internet, type in his e-mail address, password, and BAM he’s good to go!

I am a little bit unsettled in the fact that the e-mail address now becomes a fully accepted username on the domain (for security reasons), but I guess we’re stuck with that!

 

In short, our problem is:

  1. Username doesn’t match e-mail (JohnD username, John@contoso.com email)
  2. Running Outlook 2016 and forced to use auto-discover, repeated password prompts
  3. Running .local domain internally, while using different domain externally

In Short, to fix this:

  1. Add UPN Suffix to Active Directory
  2. Change users properties so that UPN matches e-mail address, DO NOT CHANGE the old DOMAIN\Username setting

Other Considerations:

  1. Password prompts on Outlook clients can mean a whole bunch of different problems totally unrelated to this configuration and issue. Always fully diagnose the issue and confirm the issue before applying fixes. Password prompts can mean authentication problems, problems with Exchange’s virtualdirectories, issues with autodiscover, issues with certificate configuration, etc…
  2. If this is your specific issue, you can write a script to run through and update the UPNs on all the accounts. I generally don’t like scripts touching user accounts, so I’m slowly rolling out these changes per user when upgrading them to Outlook 2016. Doing this one by one as we upgrade, allows us to make sure that none of their mobile devices are affected by the UPN change.
  3. Since we are changing UPNs, this could have a major effect on any 3rd party applications that integrate with Active Directory that use UPNs. Always test, and make sure you don’t break any integration points to your 3rd party applications or line of business systems.

 

Aug 202016
 

I just wanted to create a post about this file. I’m sure some admins have seen this and wondered what it was. The “BitlockerActiveMonitoringLogs” file on the system root directory, present on Microsoft Exchange 2013 servers.

I first noticed this on a clients setup, at first assuming the worst believing the system may have been compromised. However I have seen this file on multiple Exchange installs, on multiple clients, even in my own environment, and can confirm is it present no matter what the CU release level is, thus confirming it has nothing to do with being compromised.

Date modified I’m expecting reflects last system boot-up.

Surprised to see that there are no articles online regarding this file when searching for it specifically, so I decided to create this post to let you know you’re not alone, and the file probably is a system file.

Jul 302016
 

I write today to report of a minor glitch I have identified and confirmed with 2 different HPe MSA 2040 SANs. I’ve identified the issue with multiple firmware versions (even the latest version as of the date of this article being written). The issue stops e-mail notifications from being sent from the MSA 2040 when the SAN is configured with some SMTP relays.

The main concern is that some administrators may configure the notification service believing it is working, when in fact it is not. This could cause problems if the SAN isn’t regularly monitored and if e-mail notifications alone are being used to monitor its health.

 

Configuration:

-MSA 2040 Dual Controller SAN configured with SMTP notifications

-SMTP destination server configured as EXIM mail proxy (in my case a Sophos UTM firewall)

 

Symptoms:

-Test notifications are not received (even though the MSA 2040 confirms OK on transmission)

-Real notifications are not received

-Occasionally if numerous tests are sent in a short period of time (5+ tests within 3 seconds), one of the tests may actually go through.

 

Events and Logs observed:

/var/log/smtp/2016/06/smtp-2016-06-20.log.gz:2016:06:20-20:44:29 SERVERNAME exim-in[16539]: 2016-06-20 20:44:29 SMTP connection from [SAN:CONTROLLER:IP:ADDY]:36977 (TCP/IP connection count = 1)

/var/log/smtp/2016/06/smtp-2016-06-20.log.gz:2016:06:20-20:44:29 SERVERNAME exim-in[18615]: 2016-06-20 20:44:29 SMTP protocol synchronization error (input sent without waiting for greeting): rejected connection from H=[SAN:CONTEROLLER:IP:ADDY]:36977 input=”NOOP\r\n”

 

Resolution:

To resolve this issue, I tried numerous things however the only fix I could come up with, is configuring the SAN to relay SMTP notifications through a Exchange 2013 Server. To do this, you must create a special connector to allow SMTP relaying of anonymous messages (security must be configured on this connector to stop SPAM), and further modify security permissions on that send connector to allow transmission to external e-mail addresses. After doing this, e-mail notifications (and weekly SMTP reports) from the SAN are being received reliably.

 

Additional Notes:

-While in my case the issue was occurring with EXIM on a Sophos UTM firewall, I believe this issue may occur with other E-mail servers or SMTP relay servers.

-Tried configuring numerous exceptions on the SMTP relay with no effect.

-Rejected e-mail messages do not appear in the mail manager, only the SMTP relay log on the Sophos UTM.

-Always test SMTP notifications on a regular basis.

Mar 052016
 

Just wanted to write about a couple issues that I’ve seen occur after migrating customers from Microsoft Small Business Server to Microsoft Server 2012 R2 (with Essentials Experience role), with Microsoft Exchange 2013 On-Premise.

Migration documents that were available were used at the time of migration. We still observed these issues after following. Please note that since these issues occurred, migration documents may have been updated.

Windows SBS Company Web Connector ServerName

After the migration was complete we started seeing event logs pertaining to a “Windows SBS Company Web Connector ComputerName”, often mentioning it’s referencing an object in the Deleted Items container, also referencing the connector is not being activated due to no routes available.

Event ID: 5016

Microsoft Exchange could not discover any route to connector CN=Windows SBS Company Web Connector SERVERNAME,CN=Connections,CN=Exchange Routing Group (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX),CN=Routing Groups,CN=Exchange Administrative Group (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX),CN=Administrative Groups,CN=First Organization,CN=Microsoft Exchange,CN=Services,CN=Configuration,DC=domainname,DC=local in the routing tables with the timestamp 3/5/2016 1:55:34 PM. This connector will not be used.  Total source server count: 1; unknown source server count: 1; unrouted source server count: 0; non-active source server count: 0.

What is happening is that a “Foreign Connector” is still present in the Active Directory and Exchange Configuration for the SBS environments SharePoint e-mail to web feature. In my client’s environments SharePoint is no longer used, so it is safe for us to delete this connector. Only delete this connector if you know you’re not using it (it is used for SharePoint e-mail to web feature).

To list and get information on the orphaned connector, open Exchange Powershell and run:

Get-ForeignConnector | Format-List

To delete the orphaned connector, enter the following command in Exchange Powershell and update the connector name to match the name shown in the command above:

Remove-ForeignConnector “Windows SBS Company Web Connector SERVERNAME”

This will remove the orphaned connector and clean up these errors from occurring. You can also remove the connector using ADSIEDIT, however I prefer to use ADSIEDIT as a last resort, and find this method not only easier, but cleaner.

 

SMTP rejected a (P1) mail from ‘HealthMailboxHEXHEXHEXHEX@domain.local’

Initially post-migration we started observing this event on the server. Mail flow was not affected and everything was functioning properly.

Event ID: 1025

SMTP rejected a (P1) mail from ‘HealthMailboxXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX@DOMAIN.local’ with ‘Client Proxy EXCHSRVR’ connector and the user authenticated as ‘HealthMailboxXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX’. The Active Directory lookup for the sender address returned validation errors. Microsoft.Exchange.Data.ProviderError

 

Additionally, on our corporate firewall (that provides anti-spam), we would observe numerous undeliverable bouncebacks on outgoing messages to the e-mail address “inboundproxy@contoso.com” with the subject “Inbound proxy probe”. These messages occur on exact 5 minute intervals continuously.

Using Exchange powershell to view the active Health Mailboxes, we see that each of these bounce backs are being stored on a particular health mailbox. Essentially the mailbox will continue to grow. Due to the growth, this issue needs to be resolved so the mailbox doesn’t continue to grow in size.

Numerous things can cause this, however in our case looking at transport logs, it is seen that a HealthMailbox is sending e-mail to another HealthMailbox but using an incorrect e-mail address. The Health Mailboxes on the Exchange server have “domain.com” e-mail addresses, while according to the transport logs, the e-mails are being sent to “domain.local”.

Something got mixed up, either with provisioning the Exchange E-Mail address policies, or the domain configured as “default domain”. Either way, Exchange is configured and running, so I wanted to correct this in a manor that would have minimal consequences or changes to the system.

To correct this issue, we need to go in to ADSI edit and modify the “ProxyAddresses” value for the HealthMailbox. Note that any type of mailbox can have numerous aliases and a single default alias. Inside of ADSIEdit for “ProxyAddresses” the value/format is case-sensitive, and uppercase SMTP configures default e-mail address, while lowercase smtp configures alternative aliases. An example value: “SMTP:alias@domain.com” for default, or “smtp:alternative@domain.com” for an alternative alias.

Identifying the account from the event log (note the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in the example), we found the account in the Monitoring Mailboxes container inside of ADSIEdit. We right-clicked on the specific HealthMailbox account, went to properties, and found the “ProxyAddresses” value. We then proceeded to create a new alias by clicking edit, using lowercase smtp and created “smtp:HealthMailboxXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX@DOMAIN.local” and added it to the list, we did not modify or delete any existing values. All we did is create an alternative alias.

So now the Health Mailbox is receiving e-mail for both “@domain.com”, and “@domain.local”. Immediately the bounce-backs stopped, and event logs disappeared.

PLEASE NOTE: For this fix to work, you MUST confirm that the issue is due to the domain .com and .local mismatch. I’m not quite sure, but this issue may also occur after changing the default domain, or default e-mail address policies, in which case you still could use this technique to resolve the issue.

Hope this helps some of you, cheers!

May 312013
 

Back in February, I was approached by a company that had multiple offices. They wanted my company to come in and implement a system that allowed them to share information, share files, communicate, use their line of business applications, and be easily manageable.

The first thing that always comes to mind is Microsoft Small Business Server 2011. However, what made this environment interesting is that they had two branch offices in addition to their headquarters all in different cities. One of their branch offices had 8+ users working out of it, and one only had a couple, with their main headquarters having 5+ users.

Usually when administrators think of SBS, they think of a single server (two server with the premium add-on) solution that provides a small business with up to 75 users with a stable, enterprise feature packed, IT infrastructure.

SBS 2011 Includes:

Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard

Exchange Server 2010

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Express

Windows Server Update Services

(And an additional Server 2008 R2 license with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard if the premium add-on is purchased)

 

Essentially this is all a small business typically needs, even if they have powerful line of business applications.

One misconception about Windows Small Business Server is the limitation of having a single domain controller. IT professionals often think that you cannot have any more domain controllers in an SBS environment. This actually isn’t true. SBS does allow multiple domain controllers, as long as there is a single forest, and not multiple domains. You can have a backup domain controller, and you can have multiple RODCs (Read Only Domain Controller), as long as the primary Active Directory roles stay with the SBS primary domain controller. You can have as many global catalogs as you’d like! As long as you pay for the proper licenses of all the additional servers 🙂

This is where this came in handy. While I’ve known about this for some time, this was the first time I was attempting at putting something like this in to production.

 

The plan was to setup SBS 2011 Premium at the HQ along with a second server at the HQ hosting their SQL, line of business applications, and Remote desktop Services (formerly Terminal Services) applications. Their HQ would be sitting behind an Astaro Security Gateway 220 (Sophos UTM).

The SBS 2011 Premium (2 Servers) setup at the HQ office will provide:

-Active Directory services

-DHCP and DNS Services

-Printing and file services (to the HQ and all branch offices)

-Microsoft Exchange

-“My Document” and “Desktop” redirection for client computers/users

-SQL DB services for LoB’s

-Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) to push applications out in to the field

 

The first branch office, will have a Windows Server 2008 R2 server, promoted to a Read Only Domain Controller (RODC), sitting behind an Astaro Security Gateway 110. The Astaro Security Gateway’s would establish a site-to-site branch VPN between the two offices and route the appropriate subnets. At the first branch office, there is issues with connectivity (they’re in the middle of nowhere), so they will have two internet connections with two separate ISPs (1 line of sight long range wireless backhaul, and one simple ADSL connection) which the ASG 110 will provide load balancing and fault tolerance.

The RODC at the first branch office will provide:

-Active Directory services for (cached) user logon and authentication

-Printing and file services (for both HQ and branch offices)

-DHCP and DNS services

-“My Documents” and “Desktop” redirection for client computers/users.

-WSUS replica server (replicates approvals and updates from WSUS on the SBS server at the main office).

-Exchange access (via the VPN connection)

Users at the first branch office will be accessing file shares located both on their local RODC, along with file shares located on the HQ server in Calgary. The main wireless backhaul has more then enough bandwidth to support SMB (Samba) shares over the VPN connection. After testing, it turns out the backup ADSL connection also handles this fairly well for the types of files they will be accessing.

 

The second branch office, will have an Astaro RED device (Remote Ethernet Device). The Astaro/Sophos RED devices, act as a remote ethernet port for your Astaro Security Gateways. Once configured, it’s as if the ASG at the HQ has an ethernet cable running to the branch office. It’s similar to a VPN, however (I could be wrong) I think it uses EoIP (Ethernet over IP). The second branch doesn’t require a domain controller due to the small number of users. As far as this branch office goes, this is the last we’ll talk about it as there’s no special configuration required for these guys.

The second branch office will have the following services:

-DHCP (via the ASG 220 in Calgary)

-DNS (via the main HQ SBS server)

-File and print services (via the HQ SBS server and other branch server)

-“My Document” and “Desktop” redirection (over the WAN via the HQ SBS server)

-Exchange access (via the Astaro RED device)

 

For all the servers, we chose HP hardware as always! The main SBS server, along with the RODC were brand new HP Proliant ML350p Gen8s. The second server at the HQ (running the premium add-on) is a re-purposed HP ML110 G7. I always configure iLo on all servers (especially remote servers) just so I can troubleshoot issues in the event of an emergency if the OS is down.

 

So now that we’ve gone through the plan. I’ll explain how this was all implemented.

  1. Configure and setup a typical SBS 2011 environment. I’m going to assume you already know how to do this. You’ll need to install the OS. Run through the SBS configuration wizards, enable all the proper firewall rules, configure users, install applicable server applications, etc…
  2. Configure the premium add-on. Install the Remote Desktop Services role (please note that you’ll need to purchase RDS CAL’s as they aren’t included with SBS). You can skip this step if you don’t plan on using RDS or the premium server at the main site.
  3. Configure all the Astaro devices. Configure a Router to Router VPN connection. Create the applicable firewall rules to allow traffic. You probably know this, but make sure both networks have their own subnet and are routing the separate subnets properly.
  4. Install Windows Server 2008 R2 on to the target RODC box (please note, in my case, I had to purchase an additional Server 2008 license since I was already using the premium add-on at the HQ site. (If you purchase the premium add-on, but aren’t using it at your main office, you can use this license at the remote site).
  5. Make sure the VPN is working and the servers can communicate with each other.
  6. Promote the target RODC to a read only domain controller. You can launch the famous dcpromo. Make sure you check the “Read Only domain controller” option when  you promote the server.
  7. You now have a working environment.
  8. Join computers using the SBS connect wizard. (DO NOT LOG ON AS THE REMOTE USERS UNTIL YOU READ THIS ENTIRE DOCUMENT)

I did all the above steps at my office and configured the servers before deploying them at the client site.

You essentially have a working basic network. Now to get to the tricky stuff! This tricky stuff is to enable folder redirection at the branch site to their own server (instead of the SBS server), and get them their own WSUS replica server.

 

Now to the fancy stuff!

1. Installing WSUS on the RODC using the add role feature in Windows Server: You have to remember that RODC’s are exactly what they say! !READ ONLY! (As far as Active directory goes)! Installing WSUS on a RODC will fail off the bat. It will report that access is denied when trying to create certain security groups. You’ll have to manually create these two groups in Active Directory on your primary SBS server to get it to work:

  • SQLServer2005MSFTEUser$RODCSERVERNAME$Microsoft##SSEE
  • SQLServer2005MSSQLUser$RODCSERVERNAME$Microsoft##SSEE

Replace RODCSERVERNAME with the computer name of your RODC Server. You’ll actually notice that two similiar groups already exist (with the server name different) for the existing Windows SBS WSUS install, this existing groups are for the main WSUS server. After creating these groups, this will allow it to install. After this is complete, follow through the WSUS configuration wizard to configure it as a replica for your primary SBS WSUS server.

2. One BIG thing to keep in mind is that with RODC’s you need to configure what accounts (both user and computer) are allowed to be “cached”. Cached credentials allow the RODC to authenticate computers and users in the event the primary domain controller is down. If you do not configure this, if the internet goes down, or the primary domain controller isn’t available, no one will be able to log in to their computers or access network resources at the branch site. When you promoted the server to a RODC, two groups were created in Active Directory: Allow RODC Cached Logins, and Deny RODC Cached Logins (I could be wrong on the exact name since I’m going off memory). You can’t just select and add users to these groups, you need to also select and add the computers they use as well since computers have their own “computer account” in Active Directory.

To overcome this, create two security groups under their respective existing groups. One group will be for users of the branch office, the other group will be for computers of the branch office. Make sure to add applicable users and groups as members of the security groups. Now go to the “Allow RODC Cached Logins” group created by the dc promotion, and add those two new security groups to that group. This will allow remote users and remote computers to authenticate using cached security credentials. PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT CACHE YOUR ADMINISTRATIVE ACCOUNT!!! Instead, create a separate administrative account for that remote office and cache that.

3. One of the sweet things about SBS is all the pre-configured Group policy objects that enable the automatic configuration of the WSUS server, folder redirection, and a bunch of other great stuff. You have to keep in mind that off of the above config, if left alone up to this point, the computers in the branch office will use the folder redirection settings and WSUS settings from the main office. Remote users folder redirection (whatever you have selected, in my case My Documents and Desktop redirection) locations will be stored on the main HQ server. If you’re alright with this and not concerned about the size of the user folders, you can leave this. What I needed to do (for reasons of simple disaster recovery purposes) is have the folder re-directions for the branch office users store the redirection on their own local branch server. Also, we need to have the computers connect to the local branch WSUS server as well (we don’t want each computer pulling updates over the VPN connection as this will use up tons of bandwidth). What’s really neat is when users open applications via RemoteApp (over RDS), if they export files to their desktop inside of RemoteApp, it’ll actually be immediately available on their computer desktop since the RDS server is using these GPOs.

To do this, we’ll need to duplicate and modify a couple of the default GPOs, and also create some OU (Organizational Unit) containers inside of Active Directory so we can apply the new GPOs to them.

First, under “SBSComputers” create an OU called “Branch01Comps” (or call it whatever you want). Then under “SBSUsers” create an OU called “Branch01Users”. Now keep in mind you want to have this fully configured before any users log on for the first time. All of this configuration should be done AFTER the computer is joined (using the SBS connect) to the domain and AFTER the users are configured, but BEFORE the user logs in for the first time. Move the branch office computer accounts to the new Branch office computers OU, and move the Branch office user accounts to the Branch office users OU.

Now open up the Group policy Management Management Console. You want to duplicate 2 GPOs: Update Services Common Settings Policy (rename the duplicate to “Branch Update Services Common Settings Policy” or something), and Small Business Server Folder Redirection Policy (rename the duplicate to “Branch Folder Redirection” or something).

Link the new duplicated Update Services policy to the Branch Computers OU we just created, and link the new duplicated folder redirection to the new users policy we just created.

Modify the duplicated server update policy to reflect the address of the new branch WSUS replica server. Computers at the branch office will now pull updates from that server.

As for Folder redirection, it’s a bit tricky. You’ll need to create a share (with full share access to all users), and then set special file permissions on the folder that you shared (info available at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc736916%28v=ws.10%29.aspx). On top of that, you’ll need to find a way to actually create the child users folders under that share/folder in which you created. I did this by going in to active directory, opening each remote user, and setting their profile variable to the file share. When I hit apply this would create a folder with their username with the applicable permissions under that share, after this was done, I would undo that variable setting and the directory created would stay. Repeat this for each remote user at that specific branch office. You’ll also need to do this each time you add a new user if they bring on more staff, you’ll also need to add all new computers and new users to the appropriate OUs, and security groups we’ve created above.

FINALLY you can now go in to the GPO you duplicated for Branch Folder redirection. Modify the GPO to reflect the new storage path for the redirection objects you want (just a matter of changing the server name).

4. Configure Active Directory Sites and Services. You’ll need to go in to Active Directory Sites and Services and configure sites for each subnet you have (you main HQ subnet, branch 1 subent, and branch 2 subnet), and set the applicable domain controller to those sites. In my case, I created 3 sites, and configured the HQ subnet and second branch to authenticate off the main SBS PDC, and configured the first branch (with their own RODC) to authenticate off their own RODC. Essentially, this tells the computers which domain controller they should be authenticating against.

 

And you’re done! (I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything). Few things to remember, whenever adding new users and/or computers to the branch, ALWAYS join using SBS wizard, add computer to the branch OU, add user to the branch OU, create the users master redirection folder using the profile var in the AD user object, and separately add both user and computer accounts as members of the security group we created to cache credentials.

And remember, always always always test your configuration before throwing it out in to production. In my case, I got it running first try without any problems, but I let it run as a test environment for over a month before deploying to production!

 

We’ve had this environment running for months now and it’s working great. What’s even cooler is how well the Astaro Security Gateway (Sophos UTM) is handling the multiple WAN connections during failures, it’s super slick!