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Configuring SBS 2003/Exchange For Remote Laptops

Posted on 2005-04-22
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-05
I am in the process of re-installing/re-configuring an existing SBS 2003 Premium installation.
There are many reasons for the re-install unrelated to my questions here, but the really big
issue (for me) is how to best configure SBS for laptop users.

SBS 2003 Premium; 25 users;
Exchange Server [pops] an ISP/Email Server (pop/smtp.coxmail.com)

We have 2 categories of laptop users:
1)Office Employees:
    - work mostly out of the office except for an occasional trip
    - take the laptop home every night and expect to have [near] full capability(esp. email/Outlook)
    - when out of the office, want to use Outlook just like at the office through high speed internet
    - Use a PDA for email  (i.e., Nextel/Blackberry or TMobile/HP iPAQ)
2)Home Employees:
     - work entirely out of their home except for an occasional trip to the office
     - need to have [near] full capability at home/office through high speed internet (eso. email/Outlook)
     - when out of the home/office, want to use Outlook just like at the office through high speed internet
     - Use a PDA for email  (i.e., Nextel/Blackberry or TMobile/HP iPAQ)

The above configuration is currently running; well sort of.  There seem to always be lots of problems.
Each time I troubleshoot a problem, the cause most often points to a configuration issue.

My needs for this question are:
a) Can some tell me how to best configure SBS/Exghange Server to keep the laptop users happy?
b) Is there a good resource (book, Qarticle, newsgroup, etc.) available?

Question by:Slator

Expert Comment

ID: 13843892
I have a similar client with needs such as yours. NOt as many, but just as demanding. Lawyer and doctor. I have them on their laptops at work and then have VPN tunnels from home to work. They simply close the laptop at work and go home. OPen the laptop there, they plug into their DSL/Cable modem lines with the router's configured as Tunnels back to work and Viola!! it is as if they never left the office. It sounds like you need to research a good VPN solution. And configure your server as a VPN server as well. This is done by the Remote Access Server Administration. Go throuigh the SBS server management guide. They have plenty of steps and wizards to help you get going. the SBS package is specifically designed to step by step walk through for the beginning/intermidiate admin. Go to start and click on "Manage Server". ONe of those icons should be to setup VPN or remote users. I also got my client going on their PDA, synchronizing with the exchange server.

LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 13844138
You are going to definitly want to try RPC over HTTP for outlook.  You will need Windows XP and Office2003 but it is completely worth the troubleshooting headache of remote mail and offline access.  http://www.msexchange.org/tutorials/outlookrpchttp.html

You will want to look at autoconfiguration scripts and registry saves to force settings.  Look at GPO policies for lockdown ability to keep users from changing options.  Things like this will keep you in good shape.  

The above site is an awesome resource, you will want to peruz.

Expert Comment

ID: 13848909

I configure SBS/Exchange to "do" PPTP VPNs.. if I have to.  

I prefer to just throw up OWA (with the default form, SSL cert from FreeSSL.org) -- and give my users a piece of paper that explains their logon syntax.  Most just want email.  OWA shuts them up..  it sucks and I can't fix its limited functionality.  

Generally, I find the "occasional" VPN user too scatter-brained to retain the "how-to-connect" training.  No, I'm not kidding.  When presented with their cached username, domain and a blank box that should be typer'd with their password, remembering the password they used to logon to the machine 2-3 minutes ago is not possible, frequently.

So, OWA first.  VPN second.  RPC over HTTPS(ssl) third..

I've found the RPC over HTTPS config outright nasty..  anyone else hate it?


LVL 74

Accepted Solution

Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy earned 2000 total points
ID: 14716121
I just happened upon this question... which seemed abandoned by everyone including the page editor.

So, I thought I'd chip in and see if there was ever a solution.

First, for both types of users DEFINITELY use RPC over HTTP.  It's not only incredibly easy to configure there are configuration instructions that are automatically customized for your network available when you log into Remote Web Workplace at http://servername/remote, click on the "configure Outlook via the Internet".  This is a step-by-step guide to configuring Outlook.  Also, make sure that Outlook is running in Cached User mode.  This will allow users to have all of their email, contacts, etc even if they can't connect.

There is nothing nasty about it.

For the Office users that sometimes work remotely, make sure that you have used the Mobile Template for their user permissions.  If you haven't then you can reapply it.  For their laptops, include the two additional programs in the Assign Applications to Client Computers wizard (ActiveSync and Remote Connection Client).  The built-in VPN client works just great in most cases, depending on how the user connects.  So, I always tell users to try the vpn first because it's better (their access to network resources is easier, just as if they were in the office).  BUT... just in case they are having problems, there is always Remote Web Workplace.  Because RWW is designed for users to connect to their desktop at the office from a remote location... if they only have a laptop that isn't going to work... so I generally have a few virtual machines set up to accommodate remote laptop users).

Another great way to make shared documents available is via Sharepoint.  Sharepoint is available over the web at any time either through RWW or directly at https://servername.domain.com:444/default.aspx.

Lastly for the PDA people... I myself have an iPAQ 6315 (which I hate, btw... but not because of SBS connection).  There have been some connectivity issues, but I believe they are mostly worked out... check out Sean Daniel's blog for some great advice:  http://seanda.blogspot.com/2004/12/configuring-mobility-on-sbs-2003.html

Good Luck!


P. S. --- Sc... you really shouldn't be a tech support person with that kind of attitude... it's never the right thing to do something just to "shut them up."  Find something else to do in life that will make you happy.

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