Issue with Network Neighborhood & master bowser

My client has three offices, interconnected via VPN. For some reason in the First Office the connections in Network Neighborhood would disappear except for the local machines on the LAN of the First Office. Bob had also mentioned that they used to have WINS and now they are using only DNS. The First Office's machines can still ping out and use resources not on the local network even while the icons are gone.

I spoke to another engineer and he said that the master browser for the first office is on the fritz, we dont know which machine that is.

Can you offer any advice to help me please?
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computermdnowAsked:
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SteveH_UKConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Network Neighbourhood relies on NetBIOS name resolution.  You can either use the Computer Browser service to allow any machine on the network to maintain the list, or you can use WINS.  If you use the Computer Browser service, then whenever a machine joins a network, it advertises itself as a potential "master browser" and an election is forced.  If it wins the election, then it becomes the master browser, otherwise another computer takes on this role.

If you want Network Neighbourhood functionality, then I recommend you use WINS.  It is a far better solution than the Computer Browser service, for all its failings.  It is still supported in Windows 2008, so you won't have an issue there.

The only alternative, is to force a long-running machine to keep the master browse list.  

See:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/102878
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/188001
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windows2000serv/reskit/cnet/cnfi_brs_ecea.mspx?mfr=true
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SteveH_UKCommented:
Note that Network Neighbourhood and WINS only affect NetBIOS name resolution, so normal IP traffic such as DNS and PING will continue to work, as will web browsing etc.

From Windows 2000, DNS can also be used for NetBIOS name resolution, but it will not list computers in Network Neighbourhood.
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computermdnowAuthor Commented:
There was WINS at this clients location at one point, what would you recommend that we can do to fix the issue?
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SteveH_UKCommented:
If possible, I would recommend that you reinstall a resilient WINS infrastructure.  This could mean a WINS server your end, or theirs, or both.  Log on to a Microsoft VPN can also set WINS servers which means you can register computers onto the remote network.

The worst thing you can do is rely on the Computer Browser service.

You may choose to ignore the Network Neighbourhood option and choose an alternative method.  What is the purpose of users having Network Neighbourhood access in your scenario?
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computermdnowAuthor Commented:
I see, I have no idea why they want it, I didn't even ask. Can you expand more on the alternative method please, I am interested.

Thank you
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SteveH_UKCommented:
The alternative methods are:

1)  If it is for file access, you can set them up with mapped network drives and they'll never need to browse
2)  You can combine this with DFS and then the folders in the share are actually on lots of different servers, so you will only need one mapped drive
3)  You can still use dns for name resolution, or IP addresses, so \\mycomputer.domain.net works just as well as \\mycomputer, for almost all applications
4)  You can allow users to browse Active Directory for computers, shares and printers

Generally the third option deals with almost every issue, as it is quite rare to actually have to search for a particular machine in a stable network.
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computermdnowAuthor Commented:
THe thing is that, the branch offices see the other machines on the entire network. at the main office, they can see it too but sometimes it will not show it. They recently got rid of WINS in favor of DNS which is supposed to handle the same thing.


By the way, how do I allow users to brows AD for computers, shares and printers?
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SteveH_UKCommented:
Actually I think this may have been removed.  In Windows 2000, you could browse Entire Network -> Active Directory and navigate the OU structure.  You can still search Active Directory.

The only way to make network browsing reliable is to use WINS servers, ideally replicating with each other.  DNS does not provide this function.

You do not need to see a machine in order to use it.  You can type \\machine.domain.com\share to access any share using DNS.
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computermdnowAuthor Commented:
Its just funny that it works at the branch locations, either way you have more than earned your points and I will go ahead and award them to you. I appreciate all of your help.

Thank you :)
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SteveH_UKCommented:
You are very welcome.

Glad you are happy with the solution. :)
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