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Qubit’s Mini Data Centre Project for 2011

qubit

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#1
And by mini, I mean a full-on Active Directory implementation with Exchange Server, at home. Welcome to my project!

Why am I doing this? I work in IT support (desktop and Helpdesk) and our organization uses Active Directory. I got sent on a Windows 2003 server course a while ago that explained the basics of AD and I got interested in it, so I want to learn more. Therefore, what better way than to be your own enterprise admin at home? I’ve got various books on this now, see the full book list, below.


The Mission

To run Server 2008 Datacentre running these roles in an AD environment:

  • Exchange Server 2010
  • WSUS (Windows Server Update Services)
  • Data backup, including backups of the server installation in case of failure
  • Learn about Active Directory, Group Policy and managing servers in general (this is geeky heaven, I tell you)
  • Implement roaming profiles: see identical desktop on all computers with minimal configuration plus profile backup
  • Eventually upgrade to Server 2008 R2 Datacentre
  • Implement anything else on the way that seems worthwhile
  • The server hardware will reside in the same room that I sleep in (studio flat) so will have to be very quiet if it’s to be left on 24/7 like I intend to. Using quiet fans and hard drives is a must and I have these.

Current Status

I have previously subbed to Microsoft TechNet, so I have downloaded all the high-end software that comes with that subscription, including multiple keys for a genuine and permanent Windows Server 2008 (or R2) Datacentre installation.

I’ve read up on DNS (heavy subject!) and Active Directory (even heavier) and I understand all the principles now. However, I peg my level of working knowledge to that of a baby crawling around and reaching out to play with things he shouldn’t. J Stop that!

I’m currently running Server 2008 Datacentre 32-bit on an old P4 Northwood with HT 2.8GHz o/c 3.5GHz rock solid stable on an Abit AI7 mobo & 2GB RAM. Windows Server is on an 80GB IDE drive and the data backup & WSUS drive is a 1.5TB WD GreenPower drive.

I’ve got a 2GHz Athlon 64X2 knocking around, but I wanted to give this old girl some use for now – and she’s not bad looking either.

All the P4 is doing at the moment is operating as a WSUS server and as a backup drive for the umpteen gigs worth of crap, err, data I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s not set as a domain controller right now.

However, I have used a couple of laptops (yes, really, for the novelty hehe) to play around with AD. So far, I’ve set them both up as domain controllers, with both of them working on the same domain. Why this configuration? Simply because I’m following the examples in the book. Next configuration will be parent-child DCs and then a forest of two or three domains. I expect to actually have only one domain for my home system, but this may change depending on requirements.


Other Stuff

Why Server 2008 and not Server 2008 R2? Because the Microsoft Press books I want only cover Server 2008. There’s no Inside Out or other major MS Press books for R2, for some reason. However, there is the Administrator’s Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition which covers R2, but that doesn’t explain things from the ground up like the Inside Out book does. Therefore, I’m sticking with the older OS for now.

I’ve been thinking hard about what to call my domain, but I’ve finally come up with a name. I like cats, so I think I’ll call it tabby.cat Cute, huh?
Also, skynet.t2 or cyberdyne.t2 from the Terminator films are tempting me…

Internet security: I run Kaspersky Internet Security on my main PC. Unfortunately, neither this nor any other standard consumer security software will run on a server OS, presumably because they want to charge one a lot more for the privilege of running a “professional” product just for servers. Any suggestions for security software appreciated, especially free ones.


BOOKS (all Microsoft Press)

Windows Server 2008 Inside Out
Windows Server 2008 Administrator's Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition (updated for Server 2008 R2)
Active Directory Resource Kit (covers Server 2008)
Windows Group Policy Resource Kit (covers Server 2008)
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out
Windows PowerShell 2.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant

As you can see, these are pretty heavy reads, so it will take time and dedication to get through these thousands of pages and become proficient. Perfect for a project. :D

Happy New Year everybody! :)
 
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#3
Don't stress yourself out man, i have the same type of job, and i've done all of those things plus implimented a wamp server here at the house as well. active directory is not hard once you get the basics, and the layout is very easy to understand, i suspect that after you get it up and running you'll fall right into sync, exchange is super easy to use and i would say the hardest part of setting it up for me was getting a domain for the mx record, i also put in a mailfoundry mail filter a few months back to handle spam.

you'll be fine, just keep your head up and pay attention to what you are doing.
 

t_ski

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#4
I, too work Helpdesk and work in an AD domain. I've gotten a lot of my knowledge from just doing, but nothing too in depth. However, one thing I am really getting into is Windows Deployment Services (WDS). If where you work has any sort of critical need for workstations (ie: they can't be done for more than a few hours), WDS makes things so much easier. If you aren't familiar with it, you might want to add it to your list.
 
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#5
Very nice. I've done it at home back with Server 2003 and a couple old Xeon servers from work. Stopped after it wasn't worth keeping them on anymore (high idle/very high load wattage).

But hopefully I'll be putting together a new storage server with 2008 R2 soon. After being in IT for so long, just seems easier to run the home network in the same fashion. Between my 2003 Domain and trying out Home Group and just simple sharing, looking forward to going back to a domain.
 

qubit

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#6
I posted this so long ago, I didn't think anyone would reply. Thanks for the responses everybody, this is really awesome. :toast:

A proper reply on the project's latest status will take some time to do and I have to go to sleep now, so I'll post it in a day or so.

In nutshell, it's going very slowly and is purely a spare time thing. On top of that, I've got a couple of interesting problems for you to show off your Windows Server skills with! :rockout:
 
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#7
if you still have your TechNet sub then i would look at Windows Small Business Server 2011.
this is really the ultimate all-in-all package.

i understand that this is a test environment. there should be no reason why you can use R2. R2 was mainly changed under the hood.

also and again if you still have TechNet you can get Microsoft ForeFront for server security. There are a bunch of different options
 

qubit

Overclocked quantum bit
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#8
Ok people, thanks for waiting so patiently for my reply. :)

I've only done a few bits and pieces here and there, as I'm always doing too many things at once, lol.

I've set up that old P4 as a domain controller, managing the tabby.cat domain and it's still doing its WSUS thing for now. I'll be changing the domain name to something cooler, but more on that in a bit.

I got playing around a bit with Active Directory and Group Policy, but that made me realise just how much more I needed to learn, so I've been doing some more reading (very dry subject hard to keep at it, I'll confess).

I put a laptop running Win7 Ultimate on the domain and here's where it gets a little weird: before that, the local accounts would log in properly ie the user profile would load and Windows was fine. This is problem one.

I then took the laptop away to the computer club and logged in to a domain account, where it used it's cached credentials to let me in: this time, it reported that it couldn't load the profile and was using a temporary one. All the domain accounts did this, but oddly, the local ones too. Trying a couple of times did not improve the situation and of course no interface settings were saved between sessions.

Suspecting something odd with the file and folder permissions, I set the Users folder and all underlying files and folders to allow Everyone full access, but it made no difference. However, creating a new local account worked properly, allowing the profile to load and save correctly. WTF is going on?! :eek:

I then reconnected it to the domain controller, but that made no difference.

I suspect that there's something funny going on with Group Policy, but I don't know what it is and wouldn't mind some help in troubleshooting this one.

Second problem, remember that Athlon X2? I want to use the 64-bit versions of Server 2008 & 2008 R2, which I already installed a while back and use it instead of the P4. However, the PC isn't stable.

I upgraded the RAM to 4GB, using two Dane Elec sticks and two others (generic brand, I think. I'm not at home now). But it's showing memory problems, even when run at stock. I've only done a small amount of troubleshooting so far, but I have a feeling that it's gonna end up just not liking this amount of RAM and/or the sticks installed.

It passes Memtest86 oddly enough, but sometimes won't boot properly, locking up during BIOS boot and Server 2008 tends to BSOD or lock up solid, unexpectedly. Strangely, Server 2008 R2 seems to work fine. :confused:

I have more troubleshooting to do with this PC at some point to try and get to the bottom of the problem. I suspect that a BIOS update is ultimately needed, but as Abit has been dead in the water for years, that's not happening.

I should add that there's a small chance that the PSU is causing the instability, as it's making a few odd squirly noises, which are the reason I replaced it in my main PC a while back. I'll have to swap it out and see how it goes.

And finally, my new domain. I'm thinking of making it something cool like tacyon.ftl or blackhole.ftl. Waddya think? Suggestions for names welcome.

@Bot: thanks for the suggestions, they're good, but I want to use the full server operating systems, so I can become competent in them.