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Server Manager for Remote Management in Windows Server 2016

Instructor: Andrew Leveridge

Andrew has worked as an IT contractor in the field for over 6 years and has a Masters degree in Information Security and Assurance.

This lesson discusses how Server Manager can be used to control a Windows Server, and explains how to configure WinRM for remote operation, control older Windows Server systems via down-level server support, use multi-server management, and manage Server Core, Windows Firewall, and non-domain servers.

Easy Server Administration using Server Manager

In this lesson, we'll be examining how a Windows Server can be managed and controlled locally from the console or even remotely via supported methods, particularly the built-in Server Manager and Windows PowerShell cmdlets.

A new and improved Server Manager program was introduced with the Windows Server 2012 release (which then was carried forward into Server 2016). Older Windows Server operating systems often required a lot of local console access to configure, but with the release of Sever 2012 and up, administration was made more accessible - whether that was from an office desk or even while away, for example, from home.

Server Manager is, naturally, a program for managing common Windows features and Server roles, whether that is running an Active Directory domain or providing network file sharing. With more recent versions on Server 2012+, you can add or remove new roles and features at any time and use bundled management consoles to extend and control various aspects of Windows Server.

Let's go explore some of the capabilities of Windows Server and how they interact with Server Manager to make server administration better than ever.

Remote Server Management with WinRM

Windows Remote Management (WinRM), aka Server Manager-remoting, is a feature that allows you to control Windows Servers from any location. It requires some small security changes to work, but it makes administration far more convenient. WinRM allows you to control multiple servers from one desktop computer, just by enabling it on each server and working with the management tools as usual.

Configuring WinRM is straightforward; just authenticate as the administrator and run the configure-smremoting -enable command from the Command Prompt or Powershell (an improved command prompt). For servers running operating systems older than Server 2012, winrm quickconfig on the command prompt or Powershell's Enable-PSRemoting is used instead.

Using WinRM, you can operate applications like Server Manager or Microsoft Management Consoles from any computer with access to the remote server(s). The tools work with either Server Core (no-desktop) or full-desktop-experience servers. Thereafter, everything works like you are at the server's desktop, except you can be located elsewhere, for example at a coffee shop or beach house.

That's right, instead of working late at the office to troubleshoot an issue or canceling your vacation plans to deal with an emergency at work, you can now do that out of wherever you are!

Other powerful capabilities of Server Manager include down-level and multi-server management, both of which make administration even more useful. Plus, you can even control non-domain servers too. Let's take a look at how all this works.

Down-level, Multi-server, and Non-Domain Server Management

Down-level management is the practice of using a newer version of Server Manager to manage an older version of Windows Server remotely (e.g. using Server 2016 to control Server 2008 R2). It cannot be used to add/remove roles or features, but only to view and modify the existing configuration.

It is not necessary when using Server 2016 to control a Server 2012 or Server 2012 R2 machine, since the two are directly compatible.

Down-level management requires additional configuration changes on the older Server machines that you will be managing. The requirements differ depending on the server operating system and configuration:

  • Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 machines with the full-desktop-experience require Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (standalone installer).
  • Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 machines in command-shell-only mode require Microsoft .NET Framework 4 for Server Core.
  • Server 2008 (no-R2) machines also require Windows Management Framework 2.0.
  • Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 machines also require Windows Management Framework 3.0.
  • Ensure the system is fully-updated and has the latest service pack installed.
  • Ensure that the WinRM service and PS-Remoting security exceptions are enabled (using Enable-PSRemoting -Force).

Multi-server management is the practice of using Server Manager to manage multiple servers at once. Server Manager also supports server groups, which allow you to apply actions to many servers at the same time.

To add new servers to Server Manager, you must open it as the administrator, then select Add Servers from the Manage menu. You will be presented with a choice of servers, either via your directory service or by importing a file listing their hostnames/addresses, which you can pick from. You can then confirm your desired choices and thereafter manage them as normal.

As a plus, remote management minimizes the confusion stemming from trying to control multiple servers via their desktops, like accidentally rebooting a server in the middle of the workday.

Non-domain servers are basically standalone severs not part of your Active Directory domain. Controlling them using Server Manager requires additional configuration. If the non-domain server has its network location set to Private, the additional configuration steps are:

Step 1. Open the Powershell console on the monitoring server, either by using Server Manager's Tools menu or the taskbar/Start screen.

Step 2. Add the Server01 server to the list of trusted hosts using the Powershell cmdlet:

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