A Few TFS 2008 Pre & Post Installation things you need to know

The PFE Dev team would like to welcome Micheal Learned to the blog.  Here is a bit about Mike:

My name Is Micheal Learned, and I’ve been working for Microsoft for over a year now with some of our Premier customers across the US, and helping them support a variety of .NET related systems and tools.  I’m doing a lot of work currently with VSTS/TFS 2008, and helping customers get up and running with new installations, migrations, and general knowledge sharing around this product.  I also enjoy working with web applications, IIS, and just researching various new Microsoft related technologies in general.  In my free time I enjoy sports (I watch now, use to like to play), and spending time with my son Nicholas (7), and daughter Katelyn (3),  and generally just letting them wear me down playing various kids stuff.

Enough about here is the good stuff:

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently working with customers on TFS and VSTS 2008. Some of my customers have required some support around getting a clean install, or troubleshooting some post-install issues, so I thought I would post a few of the common issues I’ve been seeing.

First of all, for any pre-install or post-install issues, I highly recommend you run the TFS Best Practices Analyzer, which is available as a “power tool” download here.

The analyzer can run a system test, and generate a report indicating the health of your existing system, or a report identifying possible issues with your environment configuration ahead of a TFS installation (pre-install). The information is useful, and generates links to help files that can help you solve various issues. It helped me through a range of issues while troubleshooting an installation recently, including IIS permissions, registry information, etc. The idea is that more and more data collection and reporting points are being added to this tool, so you should keep an eye out for future releases of the tool as well.

Before doing any new installation it is imperative you download the latest version of the TFS 2008 installation guide available here. I can’t overstate the importance of following the guide step by step with any new installation, and although this version of TFS is a smoother install than the previous version (2005), it is still important you pay close attention to setting up the proper accounts and their perspective network permissions. It may seem a little cumbersome, but you’ll want the TFS services, and various accounts running with the least sufficient permissions as a security best practice, and it is well documented in the guide.

Enough about general stuff, let’s discuss some specific points:

“Red X of Death”

If after installation, you’re client machines are seeing a red “X” on either their documents or reports folders in Team Explorer, then they are encountering a permissions issue on SharePoint (if documents folder), or the Reporting Services layer (if reports folder). I’ve seen this to be quite common, and it should just be pointed out that you should configure proper permissions for your Active Directory users at each of those tiers. Visual Studio Magazine Online has a nice article documenting this here http://visualstudiomagazine.com/columns/article.aspx?editorialsid=2742 .

“Firewall Ports”

If you are running TFS, and have a firewall in play, you will need specific ports for the various TFS components to communicate properly. The ports are well documented in the TFS guide under the “Security Issues for Team Foundation Server” section, and there is some automation with new installations that will configure your windows firewall ports for you during install. If you need to configure them post-install, it is just a matter of setting up the firewall exceptions manually.

“TFS Security

TFS security is deserved of its own blog entry, but I want to just mention a few quick items since TFS security can be a common stumbling block initially. The TFSSetup account (as described in the TFS guide) is by default an administrator on the TFS server. You’ll need to configure permissions on several tiers for TFS for your other users and groups. Specifically configure permissions at the overall TFS server level, TFS project level, Reporting Services level, and SharePoint level. It may seem cumbersome at first, but just right click your server node in Team Explorer, and it becomes a point and click exercise. Right click the project node to configure project level permissions. As a best practice for manageability scenarios you will want to simply use Active Directory Groups to drive this, and if you have a need, you can get very granular for setting up permission, new roles, etc. Also there is a power toy available that gives you a singular GUI view for managing permissions all in one place that you can download here http://www.codeplex.com/Wiki/View.aspx?ProjectName=TFSAdmin .

“Just remember TFS is multi-tier”

Finally I would just point out to keep in mind that TFS 2008 is a distributed system with multiple tiers. Open IIS or SQL Server to poke around and look at the databases, directories, permissions, etc to familiarize your-self with the architecture (Do not directly edit the database – Look, don’t touch!).

Many customers of course are often “viewing” their TFS server from Visual Studio, and if you see issues with connecting to a TFS project, connecting to a TFS server, or having issues with the various views on top of reports or SharePoint documents, you should initially keep in mind that the underlying reasons probably lie on a IIS site being down, SharePoint configuration, an improper permission, or a firewall port, etc. In a nutshell, focus on permissions and configuration settings at each tier, per the TFS install guide, and your issues are likely to be solved!

Mike Learned --Premier Field Engineer .NET


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