How I Manage Servers in my House

Last week I posted a description about the servers (physical and virtual) that I have configured in my house.  Today I would like to spend a moment to talk about how I manage this environment.

All of my management is done from my Windows 7 computer. 

I had a couple of goals when setting up my management environment:

  1. I wanted a single console for server management. 

    I want it to be easy to diagnose issues – so I do not want to be jumping between different tools depending on what server I am looking at.

  2. I wanted to maintain good security etiquette. 

    To this end I have three user accounts setup in my environment:

    1. “Benjamin” – This is the account that I use for day-to-day desktop computing.  This account has no special rights in my domain.

    2. “David” – This is a user account in the domain that I have given permission to manage my various servers.  This account is not a member of the domain administrators group. (In case you were curious – “David” is my middle name).

    3. “Administrator” – This is the domain administrator account.  It is my goal to only ever use this account when I need to create / edit objects in active directory.

To meet these goals I installed the Remote Server Administration Toolkit, and enabled the remote administration tools for Hyper-V, Remote Desktop Services and DHCP.

I then created my own MMC snap-in that contains entries for:

  1. System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)

    SCOM does not provide an MMC based management interface, but it does provide a web based one.  A little known fact is that you can embed pretty much any web page in MMC.  You do this by:

    1. Opening the File menu on MMC

    2. Selecting Add/Remove Snap-in…

    3. Selecting Link to Web Address from the Available snap-ins list and clicking Add

    4. Enter the web address from the SCOM website and clicking Next

    5. Enter the friendly name for the site to be displayed under MMC and click Finish

    6. Finally click OK

  2. Remote Desktop Services

    This is a great tool.  It allows you to easily switch between Remote Desktop sessions on multiple computers.  This is the usual method I use to interact with most of my virtual machines.  There are a couple of reasons why I like it:

    1. I can use this tool to manage my physical computer and virtual machines, and never have to think about when I am connecting to one over the other.

    2. I can redirect my local drives, and get an easy way to move files around.

    3. By configuring this tool to remember my credentials, I never need to login when connecting to a server.

    4. I get clipboard integration (the ability to copy and past data).

  3. Hyper-V

    Hopefully you can guess why this is here.  I use it for creating and configuring virtual machines and virtual hard disks.

  4. Event Viewer

    I have Event Viewer configured to connect to my physical computer that is running Hyper-V.  This way I can keep an eye on the health of the system, without having to login to it directly.

  5. Performance Monitor

    I do not use Performance Monitor that much – but I keep it handy so that I can diagnose any performance issues that I might encounter.

  6. DHCP

    I have the DHCP management tools here so that I do not need to login to my domain controller to troubleshoot network problems.

Finally, I have created a shortcut that starts this MMC snap-in with my “David” account.  Normally you cannot use “runas” to launch MMC – but you can work around this by wrapping it with CMD.EXE.  The shortcut I have created runs the following command:

runas /user:ARMSTRONG\David “cmd /c C:\ServerAdministration.msc”

This works like a charm:

home management

My only complaint is that I would like to get to a point where I only use Remote Desktop for trouble shooting – but as a number of my servers do not support remote administration (or do not integrated with MMC) I cannot do this.

So what setup do you use for managing your servers?