VDS server management for Windows: what options?


During early development, the Windows Admin Center toolkit was called Project Honolulu

As part of the VDS (Virtual Dedicated Server) service, the client receives a virtual dedicated server with maximum privileges. You can install any OS from your image on it or use a ready-made image in the control panel.

Suppose a user has selected a fully loaded Windows Server or installed an image of a stripped-down version of Windows Server Core, which takes about 500 MB less RAM than the full version of Windows Server. Let’s see what tools are needed to manage such a server.

In theory, we have several ways to manage VDS under Windows Server:

  • PowerShell;
  • Sconfig;
  • Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT)
  • Windows Admin Center.

In practice, the last two options are most often used: RSAT Remote Administration Tools with Server Manager, and Windows Admin Center (WAC).

Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT)

Installing on Windows 10

For remote server management from under Windows 10, remote server administration tools are used, which include:

  • server manager;
  • Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins
  • console;
  • Windows PowerShell cmdlets and providers
  • Command line tools for managing roles and features in Windows Server.

The documentation says that Remote Server Administration Tools includes Windows PowerShell cmdlet modules that can be used to manage roles and features running on remote servers. Although Windows PowerShell Remote Management is enabled by default in Windows Server, it is not enabled by default in Windows 10. To run the cmdlets that are part of Remote Server Administration Tools on a remote server, run Enable-PSremoting in an elevated Windows PowerShell session (that is, run as administrator) on a Windows client computer after installing the Remote Server Administration Tools.

Starting with the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Remote Administration Tools are included in the On-Demand Feature Kit directly in Windows 10. Instead of downloading the package, you can now navigate to the Manage Options page under Settings and click Add component “to view a list of available tools.

Remote Server Administration Tools can be installed only on the Professional or Enterprise versions of the operating system. These tools are not available in the Home or Standard versions. Here is a complete list of RSAT components in Windows 10:

  • RSAT: Storage Replica Module for PowerShell
  • RSAT: Active Directory Certificate Services Tools
  • RSAT: Volume Activation Tools
  • RSAT: Remote Table Services Tools
  • RSAT: Group Policy Management Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Server Manager
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: System Analysis Module for Windows PowerShell
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: IP Address Management (IPAM) Client
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: BitLocker Drive Encryption Administration Utilities
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: DHCP Server Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: DNS Server Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: LLDP Tools for Using the Data Center Bridge
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Network Load Handling Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Active Directory Domain Services and Lightweight Directory Services
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Failover Clustering Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Windows Server Update Services Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Network Controller Management Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Remote Access Control Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: File Services Tools
  • Remote Server Administration Tools: Shielded Virtual Machine Tools

After installing Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 10, the Administrative Tools folder appears in the Start menu.

In Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 10, all graphical server administration tools, such as MMC snap-ins and dialog boxes, are available from the Tools menu in Server Manager Console.

Most of the tools are bundled with Server Manager, so the remote servers must first be added to the Manager’s server pool in the Tools menu.

Installation on Windows Server

Remote servers must have Windows PowerShell Remote Management and Server Manager enabled so that they can be managed using Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 10. Remote Management is enabled by default on servers running Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012.

To enable remote control of your computer using Server Manager or Windows PowerShell, select the Enable remote access to this server from other computers check box. On the Windows taskbar, click Server Manager, on the start screen, Server Manager, in the Properties area on the Local Servers page, click the hyperlink value for the Remote Control property, and the checkbox will appear.

Another option to enable remote control on a Windows Server computer is the following command:

Configure-SMremoting.exe-Enable

View the current remote control parameter:

Configure-SMremoting.exe-Get

Although the Windows PowerShell cmdlets and command line administration tools are not listed in the Server Manager console, they are also installed as part of Remote Administration Tools. For example, open a Windows PowerShell session and run the cmdlet:

Get-Command -Module RDManagement

And we see a list of the Remote Desktop Services cmdlets. They are now available to run on the local computer.

You can also manage remote servers from under Windows Server. Based on our tests, in Windows Server 2012 and later editions of Windows Server, Server Manager can be used to manage up to 100 servers configured to run a typical workload. The number of servers that can be managed by using a single Server Manager console depends on the amount of data requested from the managed servers and the hardware and network resources available on the computer running Server Manager.

Server Manager cannot be used to manage newer releases of the Windows Server operating system. For example, Server Manager running Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1, or Windows 8 cannot be used to manage servers running Windows Server 2016.

Server Manager allows you to add servers to manage in the Add Servers dialog in three ways.

  • Domain Active Directory Services adds servers for Active Directory management that are in the same domain as the local computer.
  • Domain Name Service Record (DNS) – search for servers to be managed by the name or IP address of the computer.
  • “Import multiple servers”… Specify multiple servers to import into a file containing servers listed by computer name or IP address.

When adding remote servers to Server Manager, some of them may require the credentials of another user account in order to access or control them. To specify credentials other than those used to log on to the computer running Server Manager, use the command Manage as after adding the server to the dispatcher. It is called by right clicking on the entry for the managed server in the tile “Servers” the home page of the role or group. Clicking on the Manage As command opens a dialog box Windows Security, in which you can enter the name of a user with access rights on the managed server in one of the following formats.

User name
Имя пользователя@example.domain.com
Домен  Имя пользователя

Windows Admin Center (WAC)

In addition to the standard tools, Microsoft also offers the Windows Admin Center (WAC), a new server administration tool. It installs locally on the infrastructure and lets you administer on-premises and cloud Windows Server instances, Windows 10 computers, clusters, and HCI.

To perform tasks, the technologies of remote management WinRM, WMI and PowerShell scripts are used. Today, WAC complements rather than replaces existing administration tools. According to some experts, using a web application instead of accessing a remote desktop for administration is also the right strategy for security.

One way or another, but Windows Admin Center is not included in the operating system, so it is installed separately. You need it download from Microsoft website

Essentially, Windows Admin Center brings together familiar RSAT and Server Manager tools in a single web interface.

Windows Admin Center runs in a browser and manages Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows 10, Azure Stack HCI, and other versions through a Windows Admin Center gateway installed on Windows Server or Windows 10 domain joined The gateway manages the servers using Remote PowerShell and WMI via WinRM. This is what this whole circuit looks like:

Windows Admin Center Gateway lets you securely connect to and manage servers from anywhere using a browser.

Server Management Manager in Windows Admin Center includes the following features:

  • display of resources and their use;
  • certificate management;
  • device management;
  • viewing events;
  • conductor;
  • firewall management;
  • management of installed applications;
  • setting up local users and groups;
  • network parameters;
  • viewing and terminating processes, as well as creating process dumps;
  • changing the registry;
  • management of scheduled tasks;
  • management of Windows services;
  • enabling and disabling roles and features;
  • management of Hyper-V virtual machines and virtual switches;
  • storage management;
  • storage replica management;
  • Windows update management;
  • PowerShell console
  • connection to a remote desktop.

That is, almost complete functionality of RSAT, but not all (see below).

Windows Admin Center can be installed on Windows Server or Windows 10 to manage remote servers.

WAC + RSAT and the future

WAC gives access to file, disk and device management, and registry editing – all of which are missing from RSAT, and RSAT’s disk and device management is only possible with a graphical interface.

On the other hand, the RSAT remote access tools give us full control over the roles on the server, while WAC is practically useless in this regard.

Thus, we can conclude that a WAC + RSAT bundle is now needed to fully manage a remote server. But Microsoft continues to develop Windows Admin Center as the only graphical management interface for Windows Server 2019, integrating the full functionality of Server Manager and the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in.

Windows Admin Center is currently available free of charge as an add-on software, but it looks like Microsoft will see it as the main server management tool in the future. It is possible that in a couple of years WAC will be included in Windows Server, as RSAT tools are now included.

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