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Remote Administration of Exchange Server 2010 Servers : RDP with Exchange Server 2010 (part 2)

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Accessing a Server Using the Remote Desktop Client

A Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008 system with Terminal Services installed can be accessed from a variety of clients.

Accessing Terminal Services Using the Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Client

All Windows Server 2003 server, Windows Server 2008 server, Vista, and Windows XP Professional versions include a terminal server client called Remote Desktop Connection. This full-featured client enables end users to tune their connections to run in Full-screen mode, utilizing advanced features, such as server audio redirection, true-color video, and local disk, COM port, and printer redirection. Remote Desktop Connection can also be optimized to run over a slow connection.

Down-level client workstations can get the RDP client as a free download from the Microsoft website.

Accessing Terminal Services Using the Web Client

Terminal Services provides a web-based client that can easily be distributed through a web browser. Connecting to a terminal server using this client requires a web port connection to the terminal server logon web page and also access to TCP port 3389 on the terminal server. The web-based client still uses the RDP native to Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services.

Contrary to many terminal server administrators’ beliefs, the web server system hosting the web client pages does not need to be running on the terminal server. If there is no particular reason to run a web server on the terminal server, for security and performance reasons, place the terminal server web client on a separate web server.

To install the web server client on a web server system, do the following:

1.
Launch Server Manager. Right-click on Roles and select Add Roles.

2.
Click Next.

3.
Select the Terminal Services role and click Next.

4.
Click Next.

5.
Select TS Web Access role service and click Next. The wizard might prompt to add the Web Services role if it is not already installed.

6.
Click Install to complete the installation of TS Web Access.

7.
Click Close to finish. A reboot might be required.

To access this page, open a web browser and type https://<servername>/ts. This can be accessed through a firewall as well.

Using the Remote Desktops MMC (Tsmmc.msc)

Remote Desktop is a utility that provides a way to manage several Terminal Services sessions from within one window. This utility still uses RDP to connect to servers and workstations, but it allows an administrator to switch between terminal sessions by clicking a button instead of having to switch windows. Also, because the console settings can be saved, a new terminal session can also be established with the click of a button.

Remotely Connecting to a Terminal Server Console

Administrators can connect to terminal server consoles remotely by using the Remote Desktop Connection client or the Remote Desktops MMC snap-in. With remote console access, administrators can use Terminal Services to log on to the server remotely as though they were logged on at the console.

Using the Remote Desktops MMC snap-in, administrators can configure remote desktop sessions that always connect to the terminal server console session. This enables administrators to successfully install and update the operating system and applications remotely.

Caution

You need to know whether to leave the console session logged on and/or locked. If a user logs off the session, the console will also be logged off. So, you need to be informed and be safe.


To connect to a terminal server console using Remote Desktop Connection, run mstsc.exe from the command prompt with the /admin switch to gain console access.

Securing Remote Desktop for Administration

The security of the Remote Desktop for Administration can be adjusted in a variety of ways to enhance the security of the sessions. All of these settings are configured in the Terminal Services Configuration MMC snap-in, which is, by default, installed in the Administrative Tools, Terminal Services folder. The security settings are properties of the RDP-Tcp connection under the Connections folder in the tool.

These settings ensure that the Remote Desktop for Administration is secure.

Encryption Layer

The Encryption Level setting can be used to change the encryption from the RDP Security Layer to SSL. This supports the use of certificates. This is a little-used feature of Remote Desktop for Administration but can be used to enhance or standardize security.

Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008 supports three different security levels. The main difference is in the support for Network Level Authentication, which uses certificates to authenticate the server identity to the client. This prevents man-in-the-middle attacks. The three security levels follow:

  • RDP Security— This is the native RDP encryption and does not support Network Level Authentication.

  • SSL (TLS 1.0)— Network Level Authentication is performed to verify the identity of the server to the client. Certificates are used to secure the transmission and to perform Network Level Authentication.

  • Negotiate— The most secure level that the client supports will be used. If the client supports SSL (TLS 1.0), that will be used. If not, RDP security will be used. This is the default setting.

Encryption Level

In addition to the security levels, Windows Server 2008 terminal services can be run in four different encryption levels to provide the transmission protection appropriate for the organization. The four levels of encryption follow:

  • Low— Encryption is performed at the highest level supported by the client, but only on the data sent from the client to the server. Data sent from the server to the client is not encrypted. This is insecure and not recommended.

  • Client Compatible— Encryption is performed at the highest level supported by the client, but all data between the client and server is encrypted.

  • High— 128-bit encryption is performed on all data between the client and the server. If the client cannot support 128-bit encryption, the connection is refused by the server.

  • FIPS Compliant— Federal Information Process Standard (FIPS) 140-1 validated encryption is performed on all data between the client and the server. If the clients cannot support FIPS encryption, the connection is refused by the server.

The various options are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Encryption level security setting.


An administrator can use Group Policy to limit client functionality as needed to enhance server security and, if increased network security is a requirement, can consider requiring clients to run sessions in 128-bit high-encryption mode.

The sessions can be made more secure by changing the setting to High, which ensures that the clients will always connect at 128-bit. Older clients that don’t support 128-bit or clients that are hard-coded for 56-bit will fail.

Remote Control

The Terminal Services connection allows the sessions to be remotely controlled, meaning that a third party can view and possibly interact with the Terminal Services session. Although this can be useful for training and support by facilitating support, it can also present a security risk.

The ability to use remote control can be disabled by selecting the Do Not Allow Remote Control check box on the Remote Control tab.

Disable Mappings

Another feature of the Terminal Services connection is to map local drives, printers, LPT ports, COM ports, the Clipboard, and the audio. These allow for a much richer experience by allowing the administrator to copy files from local drives, print to the local printer, and cut/paste from the Terminal Services session to the local system.

However, these features could also be security risks as they allow direct interaction between the client and the Terminal Services session. These mapping features can be disabled as needed on the Client Settings tab in the Connection Properties dialog box. By default, all are allowed except the Audio mapping.

Always Prompt for Password

The Terminal Services Client can be configured to save the logon password and allow for automatic logon to the Exchange server. This is very convenient for the Exchange Server administrator, who can just launch the Terminal Services client and get access to the Exchange server without being prompted to enter credentials.

However, this is a very bad security practice because any user can click on the icon and then have full access to the Exchange server. Unfortunately, the password is saved at the client level and not on the server side.

Fortunately, the Terminal Services connection can be configured to always prompt for a password regardless of whether one is supplied automatically. The Always Prompt for Password feature can be enabled on the Logon Settings tab of the Connection Properties dialog box.

Session Disconnect

If an Exchange Server administrator’s Terminal Services session breaks, the session is normally left in a disconnected state. This allows the Exchange Server administrator to reconnect to the session and pick up where he left off. The Exchange Server administrator can also choose to disconnect rather than log off a session. This is frequently done when a long-running process is started on the Exchange server, such as a migration of a large mailbox.

Although the disconnected session is convenient, it might also be considered a security risk to have active sessions left unattended so to speak. If this is a security concern, the connection can be configured on the Sessions tab to end a disconnected session after a period of time, as shown in Figure 3. The session is ended after being in a disconnected state for five minutes, which gives the Exchange Server administrator ample time to reconnect following connection problems.

Figure 3. Idle session limit configuration.


Other session limits can be configured on this tab as well, such as ending or disconnecting a session that has been active too long (not recommended) or that has been idle too long.

Permissions

By default, only members of the local Administrators group or the local Remote Desktop Users group are able to access the server via the Remote Desktop for Administration. These permissions can be customized to explicitly grant access or explicitly deny access. The permissions for the connection can be accessed in the RDP-Tcp connection properties on the Security tab.

Using the Remote Desktop Tool for Remote Exchange Management

The Remote Desktop tool comes standard with all Windows 2003 and Windows Server 2008 implementations and facilitates managing multiple Exchange servers. As shown in Figure 4, multiple console screens can be defined for each server in the tool, as well as multiple connections can be established simultaneously to various servers in the environment. The left pane shows a list of servers that can be connected to and switched between. The credentials for each session can optionally be saved to have the sessions automatically connect.

Figure 4. Managing Exchange Server 2010 servers using the Remote Desktop tool.

The multiple connections can be toggled between quickly simply by clicking on their icon or even arranged in multiple panes on a single screen. A large display is very effective for this.

Another interesting Remote Desktop tool feature is that the tool has an option to connect to the console session rather than establish a new session. This allows the Exchange Server administrator to connect directly to the console session and interact with any applications that were started at the server keyboard.

The Remote Desktop configuration can be saved in Microsoft Management Console files (*.msc) to be quickly launched. This allows the Exchange Server administrator to create different custom consoles with the appropriate Terminal Services sessions for the task at hand, such as when doing mailbox maintenance or troubleshooting front-end problems.

Other  
  •  Remote Administration of Exchange Server 2010 Servers : Using the ECP Remotely
  •  Safeguarding Confidential Data in SharePoint 2010 : Examining Supported Topologies
  •  SharePoint 2010 : SQL Server Database Mirroring for SharePoint Farms
  •  Remote Administration of Exchange Server 2010 Servers : Using the Remote Exchange Management Shell
  •  Remote Administration of Exchange Server 2010 Servers : Certificates, Trust, and Remote Administration
  •  Enabling Presence Information in SharePoint with Microsoft Communications Server 2010
  •  Integrating Exchange 2010 with SharePoint 2010
  •  Documenting an Exchange Server 2010 Environment : Exchange Server 2010 Project Documentation
  •  Documenting an Exchange Server 2010 Environment : Benefits of Documentation
  •  Getting the Most Out of the Microsoft Outlook Client : Using Cached Exchange Mode for Offline Functionality
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