Posts Tagged DirectAccess

Is Direct Access Really That Hard To Setup (No) or are we becoming IT Complacent (Yes)?

DirectAccess

If you’ve been here before, you’ve seen various posts on Direct Access…If you haven’t been, shame on you (however for your convenience, here are the stories):

BMW and Windows 7 – Two Top Performers

Direct Access and Schools

Direct Access – Step-By-Step

Windows 7 – Direct Access & Schools

OK, now that we’ve cleared that up, what’s this post about?  Well, I came across an article the other day on Network World entitled “Microsoft DirectAccess: The ugly truth” and I wanted to take a minute and look at the article and think about IT in general and ask is Direct Access really that ugly to setup or has IT over the years made administrators and journalists lives easier by becoming too GUI and Wizard driven?

Direct Access, as we all know, requires Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7.  No brainer.  We also know it requires IP v6. Another no brainer.  We all know Cisco equipment requires extensive knowledge of the CLI, however we don’t call it ugly to set up do we?  Back in the early days of NT (when Novell was king – wow that was a while ago), NDS required CLI and we didn’t call that ugly did we?  No, that is what made the difference between the IT Professional and the junior on staff.  Today however, Active Directory, Exchange, all of the tools that most IT administrators use, they’re all GUI and Wizard driven and you needn’t know the idiosyncracies and ins and outs of them.  Simply point and click, therefore we all associate ease of IT administration with the tools, whereas really we just know what we’re doing and these enablers make it that bit easier to use/implement.

With Direct Access we now find ourselves in the same situation, however we’re blaming technology for what it’s actually given us.  Direct Access isn’t that hard to set up if you know what you’re doing and it’s not ugly to set up either…No more so than VoIP and that requires just as many components as Direct Access…The key critical factor is you have to have the Direct Access knowledge – similar to setting up public folders in Exchange 2007 prior to SP1 – you had to use command lines and know what you were doing :)

I’m not knocking the article in any way, I’m just saying that maybe the spin it was written with was wrong as Direct Access isn’t really five years early, nor is it a forklift upgrade and in all actuality, the smaller networks are the ones better suited towards this as there is less to go wrong when setting it up.

If anyone is confused about it, I know a good consultant named Justin Rodino who would be more than happy to assist with any implementation :)

Happy Direct Accessing – the easy way :)

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BMW and Windows 7 – Two Top Performers

BMW_logo Last year BMW opted to be one of the “guinea pigs” of the new Windows Operating System – what we all now have come to know (and most love) – Windows 7.  However, when they began the pilot, they didn’t realise their users would liken to it as much as they did.  At first, there was kickback from those internal saying it was a bit childish and was more “playful” than useful however after using it more and more, they have found it “extremely friendly”, “quick”, and that it “just works”.

In their initial pilot BMW hoped to have over 500 implementations of Windows 7 in their environment by the end of this year, and they’ve well exceeded that.  So much so, they’re on target to having hopefully 5,000 deployed workstations by October 2010 and will be going full steam ahead with the remainder of the 85,000 by 2011.

Not only do the users now more thoroughly enjoy the experience but they’re finding their battery life lasts 20% longer than the previous OS and better than ever, the new technology – DirectAccess – is giving them back 5 minutes per user per day in no longer having to make VPN connections back to HQ.  That coupled with quicker network connectivity, means less burden on the IT staff and, well another reason why Windows 7 is as successful as it is.

Credit: CIO Magazine

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Direct Access and Schools

DirectAccess-Overview With the release of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, the “better together” scenario has many songs to be singing.  One of the biggest for schools is Direct Access.  How frequently do we see Instructors being given access remotely to the school network either via VPN or via Citrix.  This is all well and good, but as instructors commonly point out, they want it idiot proof, simple and easy and whilst Citrix and VPN are good technologies, they aren’t necessarily easy nor idiot proof (especially if you have to do two-factor authentication with VPN!).

Recently Microsoft UK Schools as well as Microsoft UK Higher Education have written – ok, they stole the articles from each other 😉 – blog postings on DirectAccess and it’s benefits to the school environment…

Here’s the UK Schools article (posted 24/12/09):

http://blogs.msdn.com/ukschools/archive/2009/12/24/using-windows-7-direct-access-to-connect-teachers-to-your-school-network-securely.aspx

Here’s the Higher Ed article (posted 05/01/10):

http://blogs.msdn.com/ukhe/archive/2010/01/05/using-windows-7-directaccess-to-connect-staff-to-your-university-network-securely.aspx

The point to get across though is definitely that DirectAccess is a useful technology and should you be in a school environment, it is something definitely to look in to, especially if you have upgrade rights – as it will get you big kudos with your boss, the teachers, and going forward possibly students – being able to do work from home!

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Direct Access – Step-By-Step

DirectAccessDirect Access.  It’s the new in word in technology.  It makes VPN no longer a hassle.  It lets us connect from where we used to not be able to.  It lets us access resources we used to not have access to.  It lets the IT guys be able to manage our devices.  It lets us get essential virus updates and windows updates without having to worry about smart cards, without RSA tokens – no strings attached.  OK, well, we have to have Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.  Aside of that, Microsoft have been kind enough to write the entire documentation for us as to how to set it up, is that cool or what?  So, what are you waiting for?  Go download the Step-By-Step documentation – direct from those who supply us with the goods to get going – Microsoft!  Further, if you need more resources, well, go no further, here they are!!

Direct Access at Microsoft

DirectAccess Deployment Guide

DirectAccess Troubleshooting Guide

DirectAccess Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide

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Windows 7 – Direct Access & Schools

W7banner_thumb%5B1%5D_thumb

Ray Flemming, Microsoft UK’s Education Industry Manager has just recently written a good article on Direct Access and Windows 7 (as well as Server 2008R2) in schools.  It goes in to detail more about Direct Access, which if you haven’t seen by now, get reading up on it, it’s going to be the next biggest thing since sliced bread.  He writes how it is going to allow educators to use DA in lieu of VPN and subsequently make them more productive.  At the end he also gives various links and references to DA, it’s setup and resources related to it.  Definitely worth checking out:

http://blogs.msdn.com/ukschools/archive/2009/07/03/windows-7-and-windows-server-2008-networking-enhancements-for-education.aspx

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Is the computer lab a thing of the past?

computer-lab

Is this something of the past or will it soon be?  When I got my degree, quite a bit of my course work required me to spend endless hours in the computer labs.  Finding a free computer, making sure it was open lab hours, saving things here there and everywhere (on the 3.1/NT 4 network!), submitting homework and then going back to the dorm to reconnect to my DOV (data over voice – early days of ADSL) box to finish off what I needed "internet" or campus net to do.

Interestingly enough this year, the University of Virginia have done research and have found 99% of their incoming students have arrived with laptop in tow.  As such, they have decided to start phasing out their computer labs one at a time until 2011, when no more labs will exist.

Why are they making this bold move?  Well, according to the survey 95% of the software used is already on an arriving student’s laptop – web browser, PDF reader…the rest, well they can easily get by being a student at a drastically reduced rate (or heck maybe even include a license fee in years to come).

This brings up some interesting questions, especially when we’re starting to now see technology changing – ergo Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.  The biggest question is how do students get their work on the campus network and how do campuses keep their "network" secure.

Enter NAP and DirectAccess.  The first is proven technology and something quite a few people know about…essentially gives your machine a health check before allowing it on the network, but the more interesting one is that ability for students to be part of the campus network anywhere, anytime.  Only a matter of time will tell what happens and how exactly the campus computer lab is converted (or even the computer lab at your local K-12 school!).

What do you think?

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