If You Build It, Can They Come?

I’ve posted several times about working on a disaster recovery project at the office using Server 2008 Terminal Services. We’ve officially completed the testing and had some regular staffers log on and check things out. That was probably one of the most interesting parts.

One issue with end user access was problems with the Terminal Services ActiveX components on Windows XP SP3. This is disabled by default as part of a security update in SP3. This can usually be fixed with a registry change which I posted about before, however that requires local administrative privileges that not all our testing users had. There are also ActiveX version issues if the client machine is running an XP service pack that is earlier than SP3.

Administrative privileges also caused some hiccups with one of our published web apps that required a Java plug-in. At one point, the web page required a Java update that could only be installed by a server administrator and this caused logon errors for all the users until that was addressed.

In this lab setting, we had also restored our file server to a different OS. Our production file server is Windows 2000 and in the lab we used Windows 2008. This resulted in some access permission issues for some shared and “home” directories. We didn’t spend any time troubleshooting the problem this time around, but when we do look to upgrade that server or repeat this disaster recovery test we know to look into the permissions more closely.

Users also experienced trouble getting Outlook 2007 to run properly. I did not have issues when I tested my own -there were some dialog boxes that needed to be address before it ran for the first time to confirm the username and such. While the answers to those boxes seem second nature to those of us in IT, we realized that will need to provide better documentation to ensure that users get email working right the first time.

In the end, detailed documentation proved to be the most important aspect of rolling this test environment out to end users. In the event of a disaster, it’s likely that our primary way of sharing initial access information would be by posting instructions to the Internet. Providing easy to follow instructions that include step-by-step screenshots that can be followed independently are critical. After a disaster, I don’t expect my department will have a lot of time for individual hand-holding for each user that will be using remote access.

Not only did this project provide an opportunity to update our procedures used to restore services, it showed that it’s equally as important to make sure that end users have instructions so they can independently access those services once they are available.

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