In a previous article we went over the process of configuring Server Management Tools (SMT) in Microsoft Azure. Now that we know how to configure SMT, let’s see how we can use this tool to get the most out of it.
The configuration process is simple where a gateway role is required on Microsoft Azure, and after that it is just a matter of adding servers that will be managed by the Server Management Tool feature.
All servers that are being managed (connections) will be listed on the main page of the Resource Group that we are using for SMT. All servers will have the same features available, and such features are divided in four main categories: Overview, Settings, System Info, and Tools.In the Overview section, we can check some general information about the server that we want to manage, including server name, operating system, and which gateway is being used. All that is available on the right side under the Essentials panel. If we look at the bottom, we will have some performance graphs, including, CPU, memory, and network adapters (including IPs).
There is a toolbar before the Essentials panel, and on that area, we have Restart and Shut down options to execute on the remote server. We can also change the account that manages the server, delete the connection, and refresh the settings.
Besides of the Overview item, we also have Activity Log ,which contains all log information related to this object; Tags, where we can assign tags to the server and run personalized reports with charge back etc.; and the traditional Diagnose and solve problems, which is a wizard with a few questions that can help the administrator solve common issues based on the context.
System Info area
There are only two items: Properties ,which is read-only but provides the operating system version, hardware information, processors, memory, and disk space.
The second option is Computer Identification, and on this one we can change the computer’s name and join the computer in a workgroup or a domain.
Here is the section where the administrator will spend the most time managing servers. The feature is in preview, however, and we have these following items available:
- Certificate Manager
- Device Manager
- Event Viewer
- File Explorer
- Firewall Rules
- Local Administrators
- Network Settings
- Registry Editor
- Roles and Features
- Windows Update
In total, we have 15 configurable items to manage the servers through the web interface, and for regular operations this will often be just enough. It will also reduce the logged time of the administrators on the servers.
Microsoft Azure offers other tools such as OMS (Operations Management Suite), which allows server monitoring from Azure and could be combined with Server Management to manage all servers from a single location and without creating footprint on the on-premises environment.
We are going over each feature and we will give a brief explanation of the features available at this time. Keep in mind that is a preview product, and changes may occur when they release it into production.
The interface is intuitive and easy to manage. Basically, we will have on the overview page a list of all certificates that are about to expire (within 60 days), all certificates, expired certificates, and certificate events for troubleshooting.
After selecting one of the items, we will have a list of the certificates in question, and from there we can manage them. The options available are import, export, and delete.
The Device Manager allows the administrator to check most of the information of the hardware including drivers, device status, and driver date. We also have a neat feature — the ability to disable an specific hardware.
All Event Viewer categories are available using SMT, starting with the more traditional Applications, System and Security log areas to the more advanced log stream that is tailored for each specific application/feature of the operating system.
Using this option, the administrator is able to filter and clear the logs. Another advantage is that there is no DLL requirement to read the description of the logs — they will always be available.
In this area, we are able to navigate through the file system and perform some common tasks, such as create folders, delete, move, and copy items.
The administrator can check all existent firewall rules in place, and on top of that disable or delete the firewall rules. There is also an option to create a new firewall rule using the web console.
If the server has the Hyper-V role installed, then a list of all VMs running on the server can be retrieved. The list of VMs comes with their state, up time, CPU usage, heartbeat, memory in use, total memory, and version.
Managing Local Administrators
Using the Local Administrator item, the administrator can list all members of the Local Administrator Group and add new users to that group as well. Keep in mind that is just the Local Administrator Group. At this point we cannot manage other local groups.
A list of all network adapters with their current IP configuration will be displayed. We can manage IP settings by changing between static and DHCP and changing DNS settings.
One of the best features, in my humble opinion, is the ability to run a PowerShell session on the selected server. PowerShell allows almost unlimited access to manage and configure the server from the command line.
Besides the PowerShell console, the administrator also has the options Commands and Script Editor to help on the daily administration.
All running process will be listed with some additional information. We have the ability to create a new process, and terminate or generate a dump of any existent process.
The SMT provides an easy way to manage registry information. The administrator has access to all registry hives (root, current_user, machine, users and current_config). Values and registry keys can be created and removed.
Managing roles and features
Haven’t you had that nagging question whether a feature is installed or not on any given server? Well, the traditional method is logging on the server, opening server manager (wait a little bit), and check the features installed. Here’s an easier way using SMT. Just click on Roles and Features and you will have a list of all features and their current state in half of the time.
Using the Services item, the administrator is able to list all services running on the server, including the service name, display name, status, and startup type. There is a “…” button that allows the administrator to stop, restart, pause, and resume any given service.
This is a read-only feature where the administrator can check the status of each volume including free space and capacity, check File Shares, and see the physical disks.
This is a single page that allows the administrator to check available updates, check updates that have been applied to the system, and control restart time of the desired server.
That’s it! We covered all the available functionalities of the Server Management Tool, which is still in preview but has great potential to save administration time on daily tasks on Windows Server.