Managing Computers in Wide Area Networks (WAN)

Managing Computers in WAN:

A WAN is a computer network that enables communication across a large area that could include communication across cities, states and countries. Most companies operate from a head office, located in a city, and have branch offices located in other areas within the city, the state, the country or even in another country. These branch offices are known as remote offices.

As a system administrator, you must do the following:

  1. Ensure that the computers in the head office and branch offices are monitored efficiently

  2. Manage computers of roaming or mobile users who connect to the network using the Internet

One of the main challenges that you could face, while managing computers in a WAN, are with the bandwidth allocated. There could be bandwidth issues that reduce the speed of data-transfer between computers at the head office and those at the branch office. This could result in costs associated with bandwidth utilization.

Managing Computers Across a WAN

There are two options to manage computers, across a WAN, using Desktop Central. The option that you choose depends on the number of computers you are going to manage at your remote office. The options available, enable you to use either of the following:

  1. Distribution servers and WAN agents: It is recommended that you use this option if you are managing more than 10 computers in a remote office.

  2. WAN agents only: It is recommended that you use this option if you are managing less than 10 computers in a remote office.

Using Distribution Servers and WAN Agents

A distribution server is a server that is located in a remote office. This server communicates with the Desktop Central server, which is located at the head office, to get information; for example information about configurations to deploy. It synchronizes its repositories, related to configurations, patches, service packs and software applications, with those located in the Desktop Central server. This takes place at specific intervals.

WAN agents are installed in computers in a remote office. After the synchronization, between the distribution server and the Desktop Central server is complete, the WAN agents will download information related to patches, service packs and software applications to be deployed, from the distribution server. This information is downloaded locally using the LAN in the remote office.

Desktop Central's technology related to distribution servers helps you plan and control bandwidth utilization (including associated costs) for your remote office. This technology addresses bandwidth-related issues, improves the efficiency and the level of control that network managers and administrators can use while managing computers in remote locations.

Before you start managing computers in a remote location you are required to do the following:

  1. Add a remote office

  2. Deploy a distribution server to a remote office

  3. Deploy WAN agents to computers managed using the distribution server

Adding a Remote Office (with a distribution server)

Before you can start managing computers in a remote office, you are required to add a remote office and create a distribution server. To add a remote office and create a distribution server using your Desktop Central server, follow the steps given below:

  1. Select Admin tab
  2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management
  3. Select the Remote Offices tab
  4. Click Add Remote Office
  5. Enter a name for the remote office
  6. In the Desktop Central Server Details section, specify the IP address and port numbers for the Desktop Central server

The IP address is already entered in the given field. Change this address only if you have a secondary IP address for the Desktop Central server. The information for the HTTP and HTTPS ports are already entered (8020 and 8030 respectively). Change the port numbers if you have specified ports other than these while installing the Desktop Central server.

  1. In the Communication Details section, select Through Distribution Server.

  2. In the Distribution Server Details section, enter the following information:

    1. Domain NetBios name

    2. Computer name

    3. IP address of the computer on which the distribution server will be installed

  3. It is recommended that you have a dedicated computer as your distribution server. This computer should have a static IP address. This will ensure that you have hassle-free communication between the WAN agents and the distribution server.

     

      1. DS FQDN/DNS Name (optional)

      2. HTTP and HTTPS port numbers for the distribution server

    The HTTP and HTTPS ports are used for communication between the WAN agents and the distribution server. The default ports of the distribution server 8021 (HTTP) and 8384 (HTTPS). You can use different ports if required.

     

      1. Replication interval time

    The replication interval time is the interval at which the distribution server synchronizes its repositories with those in the Desktop Central server. The default interval is two minutes. However you can customize the replication interval if required.

     

      1. Data-transfer rate

    1. In the Distribution Server/WAN Agent to Desktop Central Server Communication section, check the following check boxes:

      1. Enable Secured Communication (HTTPS)

      1. Proxy Configuration. Enter information about the proxy host, user name and password.

    2. In the computers to be managed section, add the computers that you want to manage using the distribution server. To add computers to be managed, follow the steps given below:

      1. Select the required domain or workgroup

      2. Select the required organization units or computers

      3. Click Add

    If you know the name or the IP address of the computers that you want to manage in the remote location, add them in the given field using commas.

     

    1. Click Add

    You have added a remote office and created a distribution server. You are now required to deploy this distribution server to a specific remote office.

    Deploying Distribution Servers To Remote Offices

    After you have added a remote office and created a distribution server, you are taken back to the Remote Offices tab view in the Scope of Management page. In the Managed Computers column, against the name of the remote office you have created, the status will be Agent is not installed. You are required to deploy and install the distribution server in the required remote office.

    To deploy a distribution server to the required remote office, follow the steps given below:

    1. Select Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Select the Remote Offices tab

    4. In the Download Agent column, against the remote office you added, click the Download WAN Agent + Distribution Server icon

    5. Save the .zip file in the computer on which you want to install the distribution server

    You are required to login as the administrator, on the computer in which you want to install the distribution server, to save the required file in it.

     

    1. Extract the contents of the zip file

    2. Open a command prompt. To open a command prompt, follow the steps given below:

      1. Click start>Run

      2. Enter cmd

      3. Click OK

    3. Navigate to the working folder (this is the folder which you have extracted the .zip file in). For example: C:\Remote-Office\dssetup

    4. Run the command setup.bat

    5. Select option 1 to deploy the distribution server

    You have deployed the distribution server to the required remote office. Refer to the Agent Installation section for information on how to install WAN agents.

    Deploying WAN Agents to Computers in Remote Offices

    You are required to install WAN agents in the computers you want to manage, in a remote office, using a distribution server. A WAN agent can be installed:

    1. While deploying a distribution server

    2. After deploying a distribution server

    Deploying WAN agents while deploying a distribution server

    To deploy a WAN agent while deploying a distribution server, follow the steps given below:

      1. Open a command prompt. To open a command prompt, follow the steps given below:

        1. Click start>Run

        2. Enter cmd

        3. Click OK

      2. Navigate to the working folder (this is the folder which you have extracted the .zip file in, while deploying the distribution server). For example: C:\Remote-Office\dssetup

      3. Specify which computers the WAN agents have to be installed in by editing the computers.txt file

      4. Run the command setup.bat file

      5. Select option 2

      6. Specify the administrator's user name and password when prompted

    This can be a domain administrator or a user who has administrator privileges in all the computers where WAN agents have to be installed. The user name should be prefixed with the name of the domain or the workgroup.

    For example, the user name of an administrator who is deploying WAN agents in computers, which are in the zohocorp domain, could be zohocorp\administrator.

     

    You have deployed both the distribution server and WAN agents to computers in a remote office.

    Deploying WAN agents after deploying a distribution server

    To deploy a WAN agent after deploying a distribution server, follow the steps given below:

      1. Open a command prompt. To open a command prompt, follow the steps given below:

        1. Click start>Run

        2. Enter cmd

        3. Click OK

      2. Navigate to the working folder (this is the folder which you have extracted the .zip file in, while deploying the distribution server). For example: C:\Remote-Office\dssetup

      3. Specify which computers the WAN agents have to be installed in by editing the computers.txt file
      4. Run the command setup.bat
      5. Select option 3
      6. Specify the administrator's user name and password when prompted

    This can be a domain administrator or a user who has administrator privileges in all the computers where WAN agents have to be installed. The user name should be prefixed with the name of the domain or the workgroup.

    For example, the user name of an administrator who is deploying WAN agents in computers, which are in the zohocorp domain, could be zohocorp\administrator.

     

    You have deployed WAN agents to computers in a remote office.

    Using WAN Agents Only

    When you manage less than 10 computers, typically, there are no bandwidth-related issues. In such cases, you can manage computers in your remote office using WAN agents only.

    Before you start managing computers in a remote office using WAN agents only, you are required to do the following:

    1. Add details of a remote office (single remote office or multiple remote offices)

    2. Install WAN agents in the computers in the remote office

    Adding a Remote Office (without a distribution server)

    If you are managing in branch/remote offices, you need to add the details of the branch/remote offices and generate Desktop Central Agent for each of your branch/remote office. This agent has to be installed in the managed computers of that branch. To add the details of the remote offices, follow the steps below:

    1. Select Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Select the Remote Offices tab

    You will see a list of all the remote offices that are added. In that list, you will see a remote office which is called Local Office. This is related to the LAN where the Desktop Central server is located. The remote office Local Office is added by default.

    1. Click Add Remote Office

    2. Enter a name for the remote office

    3. In the Desktop Central Server Details section, specify the IP address and port numbers for the Desktop Central server. You can also enter the DNS of the server.

    This IP Address should be common for all the Remote offices and will be used by the agents in the remote office computers to contact the Desktop Central server. If this IP Address is changed, the agent MSI for remote offices will be recreated. You need to reinstall the agents in all the remote computers.

     

    1. In the Communication Details section, select Direct Communication.

    2. In the WAN Agent to Desktop Central Server Communication section, do the following:

      1. Specify the communication interval

    The communication interval is the interval at which the WAN agents in the computers in the remote office, contact the Desktop Central server for information. The default communication interval is two minutes. However, this value can be configured if required.

      1. Check the following check boxes:

        1. Enable Secured Communication (HTTPS)

        2. Proxy Configuration. Enter information about the proxy host, user name and password.

    1. In the computers to be managed section, add the computers that you want to manage using the distribution server. To add computers to be managed, follow the steps given below:

      1. Select the required domain or workgroup

      2. Select the required organization units or computers

      3. Click Add

    If you know the name or the IP address of the computers that you want to manage in the remote location, add them in the given field using commas.

    1. Click Add

    You have added a remote office.

    Adding Multiple Remote Offices

    You can add multiple remote offices simultaneously by importing details of the remote offices, using the CSV import option.

    To add multiple remote offices simultaneously, follow the steps given below:

    1. Click the Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Click the Remote Offices tab

    4. Click Import Remote Offices

    5. Click Choose File and select the required CSV file

    6. Click Import

    You have imported multiple remote offices simultaneously. These will be listed in the Remote Offices tab.

    Information about CSV files

    This section gives you information about CSV files.

    File specifications

    1. The first line of a CSV file is the header specifying the column names.

    2. The Remote Office name is a mandatory field and all the other fields are optional. If left blank, the default values will be added to those fields.

    Column names and descriptions

    1. REMOTE_OFFICE_NAME: Name of the remote office

    2. POLLING_INTERVAL: Communication Interval / Replication Interval based on the Communication Type. The default value is 2 minutes

    3. SERVER_IP:The IP Address of the Desktop Central server, which is accessible from the computers in the remote office.

    4. HAS_DS - The values can be Yes or No. Yes means that the communication type is through the distribution server. If newly added (or the previous values are present in case of modification), the default value is No. If the value is Yes, the following columns are mandatory:

    5. DS_DOMAIN_NAME: Name of the Netbios domain in the distribution server
      DS_NAME: Name of the computer in which the distribution server will be installed
      DS_IP: IP Address of the computer in which the distribution server will be installed
      DS_PORT: HTTP port through which the distribution server and the WAN agents communicate
      DS_HTTPS_PORT: HTTPS port through which the distribution server and the WAN agents communicate

    6. PROTOCOL: The mode of communication between distribution server, WAN agents and the Desktop Central server. The default is HTTP.

    7. HAS_PROXY - The values can be Yes or No. Yes means the communication between the distribution server or WAN agents to the Desktop Central server takes place through the proxy server. If newly added (or the previous values are present in case of modification), the default value is No. If the value is Yes, the following columns are mandatory:

    8. PROXY_SERVER:Name or IP address of the proxy server

    9. PROXY_PORT: Proxy port number

    10. PROXY_USER:User name used to acces the proxy server

    11. PROXY_PASSWORD: Password of the proxy user account.  

    12. COMPUTERS: Names of the computers in the remote office. If more than one computer is specified, it should be within double-quotes. Example: "john,jerry"

    Sample CSV Formats

    1. REMOTE_OFFICE_NAME,POLLING_INTERVAL,HAS_DS,DS_DOMAIN_NAME,DS_NAME,DS_IP,DS_PORT,DS_HTTPS_PORT,PROTOCOL,HAS_PROXY,PROXY_SERVER,PROXY_PORT,PROXY_USER,PROXY_PASSWORD,COMPUTERS

    2. RO_1,2,yes,zohocorpin,DSserver1,192.168.1.227,8021,8384,http,yes,web proxy,80,admin,admin,"test,mathi,karups"

    3. RO_2,3,yes,zohocorpin,DSserver2,192.168.1.232,8021,8384,http,no

    4. RO_3,10,yes,zohocorpin,DSserver3,192.168.1.222,8021,8384,https,yes,web-proxy,80,admin,admin

    5. RO_4,30,yes,zohocorpin,DSserver4,192.168.1.233,8021,8384,https,no

    6. RO_5,2,no,,,,,,http,yes,web-proxy,80,admin,admin

    7. RO_6,3,no,,,,,,http,no

    8. RO_7,33,no,,,,,,https,yes,web-proxy,80,admin,admin

    9. RO_8,35,no,,,,,,https,no

    Editing Remote Office Parameters

    The method of importing CSV files also has an option where you can edit the details of a remote office. Assume that you want to change the name of the proxy server for your remote offices. You don't have to manually edit the proxy details of each and every remote office. You can do this by creating a CSV file that contains only the remote office name and the parameter that needs to be updated. For example,

    REMOTE_OFFICE_NAME,PROXY_SERVER
    RO_1, web-proxy1
    RO_2, web-proxy2

    Installing Agents in Computers in Remote Offices

    You can install agents in computers in remote offices in:

    1. Single computers

    2. Multiple computers

    Desktop Central agents have to be manually downloaded and installed in the remote office computers. To install an agents in multiple computers in the same location, you can use the command line tool that is provided.

    Installing Agents in a Single Computer

    1. Click the Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Click Download Agent

    Ensure that you have downloaded the agent with the respective remote office name.

    1. Install the agent in the required computer in a specific remote office, manually

    2. Extract the .zip file to a directory

    3. Open a command prompt. To open a command prompt, follow the steps given below:

      1. Click start>Run

      2. Enter cmd

      3. Click OK

    4. Change the directory to <Extracted_Dir>/directsetup

    5. Execute the following command:

    %systemroot%\\system32\msiexec.exe /i DesktopCentralAgent.msi ENABLESILENT=yes /qn

    You have installed an agent in a single computer in a specific remote office

    Installing Agents in Multiple Computers

    1. Click the Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Click Download Agent

    Ensure that you have downloaded the agent with the respective remote office name.

    1. Install the agent in the required computer in a specific remote office, manually

    2. Extract the .zip file to a directory

    3. Add all the names of the computers in which the agent has to be installed in the computernames.txt file

    Each computer name should be entered in a separate line.

    1. Open a command prompt. To open a command prompt, follow the steps given below:

      1. Click start>Run

      2. Enter cmd

      3. Click OK

    2. Change the directory to <Extracted_Dir>/directsetup

    3. Run the command setup.bat

    4. Specify the user name and password of the administrator, when prompted

    This can be a domain administrator or a user who has administrator privileges in all the computers where WAN agents have to be installed. The user name should be prefixed with the name of the domain or the workgroup.

    For example, the user name of an administrator who is deploying WAN agents in computers, which are in the zohocorp domain, could be zohocorp\administrator.

    You have installed the agent in multiple computers in a remote office.

    The logs.txt file is located in <Extracted_Dir>/directsetup. It has the details about

    the errors you face during installation, if any.

     

    Modifying Remote Office Details

    If you require to change the mode of communication between the WAN Agents and the Desktop Central server, you can modify the remote office details and make the necessary changes. For example, if you have chosen the direct communication mode for a remote office and you want communication to take place through the distribution server, you can modify the details of the remote office.

    To modify the details of the remote office, follow the steps given below:

    1. Click the Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Click the Remote Offices tab

    4. In the Action column, click the modify icon against the required remote office

    5. Change the required parameters

    6. Click Modify

    If you have changed the mode of communication from direct communication to communication through the distribution server, you need to re-install and re-start the distribution server in the specified computer. The changes will be implemented only after you complete this task.

    However, even if you have not completed this task, you can still deploy the configurations, patches, and software applications to the specific remote computer.

     

    You have modified details of a remote office.

    Moving Computers Across Remote Offices

    You can move computers across remote offices. For example, if you are moving from remote office to another you are required to add your computer to the WAN in that remote office.

    Scenario

    Each remote office has its own agent. Assume that you are moving from remote office A to remote office B. You must do the following when you are moving computers across remote offices:

    1. Move the computer physically

    2. Make the settings to move the computer from one remote location to another in the user interface (UI)

    The sequence of operations, mentioned above, will depend on whether you have a proxy connection or not.

    When the agent does not use a proxy connection

    When the agent does not use a proxy connection to communicate with the Desktop Central server, you can physically move your computer from remote office A to remote office B, the agent from remote office B gets installed in your computer. As there is no proxy connection, it can communicate with the Desktop Central server.

    When the agent uses a proxy connection

    When the agent uses a proxy connection to communicate with the Desktop Central server, you must make the settings to move the computer from one remote office to another, in the UI, before you physically move your computer.

    To move computers across remote offices, follow the steps given below:

    1. Click the Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. In the Computers tab, select the required computers

    4. In the Move To list, select the name of the remote office to which you want to move your computer to

    You can create a new remote office with or without a distribution server. To create a new remote office with a distribution server, refer to the Adding a Remote Office (with a distribution server) section. To create a new remote office without a distribution server, refer to the Adding a Remote Office (without a distribution server) section.

    You have created a request to move computers across remote offices. If the office you are moving to is a local office (LAN), the computers that you have specified will be moved immediately. This is because the Desktop Central server can contact the agent in the computer, that you have requested to move, immediately. However, if the office you are moving to is a remote office (WAN), the computers that you have specified will be moved only when the agent (in the specified computers) contacts the Desktop Central server agent during the two-minute communication interval.

     

    If the agent does not contact the Desktop Central server within the time interval, the request will be removed from the Desktop Central server. You will then have to create a new request.

     

    Adding an IP Scope

    Desktop Central has different agents for different locations, for example a local office agent will not be the same as the remote office agent. Similarly every remote office has different agents as well. When you are managing computers one or more remote locations, you can have a defined set of IP ranges for different offices. This enables the Desktop Central Server to identify the agents with respect to the IP range.

    So whenever a computer is moved from a local office to a remote location,  IP scope is used  to automatically detect and deploy the respective WAN agent. Desktop Central will check for the change in the IP address periodically and will deploy the appropriate agents whenever a change is detected.

    If there is no movement or a rare chance of moving computers between remote offices, you do not need to define an IP Scope for your remote offices. In this case, you can move your computers, if required, by using the Move to list in the Computers tab in the Scope of Management page. For more information, click here.

    When a computer (or a laptop) is transferred to a new remote office, a new IP address is automatically assigned to that computer (or laptop) by the DHCP server in the remote office network. The Desktop Central agent then determines whether the new IP address, that was assigned, is within the IP range of the new remote office. You can add an IP Scope for remote offices as well as local offices.

    If you are moving computers only between specific remote offices, you should assign an IP Scope only for those remote offices.

    To add an IP Scope, follow the steps given below:

    1. Click the Admin tab

    2. In the Global Settings section, click Scope of Management

    3. Click the IP Scope tab

    4. Click Add Scope

    5. In the Select Remote Office list, click the required remote office name

    6. Select either of the following types of IP Scope:

      1. IP Address Range: Enter the start and end IP addresses

      2. Subnet: Enter the subnet mask and subnet IP address

    1. Click Save

    You have configured the IP Scope to successfully manage computers that move from one location to another. If IP Scope is defined for all the remote offices, you can feel assured that whenever the computer is moved to a remote office, it will be managed.

IP Scope is applicable only for computers running Windows Operating System.

    Configure Default Remote Office

    Configuring an IP Scope for all the remote offices, will help Desktop Central Server to manage all the computers which are moved from one remote office to another. Desktop Central server will not be able the manage few computers in the following situations:

    1. If a computer is moved from one remote office to another where IP scope is not configured.

    2. If the computer does not report any remote office and connects directly to the internet.

    In order to handle such scenarios, you can configure a default remote, which means computers which does not fall into the specified IP range will contact one particular office by default. So that computers will be reachable  by Desktop Central all the time, even if the user does not report to any remote office and directly connects to internet, Desktop Central will be able to reach them. Follow the steps mentioned below to configure "Default Remote Office"

    1. Click SoM and select IP Scope
    2. Click Configure Default Remote Office
    3. Enable the checkbox to Enable Default Remote Office.
    4. From the drop down select the remote office/local office which needs to be set as default.
    5. Click Save to save changes.

    This can be done only if IP Scope is configured for the local or one of the remote offices.  It is recommended to create a remote office for all the computers who directly connect to internet without using a distribution server. The same can be set as a default remote office so that any computer that reports to the default remote office, will be able to reach the Desktop Central server directly.

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