SBS 2008 – REMOTE ACCESS TO FILES

Outlook Web Access can be used to view or open any file in a shared folder on the servers in an office run by Small Business Server 2008.

Small Business Server 2008 improves many things about remote access to an office network. The main screen for Remote Web Workplace makes it easy to use Outlook Web Access or connect to an office computer, with nothing extraneous to confuse anyone.

Outlook Web Access in Exchange 2007 is so much improved that some people will use it instead of installing Outlook to access their Exchange mailbox. I just discovered another feature which is so good that it will figure prominently when I talk about SBS from now on.

There is a new “Documents” button in the Exchange 2007 version of Outlook Web Access.

Once it is configured, anyone can click on “Open Location” and put in the name of a shared folder in UNC format – \ServerNameSharedFolder. The window on the right shows the name of the subfolders and files. At any point a location can be added to Favorites by clicking a button at the top. The folder names are shown at the top in a breadcrumb display to make it easy to navigate.

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Most office users will be looking for files created in Word, Excel, or Acrobat. Double-clicking on a .DOC, .XLS, or .PDF file launches it in those programs, if they’re installed on the remote computer.

Right-clicking on the file name provides the option to view the file in Internet Explorer or send it by email.

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Documents cannot be saved directly back to the server – this is only a method to retrieve files.

This is extraordinary! I’m looking forward to introducing my SBS offices to this feature.

TECHNICAL NOTES

This feature is not enabled by default in SBS 2008; it has to be set up by opening Exchange Management Console with administrator privileges and opening Server Configuration / Client Access. Right-click on OWA and click on Properties to see the options for Remote File Servers. I was following the instructions in Eriq Oliver Neale’s wonderful new book Windows Small Business Server 2008 Unleashed but found one error. When you click the Allow button, the only allowed entry is the name of the server, not the network path to a shared folder. (And don’t use the FQDN for the server unless that’s necessary for some reason – the presence of a period in the server name will cause it to conclude that you’ve designated a FQDN and you’ll have to add the domain suffix in the next section of the window.)

There are a huge number of ways to tweak the behavior of various file types to prevent opening something or require the web viewer for something else. The defaults are just fine for small offices. Once I figured out what to put in the Allow dialog, it started working instantly, with the exception of the web viewer for PDF files. That’s on the list of things to fix someday.