I manage IT for a small business with a couple locations (about 10-15 computers each). Mostly users just use online services but there are a couple desktop applications they need and at each site there is a common network share of files that they access. Up till now I have not setup a server (except for the common shared folder on one regular win7 computer at each site). I create an Admin and GeneralUser account on each computer since we don't have any need to give each user an account. So far this has worked alright. They login have a network share, go online and that's most of what they need.

We will be opening more sites and more computers. Therefore the basic setup/configuration stuff is getting too much to do on each computer (Setting up user accounts on each computer, installing software such as chrome on each computer, setting the default home page in the browsers, mapping a network drive, etc.)

My question: What is a good approach to managing this? The Windows server website is confusing and they have too many services to easily decide what will work. Will Small Business Server do these things? Is there better sotware to accomplish the same thing? Online servies would be even nicer since I have multiple physical sites, but am not familiar with any?

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  • possible duplicate of [Active Directory explained](http://serverfault.com/questions/18339/active-directory-explained) – Massimo Jun 19 '12 at 18:15

4 Answers4


Oh, dear God in heaven.

First off, you're not talking about network administration, (which deals with network gear - switches, routers, firewalls, APs, etc.) although that's probably something you need as well.

What you're talking about is server administration/Windows administration, and I can sense you're pretty far out of your depth, no offense. What you really need to set up is a domain of some sort, most likely a Windows domain, using Active Directory.

This is not a trivial task, though installing the services/"roles" and creating a domain controller are pretty easy, it requires at least some planning and design to make sure it's not a train wreck from the get-go. Might want to consider contracting a consultant to get that off the ground for you, ideally one who's got his MCITP certification for Active Directory. (MCITP: Enterprise Administrator level, or whatever the hell test number that is.)

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    I actually read your "Oh, dear God in heaven" before the question... and from there on I already knew where the question was going. Sadly, I was *not* wrong. – Massimo Jun 19 '12 at 18:02

What you need is called an Active Directory domain. The most basic description that can be given of it is along the lines of "a distributed database which manages user accounts and policies across multiple computers, letting you administer them globally without the need to manually perform the same tasks on each single one, and with much better security". Of course, there is much more to it than this, but it's something good enough to start with.

While setting up a basic domain is not difficult at all, setting it up properly can get tricky, especially in a multi-site environment like yours. It can also (and should) involve multiple servers performing the role of domain controller, i.e. managing the domain operations and the user database; the bare minimum needed is a single server, but you'll want at least two of them for redundancy, and probably many more, because a standard setup for a multi-site environment involves at least one server per site.

There are literally tons of documentation around about Active Directory, as each and every aspect of Windows administration revolves around it; I strongly suggest you buy a book or two about Windows administration, and go on from there; I also strongly suggest you hire a consultant, because he'll be able to help you setting all up properly, giving you advices on design issues that you may not even know exist at all.

This is where everything starts:


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If you want to set up basic directory and group policy services, Windows Server Standard Edition would probably fit your bill. You could also look at Small Business Server 2011 Essentials. But I stress that these servers must be configured and deployed properly. I don't mean this disrespectfully, but it sounds like you have little or no Windows server experience. You should strongly consider learning about Windows server before deploying it to your clients. A poorly configured server is a management, security, and performance headache.

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I'm going to venture outside the "standard" reply and guess that what you need may be less a "centralized infrastructure" (single domain) and more of a centralized management tool.

You might have a look at something like Italc. http://italc.sourceforge.net/ It provides you a central command/control console, a singular view of your PC fleet. You'll still have to treat each PC individually, but you can do it all from one place both in the geographical and logical sense.

And it's free...

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