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May 4, 2011

How to Use Best Practices Analyzer to Optimize your Small Business Server 2011

By sbs2011-bpa

In companies with corporate IT departments, it isn’t uncommon to find administrators with years of experience who regularly comb through TechNet articles. These system administrators can fine-tune Windows Server systems and processes by hand using nothing more than the command line and some PowerShell Scripts.

The point of Microsoft’s Small Business Server is to deliver high-quality server software and services without having to hire one of those guys first. Indeed, a solid Small Business Server 2011 training course can get most small businesses up and running.

In order to make SBS 2011 easy to manage and operate, Microsoft provides a lot of tools that are usable by non-elite techies. Installation templates, a single management console, and intuitive interfaces for common tasks, like adding users or devices, are just some of the examples. However, ensuring that an SBS 2011 installation keeps running as well as it can, or ensuring that it is fully optimized in the first place can be trickier.

Fortunately, Microsoft offers the Windows Server Solutions Best Practices Analyzer (BPA).

BPA and Small Business Server 2011

Microsoft’s BPA examines Windows Servers and compares their current state to a list of best practices data points that Microsoft has compiled. When the BPA finds discrepancies between what is happening on your server and what the best practices for a server are, it notifies the administrator and offers recommendations to correct any deficiencies.

(A complete list of parameters checked by the Best Practices Analyzer can be found here.)

The BPA tool gathers information from numerous places including Active Directory, the registry, and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and runs on servers running:

  • Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard Edition
  • Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials
  • Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
  • Windows MultiPoint Server 2011

Using Best Practices Analyzer with SBS 2011

• Installing BPA

The BPA tool is a free utility from Microsoft. To use the BPA utility, you will also need to install Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer 2.0. Both can be downloaded from Microsoft’s downloads site:

Once the baseline configuration analyzer has been installed, you can install the BPA. The first question is whether or not you want to enable remote BPA scans and whether or not you want to integrate BPA with the SBS server console.

Unless you plan to run BPA as a one-time only check, it is a good idea to integrate BPA scan into the server console. That way, the BPA utility is in the same place as all of the other server management tools.

• Enabling remote access scans

Enabling remote scans means that if you want to run the BPA later, you won’t have to login directly to the server. If this is your only server and your server room is just another room in your office, there may be no need to enable remote scanning. However, if you do most of your server administration from another computer, enable the remote scanning feature.

To run a remote scan, you will need to install the Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer 2.0 on the client computer. When you run the analyzer, choose Connect to Another Computer and type in the name or IP address of the sever you wish to run the BPA scan on. Next, choose Connect as another user and then Set User. Enter admin credentials valid for the remote server. Finally, select Windows Server Solutions BPA to run the scan on the remote server.

• Running a local scan

To run a local scan, run the BPA as an administrator and choose which product you want to analyze. Be sure that you get the right version of SBS. You’ll get reports loaded with false positives if you choose Windows Small Business Server 2010 Essentials when you are running Windows Small Business Sever 2010 Standard Edition. Click Start Scan and let the tool go to work.

& bull; Exporting and reviewing a BPA report

Once the scan is complete, review the report. You can choose to view all of the items or only the noncompliant items. Each noncompliant entry lists the category of the noncompliance, the source of the item, a description of what the issue is, and a suggested resolution to fix the issue. Categories include:

  • performance
  • security
  • operation
  • policy
  • configuration
  • pre-deployment
  • prerequisite

Pay particular attention to the issue description in the report. What is being affected isn’t always something you use. However, be very careful ignoring any alerts from the Security category. Just because you don’t think it affects your system configuration, doesn’t mean that it can’t be used against your sever anyway.

Finally, export your BPA report and save it. When you run the BPA utility in the future, compare the two reports. If items that were corrected are found again, it may be necessary to examine the root cause to see if something in your configuration is causing certain issues to repeatedly become noncompliant.

The Windows Server Solutions Best Practices Analyzer is just one more tool to keep your Windows Small Business Server 2011 installation up and running and supporting your organization. If you’re interested in learning more about configuring, administering and maintaining SBS 2011, check out Train Signal’s Small Business Server 2011 Training.

About the Author

(MCSE, CNA) is a professional freelance writer and small business owner with the freelance writing business ArcticLlama, LLC. Brian’s experience includes network and systems administration, financial planning and advising, and he even has a degree in Biochemistry. Brian specializes in several areas of highly technical writing for ArcticLlama including technology, science and medical. He is also a freelance financial writer specialist. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Brian contributes articles on Windows Server 2008 and other related topics.

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