Microsoft SBS 2011 Essentials & Windows Phone 7 Add-in
December 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Some time ago Microsoft released an Add-in for SBS Essentials that allowed you to control your SBS Essentials Server (as well as a corresponding Add-in for Windows Home Server 2011) by using your Windows Phone 7.
At the time i was not lucky enough to have a WP7 handset, but recently i managed to pick up an HTC Trophy and have a play with the Add-in.
There are two parts to set this up, first you need the Add-In which you can download from here, and second you need to install a free App, the imaginatively titled ‘My Business Server’, onto your handset which you can find in the Zune marketplace.
(You will need the Zune software installed on your pc and have your phone all connected up etc)
The app provides you with ability to manage some key administrative tasks of your SBS Server directly from your device. This includes viewing up to date monitoring information and even attempting to resolve problems using some of the wizardry you have come to know and love in SBS. We can also check the status of backups for client computers and the server, and something i thought was really cool was the ability to actually start a backup of a computer or the server, from the phone itself.
The only drawback for me as someone who administers a lot of different SBS Essentials servers, is that the App can only be logged into one Server at once, and to log out and login again is a bit of a pain, but not impossible.
I really don’t like the fact there is no built in screen shot function with a WP7 and in fact that has really delayed me actually putting this post together!
Installing the Add-in
The download is in the familiar WSSX format, and can be installed like any application or Add-In.
As you would expect there is a EULA to accept.
The next page confirms we are installing the Phone Add-in.
The next screen shows the progress of the install.
After that you should see a big green tick!
That is it really, there is nothing extra to configure
Looking at the Dashboard, we can see the Add-in shows up but we have no options to play with.
If you are a little sad like me, and you watch the logs folder while you are installing something, you will notice an InstallAddin.log, this log file is created and then appended every time a new Add-in installed.
You will also see another log, MobileWeService.log
if you are interested in the logs for the Add-in you will find a new log under a sub folder of the normal logs path, “WebApps” C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Logs\WebApps
Inside this folder, you will see MobileData.log
MobileData.log seems to show the collection of Alert data, which i guess is then prepared and passed over to the mechanism the phone will connect to.
You will also see another log appear, which is MobileData[String].log
Exactly what this log shows us, i am not sure – as i am just making a lot of this up as i go along, however if you follow it line by line you can see a UPnP search is initiated, and that each device or computer on the network seems to be polled and its alerting status is recorded.
On the Phone..
So i am guessing now you actually want to see how the add-in looks and what it does? As i mentioned above sadly i had trouble getting screen shots, so please ignore the giant ironic Apple logo on some of the images as i had to just use my iPhone camera.
Below you can see the very slick WP7 interface, (my favourite feature of the phone is how ‘clean’ the interface is. Actually left me feeling a bit like the iPhone was ‘cartoony’ anyway i digress..)
My Business Server, is the SBS Essentials version of the App.
If we go into the App we can see we need to add an Account.
First we are asked for the URL of our server..
https://remote.sbstips.co.uk is what i entered.
Next, a username and password is required.
If you don’t have a Pin Lock on your phone you will be advised to set one up!
That’s it, you should then be logged in.
From here we can go into any of the alerts, and read the full detail, also on some alerts you may have seen on the Dashboard of SBS Essentials you can apply a fix, well that functionality is extended into the Phone app as well.
We can get some basic info about each device, and check on the backup status and if need be, we can start a backup directly from the phone.
We can see the users username, and believe it or not, reset their password!
We can also enable, or disable there account. Which could be really useful if you are out of the office and someone gets fired!
I put together a bit of a demo video, clicking and fumbling my way through the interface, showing all of the tabs and also showing how to kick off a backup from the phone.
If the video does not display correct click here to watch on YouTube
Thoughts on the Phone Add-in
I think the App and the Add-in demonstrate what is achievable on this platform, with the Extendable SDK (the ability to create Add-ins) and the idea of building the administration of the Essentials box onto the phone is pretty cool.
I guess you could argue it is a little bit limited, and maybe this will not be the tool of choice for someone like me, administering a lot of these servers, especially if we are also employing the use of third party products like GFI Max.
If you do have a Windows Phone, and you have an Essentials, or a Home Server then i recommend you set this up, it really is simple to use and best of all it’s free. Which is my favourite price, but i think this has to go down as a toy, rather than a tool which ultimately i think was the desired result.