Setting Up RAS On NT 4.0
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Published in TechRepublic's Windows NT Administrator Report
Getting to your files while you're away from the office can be challenging. What if you'd like to check e-mail at the same time? And how do you handle simultaneous requests from several users? Do you have the space for row after row of PCs running Symantec's pcANWHERE, to let those users connect as needed ?
Windows NT offers a service to accommodate this type of remote access: Remote Access Service (RAS). The dial-up clients will appear as workstations on your network, but they will have a slower connection than they do when attached locally. In this article, we'll explain how to install and set up RAS.
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Your first task is to select the hardware you'll use to run RAS. For low-volume usage, you can probably get away with using the serial port on the server and just one modem. As RAS usage grows—or if you anticipate higher usage early on—you may want to consider using a multiport serial board (such as Comtrol RocketPort or Digiboard) to offload handling the modems and serial-port connections from the server's CPU to a board specially created for this task. For security reasons, or to keep from loading down a production server, you might want to set up a server dedicated solely to servicing the RAS users.
You begin the process of installing RAS by right-clicking Network Neighborhood and selecting Properties. In the resulting dialog box, click the Protocols tab, as shown in Figure A, and be sure all the protocols needed for this NT server and the remote dial-in clients to access the server and the network are present. If you've decided to use a multiport serial board, you should install the board and the device drivers before installing RAS, so the RAS service can see the extra ports during configuration.
After you've selected the protocols, you'll need to add the Remote Access Service. Click the Services tab to move to the area where you'll add this service. Click the Add button, and you'll see the dialog box shown in Figure B. Select Remote Access Service from the Network Service list. If you don't have a I386 directory on one of the drives on the server that will be hosting the RAS server, you'll need to insert your NT Server or Workstation CD into the CD-ROM drive on the server and copy the files for the service.
Next, you'll see a message that says the server doesn't have any RAS-capable devices installed. Simply click Yes, and the Install New Modem Wizard will appear. The first time you use this wizard, it's a good idea to let the wizard identify the attached modems automatically. That way, you can be sure the appropriate drivers are installed. Click Next to begin the autodiscovery process. Don't be alarmed if the wizard reports that the modem attached to the port being tested is a standard modem—during my RAS setup, older modems were reported this way but modems produced within the last six months to a year were usually detected.
The modem wizard offers a timesaving feature: It installs the detected modem's driver on multiple ports, so you don't have to run the discovery process on all the ports. Select the port(s) you want the driver installed on, as shown in Figure C, and click Next.
After the drivers have been installed, the Add RAS Device dialog box will open. Here, you'll add the modems where RAS can use them. Click OK to install the modem and port highlighted. Now, click Configure to select how you want this port to be used: dial out only, receive calls only, or dial out and receive calls. By default, the Receive Calls Only option is selected. After you make your choice, click OK to return to the Remote Access Setup dialog box.
Next, click Network to select the protocols you want to use on this connection. (For a dial-in port, only the server settings area of the screen will be active.) Select the protocols you want the remote clients to be able to use. For those systems that will be using TCP/IP on a dial-in connection, click the Configure button (to the right of the TCP/IP check box) to configure some additional settings necessary for those workstations to attach to the network.
Click OK until you return to the Remote Access Setup dialog box; then, click Continue. When prompted, click Close to exit the Network dialog box. Before continuing, you'll need to reboot the server.
Checking a successful RAS installation
After the server reboots, a good sign that RAS is installed correctly is the absence of receive data (RD) and transmit data (TD) lights flashing on the modem. RAS uses this polling process to determine what type of modem is attached to the port(s) it's trying to use. For another good indication that all is well with RAS, check the Dial-Up Networking Monitor found in Control Panel to see if it shows an inactive condition for all the RAS ports.
Enabling users to dial in
The last step you'll need to take from the server side for RAS is enabling the designated users to access the server. You do so by using the Remote Access Admin program found under Administrative Tools on the Programs menu.
Highlight the RAS server you're working on; then, click the Users section of the menu bar and select Permissions to display a list of users this NT system knows about. By clicking one button, you can either grant dial-in permission to all users or deny it to all. If only some users need access to the RAS server, you can provide an additional layer of security to the network by allowing only those users dial-in access.
Companies that are very security-conscious can have the RAS server automatically dial back the user at a predetermined number. Although doing so controls access to the network, it hampers your travelling employees—they can't access the network without alerting MIS in advance to the appropriate call-back number.
Configuring the client for dial-in
Configuring a dial-in PC for RAS is pretty straightforward. If the PC is already set to dial an ISP (such as Netcom or AT&T WorldNet), most of the work may already be done for you. My example works with Windows 95, but Windows 98 should configure for RAS in a similar manner. Windows NT will configure for RAS with just a few differences. If the PC you're configuring for dial-in wasn't loaded with Windows 95 by the OEM (such as Compaq), have your Windows CD handy—you'll need some files during the RAS setup.
Configuring the client begins by right-clicking Network Neighborhood and selecting Properties. At minimum, you'll need these files for a RAS connection:
Client for Microsoft Networks
Dial Up Adapter
File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks
As shown in Figure D, depending on which services are on the dial-in machine's network, additional files may be present.
The last step is to create an entry in Dialup Networking to connect to the RAS server. In My Computer, open the Dial-Up Networking folder and double-click the Make New Connection icon to start the process. When the Make A New Connection dialog box appears, enter a label for referring to this connection, as shown in Figure E. Depending on the number of connections you have, a name longer than just RAS may be helpful in connecting to the correct server.
At this point, click Next. In the next dialog box, enter the phone number of the RAS server. It's a good idea to enter the area code for the RAS call even if it's a local call. You have the option of not using the area code: Right-click the connection icon, click Properties, and clear the Use Area Code box. Or you can quickly dial the connection using the area code, without creating a second icon and possibly getting some settings wrong.
Click Finish to complete the process. After the dial-up icon appears in the Dial-Up Networking folder, you have the option of placing a copy of it on the desktop, which can be a real timesaver if you'll be making this connection frequently.
Finally, right-click the dial-in icon, select Properties, and click the Server Types tab. Check to see that the protocols you need for connecting to the RAS server are selected, as shown in Figure F. If the RAS server isn't configured for a selected protocol, you may have trouble establishing a connection. In most cases, unless you've changed settings on the RAS server, the default settings for a new Dial-Up Networking icon on a client should work without a problem.
Setting up RAS is fairly simple. When you're installing RAS for the first time, you should probably allow one or two hours to do the basic setup and testing. RAS is certainly an alternative to setting up rows of machines running pcANYWHERE to handle your remote connectivity needs.
Products mentioned in this article
pcANYWHERE—Symantec, $170 retail, http://www.symantec.com/pcanywhere/Consumer/index.html
RocketPort multiport serial cards—Comtrol Corporation, $445 to $1,349 retail, http://www.comtrol.com/products/rocketport.asp
Digiboard remote access server cards—Digi International, http://www.digiboard.com
Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, Kentucky. He's an MCSE, Novell Master CNE, and Compaq ASE. Ron has worked with networks ranging in size from single servers to multiserver/multi-OS setups, including NetWare, Windows NT, AS/400, 3090, and UNIX. He's also the Help Desk Editor for Network World. You can reach Ron at Rnutter@ix.netcom.com.
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