Do you work in or support a "branch office" environment?

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I thought I would post an entry up here asking for your advice. I am working on fleshing out content for the the next tour and based on your feedback and previous comments - you want to actively participate in helping us shape the content.  My question to you is along the lines of the title... "Have you or do you work in or support a Branch Office?"

I have designed branch office solutions in my previous life and didn't have the toolsets available to IT Pros now with BITS transfer, Patching, RPC over HTTPS and Mobile devices... It was something that was easy enough, but no clear documentation or guidance on how to architect something up to meet the varying requirements.  The Branch Office Guide helped from a Active Directory perspective, but nothing existed for other criteria like when to centralize Exchange vs having branch office Exchange Servers or how do you manage Site to Site VPNs instead of leased lines...

I am asking YOU what you think of the subject. If the TechNet team is coming to town in the fall with Branch Office solutions using the R2 (both Server 2003 R2 and SBS 2003 R2) and other complimentary technologies - what would you specifically like to know more about? What situations have you faced and how have you solved them?

Say your piece - comment here or click on the "Got a Question" logo on the side. I am really interested to hear what you have to say and I will personally respond (as I do anyways :) ) to each comment or email I receive.  Heck - I might even post a top 10 list with prizes if I get enough feedback.

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  • It seems that that's all I do lately. The bane of my existence. Especially when "they" want to take what was once just a "remote" [their words] and turn into a "fully functional" branch office with the existing equipment/apps.
    Any tips/tricks you would demonstrate would be welcome.

  • one free tool that made my life a LOT easier for supporting remote users/office is UltraVNC (http://ultravnc.sourceforge.net/)
    combined with their SingleClick remote connect (http://ultravnc.sourceforge.net/addons/singleclick.html)

    With that, I publish a SingleClick exe on my web server and whenever someone need support, I send them the url "http://www.mycompany.com/support.exe"
    all they have to do is to execute and double click on my name in the list.

    With that configuration there is no messing with firewall config at the client/remote office, if they use simple consumer firewall that does not block outgoing connections.
    It also improve security as it is the remote user that initiate the connection, I can not connect to them by myself and they can kick me whenever they want.

    The only firewall config is on my side where I need to forward a single port to my computer. which I can easily manage.

    Since I started using that tool a few years ago, I no longer go through painful phone conversation asking them to describe what they are seeing on the screen (in their own terms... you know, the tv, the hard drive, the foot pedal...)

    I know there are other tools, but this one is free, simple and "it just works"

    I even created a sincleclick exe for home to support family and friends !
    (and it works with dynamic dns !)

  • Yes, I would definitely come to this. However, while the technologies in R2 are great and I would like to know how to implement them in this type of setup, I'd also like to hear a bit about dealing with very small (5 users or so) offices that don't have requirements for a server but need access to our head office resources.

  • In case you didn't catch my hints in this July blogpost, the first TechNet national tour is around Infrastructure...