Last night, while the family caught up on “So You Think You Can Dance,” I spent a little more quality time with my Microsoft Windows Home Server experiment. My first step was to get the server installed, up and running. That worked out really well and didn’t take much effort, but one of the key pieces of functionality I want from my WHS isn’t there yet. I couldn’t get the Remote Access bit configured properly so there’s no way to access my “personal cloud” when on the go. After a little more playtime last night, however, I’m much closer to my objective.
I’m thankful that so many readers chimed in with thoughts, comments and suggestions. All good stuff! From what I can gather, however, this isn’t really a technical issue or something I did wrong. All signs are pointing to Verizon, my DSL provider, blocking port 80, which is where the WHS web server is running. One key comment really hit home on this topic and that came from Ben, who also writes for EngadgetHD:
“As for port 80 being blocked. Luckily the new WHS you just setup comes with a free SSL certificate, and FiOS doesn’t block 443. So just use ssl, which honestly you should be using anyways.”
I got so caught up in trying to solve the problem with port 80 that I had overlooked the important point that Ben reminded of: When using remote access to the home server, I really should be using the added security of an SSL connection. Shame on me.
Now I didn’t check to see if port 443 was blocked on my DSL connection because I was already in too deep with my next potential solution: configuring the Windows Internet Information Service, or IIS, to run on ports other than 80 and 443. The process is pretty straightforward but rather than rehash the step-by-step, I’ll point you to the resource I used for guidance. MyHomeServer.com has a great reference article illustrating how to change the ports for your WHS web server. The article is specific to the HP MediaSmart device, but the instructions are generic to WHS. Making these changes took all of 10 minutes. Here’s a screen-cap of some of the changes:
You can see that I modified the web server ports to run on 8080 and 4443. I’m not showing it here, but I had also configured my router to forward traffic on these ports directly to my Windows Home Server.
This got me a step closer because I was able to remotely access my WHS box over an EVDO connection using my MSI Wind netbook:
There’s just one remaining problem to be solved and anyone with an eagle eye and an understanding of DDNS will will know what it is from the picture above. I can’t yet access my WHS box through my custom homeserver.com domain. Instead, I have to navigate to it by using the WAN IP address provided by Verizon Wireless. For example, if Verizon assigns the IP of 188.8.131.52 to my DSL connection, I have to type https://184.108.40.206:4443 to get to my WHS box. Obviously that’s not ideal because it’s clunky and more importantly, it becomes useless the minute Verizon changes the IP address I’ve been assigned.
Resolving this issue is next on my list, although I may hold off for a week on attempting to fix this. Why? It turns out that FiOS just became available for me and the installation is scheduled for Thursday of next week. That’s going to change my network here at the home office, so I’d rather not spend time messing with it now, only to have to mess with it again. For the moment, I am able to remotely access the server and shared files. While it’s not an ideal, final solution, I am a step closer to enjoying my “personal cloud.” I think the time so far was well spent.