Windows Home Server Nirvana Is One Step Closer

20 Comments

whs-consoleLast 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 (s MSFT) 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 (s VZ), 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:

iis

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:

remote-access

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 185.123.4.5 to my DSL connection, I have to type https://185.123.4.5:4443 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.

20 Comments

Christoph

You don’t need to use dyndns or similar. You simply need to open the 8080 and 4443 port in the firewall of you WHS.

James

Fortunately (heh) I already have FiOS. This is still an issue for me. Did the problem go away for you after switching to FiOS? If so, how?

James

“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 185.123.4.5 to my DSL connection, I have to type https://185.123.4.5:4443 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.”

Did you ever solve this issue? It matches my problem exactly and I’m a bit stumped.

Kevin C. Tofel

Unfortuantely (or fortunately, depending your POV), I switched over from DSL to FiOS before resolving the issue. I no longer have this issue, as a result. One of the dynamic DNS services mentioned above might help.

oVan

If your ISP blocks port 80 and/or 443, you don’t need to change the port numbers in IIS:

Instead of configuring your router to forward port 8080 and 4443 to the same ports on your WHS, let it forward them to port 80 & 443. Most routers allow you to define virtual servers where you can define incoming and outgoing port differently. No changes on the WHS/IIS side needed.

Ben

It shocks me how many commenters don’t realize that WHS comes with free dynamic DNS that almost configures itself.

Kevin C. Tofel

This is precisely why I’d rather not go with a third-party DDNS service if I can help it. I’d rather use the native function. :)

Hammer

In my case it’s because I already have a valid domain name that I’ve been using for a number of years. I don’t want to use something else since everyone knows it already.

eTomm

I bought a domain for 7 dollars every year, pointed it to ZoneEdit.com (free service), configured DNS-o-Matic to manage zoneedit, dyndns and no-ip.

To update Dns-o-matic i use a old version of Dyndns updater modded to update dns-o-matic.

And i use OpenDNS as dns servers.

At the end i payed just 7 dollars and i have a true domain pointing to home.

GoodThings2Life

Incidentally, a static IP from any ISP is usually about $10/month… so keep that in mind before you pay more/month for a DynDNS service (although if you can find a cheaper solution anywhere, use it).

James

Kevin – get hamachi. http://www.logmein.com. Solves all the communications issues and you do not need to leave any open ports on your computer and you don’t have to worry about ip address issues. All your communications are done via the vpn tunnel. Works great almost everywhere I have ever tried it. I use it to connect to my office exchange server and files.

Ben Drawbaugh

Why not either use the default port or specify the port with the host name?

https://ktofel.homeserver.com:4443

Also, it is useful to realize that remote access already uses a secure port regardless of what you connect to the website with. Instead of 3389 is uses 4125.

So in other words your WHS listens on 80, 443, 3389 and 4125 by default. You can use 3389 with the regular RDP client or launch the web version via the WHS website that will use 4125.

TateJ

I can’t wait to see how this works out for you Kevin. I haven’t set my HP WHS for remote access yet. I’ve been concerned about security. Any ideas how you are gonna address that?

Kevin C. Tofel

Thanks Bill and Tax Man! Yup, a DDNS service is where I was headed next, but I’m not sure I’ll need it once I have FiOS. More than likely I will and if so, I’ll go this route for sure. :)

TimB

Aren’t you Houston-based? If so, where is FIOS available?

-Northsider

Bill Mullin

Fingers too fast actually I meant dyndns.com.

A great tool and free for most uses and users.

Bill Mullin

dyndns.org to the rescue. Works for me in multiple configs

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