Friday, 19 October 2012

Getting WINS-like computer name resolution over VPN in SBS 2008



One of these was something that I used for my convenience over a VPN connection from home. You see, the internal order processing application that I wrote uses some shared folders to store some temporary data, such as e-mails that are generated but not yet released to Exchange, or a local copy of images that are available on the Web site. This software–and our users–are used to referring to Windows file shares as \\COMPUTER-NAME\SHARE-NAME; for example, \\CYRUS\Pickup Holding, because for some reason some of the older servers are named after my boss’s dead cats.
When connecting through VPN to SBS 2008, however, that “suffix-less” name resolution was not working. So when \\CYRUS\Pickup Holding failed to resolve to anything,\\cyrus.skiviez.com\Pickup Holding would work fine. This was super annoying.
The reason this worked previously with our SBS 2003 installation is that it was acting as a WINS server, which provided this type of computer name resolution for us. SBS 2008 finally retires this ancient technology by default, however, so I had two choices: I could either install the WINS server role on SBS 2008, or I could just figure out how to get the 015 DNS Domain Name option from DHCP to relay through the VPN connection.
I chose the latter option, since it’s certainly less confusing to be able to say to someone in the future “we don’t use WINS, DNS does everything.” So here’s how to do it:
  1. On the SBS 2008 server, click Start > Administrative Tools > Routing and Remote Access.
  2. In the tree view, drill down past the server name to IPV4 > General. Right-click the General option and choose “New Routing Protocol” and choose DHCP Relay Agent.
  3. Now right-click the newly appended “DHCP Relay Agent” node and choose Properties. Add the IP address of your DHCP server (which is probably your SBS server itself), and click OK. Then click it again and choose “New Interface” and add the “Internal” interface.
  4. Now if you connect through VPN, an ipconfig /all should show your domain name as a “Connection-specific DNS suffix” and pinging machines by their suffix-less computer names should work. (If it doesn’t, make sure your DHCP server is using that 015 DNS Domain Name option, which the SBS 2008 wizards set up by default.)

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