Windows Admin Center -  Monitoring and Managing Remote Servers

This guide assumes you have successfully installed WAC, and loaded it via a web browser. If this is not the case, feel free to refer to  Windows Admin Center (Project Honolulu) — Setup Guide

Here we take you through a step-by-step guide toward monitoring and managing remote Windows Servers. In the end we included a brief troubleshooting and optimization guide, just as well.

The steps herein apply regardless of the type of host or gateway machine. I.e. this guide applies whether WAC runs on a Windows 10 or Windows Server and whether it is installed as a gateway on Windows 10 or on Windows Server. Simply put, the steps shown below apply once WAC is running on your browser.

Let’s Go!

Managing Remote Servers

In order to monitor or manage machines or clusters, they have to be added to WAC connections list. Let’s do that first. In case you have not yet loaded WAC, then now is the time to do so.

Step 1: Click Add in the WAC console page

 

Step 2: Click Add Server Connection

Add Server Connection” refers to adding a Windows Server

Add Windows PC Connection” refers to adding a Windows 10 machine

In this guide we add Windows Server. However, the very same steps apply to adding a Windows 10 machine just as well. 

 

Step 3a: Enter the Server Name or IP Address

WAC identifies machines either by their name or IP address. 

Either type the server IP address (e.g. 10.0.0.170) or name. Then wait for the green confirmation ‘server found’ and click Submit

Step 3b (Optional): Adding a Machine of Another Domain or Workgroup

By default WAC resolve machines’ names and use the name to connect to machines. This practice is not viable if a DNS issue interferes. This may be the case when adding a server of another domain or Workgroup. In such a case, do not specify the machine name. Rather specify the machine’s IP address, and check the box “Don’t attempt to resolve the server name”. This will instruct WAC to connect to the remote machine via IP address.

 

 

Step 4 (Optional): Enter Credentials

Once the server name or IP address are entered, WAC searches for the corresponding machine. As the machine is found, WAC compares the credentials (user name and password) of the local logged-in user with the ones of the remote computer. 

For as long as the user name and password of the logged-in user apply to the remote machine, this step does not apply.

However, in case the credentials do not match, WAC asks for credentials. The credentials can either be provided now or later. I.e. machines can be added to the list of connections whether credentials are provided or not. 

To provide the credentials: Select Use another account for this connection then fill the fields username and password.

Click Submit With Credentials.

 

The newly just-added server shall now be listed in the connections list. Does it mean it can be remotely managed? Hmm… Well, unless any issues occur, then the answer is a straight yes!

 

Step 4: Managing the Remote Server

To manage a machine, click the blue link which represents its name or IP address. If no errors apply, then WAC would open its management console.

Now please enjoy managing the machine :) 

 

Congratulations! You’ve just succeeded gaining the capability to remotely manage and monitor remote Windows servers via WAC :)

 

Bonus Tip — Managing Multiple Servers Simultaneously

The steps shown above can be repeated as needed, to add and manage more servers. It is also possible to add servers in bulk. Then multiple servers can be managed simultaneously, by monitoring each machine in its own tabs.

Right-click the server name and select Open in new tab.

 

Managing Machines from other Domains or Workgroups

As described in step 3b, machines can be added and managed from either the same domain, from other domains or from other Workgroups. This is true for as long as such machines comply with WAC’s prerequisites and have connectivity with the “gateway“ machine, i.e. with the machine where WAC is installed. In the case of Windows Server version 2016 and 2019, there are no prerequisites, thus servers shall be easily added and managed, regardless of their domain or workgroup.

Basic Troubleshooting

In our lab, we often received error messages as we failed connecting to machines. Occasionally such errors would not be consistent, i.e. WAC would behave differently or present different error messages under the same settings and circumstances.

Below are couple of such messages, which appeared often in our lab:

 

A similar error may look as shown below, when the connectivity error is displayed from within the machine’s management page.

 

Such errors may occur due to connectivity issues. One cause may be that the remote machine is in sleep-state. Waking it may be enough to allow WAC to re-initiate connectivity. However, not all issues showed themselves to be so simple to overcome. 

Another connectivity issue may occur due to improper time or time-zone configuration. In our lab we found that re-syncing the clocks of the local and remote machines; as well as configuring the local and remote machines to the same time-zone, often resolved such issues. Setting the time zone can be done via the control panel whereas syncing the clocks can be done via command line.

Optimization — Remote Management of Windows 10

As presented in part-1 of this article, installation of WAC on Windows 10 renders the machines manageable by WAC (for as long as the WAC service is on). However this does not constitute best practice. It is possible to remotely manage Windows 10 without installing WAC on each machine.

By default WinRM / Remote Powershell are disabled in Windows 10. Consequentially Windows 10 cannot be remotely managed by WAC. To resolve this, execute the following command in elevated PowerShell prompt: Enable-PSRemoting

When needed, configure the firewall to allow connections from outside of the local subnet. This can be done in PowerShell via: Set-NetFirewallRule -Name WINRM-HTTP-In-TCP -RemoteAddress Any

 

Known Issues

Though Windows Admin Center is fairly a new product, quite a long list of known issues has already been gathered by Microsoft and can be overviewed here

Done! WAC can now manage remote Windows Server and Windows 10 based machines. In our coming WAC guides we’d discuss additional deployment options, other than — Local Client (aka Desktop Mode): Gateway Server, Managed Server and Failover Cluster / high availability.

 

Good luck!

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