How Do I Connect My Mac to Windows?

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Mac users work in their native Unix environment are familiar with using the terminal to SSH into their Linux based servers. When using a Mac to log into a Windows environment, or vice versa,  the task is performed differently. Window machines use a different protocol, one aptly named RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). For our tutorial, we’ll explore how to use your Mac to connect to a Windows server.  Let’s get started!

Continue reading “How Do I Connect My Mac to Windows?”

5 Android/iPhone Apps for IT Admins

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As administrators for our servers, we may find ourselves needing to do certain things while on the go. We may also not have a laptop or PC within reach. But one thing most of us have at all times is a cell phone. Whether we have an Android or an iPhone, most of us do possess a smartphone. One thing great about these smartphones is their constant connection to the Internet. Having that constant connection makes it simple to use various apps that assist with admin tasks through our smartphones. Here is a list of five applications available both on iPhone and Android. If you are interested in checking them out, click on your phone’s type next to the application name. You can also search for these applications by name in your smartphone’s app store. Continue reading “5 Android/iPhone Apps for IT Admins”

Troubleshooting: Locked Out of RDP

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How Do I Get Back Into RDP?

You may be working from a local machine that has an IP that is not scoped on that RDP port, making it impossible for you to gain remote access to add the IP address to the RDP rule’s scope. Do not fret; there is a simple and quick way to add your IP to the RDP scoping (or any others entities such as MySQL or MSSQL) right through your Plesk interface in your local browser. You can watch this video, or scroll down for step-by-step directions.

For security purposes, it is always recommended that you scope off your Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection on your server. Putting a scope on the RDP rule in the Windows Firewall will allow only the indicated  IP addresses to gain access to the server through Remote Desktop Protocol. The issue is that many of us do not have static IP addresses, but rather Dynamic IP addresses. This means that while at one time our IP address may be 120.32.111.01, it may change to something like 95.42.121.01 later. So if you were to add 120.32.111.01 to the RDP firewall for a customer or a system administrator, then you may need to add another rule for a different IP address.

 

Adding Your IP in Plesk

Step 1: Log in to Plesk

First, we need to make sure we know how to get to that Plesk login page. By default, the Plesk login page is https://<YourServerIP>:8443. For example https://124.0.0.1:8443

We should arrive on a page with this in the center. Go ahead and type in Admin for the username and your password for Plesk. Usually, that password is set up by our team and is the default Server Administrator Password. Sometimes the username is Administrator, depending on a few variables. But one of the two user names should be fine.

Plesk login

Step 2: Tools & Settings

The first thing we need to do after we log into Plesk through the previous page is to navigate to the Firewall Rules. Go ahead and click on Tools & Settings. It will be located in the right sidebar near the bottom as shown below.

plesk tools and settings

Step 3: Firewall

Once we pull up Tools & Settings go ahead and click on our destination, Firewall. You will find that option under the Security section. It will be the second option, just under Security Policy.

firewall tools and settings

Step 4: Firewall Rules

After we are in the Firewall management, go ahead and click on Firewall Rules. This is where we will add the rule to allow a certain IP address to gain RDP access.

firewall management

Step 5: Add a Firewall Rule

Under Tools, after going into the Firewall Rules, we will see the option labeled Add Firewall Rule. Go ahead and click on that, bringing us to our next step.

firewall add rule

Step 6: Add Detail the the New Rule

This is the page that we see after clicking on Add Firewall Rule. It can seem to be complicated and intimidating for some beginner level System Administrators, but it is quite simple.

add a new firewall rule

firewall profiles

If you or your client are not sure what that IP address that needs RDP access is, Liquid Web has a great site to visit that will only display your IP address here.

Note:

Here is an example of what you will find at https://ip.liquidweb.com.

While this particular example IP will not be the one that the customer or the System Administrator will see, (when visited on the local machine) the page will display the IP address that needs to be added to the rule for this RDP session to connect. That will be the only information that will be displayed on this page. Simply copy that IP address and use it in the instructions below.
ip address

remote ip address

Once you enter the IP address into the text box under Remote addresses, you do need to click the ADD button before clicking on OK.

remote ip address example

As mentioned above, after clicking the ADD button while the IP address is entered into the Add an IP address or a network text box, it will be placed into the left text box. After that step, you will then be able to click OK to apply this rule to the firewall for the server.

Step 7: Connect to RDP

The individual at that IP address can now access the server via RDP. If you would like more information on how to use Remote Desktop Connection, you can find a help article explaining exactly how to do that here.

rdp connection login screen

Congratulations! You now know how to add an IP address to an RDP rule that will allow a user to connect if the RDP is scoped off to the public. This can be done many times. Although Plesk does not allow you to edit the rule, you will have to create a new one each time. But this shouldn’t cause any issues. Also, keep in mind that this method can be used for any port, including MySQL and MSSQL.

If you ever have any trouble with your Liquid Web server, feel free to contact us through our chats system, by submitting a ticket, or by calling 800-580-4985. We’d love to help!

Improving Security for your Remote Desktop Connection

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Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is the easiest and most common method for managing a Windows server. Included in all versions of Windows server and has a built-in client on all Windows desktops. There are also free applications available for Macintosh and Linux based desktops. Unfortunately, because it is so widely used, RDP is also the target of a large number of brute force attacks on the server. Malicious users will use compromised computers to attempt to connect to your server using RDP. Even if the attack is unsuccessful in guessing your administrator password, just the flood of attempted connections can cause instability and other performance issues on your server. Fortunately, there are some approaches you can use to minimize your exposure to these types of attacks. Continue reading “Improving Security for your Remote Desktop Connection”

Remote Desktop Troubleshooting

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Remote Desktop Protocol (or RDP) is the most common method of gaining administrative access to a Windows server. RDP is available on all versions of Windows server and a client (called Remote Desktop Connection) is included with all versions of Windows desktop operating systems. Clients are also available for Macintosh operating systems from Microsoft in the iTunes store and for Linux desktops with applications like FreeRDP. Connecting to your server via RDP allows you full control of the server desktop environment, just as if you were sitting in front of the server’s monitor and keyboard. Depending on your permissions and settings, you can copy and delete files, change file permissions or settings, and even print documents from the server.

Pre-Flight Check

Using Remote Desktop Protocol to manage a Windows server generally requires a few basic settings and information about the server.

  • First, the Remote Desktop Service must be running on the server to which you would like to connect (RDP uses port 3389 by default).
  • Second, you need to know the IP address of the server.  
  • Third, you must have a username and password that is allowed to connect to the server remotely (often, this is the primary administrator account, but can also be a secondary account set up specifically for remote access purposes).
  • Finally, the Windows firewall (and any other hardware or software firewalls) needs to be configured to allow Remote Connections from your location.

 

Once you have all of the correct settings enabled, IP address and user account details, you can connect RDP to your server! Just launch the RDP client, enter the IP address of the server and the user credentials, and log in to the server using what looks like the standard Windows desktop environment.

Image of Remote Desktop Connection

As helpful as the Remote Desktop Protocol can be when it comes to managing your Windows server, there are also times when the connection fails, which can be very frustrating as the error message is generally not very helpful (often just the window shown below).         

RDP Connection Error Pop Up

 

The error shown above means that for some reason, your client was unable to make a connection to the Windows server via the Remote Desktop Protocol. When you are experiencing connectivity issues, there are many items that you can check to try to resolve the problem.

 

  1. Ensure you can reach the server via ICMP (or Ping). Most desktop operating systems will allow you to send small bits of information to the computer to verify connectivity and connection speeds. Generally, you just need to open a terminal window (on a Windows desktop, press the Window key, then type cmd and press enter) and enter the following command: ping IP or ping domain.tld. Normally, you’ll receive an output that is similar:Ping Results
  2. This output shows the pings were successful to the destination and took between 50 ms and 150 ms to complete. These pings indicate a successful connection to the server as desired (at least over ICMP). If the output for the command shows a failure to respond, we know there is some network interference.
  3. If the ping test fails (indicated by repeating asterisks), check your internet connectivity to guarantee that you can reach other resources on the internet. If not, you may need to contact your local service provider to restore your internet access.
  4. Reaching other internet sites but not your server indicates your server is refusing connections from your IP address (due to security software or firewall settings). You may need to contact your hosting company to verify there is not an IP address blocked by your server. You can find your current public IP address by going to https://ip.liquidweb.com.
  5. Can you ping your server, but still can’t connect over RDP? It is likely an issue with the RDP service or your firewall. You’ll need to contact your hosting company to get assistance with the service or firewall.

Firewall Issues

Best practices in configuring a firewall is to allow the least amount of access necessary for the various connections to the server. Limiting the connections to a particular service like RDP is called “scoping” the access for that service. If your configured Windows firewall scopes traffic on RDP, it’s possible that a user may not be able to connect due to their IP address not being included in the rule. Access to the server via RDP from one user but another user is not, check the firewall; their IP address may not be included in the allowed list of IPs for Remote Desktop Access.

  1. Log in to the server, click on the Windows icon, and type Windows Firewall into the search bar.Firewall Settings
  2. Click on Windows Firewall with Advanced Security.
  3. Click on Inbound Rules
  4. Scroll down to find a rule labeled RDP (or using port 3389).
  5. Double-click on the rule, then click the Scope tab.Scope Tab
  6. Make sure the user’s current IP address is included in the list of allowed Remote IPs.

If you are unable to connect to the server from your location, contact your hosting company for help in checking the firewall rule for RDP access.

User Connectivity Problems

Can you connect to RDP using the administrator account, but one or more of the other accounts cannot? There may be a problem with the user account permissions.

  1. Make certain the user is a member of the Remote Desktop Users group. Log in to the server with the administrator account, then go to the Local Users and Groups control panel (Open Administrative Tools, then open Computer Management).Local Users and Groups
  2. Navigate to the Remote Desktop Users group and verify that the user is a member of the group. If they are not a member of the group, add them as a member of the group.
    remote desktop users group
  3. Go to the username under the Users tab. Make sure that the user account is not locked out. Accounts can get locked out due to too many attempts to log in with an incorrect password (either by the user or by a brute force attack on the server).
    account lockout screen
  4. Double check the firewall for the IP address of the user and add to the scope of the RDP rule.

No Available Connections/Sessions

By default, Windows server only allows two users to connect via RDP simultaneously. If both sessions are already in use, you will receive an error indicating that no additional users are allowed to connect at this time. Too Many Users Error

To resolve this issue, you will need to wait until one of the other users logs out or you’ll require to purchase additional RDP user licenses from your hosting provider (assuming that you regularly need access for more than two users at a time).

Failed login attempts during a brute force attack can sometimes take up RDP licenses, even though the session isn’t connecting. If you are experiencing unavailable sessions even when no one is logged in to the server, it’s possibly the result of a malicious login. The best remedy for this situation is to scope the firewall rule to prevent access attempts from unauthorized IP addresses.

Data Encryption Errors

If you are using an out of date Remote Desktop Client or are connecting to an older Windows server, you may receive an error that there is a problem with the TLS settings for the connection. Generally, you can resolve this issue by updating your RDP client software on your workstation. It may also be possible to set the client to ignore these errors, but that could leave your workstation and your server vulnerable to malicious attacks.

Sudden Disconnection

If you are using RDP and suddenly lose the connection, the issue is almost always related to your internet connection. Check to make sure that you can stay connected to other services (like running a ping command in the background). If you are not losing internet connectivity, it’s possible that the server is running out of memory or the RDP service may be experiencing an active attacked in a brute force attack. If you’ve confirmed that your internet connection is stable, contact your hosting company to make sure that the server is not the cause of the lost connection.

Slow Connection Issues

If the connection between your location and your server is slow your Remote Desktop Session may not function as smoothly as you would like. However, you may be able to adjust the Desktop Environment settings of the connection before you connect to simplify and speed up the connection.

  1. Open the Remote Desktop Client application (these directions are for the Windows built-in client, but most RDP clients have similar settings available).
  2. Click on the Experience tab to see the various items you can choose to enable or disable to improve your connection speeds. Change the drop-down to select a specific connection speed or select/deselect the various items to optimize performance.Remote Desktop Connection Settings

         

Windows 10 Update Issues

Oddly enough, Microsoft updates often cause problems with RDP connectivity. As recent as April 2018, an update on both the server operating system and the Windows 10 desktop operating system caused connectivity issues for many users. Generally, the best policy is to update both the server and workstation, as connectivity issues most often arise when the two systems are not on the same update cycle. You may be able to resolve a new connectivity issue by removing a recent Windows update (either on the server or the desktop). Many users also reported that disabling the Printer option from the local resources setting resolved the most recent connectivity issue.         

Local Resources

 

While RDP is a great tool for managing your Windows server, connectivity issues can be frustrating. By working through the possible causes of the connection problem, you will generally be able to get reconnected and working again in no time!

How to Use a Remote Desktop

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Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP provides access to your Windows Server’s operating system from your desktop, workstation machine, mobile device or laptop. The connection to your server will be encrypted and it offers some enhancements that allow you to attach local drives and devices.

Most modern Operating Systems have support for Remote Desktop. A Remote Desktop Client made by Microsoft is available in the Apple Appstore, the MacOS store, Google Play, the Chrome Web Store for ChromeOS and of course in the Windows Store. On Linux you may need to download a 3rd party option such as RDesktop or FreeRDP which you can get through a repository or it will be pre-installed on some distro’s.

Continue reading “How to Use a Remote Desktop”

RDP File Transfer

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How to Use Remote Desktop to Transfer Files to Your Windows Server

Transferring files to your new Windows Server can be a hassle when you are first setting everything up. Plesk, FTP, or network file sharing might not be quite ready to use or your internet service provider may block those web ports. This is where transferring files via the Remote Desktop Connection program comes in! You can redirect your workstations hard drive and it will appear when you are logged in.

Continue reading “RDP File Transfer”

Windows: Accessing Your Server with Remote Desktop

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This article explains how to use Remote Desktop to access your Windows server’s desktop from anywhere in the world.

On a normal Windows computer, you have a keyboard, monitor, and mouse that allow you to interact with the machine. For Windows servers hosted on the Internet, things are a bit different because your server could physically be thousands of miles away. To access the desktop of an Internet-hosted server, Microsoft has created a feature known as Remote Desktop. Continue reading “Windows: Accessing Your Server with Remote Desktop”