Setting Up Microsoft BackOffice 2.0 (Part 1)

boffice2setup-1As shown in an earlier post, eBay Purchase #9 – Microsoft BackOffice Server 2.0, is a suite of server based products to run with Windows NT. This is a rather high-level overview of setting it up, with installing Windows NT 3.51 Server and using Exchange Server 4.0 to be looked at first.

Here I’m using Oracle VirtualBox 5.1.26 on Windows 10. Initially the process is rather straight forward with installing Windows NT, though the BackOffice applications need more tinkering.


Windows NT 3.51 Server Setup

With or without BackOffice, installing Windows NT 3.51 Server is the same. To start, three floppy disks are required to initialise Windows NT Setup, before accessing the CD.

In the early stages, Setup requests whether to set the server up as a domain controller or simply as a server only. In a network domain there needs to be as a minimum one primary domain controller, to maintain security policies on the network. Selecting Server would be intended if the server role is only to be a dedicated file or SQL server, or used in a workgroup for instance.

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Windows Setup requesting whether to setup as a domain controller or plain vanilla server.

The licensing mode is then to be chosen. Typically a retail box of Window NT or BackOffice may have included in the vicinity of 5 to 25 Client Access Licenses (CALs). Additional CALs would be purchased separately.  The use of CALs are used either at the connection level or associated to a physical PC that would connect to the server.

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Licensing modes.

Unlike Windows NT 3.1, NT 3.51 has no problem automatically detecting the network adapter from Oracle VirtualBox.

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Windows NT 3.51 has no problem detecting the network adapter from VirtualBox.

With the security role, licensing, and network adapter sorted, Setup commences extracting files from the CD.

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Extracting files from CD.

After file extraction has been completed, and that the security role of the server was set to domain controller, Setup prompts as to whether it will be either a primary or backup domain controller. The name of the new domain is to be entered in the text box beside the primary domain controller, while a backup domain controller requires an existing domain name.

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Selecting the type of domain controller.

When Setup completes and restarts the PC, Windows NT Server is ready to use. Supplied with BackOffice 2.0 is Service Pack 4 to update Windows NT.

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Windows NT Server installation completed.


BackOffice 2.0 Setup

On the same CD as the Windows installation files, there’s BackOffice Setup programs for both servers and clients. Both of these create a new program group in Program Manager for future installations and removal.

Microsoft Exchange Client 4.0 was the direct replacement of the earlier Mail software, only to be superseded itself with the introduction of Outlook not long afterwards. Also included is Internet Explorer 2.0, and utilities for accessing mainframes and databases.

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BackOffice 2.0 client applications.

In a similar fashion, the Setup program for servers includes the options to individually select software. If the server only has Windows NT 3.1 or 3.5, then one can upgrade to NT 3.51 from here before proceeding with the rest.

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BackOffice 2.0 server applications.

During installation the BackOffice Setup program continues to reside in memory until the individual Setup programs are completed.


Exchange Server 4.0

Installing Exchange Server 4.0 is an easy affair with little in the way of  prompts.

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Exchange Server Setup installation types.

Setup does however request whether the Exchange server is to join an existing site, or to create a new one. With no sites present, a new site is required. Once confirmed, the domain administrator’s credentials are requested in order to run Exchange’s services in the background.

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Exchange Server Setup will request whether to join an existing site or create a new one.

At the end, the final prompt although optional is to optimise the installation of Exchange based on the server’s hardware. It predominantly checks the server’s RAM and hard disk drives against the network environment variables. The option regarding memory usage isn’t related to the size of each user’s mailbox, but the amount of RAM to be accessible by Exchange. The default value of zero will allow Exchange to access all available RAM. If a specified amount is provided Microsoft stated 24 MB as a minimum, while at least 32 MB was recommended.

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The Performance Optimizer requesting details on the domain’s network environment.

As the virtual machine only had one hard disk, Performance Optimizer suggested that it’s recommended to have more than one drive for storing Exchange files. The Help file suggests services can be grouped by their disk access patterns and can run concurrently with the use of multiple hard disks.

Once the setup process has completed, you’ll find the below program group in Program Manager.

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Exchange Server in Program Manager.

Most of the time would be spent with the Exchange Administrator. This is where the server configuration and administrating of e-mail accounts takes place. Below I’m selecting the server named NT_DC within the self-titled domain at the Socket3 site in order to configure it.

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Selecting the Exchange Server.

A tree appears on the left-hand side branching out of the site. By selecting Recipients below the domain is where new e-mail accounts and distribution lists are to be created. Whilst creating a new e-mail account, an administrator can easily set up their corresponding Windows NT user account as below at the same time. By default, Exchange uses the account name as the default password until it’s changed. Naming conventions for both e-mail and user accounts can be changed if desired via Administrator’s Options.

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It’s easy to generate both the Windows user account and e-mail account at the same time.

Using either CSV or TXT files it’s possible to import and export recipient details in bulk, with the option to create or remove Windows NT user accounts en masse.

Distribution lists are also easily configurable.

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Adding members to a Finance distribution list.

Below the Configuration sub-branch, there’s an item named Monitors. Monitors can be two types; a Server Monitor or Link Monitor. A Server Monitor checks at regular intervals that Exchange’s background services are operational. A Link Monitor checks the ping sending e-mail from the Exchange Server. In both instances a notification can be set up either to display a dialog box or e-mail to an administrator that there may be an issue. The default interval for monitoring is 15 minutes, though 5 minutes if an error or warning had been detected.

Shown below the Server Monitor provides options on how Exchange is to restore services.

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Control how Exchange Server attempts to restore services.

Inside the Microsoft Exchange program group shown earlier, there’s five icons all utilising the Performance Manager for overseeing the performance and activities of the Exchange server. Below is viewing the CPU load of the server.

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Viewing the server’s health with Performance Monitor.

The Exchange Client software is located on the fourth CD of BackOffice. MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows NT, and Windows 95 all have dedicated clients available. Copying the Windows 3.1 client onto the hard disk, Exchange Setup Editor allows customising both the setup and installation of the client. For instance you may decide that clients won’t be able to select a Custom install, or that the icons are to be placed in a different program group. Under the Components tab you may select whether the client will have installed Exchange and/or Schedule+.

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Adjust default settings for clients using the Exchange Setup Editor.

The user options set the default settings in Exchange itself such as whether to play a sound on receiving an e-mail, or to have spellcheck performed before sending an e-mail. However, the user may still freely change the settings on their individual PC at their disposal.

Microsoft Exchange 4.0 received its final service pack (SP5) in 1998.

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