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Windows Small Business Server 2003 Query


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#31
sari

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What I am half tempted to do is get hold of a reasonable spec machine, obtain the evaluation version of SBS from Microsoft and basically have a play ina non critical situation. Is this a good idea, or will I confuse myself even more? The geek in me is saying DO IT. What do you think?


If you have a machine you can use, I don't see any reason NOT to run the evaluation version. At least it would give you an opportunity to play around with it and see how it works. I would never argue against dsenette, because he has more practical hands-on experience with servers, NAS, etc., than I do, but I do run SBS 2003 in my office, and implemented it with little server experience. I upgraded from an old Windows NT system directly to SBS 2003, so there was, in my mind, a significant learning curve. However, I think Microsoft has tried to make it as idiot-proof as possible, probably because it's more often being implemented by people such as you and I, in a small environment with maybe only one IT person of limited experience (not meant as an insult to you - it describes me perfectly). I haven't implemented Exchange, because it does seem management-intensive.

It appears that your management is so locked into the past with what you're running now and the issues that you had with the old 95 peer-to-peer system (shudder) that they can't look ahead to what they truly need, and I'm not sure the consultants are really trying to sell you the system that would best meet your needs. As dsenette has said, there are multiple ways to improve upon your current email system which don't require Exchange, and would give you a lot more flexibility. I wouldn't recommend purchasing SBS simply to manage email. If you only want file security, you also don't necessarily need SBS. However, there are other features of SBS that you could possibly find useful, but you don't know of their existence. The real question that should be asked is not "How have we always done things and how can we best duplicate that", but "What system will give us the security we want and the flexibility to meet our needs".

If you don't mind me asking, can you tell us what kind of company this is and a little bit about how people in the office do their work? This is what I'm thinking:

Would it be more efficient for everyone to have their own email address and be able to receive email directly, either from each other or from outside?
Are there salespeople who are sometimes out of the office, or is everyone always working from within one of the 2 locations?
How is information shared now? Do people in the office work together on projects, do they ever need to share files?

Knowing what kind of company this is and what work is being performed may help our understanding a bit.
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#32
Daz3210

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There are two companies actually (hence the reason for two servers I think).

One is a cleaning company, so most of the work is service orientated. The other is an electrical contracting company.

At the moment the main use for the servers are storage of documents (so that folks can share them easily), and storage of accounts data etc. There is talk of the electrical company shortly needing to look at autocad or equivalent.

Email is something that we have not yet embraced, but that I do think we should in some way shape or form.

The two sites are linked by router to router lan systems that have integral firewalls.

Generally I am the only user that connects while out of the office. I do the accounts for both companies, but often like to work from home.

I am also questioning in my own mind now whether a SBS server will enable other things that could enhance productivity.

Edited by Daz3210, 06 August 2008 - 04:37 AM.

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#33
Daz3210

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Oh, and I have a machine and I have obtainedan evaluation copy, I just need to work out what to do with it.
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#34
dsenette

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alright...i think we've finally gotten you to a stage where you've at least got a basic understanding of some of the things we're talking about (obviously your contractors didn't go this far)....so let's back up and look at the big picture


give us a rundown of what you're wanting to end up with...what's the final desired result?
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#35
Daz3210

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The contractors said you need...... and that was it. They expect me to leave them to it and (probably) pay them an arm and a leg in the future for maintaining a system I don't understand.

The primary need is a centralised storage for all files, most importantly the accounts package data (This is a Sage product). The need for centralised storage arises from a need to be able to carry out daily backup of all important documents from one location (does that in itself make sense?). Currently the system in place for backup involves a DAT drive using 24gB tapes, the main drive being a lowly 9gB Unit (which keeps getting stretched to the point of bursting). That is the 'main' server. The second server is only really used for storing documents etc. The access to all data needs to be secure, so that only those with authority can access certain areas of the drive.

Secondly, if the technology is there and useable a structured email system would be desirable. I have noted the various options listed earlier. For some reason the contractor I consulted seemed to be pushing the need to use Exchange, but is this simply a revenue driven idea?

Not necessary, but desirable would be the ability to control web access, and/or see what folks are accessing, since I think much access is not strictly work related.

We would need an adequate backup solution to serve the size of disk installed in any new hardware. The contarctor consulted suggested an external hard drive (2 actually) to be switched daily. These drives would take a daily 'image' of the server drive.

I am now thinking kind of a hybrid of the suggestions made before. The 'secondary' server we have at the minute is essentially a piece of fancy NAS. So, could we go down the route of:-

Site 1: SBS
Site 2: NAS

Could site 1 then serve to authenticate users across two sites, whilst still allowing site 2 some local storage so that not everything has to be transferred across the internet at the time of writing? Would this be too complex?

What I have done in the past is used the secondary server as an archive to free up disk space on the 'main' server due to the low amount of disk space available on the main unit. It is however a slow process even at broadband speeds.

I have to admit that I am swayed towards an SBS solution, not for business purposes, but because of the inner geek in me. I am thinking not necessarily of the business, but of what use such knowledge may be to me personally if ever I switch jobs to another firm. (But is this being selfish?)
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#36
sari

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The contractors said you need...... and that was it. They expect me to leave them to it and (probably) pay them an arm and a leg in the future for maintaining a system I don't understand.

That's all very well and good for them, but if you will be responsible for day-to-day maintenance, it needs to be a system that you understand on some level, and feel comfortable with. Don't let them push you into purchasing something that you can't manage, unless you're willing to pay them a lot to manage it for you.

The primary need is a centralised storage for all files, most importantly the accounts package data (This is a Sage product). The need for centralised storage arises from a need to be able to carry out daily backup of all important documents from one location (does that in itself make sense?). Currently the system in place for backup involves a DAT drive using 24gB tapes, the main drive being a lowly 9gB Unit (which keeps getting stretched to the point of bursting). That is the 'main' server. The second server is only really used for storing documents etc. The access to all data needs to be secure, so that only those with authority can access certain areas of the drive.

Peachtree? Not that it matters - it will work. I have Peachtree running on my server. Certainly it's easier to do backup if everything is in one location - dsenette would be a better person to address backup options with you, so I'll leave that to him.

Secondly, if the technology is there and useable a structured email system would be desirable. I have noted the various options listed earlier. For some reason the contractor I consulted seemed to be pushing the need to use Exchange, but is this simply a revenue driven idea?

Again, I think Exchange might be management-intensive for this application. I think one of the other options suggested by dsenette would be worth looking at. I'm thinking that separate email addresses through your provider, using Outlook for managing them, would be suitable for you and more manageable.

Not necessary, but desirable would be the ability to control web access, and/or see what folks are accessing, since I think much access is not strictly work related.

As noted by dsenette above, this is doable but will require a webfilter of some sort.

We would need an adequate backup solution to serve the size of disk installed in any new hardware. The contarctor consulted suggested an external hard drive (2 actually) to be switched daily. These drives would take a daily 'image' of the server drive.

This doesn't seem like an optimal solution to me - that means you'd only have 2 days worth of backup. I'll let dsenette address this with the rest of the backup stuff.

I am now thinking kind of a hybrid of the suggestions made before. The 'secondary' server we have at the minute is essentially a piece of fancy NAS. So, could we go down the route of:-

Site 1: SBS
Site 2: NAS

Could site 1 then serve to authenticate users across two sites, whilst still allowing site 2 some local storage so that not everything has to be transferred across the internet at the time of writing? Would this be too complex?

What I have done in the past is used the secondary server as an archive to free up disk space on the 'main' server due to the low amount of disk space available on the main unit. It is however a slow process even at broadband speeds.

I have to admit that I am swayed towards an SBS solution, not for business purposes, but because of the inner geek in me. I am thinking not necessarily of the business, but of what use such knowledge may be to me personally if ever I switch jobs to another firm. (But is this being selfish?)

Hehe - I like the inner geek comment. What we've been trying to do here is help you figure out what might be the best option and the pros and cons of each. If the contractors will provide long-term support for issues, you may be better off going with the SBS solution because they may be more willing to support it. It does come bundled with some features that may help you (once management realizes the capabilities), such as Sharepoint services that allow for a shared calendar, document sharing/collaboration, an intranet, and remote web workplace. If you don't think you'll ever use those things, then it may be overkill. If you're interested, here is some reading for you. I haven't tried this, but here is an online interactive test drive, that will show you a little bit about SBS 2003.
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#37
Daz3210

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Thanks for that, I have already looked at the Microsoft literature, and I have to say it makes it look easy. I have also tried the test drive, which also made me more intrigued.

One thing I forgot to add was that I often transfer a backup (once a day if I can) of the accounts data from the primary server to the one on the other site. I know I do back ups to tape as well, but it is like a belt and braces and makes me feel good (confident).

The contractor that is pushing SBS came to us after we installed Novell. They have a guy that can deal with it, but I have all along been able to tell they do not like it (as do some on here). When it was installed I did not know anything about the system. So I went out and bought books, read about it, built a 'test server' using a educational licence from Novell (it came with one of the books), broke it, fixed it and generally played with it until I dare do almost anything in the production environment. Even now if I am unsure the old machine gets fired up, and before I do anything on the live machines I do it on the test machine. I try to keep that to the same spec as the production machines.

I have no objections to doing the same with SBS, indeed I quite like the idea. Like I say I have an inner geek in me shouting do it do it.LOL
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#38
Daz3210

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I have just been looking at the Routers we use. They are Draytek Vigor units. It would appear that they do have some kind of web filter service on them.

So all I need from that angle is to look at how to configure that service.

Or is there some better solution?
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#39
Daz3210

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I forgot to add, the idea of a shared calendar is attractive. Again it is not necessary, we manage with a paper diary at the minute, which lives in reception. Everyone dips into that. To put it on screen could be useful, but I do question what happens if the machines are switched off, as sometimes happens when we want the diary.

Remote Web Workplace I do think is something worth exploring, and may prove useful. I have seen it on the testdrive, and looked at it briefly.

If I tell you that the way I work when out of the office at the minute is to connect via VPN to the router, then use either PC Anywhere or Remote Desktop Connection to control my desktop office PC using my laptop (I have to do this from Site 2 also for anything on the Site 1 server), would Remote Web Workplace make things more efficient?

I think when I think about it that we have a mishmash of systems that have evolved as opposed to being planned, and now we need to look at planning a working system from scratch.
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#40
dsenette

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get your popcorn...this one's long

now we're getting somewhere..

The primary need is a centralised storage for all files, most importantly the accounts package data (This is a Sage product). The need for centralised storage arises from a need to be able to carry out daily backup of all important documents from one location (does that in itself make sense?). Currently the system in place for backup involves a DAT drive using 24gB tapes, the main drive being a lowly 9gB Unit (which keeps getting stretched to the point of bursting). That is the 'main' server. The second server is only really used for storing documents etc. The access to all data needs to be secure, so that only those with authority can access certain areas of the drive.

keeping all data in one physical location (even if it's on two separate devices) is always a great idea from a management standpoint...it's alot easier to back up info in one place and take those backups off site... any backup software worth it's salt would be able to backup your server (if you choose to have one) and a NAS device (if you choose to have one) to whatever backup media you so choose....

for the fun of adding a new device to the conversation check out IdealStor they specialize in Disk-to-Disk backups...the differences between a D2D backup structure and the DLT tapes that you're using now are very easy to see...first DLT tapes aren't cheap (they're not too bad in the sizes you're using but they're not that cheap per GB), second tapes are slow...both on the write cycle and the read cycle (the L stands for linear which means if the data you're restoring is on the end of the tape...it's got to read the whole tape to get there). D2D uses standard off the shelf hard drives which are cheap per GB and non-linear which means if you want to restore FileX it doesn't matter where it is on the drive....you just restore it.

IdealStor has 2 products lines of note in this scenario we're building here...the first is their TeraLyte drive bay which comes with either 1 or two drive slots in it that allow you to have ejectable hard drives (basically an external hard drive that you can remove on the fly and take with you) which can be attached to any machine and using their ibac software you can backup your server to the drive then at the end of the day or once a week you just eject the drive and store it off site (like at the bank in a safe deposit box)....another one of their products which is a bit more complex and possibly more applicable here is their FrankenNas....the FrankenNas is basically a combination NAS/Backup device....it's got either 5 or 6 (depending on the model) hard drives in the device set up in a RAID array that runs an OS on the machine (it's a custom OS that they use) that allows you to use those drives as a NAS device (allowing for file permissions etc..) then the other half of the device is either a 2 bay or 4 bay (depending on the model) backup device that uses the same ejectable hardware concept as the teralyte...so you can set up a schedule where every day the NAS dumps a copy of itself onto the ejectable hard drive side and you pop the drives out and take them off site....another advantage of the FrankenNAS is that it has the ability to take a "live state image" of up to 2 live servers (maybe more by now...i haven't talked to the rep in a few months)...what this means is that the device will "watch" one of your servers and keep updates of anything that changes on it...then if that server were to die or become unavailable you can (with manual intervention...you have to make some setting changes and activate the image) basically bring up a virtual version of the dead server while you make your repairs to the production server (this is also handy if you're doing updates on the production server because you can fire up the virtual version while you're updating the real one...and if the update fails you can restore the virtual image back to the real server as if nothing happened)



Secondly, if the technology is there and useable a structured email system would be desirable. I have noted the various options listed earlier. For some reason the contractor I consulted seemed to be pushing the need to use Exchange, but is this simply a revenue driven idea?

exchange is awesome...it's one of my favorite things to play with...however in your environment it's overkill...having an in house exchange server for less than 15 people is silly...the management overhead alone would keep you up at night...exchange's strong point is for larger companies that couldn't afford the cost of paying for individual mailboxes through a webhost...and for those who want a bit more control over their environment....it's extremely useful and powerful...but it's designed for a larger company....

with your size and amount of employees it would be MUCH easier to just have mailboxes with your webhost or ISP and have everyone connect to their own POP mailbox via outlook

Not necessary, but desirable would be the ability to control web access, and/or see what folks are accessing, since I think much access is not strictly work related.

again...more options than you can shake a stick at....you may have found one already with your routers...let us know how that investigation goes..

as i said i've got a hardware webfilter which is easy and great but not cheap (not too expensive but it's about $3k all said and done)...but i've also got a backup proxy server that i mentioned

my backup proxy server is 100% free (minus the cost of the server it's running on....but we already owned that as it's one of my file servers)...what i'm running is a Virtual Machine in VMWare server...VMWare is a program that allows you to create Virtual Machines and run them as if they were real servers....so you can assign IP addresses and things like that as if it were a real machine...on that VMWare server i'm running a free virtual appliance (i'll find out who made it) that is running a squid proxy server and a dansguardian web filter...Squid is an open source (i.e. free) proxy server program that's well known in the linux community...dansguardian is a web filter that is open source and well known....in conjuction they allow you to set up rules for access...you can block access to general types of websites (like adult content) as well as specific web addresses.....both of them have a bit of a learning curve associated with them but there is a lot of documentation available


We would need an adequate backup solution to serve the size of disk installed in any new hardware. The contarctor consulted suggested an external hard drive (2 actually) to be switched daily. These drives would take a daily 'image' of the server drive.

already covered this but...a "good" backup solution involves making sure that you decide how long you want to keep your data and where you want to keep it....

right now i do a full backup of all 12 servers in my environment to 500GB ultrium tape drives with a tape for each tape drive (i've got 7 of those) so that's 7 x 5= 35 tapes a week. each monday i take last weeks tapes to the bank and stick those drives in a safe deposit box then i take the previous weeks tapes back from the bank to use for that week....which means that for at least a 2 week period i can restore information up to 3 weeks old....

the full backups in my environment is a bit overkill in my opinion...so i'm going to be doing things differently next year (hopefully my budget get's accepted...)


I am now thinking kind of a hybrid of the suggestions made before. The 'secondary' server we have at the minute is essentially a piece of fancy NAS. So, could we go down the route of:-

Site 1: SBS
Site 2: NAS

Could site 1 then serve to authenticate users across two sites, whilst still allowing site 2 some local storage so that not everything has to be transferred across the internet at the time of writing? Would this be too complex?

What I have done in the past is used the secondary server as an archive to free up disk space on the 'main' server due to the low amount of disk space available on the main unit. It is however a slow process even at broadband speeds.

this is completly doable...but you've got to remember that since both sites are remote from each other...any time someone is wanting something from site1's equipment the bandwidth will come into play and vice versa....so it might be better to identify the "priority" location and house things there...

I have to admit that I am swayed towards an SBS solution, not for business purposes, but because of the inner geek in me.

the "inner geek" thing is basically the driving force for almost everything i do..

I am thinking not necessarily of the business, but of what use such knowledge may be to me personally if ever I switch jobs to another firm. (But is this being selfish?)

everything we do should be viewed from the standpoint of how it will help you in the future...no matter how much you like the place you work for and your job you do there...there is always the chance that something better will come along...and there's a good chance that skills learned elsewhere will apply


I forgot to add, the idea of a shared calendar is attractive. Again it is not necessary, we manage with a paper diary at the minute, which lives in reception. Everyone dips into that. To put it on screen could be useful, but I do question what happens if the machines are switched off, as sometimes happens when we want the diary.

as sari said SBS offers you the use of microsoft sharepoint...i've played with sharepoint but i'm not a whiz....but you can have shared calendars, shared documents, all kinds of fun stuff with sharepoint

Remote Web Workplace I do think is something worth exploring, and may prove useful. I have seen it on the testdrive, and looked at it briefly

sari's actually got more info on this than i do...as she actually uses it....but Remote Web Workplace is basically what you're already doing with your VPN connection just built in to the server....it offers you a connection to the server itself and then from the server you can connect to one of the workstations....which...is pretty much what you're doing
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#41
sari

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The Sharepoint services are p
Fairly idiot proof - there are a lot of functions built-in. There is, for example, a vacation calendar. I was able to add a second calendar easily. We use one to track vacations/holidays, etc., and the second one to keep track of factory reps office visits, in-house training, and the like. They're maintained by 2 different people, and I have the permissions set so that only the person in charge of that calendar can actually edit it - everyone else can only view it.

As far as the Remote Web Workplace, it is a simple way to offer remote access through IE. The user goes to the appropriate site (essentially your external IP address). They're presented with a login screen. This takes them to the RWW main screen, which will allow the to connect to their desktop (it uses RDP, but it's transparent to them what they're using). As the admin, you can also use this to remotely access the server to perform admin functions. Additionally, the Intranet can be accessed, which is where items such as the shared calendar are found.
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#42
Daz3210

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OK I guess its learning curve time again.

As far as email, backups, sharepoint and remote web go, I'll put those on the backburner for a while. One small question I have about remote web though is, whilst you say it is like remote desktop, is this remote desktop without having to tie up a computer in the office? If so that is very interesting and potentially useful.

I have spotted a possible problem, but hopefully not so. I still have two machines in the office that still run Windows 98. Will these be a problem in an SBS environment?

I now have installed SBS (Evaluation Version) on a spare machine. But thats as far as I have gone so far. I am thinking domain, from what you have said so far, since this will if I have understood you fully mean that I can lock everyone to what I want on their desktops. I have found one particular person has downloaded various screensavers etc, which worries me from a file/virus security perspective. We have a policy you should not do this, and yes she could be disciplined, but the danger is still there.

Now, the 'test' machine is at home, and I use a workgroup scenario with a file share from my laptop to my desktop (the laptop accesses the desktop drive). If I use a domain will this screw up the workgroup? My immediate guess is that it will. OK, thats not a problem at work, but with moving the laptop between the two (office and home) can I easily switch environments?I suppose that could have a bearing on whether I opt for SBS as a solution.

Sorry for more questions, but I really want to get this right first time, mainly so I look good to the bosses.

Edited by Daz3210, 07 August 2008 - 03:00 PM.

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#43
dsenette

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I have spotted a possible problem, but hopefully not so. I still have two machines in the office that still run Windows 98. Will these be a problem in an SBS environment?

yes and no...98 is NOT able to join a domain so if you have a domain structure you will not be able to have them be part of the domain...they can still access the shared files as if they were on a workgroup though...and you can set local policies to keep them under control

I now have installed SBS (Evaluation Version) on a spare machine. But thats as far as I have gone so far. I am thinking domain, from what you have said so far, since this will if I have understood you fully mean that I can lock everyone to what I want on their desktops. I have found one particular person has downloaded various screensavers etc, which worries me from a file/virus security perspective. We have a policy you should not do this, and yes she could be disciplined, but the danger is still there.

one of the best reasons for group policy....you can deny all user installs (that modify the registry or system files...some installs aren't that easy to block)


Now, the 'test' machine is at home, and I use a workgroup scenario with a file share from my laptop to my desktop (the laptop accesses the desktop drive). If I use a domain will this screw up the workgroup? My immediate guess is that it will. OK, thats not a problem at work, but with moving the laptop between the two (office and home) can I easily switch environments?

joining a domain completely removes you from a workgroup so i'd advise against it

check out VMware...specifically VMWare server....with VMware you can create a virtual machine that acts like a regular desktop and run it on your laptop...then you can join the virtual machine to the domain and play with it without messing with the settings on your laptop
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#44
Daz3210

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Sorry to come back at you again with domains, but what would happen if we set up a domain system and I was at a different site, say at home. Would it look for the domain and crash if it wasn't found?
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#45
dsenette

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Sorry to come back at you again with domains, but what would happen if we set up a domain system and I was at a different site, say at home. Would it look for the domain and crash if it wasn't found?

no...it wouldn't...

here's how this works (unless you've configured something to NOT work like this....such as if your system is using roaming profiles)

first you would create the domain structure (i.e. make the domain set up all the required things like DNS and active directory) then you'd create domain user accounts within active directory on the server. then you would join the domain with each computer that's going to be part of the domain (anything running XP Pro or 2000 Professional or Vista). what this does is create a domain account for each computer in the domain (this assures that there can only be one computer with any given name in the system), then you would log on to the computer with your domain account. when you do this the machine would create a LOCAL profile for the domain user that stores all the pertinent settings for the user and controls their environment. the local profile is where their desktop files, my documents, etc are stored... so if you take the laptop home you would be logging on to the local profile for your domain user...so you'd have access to everything contained in the local profile but none of the domain resources (like active directory or file servers etc...) unless you use your VPN to connect back in to the network.

my word of caution was because joining a domain from a workgroup computer removes the workgroup assignment....so you can't really (well you can't easily) work on a workgroup one day and a domain the next...that's where the trouble comes in.....if you're wanting to test a domain you are going to want to use either a real machine that isn't in production or a virtual machine that won't effect your production machine/environment
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