Hosting of Exchange 2013 using WebsitePanel 2.1

I have handled an Exchange 2013 Hosting project for a hosting service provider. We have selected the free Exchange hosting solution named Website Panel for this. As the Exchange Server version is 2013, the only supported version of Websitepanel for Exchange 2013 is Website Panel 2.1 Beta. We are quite sure that the tool may have some bugs as it is still in Beta version.

There are many Exchange components can be  provisioned through WebsitePanel for an Exchange 2013 project and some of the examples are:

  • Mailboxes   (management of mailbox plan, aliases, permissions and mobile devices)
  • Shared contacts   (management of mail flow settings)
  • Shared Distribution   list (management of aliases, mail flow and permissions)
  • Accepted Domains
  • Active Sync policy
  • Resource mailboxes   (management of permission)

The Exchange Server 2013 and WebsitePanel has built from scratch with the following specialties:

1. Two CAS Roles (Exchange 2013, Windows Server 2012)

2. Two MBX Roles (Exchange 2013, Windows Server 2012)

3. DAG between the two MBX for database high availability

4. CAS Roles are configured with DNS round robin for high availability

5. A dedicated machine to install Website Panel tools (Windows Server 2012)

Let’s have a clear understanding on the tool before we start. There are 3 components: Website Panel Portal, Website Panel Enterprise Server, Website Panel Server

Website Panel Portal – The component publishes the tool to internet

Website Panel Enterprise Server – We need to have an SQL database to keep the data and the component is installed at the server which host the database.

Website Panel Server – This is to be installed on all the Exchange Servers. This works as an Agent

I have distributed the software in the following way:

In a Dedicated machine: Website Panel Portal and Website Panel Enterprise Server

Exchange Servers (two CAS and two MBX servers. I guess, we can limit this to CAS only): Website Panel Server

 

Pre-Requisites configuration for the Dedicated Server which hosts Portal and Enterprise Server

1. Run the following script from the Elevated prompt of Windows PowerShell

Install-WindowsFeature      Web-Server,NET-Framework-Core,NET-Framework-45-ASPNET,Web-Net-Ext,Web-Net-Ext45,Web-Asp-Net,Web-Asp-Net45,Web-ISAPI-Ext,Web-ISAPI-Filter,Web-Mgmt-Tools,Web-Mgmt-Console,Web-Mgmt-Compat,Web-Metabase,Web-Lgcy-Mgmt-Console,Web-Lgcy-Scripting,Web-WMI,Web-Scripting-Tools,Web-Mgmt-Service

2. Restart the server after completing the installation

3. Install SQL 2012 and SQL management Studio (SQLEXPR_x64_ENU, SQLManagementStudio_x64)

Download Link: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29062

Important Hints :

  • First install SQLEXPR_x64_ENU:
  • Choose “New SQL Server Stand-Alone Installation”
  • Choose Mixed Mode Authentication
  • Proceed with SQLManagementStudio_x64 installation:
  • Perform a New Installation of SQL Server 2012
  • Restart the server if necessary

How to Install Website Panel 2.1 on the dedicated Windows Server 2012

Now we are good to start the Website Panel components Installation

I have used the Beta – 2.1.0.236 WebsitePanel Installer msi from http://www.websitepanel.net/downloads/

Install the file downloaded to make it available as a Windows Server 2012 App like this

installerExecute the ‘WebsitePanel Installer’ app and start the installation. Click on ‘View Available Components to see the components:

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Remember that we need to have ‘WebsitePanel Portal’ and ‘WebsitePanel Enterprise Server’ to be installed on the stand alone server as we discussed above. Start with  ‘WebsitePanel Portal’

Pre-Requisites check:

2Configure the portal url as shown below. Substitute the internal domain name, IP address etc. as shown. Make sure that you have created the corresponding DNS entries too (For eg. wpanel.domain.com A record pointing to 10.0.10.26 in your DNS)

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Create an Active Directory account as shown. Here, I have created a name ‘WPPortal’

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In the next step, as the Enterprise server is going to be the same server leave the url as it is

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The steps are completed by creating an application pool creation as shown

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The next step is installation of ‘Enterprise Server’ installation on the same server:

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Website settings are as shown:

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Next step is creation of an Active Directory object as shown below:

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Databases settings are selected as shown below:

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The user login name for the first time login for the tool is ” . Set a password in the following window:

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Enterprise Server Pool has been created as shown:

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We have finished the installation and configuration of required components on the WebsitePanel Dedicated Server in our scenario.

Now we have to install ‘Website Panel Server’ component on all Exchange Client Access Servers

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Give Web Settings as below. Here we need to give the IP Address of the server with default port as 9003:

23Create the associated Active Directory account, WPServer as shown:

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Specify the password used for accessing the server from Enterprise Server Component:

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Setup has completed as shown below:

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Now we need to Check/Set some permissions on the Active Directory Accounts we created in previous steps:

a)Make Sure ‘WPServer’ account is a member of the groups: Administrators, Domain Admins, Organization Management, IIS_IUSRS

b)Also Make sure that – ‘WPServer’ account is a member of ‘Local Administrators’ group

Enable “Windows Authentication” For PowerShell virtual directory so that Website Panel Server will start service remote requests from Website panel Enterprise Server as below:

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The remaining settings has to be done on the ‘Website Panel Portal’. Notice that a shortcut is already appeared at the desktop of the dedicated machine as ‘Login to WebsitePanel’ . Open in browser and give the credentials as shown. Remember that the user name is ‘ServerAdmin’

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Now, go to the ‘Servers’ menu as shown:

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Click ‘Add Server’

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Enter the Server Name – A Friendly Name, Server URL – The Server URL you configured website panel Server, Enter the Server Password and click ‘Add Server’

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Next is to setup the server hosting properties:

Give the root domain name:

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Configure ‘Hosted Organization’ section and select ‘Exchange 2013’ service as below:

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Tips to fill other settings:

a)Enter PowerShell URL – Make Sure that you have entered HTTPS URL (Eg. https://127.0.0.1/powershell)

b)If Database Availability Group is available, fill the name too . If DAG is not configured, leave it as empty

c)Enter Public Folder Server if available

d)Enter OAB Generation Server

e)Leave the HUB Role

f)Add the Client Access server

g)For SMTP Server, choose the Exchange Server  IP

h)Enter Auto discover Details

Now we need to add the ‘Hosting Service’ as shown below:

Create an OU in Active Directory, with a meaningful name in which we are going to accommodate the hosted organizations.

4Enter the domain controller names as well as the OU created for hosting purposes

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Here we have finished the Configuration part

Now the system is ready to add a hosting plan for a Customer here:

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Create a hosting plan as shown below:

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Here we can configure the hosting space for the newly created ‘Test Plan’:

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I am adding the domain exchangeonline.in here:

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This will create an organization:

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We may see the available options here:

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Note: Before going to create a Mailbox, we need to have a Mailbox Plan in place. Thus create a mailbox plan first.

4Now we are set to create the first mailbox

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Have a nice experience with WebsitePanel

If you are looking for a nice GUI other than the Exchange EAC, we may install and configure websitepanel as an alternate too

Fell free to share your experiences, thoughts and of course the  difficulties during the experience with WebsitePanel