How to map the network drive across the internets?
December 6, 2007 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Terminal services? Do what with the who now? Help me set up a terminal services server on an XP Pro box.

Hi...I googled the heck out of this and couldn't come up with anything that really helped. I apologize for my ignorance.

I've got an XP Pro SP2 machine here with a database that lives on it. (It's an access database) I need other people NOT on the local network to have access to that database, so that their local installs can connect to it.

I am NOT looking for a VNC type thing---I want people to be able to map the drive to their install elsewhere in the world. I do NOT want the user to take over the screen of this computer---merely to pull data from the database.

Recap: Master install here, single location of true data file on this computer. Other, client installs exist elsewhere that need to connect to this master file.

I don't even know if terminal services is (are?) the answer. Help! Thanks.
posted by TomMelee to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think terminal services is what you want, that's basically the same as VNC.

It sounds like you want to setup a VPN. This will allow other computers over the internet to join your local network. Then you can securely share the drive with the normal Windows drive sharing options.

Someone wanting to do the same thing also recently asked this.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:04 AM on December 6, 2007

What you are describing would require a VPN, but using a shared access database over a VPN is likely to be miserable.

The best experience, short of rearchitecting to either client-server or webUI, would likely be a Remote desktop/ terminal services arrangement to the machine that either hosts the db, or is on the local network with the machine that hosts the db. This requires windows server to support multiple simutaneous users.
posted by Good Brain at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2007

do you want to just setup a share? And setup local users on your box that allow them to access the share?
posted by indigo4963 at 10:08 AM on December 6, 2007

If this is over public internet I think you are out of luck. If its on a private network you could just share the drive/folder where the db is located and then have users map the share as a drive on their end and point the app that needs the db to that mapped drive.
posted by zennoshinjou at 10:22 AM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: It's over the public internet. I've got a static IP, so need to bother with dynamic name hosting or anything. I think that VPN is the right direction, I've just got to go about setting it up so that the other computers can map the drive.

The piece of software in question IS an MS access database, but it's proprietary and specific. It's intended to be accessed by multiple users, and really there should be no reason for more than 1 or 2 people to be in it at once. It's basically agency-wide contacts and account management.

The real issue at hand here is getting NON-locally networked computers to behave as though they WERE locally networked. I've got no problem running this via my local connection, but that doesn't do the agency a whole lot of good.
posted by TomMelee at 10:55 AM on December 6, 2007

VPN is your best bet then with the sharing scenario i mentioned.
posted by zennoshinjou at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2007

OpenVPN is a free option. There Windows builds. I generally run the OpenVPN server on Linux, but I've done at least one OpenVPN Windows server. The static IP helps but isn't necessary (with dyndns, et. al.) but you'll need to punch a hole in your firewall, typically 1194/UDP.

The OpenVPN server can be set as a WINS server, I believe, so clients can do the Windows Explorer browsing thing.

Note that, depending on your upstream connection, performance may suck.
posted by chengjih at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2007

Why dont u download a free RDBMS and just serve the data. Lot of trouble and hassle averted.
posted by mphuie at 11:39 AM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks! I'll take more time to look @ this later on, it's currently about 50 degrees in my building. Huzzah!
posted by TomMelee at 11:41 AM on December 6, 2007

Seconding Good Brain. It will be the computer version of hell on earth. Don't do it. If you must access the database remotely, TS/RDP is the way to go.

I made an attempt to support this for a friend. Never again.
posted by cdmwebs at 12:06 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Please bear with me, as I have no idea what you are talking about. I'm halfway through an OpenDNS tutorial and my brain just fizzled a little. Going to walk away from it and come back later. I got clients and keys, and the server key, getting stuck on setting up the server config file.
posted by TomMelee at 12:49 PM on December 6, 2007

The real issue at hand here is getting NON-locally networked computers to behave as though they WERE locally networked. I've got no problem running this via my local connection, but that doesn't do the agency a whole lot of good.

This is precisely what a VPN does.

VPNs are a lot easier to set up these days than they have been in the past, but they aren't exactly a barrel of monkeys to set up on either the client or server, particularly if you don't already have a hardware solution that can handle VPN connections.

I hate to drift in the direction of not answering your question, or give you responses that assume you have any sort of control over what system you use, but really, this sort of usage is best served by a CRM (customer relationship management) application. There are a number of free and commercial solutions available, some of which could probably be set up and filled with data in the time it would take you to get your VPN working. If you're not authorized to make this sort of change, it may be worth your while to ask someone higher up if it is possible. VPN access to a database file that lives in a directory share is the type of thing IT and developer nightmares are made of.
posted by fishfucker at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2007

If you must, Hamachi is great for easy to setup VPN.
posted by mphuie at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2007

Yeah, seconding Hamachi. It's purpose-built for this stuff.
posted by SlyBevel at 3:47 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all. I appreciate the advice. I'm a fairly savvy guy---I can understand and parse php and c pretty well, but this is just something I've never had to do.

Also, I appreciate the suggestion of a CRM---which is effectively what this is, only NOT with a web-style gui. It's a custom application that handles contacts (donors, participants, volunteers), finances (including mortgages and delinquency), volunteer hour tracking, and lots of good stuff. It's purpose built specifically for our industry, and they'll provide me with some assistance, I just don't feel like waiting on them.

I'm going to continue to wrestle with this, partially because I want to know the easiest out-of-the-box way to make it work for other affiliates, and then assist them with it.

posted by TomMelee at 7:09 PM on December 6, 2007

Third vote for Hamachi. It is extremely easy to setup and the last time I spoke about it with a networking expert, he indicated that it creates a surprisingly secure VPN.
posted by wabashbdw at 6:40 AM on December 7, 2007

The security and ease of use of Hamachi is a red herring.

My point in recommending against a VPN is not the difficulty in setting one up. It isn't that bad, and it's really a one-time cost. It isn't the security either. The problem is that the latency involved in using a file-share based shared DB over VPN on the public internet means that performance is likely to suck.

Given what you've said, it really sounds like running this over remote desktop (with or without using a VPN for the security) is going to be your best bet. The downside is that allowing more than one client to connect at once isn't supported on XP, you'll need a version of windows server. You might look into seeing if there is a hosted option that is practical for you. We are using an old VB data entry app on a cheap semi-managed windows server and paying something like $10/month for extra term services licenses. The app would probably work pretty well over VPN because it uses a SQL server back end, rather than Access, but its a lot easier to support this way (no software to install and configure remotely, beyond remote desktop, no worrying about Mac users since there is a good mac remote desktop client).
posted by Good Brain at 2:32 PM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone---I really mean it. I still haven't finished this yet---10 zillion other issues at hand today. I'm not too concerned with performance, one of the 4 people with access will literally never log in more than once a week on average, and the rest far less---and two of the 4 are on the local LAN. We're all on some pretty fast connections too---but I'll have to see how it works out in the end. Again---THANKS to everyone for all the advice and suggestions!
posted by TomMelee at 4:03 PM on December 7, 2007

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