Many of you may be familiar with virtual private networks (VPNs) and their utility in protecting personal data and ensuring privacy while accessing the internet. A VPN allows you to create a secure connection between your laptop or mobile device and another computer or device, such as a remote server, which appears to be located in a different geographical location than your device. Your device then appears to be connected to this remote server, regardless of whether or not you are physically located near it. In this article, we will discuss the steps you can take to set up VPN access to a server using the Windows Server 2016 operating system.
First, Open up a New Virtual Private Network
In order to set up VPN access to a server, you will first need to open up a new VPN connection to the server. To do this, click on the Network icon (refer to the bottom-right corner of the screen) on the Windows desktop. This will open up the list of all your currently established network connections. Select the VPN connection that you wish to use to connect to the server, and then click Connect.
A new connection to the server will now be established, and you will be prompted for a username and password for the connection. You can then use this VPN connection to access resources on the server, just like any other.
Next, Configure DNS on the Server
DNS is short for “domain name server”, and is a tool that allows you to map domain names to IP addresses. It is often used to resolve internet domain names to their corresponding IP addresses. For instance, if you have a website that you access using the domain name “google.com”, then DNS will convert this to the IP address “220.127.116.11”. This is a public IP address that is associated with Google’s DNS servers.
You can use your own DNS servers, or you can choose to use Google’s free DNS service, which will speed up your internet browsing experience because it is optimized for most devices and services. To set up DNS on the server, you will need to visit the Server Manager (found in the Windows desktop, or by clicking on the Windows button, then selecting the gear icon, then choosing Server Manager from the dropdown menu).
In Server Manager, click on the Name Label (top-left corner of the window) to open up the DNS settings. You will see two sections; Server Address and DNS Servers.
The Server Address section will contain the IP address and subnet mask for the server you are configuring. The DNS Servers section will contain the IP addresses of the DNS servers you wish to use to resolve domain names to IP addresses.
You can use your own DNS servers or you can choose to use Google’s free DNS service. If you do not have your own DNS servers, you can purchase a domain name from a reputable company like Namecheap.com, then set up your own DNS servers using their free dedicated IP addresses.
Once you have set up your own DNS servers, you can use the following tutorial to add more Google DNS servers to your instance as a backup in case your existing servers are down or unreachable:
- Click on the IP address of the first DNS server you want to add
- Click on the Settings button (top-right corner of the window)
- Select the Name Servers tab
- Enter 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 into the text boxes
Configure Internet Firewall on the Server
The internet firewall serves as a defense against internet attacks, such as worms, viruses, and spyware. It also prevents your network resources from being accessed by people you do not want to give access to. To configure the internet firewall on the server, you will need to visit the Server Manager (found in the Windows desktop, or by clicking on the Windows button, then selecting the gear icon, then choosing Server Manager from the dropdown menu).
From the Server Manager, click on the Firewall button (top-left corner of the window). A firewall settings window will then open up, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Server Manager – Firewall Settings
The Firewall settings window allows you to specify the firewall mode and rules for the server. The mode of the firewall (either “Basic”, “Advanced”, or “Custom”) determines how it will operate. The rules specify what applications are allowed to pass through the firewall and which ones are denied. You can use these settings to control which programs can access the internet and which ones cannot. For example, you can use the firewall to restrict program access to specific websites, or you can use it to allow or deny programs based on their intended use.
The most common and recommended setting for a home server is “Advanced” mode and the default settings for both the firewall and the DNS servers. This will ensure that your server has the minimum required security settings to allow most internet-connected devices to access the internet, but it does not allow any unnecessary programs to do the same. Once you have set up the firewall and DNS on your server, you can use the following tutorial to test the connection:
- Click on the Start button (bottom-left corner of the screen)
- Type in ping in the search bar (top-right most corner of the screen)
- Select ping from the list
- Click on the Options button (bottom-middle of the screen)
- Select Network from the list
- Click on the Properties button (bottom-right corner of the screen)
- Make sure you are using the same DNS servers you setup earlier, if not, click on the Use button (bottom-middle of the screen)
- Type in 126.96.36.199 for IP (top-middle of the screen)
- Press Enter to confirm
- Type in PING in the search bar (top-right most corner of the screen)
- Click on the Options button (bottom-middle of the screen)
- Make sure you are using the same DNS servers you setup earlier
The information you need to connect to the server will now be displayed in the Network and Sharing Center (top-right corner of the screen). Select your VPN connection, and then click on the Properties button (bottom-middle of the screen). A new window will then open up, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Network and Sharing Center – VPN Properties
In the VPN properties window, you can specify the name of the server and the desired location for the IP address of the server. You can then click on the Save button (bottom-middle of the window) to save the new VPN connection to the Server.
Install and Configure Windows Defender on the Server
Windows Defender is a free application that provides antivirus (AV) protection to Windows users. The Windows Defender application is installed as part of Windows. However, you can remove it from your system if you do not require AV protection. To install Windows Defender on the server, you will first need to visit the Server Manager (found in the Windows desktop, or by clicking on the Windows button, then selecting the gear icon, then choosing Server Manager from the dropdown menu).
Once in the Server Manager, click on the File button (top-left corner of the window), then choose “Add Features to these Programs”. This will open up a list of all the installed software on the server. Select Windows Defender, then click on the Install button.
After the Windows Defender installation completes, you can access the application by entering “Windows Defender” in the search bar (top-right corner of the screen). You can also use the Start menu to open up the Windows Defender application, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Windows Defender – Main Menu
Windows Defender’s main menu (refer to Figure 3) allows you to adjust several settings and features for the application. You can enable or disable the application’s usage of cloud-based scanning for faster downloads and fewer crashes, as well as change the way the application handles file types and events (such as the loading of webpages).
Set Up the Database on the Server
A database is a structured collection of information that can be structured and searched. Examples of a database include Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL. If you have not already set up a database on the server, you can do so by following these steps: