How to Check Server Load on a Windows Server

Reading Time: 6 minutes

What Does Server Load Mean?

Checking a server’s load allows us to evaluate server resources and confirm they are sufficient for any running application. It enables us to troubleshoot slow performance and reliably pinpoint any server resource that may need attention.

While there are many tools and options available, today let’s focus on Windows Task Manager as a way to help us quickly see what is going on, and interact with applications, processes, and services to identify the load. This article will also include an introduction to Resource Monitor as it can be opened from Task Manager to provide more detail.

Continue reading “How to Check Server Load on a Windows Server”

Troubleshooting: Locked Out of RDP

Reading Time: 3 minutes

How Do I Get Back Into RDP?

You may be working from a local machine that has an IP that is not scoped on that RDP port, making it impossible for you to gain remote access to add the IP address to the RDP rule’s scope. Do not fret; there is a simple and quick way to add your IP to the RDP scoping (or any others entities such as MySQL or MSSQL) right through your Plesk interface in your local browser. You can watch this video, or scroll down for step-by-step directions.

For security purposes, it is always recommended that you scope off your Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection on your server. Putting a scope on the RDP rule in the Windows Firewall will allow only the indicated  IP addresses to gain access to the server through Remote Desktop Protocol. The issue is that many of us do not have static IP addresses, but rather Dynamic IP addresses. This means that while at one time our IP address may be 120.32.111.01, it may change to something like 95.42.121.01 later. So if you were to add 120.32.111.01 to the RDP firewall for a customer or a system administrator, then you may need to add another rule for a different IP address.

 

Adding Your IP in Plesk

Step 1: Log in to Plesk

First, we need to make sure we know how to get to that Plesk login page. By default, the Plesk login page is https://<YourServerIP>:8443. For example https://124.0.0.1:8443

We should arrive on a page with this in the center. Go ahead and type in Admin for the username and your password for Plesk. Usually, that password is set up by our team and is the default Server Administrator Password. Sometimes the username is Administrator, depending on a few variables. But one of the two user names should be fine.

Plesk login

Step 2: Tools & Settings

The first thing we need to do after we log into Plesk through the previous page is to navigate to the Firewall Rules. Go ahead and click on Tools & Settings. It will be located in the right sidebar near the bottom as shown below.

plesk tools and settings

Step 3: Firewall

Once we pull up Tools & Settings go ahead and click on our destination, Firewall. You will find that option under the Security section. It will be the second option, just under Security Policy.

firewall tools and settings

Step 4: Firewall Rules

After we are in the Firewall management, go ahead and click on Firewall Rules. This is where we will add the rule to allow a certain IP address to gain RDP access.

firewall management

Step 5: Add a Firewall Rule

Under Tools, after going into the Firewall Rules, we will see the option labeled Add Firewall Rule. Go ahead and click on that, bringing us to our next step.

firewall add rule

Step 6: Add Detail the the New Rule

This is the page that we see after clicking on Add Firewall Rule. It can seem to be complicated and intimidating for some beginner level System Administrators, but it is quite simple.

add a new firewall rule

firewall profiles

If you or your client are not sure what that IP address that needs RDP access is, Liquid Web has a great site to visit that will only display your IP address here.

Note:

Here is an example of what you will find at https://ip.liquidweb.com.

While this particular example IP will not be the one that the customer or the System Administrator will see, (when visited on the local machine) the page will display the IP address that needs to be added to the rule for this RDP session to connect. That will be the only information that will be displayed on this page. Simply copy that IP address and use it in the instructions below.
ip address

remote ip address

Once you enter the IP address into the text box under Remote addresses, you do need to click the ADD button before clicking on OK.

remote ip address example

As mentioned above, after clicking the ADD button while the IP address is entered into the Add an IP address or a network text box, it will be placed into the left text box. After that step, you will then be able to click OK to apply this rule to the firewall for the server.

Step 7: Connect to RDP

The individual at that IP address can now access the server via RDP. If you would like more information on how to use Remote Desktop Connection, you can find a help article explaining exactly how to do that here.

rdp connection login screen

Congratulations! You now know how to add an IP address to an RDP rule that will allow a user to connect if the RDP is scoped off to the public. This can be done many times. Although Plesk does not allow you to edit the rule, you will have to create a new one each time. But this shouldn’t cause any issues. Also, keep in mind that this method can be used for any port, including MySQL and MSSQL.

If you ever have any trouble with your Liquid Web server, feel free to contact us through our chats system, by submitting a ticket, or by calling 800-580-4985. We’d love to help!

How to Install VirtualBox on Ubuntu 16.04

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What is a VirtualBox?

This is handy when you need to run software that is only available on one Operating System, for example, if you wanted to run Windows software on your Ubuntu computer or vice versa. The only limitations are RAM and disk space for running each virtual machine. Continue reading “How to Install VirtualBox on Ubuntu 16.04”

Install SSL Certificates in a Windows Server

Reading Time: 4 minutes

About SSL

SSL Certificates secure the web today using Transport Layer Security (TLS). This is a network protocol which encrypts the data between the web server and the visitor. Most websites today are using SSL, and you can see this every time a website starts with https:// instead of http://. This indicates the website is securely encrypting data between you and the server so that no attackers can easily sniff the network packets and capture your logins.

SSL protects the web today and is utilized by almost every corporation and business and acts first step in user security. SSL is a way to protect logins and forms that you enter from being intercepted unknowingly by a 3rd party on your network.  If your website does not incorporate SSL, we suggest implementing it as soon as possible, and you can use our guide to do it!

 

Generating the Certificate Request (CSR)

Before ordering your SSL, you will need to create a certificate request for the certificate authority to issue an SSL.

Step 1: To begin, the first thing you need to do is open IIS. If you do not have a shortcut for it, you can search your computer for inetmgr.exe and open it that way. From here you will click on your server name:

open iis

Step 2: Then double-click “Server Certificates“.

create server certificateStep 3: Once you have done that, you are ready to create your certificate request.

On the right-hand side, select ‘Create Certificate Request

Create Certificate Request

At this point, you will be asked for information about the certificate and the company requesting the certificate.

information about the SSL certificate

Once you have filled this out, click Next.

It will bring you to the following screen:

cryptographic server provider properties

Step 4: We suggest using the settings above, making sure the Bit Length is set to 2048 or higher. We like to go with 4096 and click Next.  On the subsequent screen, you need to specify a filename where your Certificate Request or CSR can be exported. For simplicity, we would like to export the CSR to C:\example.com.csr.txt

 

Ordering the SSL

At this point, you are ready to order your SSL certificate!

Step 1: Go ahead and go to your chosen SSL provider, whether it be GlobalSign, Liquid Web, or any numerous other certificate authorities.

Step 2: When you are signing up for the SSL, it will ask you for the CSR data we saved at C:\example.com.csr.txt – Copy and paste the contents into the certificate authorities website and it will generate all the same fields we entered in the previous steps.

Step 3: Finish your order, and they will provide you with a .crt certificate file. Download this file and copy it to your web server. For simplicity, copy it to C:\example.com.cer

Great! Now you have created a certificate request and completed it with the certificate authority and have your new SSL certificate ready to be installed.

 

Installing the Certificate in IIS

Step 1: Open up IIS/inetmgr.exe and navigate to the server as we did in the beginning.

Step 2: Navigate to Server Certificates. Now, instead of selecting ‘Create Certificate Request’ you will select ‘Complete Certificate Request

Step 3: It will prompt you for the location of the new certificate, which we saved at C:\example.com.cer and to make things easier on ourselves later, we will name the friendly name example.com-01 so that we know this is the first SSL for this domain in case we want to renew it later.  Once you hit OK, you should see your certificate in the list of server certificates in IIS.

Great! Now you have generated the certificate request, completed it, and installed your certificate on your web server. Now you need to bind the certificate to your website.

 

Binding the SSL Certificate to a Website

Step 1: In IIS, browse to Sites > example.com (where you want the SSL certificate installed).

Step 2: Right-click on your site and select ‘Edit Bindings‘ or if you click on the site, you will see Bindings on the right-hand side.

This will open a window that looks like the following:

site binding for the ssl

Step 3: If you already have the https binding setup for your site, you will simply double-click on the https bindings and select the desired SSL certificate from the drop-down. If you haven’t created an https entry in your bindings already, click Add. On the right-hand side and you will see the following window:

add SSL site bindings

Step 4: First, set the Type to https so your website knows the request is for a secured URL.

You will want to set the IP Address as needed based on your host. In my case, All Unassigned.
Port should be automatically set to 443, if not, do so. (This is the port defined for secured communications.)

Step 5: Set the Host Name to example.com (your domain). In most cases, you will want to check Require Server Name Indication. In our case, we do not need it because this is the only certificate on this IP address. Select your SSL certificate from the drop-down!

Select OK and do it all again, this time instead of setting the hostname to example.com, you will want to set it to www.example.com. This is because we only set it up for requests from https://example.com, but https://www.example won’t register as secured until we add the second binding entry.

Note:
If you are setting up a wildcard SSL, you will want to add a third entry for *.example.com so that it can secure any subdomain of your website.

Testing Your New SSL

First, you will want to access your domain at https://example.com and https://www.example.com to see if there are any errors. An easy way to tell if the certificate is functioning properly is to input your domain into SSL Shopper. Try it with and without the “www” to confirm both work. If everything is working, you should see several green checks and no errors. The certificate expiration date will be at least one year from the day you ordered the SSL originally.

That’s it! You have successfully installed a brand new SSL for your website that works both with www and without it. Congratulations! Now you can follow these steps to secure all of your websites and applications.

Liquid Web makes it easy to purchase new SSLs. Simply log in to manage.liquidweb.com, clicking Add, and select SSL Certificate.  Here you can simply input the CSR you generated in Step 1, and it will order an SSL and give you back the certificate file needed to complete the installation.

If you have a Core-Managed Windows server at Liquid Web, we can help you through this process and diagnose any issues you may have run into. We also assist with SSL on Self-Managed if they buy the SSL from Liquid Web.

 

How Do I Set System Variable Path for Python on Windows?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Python is a powerful programming language that is scalable and uses code that is readable and clear for all types of projects. Python is also available across a number of operating systems, making it a popular choice for developers. If you are using Python on your Windows operating system, you may need to adjust your System Environment Variables to simplify utilizing Python on your server.

The latest installers for Python for Windows can set the System Environment Variable Path automatically if you choose that option during the installation. To verify if this setting is correct, open an administrative command prompt (right-click on the command prompt and choose “run as administrator”) and type the word python, then press Enter. If the System Variable Path is correctly set, you should receive output similar to what is shown below.

python output screen

Note:
Python software installation is considered Beyond Scope Support. This means it is not covered under our managed support, but we will do what we reasonably can to assist. It may take longer for us to assist as the SLA for Beyond Scope Support is different than our managed services. Find out more in our article What Is Beyond Scope Support?

If you receive an error indicating that the command is unknown, but you’ve confirmed that Python is installed and can be launched from its directory, you will probably need to add the Python variables to the System Environment Variables. By following these quick steps, you’ll be able to access Python from any command prompt.

  1. From the server desktop, click the Windows icon and search for “Environment Variables”. Press Enter to launch the System Properties dialog.
    system variables launch link
  2. This will open the System Properties dialog. Click Environment Variables to make the necessary changes.
    system properties screenshot
  3. Create a new User Variable named: Path and Variable value: C:\Users\*yourusername*\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python37 (change the variable value to match your actual installation path).
    new path link highlighted
  4. Next, find the System variable called Path and click Edit.

    system variables screen, edit button highlighted

  5. Create a New entry that matches the Path variable that you created. Add \Scripts to the end of the entry (the new entry should look like C:\Users\*yourusername*\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python37\Scripts\
    edit system variable path screenshot
  6. You can verify that you have completed this successfully by opening a new administrative command prompt from any location and typing “python” (without the quotes). You should receive a response similar to what is shown above.

Troubleshooting Microsoft SQL Server Error 18456, Login failed for user

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Login errors with Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL) are a fairly common issue and can be easily solved with some basic troubleshooting steps. Before we dig in, let’s take a look at the details of the error to try and determine the cause.

connect to server error

Solutions to Microsoft SQL Server Error 18456

Sometimes, the error presents as “login failed for user ‘<username>’,” this information will help us as we identify the user we need to troubleshoot. From the message, we’ll know the error number as a reference to search for next steps. In this case, it is Microsoft SQL Server, Error: 18456.

Other times, we may only see “Microsoft SQL Server Error 18456” along with the severity and state number. On its own, a state number might not mean much, yet it can offer more details as to what is wrong and where to look next.

These states of the error, 18456, are the most common. The descriptions and potential solutions offer a quick explanation and potential troubleshooting guide.

mssql errors and potential solutions

Step 1:  Log In with Remote Desktop

The troubleshooting and solutions require you to login to the server or at least be able to make a Windows Authentication connection to MSSQL using Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio. The most common and easiest method is to connect directly to the server with a Remote Desktop Connection. If you need more information about Remote Desktop Connection, these Knowledge Base articles will help you get connected:

Step 2: Run Microsoft SQL Server Management

Once you are logged into the server, you’ll want to run Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). SSMS is the tool best suited to configure, manage, and administer MSSQL.

mssql server management

When you start SSMS, you will be asked to log in to the server. By default, most MSSQL servers have Windows Authentication enabled, meaning you must log in with the Windows Administrator or the account specified as the SQL Administrator when MSSQL was installed and configured.

connect to mssql server

In addition to Windows Authentication, MSSQL supports SQL Server Authentication. Depending on the version of MSSQL and how it was installed and configured, you may or may not have SQL Server Authentication enabled by default.

Step 3: Checking the Server Authentication Mode

Once we login to SSMS using Windows Authentication, we need to check the security settings to confirm whether MSSQL is set up to allow both Windows and SQL Authentication.

In SSMS, right-click the Server Name at the top of the Object Explorer window and choose Properties.

Next, click the Security page.

mssql security properties

If you find Windows Authentication is the only mode configured, this is the likely cause of Error 18456, Login failed for user ‘<username>’.

Setting the Server authentication mode to allow SQL Server and Windows Authentication, you will be able to login to MS-SQL with a SQL user and password or a Windows user and password. After making this change, you will need to restart the SQL Server service.

 

Step 4: Restart the SQL Service

In SSMS, right-click the Server Name at the top of the Object Explorer window and choose Restart to apply the new authentication mode settings.  

In the above example, Windows Authentication mode was the only mode configured, and the Error 18456 occurred because the user ‘sa’ is a SQL user and SQL Server Authentication was not permitted.

 

Step 5: Checking SQL User Permissions

As we check the SQL user permissions, we need to answer the following questions:

  • Is the user allowed to log in?
  • Does the user have a valid password set up?
  • Does the user have the needed permissions for access to the desired database?

In SSMS Object Explorer, expand Security, Logins. Locate the user that was failing to log in. A red x on the user indicates this user has login disabled.

smss login properties

To allow the user to login, right-click the user and choose Properties, then click the Status page. Enabling login for the user and click OK.

enable login user properties

After refreshing the list user logins, we can confirm the user no longer has a red x present. This should allow the user to log in. In this example, the SQL user ‘sa’ failed to log in because there was no permission to log in. 

Continuing with user troubleshooting, right-click the user and choose Properties, then click the General page. Here you can enter a new password and then enter the confirmation password. Click OK to save the new password. We set a new password for the user so that we are certain of the password when we attempt to log in.

sa login user properties

Step 6: Mapping the User to the Database

Our last step in troubleshooting a user is to check user mapping to verify the user has access to the desired database and to set or verify their role for the database. Right-click the user and choose Properties, then click the User Mapping page. Select the Database from the list of databases. From the database role memberships, select the desired/required memberships. Click OK.

map user to mssql database

In this example, we mapped the user ‘ProdX709’ to the database Production X709.2019 and granted them database role db_owner. In many cases, you only need a user to have db_datareader and db_datawriter roles to be able to read and write to the database.

 

In this troubleshooting article, we learned how to identify specifics of Error 18456 to help us track down the root cause of the issue. Still looking for support?  Our MSSQL database solutions come with assistance from our technical support team. Find out how our high-availability database can work for you!

Windows Firewall Basics

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A firewall is a program installed on your computer or a piece of hardware that uses a rule set to block or allow access to a computer, server or network. It separates your internal network from the external network (the Internet).

Firewalls can permit traffic to be routed through a specific port to a program or destination while blocking other malicious traffic. A firewall can be a hardware, software, or a blending of both.

Continue reading “Windows Firewall Basics”

Plesk to Plesk Migration

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Migrating from one Plesk installation to another is easy with the Plesk Migrator Tool! The Plesk team has done a great job creating an easy to use interface for migrating entire installations of Plesk to a new server.

If you need to move files, users, subscriptions, FTP accounts, mail and DNS servers setup through Plesk, this guide will help you successfully navigate the process and come out victorious!

We will be splitting this tutorial into three sections:

Continue reading “Plesk to Plesk Migration”

How to Install Python on Windows

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Python is a popular programming language for developing applications. The Python design philosophy emphasizes code readability and focuses on clear programming for both small and large-scale projects. Python allows you to run modules and full applications from a large library of resources (or even applications you write yourself) on your server. Python works on a number of popular operating systems, including Windows Server OS.

Continue reading “How to Install Python on Windows”

Remote Desktop Users Group

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The most common way to remotely manage a Windows server is through Remote Desktop Protocol. By default, Liquid Web’s Windows servers only allow the members of the administrators’ group remote desktop access. However, the Remote Desktop Users group grants its members access to securely connect to the server through RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) as well.

This article will go over the basics of the Remote Desktop Users group. By the end, you will be able to add users to the group, understand permissions, and basic user management.

 

Pre-flight

The information below covers methods to configure the Remote Desktop Users group for Windows Server 2012 through Windows Server 2016 on any Liquid Web Windows server. As a valued customer, if you do not feel comfortable performing these steps independently, please contact our support team for additional assistance. Liquid Web support is happy to walk you through the steps and answer any questions you may have.

 

Managing Local Users and Groups

Users and groups on Windows servers are managed in a number of different ways, but the most user-friendly way is through the Local Users and Groups interface. There are several ways to open the interface. However,  the easiest is to run “lusrmgr.msc”. Lusrmgr.msc can be launched by searching the start menu, command line, or through a run dialog. These methods allow you to find users and groups easily.

Note
To manage local users and groups, you will need to be logged in with a user that has the proper permissions to do so. This is most commonly a user that is already a member of the Administrators group.
Within a windows server type in lusrmgr.msc into the search bar to locate Users where you can find existing users and groups.

 

User Management

Once you open the Local Users and Groups interface, you will see two folders on the left, one for Users, and one for Groups. By selecting Users, you will see a full list of local users on the server. You can also see a variety of related tasks by right-clicking Users, Groups, a user’s name, or a blank area of the middle pane.

There are several ways to add a new user through the Local Users and Groups interface. These methods all result in the same “New User” dialog box opening where you can then configure a Username, Password, and other options. Choose one of the options below to create a new user:

  • With the Users folder selected in the left pane, click the Action menu, then select “New User…”.
  • With the Users folder selected in the left pane, click “More Actions” from the right- hand pane, then select “New User…”.
  • Right-click the Users folder, then select “New User…”.
  • With the Users folder selected in the left pane, right-click in a blank area of the middle page, then select “New User…”.

Once you have created a new user, or have identified the username of the existing user, you are ready to assign that user to a Group. Users assigned to a group are known as group members.

 

Group Management

As with user management, group management can also be performed in several ways. The options below cover several of the most common ways to assign a new member to the Remote Desktop Users group:

  • Select the Users folder from the left pane of the Local Users and Groups interface, open the Users Properties window by double-clicking the user, select the “Member Of” tab, then click “Add…”. Now type “Remote Desktop Users” in the text box and click OK.
  • Select the Groups folder from the left pane of the Local Users and Groups interface, double-click the “Remote Desktop Users” group, click “Add…”, enter the user’s name in the text box and click OK.
  • Open the system settings by right-clicking the start menu and selecting “System”, choose “Advanced system settings”, select the “Remote” tab, click the “Select Users…” button then click the “Add” button. Now enter the user’s name in the text box and click OK.
  • Open the “Server Manager”, select “Local Server” from the left pane, click the blue text next to “Computer Name”, select the “Remote” tab, click the “Select Users…” button then click the “Add” button. Now enter the user’s name in the text box and click OK.
    Note
    When selecting users or groups, it is recommended to click the “Check Names” button after typing in the user or group name. If the name is underlined after clicking the “Check Names” button, then the name was identified correctly.

You can also use the “Advanced…” button when selecting users or groups instead of typing its name. Clicking the “Advanced…” button followed by the “Find Now” button will result in a list of users to select.In a windows server, by right-clicking the User folder you can do a variety of tasks like adding a new user.

 

Notes on Permissions & Security

By default, there are no members of the Remote Desktop Users group and only members of the Administrators group are allowed to connect through RDP. Members added to the Remote Desktop Users group are considered non-Administrative users. These users will be unable to perform most management tasks such as installing software, managing IIS, or rebooting the server.

If a user requires management abilities, the user will need explicit access to that task or will need to be a member of the Administrators. Please use the best practice of “least privilege” when configuring your users, groups, and permissions.

 

Test/Verify Group Membership

When configuring new user and group memberships, you should always review group membership once complete.  Reviewing group membership is most commonly performed through the Local Users and Groups interface. In addition to verifying membership, we also recommend attempting a remote desktop connection with your newest Remote Desktop Users group member. If you are unable to connect with your user, please see our Remote Desktop Troubleshooting article.

Once you have logged in with your newest member of the Remote Desktop Users group, you can further verify that groups are set up correctly by running the command “whoami /groups” from a command line. The output of this command lists the username and its associated Group names.