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Windows Small Business Server 2011 : Understanding the Update Process (part 1) - Understanding the WSUS Default Settings, Installing Server Updates Manually

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7/17/2013 7:59:28 PM

All the current Windows operating systems include a Windows Update client, which you can configure to connect to the Microsoft Update servers on the Internet at regular intervals, download the latest operating system updates, and install them, all without user intervention. However, in a network environment, Windows Update has several limitations in its default configuration, including the following:

  • Client configuration In a network environment, configuring and activating the Windows Update client on each individual computer is a time- and labor-intensive task. The larger the network, the longer and more difficult the task.

  • Bandwidth utilization When each computer on the network performs its own separate downloads from the Microsoft Update servers, as shown in Figure 1, your Internet connection can become saturated with multiple downloads of the same files. This can consume a great deal of bandwidth and slow down other processes, especially when large updates, such as service packs, are involved.

    Individual Windows Update clients downloading updates from the Internet.

    Figure 1. Individual Windows Update clients downloading updates from the Internet.

  • Update evaluation You can configure the Windows Update client to download updates and wait for a user to install them, but the decision of whether to install a specific update is then out of the hands of the network administrator. In this default configuration, the only way to regain control would be to travel to each computer and manually install the updates.

Fortunately, Windows SBS 2011 includes tools that address all these problems.

1. Windows Server Update Services

Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) is a Windows Server 2008 R2 role that enables network administrators to deploy what is essentially a Microsoft Update server on their local networks. WSUS downloads all the latest updates from the Microsoft Update servers on the Internet, and then the clients on the network download their updates from the WSUS server.

To use WSUS with Windows Server 2008, an administrator must download the WSUS product, install it on a server, configure it to download updates, approve the updates for deployment, and configure the clients on the network to use WSUS. Beginning with the Windows Server 2008 R2 release, WSUS is incorporated into the operating system as a role. In Windows SBS 2011, the setup program performs all the installation and configuration tasks automatically. Your Windows SBS server then becomes a WSUS server, in addition to performing its other roles.

Note

Windows SBS 2011 uses the simplest possible WSUS architecture, which consists of a single WSUS server that provides updates for all the network clients. However, it is also possible to create more complex WSUS installations for larger networks, in which one WSUS server functions as the source for other WSUS servers.

When you use WSUS to deploy updates, instead of each computer downloading the same files from the Internet independently, only the WSUS server uses the Internet connection, as shown in Figure 2. The WSUS server downloads a copy of each selected update and saves it in a local data store, making it available for access by all the computers on the network. Because the WSUS server has to download only one copy of each update, the amount of Internet bandwidth consumed by the update process is reduced drastically. WSUS also provides administrators with the opportunity to research, evaluate, and test updates before deploying them to the network clients.

WSUS downloading a single copy of each update and distributing it to the network.

Figure 2. WSUS downloading a single copy of each update and distributing it to the network.

By incorporating WSUS into its default installation, Windows SBS 2011 completes many of the configuration tasks that Windows Server 2008 R2 administrators must perform manually. When the Windows SBS installation is finished, the WSUS server is ready to download a catalog of updates from the Internet, a process called synchronization. WSUS then automatically approves certain updates for distribution, downloads them, and prepares to deploy them to the clients on the network. You can also modify the default behavior of WSUS using the Windows SBS Console or the Update Services snap-in for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). For example, If you want to evaluate or test updates before deploying them, you can configure WSUS to perform the downloads and store them until an administrator approves them for distribution.

2. Group Policy and Windows Update

WSUS addresses the problems of bandwidth utilization and update evaluation, but not the client configuration problem. WSUS provides a service that clients can use, but it does not configure the clients to use it. To do this, Windows SBS 2011 uses Group Policy settings to configure the Windows Update client on network workstations.

Note

During the server installation, the Windows SBS 2011 setup program creates three Update Services Group Policy objects (GPOs). These GPOs contain settings that configure the Windows Update clients on all the network’s servers and workstations to request updates from the WSUS server instead of from the Microsoft Update servers on the Internet.

3. Understanding the WSUS Default Settings

WSUS is essentially a web application that uses a Microsoft SQL Server database to store information about the updates that it downloads from the Internet. The Windows SBS 2011 setup program creates a website for WSUS and installs the Windows Internal Database feature, which is a limited version of SQL Server included with Windows Server 2008 R2. Clients connect to the server using a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) specified in their Group Policy settings and download all the updates that are approved for their use.

WSUS is a highly configurable application. When you deploy WSUS on a server running Windows Server 2008 R2, you have to install a role and then install the Windows Server Update Services Configuration Wizard. These two procedures enable you to configure a variety of parameters, including what database to use, where to store the update files, what products and operating systems to update, and when to synchronize with the Microsoft Update servers.

Note

Prior to Windows Server 2008 R2, WSUS was a standalone free product that you had to obtain from the Microsoft Download Center and install manually. The standalone version, now known as WSUS 3.0 SP2, is still available for download.

Windows SBS 2011 configures all these options for you, though. Once the installation is completed, the server automatically synchronizes with the Microsoft Update servers, approves new updates, and deploys them to clients. You can reconfigure WSUS to conform to your organization’s timetable and other needs, but first you must become familiar with the application’s default settings:

  • Synchronization The setup program configures WSUS to synchronize with the Microsoft Update servers daily at 10 P.M.

  • Products By default, WSUS synchronizes updates for all the products that it supports, including server and workstation operating systems; server applications, such as Microsoft Exchange Server and SQL Server; and productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office.

  • Classifications WSUS synchronizes, by default, all critical updates, definition updates, security updates, service packs, and update rollups. It does not synchronize drivers; feature packs; tools; or noncritical, nonsecurity updates.

  • Languages WSUS synchronizes only updates in the language that you specified when installing Windows SBS 2011.

  • Approvals By default, WSUS automatically approves all security, critical, and definition updates for servers. For clients, WSUS approves all security, critical, and definition updates, plus service packs.

  • Storage WSUS downloads only the approved updates and stores them, in CAB format, in the C:\WSUS\WsusContent folder by default.

  • Server updates Servers download the latest updates from the WSUS server and inform the administrator that they are ready to install. An administrator must install them manually using the Windows Update Control panel.

  • Client updates Clients connect to the WSUS server and download the latest updates for their respective operating systems, and then install them automatically each day at 3 A.M. If necessary, the Windows Update client restarts the computer when the update installations finish.

There is almost nothing you have to do to use WSUS in its default configuration. The server synchronizes itself, approves the most important updates, and downloads them. As you add clients to the network, they receive the Group Policy settings from the server that configures their Windows Update clients, causing the computers to download and install new updates as they become available.

4. Installing Server Updates Manually

The main WSUS-related task that administrators have to perform on a regular basis is to install updates on the servers manually. By default, servers receive Group Policy settings that configure the Windows Update client to download updates from the WSUS server, but not to install them. There are several reasons for this arrangement.

The servers in a Windows SBS 2011 installation are critical to the operation of the network, and administrators should exercise more care in the maintenance of servers than they do with the maintenance of workstations. Although Microsoft tests updates before releasing them to the public, updates still can cause problems. Windows SBS 2011 administrators should evaluate each update intended for the servers by reading the documentation associated with it and then deciding whether to install it. You might also want to test an update on another computer before installing it on your production server or wait to see if other users experience any issues.

Another important factor is that many updates require a system restart before they take effect. The default Windows Update configuration permits client workstations to restart themselves if an update requires it. However, this action is not recommended for a server, which might be in the middle of a system backup or other important operation. WSUS therefore requires administrators to install manually any updates that WSUS supplies to them using the following procedure:

  1. Log on to a Windows SBS 2011 server, using an account with network Administrator privileges.

  2. Click Start, then click Control panel. The Control Panel window appears.

  3. Click System security and then click Windows UPDATE. The Windows Update Control panel appears.

    image with no caption
  4. In the Install updates for your computer box, click the hyperlink specifying the number of updates available for your computer. The Select Updates To Install window appears.

    image with no caption
  5. Clear the check boxes for the updates that you do not want to install. Then click OK. The Windows Update window reappears.

  6. Click Install updates. The Control panel displays the progress as the system installs the updates.

    When the installation is finished, the Windows Update window indicates the outcome of the installation and specifies which updates failed to install, if any.

    image with no caption
  7. Click Restart now if the system prompts you to do so. The server restarts.

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