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We are exploring the use of a Windows Server 2008 micro instance running on Amazon EC2 for a Apache+MySQL+PHP development web server that we could could administer for our client to allow their graphic designer to change and test her CSS designs using themes for the WordPress-based CMS software we've developed for them, and to allow our client to commit to our Mercurial-based repositories at bitbucket.org.

We've ruled out setting up local web stacks on their Windows computers because the client doesn't want that; they worry it would slow their machines down and/or cause software conflicts, and if they have problems it's harder for us to resolve them.

We've ruled out using a Linux server for their development system (we of course do use Linux for our testing, staging and deployment systems) because they are not even close to being comfortable with the Linux command line.

So we've like to set up a Windows server in the cloud that they can administer using RDP and where they can also map a drive directly to the Windows server in the cloud. This would let their designer treat the server like a local hard disk just like she does when she builds CSS+HTML mockups and point the browser to the HTTP server on the web and refresh the page to see her changes. This would also allow them to push and pull to and from our Mercurial repository from the Windows server or possible even from their local computer using the file system connection.

I've managed to mostly get a proof-of-concept working but my stumbling block is figuring out how to get a desktop machine to map to a drive on the Windows 2008 server in the cloud; that's my question. What is driving this are issues we are having with the client not updating Mercurial repositories and/or the client making changes on our test server while we are testing and/or expecting us to manage their changed files manually.

If it helps you know how to answer better: I'm a strong web & database developer but a moderate sysadmin at best. I have 15+ years experience on backend Windows systems then 2+ recent years on a Mac where I've forgotten most of what I knew about Windows, and probably 5 recent years working with hosted websites running on Linux. Thanks in advance.

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4 Answers 4

Create a PPTP VPN connection between the Server and workstation. Then you can have the workstation map the shared drive from the server. Don't forget to allow pptp passthrough on your routers.

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Running a VPN server on the Windows Server instance is likely what you need to allow your clients to access the shared drive. Depending on the security needs of the content, a PPTP VPN is the easiest to setup and least secure, L2TP/IPSec is more secure but more complex and SSTP is the newest technology which works on SSL so its easier to deploy (or so i've heard).

Once you have your VPN server up and running and are able to connect, you should be able to access the files on the server by running \\Server_name\Share_name. This method can also be used to mount the share as a network drive which will only be accessible while connected to the VPN.

One other thing I would mention since you're using AWS, make sure your VPN is not configured to route all traffic. If you do, they won't be able to see their local servers and all their internet traffic will be routed across your AWS instance.

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Thanks for the comment. For my use-case, we addressed the situation by training the designer to use version control (a long time ago!) –  MikeSchinkel Jun 21 at 0:47

Take this with a grain of salt, but I feel like Dropbox or Onedrive could be a suitable solution.

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I don't know if this would work for you, but I did it a few times in the past through FTP. There are several tools that allows you to map a FTP remote foder as a local drive.

I used to use NetDrive ( http://www.netdrive.net/ ). It supports ftp and webdav.

I didn't use windows for the past couple of years, but it seems that you don't even need a tool now: http://cybernetnews.com/cybernotes-map-a-ftp-to-a-drive-in-windows/

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thanks for the answer. Yeah, we can probably use a variety of indirect methods but I'm hoping to find a direct method using functionality built into Windows as I think it has got to be available. –  MikeSchinkel Jan 24 '12 at 5:17

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