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I'm not a network admin at all.

We are putting together a small development shop. We need access to a server running Active Directory, SQL Server, Exchange, and Sharepoint.

We have decided to host this server at a hosting company insead of putting it in house.

Our question is, will we be able to connect to this server as if it was in house? When we log into our laptops, we would like to have the option of logging into this development network - will this work?

Thanks!

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Thanks for the answers. I think we can do this with the host, I'll have to ask. We don't have an internal AD set up (since we all work remotely). So this would be the only AD that we would be connecting with. Thanks! –  user17683 Aug 21 '09 at 2:18
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4 Answers

You could, if you setup a VPN between the two locations or otherwise configure it in such a way that that is possible.

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Unless you have a really good reason for it, the external hosting of this server is not a good idea. If you only have this one server, use Microsoft Small Business Server, it does all the things you listed on one box. There used to be a high-end version, which also includes SQL Server. And if you host it in-house, the login is automatic (if your developers are members of the domain controlled by the SBS).

If you are concerned about getting connected to it from the outside, there are numerous affordable VPN devices available that can make this happen very easily.

If you have good reasons for hosting it externally, maybe you could post them here, so we could see what can be done about them.

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In Denmark, where I am, there are several B2B oriented vendors who offer hosted AD, Exchange 2007 and more on their premises, with a fiber + VPN to the customer premises. The main benefit is that it's purchased as a service with a recurring subscription fee, rather than a one-time large capital outlay. Second benefit is that OS patching, setting up proper MX records, spamfiltering, antivirus etc is taken care of by professionals at the hosting provider. I've worked on such as setup, and it was good. –  Jesper Mortensen Aug 21 '09 at 10:13
    
I usually prefer the capital outlay, as it shows as an asset on the balance sheet, whereas your subscription is just an expense. I can see the benefit of having professionals managing everything for you, which may work well in an environment that isn't big enough to warrant a dedicated IT person. However, if your internet connection goes down, or your VPN plays up, your developers won't be able to work at all. Plus, you depend entirely on the hosting company for any changes you need. This is really down to choice. Your decision! –  wolfgangsz Aug 21 '09 at 10:53
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You can only be a member of one Active Directory domain at a time. So your laptops will either need to be joined to your internal AD domain or the external AD domain. You can logon to the server itself via Remote Desktop Connection.

What you'll probably want to do is make your laptops members of the internal domain and setup virtual machines on your laptops that are members of the external AD domain. This assumes that your hosting company has a VPN setup that allows the network ports necessary for logging on to AD through to the server. I would imagine they will allow this, but you'd have to check with them to be sure.

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I'm interested in why not hosting it in-house? Unless you want to connect to it from out of the office, I don't see any compelling reason.

Anyway, seems tailor-made for SBS or whatever it's called these days.

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