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Windows Update (part 3) - Windows Server Update Services Server (WSUS)

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3/13/2011 10:12:21 PM

Windows Server Update Services Server (WSUS)

In a corporate environment, with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of client computers, administrators need more control over the updating system. Microsoft provides, free of charge, the Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server. At the time of this writing, the latest version of WSUS was version 3.0.

This service allows an administrator to download all updates to a corporate WSUS server, so only one copy of each update must be downloaded for the company, not a copy for each client. After the updates are downloaded, the administrators can test each one to avoid hardware and software conflicts and then can approve the update for distribution to the client computers. The distribution of updates to the client can be fine-tuned by organizing the computers into groups, based on hardware, software, or any other consideration, like security level. Different updates can be approved for different computer groups. The WSUS service also monitors the delivered updates and logs, which computers successfully received and installed which updates.

Clients are then configured to download their updates from their local intranet WSUS server. This minimizes bandwidth consumption by downloading updates once to the WSUS server, instead of downloading a copy of every update for every client.

Another tool to aid this process in the corporate environment is Active Directory and the powerful GPO. The client’s updated system can be completely configured by GPO. This overrules any settings that may have been configured on the client computer, and it disables any further local configuration of the update system.

Alert

Some of the more important client settings that can be configured by GPO for the WSUS systems are as follows:

  • Enable automatic updating, with options for various levels of automatic updates, as shown in Figure 4

    Figure 4. In an Active Directory environment, you configure how much of the client update process is automated in a Group Policy Object (GPO), as well as set the installation time.

  • When to install the updates, as shown in Figure 4

  • Which intranet WSUS server to pull downloads from, as shown in Figure 5 (intranet update service for detecting updates)

    Figure 5. In an Active Directory environment, for automatic updates to succeed, you must identify both the intranet update services server and the intranet statistics server.

  • Which intranet WSUS server to report statistics to, as shown in Figure 5 (set the intranet statistics server)

  • Assign the computer to a WSUS Computer Group for approval of updates to specific groups of computers

  • Auto-reboot configuration, after update installation if the update requires a system reboot

and more!


WSUS uses the Internet Information Services server to deploy the updates. To increase security for the update system, you can configure the WSUS website to use HTTPS, which is HTTP over SSL, an encrypted channel between the website and the client. You could also configure a VPN, such as IPSec, to secure this communication.

While the client’s firewall is probably already allowing traffic over port 443 for SSL, it probably is not allowing UDP port 500 for an IPSec tunnel. If you did have an IPSec VPN between the client computer and the WSUS server, you would need to configure an exception on the client’s firewall to allow this IPSec traffic that is carrying the updates.

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