Why Upgrade to the Latest Technology

Convincing the financial decision makers (i.e. Owners, CFO, etc.) for either Small or Medium Businesses from your organization to invest on upgrading your outdated network infrastructure into a cutting-edge technology can be challenging. If your company is running a few outdated hardware and software, it is time to make a decision to improve and secure your current network setup. The beginning of the entire process can be costly, frustrating and wearing but it will all play well at the end with a favorable outcome. Planning a strategic and operational concept will be a good start. Reviewing your current IT approach, and recommending new technology opportunities are also important. Educating employees on the latest technology is significant for businesses for its success.

Why upgrade

  • Modern equipment and latest software

Try not to wait too long on the upgrades, you will be missing out on a lot of hardware and software upgrades, some get decommissioned and replaced with better features so that you can get the most of it. It can be a financially burden for your company but less nuisance at the end of each day.

  • Dependability

Obsolete products may cut off technical support, updates and features; therefore outdated hardware and software that will require support will be in jeopardy and there might be a possible downtime in case of a hardware or software issue/failure which will cost some loss for your business. It is important that your computers are running 24/7 with a limited downtime.

  • Modern network infrastructure

Review your current network infrastructure if it has assurance to protect critical information and systems. Learn about best practices for eliminating application downtime and data loss with the newer technology applied in your organization. Outdated hardware will slow-down your work, modern technology will give more stability.

  • Time-sensitive projects

Converting old file format (using a 3rd party utility converter) to a new file format can be time-consuming. If a project is time-sensitive, every single minute counts and that your work will be done on time.

  • Smarter Users/Employees

Moving from an older to newer technology will be difficult to a few employees that are not technically savvy as they’ll have a hard time adapting to the new change. Make them aware that lack of modern technology knowledge is not a good representation for the company that they work for. I have personally dealt with these type of Users and guiding them to understand/learn about the new technology was very difficult for me. I’ve given them plenty of time to learn and at the same time a lot of patience involved while educating them on the current technology.

  • Secured network

If you have outdated software and hardware that provides security protection, your network can be vulnerable to unauthorized activities that can access your network. Security Vendors (Hardware and Software) can cut-off support on outdated technology as well as updates and patches. There might be a significant potential for compromising corporate data and loss may occur. This can be prevented by implementing the highest encryption which the newer technology has and it’s worth every penny that will protect your investments. Cleaning out infected computers may take hours or days and may results to downtime.

  • Enhanced backup system

Worry about your backup system? If you have an old backup system, consider replacing or upgrading this as well. There are a lot of reasonable cloud solutions or hardware devices that are available nowadays in case of any hardware failure caused by any disasters.

A few concerns and suggestions that I have compiled and might be worrisome to some businesses, as I have dealt with different IT projects for Small and Medium Businesses on upgrading the company’s technology devices/hardware and software.

  • Do you have an IT budget?

IT budget is one of the primary concerns for businesses as to why they have to keep on delaying upgrading to the modern technology. The technology implementor will have to come up with a great sales pitch to convince the financial decision maker on a possible technology upgrade. Start off with compiling statistics of the number of employees that are in urgent needs for the upgrades. Find out how many employees that are not the priority for now, this will help your company set aside a fair amount of IT budget. Present a simple IT Proposal to the Owners/Management and make it precise. Inform them that there are a variety of financing options available from different Vendors on new software, hardware and affordable payments – just what you need.

  • Would you need a complete upgrade – hardware/software?

Try not to wait too long on the upgrades, you will be missing out on a lot of hardware and software upgrades, some get decommissioned and replaced with better features so that you can get the most of it. It can be financially burden for your company but it will save a lot of headaches at the end of each day.

  • Worry about the incompatibility issues?

Gathering the data on obsolete products – i.e. hardware and software can be time-consuming. Plan ahead the preparations that will include training and setting up your test lab if needed. If you run into any software compatibility issues, give yourself plenty of time to come up with a resolution.

  • How to deal with non-tech savvy Users?

Make the transition easier for the conservative Users. It will be hard for them to adapt to the new changes. Show them how the new technology will benefit them and the business – from a very time-consuming to a user-friendly day-to-day work routine.

My final thoughts

Consider at least every three years to make the most out of your money spent on technology upgrades. Within three years there will be substantial improvements and you’ll have plenty of time to set up new goals, IT budgets and that Users will be ready for something new to learn and be knowledgeable with the modern technology. As time flies, the benefits of the upgrade will be worthwhile, this will reduce the complexity and simplify your business operations. Modernized technology will make your business successful.

 

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Which Is The Right Virtualization Solution For You – VMware or Hyper-V

You have a new project – to update a couple of outdated Servers. These servers are running Windows Server 2003 and they have database server role configured on each one and the company budget is very limited.   Why not consider Virtualization for your new project? Compressing the most value and reducing the costs of software, hardware and applications is a great idea.

What is Virtualization? Virtualization is a matter of consolidating workloads on one physical server. You can safely run several Operating Systems (Servers and Clients) and applications at the same time in a single computer with each having access to the resources when needed.  Start eliminating old servers and run multiple virtual machines on each physical machine. The main purpose of virtualization is to provide solution to organizations to improve the server utilization and reduce costs by using one computer.

Two of the most popular virtualization technologies in the market are VMware and Hyper-V, they are both Hypervisor based virtualization that allows and is capable of running multiple Operating Systems which are also known as guests, and they run synchronously in a host computer.  Hyper-V is one of the Server Roles of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012, whereas VMware can be installed in a bare metal hardware as long as it meets all hardware specifications.  With the release of Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 which is a bare metal or dedicated stand-alone Hyper-V only version, is a cost effective virtualization solution and has improved scalability and performance.

vmware-vsphere4-LogoWhat is Hypervisor? A Hypervisor is commonly installed on a server hardware, with the functionality of running guest operating system.  There are 2 types of Hypervisors, Type 1 and Type2. Type 1 Hypervisor is considered a bare-metal hypervisor and runs directly on top of hardware. Type 2 Hypervisor operates as an application on top of an existing operating system. VMware vSphere or ESXi and Citrix XenServer are Type 1 Hypervisors. VirtualBox, VMware Workstation and Microsoft Virtual PC are all Type 2 hypervisors.  As for Hyper-V, it  is unclear where it is suited.

A question that you may askWhat if you are an administrator in a small business or medium size Local Area Network (LAN)?  Hyper-V is in-built and part of Server Roles of Windows 2008 and Windows 2012 Server, a simple configuration is all it takes, whereas VMware is not free and the licensing is pricey. If the IT budget is not an issue in your company you may choose and implement VMware. Do some research and evaluation on what type of Applications and Databases will you be running in your VMWare prior to implementation. Professional knowledge on setting up VMware is also needed, therefore proper training is necessary,  but it can be costly.

So, which is the right Virtualization solution for you – VMware or Hyper-V?

Here’s my suggestion and might be feasible for your project:
Buy two or three low end hardware servers with identical technical specifications and install Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise (to run multiple Operating Systems simultaneously) and configure them with Hyper-V or consider Hyper-V Server 2012. It is best to have at least RAID 5 configured for a database server role; even a good computer or self-built might work for a company with a low IT budget. In case one of the virtual machines fails, utilize the other server by moving the Virtual Hard Disc (VHD) this process will only takes a few minutes with a minimal down time. There’s no need for you to invest on expensive backup software. Also, get at least two or more Terabytes NAS’es or USB external hard drives to backup the VHDs. Well…that’s a heck of a lot of savings, don’t you think?

Note:  Before implementing virtualization in your network it is always a good practice to experiment and setup a lab. I have experimented Hyper-V Role from Windows Server 2008 Enterprise and Windows 2012 Server prior to implementation a couple of times and it works great for me. You will need to be aware of potential benefits and drawbacks of whether Hyper-V or VMware is suited in your project. There might be possible performance overhead, and management burdens for configuring and maintaining the host Operating System.

Helpful Virtualization resources:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg610658.aspx

http://www.virtualizationadmin.com/articles-tutorials/microsoft-hyper-v-articles/installation-and-deployment/performing-bare-metal-installation-hyper-v-using-system-center-virtual-machine-manager-2012.html

Easy and Useful PoweShell Commands used for Exchange Server 2010

Have you ever wondered how to make your life as a Network or Exchange Administrator a lot easier by using the PowerShell commands in your Exchange Server 2010? Some tasks can be daunting so I have compiled some easy to follow commands. I have actually been using all of these.

Note:  Mailbox Database, User, domain.com, usermail.com are just examples that I used and all fictitious, you may replace them with appropriate database name, domain, User and email.

Some common tasks that the Exchange Server 2010 System Manager was used for was exporting lists of mailbox users into CSV format for reporting in Excel, knowing the Statistics of Users Mailboxes and Whitelisting.

Export output of Mailbox Users in CSV format, and then open it up in Excel.

Get-MailboxDatabase “Mailbox Database” | Get-MailboxStatistics | Sort totalitemsize -desc | Export-CSV C:\mailboxes.csv

Statistics of all Users mailboxes in a particular database.

Get-MailboxDatabase “Mailbox Database” | Get-MailboxStatistics | Sort totalitemsize -desc | ft displayname, totalitemsize, itemcount

Statistics of a particular User

Get-MailboxStatistics User | ft DisplayName, TotalItemSize, ItemCount

Whitelisting Domain

Set-ContentFilterConfig -BypassedSenderDomains the domain.com

Whitelisting a Specific Email

Set-ContentFilterConfig -BypassedSenderDomains the useremail.com

How to Configure WSUS and link to Group Policy Objects

Important to know before you proceed:

You must be a member of Domain Admins or WSUS Administrators group to perform this method.  Do not edit the Default Domain or Default Domain Controller GPOs as this is not a good practice.

If your network is more complex you might have multiple GPOs linked to several organizational units (OUs) and that you may have different WSUS policy settings applied to different types of computers.

First Task: Create a computer group on the WSUS Server:

Open up Update Services, expand Computers, and then click on All Computers. From this Tutorial I will select Update Services Client Computers then click on Add Computer Group from the Actions Pane. You may choose any that applies to your needs except for Unassigned Computers.

Now, you will see the Computer Groups have been added.

Second Task:  Enable client-side targeting:

Locate the Organizational Unit (OU) that you wish to apply the GPO Policy to. Open the GPO Editor, expand Computer Configuration, expand Administrative Templates, and expand Windows Components then select Windows Update. Double click on the Enable client-side targeting and click Enabled, then type the name of the computer group that you have created in the Update Services or WSUS Console. Click OK when finished.

For the client computers configured with an Active Directory-based GPO, it will take a few minutes (up to 30min) after Group Policy refreshes to appear on the Computers page in the WSUS console.

To synchronize schedule, from Update Services, go to Synchronizations, then click on Synchronization option from the right pane, then choose Synchronization Schedule from the Options page, you may choose to manually or automatically synchronize schedule. In this Tutorial we will choose Synchronize Automatically. Click OK when finished.

I hope that this guide helped you configured and linked WSUS with GPO(s) in your domain network.

SBS 2011 Bare Metal Backup

Small Business Server (SBS) 2011 includes a native backup system called Windows Server Backup (WSB). To open up WSB, type “Windows Server Backup” from the Windows Start button then click on WSB on the top.

This is one of SBS 2011 (also available in SBS 2008 and SBS 2008 R2) cool features since SBS is designed for Small Businesses to help cut the IT costs.
The SBS Backup Wizard is also designed for someone who doesn’t have any previous experienced in Windows Backup or any 3rd party software backup solutions. There’s no need to buy and utilize an expensive backup system such as RAID and/or Backup software (Acronis, Symantec etc.), although they can also be considered for redundancy.  If you have an Exchange Server, SQL or SharePoint data they will be backed up as well because these are vital.

It is important to know that the Bare Metal Backup only supports up to 2TB. If you are planning to buy an External hard drive, make sure not to buy anything over 2TB because it will be a waste of money.

You will need to be aware of the compatibility list for a USB External Drive if you decide to use one:

The integrated backup (WSB) uses a VHD technology which take a snapshot of the system, and this technology is limited to a 2TB and the volume can only contain the base image and changes up to 2TB in total.

What’s going to happen if you get more than 2TB external hard drive?  You will see an “i/o error” as soon as you start the backup.

I hope that this information helps you decide and plan your next bare metal backup by utilizing your SBS 2011 native backup utility.

Note:  You may also utilize the network shares and drives for WSB, but be aware that only one backup can be maintained and it will be overwritten.