Finding a New Email Provider and Keeping the Existing Web Host

Scenario:  There’s no Exchange Server residing in the network, email (POP3) is hosted by an Email Provider. This Company is also subscribed to an SMTP Relay Provider providing their relay due to Users having intermittent issue on sending external emails.  In addition, they can’t send/receive email within their Local Area Network (LAN). For privacy reason let’s call this Company – Some Company, their Web/Email Provider will be Some Email/Web Host and their domain name is  All Ports for POP3 and SMTP are properly configured  –  ports opened up  from their Sonicwall device.

It all started a few months ago, all the Users from Some Company were having an email issue.  This is a small business entity with only less than 10 employees in the office but heavily utilize the email due to the nature of their business.

So, my mission is to find a new Email Provider to see if this will resolve their problem.  I have thought of Google Apps, since they provide free plan for less than 10 Users and why not give it a try.  Bear in mind that Google Apps is a Cloud solution but I have confirmed that POP3 standard protocol can be configured in Microsoft Outlook but it’s also limited on a lot of features. I’ve also found out that since this is a free plan that technical support won’t be provided. Hmm…I think that this is an important factor isn’t it? The mailbox limitation of 25gb per User is more than enough, it is good to know.

I have decided not to use Google Apps because of the Pros and Cons that I have weighed in, so I’d like to try as my second option. For only $3+ per month for up to 10 Users this is reasonable enough, a total of <$40 per year with unlimited mailbox and technical support assistance. A good feature is the integration to Smart Phones (Blackberry, iPhones & Androids), so all of these are great additions. I went ahead and signed up with godaddy and all ready to setup the Users Email Accounts.

Oops….I got an error while creating one Email Account that ‘the domain name is already been used ’. I have contacted godaddy’s technical support and I found out that I can’t sign up with them using this particular domain ( because it’s being used by another Provider and there’s a conflict. I didn’t really understand at first, then the Technical Support told me that this is something new in their company.  She told me to sign up’s Domain Registrar which is Inexpensive Domains (also provides Web and Email hosting) for email hosting. Inexpensive Domains is affiliated with and because of this I can’t use godaddy so I ended up signing up with Inexpensive Domains. It was a hassle free registration and setting up the Email Accounts are straight forward procedure.

To transfer or move the email account from Some Email/Web Host to Inexpensive Domains, I will need the MX Records of godaddy added to Some Email/Web Host Servers.  The propagation might take up to 48 hours and this is the standard waiting time. I have encountered a very long wait before (with previous projects) and there’s nothing that I can do about it.  The MX Records can be obtained once you are logged on to the Control Panel of godaddy. Once I have noted the MX Records, I sent an email to Some Email/Web Host informing them to add the Inexpensive Domains MX Record to point to the new Email service provider Inexpensive Domains.

I had to do this process after 5:30pm to avoid any interruptions during business hours. The next morning, as soon as I started my day at work, I’ve logged on to godaddy’s Control Panel then navigated to the Email tab and found that all Email Users that I have created have been activated. Wow, that was fast……

There seems to be almost no downtime because the Users from Some Company don’t check their emails first thing in the morning. I have contacted all the Users and was able to setup their new email accounts remotely so quickly and without any issues at all.

One thing that I like with their new Email Provider – the plan for up to 10 Users per year is only $30 a year with unlimited mailbox and integration to smart phones, SMTP Relay is free for up to 250 relays per day per User. These are great features and all inclusive with this plan. At the end it has a positive the outcome –  Some Company kept Some Email/Web Host as their Web provider and Inexpensive Domains is now their new Email Provider. I haven’t heard any complaints yet, and so far so good.

Windows Server 2012 (code name-Windows Server 8) Virtual Guided Labs

Wait no more….If you don’t have the hardware to install Windows Server 2012 you may test drive thru this virtual lab – the new and improved features and functionality,  including server management and Windows PowerShell, Networking, Hyper-V, and new/enhanced Storage Solutions. You may also save the Lab instructions ( step by step guide)  in Microsoft Word and do a review or study at a later time.

You may try the hands-on lab for Windows Server 2012 here:

Have a read on what’s new in Windows Server 2012.

Now, will you be considering Windows Server 2012 as your next Windows Server?

Windows 8 – Consumer and Developer Preview – the New Looks and Features

It’s good to know that the official name for Windows 8 Release Previews (Consumer and Developer) will be Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional, applicable for PCs and Tablets – for 32 and 64 bit. Windows 8 will be appropriate mostly for regular Consumers and utilize all the updated features especially the support for multiple monitors, updated Windows Explorer and Task Manager. On the other hand the Windows 8 Professional is designed for business use that would be of best interest to explore the new features of encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity to the network.

Let’s face it, some Users might like the new looks/features and some won’t. The good news, there are workarounds to get back what’s missing and changing to the Classic Shell from the full Metro Start screen by using registry edit or thru a third-party application. If you own a Windows 8 Mobile phone there are similarities on the Apps layout and icons. For someone that’s fond of all the trendy technologies, you’ll like the new Windows 8 appearance. Windows 8 Professional will be great for business use – Network Administrators, Business Users and Technology Enthusiasts will like the reliability, effectiveness, enhanced security and performance in network connectivity would be more crucial. Whether you’d prefer the touch pad or mouse and keyboard, the new Windows 8 has this capability.

I like a clutter free look of the desktop, for me I don’t need to see all the colorful Apps. If you click on the Desktop App from the Metro ui, then you will get a clean/plain desktop. If you are wondering where all the Programs and Applications are hiding, move the mouse to the left bottom corner of the screen until you see a square box with all the colorful apps (Metro Start thumbnail)….right click on it then you’ll to see all the Metro Start-up/Pinned-up Programs and Apps.

The Windows or Start Orb is missing in Windows 8. You may download the App for the missing Start Orb here:

If you want a Windows 7 look you may download the free utility called ViStart.

You may also try tapping the Windows Key-R on the desktop without downloading any utilities. If you want more of the Start Menu look, you can add a popup list of Libraries, Computer, Control Panel, and Network by right-clicking on the taskbar then choose Properties then Toolbars and then check the Desktop check box.

If you want to convert to a Classic look, Windows 8 Developer Preview has a registry edit to switch to the Classic Shell. It is always risky to modify the registry, make sure that you do the back it up first.

Open up regedit (click on the Metro start thumbnail, click on Run then type regedit and press enter) then navigate to the following:
Change the value of RPEnabled from “1″ to “0″
To get back the Metro UI, change the value back to “1″

Hotmail integration with Windows 8 seems to be a cool feature. I use my Hotmail all the time, now I have the App in my computer.

As a Network Administrator I’d like easier tasks, well who doesn’t? I’ve found out and experimented that it is very easy to join a Windows 8 into the Domain – both wired and wireless.

Having said all of the above, I took some captures of the new Windows 8 CP features, some of these will be of best used for me.

Metro Start Screen:

Logon Screen – you may switch from a Domain logon to another User – for Local or Domain logon:

Network connections – Wired and Wireless:

Search Option:

Remote Desktop:

I think that I’ll get used of all the new looks eventually, as long as I can find them and function easily.


Using SMTP Relay in Exchange Server 2007 and 2010

What is Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Relay?  SMTP Relay will bypass your ISP’s email outbound restrictions.

Scenario:  You are running Exchange Server 2010, everything seems to be going well – and then one day all employees within domain cannot send out any emails.  You have checked the Event Viewer and can’t find any relevant critical errors in Event IDs pertaining to the issue. You have verified that SMTP Ports are opened up in your Security or Firewall Device, so what could it be?

This has been a common issue if your company is hosting Exchange Server, there are times that for any reasons your ISP could be blocking SMTP Ports. The workaround is to find a reliable SMTP Relay Provider, make sure that the Provider has a redundancy backup just in case the primary SMTP Relay server goes down.  Based on my actual experience dealing with this type of setup, it really works and they are very reasonable too. Rest assured that your email will go out 24/7.

Verify if your ISP is blocking the outgoing SMTP port by running these DOS command:

c:\> telnet 25

You may also try Port 26, 940, 8001, 2525, 80 by using the same telnet command  instead of  Port 25. If the connection gets responses from the alternative SMTP port, you should use that port instead of Port 25 when setting up Smart Hosting.

How to configure the SMTP Relay?

Open up Exchange Management Console (EMC)>Organization Configuration>Hub Transport>New Send Connector

You may follow the guide from your SMTP Relay Provider’s website to complete the process of setting up SMTP Relay.

Basic Troubleshooting Tips for Wired and Wireless Connection Issues

Troubleshooting sometimes can be such an agony, but there are guidelines that we have to follow in order to resolve some issues. Although it can be tedious at times to troubleshoot, you’ll be surprised that other things can be resolved quickly and some will take a little while and you need to be very patient. I have compiled some quick, easy and basic troubleshooting tips that might save you some time going through a very long process of fiddling with settings from your broadband devices (modem/router) and computers.

If you are having an intermittent internet disconnection on all of your wired and wireless devices please see the following suggestions:

A simple Power Cycle will often correct the problem to refresh the network electronic devices and reinitialize their configuration and also help to recover from a hang or crash state.

Run the Network Troubleshooter tool from your Windows 7 computer.

Run the Diagnose and Repair tool from your Windows Vista computer.

Disable/Re-enable the network adapter from Device Manager.
Update the network adapter’s driver from Device Manager

If you are having an intermittent internet disconnection on all  of your wireless devices please see the following suggestions:

Interference can cause wireless disconnection issues, this is due to having electronics and small appliances nearby. Neighbors that are using the same wireless channel similar to yours may also cause some conflicts.

Changing the Wireless Channel to 1, 6 or 11 might help. This will require an access to your router setting so you must have your router’s logon credentials.

Before changing the wireless channel, you may install and run Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector to see the opposing wireless channels.

Any third wireless utility software may conflict with the Windows native wireless utility called WLAN AutoConfig, you must only use one to avoid wireless disconnection issue.

Security or Firewall Software such as Norton, McAfee, Webroot etc. might be intervening, disabling it my help. If it didn’t correct the issue, remove the software by using the proper method of uninstalling it – some do have a removal tool that you may download online, reinstall the software back if the issue has been resolved.

In some circumstances updating the router’s firmware to the latest often resolves this issue if all your wired and wireless network devices are acting up.

If you have a Workgroup or HomeGroup setup in your home network and all or some computers are having intermittent issue accessing the shared files/folders, your Security or Firewall Software might be intervening. Allowing  ports or files/printer sharing in the safe zone or disabling the firewall feature might help.

Backup Strategies

Backups are often neglected; do you backup your computer or server, if so, how often? At any moment a computer or server may crash unexpectedly and put your critical data at risk. Are you confident that you will be able to do a full restoration within a minimal downtime? Have you done a full backup test restoration including the hard drive images? How much information do you have stored on your Server’s hard drives? Are you hosting your own email or website? Are you running any SQL databases? These are all very critical and require a good backup strategy to be enforced to be able to recover from a disaster in an efficient and effective way. You must be prepared for any calamities such as fire, earthquakes and floods. Do you have any backup plans in the event of a natural disaster? Backups are a very important factor to consider.  The risk of losing data is often unnecessary and could be avoided by implementing a simple and sometimes cost-effective backup solution.

The Strategies:

  • If you have a Domain Network, having additional Domain Controllers (DC) is something that has to be implemented so that there will be limited network downtime just in case a disaster happens.  Active Directory Users and Computers will replicate to your additional DC(s) and improve the dependability and availability of your network resources if the main DC is not up and running due to a crash or failure.
  • Storing huge amount of files and data on your network can be very risky if you don’t have a well planned and tested backup system.  Local backups can be done if you have enormous or terabytes of files stored in your file server(s).  Losing these files could cause you a major problem that you may not be able to bounce back from.  If your company has a limited IT budget then you can purchase some affordable external USB hard drives to do a local on-site backup.  These can be taken off site by a member of staff. Another affordable option would be to purchase a (Network Attached Storage) NAS Device and use a third parties backup software like Acronis or Symantec to do a full backup image of your Servers hard drives.
  • Do you have (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) RAID configured in any of your Servers? If your Employer can afford and has a budget for a RAID 10 (also known as RAID 1 + 0) system and it requires a minimum of 4 hard drives, I highly recommend this. A server with RAID 10 is amongst the most popular RAID solutions and provides a very high fault tolerance in case of hard drive failures. RAID 10 is very pricey but it is the best RAID option for any perilous applications especially databases.  If you have a limited IT budget then investing in a RAID 1 (Mirrored) solution is also acceptable. It will allow for one of your drives to fail without causing major downtime. Keep at least one spare hard drive for your RAID on site in case of a drive failure.  Newer technology servers have hot swappable drives, so expect limited downtime and rest assured that your data will be safe and intact. Some Users won’t even know if the network was down.
  • Backup as often as you want – There is no such thing as backing up too much! Having a redundancy backup is a must have. A very common backup strategy is to make daily incremental, differential, and a weekly full backup.  Another question you may want to ask is: If my first backup solution fails, what will I do then? Having multiple backups to restore from is a must.  Placing all of your eggs in one basket can be risky. If you are going to use Tapes or External Hard Disks to back up your data it is recommended that you have a daily or weekly rotation between drives.  If you have five External Hard Drives on a daily rotation then even if your most recent backup is not restorable you can fall back onto the day before – Losing 24-hours worth of data is far better than losing it forever!
  • Do not backup to a different partition on the same physical disk. You should be aware that if the disk fails then the entire disk will be corrupted and your backup will be useless!  You may lose everything.
  • The types of restore you can do with a backup are an important factor to consider. How long will it take you to restore an entire hard drive?  Can you restore your server onto other hardware?  Do you have any hard drives in stock in the event your drives fail?
  • A Cloud backup solution can be costly, but if your company can afford it, it’s a great backup solution to consider.  Hosted cloud also known as online backup is very popular nowadays.  If you are going to use a hosted backup solution find out the level of encryption that they support and remember to write down the restoration procedure, in the event of a problem you will want to access the backups quickly.  Cloud backup is safe and a secured way of backing up data on remote data storage, also accessible from anywhere. The only downside is that it requires a higher bandwidth.
  • It is a very good idea to keep your servers in a fire/flood proof location like a Vault, if your Employer can afford this type of Storage.

Backup only important documents – you will be very surprised how many gigabytes worth of Media files such as pictures, music and videos that some employees will store in their roaming profiles and local hard drives. Some are for business use but mostly are for personal use.  It is worth reviewing what you are backing up at least once a month.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Backup Software – Client and Server Operating Systems:

Client Operating Systems – Paid and Free Software:

Servers – Paid Software:

Hosted Online and Cloud Backup Solution:

***A special ‘Thanks’ to Dave Atkin – co  Author .***

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.