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Vol. 19, #29 - July 21, 2014 - Issue #989
This week's newsletter is all about ensuring that your network and server monitoring platform will continue to meet your needs as the future inexorably rolls towards you. Of course, it's difficult to predict the future unless you have a vehicle that allows you to travel through time. Did you know you can use a kayak to visit the future? See how in this xkcd comic:
OK so maybe physicists do have a lousy sense of humor...
Last week in Issue #988 Windows 8.1 Migration Planning, a reader named Antonio who is a sysadmin in Sydney, Australia, asked for help on the following matter:
A lot of articles are suggesting to use unique passwords for each site or account, especially for sensitive activities such as online banking. And lots of authors suggest the use of a password manager which I agree that it is a good idea. However I wonder if you know of any good portable password manager. I would prefer to be able to login to sites on more than just 1 computer. I know there are some portable tools available such as Password Safe etc. What would you recommend?
We received several responses from readers on this question. Several of our readers responded by recommending LastPass:
For example, a reader named Eric who is an IT Administrator working for a virtual call center in Georgia, USA said:
We have been using the Enterprise version for over a year and are quite pleased. I have been using it personally for a number of years (5 or 6?) and am the primary reason we are using it here.
Another reader named Rich said:
I've found and used LastPass for several years now and LOVE it. It's not "portable" meaning you can't plug in a USB drive and have it work. However, you CAN log into the LastPass website with your credentials and have access to all your sites and passwords. I also use the form fill ability as well. Very handy for many things.
Ricardo, a Systems and Network Administrator for a group of companies based in BC, Canada, recommended another product called KeePass:
I've been using KeePass for the last 2 years; there are versions for Android (KeePassDroid) and iOS (MiniKeePass). The Android version integrates with Dropbox and Google Drive. This means that everywhere you go the password database goes with you. The PC program has tons of features such as auto typing on websites login pages, password categories, password generators, database search, etc. Never had a single problem and the security is really good.
Jim, an Application Architect based in Texas, USA has been happy with RoboForm:
I've been using RoboForm for about 8 years, now, and have been very pleased. I'm currently running RoboForm Everywhere which allows me to install RoboForm on multiple computers and have access to all my logins on each one. They also offer a web-based login which gives you access to your logins without leaving traces on the computer you have used, and also a portable format which can be loaded and run from a USB key.
John, who works for a graphic design company in Massachusetts, USA takes a different stand on password management which is actually closer to my own personal view on the subject:
This may sound pedantic and off-putting. The best security is your own memory since having a password manager on the computer(s) is a better chance of getting hacked by someone gaining physical access to one of your computers or through malware. This is also why I don't have browsers remember my passwords for websites other than simple forums, and these passwords get cleared periodically when I flush cookies anyway.
In general memorizing something such as a password is quite easy if it is done properly. The problem is most people memorize using muscle movement instead of true associative memorization. This is true of musicians as well and is obvious when a performer gets lost. This is also why passwords get mixed up. People don't "know" the password; they only know the finger motion that was used to type it. If the password, or music, is memorized through association, then the information is intact no matter the interruption. Passwords, as you should know, need to, as in really must contain, non-alpha numeric characters. Use something that is strong yet you can associate with easily. Once you know the password, but more than just the finger movement, you can then associate it with the website. One way to memorize a password, is to say and type the characters at the same time instead of just looking and typing. Saying is similar to writing and this helps "burn" the information into the memory, unlike typing which doesn't have the same effect.
For accounts that are accessed rarely, write them down and lock the paper or small book away. Don't put it under your keyboard as we're apt to see occasionally!
This may have not been the answer you have been looking for, but consider the implications of a password manager as that puts all the eggs in one basket as the old idiom states.
Which is probably why I keep all my cash stored in 23 different banks...
If any readers have other password management solutions to suggest, or if you have a question of your own that you'd like us to throw out to our readership seeking answers, let us know at email@example.com
In Issue #986 Finding Tech Support Online we talked about how to get effective tech support from online forums. One of the sites we recommended for this was Microsoft's TechNet Forums:
When I pointed readers to these forums I also mentioned that the "integrated" user interface for these forums is a bit cumbersome to use. A reader named George had more to say concerning this usability (or non-usability) issue of the TechNet Forums:
I have been using TechNet for more than a decade and have found that it has become much harder to use of late. It has changed from a fairly well organized help file and forum structure to what seems to be a jumble of various blogs and other social media constructs. I find the search facility to be almost useless. I have yet to figure out how to limit a search to a particular software version or even a particular product, so if I search on something like "Server 2012 print error xxxxx" I get thousands of results referring to everything from SBS2003 to Windows 8.1. I find that the best way to look for answers to a particular problem is to try posting a question and then follow the links offered to similar posts. I have also noticed a decline in the quality of answers suggested by the official Microsoft forum monitors.
Unfortunately I feel that I have to agree with this reader. While I frequently Google (or Bing) the TechNet Forums for answers concerning specific issues by including the string "site:social.technet.microsoft.com" in my search query, I rarely try posting questions to the TechNet Forums because of the kludginess of how the forum selection control works (or doesn't work). And like most so-called "social media" web properties today, the TechNet Forums seem to get redesigned from time to time, forcing one to relearn how to use them effectively. It almost makes me long for the good old days of USENET. Or maybe I'm just an old dog that has trouble learning new tricks.
What do you think of the current UX (user experience i.e. usability) of the TechNet Forums? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And now on to this week's main topic...
Network and server monitoring is something we've examined in the past in this newsletter, most recently in Issue #968 Enterprise Monitoring Strategies which talked about the challenges of monitoring IT environments in today's enterprises. However, recently I was looking into some of the current offerings available from monitoring vendors and suddenly I remembered that Microsoft had marked SNMP as deprecated when Windows Server 2012 was released--see Issue #893 Deprecated Features for details. This got me thinking, because a lot of existing monitoring platforms use SNMP for discovery and/or monitoring of network devices and systems.
What might happen then if Microsoft follows through someday and pulls SNMP functionality entirely from its Windows Server platform? Will you still be able to use your existing network monitoring software to effectively monitor servers running the latest version of Windows Server? Or will you need to rip out your existing monitoring platform and find another solution for monitoring the health and availability of your infrastructure?
Fortunately this might not be as big an issue as it first seems.
First, Microsoft will eventually be removing SNMP functionality from future versions of Windows Server. That much is clear from the following TechNet page:
and also from here:
However, on that page Microsoft also gives the reason why they are going to remove SNMP:
"SNMP is deprecated. Instead, use the Common Information Model (CIM), which is supported by the WS-Management web services protocol and implemented as Windows Remote Management."
What's really being said here is that Microsoft is simply pointing out that SNMP is a very old technology that worked fine for environments that had servers running Windows Server 2003 but which is behind the curve for environments running more recent versions of Windows Server. Specifically, over the last decade Microsoft has been transitioning its server monitoring technologies, first from SNMP to Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) which is Microsoft's implementation of the Common Information Model Object Manager (CIMOM) developed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). Then in 2005 Microsoft together with twelve other companies submitted a new SOAP-based management protocol called WS-Management (Web Service Management) to the DMTF. Once WS-Management received recognition by the ISO as an international standard, Microsoft then implemented WS-Management on the Window Server platform in the form of WinRM (Windows Remote Management). And today, Microsoft System Center products like Operations Manager can use WinRM to monitor both Windows and Linux-based servers and also network devices that support WS-Management such as switches and routers that support the DASH (Desktop and mobile Architecture for System Hardware) and SMASH (Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware) initiatives from the DMTF.
To sum up then, WS-Management is the future while SNMP is the past. Here's a post from the Windows Server Blog that outlines the above evolution of Windows management/monitoring:
So if you want to future-proof your network monitoring and management, you should start thinking about how you can move beyond SNMP.
However, note that while SNMP is now deprecated in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, that doesn't mean it will necessarily be pulled from the next version of Windows Server. If enough enterprise customers tell Microsoft that they still need the SNMP provider in the next version of Windows Server, Microsoft will probably leave it in, though they likely won't make any changes or improvements to the provider since development is generally frozen as far as deprecated features are concerned. So you will probably still have a few years to plan a smooth and orderly transition from using SNMP monitoring to WS-Management monitoring. And this also means that the vendor of your current monitoring platform will also have a few years to update their product so it supports WS-Management if they haven't already done so.
Send us feedback
Does your current monitoring platform support WS-Management? Are you concerned about Microsoft's decision to deprecate SNMP in the Windows Server platform? What are some other steps you can take to help future-proof your current IT infrastructure? Let us know at email@example.com
I can still remember way back when Microsoft introduced the /renamedomain option for the Netdom.exe command-line utility so enterprises could rename their Active Directory domains when things like company mergers and acquisitions occurred. Those of you who still look back with affection towards Windows NT may want to take a trip back memory lane with this KB article:
However, in a real enterprise is domain rename ever a wise thing to attempt? Probably not. The simple reason is because domain rename is no longer supported by most (if not all) current versions of Microsoft server applications. For example, if you have Exchange or SharePoint deployed in your forest and you try renaming the domain, you might end up having to flatten and rebuild everything.
What should you do then if your company is merging with or acquiring another company and their existing domain name is unsatisfactory or won't work for you? Use the Active Directory Migration Tool (ADMT) to migrate the old domain and its resources to a brand new domain or into an existing domain:
GOT TIPS you'd like to share with other readers? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week we have some books for you on server, network and cloud monitoring to check out:
Mastering System Center 2012 Operations Manager
System Center 2012 Operations Manager Unleashed (2nd Edition)
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor : Deployment and Administration
Monitoring and Securing Virtualized Networks and Services
Nagios: Building Enterprise-Grade Monitoring Infrastructures for Systems and Networks (2nd Edition)
Monitoring with Ganglia
Puppet Reporting and Monitoring
"In football [soccer] everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.." --Jean Paul SartreUntil next week,
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Microsoft SQL Server PASS Summit 2014 on November 4-7, 2014 in Seattle, Washington
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This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
GOT FUN VIDEOS or other fun links to suggest you'd like to recommend? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is amazing how well the traffic flows without traffic lights at a major intersection in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia:
I didn't think an airliner could do this ... until I saw this video of Boeing test pilots practicing with their Dreamliner 787-9 for the Farnborough Air Show 2014:
Selyna Bogino from Italy is practicing to break the world record of the longest and most difficult 5 balls routine ever. Wow!
Cats love to have their own space to sleep. All too often that space also happens to be the dog's bed:
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.