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Sunbelt W2Knews™ Electronic Newsletter
The secret of those "who always seem to know" - Over 500,000 Readers!
Tue, Dec 28, 1999
Surprise Y2K Warning!
  This issue of W2Knews™ contains:
In This NewsFlash:
1) SURPRISE Y2K WARNING
2) BRAND NEW SUPER LOW COST FIREWALL SOLUTION
3) WINDOWS 2000 PERFORMANCE: NOT SO HOT AFTER ALL!

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1) SURPRISE Y2K WARNING

I just received this from the SANS institute, which is BTW a 
very good resource in itself. In a nutshell it comes down to 
this: DO NOT SHUT DOWN YOUR MACHINES FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME.

If you run a 24x7 shop, you run the risk of putting your shop
in danger by powering down all machines for Y2K. Why? Listen
to a 15-year hard drive expert:

"There are going to be a percentage of disk drives that will 
fail to come back up after an extended power-down if they have 
been running for 24/7 over an extended period. The keyword 
here is "extended"...

"When a disk drive has been running 24/7 for an extended period, 
the slider (the tiny, ceramic air bearing that flies over the disk) 
will accumulate some amount of 'grunge' (composed mainly of lubri-
cation by-products and media particulates). The amount varies from 
drive to drive and newer drives will be in better shape generally. 

"When the disk drive is powered down, the slider is 'landed' in a 
specially designed area at the inner part of the disk known as 
the Landing Zone. This landing zone is textured (it has a specially
prepared surface roughness) that tends to scrape the 'grunge' off 
of the slider. It also helps keep the slider from sticking to the
disk (the much dreaded "stiction" problem).

"Here are some rules to preserve your data by:
If at all possible, backup and spin-down (this may not require 
the removal of drive power) the disk drive at least once monthly 
to keep the accumulation of 'grunge' to a minimum. DO NOT EVER 
NEGLECT TO BACKUP YOUR DATA. PERIOD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 

(Editor's Note: I'm adding here that using Double-Take to make 
real-time backups is of course a great solution).

"If you've been unaware of the above or unable to perform this 
prior to your planned Y2K power-down, then proceed as follows: 
1) Backup your data. 
2) Perform a 'short period' power-down, letting the system 
set for maximum of 30 seconds before powering it back up 
3) Run Non-destructive storage testing on the disk drive 
4) Perform your 'Real' power-down 

"The intent of a 'short period' power-down is to give the disk 
drive an abbreviated 'touch-down' of the slider to the landing 
zone. This will clean some of the 'grunge' while not letting 
the two set there long enough to get "cozy" (lest the dreaded 
stiction occur). The storage testing is intended to re-verify 
the integrity of the drive and give it the opportunity to 
auto-reallocate any media defects that may have appeared due 
to the 'grunge' that got scraped loose from the slider and is 
now floating around inside the containment.

"It is unfortunate that people tend to forget that these are 
precision electro-MECHANICAL devices that have moving parts. 
They require a certain amount of care and due diligence for 
them to outlive their usefulness. Properly cared for, a modern 
disk drive will easily last five years or more. Neglected, a 
modern disk drive will eat your data and make you crazy".
--------------------------

2) BRAND NEW SUPER LOW COST FIREWALL SOLUTION

You are all aware of the need for Firewalls. Sunbelt has implemented
one of these tools as well this year, and after quite a long time to
do our research, we chose for the Conclave solution. It's a VPN and
Firewall at the same time.

Recently we upgraded our offices in Clearwater, FL and Paris, France
to the latest version and when we were in the Conclave offices for
training we heard some very exciting news. Too late for us, but possibly
very good news for you guys.

The outfit that produces Conclave is called Internet Dynamics and they
just announced a new version called 'Conclave SE'. This is a really
very complete solution for small to medium users and gives you a VPN
plus Firewall-in-a-box for next to no money. Prices start below $300,
and an unlimited amount of users only cost $689! If you compare what
Firewalls normally cost you will see why this is a killer deal. 
(Don't ask what WE originally paid for it .)

Basically, Conclave SE offers the key benefits of the standard Conclave
product with an easier installation and simpler administration. You
can only install it as a stand-alone firewall with Extranet (VPN) 
capabilities, but what you get for that is mindboggling: High level 
policy management; Policy scheduling; Delegated Administration; 
Multiple forms of authentication; Fine grained access control; The VPN
uses IPSec manually pre-shared secrets; Firewall with NAT, stateful 
packet filter, application proxies; and bundled IPSec/IKE clients.

Sunbelt does not sell this tool, so you have to go to Internet Dynamics
for what I understand is a limited time offer. Click your way over here
to get all the data: http://store.conclave.com/
--------------------------

3) WINDOWS 2000 PERFORMANCE: NOT SO HOT AFTER ALL!

In my last newsletter I wrote this:

"One of the interesting things MS came out with are brand new
benchmarks that show Win2K Pro is 39% faster than Windows 95, 30%
faster than 98 and 24% faster than NT Workstation 4.0"

Well, not quite!! I got the above out of a MS Press Release but I 
should have checked my facts, and omitted to do that. Who believes PR,
right? Neil Spellings emailed me and pointed out that 'The Truth' is
different when you actually download and read the full report from
ZDLabs, (which I now did). The original statement that I copied is 
quite misleading.

! Win2K is only faster than NT4 on systems WITH 32Mb RAM !

Performance on systems with 64Mb and 128Mb is actually comparable 
(a few percentage points slower) compared to NT4 and as I doubt that 
many of you run NT4 with less than 64Mb these days then the majority 
of us will not see a performance benefit by moving to Win2K. Obviously 
we are talking pure benchmarks, which do not take into account any new
features which improve productivity, but it was Microsoft PR that were
throwing figures around. They clearly 'picked the best bits' from the
report. Here is where you can see the numbers for yourself. It's dry
but interesting reading.
http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/guide/platform/performance/zdlabs.asp
-----------------------

OK, that's the last NewsFlash for 1999!

The full Sunbelt Staff (now 75 people), wish everybody a great 
Year 2000, and very best hopes for a totally UNEVENTFUL change of 
the Millennium. Quite a few of us, (me included) will be in the 
Sunbelt Data Center monitoring the world's Y2K roll-over.

Warm regards,

Stu Sjouwerman

(email me with feedback: [email protected])