Vol. 25, #8 - April 15, 2013 - Issue #925

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Building Test Labs

  1. Editor's Corner
    • From the Mailbag
    • Building Test Labs
    • Tip of the Week
    • Recommended for Learning
    • Quote of the Week
  2. Admin Toolbox
    • Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. Events Calendar
    • Americas
    • Europe
    • Africa
  4. Webcast Calendar
    • Register for Webcasts
  5. Tech Briefing
    • So you want to continue using Windows XP?
    • Data Tiering and Overprovisioning
    • Back to basics: Citrix XenServer 6.1 (Part 1) - Installation
    • Using DirectAccess
    • Using PowerShell Aliases: Best Practices
    • Configuring an Exchange 2013 Hybrid Deployment and Migrating to Office 365 (Exchange Online)
    • Step-By-Step: Virtual Machine Replication Using Hyper-V Replica
    • Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 Live Migration does not support pass-through disks–KB2834898
    • Windows 8 Tweaks and Tricks
    • VIDEO - Get Started with USMT
    • VIDEO - TechNet Radio: IT Time–Get Certified! Why Microsoft Certification Matters
  6. Windows Server News
    • What makes OpenStack public cloud tick?
    • Desktop storage in-depth: Explaining diskless VDI
    • Comparing the subtle differences between vMotion vs. Live Migration
    • Microsoft improves Windows 8 DirectAccess as a VPN alternative
  7. WServerNews FAVE Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
  8. WServerNews - Product of the Week
    • 3 Free Tools. 1 Easy Download. Active Directory Admin Simplified.

 

3 Free Tools. 1 Easy Download. Active Directory Admin Simplified.

SolarWinds trio of free tools for Active Directory Admin help you manage and remove computer and users from Active Directory, and allow you to add users in bulk. With these tools, you can scan Active Directory and optionally remove users and computers who have not logged in for a certain amount of time, or optionally remove computers that are over a certain number of days old. You can even create users in bulk using a CSV file and specify the attributes. These tools are certified with Windows 7 through a strategic relationship with Microsoft® and run on current Windows® versions.

Download your 3 Free tools here >

 

Editor's Corner

This week's newsletter is all about building test labs with a guest editorial by Andrew Barnes. This is a fun topic because test labs can be fun. Not sure about that? Just ask Ratbert:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683325065

From the Mailbag

In the previous issue To Flash or Not To Flash (Issue #924) we examined the question of when (and when not) you should flash the BIOS of your server and firmware of server hardware components. In response to our editorial a reader named James sent us the following feedback:

Hey Mitch, might be worth mentioning to folks that if you do flash a hardware component to a later revision you should check BEFORE doing so, to see if any associated drivers will need updating . . . then you have to check revisions (BIOS & driver) of any dependent components, that your new versions are on the hardware compatibility list of the OS etc. Something so simple can get so complex! Keep up the good work on WserverNews :-)

We also received some helpful comments from a reader named Quentin:

In some cases, the flash updates are all part of a large release from the server manufacturer - eg. Dell or HP. So you go to apply an HP Rompaq and you find you are flashing BIOS, nic firmware, scsi cards, remote access card, and every hard drive in the box all at the push of a single button. So read carefully before you accept that End User License Agreement and know what you are applying.  The server management tools like the Dell IT Assistant can report on out of date drivers/firmware/management software. If you are a Dell shop, you need to look into running this tool. It can assess servers for compliance with latest releases, download them, install them, etc. Of course similar tools are available for your HP fleet or IBM fleet. Keeping up to date on firmware can prevent many other problems from surfacing, or cure some of the gremlins you have been chasing.

One thing you may not be counting on is that sometimes in order to get support from your vendor, you will have to go do a round of updates. Updates are issued for a reason - something was not working as it should and it needed to be fixed! Don't assume you can phone up 1-800-serversRus and they will jump to support your 5 versions out of date bios.  In many cases your server vendor will tell you to first apply those 20 firmware and driver updates before they will talk to you. Especially if you are experiencing anything that is documented in one of the firmware or driver packs.  They may already have provided you a solution in the flash release, you just need to go apply it.

I have equated firmware updates and driver updates as pretty much the same category. That is how I treat them. In many cases you will not be able to update a driver without updating firmware. In other cases, updating the firmware will cause problems with the old driver because they go hand in hand and work together. I will say that I have not had a flash failure in many years. I think manufacturers are getting better at managing these updates. For instance some servers include a redundant copy of the BIOS when you update so that you can back out a bad BIOS flash.  I consider keeping current on bios/drivers/management software one of the keys to maintaining good server uptime and reliability.

Building Test Labs

And now on to our guest editorial by Andrew Barnes...

Test Labs: It all begins here!

It helps to have a Test lab whether you're implementing a new system, developing code, undertaking career training or just evaluating a new software product.

There have been free online Test Labs for quite some time now in the form of Microsoft's Virtual Labs:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683335018

For those who want to use their own hardware, there are Virtual Hard Drives (VHD's) available for download that you can use on Hyper-V. You can find a list of some here: Run IT on a Virtual Hard Disk -- Test Drive Program:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683339534

Not everyone wants their lab pre-built. There are some that don't like smoke and mirrors and want to build their labs from the ground up. Also, not everyone uses Hyper-V to virtualize their servers. To this end, Microsoft has released their Test Lab Guide designs:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683344159

There are currently 2 Base Configuration designs available around which all other labs are formed:

In the past I created Test Labs based on my own designs but when I discovered the Test Lab Guide: Base Configuration I became an instant fan:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683356002

I then adopted the configuration for all of my test labs and evangelized about them on my blog:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683362534

There are now over 100 Test lab guides available based on Microsoft's TLG design many of which are community authored:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683367143

Why build a test lab?

In the past, there are a number of reasons why I have built Test Labs.

Hydration Kits

There are a number of tools available to help build your Test Labs (some called Hydration Kits). Hydration Kits are usually built by people who specialize in deployment using a combination of Microsoft Deployment Toolkit standalone media and scripts.

Here are a few available Hydration Kits:

There are also installers that deploy multiple related products:

I built the Hydration Kit - Test Lab: Base Configuration to save myself rebuilding my labs and later decided to share it with the online community:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683434612

So whatever your area of IT expertise is I suggest using the tools above to save yourself time and effort in developing your PoC environments.

About Andrew Barnes

Andrew Barnes a Deployment Specialist from Manchester, England, and hosts a deployment blog called Scriptimus Ex Machina that focuses around deployment and infrastructure automation.

Send us feedback

Got comments or questions concerning anything in the above editorial? Email us at wsn@mtit.com

Tip of the Week

PowerTip: Easily create a record of all PowerShell commands and associated output

This week Microsoft Scripting Guy Ed Wilson shows how to create easily a record of all Windows PowerShell commands typed in the Windows PowerShell console, and the output associated with those commands.

Question: You want to create a log of all commands and output typed into the Windows PowerShell console. How can you do this?

Answer: Use the Start-Transcript cmdlet. It automatically records all commands and associated output typed in the Windows PowerShell console. The command appears here:

Start-Transcript

Ed Wilson is the bestselling author of eight books about Windows Scripting, including Windows PowerShell 3.0 Step by Step, and Windows PowerShell 3.0 First Steps. He writes a daily blog about Windows PowerShell called Hey, Scripting Guy! that is hosted on the Microsoft TechNet Script Center; for more PowerTips Check out the Hey, Scripting Guy! blog.

Contact me at wsn@mtit.com if you have a tip you'd like to share with our readers.

Recommended for Learning

This week we have some recent titles to help you advance in your IT career:

Building your I.T. Career: A Complete Toolkit for a Dynamic Career In Any Economy, 2nd Edition (Pearson)
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683474316

Not a guide to the various certifications available but instead some practical advice on how to advance any kind of IT career. The chapter titled "12 Weeks to Profitable Consulting" might be especially helpful for those starting out in the IT consulting field.

CompTIA A+ 220-801 and 220-802 Authorized Cert Guide and Simulator Library (Pearson)
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683478816

This is probably everything you'll need to ace these two exams.

Healthcare Information Technology Exam Guide for CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician & HIT Pro Certifications (McGraw-Hill)
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683482972

Reviewers on Amazon consider this an excellent resource for preparing for IT certs for the healthcare industry.

Quote of the Week

"One of the best uses of your time is to increase your competence in your key result areas." --Brian Tracy

BTW feel free to:

Note to subscribers: If for some reason you don’t receive your weekly issue of this newsletter, please notify us at wsn@mtit.com and we’ll try to troubleshoot things from our end.

 

Admin Toolbox

Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

SolarWinds free NTFS Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory - get a complete hierarchical view of the effective permissions & access rights for a specific file folder or share drive. Download today!
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365684489963

Free Tool: Idera Server Backup Free – fast, disk-based continuous data protection for Windows and Linux servers – backs up and restore files in seconds.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365684493510

Download 2X ApplicationServer XG to deliver virtual desktops and applications from a central location, providing continuous availability, resource-based load balancing and complete end-to-end network transparency for administrators.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365684496322

Manage email on-premise or in the cloud. A hybrid archive solution is both scalable and compliant. Take advantage of cost-efficient cloud storage whilst maintaining compliancy.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1366030395062

Centrally organize, synchronize and audit your organization's passwords with the AuthAnvil Password Server from Scorpion Software:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365684499197



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PLANNING A WEBCAST you'd like to tell our 100,000 subscribers about? Contact michaelv@techgenix.com

 

Tech Briefing

So you want to continue using Windows XP? (The Things That Are Better Left Unspoken)

If you want to continue running Windows XP in your organization, you should begin taking measures, beginning today.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683521004

Data Tiering and Overprovisioning (WindowsNetworking.com)

This article explains the problem of storage overprovisioning and how data tiering can help solve this problem.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683555051

Back to basics: Citrix XenServer 6.1 (Part 1) - Installation (VirtualizationAdmin.com)

In this first part of our article series, the author will go through the steps to install Citrix XenServer 6.1.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683559254

Using DirectAccess (TechNet via Springboard Series Insider)

Explore a real world example that can show you how to address remote connectivity requirements by using DirectAccess, deploy DirectAccess easily using the Getting Started Wizard, and connect user devices, regardless of whether they connect directly to your corporate intranet or not.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683564504

Using PowerShell Aliases: Best Practices (Hey, Scripting Guy! Blog)

The low down on using aliases with Windows PowerShell.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683568894

Configuring an Exchange 2013 Hybrid Deployment and Migrating to Office 365 (Exchange Online) (Part 1) (MSExchange.org)

First in a series of articles that provides insight into the New Office 365 and then take you through the steps necessary to configure an Exchange 2013 hybrid deployment followed by migrating mailboxes from on-premises to the New Office 365 (Exchange Online).
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683573348

Step-By-Step: Virtual Machine Replication Using Hyper-V Replica (Canadian IT Pro Connection)

A walkthrough on how to use Hyper-V Replica.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683578738

Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 Live Migration does not support pass-through disks–KB2834898 (Working Hard in IT)

Some thoughts on using pass-through disks in your Hyper-V environment.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683583066

Windows 8 Tweaks and Tricks (WindowsNetworking.com)

In this article the author shares some tweaks and tricks you might be interested in as a Windows 8 admin and user.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683588426

VIDEO - Get Started with USMT (TechNet via Springboard Series Insider)

The User State Migration Tool (USMT) can help streamline deployment by moving users' files and settings from their previous Windows version to Windows 8.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683592410

VIDEO - TechNet Radio: IT Time–Get Certified! Why Microsoft Certification Matters (Channel 9 via TechNet Flash)

In this episode of IT Time, Blain Barton and the Scripting Guy, Ed Wilson, discuss the importance of Microsoft Certifications.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683597395

 

Windows Server News

What makes OpenStack public cloud tick?

While Amazon Web Services (AWS) plays a dominant role in the cloud market, recent enhancements and improvements to OpenStack may be changing the game. Inside this essential resource, learn about OpenStack's unique benefits and why it's expected to be AWS's top threat in the near future.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683602457

Desktop storage in-depth: Explaining diskless VDI

To enjoy the benefits of VDI, you must first tackle common storage capacity issues that this dynamic environment introduces. One revolutionary approach starting to gain traction is diskless virtual desktop storage – access this tip to learn why diskless VDI may be the solution admins have been waiting for.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683608035

Comparing the subtle differences between vMotion vs. Live Migration

VMware's vMotion and Microsoft's Live Migration may seem to have many similarities at first glance, but their features and capabilities are unique. So, which one outshines the other? Find out the key subtle differences between Live Migration and vMotion to learn which option is right for your business.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683613270

Microsoft improves Windows 8 DirectAccess as a VPN alternative

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are the go-to approach most organizations utilize to allow remote users to connect to their corporate network, but a new alternative is emerging – Windows 8 DirectAccess. Find out how this advanced platform addresses the shortcomings of VPNs.
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683618660

 

WServerNews FAVE Links

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 wsn@mtit.com

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Even though they are undoubtedly the Internet's favorite animal, cats can be real jerks sometimes...
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683625551

Niagara Falls has been filmed many times using full sized helicopters. But with a remote controlled helicopter, there is no minimum altitude restriction....
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683629535

Can you figure out how he does it? It is based on a phenomenon known in mathematics as the 'missing square puzzle.'
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683633520

"The ultimate Elvis tribute artist" Ben Portsmouth performs "An American Trilogy" on the Late Show with David Letterman February 8, 2013:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683637832

And this video is from a reader named Alan who says if you like Scotch Guarded sand try this stuff:
http://www.wservernews.com/go/1365683642848

 

WServerNews - Product of the Week

3 Free Tools. 1 Easy Download. Active Directory Admin Simplified.

SolarWinds trio of free tools for Active Directory Admin help you manage and remove computer and users from Active Directory, and allow you to add users in bulk. With these tools, you can scan Active Directory and optionally remove users and computers who have not logged in for a certain amount of time, or optionally remove computers that are over a certain number of days old. You can even create users in bulk using a CSV file and specify the attributes. These tools are certified with Windows 7 through a strategic relationship with Microsoft® and run on current Windows® versions.

Download your 3 Free tools here >

 

WServerNews - Editors

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 Tullochis 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.