Vol. 19, #8 - February 24, 2014 - Issue #968
Enterprise Monitoring Strategies
- Editor's Corner
- From the Mailbag
- Enterprise Monitoring Strategies
- Tip of the Week: Outlook Conditional Formatting
- Recommended for Learning
- Microsoft Virtual Academy
- Quote of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Events Calendar
- Asia Pacific
- Webcast Calendar
- MSExchange.org: Office 365 Online Conference
- Register for Webcasts
- Tech Briefing
- Enterprise IT
- System Center
- Windows Server News
- Enterprise cloud security best practices for locking down your cloud
- From VDI pilot to production: Four tips for the move
- Is more better? Heterogeneous hypervisor environments have pros, cons
- Enterprise mobility in 2014
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- #1 Hyper-V Backup
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- Solve the problem. Be a hero. Try FactFinder Express.
- SAVE THIS NEWSLETTER so you can refer back to it later for helpful tips, tools and resources!
- FORWARD THIS NEWSLETTER to a colleague who you think might find it useful!
- SEND YOUR FEEDBACK to [email protected] if you have any comments or suggestions!
This week's newsletter is all about the challenges of monitoring IT environments in today's enterprises. We welcome Jose Fehse, a Senior IT Consultant and Microsoft MVP, who has contributed this week's guest editorial on this subject.
Everyone loves a challenge, especially in IT, right? Otherwise we'd be bored. But then there's always Angry Birds to relieve our boredom... Anyways, what should you do if you've finished all your assigned IT projects and are ready for a new challenge? Should you go ask your boss? Well, maybe not as Asok the Intern found out in this Dilbert comic strip:
From the Mailbag
Here's a short sampling of some feedback we've received on last week's newsletter Implementing Wi-Fi in Enterprise Environments (Issue #967). Chris, who is President of a company that provides networking services for small businesses, recommended the following wireless networking solution:
We have had great success with Ubiquiti Unifi. I could very well be the lowest cost enterprise solution for acquisition, implementation, and administration. I don't know of any other solution that even comes close.
For more information on Ubiquiti Unifi see their website:
Tom from Spokane, Washington USA, shared some of his own experiences with deploying WiFi solutions for businesses:
I've set up Wi-Fi in several medium to large motels and business environments over the years. Depending on several factors I have primarily used two different units. Off the shelf Netgear N300's are great for home use, I have also used these in grocery stores to provide wireless for customers. I have had very good luck with these units and they have excellent coverage throughout the store. One thing that impressed me with the N300 is that if you only have one bar showing on the system tray Wi-Fi icon you still get an excellent experience when connected and surfing.
When I first started doing what I refer to as Industrial settings (businesses), my employer used a dual radio setup that had a pretty nice feature where in isolation cases, you could use one radio for access, the other to send the signal to another unit that provided the Internet connection, for areas where a Cat-5 run was a challenge or impossible. These units were also POE capable, which meant neither an electrical outlet or Ethernet cables were necessary. We were very happy with these until a job in Las Vegas when we encountered a problem with the buildings construction firewall playing hell with the signal, thus wiping out the dual radio feature previously mentioned as an asset. What really prompted the change from those units was the manufacturer/supplier, just across the way in L.A. couldn't be bothered coming over to assist us in making the system work.
We then came across the Orinoco AP-700 unit, also POE capable, though it didn't feature the dual radio feature described earlier, they were and have been our go to Wi-Fi routers since. I even installed a dozen of them to cover the World's largest Super8 motel in Las Vegas, and they have done a remarkable job. Once again, with POE ability, all you have to run is Cat5 cable, and use injectors or a POE switch to power them up. They come with a very nice utility that locates each and everyone on a network and also provides easy access from the tool to each and everyone. I have never had interference issues with these units, and have installed too many to even count. There are other models that provide even greater flexibility and features, but the 700's have always been the right unit for the installs I've done. Hope this helps.
And while WiFi seems to be the way to go today, not everyone agrees that it's the right choice for business networking. Todd, the IT Manager for an industrial tools business in Rockford, Illinois USA, said:
While WiFi certainly has its place, my advice is "hardwire if you can". Current WiFi does not have the stability, reliability, and bandwidth of wire. Of course there is a reasonable trade-off for mobility, but I scratch my head when I hear of companies abandoning their existing Cat5 and converting their desktop computers to WiFi. I'm sure that someday we'll have unbelievably fast and reliable WiFi. However, you may notice that Internet providers are pulling underground fibre-optic cabling for their needs- not installing ultra-super-WiFi transceivers on towers and utility poles.
And now on to our guest editorial by Jose Fehse...
Enterprise Monitoring Solutions
When you think about corporate IT around 20 years ago or more, monitoring didn't seem like a big challenge. A single mainframe with dumb terminals, some mini computers (with 8" diskettes) around, some small Unix machines and some Novell servers. The applications were pretty much self-contained, with very few interactions with others and no relationship to the external world (internet).
When something went wrong, unless something very bad happened with your mainframe or a small service that depended on that Unix box would go off-line, you would know right away, since the applications much closer to the platform itself. And usually, the mainframe computer had its own self-monitoring system (central), while the other platforms were not yet connected to mission critical applications.
But things have changed since then. These days, we have a great number of layers involved in a single application. The application is a layer of a service, which delivers a final product to the client. Each layer, along the years, grew exponentially in complexity and the diversity of components made the understanding of the whole more and more complicated. They are like cooking with onions: the final result usually tastes very good but pealing the onions stink and makes you cry.
Naturally, it became much harder to know what is wrong when clients in the far end of the application interface are not able to perform their work. Any of the layers could be the problem. Or multiple layers could have an issue at once. Many times, the components can be geographically dispersed, connected by not so reliable connections. Add the cloud concept to the mix and you will have a complete applications or parts of it running on a datacenter owned by another company, connected over the internet. How to properly understand the layers and the flow of information of such complex environments?
With time, monitoring tools appeared in the interconnected PC world. Starting with the simple ping slavers that would simply report a dead peer. This was helpful, but the reason of the disconnection, of course, would remain unknown initially. Very likely it was the nearest failed device, but definitely this was just a guess. These tools evolved along with SNMP to give you more information about the devices, starting with network load, throughput, and then memory and processor utilization and going to the point of bringing detailed information about certain device statuses. Who has never configured MRTG? SNMP is there until today and it is better than a simple ping. Many platforms still only provide SNMP monitoring, even server monitoring ones and can provide more information.
A few years ago, however, the idea of an agent running on the servers started to grow, in order to provide more in-depth understanding of the applications. Many platforms were developed around this concept, like Microsoft Operations Manager, Tivoli, CA and others.
This concept today has expanded greatly and the level of information that can be gathered from the different layers, like Web Servers, Databases, Server OS, Hardware and Network, is really overwhelming. The actual monitoring tools, by themselves, have many layers and use the same web servers, databases OSs and network in order to operate. So, the very effort to maintain a fully functional monitoring environment, for any size of company, can become a huge challenge. You know you need to know, but knowing, costs money. Not knowing also costs money. And maybe more: reputation. Additionally, most of these tools require a significant amount of work to tailor them to your environment. They usually start very chatty, with many false positives and tuning is a required and many times a hard task.
So, how can companies approach this dilemma? They have complex systems. Critical systems that really run their operations. They already have support to the applications and operating systems, being internal or from a 3rd party. Now, adding another person or group of persons to run an almost separate operation to manage and monitor the environment seems to be too much. And of course, these people, sometimes more than some application owners, will need to know the technology. They need to see the whole in order to understand how and why certain pieces of this complex machine are failing. To do that, they need to be trained and retained. Knowledge of the infrastructure is important and turnover can compromise the quality of the work.
The In-house Option
To approach this issue, companies usually take the in-house approach. It seems natural, as it seemed natural in the beginning to have your e-mail in the premises, to have your in-the-house team, to understand the environment, monitor and respond to issues. With this, though, comes great responsibility. You will be responsible for the people, their retention and their training. You also need to manage night and weekend shifts, on call and escalation during statutory holidays. And, of course, how to cover in case of sickness or vacations. On the other hand, you will have full control of their tasks and how they will be best directed in emergency issues.
If your operations is big enough to justify a full monitoring team, with all the management that is involves, you need to have a good justification. Usually, the daily monitoring operations are initially shared with other tasks, like general server management, user help, patching and other projects, depending on the size of your company. As a consultant, I have initiated many monitoring systems installations and tunings, just so it could "continue to be developed" by the company. Very often, I would come by a year later and the environment would have very little utilization, or stagnant or even completely abandoned, due to the lack of utilization of, even worse, for not being trusted.
The Outsourcing Option
Many companies, in the face of the complexity of deploying, configuring, tuning and operating a distributed monitoring tool, have reached out to companies that provide what we could call MaaS (Monitoring as a Service). This approach involves the handover of the complicated aspects of running the monitoring system and allows the company and its IT staff to focus on how to better run their internal platforms, safe the service is being executed by trained professionals, 24x7 and that an escalation will come when something really grave happens.
Andrew Gault, Senior Tech Lead of Infrastructure Guardian Inc., has told me that the main benefit that an outsourced service will provide is "Cutting through the noise! Email subscriptions in a monitoring tool often only show half of the picture and can sometimes be transient. We apply human intelligence behind all alerts, validate whether there is an issue and then we notify customers based on pre-defined escalation process. This greatly reduces the number of false alerts (including out of hours calls) and ensures that our customers are not overwhelmed with alerts, which may result in something critical being missed."
Andrew adds: "Another significant challenge that organizations without a 24/7 NOC experience is managing how those alerts are handled and processed. With Infrastructure Guardian, we become an extension of the IT operations team and only contact the customer out of hours for the most critical issues. A good example might be disk space on a drive: At 2.30am the space drops and a warning alert is created. Our analyst will then review the disk space trending over the past several hours and days and determine whether the customer should be called. In one scenario, it might be that the space is depleting a quickly and we can call and advise that they have x number of hours left before the drive it out of space. In a second scenario, the analysts may see that the space has been gradually dropping over several days and in this case we will contact the customer during business hours. In the second scenario our analysts will continue to monitor the trends for any rapid changes."
The mixed approach
Some companies, looking to have some control and willing to invest some effort in the internal monitoring will have some professionals that still get involved with the monitoring of certain applications, but also count with the external help to make sure the monitoring platform is stable and working properly. This option allows for some control, but will require some HR investment, along with time from the internal IT staff. This is also often an interim solution, until the whole environment is handed over to the external service provider.
A few pointers
As you may have noticed, I tend to believe that delegating the monitoring to a 3rd party can be a very good solution and that it can save precious time and money for an organization. However, beware of a few caveats:
- Select the right partner to execute the service -- A well trained and experienced team, with proper process and tools can make a big difference.
- Make sure the idea is bought internally -- an IT team that doesn't trust the 3rd party executing the service will make a complete transfer of execution almost impossible.
- The responsibility is not fully transferred when you hire a 3rd party service -- If there is no commitment from both sides, any errors, on either side, will be an excuse to point fingers. Both should be working together, to better suit the needs of the company.
- Use a good monitoring tool -- some of them may seem complex in the beginning, but with the right tuning, they will leverage the huge amount of information produced by the environment and will help revealing issues and trends among it.
Monitoring IT environments nowadays can be very challenging, but fear not. There good tools and good companies out there to provide you with support for that herculean task. Keep in mind the size of your company and the resources required to achieve the level of excellence you want for your environment. Make a call based on these factors and you should have a good balance of results and investment.
About Jose Fehse
Jose Fehse is Senior IT Consultant and Microsoft MVP with focus on System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management, with over 21 years of experience in Information Technology.
Send us feedback
Got feedback on this topic? Let us know at [email protected]
This week's tip was submitted to us by David Craig, a Senior Premier Field Engineer for Microsoft who specializes in Microsoft Office Development (VBA/C#), Migration, Tips and Tricks and general support.
Outlook Conditional Formatting
Outlook is a powerful tool and it comes with many hidden goodies to make your life easier. One common complaint by business professionals today is how much email has to be read on daily basis. The process of reading email involves looking who it is addressed TO, who is on the CC, what the SUBJECT is and then making a decision to read it and/or where to put it. Using Outlook Conditional Formatting is one powerful feature you can use to simplify the process of reading your email.
Conditional Formatting will allow you to specify specific formatting to an email item once it arrives in your Inbox. Once applied, you can look at a message and know right away if you are on the TO or CC line, whether it is from your Boss or just discussion alias fodder. For example, I have developed a few conditional formats that I use:
- Red -- if I am on the TO Line
- Dark Red -- if I am on the CC line
- Purple -- if it comes from my manager
- Green -- if it is for my team alias.
Here is how you can setup conditional formatting in Outlook 2010/2013:
- Open Outlook and select your Inbox.
- On the View tab, click View Settings.
- Click Conditional Formatting…
- Click Add.
- Give it a name, and then click Font.
- Specify the formatting you want and then click Ok.
- Finally, click Condition…
If you want more details on how and the wide range of options, take a look at this online course provided by Microsoft:
-- submitted by David Craig
You can find David's blog here:
You can also follow Dave on Twitter (@davecra):
and you can find him on LinkedIn here:
GOT TIPS you'd like to share with other readers? Email us at [email protected]
This week we have some SharePoint titles for you to check out:
Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Inside Out
Microsoft SharePoint 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance
Microsoft SharePoint 2013: Designing and Architecting Solutions
Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Step by Step
Microsoft Virtual Academy
Here are three on-demand courses from MVA that you might want to test drive:
Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 8.1
Get help with the transition from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 in this this course. Microsoft Technical Lead Kyle Rosenthal walks you through the various challenges of the upgrade, ensuring you a seamless transition to the new Windows 8.1. Get to know the tools that will help you with the move and that can continue to help you as you use Windows 8.1. View the course here.
Windows 8.1 To Go
If you are interested in the latest mobility solutions, check out this on-demand course on Windows To Go, which supports ultra-mobile workstyles through a bootable USB that turns almost any PC into a secure Windows 8 corporate PC—without requiring network connectivity. You'll see that Windows To Go is a full fidelity desktop that includes Windows 8 touch, virtualization technologies, secure connection via DirectAccess, and data encryption with BitLocker. View here.
Windows Performance Jump Start
If you missed our recent live Jump Start, and want to learn about the tools used by Microsoft Global Business Support Premier Field Engineers when they need to make a CEO's computer run faster, watch it now on-demand. You'll learn how to improve performance for computers that are starting slowly, and to diagnose and fix problems caused by resource-hogging apps. It's a deep dive on the free Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT), part of the Assessment and Deployment Toolkit (ADK), developed to help you troubleshoot and resolve these issues. Watch it now.
Quote of the Week
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers" - attributed to Thomas J. Watson in 1943 (as quoted on Usenet in 1986) so maybe it's just an urban legend...
Note to subscribers: If for some reason you don’t receive your weekly issue of this newsletter, please notify us at [email protected] and we’ll try to troubleshoot things from our end.
Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
Server performance problems? Find out why with FactFinder Express. See whether the issue is a slow app, slow SQL requests, or a CPU/Memory/Disk bottleneck. 30 day free trial.
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.
With Veeam, you can sleep knowing that your data’s under control, your backups are fast, and if a VM goes down or someone needs a file right away, recovery is just a few clicks away.
Synergix ADCE. Making Windows Behave Well. ADCE addresses Password Policy related challenges & GPOs on remote computers. Built-In Admin Password Management, Kerberos Management and WiFi are a bonus.
Log Parser Studio 2.0 lets you create and edit queries with less fiddling around than with Log Parser alone:
SharePoint Conference 2014 on March 3-6, 2014 at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada
Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2014 on March 4-7, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia
Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC 2014) on March 30-April 2, 2014 in Austin, Texas
Microsoft Build Developer Conference (Build 2014) on April 2-4, 2014 in San Francisco, California
TechEd North America on May 12-15, 2014 in Houston, Texas
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2014) in July, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Microsoft SQL Server PASS Summit 2014 on November 4-7, 2014 in Seattle, Washington
European SharePoint Conference on May 5-8, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain
NEW! - TechEd Europe on October 27-31, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain
TechEd New Zealand on September 9-12, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand
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MSExchange.org: Office 365 Online Conference
Get your top questions on migrating, configuring and managing MS Exchange in Office 365 and Hybrid environments at this convenient online event on Thursday March 6, 2014.
- Hear from a top analyst from Osterman Research with the latest survey research on Office 365 & MS Exchange top trends and challenges.
- Learn how vendors are solving some of the biggest Office 365 issues and challenges, including:
- Best Practices for migration planning
- Navigating deployment challenges in a hybrid environment
- Enhancing the cloud experience with dedicated Third Party Solutions
- Methods to reduce the amount of data migrated & shorten project timelines
- Tips for overcoming common challenges in Cloud and Hybrid Migrations
- Get the latest insights on Office 365 & Hybrid Environments from an expert panel of Microsoft MVPs.
- All from the convenience of your office, on March 6, 2014 at 11:00 AM EST (US Time).
This virtual live online conference is limited to 1,000 participants, so register today.
Register for Webcasts
Add your Webcast
PLANNING A WEBCAST you'd like to tell our subscribers about? Contact [email protected]
Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit 9.0 (The Windows Server FCI Blog)
What Happens When The Password Of A User Is Reset While Being Logged On? (Jorge's Quest for Knowledge)
What Happens When The AD User Account Expires While Being Logged On? (Jorge's Quest for Knowledge)
Product Review: AdRem Software NetCrunch 7 (WindowsNetworking.com)
Unable to access some network shares from Windows 2012 R2 (Third Tier)
ConfigMgr 2012 – The Replace scenario (ConfigMgr System Center)
Deploying UEFI machines with ConfigMgr 2012 R2 (Deployment Research)
Using Virtual Machine Connection and the Enhanced Session Mode in Windows Server 2012 R2 (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
Capacity Planner for Hyper-V Replica (Microsoft Download Center)
PC Refresh with XenDesktop Local Mode (The Citrix Blog)
Introduction to Microsoft App-V 5.0 for Citrix Application Streaming (CAS) Customers (The Citrix Blog)
Enterprise cloud security best practices for locking down your cloud
When it comes to the cloud, IT pros must adhere to strict compliance guidelines and security regulations. Fortunately, there are a number of best practice guides and cloud experts that can help you ensure optimal cloud security – find out more inside.
From VDI pilot to production: Four tips for the move
Once you've successfully made it through a VDI pilot, it's time to move to production. But how can you be sure you're ready and what steps can you take to successfully roll out your VDI implementation? Access this exclusive resource for four critical tips to follow when moving from VDI pilot to production.
Is more better? Heterogeneous hypervisor environments have pros, cons
While heterogeneous hypervisor environments can offer significant financial savings, these benefits can often come at a cost. Inside this exclusive guide, find out the top pros and cons of the heterogeneous hypervisor so you can effectively evaluate whether or not this approach is right for your IT environment.
Enterprise mobility in 2014
BYOD trends are forcing IT pros to restructure their existing infrastructure strategies and policies. Inside this essential guide, independent experts provide detailed predictions on what's to come this year from enterprise mobility and reveal key tips for staying ahead of this evolving end user trend.
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 [email protected]
A compilation of some incredibly lucky pedestrians, train spotters, truck drivers, bicycle riders, motorcyclists and rally drivers.
Funny cat faces, featuring silly cat, sad cat, guilty cat, stalker cat, intellectual cat, grumpy cat and annoyed cat.
Jeremy and James race a Toyota 'Auris' against the America's Cup yacht Oracle at the Northern tip of New Zealand.
Female cat is upset and male cat tries to apologize to her. Female cat ignores him. How is this story going to end?