Vol. 18, #2 - January 14, 2013 - Issue #912
Planning for (server) retirement
- Editor's Corner
- Hot News!
- From the Mailbag
- Planning for (server) retirement
- Tip of the Week
- Recommended for Learning
- Quote of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Events Calendar
- Webcast Calendar
- Featured Webinar: The TCO of Windows-to-Go Secure Workplace: Enabling Contractors and Teleworkers
- Register for Webcasts
- Server Hardware Resources
- Microsoft ending development of Expression suite of Web and design tools
- Google Kills Free Google Apps For Business, Now Only Offering Premium Paid Version To Companies Of All Sizes
- A Visual Guide to Windows Server Training and Certification
- Announcing Reduced Pricing for Windows Azure Storage
- Free eBook - Moving Applications to the Cloud, 3rd Edition - Free Patterns & Practices book
- Cloud computing feeds competitiveness among consumers and vendors
- Top 10 VDI news stories of 2012
- Understanding the many facets of infrastructure convergence
- Top 10 Windows tips of 2012
- This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
- # 1 Price/Performance Load Balancer for Server High Availability
This week's issue is about planning for retirement. Server retirement, that is. Should you hang on to old server hardware or replace it with fresh, shiny new metal (or plastic as the case may be--yes that's a pun)? We'll consider this question in a moment, but first did you know that you may be able to use your own upcoming retirement as an IT pro to secure a BETTER DEAL WITH YOUR EMPLOYER?
Hot News Item!
MSExchange.org and WindowsNetworking.com have a new look and I for one really like it! See how the sites have changed by checking out the first article of my latest series titled Configuring iSCSI Storage:
And be sure to check out the new home page of the sites as well:
The rest of the sites in the TechGenix family should be updated in the coming days.
From the Mailbag
Let's start by catching up on some of the holiday mail from our dusty old mailbag. First here is a general request I received from a reader named Mark along with the response I sent directly to him:
I have two (enthusiast/office) server networks running in my office. That is, I am a dentist and former marine engineer - Georgetown Dental School and the US Merchant Marine Academy. The engineer in me loves to tinker with computers so I am the IT guy. I started with DOS 2.01 in 1984 and have one network with SBS 2003 and one with SBS 2008. Of course tinkering has its hazards and though both networks are running, neither is running perfectly. I would like help on finding out where my installations are deficient. Perhaps if a series of performance monitor configurations could be packaged, I could run them and figure out what to do. --Mark
Hey Mark, I think your best course would be to find an SBS consultant in your area and ask them to come and check things out. You could also try contacting a few SBS MVPs listed at http://www.wservernews.com/go/1357898600820 and see if anyone can suggest how you might proceed. Good luck! --Mitch
If you have questions about or need some help with a specific Microsoft platform or product, you might try seeing if there is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) living in your area who specializes in that platform or product. To find an MVP by keyword search (e.g. "SBS") you can use this page on the Microsoft MVP site:
The Advanced Search page lets you browse for MVPs by expertise or search for them by name, technical expertise or country/region:
You can even find Yours Truly on this site:
MVPs are usually very helpful people because they receive their award for their support of the larger IT community. When in doubt about something, ask an MVP! If they don't know the answer, they may be able to redirect you to where you can find help with your issue.
A reader named Justin mentioned one more cloud service that can be used for both business and personal backup:
Also in that issue a reader named Alain from South Africa shared a story about his own investigation into cloud-based backup as a possible solution for his company of Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers. Alain said that he had investigated the pricing of various cloud backup solutions and had concluded that they were "all horrendously expensive" compared to the home-grown in-house solution he developed and which he described for us in his email. Oliver Potgieter of Extend Technology Services, which is also based in South Africa, had this response to Alain's story:
Interesting feedback from Alain in South Africa on online backups -- we run a cloud aggregator business based in South Africa, focussed on the African market, and Alain's story is not uncommon around here. IT guys forced into extremely convoluted solutions due to pricing and particularly bandwidth constraints in the local market.
I'm happy to report however that the landscape is rapidly changing, both in terms of connectivity pricing (& quality!), and in terms of cloud services. For example, utilising our online backup product we could solve Alain's problems for as little as R2,400/month for his 600gb (the equivalent of around $280). This would give him a true set & forget solution including enterprise databases (SQL/Oracle/Exchange/etc), replication & redundancy across multiple datacentres, local datacentres for ingestion via USB drive & rapid recovery by USB, and including granular control for the IT admin with monitoring, alerting, reporting, and the ability to maintain local copies of backup inherent within the software.
Alain's current solution has obviously been designed within the past constraints of the operating environment, and sounds like it gives them a great level of backup, redundancy and control. I'm sure though that Alain's valuable time could be better spent enabling new solutions for the business, rather than looking after a backup & recovery system that involves 3 separate servers, and who knows how many external drives in rotation (& just think what those servers could be used for…)
We'd be more than happy to run a free trial for Alain, & we'll throw in ingestion at our local datacentre by USB to ease his bandwidth concerns.
Love the newsletter, keep up the good work (6 years as a subscriber and counting!)
For more information about Extend Technology Services see their website:
Hard drive reliability continues to be a hot button topic for readers of our newsletter. Paul, an IT consultant based in San Jose, California, shared his thoughts on the subject and why he only recommends enterprise-class drives for servers:
I support mostly HP ProLiant servers: some rather old (2005 vintage), some recent. All the older HP servers use U320 SCSI drives that are still working in continuous 24x7 operation (no failures), and get scheduled Chkdsk and Defrag routines to help maintain drive health. With a few newer HP servers with SAS drives, I've had two SAS drives fail within the first year of operation. HP is very good (1-2 day replacement policy) to replace under warranty, but I'm still disappointed with SAS drive reliability.
I also support a few newer Dell servers with both SAS and SATA drives. I've had a few failures with both SATA and SAS Dell drives within the first year. Some drive types from the same manufacturer perform differently with the OEM's drive firmware (e.g., HP drives, Dell drives, etc.).
For me, it's obvious that the newer drive technology provides faster drive performance, and more capacity, but at what cost to reliability. Current RAID configurations also seem to suffer reliability issues with the newer SATA and SAS drives. I now only order enterprise-class SATA and SAS drives for server and NAS configurations. For servers and NAS, I prefer enterprise-class Seagate drives. WDs are still under scrutiny, evaluation. Hitachi and Fujitsu drives have had an OK track record, so far.
Dwight from Illinois shared what might be a record for HDD reliability:
I have a NT 4.0 Server I built in 1992 with a Seagate 225 MFM drive. It has run 24/7 for twenty plus years with no problems of any sort. Can't begin to guess how many revolutions and W/R's the drive has made over the years. Every time it gets shutdown I think it won't restart, but it always does.
I just hope that server isn't connected to the Internet since extended support for NT 4.0 ended way back in 2004.
Planning for (server) retirement
If some of your server hardware is getting old, should you retire it? Or should you squeeze as much additional life out of it as possible? By server hardware I'm including such things as server systems, storage arrays, network switches, tape backup systems, and any other hardware that supports and delivers the applications and data critical to your business. The decision to upgrade and keep old hardware or to retire it and refresh your server hardware has both benefits and risks.
Benefits of retiring hardware
Retiring old hardware can provide a number of benefits for your business. For example:
- You can save money on your electrical bill by consolidating multiple server workloads onto a few (or one) modern, power-efficient server system by virtualizing the workloads.
- You can improve the manageability of your environment by retiring old hardware that uses outdated management interfaces and tools.
- You can improve the supportability of your environment by retiring hardware whose components are difficult to replace because they are no longer being produced.
- Replacing a server before it fails is generally cheaper and easier (and much less stressful) than replacing one after it fails.
Risks of retiring hardware
Retiring old hardware can involve some degree of risk however. For example:
- Before you can retire old hardware, you need to develop and test a migration plan for moving applications and data to new hardware. But migrations can often go wrong, so you must ensure you have a reliable rollback plan in place first.
- There is a general perception in the IT pro community that newer hardware is often less reliable than old hardware. Regardless of whether this is true or not, you need to perform due diligence in choosing new hardware that has sufficient reliability to meet your needs.
- IT pros are generally averse to risk. The result can be an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" attitude towards replacing hardware. To overcome this tendency, IT must view their mission more from a business perspective than a technical perspective and learn to manage risk instead of running from it.
- Sometimes something as simple as adding more memory or a better network card can significantly boost application performance for a server. While low-cost incremental improvements like this are alluring, performance is not the only factor that should determine whether a system should be upgraded or retired.
Send us feedback
Where do our readers stand on this issue? Do the benefits of refreshing server hardware outweigh the risks? Do you have stories to share that might benefit other IT pros facing such decisions? Send your feedback on this topic to [email protected]
Tip of the Week
Gene Walli who works as an Engineer at AT&T recently contacted me concerning the tip "Creating a new file association in Windows 7" which I had published in the Admin Knowledge Base on WindowsNetworking.com:
Gene said to me:
Mitch, I don't want to change the default operation of a file type, I want to ADD a new operation. In previous Windows versions, you could have multiple operations for given extensions, eg: Open, Edit, View or whatever. You could set the default operation for an HTML file to open with Firefox, View with WordPad, and Edit with Emacs. Any way to do that in Win7?
I pointed him to a thread on this topic in the Microsoft Answers forum but he said he had tried that and it hadn't worked. He also said he had searched the Windows 7 forums and found this post by Ramesh Srinivasan dated March 28 2010:
The file types tab has been removed in Windows Vista & Windows 7, and replaced by "Default Programs". If you need to customize the file type associations to a greater level (such as addition or modification of an additional verb in a file class), you may have to use a third-party tool or edit the registry manually.
Gene later contacted me and said he had found a third-party solution that could meet his needs:
Mitch, Picked around in a few other threads, found:
And it works fine!
Contact me at [email protected] if you have a tip you'd like to share with our readers.
Recommended for Learning
Windows Server 2012 Unified Remote Access Planning and Deployment (Packt Publishing) explains in detail how to plan, deploy, manage and troubleshoot a DirectAccess solution for your organization. DirectAccess is like magic. It provides remote users with access to your internal corporate network in a way that is completely transparent for the users. By contrast, traditional VPN solutions seem clunky when compared with how DirectAccess works. DirectAccess also allows IT to manage mobile computers when they are outside the office. All that is required is an Internet connection.
The authors of this book work at Microsoft and they clearly know their stuff. The best part of the book in my mind is the last chapter on monitoring and troubleshooting. That's because while DirectAccess is essentially transparent from the user's perspective (remote users can work as if they are in the office and connected to the corporate LAN) there can be a few tricky problems on the IT side of things, including misconfigurations, Group Policy issues, firewall problems, and other stuff. All I can say is, if your organization supports remote users using VPN technologies and you haven't yet looked at DirectAccess, you should. And you should buy this book if you plan on testing, piloting or deploying DirectAccess for your company.
Quote of the Week
From a reader named Welmoed in the Netherlands:
Thank you for the many issues of good information this year.
I wish you and your family all the best for 2013 and a Merry Christmas.
Perhaps you may want to quote me in future issues:
"The economy is not bad, it's only less good!"
I wish you and your family all the best for 2013 and a Merry Christmas.
Good health, a bit of prosperity and smooth roads (I'm an oltimer driver) make 2013 a perfect year.
That's good advice! The glass is indeed HALF FULL and not half empty!
Until next week,
- 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!
Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
Free Download - #1 Price/Performance Load Balancer – Traffic Optimization for Exchange, Lync & Win servers
Download SolarWinds free WMI Monitor to monitor any Windows application or server, giving you amazing insight into real-time performance with a slick desktop dashboard!
Top 5 free IT infrastructure auditing tools. Audit changes in Active Directory, Exchange, File Servers, VMware and SQL. Reviewed by industry gurus, these tools proved useful for thousands of IT pros.
Back up Hyper-V VMs easily and quickly with Altaro Hyper-V Backup. Free for up to 2VMs (forever), or try unlimited VMs for 30 days. Download now - No catch, no sales pitch.
Easily fix file association settings in Windows, including context menu items, icons, and descriptions--all without fiddling around in the registry:
- Microsoft Management Summit on April 8-12, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, USA
- Microsoft TechEd North America on June 3-6, 2013 in New Orleans, USA
- Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on July 7-11, 2013 in Houston, USA
Add your event
Contact Michael Vella at [email protected] to get your conference or other event listed in our Events Calendar.
Featured Webinar: The TCO of Windows-to-Go Secure Workplace: Enabling Contractors and Teleworkers
How can your organization cost-effectively enable one or hundreds of teleworkers, remote workers, contractors and others with a solution that will protect your data assets, while enabling these individuals to work from any location on any platform?
Join Michael Osterman, Principal at Osterman Research, and Gary Gerber, Senior Product Marketing Manager at IronKey, for an informative Webinar on Wednesday, January 23rd at 1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT. You will discover the features and benefits of Mobile Workspaces leveraging Windows-to-Go, and compare their TCO to traditional laptops and Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) solutions. This interactive webinar will help you understand what a Mobile Workspace employing Windows-to-Go can and cannot do for you, give you a perspective on the costs to support remote or temporary workers, and introduce you to some of the features this type of solution should have.
All registrants will have a chance to win a new Apple iPad Mini.
Register for Webcasts
Add your Webcast
Contact Michael Vella at [email protected] to get your webcast listed in our Webcasts Calendar.
We'll begin with some resources about retiring/refreshing server hardware:
- When It Comes to Server Lifecycle Management, Start with a Good Strategy (BizTech Magazine):
- Computer Life Cycle Management and Migration (from Ontrack Data Recovery):
- Hardware upgrade and server refresh guide (from TechTarget - registration required):
- When is the right time to replace servers? (from Arnclan Computer Services)
- Server Consolidation Explained (an oldie but goodie from Directions On Microsoft):
Now for some other stuff...
Microsoft ending development of Expression suite of Web and design tools
From Ars Technica comes news that some of Microsoft's Expression suite of Web and design-oriented tools are being phased out:
Google Kills Free Google Apps For Business, Now Only Offering Premium Paid Version To Companies Of All Sizes
TechCrunch tells us that Google is ending the free version of Google Apps for Business:
A Visual Guide to Windows Server Training and Certification
From the Born To Learn blog comes this post showing how you can take your IT career from the server to the cloud:
Announcing Reduced Pricing for Windows Azure Storage
From the Windows Azure blog on MSDB comes news about reduced pricing and more offerings for Windows Azure Storage:
Free eBook - Moving Applications to the Cloud, 3rd Edition - Free Patterns & Practices book
This guide is the third edition of the first volume in a series about Windows Azure and demonstrates how you can adapt an existing on-premises ASP.NET application to one that operates in the cloud:
Cloud computing feeds competitiveness among consumers and vendors
Many businesses are looking to leverage the cloud in 2013, but not just for the cost-saving benefits it offers -- competitive advantage is the primary factor driving cloud adoption. Take a look at how cloud computing is spurring competition, not only between vendors, but amongst your peers as well.
Top 10 VDI news stories of 2012
The virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market experienced a number of significant shifts and changes last year as trends like cloud and mobile computing became more prevalent. Inside this tip, discover how this technology has evolved by reviewing a recap of the top ten VDI stories of 2012.
Understanding the many facets of infrastructure convergence
While infrastructure convergence is a popular trend in the IT industry today, a number of organizations have yet to fully embrace this technology shift. Find out if this strategy is right for your IT environment by exploring the various types of converged infrastructure and the essential benefits they offer.
Top 10 Windows tips of 2012
Desktop management trends are continuously evolving and shifting as new technologies, services and vendors enter the market -- so how do you stay on top of the latest tips and tricks? Access this guide to explore the ten most valuable Windows resources your peers utilized to stay up-to-date in 2012.
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
Stunning action sports video with amazing 3D effects:
Engineer Andrew Grey loves his parrot 'Pepper' and also loves technology, so he merged his two affections to create the "Bird Buggy":
Spectacular footage of a train plowing a route through deep snow "Arthur's Pass" New Zealand:
'Lucy' the cat likes to run on a treadmill together with her owner Marina Maltseva.
The horse "Lady in Black" is up to the challenge of going step-for-step with four human dancers.
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 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.