Vol. 24, #8 - April 8, 2013 - Issue #924
To Flash or Not To Flash
- Editor's Corner
- From the Mailbag
- To Flash or Not To Flash
- 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
- Ignoring Users Hasn't Worked: Tactics for managing application settings
- MSExchange.org Webinar: Manage Exchange Data in the Cloud
- Register for Webcasts
- Tech Briefing
- Looking Back and Springing Ahead
- Choosing a storage solution
- An Inside look at avoiding cloud risks
- Windows Server 2012: How Active Directory Administrative Center Has Changed
- Working With Replicas in Hyper-V 3.0 (Part 1)
- Exclaimer Signature Manager - Voted MSExchange.org Readers' Choice Award Winner - Outlook Addon
- Microsoft Forefront UAG - Forefront UAG monitoring and debugging (Part 1)
- Understanding the Difference Between Physical and Virtual Networking
- How to Deploy Mobile Authentication
- Comparing Methods To Implement Converged Fabrics For Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V
- Testing Multi-Hypervisor Management
- Uninstall VMware Tools with PowerShell
- Agencies Deploy VDI with an Eye Toward BYOD
- Product Review: EMCO MSI Package Builder
- 4 Solutions for Ensuring DHCP Availability
- Windows Server News
- Cloud management tools a letdown for enterprise IT workloads
- Selecting VDI storage hardware products and features
- CompTIA Cloud Essentials and other vendor-neutral certificates
- How to avoid costly problems during a VMware vSphere upgrade
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- Beat server downtime with anytime server backup.
- SAVE THIS NEWSLETTERso 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 flashing. No, not that kind of flashing. We're talking about flashing the BIOS of those servers in your back room or datacenter as the case may be. But since you mentioned it:
That's not what you expected, was it? Heh.
From the Mailbag
Let's start by catching up on our mailbag...
Office 365 licensing
In the previous issue Getting Started with Office 365 (Issue #923) we had Kelsey Epps contribute a guest editorial on the topic "Getting Started with Office 365." Kelsey is a Technical Consultant with Concepps Group and he just received a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award--congratulations! You can read the news on his blog:
Forgot to mention that I was just re-awarded MVP status myself by Microsoft a few days ago, that makes nine years in a row for me as a Microsoft MVP.
(cue the applause)
Anyways, software licensing often changes rapidly nowadays to address evolving markets, and it turns out that there are two new Office 365 licensing options that Kelsey didn't mention in his editorial last issue, so here to clarify things is Ron Grattopp from the US SMB&D TS2 Team at Microsoft:
In the recent guest editorial "Getting Started with Office 365" by Kelsey Epps, in the "What you need to know" section he states: "Microsoft breaks down Office 365 into two plans; P Plans and E Plans." While this is true, there have been some recent changes and additions to the Office 365 subscription offerings that you should be made aware of.
First, to clarify, there are (and have been actually) multiple "E" family plans (E1-4), but even that has changed and now the former E1 and E2 plans are merged with all the E2 capabilities available at the E1 price, but the biggest thing to know about new E1 combo is that this plan does not include the full Office client (Office 365 ProPlus), it only includes the back-end services (Exchange 2013/SharePoint 2103/Lync 2103) and Office Web Apps, which are enhanced in the new Office 365 update but still not the equivalent of the full Office client apps. So the Office 365 E1 price of $8/mo gets you all the Office 2013 back-end services but without the full Office "front-end" client:
Plans E3-E4 do include the full Office client (Office 365 ProPlus, which is essentially the same bits as the OPP 2013 just sold as a subscription vs a perpetual license), and Office 365 E3 price is $20/mo:
Office 365 E4 adds some advanced telephony options for an additional $2/mo:
Moreover, note that plans E3 and above include advanced Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync functionality over the E1 plan. So much for the review of the E family of plans.
Office 365 now has 2 brand new plans: Office 365 Small Business Premium (P2):
and Office 365 Midsize Business (M):
One of the most significant things about these new plans is that they make Office 365 subscriptions available through standard licensing mechanisms, specifically retail packaging (which Microsoft calls FPP, or Full Packaged Product, but is now actually PKC or Product Key Card, vs the traditional box) for P2 AND through OPEN Licensing (OL is a form of Volume Licensing) for M. This is really significant for the Microsoft VAR partners out there because 1) you don't need to be a Partner of Record on the subscription to get paid, and 2) you now "re-sell" this as you would any other retail or OL product and thus you get your margin and revenue as part of the customers' upfront payment.
So let's make sure you understand this, yes, you can now bill the customer and the customer now pays you, not Microsoft -- of course, you don't get the recurring PoR fees that you would get under the "Advisor" model (the way you used to have to sell Office 365). Note too that although SBP and M SKUs can be sold as retail or OL transactions, you could also sell these under the Advisor model as well and take advantage of the continuing PoR fees, the option is yours, whatever works better for you -- but at least now you have some billing options.
Both P2 and M leverage the commercial Office 365 back-end services, essentially the same as E1 (meaning without the advanced Exchange/SharePoint/Lync functionality you get in E3-4). There are other differences as well such as size limitations (25 max for P2 and 300 max for M), admin console, phone support (very limited for P2, business hours for M vs 24/7 for E plans), and others, but you'll need to do your own due diligence around that.
The basic value proposition for M however is that you get essentially the same back-end capabilities as E1 (with some limitations as was just discussed) and the full Office 365 ProPlus client (which the E1 doesn't have) for $180/year, which is 25% less than what you pay for E1+OPP as stand-alone subscriptions, and M does allow for AD integration with your on-premise AD like the E plans do.
The P2 has more limited support, console, and no AD integration and has a limit of 25 users max, but otherwise it brings the commercial back-end services of Exchange/SharePoint/Lync and the full Office ProPlus client to the table for only $150/year.
Btw, you can only get M as a pre-paid full-year subscription for $180 (you may hear reference to it as $15/mo but that's for comparison to the other monthly subscriptions only), you can't pay for it monthly. P2 on the other hand does allow for monthly payments, however, when paying monthly, the price increases to $15/mo -- that's reflected right on the home page (linked above).
OK, so as the old announcer Paul Harvey used to say you now have "the rest of the story" -- hopefully this was useful in helping you to know about and understand not only what's brand new in Office 365 but also have some idea of how Office 365 is evolving to meet not only your customers' needs but that Microsoft is responding to the needs and asks of its partner community as well.
Thanks Ron for clarifying Office 365 licensing options for us, and thanks for linking to our newsletter from your team blog:
Helps us promote WServerNews!
BTW if you find a particular issue of WServerNews useful, please consider posting an excerpt from it on your blog with a link to that newsletter issue on our website:
Then send us the URL and we'll include a link back to your blog when appropriate.
Turning off System Restore
In issue 967 Tips for Healthier Servers (Issue #920) we included the following tip:
System Restore in enterprise environments - You should always turn off System Restore on Windows client computers in the enterprise. The reason is that if a user restores his machine far back enough, the machine password for the computer will be wrong and as a result the computer will no longer be functional on the domain.
We received the following feedback from a reader named Dave concerning this tip:
Doesn't that also kill the file version support (shadow copies)? I haven't run into a case of a user using System Restore to restore back. Maybe I'm just lucky (and we have
I asked my contacts on the Windows team at Microsoft if there was any to configure Windows 7 so that users could use Shadow Copies to roll back file changes when needed but not be able to use System Restore to roll back their computers. The response I received was to not disable System Restore using Group Policy but to instead use Group Policy to push out the following registry key:
However, since this change is outside the normal test matrix it would be best if you test it thoroughly before implementing it in your production environment.
Fixed or Dynamic VHD for SAN
Another tip that we included in Issue #920 was this one:
Fixed or Dynamic VHD for SAN? - Opinions vary but the general consensus is that fixed virtual hard disks (VHDs) are more "SAN-friendly" than dynamic VHDs when it comes to storing virtual machine files on a storage area network.
Here's what a reader named Quentin replied to us in response:
Variable size VHDs can either be a handy thing that produces great results, or can be a great way to hide problems and make them very difficult to find and troubleshoot.
Good things to use variable size VHDs for - anything that stays relatively static in content, but might occasionally need to expand. O/S disks are something that fits this category. You rarely change anything on an O/S disk - that is unless you have a dynamically sized page file. If you are going to do a variable sized VHD for your O/S, then fix the page file size so it isn't changing up and down all the time.
Bad things to use variable size VHDs for - anything that constantly grows in size. Every time a variable size VHD bumps up against its max size on disk and needs to add some more blocks, there is a significant overhead, at least in the O/S managed versions like HyperV for instance. So the worst case scenario is an SQL DB that grows the DB or transaction log. Performance can be downright dismal to the point where SQL itself will throw errors into the log about the disk speed. The problem isn't disk speed per-see, but the overhead involved in resizing the disk with almost every transaction. MS has actually done a lot of re-writing of the algorithm on this for 2012 server, so the impact is far less, but you are still better off with fixed size disks for DBs. If you happen to be using SAN attached storage and can present the LUNs as raw (VMware) or passthrough (Hyper-V), then even better. Troubleshooting a disk that is constantly changing sizes is sometimes a bit obscure and monitoring tools may just report a slow disk, but not tell you why it is slow.
If you are working with SAN directly, then things are a bit different. SANs may give you more options as to how to provision and have better algorithms to handle expansion. At least all the overhead is not in your VM or server, but in the storage processors on the SAN. With extensive caching it can ease the resizing penalty, or maybe even remove it entirely since some operations can be done in parallel.
Send us feedback
Got comments or questions concerning anything above? Email us at [email protected]
Now on to our main topic for this issue...
To Flash or Not To Flash
How many times have you flashed the BIOS on a motherboard or controller card and ended up turning your precious server into a lovely paperweight?
It's happened to me twice: once when I tried upgrading the firmware on a RAID controller to resolve a performance issue and the other time when the vendor I bought a server from said it that a BIOS update had to be applied to resolve a critical issue of some sort. Both occasions then led to lengthy phone calls with the parties involved.
Should you or shouldn't you?
Reasons for flashing
The arguments for making sure server hardware always has the latest BIOS version are basically these:
- To address issues of performance or reliability for the server or controller. Just as such issues can often be resolved by updating server components with the latest device drivers, the same can often be said with regard to updating the BIOS of your server or the firmware on your RAID controller.
- So you can make use of new features that the manufacturer has enabled for your system or device by means of a firmware update.
- When the manufacturer says you absolutely must upgrade the firmware of their device for reasons they might or might not explain in detail. For example, the vendor might release a fix for a critical bug, and just because you've been lucky so far and haven't hit that bug doesn't mean you won't someday.
Reasons against flashing
Some scenarios where flashing the BIOS of server hardware could be a bad idea include:
- When your hardware is out of warranty. If you flash the BIOS of an out-of-warranty server and end up bricking it, the vendor might wash their hands and say it's not their problem.
- When the server is the only one you have that can run some business-critical application. If you can migrate the workload to another server, that's fine, but if not then you might not want to take a chance blowing up your business.
- When you only have one of that particular type of device and it's being used by a server running business-critical applications. That's why you should always buy at least two of each type of RAID controller card you use in your environment as then you can use one as a guinea pig for things like flashing the firmware on it.
- When there's a chance that something could go wrong during the flashing process. For example, if you've been experiencing intermittent power outages and you're not using a UPS (eek!) then you don't want to risk flashing your BIOS in case the process gets interrupted before it finishes.
How not to flash
The actual steps for how to flash a BIOS will depend on the hardware of the system or controller. But there are certain things you generally shouldn't do when it comes to flashing firmware:
- Don't skip intermediate firmware versions. In other words, if the vendor releases versions 1.2.5 then 1.3.6 and then 1.4.9 but your hardware is still at version 1.0.0, then don't simply apply the update for 1.4.9. Instead you should apply each successive update in order, otherwise you might risk bricking your system.
- If you're going to update the firmware of one component of a system, make sure you do the same with the other components of your system. For example, I've heard of a situation where someone upgraded the firmware for the vendor's remote management controller and then couldn't connect to it remotely over the network. Then once they updated the device driver for the server's network card, they could remotely manage the server. So if you're going to keep one aspect of your server hardware (BIOS, firmware, drivers) up to date, you should keep it all up to date.
Send us feedback
What are your own thoughts concerning this subject? Any horror stories or helpful advice to share with our readers? Email me at [email protected]
Tip of the Week
Here's a tip on performing forest upgrades in Active Directory environments.
After upgrading your schema, you might want to raise your forest and domain functional levels. As a best practice, follow these practices:
- Before changing your forest functional level, take at least one domain controller offline from each domain in your forest.
- Before changing the domain functional level of any domain, take at least one domain controller offline from the domain.
- In both cases, you should make sure that the domain controllers you take offline do not hold any flexible single master operations (FSMO) roles in the forest or domains.
- Keep the domain controllers offline for 48 to 72 hours after changing functional levels; if no issues are found, you can return the offline domain controllers to service. If issues are discovered, however, you can use your offline domain controllers as the source for rebuilding servers if a rollback to a previous functional level is required.
The above tip was excerpted from my book Training Guide: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 from Microsoft Press:
Contact me at [email protected] if you have a tip you'd like to share with our readers.
Recommended for Learning
This week we have an announcement concerning the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA):
New MVA Jump Start: Using VDI to Enable New Workstyles
Join Microsoft’s virtualization experts on April 18 to learn the latest approaches to desktop virtualization - including the Microsoft-Citrix v-Alliance solution, view live demos, and architectural guidance for building a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) with appropriate sizing, scalability, & fault tolerance. Register here:
We also have this announcement concerning the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification:
90 Days to MCSA
Join the 90 Days to Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) program and get a plan of action to help you achieve your MCSA certification, and a chance to win an Acer tablet when you join!
Quote of the Week
"The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value." --Stephen Covey
Until next week,
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 [email protected] and we’ll try to troubleshoot things from our end.
Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
Free Tool: Idera Server Backup Free - fast, disk-based continuous data protection for Windows and Linux servers - backs up and restore files in seconds.
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.
Email Archiving made easy - Exclaimer Mail Archiver provides you with all the benefits of email archiving in a package that's simple to install, easy to maintain and low cost to own.
Download the beta release of the SQL Server 2012 Baselines for Security Compliance Manager (requires Windows Live sign-in):
Get this free, open source Wi-Fi scanner that tracks the SSID, signal strength, security, and other settings of nearby access points and displays the results in an informative, easy to understand graphical form:
- 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
- Microsoft TechEd Europe on June 25-28, 2013 in Madrid, Spain
- Microsoft TechEd Africa 2013 on April 16-19, 2013 in Durban, South Africa
Add your event
PLANNING A CONFERENCE OR OTHER EVENT you'd like to tell our 100,000 subscribers about? Contact [email protected]
Ignoring Users Hasn't Worked: Tactics for managing applications settings
You've got users on desktops, laptops, and now VDI sessions. But your management of their experience is still scattershot. You think they're secure and well managed only to learn they're getting get prompted for annoying "application upgrade pop-ups" and different people on the same team are out of IT compliance and insecure.
Meanwhile, while all this is going on, you're crossing your fingers, gambling that your users won't introduce a security breach.
Join desktop management expert and Microsoft Group Policy MVP, Jeremy Moskowitz, for some pro tips on how to manage and secure your desktop and applications. This webinar takes place multiple times a week, please click the link below to see which day/time is best for you! Register Here for the Next Webinar
In this webinar, Jeremy will show you:
- How to deliver, enforce and remediate important settings in popular applications such as Firefox, Java, Adobe Flash and dozens more
- How to turn off harmful and annoying update behavior so users are no longer prompted for updates
- How to lock down your desktops, applications and Windows operating systems
The vast majority of administrators say they're "too busy" to take the time to get things done right. If you're ready to get this problem handled, here's where to sign up and try something new.
MSExchange.org Webinar: Manage Exchange Data in the CloudHow can you better manage your MS Exchange environment and cut down on storage costs? What are the key benefits of managing MS Exchange in the cloud? What is the business case for managing email in the cloud?
Join J. Peter Bruzzese, Microsoft Certified Trainer and CIO & CoFounder of ClipTraining and Rick Wilson, Solutions Architect for Sherpa Software's MS Exchange solutions on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 for answers to these questions and many others, to help you manage MS Exchange mailboxes, emails and attachments.
In this complimentary 45 minute live Webinar, you'll discover:
- What are the key feature and benefits of cloud management solutions for MS Exchange?
- How can you take the pain out of managing PSTs with a cloud-based management solution?
- What are the benefits of cloud solutions as you upgrade to Exchanges 2010 or 2013?
Register for Webcasts
Add your Webcast
PLANNING A WEBCAST you'd like to tell our 100,000 subscribers about? Contact [email protected]
Looking Back and Springing Ahead (The Official Microsoft Blog)
Frank Shaw shares some news about the growing adoption of Windows Server 2012 in datacenter environments.
Choosing a storage solution (WindowsNetworking.com)
Mitch Tulloch provides guidance on how to decide which type of storage solution to choose for your servers and your business.
An Inside look at avoiding cloud risks (WindowSecurity.com)
Ricky Magalhaes covers recent events that have exposed millions of users due to lack of planning and contingency.
Windows Server 2012: How Active Directory Administrative Center Has Changed (BizTech Magazine)
Mitch Tulloch describes how the ADAC's new capabilities make it easier to transition to automated management.
Working With Replicas in Hyper-V 3.0 (Part 1) (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
Brien Posey explains what the Hyper-V Replica feature is, what it is used for, and how to set it up.
Exclaimer Signature Manager - Voted MSExchange.org Readers' Choice Award Winner - Outlook Addon (MSExchange.org)
Exclaimer Signature Manager was selected the winner in the Exchange Outlook Addon Category of the MSExchange.org Readers' Choice Awards. CenturionMail and CodeTwo Public Folders were runner-up and second runner-up respectively.
Microsoft Forefront UAG - Forefront UAG monitoring and debugging (Part 1) (ISAserver.org)
Marc Grote talks about monitoring techniques in Forefront UAG that help admins monitor user sessions, network traffic and other attributes.
Understanding the Difference Between Physical and Virtual Networking (WindowsNetworking.com)
David Davis looks at the differences between physical and virtual networking.
How to Deploy Mobile Authentication (FedTech Magazine)
Follow these three tips for implementing this security solution properly.
Comparing Methods To Implement Converged Fabrics For Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V (Aidan Finn, IT Pro)
Aidan Finn discusses the different ways of creating a converged fabric.
Testing Multi-Hypervisor Management (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
David Davis looks at a few different approaches to multi-hypervisor management.
Uninstall VMware Tools with PowerShell (Darryl van der Peijl)
Darryl van der Peijl shares a Windows PowerShell script that will uninstall VMware Tools and force shutdown the server in 120 seconds. This can be a great time-saver if you need to convert VMware virtual machines to Hyper-V:
Agencies Deploy VDI with an Eye Toward BYOD (FedTech Magazine)
Virtual desktop infrastructure sets a foundation for mobility.
Product Review: EMCO MSI Package Builder (WindowsNetworking.com)
Mitch Tulloch has a review of EMCO MSI Package Builder Enterprise.
4 Solutions for Ensuring DHCP Availability (BizTech Magazine)
If a DHCP server fails or goes offline, network communications can quickly break down. Mitch Tulloch describes four ways to ensure uptime with the Windows Server platform.
Cloud management tools a letdown for enterprise IT workloads
Managing a cloud environment comes with its fair share of challenges, and while there are many tools available that are designed to minimize common pain points, they aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions. Explore insights on the evolving market and learn what to look for in your cloud management platform.
Selecting VDI storage hardware products and features
Determining which virtualization-specific storage tools best satisfy the demands of your virtual environment can be challenging and time-consuming. Inside, discover the top VDI storage hardware factors to consider when evaluating your options and review some of the top products on the market.
CompTIA Cloud Essentials and other vendor-neutral certificates
For IT admins to stay competitive in today’s evolving IT industry, they need to keep with up with latest technologies and trends, especially cloud computing. Inside, learn about new cloud certificates you can attain to prove your cloud knowledge to hiring managers, recruiters and your peers.
How to avoid costly problems during a VMware vSphere upgrade
Performing a VMware vSphere upgrade can be a complex, and lengthy process – not to mention expensive. Fortunately, following key steps, leveraging the right tools and avoiding common mistakes can help minimize many of the top pain points. Explore essential vSphere upgrade tips inside.
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]
10 steps how to easily multiply your wealth using the new BMW Vision ConnectedDrive:
Flying a remote controlled airplane has never been so beautiful:
A group of young girls in black and white tights perform a trippy dance to the popular tune of German folk-rock polka band Hiss.
Stephen from BBC Two conducts an interesting experiment with sand and water.
And this one comes via a reader named Scott: "I came across this technology which I thought was pretty nifty from a geeky point of view. They make levitation modules."
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.