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News Archives

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Server Migrations and Cleaning House

Migrations are a good time to examine storage use

Garages are great places to put a car. But stuff seems to just accumulate in a garage. Over time, the things stored in a garage can become so large that there's no longer any room for the car. That's when it's time for a Garage Sale. I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't how that term originated.

Servers are a bit like a garage. They're a great place to store your work files. But over time, old files seem to accumulate, and files that once were relevant lose that relevancy. These obsolete, static files get backed up over and over, and take up space that could otherwise go to more relevant information.

With the impending end of support for Windows Server 2003 on the horizon, consider pruning the obsolete files stored on your server. At least archive old files to an external hard drive. This has the advantage of allowing you to easily recover the files in case of accidental overpruning.

Another advantage may not be quite so obvious: accelerated server migration.

How that works is that if you do happen to have a server running Server 2003, it is almost certain to be 32-bit. Server 2012 only exists as a 64-bit operating system. This means that upgrading is not possible and you'll have to migrate to new hardware instead. The more files that have to be copied, the longer the migration will take, increasing your costs and potential downtime.

Archiving the old data to an external hard drive means that technically, as soon as you plug the drive into the new server, your data is migrated. But since you don't really want to leave your data on an external drive, you will move most of it back to the new server. You're just able to do that in a manner that's more conducive to prioritization. In other words, get the things people use most working first, then what they use less often. That will help keep your costs down and productivity up.

Windows Server® 2003 is Retiring July 14, 2015

Are you ready for the transition?

End of support means after July 14, 2015, there will be no support, and no updates or patches to combat security issues. Any critical line-of-business systems on Windows Server® 2003 are at risk.

Staying put could end up costing more in maintenance and security. New modern servers running Windows Server® 2012 R2 could ultimately reduce your costs and improve security.

Typically, organizations on older hardware and operating systems are interested in improving their capabilities in several key areas including:

  1. Better performance and scalability
  2. Cost-effective storage
  3. Reliable backup and disaster recovery
  4. Simplified IT management

Newer server offerings preloaded with Windows Server® 2012 R2 can help your clients get there, by offering a number of benefits including:

  1. Latest technology - new hardware is more energy-efficient. Windows Server® 2012 R2 is a big step forward in capabilities and features, including virtualization and adds support for cost-effective storage, disaster recovery and remote access.
  2. Full support - new hardware is more secure and includes warranties for available parts and service
  3. More powerful servers - more power means improved processing and throughput for server hardware.
  4. Reduced server footprint - virtualization enables users to get more from each server and eliminate server sprawl.
  5. Simplified management - standards-based management simplifies compute, storage and networking functions.
  6. Pre-installed for simplicity - set-up is faster and easier.

Backup vs. Business Continuity - What's the Difference?

Understanding Business Continuity

business-continuity vs-backup-disaster-recoveryBusiness continuity goes beyond a defined process or plan, it is in fact a state of being for a business. When full business continuity is achieved, it fully prepares a business to not only recover from a disaster, but also protects the business from the adverse effects of that disaster. Implementing business continuity practices ensure that the appropriate people have access to critical functions; customers, suppliers, managers, and everything that a business needs in order to function. This is why business continuity cannot be achieved simply through one solution or technology. There is still an intrinsic human element involved in business continuity. Necessary planning and processes need to be put in place in order for a business to fully recover.

For this reason, businesses must plan their business continuity strategy on two fronts; planning for how to continue business processes in the event of disaster and choosing the appropriate business continuity solution to support these processes.

Datto’s solutions allow a business to have undisrupted access to its servers and workstations. This is achieved through instant on-site and off-site virtualization technology. But if a business does not have the proper planning in place, (such as which servers and workstations need to be prioritized for virtualizations in disaster scenarios, or what the chain of command is for handling disasters), then the business will scramble to get back up to speed and will experience downtime. A good plan, processes and trained employees combined with Datto solutions will get businesses processes back up and running fast.

Understanding Backup/Disaster Recovery (BDR)

BDR, refers specifically to the safe retrieval of periodically archived data during or after a catastrophic event. For example, if a company’s physical server is damaged beyond repair, the company would implement their disaster recovery plan in order to retrieve missing or lost files. While many believe that a BDR plan is only relevant in the case of natural disasters, it’s not uncommon to see disasters caused by other less catastrophic events such as internal electrical fires or power surges.

If a business does not have the proper planning and the correct solution(s) in place, servers or workstations vital to business’s function could potentially be down for hours, days, or ever weeks depending on the level of damage and/or the amount of data that needs to be recovered. Depending on how critical this data is to the business this could potentially lead to a business losing clients, revenue, or in a worst case scenario, being forced to close its doors for good.

The key differentiator between the technology behind disaster recovery and business continuity solutions is the recovery time objective, or RTO. The RTO of a given backup solution is the time needed to restore data to the production environment. Datto’s technology offers solutions that achieve RTO objectives by giving clients the ability to restore data in seconds, not hours or days.

When assessing one’s disaster preparedness it is important to take every aspect of the planning process from both a technology and human standpoint. If a business is truly serious about achieving full business continuity, it needs to ensure that a proper plan with the right technological solution is in place.

Lync Online To Become Skype For Business

Office 365 users get it automatically

Microsoft has issued a notice on Office 365 that said the following:

Within the next 90 days, we're switching the Lync Online experience over to Skype for Business. Now that Lync is joining the Skype family, the Skype for Business client and the Skype for Business Online experience will expose users to a new user interface. Your users will benefit from the same familiar user interface they use with Skype, in their personal lives, along with all the features of Lync.

The changes seem to be more cosmetic in nature.

Carbonite Brings Hybrid Backup and Recovery to Office 365

Now the two work better together

BOSTON, Feb. 4, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Carbonite, Inc. (Nasdaq:CARB), a leading provider of cloud and hybrid business continuity solutions, today announced support for Office 365 that enables small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) to protect critical business data created and hosted in the cloud. The latest release of Carbonite Server Backup delivers hybrid backup for Microsoft Exchange Online in Office 365, providing SMBs the data protection they need as business processes shift to the cloud.

IDC predicts adoption of Office 365 will double to 30 percent of all U.S. small businesses in 20151. As a result, hybrid backup of cloud-based data is becoming increasingly critical in this market. While cloud providers such as Microsoft offer protection from infrastructure failure, they cannot protect against user errors, malware attacks, or other drivers of data loss. Carbonite Server Backup ensures cloud-based email and other Exchange data in Office 365 are always available.

"Hybrid backup of cloud-hosted data has to date been a capability only larger firms with more complex IT departments could utilize," said Chris Chute, Vice President of IDC's SMB Cloud and Mobility Practice. "Now SMB IT managers and owners can utilize hybrid backup with Carbonite Server Backup, which offers an extra level of data protection that mitigates the risk associated with a single point of data recovery. SMB IT administrators and owners can rest easy, knowing they are not entrusting one service provider with all of their critical information and intellectual property."

Carbonite's support of Office 365 also enables channel partners to better meet the needs of their rapidly expanding Office 365 customer base. Carbonite Server Backup delivers reliable and affordable protection for critical local and Office 365 data in a single, comprehensive solution developed specifically for SMBs.

"The ability to offer a hybrid backup solution that protects Office 365 data at an affordable price will be a strategic advantage for us," said Carbonite partner Feddly Jeanniton, owner of FAJSYSTEMS, LLC. "Current Office 365 backup solutions either are developed for large enterprise customers or do not offer the reliability and convenience of hybrid backup. Carbonite enables us to deliver a more complete data protection solution to our small to midsized customers, and to drive our business forward."

Carbonite Server Backup enables businesses to easily and affordably protect against data loss with a hybrid functionality that backs up data to the cloud, locally to a physical piece of hardware or networked drive, or to both. In addition to Office 365, Carbonite Server Backup supports servers (physical and virtual), databases, live applications, NAS drives, Hyper-V, and external hard drives.

The newest release of Carbonite Server Backup is available for download today. Additional functionalities include:

  • Mailbox-level backup and restore. Carbonite Server Backup simplifies data protection for IT administrators by enabling backup and recovery of individual Exchange mailboxes. Rather than restoring an entire Exchange database to recover corrupted or deleted individual user data, IT administrators can quickly search for and restore specific Exchange mailboxes both locally and in Office 365.
  • Powerful, simple customization. Administrators can easily apply the powerful customization of Carbonite Server Backup - network utilization, storage capacity, retention periods, cloud and local backup targets, and more - to Office 365.
  • Secure AES 128-bit encryption transmitted through a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). Users have the ability to create a 256-bit private key encryption.

"Carbonite continually invests in new technologies to meet the ever-evolving needs of the SMB," said Brad Meiseles, Carbonite senior vice president of product and engineering. "As growing numbers of SMBs adopt cloud-based applications for business productivity, they require powerful yet simple solutions that protect against user error, corrupted data, and unforeseen downtime. The support for Office 365 within Carbonite Server Backup further underscores our commitment to keeping businesses in business."

We are now a Datto partner

More Than Backup - Business Continuity Solutions

In addition to the other backup services we offer, we are now a Datto partner. The video below will give you a quick idea of what Datto's solution can do for you. Have a look at our Datto page for an 18 minute demonstration of this backup system in actual operation. In the demo, you see a presentation started out on a computer, move to a locally virtualized copy of the same computer, and then to a cloud virtualized copy. They posted this on YouTube, so even though it's not customized, it's still an effective demonstration of what you can expect from their solution.

Online Backup Changes

We can't protect you with abandonware

For three years, we've been using Vembu's StoreGrid product to protect your data. Now, it seems, Vembu has determined to move from backup sold and supported by a community of partners, to a model wherein they control interaction with the customer. They have announced updates to their software, yet those updates have not been made available to their MSP backup partners. Therefore, we are announcing that effective January 1, 2015, we will be discontinuing this service as it has been. We will continue to backup your data as-is until your next renewal date, but there will be no further renewals. If your renewal date has already passed, your invoice will be converted to monthly to cover you until February 1, at a rate of $40 per month.

We are now partners with three different companies providing online, offsite backup: Carbonite, Datto, and Nordic Backup. Each one has its own particular strength. Nordic Backup most closely resembles what we have been doing; Carbonite is the most well-known, can back up both workstations and servers, and is the only one of the three that caters to home and home office users. Datto's service is only for servers. It updates a full backup of the server as often as every 5 minutes, and in the event of a server failure, that backup can be brought up in about five minutes as a virtual server that can substitute for your server to keep your employees working. Once the server's back online, that backup is restored to the physical computer and everything returns to normal. If none of these fit your needs, we can also offer external hard drives for backup using Windows built-in tools. In that case, I'd suggest two so they can be exchanged weekly.

Give us a call and let's discuss your backup/data recovery/business continuity needs.

We are now a Carbonite Partner

Take backup off your To-Do list!

There's a lot of information swirling around about the cloud, and yet 80% of small businesses aren't utilizing cloud business tools to secure their most valuable assets, according to a recent survey conducted by Carbonite. But the benefits are numerous: increased efficiency, peace of mind, affordability – just to name a few. Carbonite offers a comprehensive suite of affordable services for data protection, recovery and anytime, anywhere accessibility.

Subscribers in more than 100 countries rely on Carbonite to provide easy-to-use, affordable and secure cloud backup solutions with anytime, anywhere data access. The company has backed up more than 300 billion files, restored nearly 20 billion files, and currently backs up more than 350 million files each day.

Features Include:

  • Automatic & continuous online backup
  • Remote access to files from any computer or mobile device
  • Unparalleled server backup speed
  • State-of-the-art security & encryption
  • Protection for unlimited computers, hard drives & servers
Protect your files with Carbonite today!

For more information on how you can start backing up the files, contact us today or click here to view the Carbonite plans.

Christmas Shopping Recommendations

The 2014 Version

Each year, we put out our recommendations for those looking to put a new computer under the tree for that special someone. This year, our recommendations are changing because there are so many new decision points and devices to choose from.

So, while we don't have a listing of specifications, we can make a few general recommendations. First, get an Intel Procesor if you can for better performance, but AMD processors will be less expensive while also providing acceptable performance. New computers will come with Windows 8.1, which works well now even without a touch screen.

Speaking of touchscreens, these are becoming more common. The more points of touch, the better. Points of touch tells you how many fingertips can touch the screen simultaneously. 10-point is best right now, but 5-point is less expensive.

Get the most RAM and Hard Disk Drive space you can. Terabytes (TB) are a Trillion bytes, and Gigabytes (GB) are a Billion bytes. RAM is memory and is less than 100 Gigabytes. Hard Disk space is not memory and is between 100 Gigabytes and 10 Terabytes.

Solid State Drives are hard drives implemented with memory instead of spinning magnetic disks. These are a much newer technology and are more expensive for less capacity than their magnetic brethren. These are common in tablets and will be measured in Gigabytes in powers of 2 (8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512).

On Tablets, look for expansion options such as keyboards, USB ports, memory card slots. I personally prefer tablets that run Windows 8.1 or Windows RT, but Android tablets pair well with Android smartphones due to their similarities. Whichever you choose, get a screen protector for that model of tablet. The screens, while strong, still break too easily and can be expensive to repair.

Finally, it's no longer necessary to buy Microsoft Office with your computer unless you only have dial-up Internet service available. Choose the version of Office 365 that best suits your needs. Yes, you'll pay annually for it, but you won't have to worry about whether you have the latest version because with Office 365, you always do.

Online Support Has Returned

Now better than ever!

Several years back, we offered online support on demand using PCHelpWare. It worked wonderfully well until Windows Vista came along, and brought with it User Account Control (UAC). It became clear that the product would no longer meet our needs or yours, so we abandoned it.

But now, we are pleased to announce the return of OnDemand Online Support. The package we're using now includes many new features to help us diagnose and repair your problems just as if we were sitting in your chair!

Of course we can't remotely troubleshoot problems that prevent you from connecting to the Internet, like bad power supplies, or router problems, but almost anything else, we can. What's more, you can set it up yourself.

Since we don't have to drive over, we can get to the issue faster, and that's always a good thing! And for our business clients, online support qualifies for our residential rate, saving you money.

To get started, just click Support in the bar on the left, or go here.

Exchange Online Beats The Competition

The results are in

For over a decade, Microsoft has made a great product called Small Business Server. It included Microsoft Exchange Server for email, calendaring, tasks, etc. Small Business Server has undergone a number of revisions; but in 2011 the final version of the product hit the market and now a number of my clients are looking to replace their aging servers with new iron.

The replacement for Small Business Server is Windows Server 2012 Essentials; and since it no longer includes the Exchange Server or Outlook, many businesses are looking to move to a hosted Exchange solution. I compared the Exchange Online with similar offerings from GoDaddy and a company called InboxSolutions. I found that for five users, Exchange Online plus Outlook 2013 on the desktop becomes less expensive than the other two services during the second year.

For 90 users, where I also compared both GoogleApps and an on-premises Exchange server replaced every 5 years; Exchange Online still comes out less expensive over the 10 years. By the way, the on-premises server was scheduled for replacement at the beginning of year 1, the middle of year 5, and the end of year 10.

Full disclosure, I am a Microsoft Partner and use Exchange Online as part of Office 365 and find the suite to be wonderful when combined with Office on the desktop. To learn more about Office 365, what it can do for your business, and get a free trial, click the link below.

What kind of disc can I burn?

Can DVD burners burn CDs?

The short answer is "Yes!"

This is a question we get often when someone new to DVD burning is looking to buy a new computer. They want to be sure that because they'll be making more CDs than DVDs, they are getting what they need. CD's are easy because long ago, a single standard format emerged for creating them. DVD's are another animal altogether! The first format available was DVD-RAM. Then followed (in no particular order) DVD +R and DVD -R which competed to become the de facto standard. What we wound up with was both, DVD +/- R. A single-layer DVD can hold up to 4.7GB of data. A double-layer DVD can hold twice as much, 9.4GB, but requires a double-layer burner. The DVD burner we use in our computer systems will read and write everything from single-layer DVD-RAM to double-layer DVD +/- R.

By the way, if a particular type of disc has a "W" at the end, as in CD-RW and DVD +RW, this indicates that this type of disc can be erased and rewritten. "R" by itself means "Recordable", "RW" means "ReWritable".

You can find a table showing which drives generally read and write which discs here.

Windows Defender and AVG Free 7.1 Have Expired

Have no fear, upgrades are available

Have you seen this message lately? (Click it for a larger image in a new window)

99% of the time, it means that the Windows Defender Beta you downloaded before January 1, 2007 has now expired. If you downloaded Windows Defender after that time, this message means you have a problem.

Windows Defender is still available to Genuine Windows XP and Vista users. Windows 2000 is no longer supported, and I think that's a shame, especially since the only difference I can actually see between the pre-2007 version and the 2007 version is that it requires you to validate Windows' Genuine-ness twice: once before downloading, and once when you install. Other than that, the combination of Windows Defender, Spybot Search & Destroy, and Ad-Aware is still recommended as the best way to keep spyware off your computer.

You can find download links for Windows Defender, Spybot S&D, and Ad-Aware here.

Also, if you haven't downloaded a new copy of AVG Free this year, be aware that version 7.1 has expired. A free update to version 7.5 is available at their website.

Windows Vista Has Arrived

Vista released, upgrade vouchers with all new Windows XP-based computer systems

Please Note: The upgrade vouchers mentioned in this article are expired. If you still need to run Windows XP, we recommend either purchasing your computer with Windows XP preloaded on it, or with Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate and use the downgrade rights afforded by those editions of Vista to run Windows XP instead.

As we reported on October 16, Windows Vista upgrade vouchers are being included with each new computer system we build preloaded with Windows XP. We are now able to build computers preloaded with Windows Vista as well (subject to distributor availability).

Our current recommendations are:

  • If you are a home user looking for a new computer, choose Windows XP Media Center Edition now, then use the upgrade voucher to obtain Windows Vista. Just don't install it immediately.
  • If you are a business user looking for a new computer, choose Windows XP Professional now, and use the upgrade voucher to obtain Windows Vista.

All editions of Windows Vista come on DVD. The 32-bit editions of Windows Vista Business and Home Basic are also available on CD.

You will want to make sure that any new computer you wish to run Vista on either now or in the future includes the following specifications:

  • At least 1 gigabyte of memory, 1 gigabyte is the minimum to take advantage of the new Aero Glass interface. We recommend 2 gigabytes.
  • 3D Accelerated Graphics capable of 800x600 resolution, with support for DirectX 9 (minimum), 32 bits per pixel (i.e. True Color), Pixel Shader 2.0, and a WDDM driver. (If graphics are on a separate card, the card needs a minimum of 128 megabytes of video memory. If graphics are built into the motherboard and use shared memory, 1 gigabyte system memory)
  • DVD-ROM Drive, DVD/CD-RW Combo, or DVD +-RW
  • Internet connectivity - This is an absolute MUST. We recommend high-speed.
  • 80 gigabytes of hard drive space, 250 gigabytes or more if you wish to use it as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder).

If you are in the market for a new system, give us a call!

Zakary David Anderson Has Arrived

Baby & Mom are doing fine

Well, it has been a hectic time for us this past week, but we have a new baby boy, Zakary David, born November 1, 2006 at 8:28am. He was 7 lbs, 14 oz, 20 inches, and a head-full of hair!

The hospital posted pictures of him from that first day here which have now been taken down. Pam will be off work until mid-December (just in time for Christmas) and I've been hitting and missing a bit lately. If you've called and had trouble getting through, or getting a call back, that's the reason. Thanks for your patience and support during this period of growth for our family.

Drivers Now Available

For those who have purchased (or are thinking about purchasing) a system from us, we have added links to Intel's driver and BIOS update pages to our Download page.

Attention QuickBooks Users:

If your company currently uses a version of QuickBooks for Windows earlier than Windows 2000, (QuickBooks 5.0, 6.0, and 99) you may want to consider upgrading to a later version. Intuit's support for these products is being discontinued. More information is available from Intuit here.