Here are some lessons learned from a recent recovery of a server with the following error:
Lesson #1 – Blinking Hard Drives
So when I got to the customer site the Dell server had blinking hard drive lights on two of the drives. Based on the support article about it the lights meant -“Identifying drive or preparing for removal.” and digging into the RAID controller I found the worst possible scenario for a RAID-5 array – two dead hard drives. I removed the two dead drives, cleared the configuration on the RAID controller, built a new RAID-5 array out of the remaining drives (4 out of 6), and did a fast initialize.
Lesson #2 – Drive letters on Windows Server Backup
Not sure if anyone else has noticed, but when Windows Server Backup is setup to use an external drive it likes to hide the drive by not assigning it a drive letter. This caused a few issues with the restore done from Windows Server 2012 R2 USB boot media as it couldn’t find the drive. I had to connect the external drive to my laptop then give it a drive letter. Plugged it back into the server and rebooted.
Lesson #3 – Patience is a virtue in Scanning for System Image Disks
Following the basic instructions for doing a Windows Server Backup 2012 Restore via Windows Server 2012 R2 USB boot media it came to the point where it does the scanning for System Image Disks. Turns out this can take hours depending on the speed of the drive plus the size and quantity of restores you have on the external drive. Just wait for the process to complete.
Lesson #4 – UEFI or Legacy BIOS matters
So you waited all that time for the Scanning for System Image Disks to complete and now that precious moment arrives when you realize that the Windows Server 2012 R2 USB boot media that you created was UEFI instead of legacy BIOS and the restore fails telling you so. Make sure that when you create the Windows Server 2012 R2 USB boot media that you change the settings to match the system that you are trying to restore.
Hope that these lessons help a few other Windows Server admins, who are trying to do a Windows Server Backup 2012 Restore, save some time and frustration. If you are looking for a better way to do backup and restore then contact us for details.
Farmhouse Networking continues to make strides in providing our customers with the best, most cost effective, and environmentally friendly computing experience possible. Part of that process is what has come to be known as Lifecycle Management. Each piece of hardware has an expected amount of time in which it is cost effective to use and support it. Once this time frame has been exceeded the cost of supporting the device becomes greater than the cost as shown in the following graph:
FHN Lifecycle Management
So the question remains what to do with the old computers when the time comes to replace them. Previously here in Grants Pass, OR we could support a local charity by taking them to Southern Oregon Aspire to have the computers dismantled and hard drives shredded. Now that their doors are closed we are stuck with dropping them off at the local dump, but what if you could make money while being responsible with the environment?
Farmhouse Networking is now partnering with a company called Arcoa, who do just that. Here is what they do in their R2 rated responsible recycling facility:
“We help you recover value from retired electronic equipment through responsible methods of reuse and recycling. Resale offers the best potential for value recovery, but the fast pace of innovations in technology and short product life cycles can limit equipment’s potential for reuse. From there, the best option may be to recycle the items in an environmentally friendly manner. We’ve built a robust de-manufacturing process to offer additional options for asset value recovery by disassembling equipment for commodity grade materials, which can be diverted from landfills and be used to create new materials.”
Hard drives will be electronically wiped, magnetically degaussed, or shredded based on need. The rest of the parts will be dismantled and sold with part of the profit returning to your company to help offset the cost of buying new computers. What could be better than making money on the buy?
If your company is heading towards a hardware refresh, then make the environmentally sound choice by contacting us for assistance.
Many of our customers have been experiencing some of their users having Outlook crashing immediately after opening. We even had other tech companies call to find out how we were fixing it, so we investigated and found the following known issue from Microsoft:
Users experiencing Outlook connection issues and crashes EX218604, Exchange Online, Last updated: July 15, 2020 10:12 AM Start time: July 15, 2020 9:18 AM User impact: Users may experience crashes or may be unable to access Exchange Online via Outlook. Current status: Our initial review of the available data indicates that recently deployed updates are the likely source of the problem. We’re performing an analysis of all recent service updates to isolate the underlying cause of the problem and to determine the most expedient means to restore service.
We will be keeping our monthly clients up to date on this issue.
According to the Microsoft Office 365 development roadmap, an exciting new feature is coming to Microsoft Teams:
“Cortana is coming to the Teams mobile app, using AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in Teams. To stay connected to your team even when you have your hands full, click the microphone button on the top right and ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and more. These voice assistance experiences are delivered using Cortana enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365 privacy, security and compliance commitments. Cortana will be available in the Teams mobile app on iOS and Android in the coming weeks for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S. in English.”
If your company is looking to collaborate with your office effectively, then contact us for assistance.
Office 365 has had the option to create resources, either equipment or rooms, that can be scheduled. Setup is fairly easy inside the Office 365 Admin console and you get to choose several options:
Select Room or Equipment, give it a name, an email address (no license required), and set the capacity. Once setup it is easy to use:
How can you tell when the room or equipment is available?
Open Outlook and create a new meeting. Add the room or equipment to the meeting as if it were a person and select Scheduling Assistant to see a live calendar view of the room or equipment’s availability. If the hour slot is clear, it’s available; if it’s blue, it’s reserved.
If your company needs help setting up Office 365 Equipment & Room Calendars, then contact us for assistance.
This question came to light while talking to a vendor about backups. It turns out that Microsoft does not backup any of your Office 365 data, but does have aggressive redundancy in place. This is both good and bad, here is why:
Microsoft has several levels of redundancy / resiliency / protection to keep email data from being corrupted, keep multiple copies of all email data, and scan emails for security threats. If there is ever any data issues then their systems automatically detect the problem and work to fix them or when threats are detected they are automatically remediated. There is also a recycle bin for emails and users that lasts from 30 to 90 days. Once that time is over there is no recourse for getting the data back.
Sharepoint & OneDrive
Microsoft here again has deep redundancy to protect your data from corruption, but they do nothing to check for malware or cryptoware. There is something called versioning that can help with some cryptoware, but not all. There is also a recycle bin for these services that could possibly help.
There are several apparent gaps in coverage that Microsoft does not deal with, but there are third-party services that have stepped in to do just that. If your company is looking to keep their Office 365 data safe from internal and external threats, then contact us for assistance.
In this unprecedented time that we are currently experiencing, you have had to set your team up to work remotely, often without thinking about how they might actually get work done, let alone security of all things. Our employee checklist and no-cost cybersecurity training course will provide your team with the tools they need to ensure that they are safe and productive – right out of the gate. These free resources are part of our initiative to keep our community safe and working during this time of crisis, without the additional disruption and financial impact of a breach.
Don’t let a change in circumstance allow for a change in cybersecurity standards.
The COVID-19 scare and ensuing rush to remote access has us thinking security. What is more basic to security than passwords. In an effort to find a way to make passwords both secure and easy to remember, I have found a website that seems to fit the bill:
Have to admit that I get a ton of email. In fact I have received 30+GB over the almost five years Farmhouse Networking has been in business. I decided that it was time to archive some of the older messages and checked into what Office 365 has for options. Here is what I found:
“Unlimited” Archiving Office 365 now has what is called “auto-expanding archiving” that is now available for all users. The old archive feature only allowed 100GB of additional space for free, but the new system is different. Users who get close to the old limit then their account changes to the auto-expanding type and additional storage is added as needed. The new maximum is at 1TB of storage, which even at average maximum size per email (10MB) that is 100,000 emails. To put that in perspective that is one maximum size email per hour, eight hours per day, five days per week, for almost 42 years before email archives would be full.
If your company is gets a bunch of email and likes to save it all, then contact us for assistance.
As we work on finishing our 5th year in business, Farmhouse Networking continues to enhance its offering to our clients and improve the way we do business. Each one of these changes is carefully researched and painstakingly implemented to make sure that impact on end-user experience is minimally invasive. Here is a list of the major changes taking place now:
New Customer Documentation: We have been using a new document management system to securely store information about our clients networks, create standard operating procedures on how we specifically care for individual clients, and keep track of passwords for all the things that need securing. This will keep our staff and backup techs apprised of all our customers equipment and standard operating procedures so that things get done right.
New Maintenance Software: After much market research to improve our current system of auto-magically maintaining customers computers, we found something better. It took some negotiations with them but we got the price down to close to the same, so there will be no increase in price. Just better software to serve our customers with. We can now monitor more of the network and in a deeper way so that there is even less possibility of downtime due to computer issues.
New Employee: You read that right. Farmhouse Networking has officially contracted with our first employee. The work load has finally reached the point where occasional help from my family is just not enough. Peter deGreyt will start work on Monday, November 11th, 2019. He has previously worked for another local managed service provider and graduated from Southern Oregon University with a degree in business analytics. His first contact with many of you will likely be to input customer information into our new document management system.
If your company is interested in working with a company that takes IT seriously, then contact us for assistance.