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.
There has been information released by a security research firm called Eclypsium that there is a vulnerability dubbed Boothole in Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot that would allow an attacker to completely take over a workstation, laptop, or server and be nearly undetectable. All hardware vendors will have to send out updates in the near future to patch the UEFI code to secure it against this “BootHole” vulnerability. Due to the difficulty in designing and testing these types of updates it will be some time before they are released. We will keep you posted as to the release of these updates as they become available.
If your company is concerned about security, 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.
According to the executive order made by Oregon State Governer, Kate Brown:“On Friday night, I frankly directed them to stay home. And now I am ordering them to stay home.”
The following guidelines are in effect for businesses:
It closes and prohibits shopping at specific categories of retail businesses, for which close personal contact is difficult to avoid, such as arcades, barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters, and yoga studios.
It requires businesses not closed by the order to implement social distancing policies in order to remain open, and requires workplaces to implement teleworking and work-at-home options when possible. They must also elect a representative who will be in charge of monitoring social distancing.
What FHN is doing?
FREE Remote Access – Just a re-iteration that all our monthly managed services clients will have remote access to their systems at no additional cost. If you are not a managed client then we can set you up with secure remote access to your data or network depending on need. Please call sooner rather than later as we have to take care of our managed clients first and there may be a wait at this point.
On-site support continues – At this time there is no restrictions on service industries who perform on-site visits to complete work, so Farmhouse Networking will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We will be taking precautions such as protective masks, gloves, or perhaps more extreme measures (hazmat suit) to insure the safety of our staff and clients. We ask that clients keep these visits to emergency needs and planned projects until these social distancing rules are lifted.
Stocking up on essentials – We have been closely monitoring our distribution channels and several of them have been stating that non-essential items would take up to one month to receive. As a courtesy to our clients and to better service them in times of emergency IT needs, we will be stocking up on computer and network parts that are most often needed.
What should clients do?
Remote workers – Send unneeded on-site staff home to work remotely. With remote access capabilities, video conferencing, and VoIP phones – there is no reason to keep them in harms way. We are experts in these technologies and can get you up and running on them quickly.
Maintain infrastructure – For remote workers to be able to get access to their computers there needs to be a solid foundation at the business location.
Workstations, servers, and network equipment should be on battery backups to keep them from going offline unnecessarily due to power fluctuations – triggering a need to go into the office.
Is part of your network over 6 years old? Now may be the time to replace the network equipment to avoid downtime and unneeded office visits in the future.
Now more than ever backups are needed in case anything should go wrong. Recovery times are bound to be increased as the lock down on businesses increases.
Don’t forget to leave the A/C on especially if you have a server closet, they work better in cooler temperatures.
Planning – With a possible slowdown in business now is the time to take stock of your company, to get used to this new normal, and make plans for the long term implications of this craziness on our businesses.
If your company needs any help weathering the COVID-19 storm, then contact us for assistance.
In a new Windows 10 Support article, dated June 28th, Microsoft comes clean that they will no longer be backing up the registry file with its built in backup feature. “This change is by design, and is intended to help reduce the overall disk footprint size of Windows.” They instead recommend that System Restore be enabled and used to recover in case of registry corruption (which by the way uses disk space too).
Ending Registry Backup
The Windows Registry is a hierarchical database that stores low-level settings for Windows 10 and installed applications that rely on it. The kernel, device drivers, services, Security Accounts Manager, and user interface configuration are all in the registry. If the registry is lost then system settings, drivers, user interface tweaks, and many programs will all need to be fixed or re-installed from scratch.
If your company is using the built in Windows Backup feature, then contact us for assistance moving to a system that provides complete backup of your systems.
We are currently facing the mountain of paperwork and responsibilities associated with the death of a loved one who did not properly prepare for their passing. While thinking through this stuff the thought of disaster preparedness came to mind and what would be the way to properly prepare for the sudden passing of myself or a business partner so that those who remained could continue on. Here are my thoughts:
Partnership / Corporate Agreement: Most states will immediately dissolve / liquidate a business partnership agreement unless the agreement has a continue after death clause that allows the estate to be paid off for their share of the current worth of the business. These payouts can also be paid by an insurance policy. Have an attorney look at the current agreement and amend as needed.
Personal Data: Business partners will need access to a copy of information like social security number, date of birth, birth / marriage / death certificates, and location of all agreements / wills. Having this information easily available saves tons of time for those left behind and make filling out the needed paperwork much easier. This information is best stored in one location like a safe deposit box.
Financial Data: Business partners will need access to insurance information, bank accounts, investment accounts, tax returns, current debts, title / registration of property, and any safe deposit keys that are connected to the business. Knowing this information will help create an estimate of the worth of the business to give the estate their fair share of the current worth. Plus if the partner that passed was in charge of these things it will make it easier for the responsibility to be handed to someone else.
Business Data: Businesses should have a master list of usernames and passwords for all local software, servers, online accounts, key safes, etc. This list needs to be updated regularly and a copy would be best kept in the same safe deposit box that the vital records are kept.
Advanced Directives: Just like for family members, the business partner will need to be able to act on behalf of the business in case the other partner is incapacitated in some way. Having these documents in order before this happens is crucial. Make sure to have a lawyer look over the document to make sure it is complete based on state laws where business is being conducted.
“Key Man” Insurance: If any of the business partners or employees are “indispensable” then key man insurance can be purchased by the business. This insurance policy pays off on death to help the company stay afloat until a replacement can be found. It is also important at this point to think about training and disbursement of business information. No one person in the company should have so much knowledge that they would sink the business even if they just left the organization one day.
Take the time to prepare for the worse to make life for those left behind easier to manage after your passing, and contact us for any assistance you need in this process.
NIST is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It acts as the defacto baseline that all other security and compliance organizations use to construct their standards. Reading their publications is like reading any other government document – extremely long and not interesting. Farmhouse Networking recently became aware of one such document called NISTIR 7621 aka Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals. We took the time to distill out the main points here:
The Fundamentals aka Best Practices
Identify: Who has access to the network, who has access to the data, and what do they have access to. This includes background checking employees during the hiring process, taking an inventory of data to see who needs access to what, requiring that each user have their own login, and company policy creation.
Protect: Protection starts with separating data into shares then giving access only to those who really need it. It also includes protecting hardware with uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and protecting software with regular updates. Protecting the network includes setting up a proper firewall, separate wireless for guest access, and VPN only access for remote users. Web filtering, SPAM filtering, file encryption, proper disposal of old equipment, and employee training are also mentioned.
Detect: Having a centrally managed antivirus software on each workstation is a must. This includes the ability to look back in time via log files or monitoring system to find the root of the security breach.
Respond: Have a disaster recovery plan and security incident response plan in place.
Recover: Need full backups of all important business data, invest in cyber insurance, and regularly access your technology to find timely improvements.
If your company does not meet these fundamentals, then contact us for assistance.
Phase 1: Break-In: Hackers are still using phishing emails, bad passwords, social media links, and poorly patched systems to make their way in with the initial infection. Employee training is the first step towards preventing breaches for 9 out of 10 companies now (and it is included in the price for all our monthly clients).
Phase 2: The Inside Man: Once inside the hacker will scan the network for further vulnerable systems, employees with more access rights than they need, and systems that allow access into other parts of the network. Having systems in place that detect strange or malicious activity are key to stopping an infection in its tracks.
Phase 3: Spread Out: This is where the hacker has all the access they need and start to find the data that is worth selling. Hackers will usually start moving data to places it doesn’t belong on the network then downloading it to their computers for resell. This is where strong access policies that are clearly defined and enforced make the greatest impact to protect sensitive data.
Phase 4: The Long Con: Once a hacker has taken all they need for the short term payout, they will setup remote access back doors to allow for future access whenever they want to. It almost pays to assume that a breach has already occurred and continually scan the network for these kinds of activity to catch the hackers in the act.
Take the time to read this article, it is a wake-up call on security.
If you would like to learn more about creating an effective cyber defense strategy and mitigating risk, then contact us for assistance.
What happens to your phones when the power goes out, the internet is down, or the old copper lines are down from a natural disaster? Are your customers going to get a busy signal? How quickly will they call the competition?
Phone System Backup Plan
With a standard phone service there would be nothing to prevent the busy signal from happening. With phone service from Farmhouse Networking all calls have the ability to be automatically forwarded and routed to virtually any person, device, or location. Plus our platform includes connectivity to multiple carriers for redundancy purposes, so no single carrier issue will impact your business.
Disasters might not be under our control, but business can continue to happen even when they occur.
If your company is concerned about losing calls or looking to add the protection a cloud phone system provides, then contact us for assistance.
It seems lately that the power company in the area has not been able to offer consistent service power to the city. This has left many businesses down without the technology they need to operate properly. These power outages cause data loss and damage computer components.
My own unexpected outage
Once upon a time, about two weeks ago, the unexpected happened at our offices. A semi-truck carrying a large backhoe on a trailer drove between two buildings in the area. The landlord had wired power between buildings and the truck driver did not lower the arm of the backhoe low enough. Sure enough the wire was snagged by the backhoe’s arm and pulled from the building. Needless to say the power was out to that part of the building until the landlord took care of the matter.
What can be done?
Farmhouse Networking recommends that all business workstations, servers, and networking equipment be protected by an uninterruptible power source aka UPS or battery backup. When the power goes out the right size battery backup will keeps things running for about 15-30 minutes to allow the last touches to be added to whatever was being worked on and things to be shutdown gracefully.