Archive for the ‘ Business ’ Category

Email Migration – Done

Billing System – Done

Now on to the next project  Rack Consolidation. We have a few list of projects that we want to get done and this is more of a spring cleaning for our development rack. The goal is to…well consolidate and virtualize some of our servers into one system. We choose Open Solaris and we are still learning it, but it offers us the capability to run storage and virtualization in one box. Of course there is the almighty ZFS offering but the virtualization aspect is new for us on this platform and will just add to our knowledge. Sadly the Open Solaris project is a bit dead but thankfully it has forked into Open Indiana which I believe is based off of Open Illumos. We mainly like it for the storage aspect though.

Storage arrays well be color coded to keep track of all the disk as far as speed and which array they are apart of.

Yellow = 146GB 15K SAS (High Speed VM Storage)
Orange = 146GB 10K U320 SCSI (Moderate Speed Unimportant Storage/Secondary Data Backup/Moderately Compressed)
Pink = 500GB/1.5TB 7.2K SATA (Moderate Speed Important Storage/Primary Data Backup)
Green = 1.5TB 5.4K SATA (Archive Storage/Tertiary Data Backup/Highly Compressed)
White =160GB 7.2K SATA (OS)

Yellow is for VMs that require high speed writes/reads.
Pink will hold most of our software repository like OS images, some VMs, Primary backups of VMs from the Yellow array
Orange will hold the everyday unimportant/light use data like Music, Documents, Temporary Customer backups, and whatever else and will be compressed to conserve space.
Green will be archive storage for all other arrays data and will be highly compressed making it a good place for old stuff we keep around just to have like older copies of Ubuntu or our documents and what have you.
White is the main root pool that will not store anything but the OS and its necessary files.

While designing and planning this we will work to get our phone system up and running again. As we feel it is time to begin using that again.

So we got Exchange 2007 migrated over to 2010. We still have to shut down the old server and migrate the SPAM Filter box over to the new VM host but those shouldn’t be too hard (crossing fingers). We used two sources of reference for the migration which were a great help.  The first was really all we needed since we utilize a single server deployment. The second is great because it has a knowledge base connected to it that can also be referenced. So now were up to date and will deprecate the old exchange server tomorrow night. This is apart of our plans to upgrade many core components in our business to help us learn and grow. So far so good but that’s what happens when you got two guys that plan things out all the time. :)

(Patting ourselves on the back)

Exchange Migration in 2Hrs

MS Exchage 2010 Deployment Assistant

OLD SCHOOL!                                  NEW WITH THAT CANDY PAINT!

UPDATE 1:

So everything looked good until i started uninstalling Exchange 2007 from the old server. I decided to follow the tutorial a little backwards and transfer the FSMO roles at the end. The issue that I witnessed was not the inability for users to log into web mail which was one of my first fears during this. The behavior I got was with Outlook accessing the user mailbox. It seems the change over of the back end server showed up sure enough under the user account setup since we are using Outlook anywhere, formerly HTTP/RPC. When the user logs in with Outlook they are prompted for the password but the client shows Disconnected and when trying to just make a new profile I get the following error.

The connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete this action.”

From the link you see a few fixes that point to RPC issues and GPO pushes. I didn’t really read through it because I was looking for something a bit quicker. I ran the system health check command “Test-SystemHealth” via the Exchange Management Shell and got a warning that the Microsoft Exchange System Attendant service was not running. I researched and started the service. Then I used a technique I learned a while back. Check for services set to “Automatic” but not running. Sure enough the following services were not running.

  • Microsoft Exchange Edge Sync
  • Microsoft Exchange RPC Client Access <—looks like were on to something here
  • Microsoft Exchange Information Store <—kind of a big deal but it was starting up at the time
  • Microsoft Exchange Service Host
  • Microsoft Exchange System Attendant <—seems like this service is a dependency of others

So I restarted them manually where needed and the Outlook users were able to connect. Since I haven’t fully transferred the roles of the other server totally I will say that this is because of that. My reasoning behind this is to make sure the new server can run without the old server, which it has, then transfer the roles accordingly, which i am doing now. Then test again by restarting and ensuring those services are running.

Currently using this article to transfer over the roles, which is super easy and it has pictures :): Transferring FSMO Roles in Windows Server 2008

Update 2:
So after transferring roles and shutting down the old server without removing it from the domain the same behavior is occurring. So i think to myself, “I wonder if there are any updates for Exchange 2010?” Guess what there are two service packs have been released and this did not show up in the Update tool at all nor did the Test-SystemHealth command find it. Ugh well because of limited bandwidth to my colo space so I have to wait 2 hours for each SP download. I may not need both but im going to get them both anyway just in case. I should have just searched myself for updates.

Update 3:
Ok i think were good. So i updated to Exchange 2010 SP2 which should have been done in the first place but I didn’t even know it was released. I had to search for it since MS update didn’t notify like it usually does for SPs. So more down time and restarts. Everything was smooth until those services weren’t starting. Either way its good now after the update and I also set the services to Automatic (Delayed Start) because at one point I saw that the Information Store was still starting while those same services were stopping. This is why i opted to have them start later on. Now they start and my Outlook users are able to connect without an issue. The old server was also deprecated and removed as a DC. Now i have to take it out completely. Which shouldn’t be hard…why did i say that :( Well here is to hoping.

The following services were set to Automatic (Delayed Start)

  • Microsoft Exchange Edge Sync
  • Microsoft Exchange RPC Client Access
  • Microsoft Exchange Forms-Based Authentication
  • Microsoft Exchange Service Host
  • Microsoft Exchange Protected Service Host
  • Microsoft Exchange System Attendant

Update 4:
DONE & DONE. We have finalized the move and deprecated the old Exchange 2007 VM using the tutorial above with some of the services tweaks listed. Basically it was easy but the issues I ran into were just due to updates being applied and taking my sweet ass time getting rid of the old VM. Though I personally like to call it being cautious. Either way everything still works and the old VM host has been deprecated as well and will be removed soon. Phew! Well onto the next project.

So we got a computer reformat and load up with software and we have been itching to do this for a bit. We wanted to test it out on our own machines but this is the perfect opportunity. We first start by installing Windows and all the necessary programs, run updates, transfer files over, run a few programs for the first time and get through some of the BS, check to make sure it all looks good. Since this was the first time I misjudge the size of windows a bit and didnt give the utility partition enough pre-allocated space during the Windows XP install process. After everything it was about 11 GBs used. Booted into Ubuntu and resized it real quick without a problem. Booted into Windows to make sure then began the Ubuntu Desktop 10.10 64bit installer.

During the installer I chose the side by side installation and made my own partition setup. Giving our UTILITY PARTITION (Sorry it just sounds so cool) about 16 GB of space and the Swap about a gig to use. The installation process is going on now. Afterward we updated and installed a few programs via ninite.com installer package. Its the best way to quickly install packages that are always up to date. It makes the AVG and Open Office installs so much easier. Aight so the computer is about ready to image. We put cetain tools that were installed like Recuva, Team Viewer and True Crypt (just in case) in a Folder called MJNS Tools (Branding). Finished it off by scheduling some tasks like a weekly scan and a system defragment to keep the customer protected and happy, then we top it all off with a defrag with Auslogic Defragger before imaging.

OK, So were finished and the Ubuntu OS install looks to have went well. Procedure included in this post. The boot menu shows up and I have to change the timing a bit. Boot time is fast even for being located at the end of the disk. Began installing updates and tools that we need to make this a real useful partition as noted in a previous post. Compiled the list of need programs and made it into a one liner apt-get to make it easier later on while updating. Looked around a bit using “df -h” command and found the space that I thought was enough…..was not. The fresh install of ubuntu has already taken up about 3.7 GBs leaving a little over 11GBs for the recovery image. The Windows OS takes up 12.6GBs decided to continued on though because the partitions can always be resized. Read up on the compression methods for fsarchiver and I chose level 7 which is lzma-1. This will be th default for now.Began the long, arduous, pain staking, time com…..WTF ITS DONE ALREADY! Dam we just started playing Donkey Kong Country Returns too. So it took less than about 45 mins to image and compress 12.6 GBs into a nice 5.6GB package. While doing this on another machine we compressed 7.9 GBs into a 3.3GB file which makes it 41.77% of the original size which is a 58.23% compression ratio. This is great because it still leaves space for us to possible save data on the utility partition, restore the windows partition, then copy over the data again without a single reboot. This will be major, especially for those customer who want us to do everything on site.

Once we are imaged and backed up we decided to do a little test. We mount the Windows partition from the Utility Partition and delete the almighty WINDOWS folder….I aint scared!…..and reboot. Well what do you know Windows doesnt work. “O whatever shall I do” cries the customer. MJNS Computer Super Heroes jump in to save the day. “Why not back up your information and restore it fair maiden using our utility partition.

We began the restore which took under 15 mins to do, again WTF ITS DONE ALREADY! We mount it and look around and saw no problem then reboot. Afterward it does a check disk on the file system and boots right into Windows. Our heroes high five each other and leave the customer satisfied with the quick level of service we provide to all those who are protected by MJNS. YAY, were awesome!!!!!

Thats pretty much it we pack em’ up and get them to the customer for setup. We are really not doing anything special and this takes more time than just installing Windows. That being said we have been through a lot when working on a customer’s computer and we know the hassle of dealing with the fact that we may not know for sure the problem or need better tools, but lack a Ubuntu Live CD. The added benefit of quick backups and OS recovery that beats the pants off any HP, Dell, or Acer recovery partition is great. It takes time now, but next time they bring that PC in for some Virus issue its back out the door in no time flat.

Instructions:

MJNS Reformat Procedure

fsarchiver-commands

Update 9/10 Latest ninite file:

MJNS_Ninite_Installer

We are in the planning stages of rolling out our own line of custom built systems. Developing this computer building division will help us gain a few more clients and offer a one stop shop for customers. Affordable systems for home users and business…blah blah blah.

OK now lets get to the cool stuff. My business partner presented the idea that we put our own logo as the BIOS splash screen. A novel idea I said. Then I thought of how I have always wanted a cool utility partition to do diagnostic work or for disaster recovery of files. You know instead of breaking out the Ubuntu CD/USB toolkit for Memtest86+ or downloading programs like chntpw, ddrescue only to have it all disappear at reboot. Which sucks especially if you weren’t finished with the process. Most power users dual boot to get the best of both worlds. Speed, open source and of course  compatibility.

Basically the idea is to install Ubuntu Desktop on another partition that is 13 to 15 GB depending on Windows partition’s image compression. Yeah I know that sounds like a lot but here is what will be on it though. Boot screen with our logo that gives you the choice of Windows, MJNS Utility Partition (Ubuntu Desktop 10.10), and Memtest86+. Now Memtest alone is great to have because I have found memory to be a major issue in a few customer systems. On the utility partition we will have a slew of tools that are listed below. The most useful among them is partimage, gddrescue, photorec, ClamAV, TeamViewer, and chntpw.  Then add the fact that the partition is a full OS with browser, office suite, and more.

We, along with most other IT shops, use Ubuntu to diagnose issues and recover data. It seems like a no brainer of course. Simply one of those things you think of then say, “WHY DIDNT I THINK OF THIS SOONER!” We plan to roll this out not only for custom built systems, but on any computer we reformat. The ability to restore the windows partition on the fly making the turn around time for reformats shorter than 2 – 3 days. A time frame which is sometimes hard to meet depending on our load while other times easy.  I mean jeeeezzzzz it just makes sense.

Tools:

  • Partimage (Image/Restore partition for quick reformats)
  • Teamviewer (remote controlled disaster recovery)
  • ClamAV with ClamTK GUI (others can be added of course)
  • CHNTPW (OMG I forgot my password….Again!)
  • NTFS-3g/NTFS Progs (with ntfsundelete)
  • Recovery programs (photorec,foremost,gddrescue)
  • GParted
  • Nmap/Whois
  • Bonnie++ (Disk Benchmarking)
  • SSH Server
  • Samba (For quick shares and drag/drop files)
  • Filezilla (getting files from our support server)
  • Google Chrome (cause its cool)
  • Customized welcome music, possibly a video and our site as the home page…..BRANDING!

Most of these recovery, boot, utility partitions are closed with little and nothing as far as functionality, this will be far more robust. Testing to begin soon. Spoke to a friend about this and he mentioned that HP acquired out a small opensource distro and they plan to implement something like this in their new systems. I may be bugged or something, but its all good when its open source.

OOO you thought this was a game. LOL, nah buddy. We recently attended a talk at SFISSA (South Florida Information Systems Security Association), we definitely plan to join them again this month also. Well at the last talk we expressed interest in donating some old equipment to the cause and we were told the fine guys at Hack Miami may be interested. We got in contact with James C. aka Hat Trick and linked up. James works for <can’t say> where he test web page vulnerabilities to protect against hacker’s like himself from getting important customer data. We donated a HP ML350 and a Cisco 3500 24 port switch to the cause. Talked for a bit and showed him around the home office and our development network we are working on. A very cool and interesting dude. You can tell he has been through some networks. He has done work on hacking into terrorist networks, who actually seem to be very vulnerable from his perspective. Did I mention he was a super cool dude, we went into it quite a bit and we will be doing more with Hack Miami and other organizations. He will list us as sponsors for the group so thats always a good look for us.

Once the latest revision on our network is done we will definitely ask these guys to try and hack us. Why you ask? This is important and needed as a proactive step to ensuring that networks we build and design are safe to use. There is no point in sitting down now a days and waiting to be hacked as if “No one will ever find us over here.” is a mantra to design lack luster security scheme for an internet facing server or network. Even internal networks can be hacked to bits by John in accounting who just got laid off. Security is important and without it in mind you may be on the bad end of identity theft. Sounds fun doesn’t it.

Ask your web design guy about %27

Got a little insight on some web programming and other network security centric ideals along with some other hilarious photos. We hope to be  more involved with local computer organizations. This helps us with exposure amongst our peers and we get a lot of info on network security, new technologies, insight on best practices for enterprise organizations, along with cool stuff other NERDS are doing.

Exposure is a must.

In starting out the most important thing for us was getting people to know about us. Whether old friends or new customers we had to make sure that anyone with eyes and ears were aware that our company existed. Of course we dont have the luxury of a large advertising budget and access to certain tools for marketing, but we did have some of the best ideas and free tools to get us a foot in the door. We started off slow and got a little more as we went along. We add more each day we think about it. Here is a rough list, I believe its accurate according to our time line:

  1. Business cards – Great approach and gives a person a sort of reminder that your business exists.
  2. Vehicle advertising – I personally had lettering done on the vehicle. Some feel its good and others see it as tacky, but when i get a customer who calls for service because they have seen my Ad I tend to feel it was a good investment. I get a call once a month. By the way it cost $140 to do and makes me an extra $100 dollars a month so far. So whether it be magnets or an entire wrap, make sure YOU are comfortable with it.
  3. Shirts/Uniforms/Branding – My partner I discussed this particular purchase at length and we both are very pleased with the turn out. A shirt is an awesome way to say, “Hi I work with computers.” without looking like a beggar (never knew this was spelled with an “a”…wow”, salesman, unprofessional, or aggressive. Also it makes you look more official, established, and professional. This has helped us pass out more cards and talk with more people. Trust me, to have a customer approach you for services is a lot easier than approaching them. They become more open and willing to take your advice.
  4. Social Networking – You gotta talk and get out there. You can never get anywhere without talking to someone, being a part of a group, or subscribing to some online community now a days. We mainly use Facebook for now and we don’t use our Twitter much. We will soon enough though, simply because an avenue never taken leads to nothing. We personally like the quality of our numbers rather than the quantity. This allows us to focus more on the people who will use our services and more importantly recommend us to others. We give them the best to make sure we stay number one in their minds for computer repair and hosting in South Florida.
  5. Online Presence – I know it sounds the same as the last, but it really isn’t in my mind. An online presence is not only tweeting your latest exploits, or thoughts, and not even commenting on someone else’s page/profile. Its having a website that expresses you and your business. A great representation of the who/what/where/when of your company. Giving customers whether past, present, or future a peek at what you are doing. Hence the purpose of this blog here. We do this to give others (775 world readable/executable) a peek into the everyday, or in my case every two to three day, lives of MJ Network Solutions. A web site, email address, online store (our’s coming soon), and blog all help with your internet presence. Again got to get out there and let people now.
  6. In Person Interactions – The best way to show your self off and display your knowledge is to do it in person. In person interactions are a must to truly convey the message of what you do to others. Though we all use the internet to prime these interactions we may have in the future. It is no replacement for meeting someone in person.
  7. Give aways – Ahh yesss! It is true that everyone LOVES free stuff. So a way to get your foot in the door is to slide a coupon underneath it to help the person behind the door open it up to you. We do give aways of our service to generate business and interact more with others. Because truly, we are only here to help.

Sorry for the long winded post but these few pointers are what we did, had to come up with, and used to gain some sort of footing or presence in our community. To fix computers for not only friends, but for others.

Pictures of the lettering on my vehicle done by Kevin Pro Signs USA. He also makes shirts and other printed products.