We at the office have had a rash of rushed server replacements in the last few months. We ourselves are a business who struggle with when it is time to make capital investments like servers and desktops. I just wanted to take the time to pass along some facts about hardware. I am an engineer here at ITP not the sales guy sorry Joe.
When is the right time to replace a server?
The answer which no one likes to hear is: it depends. Like your car you can drive it until it strands you and then get it fixed and get back out on the highway again. Others chose to replace their car or have schedule maintenance on it in order to avoid this down time in their life. The important thing is to realize the difference between a tire blow out which can just be replaced and fixed and a general wearing out. The other car analogy I will throw at you about servers is that your equipment has miles on it. In the industry it is called a MTBF or Mean Time Before Failure or failure rates. It is possible depending on your environment that you have put 100,000 miles on your server in 2 years. Think of servers more like you would your copiers after so many copies it just seems to start jamming more, right? Microsoft.com tells us the research they have done says this is around the 5th year:
The percentage of servers experiencing some form of component failure jumps from 10 percent in year four to 50 percent in year five, according to James Browning, a research vice president at IT analyst firm Gartner Inc.
Microsoft and we at ITP urge you to use a combination of factors the most important of which is the performance of the system and it’s age in combination. I say use both because if you have a 7 year old server even if you feel it’s performing well the risk of complete failure is so high that its not worth the risk. The other factor I consider is manufacture, not that it be Dell or HP or IBM but if it was a “white box” or built server or PC. Part of the process of becoming a Dell or HP server system is intensive research and burn in process which ensures longer more consistently running hardware. If the server we are reviewing was built we tend to assign another year to it’s life at least. ITP has never built PC’s or Servers because we think it is not good business and we would question any company out their still building PC’s.
Risk is really what its all about right? If you replace your servers every 3-4 years on schedule and keep your servers at a cool consistent temperature you will have less issues. Meaning less IT costs, less intermittent and major downtime. I often wonder all the clients who call us when 1 desktop is down because of a virus or MS Office needs to be reinstalled or a corrupt OST file if they realize the effect on their business for email to be down for an entire day or to have no access to your calendar or contacts. You say that will never happen but risk management methodology says we must think about it. For almost all our clients a day of downtime would cost the firm in lost time and money more than the cost of a new server.
Budget for it, the core of the network should not be taken lightly. Make sure you have a solid disaster recovery plan meaning backup, policy and plan to get the business back up and running. Hold off on the new printer or the new laptops but make sure even in this economy you don’t take risks on the machines that carry the core of the business.
Just a friendly reminder to all our clients and loyal viewers that if Internet Explorer updates from 6 to 7 or 7 to 8 because of Windows Updates on your home computer that the activex control used to connect to your machines may get reset. If this happens when you click the connect button a drop down should come down from just below the URL bar to install the activex control. You can also click on the gears in the lower right on IE 8. You may have to five it a second then close your browser and redo the login process completely. Also make sure you have added your RWW address to your trusted sites list in Tools->Internet Options->Security Tab.
RWW is a great economical remote access tool for small to midsize companies. As always feel free to contact us to discuss RWW vs. Logmein vs. Terminal Services or other remote access products.
If you are running Exchange 2003 and you have applied SP2 then your Out Of Office replies may not be sent. This is actually a hard problem to detect because the Out of Office replies work for internal users but not for external email senders. So an external user would have to actual inform you that they did not receive the Out of Office autoreply which is somewhat of a Catch 22 since they probably don’t know you are gone.
The service pack changed some of the settings to make it ‘more secure’. To enable Out of Office replies for external users go to the Exchange System Manager >> Global Settings >> Internet Message Formats >> Default (or if you renamed this), right click and select properties. Go to the Advanced tab of the properties page and check ‘Allow out of office responses’. That should do it.
I have run into this question regarding Time Matters calendars and grouped events on many an occasion. This might clear up some questions for those not familiar with this feature:
1) There are two different kinds of groups. There are user groups and there are staff groups. You should be able to put a staff group in the staff field of an event record and have it assign the event into the individual staff calendars as long as those staff members are a member of that group. This type of group is created by going to the File Menu and choosing Database, Groups. When you create an event with the group, there are 2 things you need to make sure of. A) The group staff must be the first staff in the staff field and B) when you select the group, make sure the check box “Keep Together as a Group” is NOT checked. This is only true for the “Group” type staff. The other thing to remember is that when you want to see a grouped event on your calendar with everyone’s individual records, you need to right click and choose “Show Members – Expanded”.
2) The other type of group, the user group, is set up for using instant messenger or email and is based on the user login. This type of group is set up under File, Setup, User and Security, User Groups.
3) When you want to delete a grouped record, keep the following in mind. If you try to delete the record and get a message asking if you also want to delete linked records, that is because that event was set up by a user as a grouped event and you are not on the “master” record to delete it. If you go to the event list in Time Matters, there is a symbol that looks like a little sun to the right of the day field (i.e. Friday*). The little sun symbol indicates that it is a master record. If you delete that record, it will ask you if you want to delete all linked records. If you say yes, it will delete everyone’s event associated with it. If you are not on the master record, it will ask you if you want to delete the record and unlink from the master. If you say yes, it will leave the rest of the grouped records alone and only delete the specific record you are on.
Here are other event symbol explanations:
||Events have a time conflict.
||Event or ToDo is part of a Group of records and is the Master (or Parent) Record.
||Event or ToDo is part of a Group of records and is a Grouped (or Child) Record.
||Record is part of a Schedule Chain.
||Record has an Alarm set.
||Event or ToDo has been Billed. This symbol appears in the Status column. To use this symbol, on the main menu bar click File > Setup > General > Program Level > Lists and select the Show $ in Status Field check box.
||“Specified” Related Record.
As some of you know, I switched to Vista over a month ago after being asked to write an article about Vista for an upcoming issue of GP Solo. Anyway, about a week ago, I managed to mess up my file association between .doc files and Word. Clicking on a .doc file in Explorer would open the file in WordPad. Argh!
In the good old days, you could simply go to Folder Options in XP and change the association but this option is no longer there in Vista. After some searching around, I found the answer here.
There are actually two ways to do it. First, you can right click on the file, choose Open With and Choose Default Program. Second, you can open the Control Panel in Classic View and select Default Programs then select “Associate a file type or protocol with a specific program.” Now that I think of it, either one is more logical than the old way of doing it under Folder Options. I just did not know where to look.
Time Matters has posted Service Releases for versions 7 and 8 to deal with the looming Daylight Savings Time nightmare. Users of Time Matters 8 can download and install SR1B by selecting Program Updates – Check for Updates from the Help Menu. Time Matters 7 users must visit the Time Matters Service Center and download SR2C.
Time Matters says that the risk to their program is small for most users and that customers who apply Microsoft’s DST patches will have little to worry about. Time Matters users who sync to Windows CE devices must apply the Service Releases to avoid issues but I suggest that everyone do so, as these patches usually include minor performance enhancements. The exception to this is users of World Server 6 and earlier. These users are much more likely to experience issues. If you fall into this category, you should consider upgrading to avoid issues. Remember, these DST issues will return twice a year for the foreseeable future.
For those of you who need a refresher on installing a Time Matters Service Release, the easiest way is to run in on one station and select Install Network Autoupdate when prompted. Remember to close all programs including Time Matters first. Once the network autoupdate is installed, simply go to each workstation and close all programs. Open Time Matters and the update will install.
Of course, you can feel free to call ITP any time you need Time Matters assistance.
After a four day surge in comment spam, I decided to give Akismet a try. Akismet is a free comment spam blocker that is installed as a plugin to a Wordpress blog. As soon as I installed it, Akismet showed me a list of the 211 pieces of comment spam that I have sifted through during the last 15 days.
Akismet automatically holds checks comments, trackbacks and pingbacks to the blog, places spam in the moderation queue and deletes it after 15 days. If it works half as well as the site suggests, I might even have time to write a post now and then rather than read through comment spam.
Update (2/21/07): Thirty-seven pieces of comment spam killed in the 18 hours since I installed Akismet. Not a single piece made it through.
Update (05/05/07): The count in about two and a half months is 2,651 pieces of comment spam caught by Akismet. Perhaps 10 made it through to my email inbox asking me to moderate. On average that is about 1 per week that made it through of the 265 per week that are being submitted. Thank you Akismet!
After you download SR1A for Time Matters, don’t forget to download the supplemental documention and help files. These can be found on the Time Matters website in the Service Center. Login to the Service Center and select Service Release Downloads then the link for Service Release 1A.
On the right side of the window are links to several useful files. The first, SUPDOCS8SR1A.pdf, is supplemental documentation related to Service Release 1A including information on Acrobat 8 integration and the Time Matters Timesheet. The second set of links is unique to the different versions of Time Matters (i.e. Business, Legal, Accounting, etc.) and is named TM8BM8SR1ADOCL.EXE with the “L” indicating legal. Download the one appropriate to your firm and save it to your desktop. Once downloaded, run this file to update the Time Matters help files on your workstations.
So you’re thinking of upgrading to Vista? Well, from a visual aspect, no one could blame you. The new interface – Windows Aero they’re calling it – looks gorgeous. But, as everyone knows, upgrading a desktop system can be dangerous stuff. For those of us that have experienced desktop upgrades from one Microsoft system to another know that this doesn’t always go as planned. The best way to “upgrade” from one operating system to another has always been to do a new install. Even Microsoft says so. But this pretty much negates the idea of an upgrade, doesn’t it? Anyhow, this time around Microsoft did things a bit different. No, there are still no guarantees that upgrading to Vista will be easier than before, but now you can tell if your system will upgrade properly or not by using Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor tool. Although I haven’t upgraded my system yet, I did run the advisor. The information it gave me about my system was detailed even to the point of providing links to new drivers Vista would need to run properly. Pretty cool. So if you’re thinking of upgrading to Vista I would strongly recommend you run Upgrade Advisor first. I think the jury is still out on how effective the tool is, but once I upgrade I’ll let you know how well it worked – first hand.
Windows Vista should be hitting the shelves in about a week, along with Microsoft’s newest version of Office. If you’re like most, you’ll wait at least a short while before implementing the products in your office. However, you can get a sneak preview of the product right in your web browser.
Microsoft has set up a website that allows you to play around with Vista, as well as Office 2007, via a Virtual Machine web browser plugin. When first connecting to the site, you’ll be prompted to install an ActiveX control. Once completed, you will be able to use Windows Vista through your web browser. To launch the session, click on one of the “Test Drive” buttons (related to any of the new features). Just about all the operating system functions are available via the Start menu, as well as many full applications such as Office 2007. Speed is a little slow, but there is a lot of graphic content being pushed through the system.
It’s a great way to get a feel for some of the new functions, such as the new searching capabilities, toolbar functionality, etc. If you haven’t played around with the Office 2007 betas, now’s your chance to try out Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook 2007.
To access the test drive, use the following link: