Friday, March 28, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BlogTalk Radio - More inside scoup on SBS 2008

For those of you who don't know, one of my good buddies, Erik Thorsell, gives you a bit of an inside scoup on Windows Small Business Server 2008. To listen to the one-hour show, point your browser over to BlogTalkRadio to listen to blogcast.

Erik and I are involved in the "Technology Adoption Program" together, and talk often about SBS 2008. For those who will undoubtedly ask, I do not know how you get selected to be in the TAP program. The best you can do, is head on over to BlogTalkRadio and check out the podcast, and learn more about SBS 2008!

For those who want to learn more abour Erik, point your browsers to Success Computing Consultants.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Small Business Server 2008 Backup Q & A

Yesterday, a video demo of SBS 2008 backup was put up on Technet Edge. I've gotten a couple of questions that seem prudent to answer publicly instead of via email. I will do them in the standard Q&A format. If there are others, I'm happy to add to this post, simply e-mail me, and if it's something I can talk about regarding the backup, I will add it to this blog post.

Question: It sounds like it could re-introduce some of the hassles that differential and incremental backups used to pose for tape users. My understanding was that SBS tried to remove this complexity by enforcing daily full backups.
Sean: Great question. Each disk you plug into the system will have a full backup as the first backup to this disk. Each incremental backup, is the difference from the last incremental backup on that particular disk. E.g. If you plug in Disk-A, a full backup will be taken as the first backup, and every other backup will be incremental from that backup. If you unplug Disk-A on a Friday and plug in Disk-B, the same thing happens. When returning Disk-A to the system, the next incremental will be larger, as it does the incremental from when you unplugged Disk-A to get Disk-A back up to speed.

Question: External drives are generally IDE/SATA based and have a relatively high failure rate (often due to poor cooling). What happens when one fails? What if it’s the one that contains your very first backup?
Sean: We see a similar failure rate in most low-end tape drives, which are the ones that typically end up in our space. In addition to the disks being even more inexpensive, the lesser of two evils is the disk drive. This is why we recommend multiple disk drives for your backup, and we include backup status in the daily report so you can stay on top of such hardware failures. As mentioned in the previous question, both disks contain full backups, so there is no fear of loosing everything with one backup disk failing.

Question: When using external USB drives, the can have different drive-letters when re-plugging the drive. For example when someone has plugged a USB-drive or after adding DVD-drives, hard drives, will ‘SBS 2008 backup’ automatically find the USB-backup drive when it has another drive letter as before?
Sean: SBS Backup doesn't use drive letters, when you commit a drive to the backup application, the drive letter is removed and it doesn't show up in Explorer.exe. The SBS Backup application takes the entire disk for backups for multiple reasons. (1) Because you should keep back-ups on it, and not other data, and (2) the entire disk is converted to a specific structure to store the backups. The backup application accesses the disk via the low-level system APIs by a unique GUID, and thus knows the difference between the drives.

Question: When the end-user plugs the wrong backup disk into the server, will the server then do the correct incremental backup? For example: on Monday the server normally needs drive A, but the user attaches drive B.
Sean: Yes. Since it accesses the drive by unique GUID, it knows exactly which disk it's backing up to.

Let me know if there are any more questions, and I'll let you know if I can answer them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

See SBS 2008 backup over at Technet EDGE!

A few weeks ago I posted about a new forum called Technet Edge. I also mentioned that I did a video recording about Windows Small Business Server 2008.

Well, I wanted to let you know the video is live!. You can get another sneak-peak into what the new Backup wizard looks like. There is a typo on the page talking about EBS, I'm working on getting that fixed.

SBS 2008 PM Interview and Demo

Check me out!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I can't do it Captain, I just don't have the power!

Have you ever wished that your server would tell you when it's about to shut off due to a power outage? Well, it's easier than you think (well, with some help from a co-worker)...

Simply get a UPS, I particularly like the ones from APC, and configure the alerts in the power management control panel application.

As you can see I have two separate VBS scripts configured, one to go off almost immediately the power goes out, and one to go off just before the server shuts down. Thus I will get an email as the power goes out, and another one as the server chooses to shut itself down because of lack of power.

The scripts are pretty easy.
For Windows Small Business Server with Exchange, the script is easy, because you have a mail server, ready to send mail on your behalf! Just copy and paste these text into a .vbs file:
Dim MyMail
Set MyMail = CreateObject("CDO.Message")
MyMail.From = ""
MyMail.To = ";"
MyMail.Subject = "Power Outage Shutdown"
MyMail.TextBody = "Power not restored. Server shutting Down."
MyMail.Fields("urn:schemas:mailheader:X-MSMail-Priority") = 2
Set MyMail = Nothing

As you can see, I've put two email addresses in here. My email, and celluar text email, so I get an alert on my phone. :o)

For Windows Home Server without Exchange, you need to be a little more tricky, since you need to relay the message through your ISPs mail server. So the script is a little longer:

Const cdoSendUsingMethod = _
Const cdoSendUsingPort = 2
Const cdoSMTPServer = _
Const cdoSMTPServerPort = _
Const cdoSMTPConnectionTimeout = _
Const cdoSMTPAuthenticate = _
Const cdoBasic = 1
Const cdoSendUserName = _
Const cdoSendPassword = _

Dim objConfig ' As CDO.Configuration
Dim objMessage ' As CDO.Message
Dim Fields ' As ADODB.Fields

' Get a handle on the config object and it's fields
Set objConfig = CreateObject("CDO.Configuration")
Set Fields = objConfig.Fields

' Set config fields we care about
With Fields
.Item(cdoSendUsingMethod) = cdoSendUsingPort
.Item(cdoSMTPServer) = ""
.Item(cdoSMTPServerPort) = 25
.Item(cdoSMTPConnectionTimeout) = 10

End With

Set objMessage = CreateObject("CDO.Message")

Set objMessage.Configuration = objConfig

With objMessage
.To = "Your Name <>"
.From = "Home Server <>"
.Subject = "Power Outtage"
.TextBody = "The Power has gone out @ " & Now()
End With

Set Fields = Nothing
Set objMessage = Nothing
Set objConfig = Nothing

Simply choose the script that's best for you scenario, and hook it up to the power alerts.

E-Mail when a server shuts itself down.. doesn't get much better then that!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Windows Server 2008 & Exchange Backup

So the Exchange Team was kind enough to write up a long blog post regarding Windows Server Backup included with Windows Server 2008.

However, some of the comments in this post need a little explaination, specifically around the "Exchange Aware Backup". The post mentions that the included Windows Server Backup is not aware of Exchange. This is in fact TRUE! Un-like NTBackup that would "light-up" Exchange backup and recovery features when Exchange was installed, the Windows Server Backup acts exactly the same way regardless of if Exchange is installed or not.

What I mean by this is the included backup application is VSS (Volume Snapshot Service) aware. Exchange 2007 provides a "VSS writer":

Try this at a an "elevated" command prompt: vssadmin list writers
What do you get?
Writer name: 'Microsoft Exchange Writer'
Writer Id: {76fe1ac4-15f7-4bcd-987e-8e1acb462fb7}
Writer Instance Id: {b2e17dae-6a8c-404c-a2b5-ebd4aa3a6277}
State: [1] Stable
Last error: No error
Among others...

When a Windows Server Backup is initiated, the backup application involks all of the VSS writers on the system, to prepare, and clean-up their specific application for backup. For Exchange, this includes, ensuring the database is consistent and trimming the Exchange log files after the database has been writen to the backup disk. Exchange's VSS writer does this, not the backup application.

This is not magic, but just how VSS backups work. *Any* application that installs a VSS writer correctly, will be correctly managed by the built in Windows Server Management program, regardless if the backup solution is aware of the install or not.

If you're familiar with the old (and I mean old!) NTBackup solution, Exchange provided "Streaming APIs" to stream the database out and into the database for backup purposes. Windows Server 2008 Backup does NOT take advantage of these, even though they are still available for 3rd party backup applications.

So, you SBS'rs, can rest assured Exchange is being backed up correctly on Windows Server 2008. You'll have to wait until Windows Small Business Server 2008 releases (or jump in on the Beta, when it's available) to see the restore in action. ;o)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Still 75, Still Strong

I've heard rumours rumbling that the technical limit of SBS is changing from 75 to 50 in Windows Small Business Server 2008.

This is incorrect.

The technical limit is not changing. With the new addition to the family, for mid-market folks, we wanted to get SBS'rs to start thinking about migrating up-wards once they have passed the 50 people mark. You shouldn't wait until you're at 75 to start thinking about growing more, you should do that earlier.

SBS 2008 will still support up to 75 users.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Haven't Tried Small Business Server in a while?

A lot has changed since Small Business Server 2000, let alone what's coming out end of this year with Small Business Server 2008. If you used Small Business Server 4.0/4.5, 2000, and you haven't touched it yet. It's time to keep your eyes peeled for the Beta of SBS 2008, and learn about all the goodness that has creeped into the product

If you still aren't sure about trying it. Tom, the SBS Guru is ready and willing to tell you why SBS is what suites your needs, and why you can stop spending too much money on standard versions and struggle to put it together yourself. Why waste your time?!

Here are some myths that I'd like squish

  • Small Business Server is too expensive - What? like cheaper than Windows Server, and Exchange, but comes with both?

  • Small Business Server is a single server solution - No no no! SBS comes as a single solution, Add additional servers all you like! Backup Domain Controllers, TS in app-sharing, Line of Business Applications, the list is endless!

  • Small Business Server isn't big enough for my busiess - Like Canada isn't big enough for 33 million people? Hardly, Depending on the hardware, you can add as much load as you want

  • Wizards are for people who don't know what they are doing - I think Tom has some information you'd be interested in. Wizards standardize the installs, making it easy for you to remember what was done, and not forget steps!

So if you haven't tried SBS in a while, it's time to light-up and old candle, Get on the public beta (details coming in the next month or so) and learn to love SBS.

... Also, if you really hate wizards, try Punching One over at The SBS Guru's Blog... KA-POW!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Adding Windows Server 2008 to your existing SBS 2003 Network

Hey Folks,

Our doc team has outdone themselves again. Only a few short weeks after the annoucement of Windows Server 2008, you have some documentation in the SBS Tech Library on how to join it to your Small Business Server 2003 network.

The direct link to the topic is available here.

As a heads up, you'll be unable to use the http://servername/connectcomputer link to join it to the network, so make sure you check out the help topic to save yourself any pains.

Thanks to the SBS documentation team!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Microsoft Forum for the IT Pro!

If you don't know yet, Microsoft has brought on a new forum for the IT Pro. If you're familiar with the developer forum, Channel 9, and thought "it's just a wee bit too technical for my needs", then TechNet Edge is the place for you! The online insider forum for IT Pros!

The good news is, I just finished being interviewed by these guys, and have a little surprise about Windows Small Business Server 2008. They are in the process of editing the video, once it's live, I'll post a direct link on this blog, so you won't miss it...

... BUT!

If you want up to the second alerts, subscribe to the TechNet edge ZuneCast! And watch me at the mall!

All that good-ness, and videos about the bleeding edge technology Microsoft makes available to an IT Pro!

Seriously, who could ask for anything more?

Monday, March 03, 2008