The ‘Service level Agreement’

Sadly I don’t have a ‘Service level Agreement’ with anyone. The reason being my business model is so crazy diverse it’s nearly impossible to encompass. Quite literally I seem to support everything 24/7/365 and if I can’t support it I’ll find you someone that can. If nothing ever breaks in your office/company I consider that darn near perfect, I want all my clients to NOT have problems. I really don’t like the companies that thrive on IT misery by billing a fortune for constantly fixing ‘something’ but never any ‘smooth sailing’.

I know that sounds a little weird but IT infrastructure is now printers, cabling, servers (real & virtual), cloud, phones, watches, tablets, copiers, routers, WiFi, email, VPN, RDP and that doesn’t even cover security systems, cameras, cars (yup.. I’ve clients that get Email/Teams/Zoom in their car). A few of my 3 & 4 letter agency clients have me doing towers, encryption, forensics and the occasional ‘white hack’. I can’t fix your fridge remotely but if it needs to connect to the internet to order your milk for the morning coffee, that’s part of my job if you say it is.

Thus.. I will pretty much do anything and everything to the best of my ability as soon as I possibly can or find you someone that will/can. All this for $100/hour (honestly I really need to revisit my rates.. it hasn’t change in nearly 10 years when gas was $0.80/liter) plus one-way travel time (no mileage) if I’m not already planning on being in your area.

How’s that for a ‘Service Agreement’?

My TEDx Talk

On Saturday April 14, 2018 I presented at the TEDx in Chilliwack, BC.  I applied last year, had an audition in January (was accepted as a presenter) then got on stage Saturday.

I had no IDEA how much work it would be.  Writing a script for a talk, less than 18 minutes that would explain Blockchain, the Cloud, our loss of privacy and give people options to create meaningful change.  Then memorize it, edit, re-edit, re-memorize and on the presentation night being more scared than anything I’ve done while fire fighting.  I got the 1st two lines out and then my tongue became wet leather, a stumble or three but I managed to get it together and, I think, present an acceptable talk.

By the end of April it’ll be on the TED/TEDx site among a thousand other talks and I’m hoping it’ll be of some interest.  When it’s ready I’ll post up a new link to the video and some pictures (which are also being worked on).

Your New Server

It’s probably that time again.  You knew it was coming but that old 2008R2 has been running well or at least it was until recently.

So what to do now that 2008R2 is done and if you knew me you had an SBS2011 (with Exchange & SharePoint as well as 2008R2 server).  The good news is the hardware is probably cheaper for more CPU/RAM/Storage/Speed, the bad news is Microsoft isn’t going to let you off easy on the software costs (hard to beat $900 for SBS).

Migrations are not easy and being your system is probably 5+ years of clutter with leftover accounts, email, and more; a fresh start would probably help.  So here is what you’ll need and what it’ll take to get there:

  • New server box (i7 Hex Core, 64GB RAM, 2x SSD and 2x HDD, 2x Backup USB drives & extra NetCard)  All totaled it’ll probably by about $2500-3000.
  • MS Server 2016, we’ll use the VM licenses to get more mileage from this $1000 base software.  You will have CAL costs per user ($100/user)
  • Exchange 2016 is another $1500 plus $150/user.  You only need this if you want local Exchange which you probably do.. if you cloud mail count on $10/month/user for anything better than crap.  Even at 5 users the ROI is 4 years.
  • 1x SSL domain wildcard @ $150/year
  • The last part is the sheer work involved.  This will usually take me 30-50 hours on just a single machine with VMs running Exchange and all the data transfer and setup (as well as migrating you workstations).  The good part is large and more complicated doesn’t increase labour much, even triple server boxes and a dozen VMs with 35 workstations will still be less than 100 hours.

All in for your single box Server & Exchange for 5 users for under $10000, Each additional user is $250 (2x CALs).  The amount of data can affect the time required, plan a weekend at the office while it’s migrated.  Come Monday everyone has a new profile with their old data still there, email migrated, toys installed and very little to complain about.  This would be a great time to retire the old tired workstations as well or possibly just wipe and reinstall.

I know, you see $10,000 and nearly have an involuntary bowel movement.  Think about it though, the cheapest POS new car is double that, heck your copier is likely that much.  Your business could survive without a vehicle (you can rent one) but turn off the network and see how it all turns out.

Balls in your court, upgrade before the old beast dies and it’s smooth sailing.  Wait too long and it fails and it’ll cost a bunch more and a much more painful upgrade with significant down time (no one keeps servers in stock, these are custom computers).  I can work miracles, sometimes even resurrecting the dead server.. but not every time, so keep the 5 year replacement idea firmly in your thoughts (moving parts wear out).

Send me a message if you want more details.

SBS 2011 goes bye-bye

Alas Microsoft is in the process of ending the 2008R2 server and Exchange 2010 from regular support and updates (limited support until 2020 but only critical security patches).  This means all those companies that have one of these awesome beasties will need an upgrade in 2017 or 2018 (or risk some serious problems).

So what’s the plan?  The plan is head to 2016 and opening your wallet.  There is no more cheap ride on SBS (it’s dead) so you need 2 servers and purchase a full Exchange.  At this point the best in-house option is a powerful CPU & loads of memory and run the Exchange on a VM.  It’ll cost about $4000 in software/licensing alone for 10 users including the base Server software.

If that makes you cringe you can host the Exchange with a partner of mine (HostedBizz) and get a Canada-only cloud at $10/month/user and I will still keep it running normally.  Unlimited mailbox size and good old Exchange so your phone will be happy and no SSL for you to mess with (saves $100/year).

If you need a quote on the hardware for this I’ll get you something current but your looking at an i7 hex-core with 32GB RAM, 2x SSD and 2x 2TB HDD.  Some extra cheap extra bits will help (like a network card for the VMs and some new 4TB USB backup drives).  The server is ‘cheap’ it’s the software that’ll hurt this time.  I have UNIX alternatives (like Zentyal) but the maintenance will eat your savings.

For the accountants out there the cloud services offer a better tax advantage @ $10/month/user the on-premises solution of Exchange 2016 with be $1500 & $150/user and about a 5 year lifespan making the ROI and easy calculation (remember software has a smaller/longer write off spread over time but is cheaper in real $).

Call/Email me if you have questions

DNS Happens

How DNS happens

How DNS happens

DNS (Domain Name Service) has been around since the first time someone tried a name instead of an IP to get somewhere on the Internet.  Which translates to only a few years younger than the first network. What happens when you type ‘google.ca’ isn’t stunningly complex, it’s really no more than your machine looking up the number of that domain and then sending you there.  The really interesting part is how much we rely on it and how it’s embedded into nearly everything.  In fact the Internet would grind to a halt in about 5 minutes without it and the fact it is made of millions of simple text files is a minor marvel.

So why the news on DNS?  My home internet (to my server) went out a few days ago and it is one of a chain of DNS servers that maintain a few domains.  It also exposed an vulnerability in my redundancy which I had thought covered, turns out some companies know less of DNS than I do and thier system weren’t capable of taking the added load.  Thus the DNS entries began to expire and the scramble was on.  Long story short, I managed to get a new DNS system up in a few hours and migrate things to a more stable platform.  The whole system is better than ever and more fault tolerant. This meant some email outages for a time and though email can recover, the deliveries where later than expected.

What I learned yet another software system that doesn’t do what it claims and I didn’t even get an error the system wasn’t working as expected.  No way to check and the only way to discover the flaw was to create the problem it was meant to protect against, seems a rather hard way to test a system.  I’ll have to break down and learn to use Unix on the command line and stop relying on a GUI that tries to hide thier failures behind pretty icons.

I’ve never been a proponent of ‘hard testing’ where one creates the disaster to check the recovery system.  My reasoning being if things are other than planned (see Murphy’s law) you’ll have created a problem you do not have the solution for (or your recovery plan would have worked).

So I’ve learned a few new tricks, found a useful service for DNS replication and for one day of annoyance managed to ‘hard test’ my failover system.  Now I just have to get my own regular Internet connection back, thank the tech gods for cell phone tethering 🙂

The current WorkStation

Upgrading a computer workstation (home or office) can be a real gamble.  Not only is it a good deal of cash the time and energy to move all your data, programs and re-do all your settings is significant.  Sadly, far too often, the performance increase isn’t worth the cost as a clean install will oftne do the same thing and save you nearly $1000.

This however (the machine below) will make a HUGE difference in your performance:

Workstation:
Intel Core i5 2500 Quad Core Processor LGA1155 3.3GHZ
ASUS P8H67-M PRO/CSM Motherboard
Mushkin 8GB 2X4GB DDR3-1333 Dual Channel Memory Kit
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB Solid State Disk Flash Drive
Samsung Black DVD Writer
Antec Three Hundred Case 300 ATX  Front USB & Audio
Sparkle Power Supply W/ 120MM Fan

Samsung S23A300B 23IN Widescreen LCD Monitor
Logitech MK200 Media Keyboard and Mouse Combo USB

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64BIT DVD OEM
Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business English

From NCIX this complete computer is less than $1400.  Being one could skip a few pieces if you already have them (OS, screen, keyboard) the price can get down to about $600 for the basic computer.  The SSD and the timed CPU/Memory/Motherboard are the key, it’s runs lightning fast and is rock solid reliable.  The only upgrades needing consideration to this beasty.. add in a mechanical 1TB+ Western Digital Caviar Black for storage and an NVidia video card.

Server Migration

The web server (and backup mail) is moving from the old DDS (fractional dedicated server) to a newer ‘virutal’ server located in the ‘cloud’.  The advantages are it’s a little more reliable but mostly it cleans up years of alterations and upgrades and it’s far more expandable.

Dec 14th – The old server dies tonight at 9pm, everything I could find to move I moved and it’s been off for a few days and no complaints, one can only hope it all migrated properly.  The new server is faster and MUCH cleaner.  If you have any issues or problem don’t hesitate to call.