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

Randsomware – the ‘new’ virus type

HelpLocky encrypts your data using AES encryption and then demands .5 bitcoins to decrypt your files.  Though the ransomware sounds like one named by my kids, there is nothing childish about it.  It targets a large number of file extensions and even more importantly, encrypts data on unmapped network shares.  If you don’t have a backup your data is gone, unless you pay and hope they payment isn’t yet another scam.

Those of you with a server are pretty safe.  Backups, Shadow Copies and the like but stand-alone computers are at risk.  The virus (usually run as a script or macro from an email attachment) will disable your shadow copy (removing backups) and sometime hunt the backups down wiping them out.

So far I’ve seem 5 infections of this virus and only 1 had data loss (that client at least remembers me specifically telling them.. “Seriously, you really need a backup of some type, you know, just in case”).  Each infection differed in the targeted files.  Sometimes it was MS Office files, image files or PDFs but there is no limit to what it COULD encrypt.. it just happened to have a priority before we stopped it.

Why did the anti-virus get it?  Because the user ran it, not as a virus but a function with their security and authorization.  Much trickier, to limit what the user can do a file (like saving & deleting) than limiting access to the same file.  It sound like a fine point but the micro-management required means you need a server and if you had one this virus is only inconvenient event, not a source of data loss.

The real victims are home users and ‘server less’ environments.  The most recent off-line backup could be the only fall back.

So if you see a .locky file on your machine, reboot.. NOW!  Pull the power cord if you need to it’s only in memory (usually) and that stops the encryption process.  If you are on a network you can look at the file properties of the newly created ‘How to fix’ file in the same directly (could be a few names but you’ll know it when you see it) and the under the Details of the file properties it’ll tell you the user/system infected (the one that created the new file).  Reboot that machine ASAP.

Google can offer you some help recovering, so can (in finding any viral leftovers).  Your server and backups are your best hope, failing those a few bitcoins and some trust in the makers of the virus are all you might have left.

Backup often, trust no email attachments.

SBS 2011

Having put in two of these beasties I’ve got a fairly good idea how they work and where the problems are.  So far, there are very few reasons NOT to upgrade from your 2003 or even your 2008 Small Business Server.

Basic setup take about 8 hours with updates, reboots and just the usual typing required to get the system working for the installation in question.  Having to reconfigure Exchange 2011 to allow larger emails is the only ‘must do’ and the loss of the ‘global’ POP3 connector is annoying.

Once everything is in you’ll have a lengthy process as you migrate (or at least prepare to) from your previous server.  You could migrate directly but honestly we all know that’s a road few travel happily.  Better to backup and restore, it’s longer and annoying but never ends in heartbreak, frustration and possible data lose.  Keeping your subnet the same as the old network IPs help in the even you have a few forgotten static devices (like phone systems, plotters or some storage device).

With each workstation you’ll want to run the migration wizard (locally save the files) and backup Outlook to a PST file.  Since you’re keeping the same subnet joining is a simple as http://connect from your IE install.  Copying data will take longer than anything else but it’s unavoidable.

For the time and dollars it’s a good upgrade, beats the heck out of SBS2008.

For those BlackBerry users out there the Express server will work in SBS2011 but it takes time and research.  Just pretend you doing an SBS2008 install and then do an Exchange 2011 install as well and wait until the process reaches 450MB.. then it auto-magically works.