Technology Made Simple
Thursday April 24th 2014

Q&A Monday: Data Center Teirs

ServerRoom.jpg

Question:

I am a small business owner looking to go with a cloud provider for our IT services.  Each of the vendors mentions their data center level, and I’ve tried doing research to figure out what these levels mean, but I can’t find anything describing them in plain English, can you help?

Vickie Downs
Watertown, NY

 

Answer:

I will try my best to break the Data Center Tiers down into plain English for you.  The first thing you need to know when looking, is how mission critical are your servers, this will help you decide what data center is right for you.  Also it should be know that the higher the data center tier is, the more you are going to pay.
    OK, now to the explanation.  When you hear the term Data Center Tier (1 to 4) this is just a standardized methodology used to define availability (“uptime”) of data center. 

Tier Level Requirements
1
  • Single network infrastructure and connection to the internet
  • Non-redundant servers and power
  • Basic site infrastructure with expected availability of 99.671%
2
  • Meets or exceeds all Tier 1 requirements
  • Redundant site network, power or server with expected availability of 99.741%
3
  • Meets or exceeds all Tier 2 requirements
  • Multiple independent infrastructure serving the IT equipment
  • All IT equipment must be dual-powered and fully compatible with the topology of a site’s architecture
  • Concurrently maintainable site infrastructure with expected availability of 99.982%
4
  • Meets or exceeds all Tier 3 requirements
  • All cooling equipment is independently dual-powered
  • Fault-tolerant site infrastructure that includes generators and/or UPS and power outlets/breakers with expected availability of 99.995%

    As we can see from the chart above, Tier 4 data centers  are considered to be the most robust and less prone to failures.  Generally Tier 4 Data Centers are designed to host mission critical servers and computer systems, and they include fully redundant subsystems (cooling, power, network links, storage and servers) and have separated security zones controlled by bio-metric access controls methods. On the opposite end of this chart naturally is a Tier 1 data center used by small business or shops that don’t need or can’t afford the higher levels.

*Important Note*

Now people tend to brush off those availability numbers since they are only  .324% off from each other, but those number can add up to significant changes in downtime.  Below is the chart of allowed downtime in a given year at each tier level:

Tier Level Minutes of Downtime
1 1729.224 minutes
2 1361.304 minutes
3 94.608 minutes
4 26.28 minutes


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If  you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question.  Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and also during the rest of the week for other technical insights.

Q&A Monday: requested session access is denied

Remote Desktop

Question:

I have a user who is trying to connect to a RDS host (2008 R2 ), They are getting the error message “requested session access is denied”. I checked and made sure the user is member of the local remote desktop user group and they have the permission “Allow logon via Remote desktop services” is granted.  What am I missing?

 

Jordan B. Washington
Okeechobee, FL

Answer:

I’ve seen this problem happen a couple of times, this is usually cleared up by removing the /admin command when connecting to the server.  The user may be typing that command via command line, or if using the Remote Desktops feature in Windows 7 make sure that the admin switch is turned off.

Remote Desktops Admin Switch

 

In some cases this is turned on by default, and it’s something the user would never even notice when setting it up, but it’s tripped me up a couple of times.

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

TASER® StrikeLight™

Q&A Monday: Making a new employee feel at home

questionmark.jpg

Question:

I recently started a new position at a company and one of the first major responsibilities of this position was hiring two new helpdesk analysts.  I made it through the interview and selection processes, but I want to make them feel as welcomed and at home as possible.  Do you have any advice?

Ramon Allen
Stratford, TX

Answer:

Anyone knows that starting a new job in IT can be a bit overwhelming, usually because there IT is naturally a quick high-pressure environment working with people who may not be all that forgiving.  Making someone feel at home

 

Starting a job can be stressful and a bit overwhelming for your new recruits — especially in a high-pressure IT environment. Here are a few things you can do to help them feel at ease and learn the ropes more quickly.  I generally feel more at home, when I understand the rules of where I’m working at…and how things get processed.

1) Lunch/Dinner/Happy Hour

Every single job that I’ve had, I have had one of the above done for me.  Even now when starting a new job (and the employee count allows it), is I go out to lunch with them.  This gives you the ability to get to know someone outside of the office environment and helps build a bond between co-workers.  In the IT world, every job I’ve had…my co-workers became a family to me, because in the end I had to rely upon them.  That bond for me, usually took place over a friendly lunch.

2) delaying full administrative rights

This idea may seem at first as if you don’t trust them, but that’s not the case at all.  Anyone who’s worked in IT can tell you every system is different and different policy and procedures exists.  Making a change that they may of done 1000 time on other systems may cause a problem with the current one.  Taking the admin permissions away, gives them a safety net, time to learn the ropes and understand your policy and procedures, all which will lower stress in the end.

3) Provide Network documentation

Understanding the environment they are working on has two benefits, the first being makes them more comfortable working and two helps them understand the environment.  Give them a copy, even if only part of it falls under their support, encourage them to ask questions or make note…and if you feel like it, tell them there will be a quiz.  (I’ve said this many times…but never have actually quizzed anyone).  Take time to explain your naming conventions…like LA-File is the Los Angels File Server where Det-VMHost is the VM Host in Detroit.  Knowing the naming scheme can make identifying and locating servers or computers easier.

4) Give them the full tour

When I started out at my first helpdesk support, I was given a full tour of the office in which I was working, even introduced to the people, so that I would kinda put a face with a name (with so many people I only remembered a couple).  When situations made themselves available my boss would take me out to our satellite office and do the same things there.  It took a couple of months, but I did see every office and it’s setup.  This helped me later when I’d visit these office for work.

5) Identify demanding users

In almost every job that I’ve had, I’ve had that user, whose phone calls you didn’t want to answer, but you know you had to.  When someone new comes it, it’s nice to let them know who the users are going to be.  I’ve picked up the phone a couple of time, unaware of the anger the other person had brewed for months, and my first week I was their outlet.  Just be careful how you talk about your end users.
Plus they can hopefully take a different approach knowing these users are more demanding than the rest.  In my case when I run along these users, I was always a kill them with kindness and go the extra mile to help solve their problems…though it never made them any less demanding, sometimes they were just happy with seeing people try.

6) Keep them informed

IT moves at an insane pace sometimes, and it’s easy to fall behind.  I like to keep my staff as informed as possible, even if it doesn’t involve them.  Why?  Because it keeps everyone on the same page, and where we are with projects and that way if something does move to their plate they know.  Plus you never know what insight they might have.

7) Just Remember the first couple weeks suck

Starting a new job is always rough, and depending on the travel distance or the route they take…they might be adjusting their schedule to this new environment… and be a little laggy.  I went from a job that was a 5 minute drive from my house, to one that was 2 hours…I had to adjust my whole life around it, getting up and ready earlier than I had before.  It took me a bit to be on my game after that kind of adjustment, and then add the stress of a new job and everyone looking at me for answers.

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac - Save 25%

Q&A Monday: Removing the Windows.old directory

Microsoft Windows Logo

Question:

I was having some issue with my computer, so I went to reinstall the Windows 7 , onto my computer.  After the installation was complete, I noticed I have a C:\windows.old that takes up a large amount on my computer.  I’ve tried highlighting and hitting delete, but it’s not letting me remove it.

Jeanne Cundiff

Benton Harbor, MI

Answer:

I’ve seen this happen, when people install Windows on a drive without formatting the disk.  Luckily there is a very simple way that you can remove this directory.

  1. Click the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup and the click Disk Cleanup program.
    Note: If prompted to choose a drive, select the drive you just installed Windows.
  2. In the Disk Cleanup dialog box, on the Disk Cleanup tab, click Clean up system files.
  3. Select the Previous Windows installation check box.
    Note: plus any other check boxes you want to delete, and then click OK.
  4. In the message that appears, click Delete Files.

That should remove the files for you.  Just make sure you really want it gone before going through these steps.

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

Q&A Monday: How to create a Windows Defender right click context menu

Windows DefenderQuestion:

How can I make a right click option to scan a file with windows defender?

David A. Morrison
Bellerose, NY

Answers:

Just as a reminder, that Windows Defender in Windows 8 is always running, but if you still wanted to scan individual files you can do it with the steps below:

  1. Press the Windows key to access the Start screen, type regedit at the Start screen, and press Enter to launch the Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate to the following key: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell

  3. Right-click the shell key in the left pane, point to New, and create a new Key. Name it WindowsDefender.

  4. With the WindowsDefender key selected in the left pane, right-click in the right pane and create a new String value. Name it Icon, then double-click it and enter the following value:

    %ProgramFiles%\\Windows Defender\\EppManifest.dll

  5. Right-click in the right pane again and create another new String value. Name it MUIVerb, then double-click it and enter the following value:

    Scan with Windows Defender

  6. Right-click the WindowsDefender key in the left pane, point to new, and create a new key. Name it Command.

  7. Double-click the (Default) value in the right pane with the Command key selected and give it the following value:

    “C:\Program Files\Windows Defender\MpCmdRun.exe” -scan -scantype 3 -SignatureUpdate -file


Note:  When you set this up, the scan happen in a Command Prompt window. You will only be alerted if there is a problem found. The scan is very quick, you will see a Command Prompt window flash (appear and disappear quickly), but If a problem is found, the window will stay up and alert you instead of closing

If you don’t feel like doing on the registry editing, you can always Download this Zip.

Simple Tips to a Secure Password

Password Security

For many of us out there creating a secure password isn’t always easy, it’s hard to memorize one of those complex passwords (i.e. @<6v’)T[~5).   I want to give you some good tips (and things to avoid) in order to make your password more secure.  The most common thing people do, and I was once guilty of that myself, is make the password for every website the same.  While this makes things easy on you, it also makes it easy for hacker to gain access to those accounts.  Last year the website Gawker had a data breach and had username and passwords stolen from them, well some of those same username and password accounts worked on other sites, hackers know this so make sure you choose unique passwords for each site using these tips:

  • Using a remember-able paraphrase create a strong password for the site.
    For example (on a photo site) the passphrase you remember could be: i use my iPhone 5 and we make that secure by 1U5eMy1P0N35 (Now that password is more secure)
  • Passwords should be more than 10 characters (recommend more than 15 if possible)
  • Use Capitals Letters, Lower Case Letters, Numbers and Symbols

Thins to Avoid in Passwords:

  • It should not be like your previous passwords
  • It should not be your name (or login name)
  • It should not be your friend’s, pet’s, family’s name
  • It should not be a dictionary word
  • is not a keyboard pattern (qwerty, or 12345678)
  • It should not be less than 10 characters
  • It should not be written down where people can see it
  • It should not be dates, zip codes or phone numbers

While these tricks may seems trivial, the extra security your new passwords may make it a less interesting target for hackers.

Click here to learn more!

National Cyber Security Awareness Month (10th Year)

ncsam10_bnr1

Hello Everyone,
October marks the 10th Annual Cyber Security Awareness Month.  This month is set aside as an opportunity to engage both public and private sector companies and more importantly the general public to create a safe, secure, and resilient cyber environment. It’s not just companies that should pay attention,  everyone has to play a role in cybersecurity. The threats posed by hackers is always evolving and threaten no just businesses, but everyday home users.

Cyberspace is woven into the fabric of our daily lives and the world has never been more connected than it is today. We all enjoy the benefits and convenience that the internet provides, things like shop from home, banking online, and interact and meet new friends from around the world. The Department of Homeland Security is committed to raising cybersecurity awareness across the nation this month, and you can help by taking some time to learn how to can be safe a minimize your risks.  You can get tips this month from this blog, or via my twitter @JimGuckin  or use the following hashtag #NCSAM or finally by visiting the sponsors websites listed below.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

How to elevate RSAT shortcuts

Windows Logo

Companies out there, should not have their IT staff account with Administrator access for everyday work.  Yet IT staff generally will complain (I’m guilty of it) when they need do some administrative work.  Now to make an administrators work easier (while following best practices) you give the IT staff user accounts and use another account to elevate the privileges when you need to get work done.  There is a problem using the Windows RSAT tools on Windows , it tries to use your user account to do this, and since it’s not an administrator, it fails.  On Windows 7 workstations you have to use a trick (shift+ right click -> Run as a different user) to get these RSAT tools to work.  This can just be plain annoying to do, but there is a work around.

To eliminate the extra clicks and the need to enter your username and password every time you launch an admin tool from your user account, you can edit the shortcut to the tool to include the RUNAS command. This can be easily accomplished this on your machine by making copies of the RSAT shortcuts and placing them on your desktop and editing those copies. I would suggest not editing the start menu icons and that applies to all users and letting other users that might log in to your computer be able to launch these tools with the admin account. (Not Good)

Copy the shortcuts that live in the hidden folder at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools\.  I copied the shortcuts of the tools I use and pasted them to the desktop.

Once you get the tools you use, copied to the desktop, Right-click on those new shortcuts and choose Properties.  On the properties tab under the Target field change the text from:

%SystemRoot%\system32\dsa.msc

to:

%SystemRoot%\system32\runas /savecred /user:yourdomain\domainuser “mmc dsa.msc”

(It goes without saying buy: Replace yourdomain with the name of your domain and domainuser with the name of the admin account you want to use.)

I added the /savecred switch (optional) and this saves the password you type.  Click OK and then double-click the icon for the RSAT you just edited.  You’ll see a command window pop up that will ask you for the password associated with the account you entered in the /user switch. Type your password (don’t freak out because the cursor will not move), and hit enter, and the tool will launch.  If you chose to use the /savecred switch, this is the only time you will be prompted to enter the password for that user. Saved passwords can be managed in the Credentials Manager (if you need to update or delete)

 

Q&A Monday: 64 bit Print Driver on 32 Bit System

PrinterQuestion:

I’m trying to add a 64 bit driver, for our existing 32bit printer shares on our Windows 2008 Server.  When I try to add 64 bit drivers for the printer, I browse out to the 64 bit driver, and I get a prompts stating: “the specified location does not contain the driver for the requested processor architecture”.  Another coworker tried another method, but it wanted nprint.inf to install it.  Is it not possible to install an x64 version of a printer driver on a x86 server?

Timothy N. Palmer
Dunwoody, GA

Answer:

Without describing the full process of adding it, I want to make sure that we are on the same page.  Please try the following steps on the print server.

  1. Open Print Management from the Administrative Tools folder on the client computer running an 64 bit version of Windows.
  2. Right-click the printer to which you want to add additional printer drivers, and then click Manage Sharing.
  3. Click Additional Drivers.
    1. The Additional Drivers dialog box appears.
  4. Select the check box of the processor architecture for which you want to add drivers.
    1. In your instance this would be x64.

If the print server does not already have the appropriate printer drivers in its driver store, Windows prompts you for the location of the driver files. If you haven’t already, download and extract the appropriate driver files (make sure they are 64 bit), and then in the dialog box that appears, specify the path to the .inf file of the driver. The driver files you install must match the drivers installed on the print server (the printer name must be identical as well as the driver version).

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

TASER® StrikeLight™

Q&A Monday: LZMA File

File Compression

Question:

I received a file from a coworker that has a LZMA file type with a large sum of data, and I don’t know how to open it.  Please help!

Kevin Knight
South Dakota
 Answer:

LZMA is a compressed file, something like the ZIP compression that most of us are generally familiar with. It’s used as a way to group files together and compress them causing their total size to diminish.  Now depending on your operating system, you need to choose the right software:

Windows: 7 Zip

http://www.7-zip.org/

Mac OS:  The Unarchiver

http://unarchiver.c3.cx/unarchiver

Both of these are software packages that I have used, and Unarchiver also has a Windows version as well, but I’ve just grown more comfortable with 7 Zip on Windows machines.

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

TASER® StrikeLight™
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