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Why Windows Small Business Server is Dead

Microsoft has done away with Small Business Server. Over the last couple of years, the MCS tech team has recommended that small businesses move away from Small Business Server and into Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard. Small Business Server has always seemed to to a little temperamental. For most users, SBS was overkill and came preinstalled with SharePoint and Exchange. Best practices would lead us to believe that if you don’t need something on your server then don’t install it, but SBS forced the issue.

Windows Server was designed to be modular and that is how we install it now. We have performed several Small Business Server 2003 to Server 2008 R2 migrations successfully. This brings organizations to a more standard platform that can be custom built to suite almost any business need. We are seeing more stable servers and services now with less bloat.

Windows Small Business Server Essentials has been renamed Windows Server 2012 Essentials now. We are still recommending Windows Server 2012 Essentials for very small offices who would otherwise run a peer to peer network because of costs. Windows Server 2012 Essentials comes per-loaded on HP micro Servers for around $900 with redundant hard drives and room for 2 more. That is a great deal and it is perfect for offices that want better security and control but don’t want to pay $5000 for way more server and software than they will ever need. Small Business Server going away is the end of an era and we at MCS could not be happier.

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Windows 8

On, October 26th, 2012 Microsoft will officially release its new flagship OS. What does that mean for the business user? For one, PCs will start to have this OS pre-installed when shipped. For users that still want Windows 7, Microsoft will allow them to downgrade but they don’t have to make that process easy. Users will have to find installation media that most likely will not ship with the PC. There will also most likely be activation hassles to deal with.

For those of you wanting to stick with Windows 8 Professional, be aware that the user experience has not changed this drastically since Windows 95. Gone is the traditional start menu, replaced with a sharp cornered start screen meant to resemble Windows Phone. Power users will find that the new OS still has strong underpinnings of Windows 7 so most applications that work with Windows 7 will also work with 8. Time will tell how well that holds up.

This is another time of transition and we always caution our clients to wait before implementing brand new technologies. Windows 8 might have security issues that need to be patched, or compatibility problems that are not yet obvious. Windows 7 will still be actively supported for years to come and when it comes to businesses depending on an OS, safer is better. Let the home users try the new OS and work out the bugs. Then, if and when 8 is ready, business users should migrate. Vista is a good example of an OS that would have been better skipped if given the option.

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UPS Systems Upgraded

All MCS hosted services are now running on a double conversion power system. Better voltage = happier servers. MCS completed the upgrades last night to replace an aged line interactive system. What’s the difference between a line interactive and double conversion UPS you may ask. Well, it all comes down to cleanliness of power delivered to the equipment.

A line interactive UPS will normally just pass through whatever power is coming from your utility. If your utility delivers 124 volts, that is what is getting passed to your equipment. In the event of a power outage, the UPS has to sense the outage and then quickly replace that power with power from its battery. This causes and issue because the time in between the power going out and the UPS batteries kicking in, you are left with no power being delivered to you equipment. This is a very short window, measured in milliseconds, and most servers will have enough charge in their power supply capacitors to buffer through the outage. Sometimes though, a server might have a strained power supply, or the UPS takes a little bit too much time to kick in and this will end up with the server starved or power and it will reset. Also, since these UPS systems pass through power they are not a good fit for use with generators. Generators generally produce dirty power that can possibly damage sensitive equipment.

A double conversion UPS is much different. These devices will constantly use their internal batteries to output clean voltage within a specific range. So, 124 volts from your utility company go into the UPS and 120 volts come out to your servers. Also, since these devices are on-line all the time, in the event of a power loss there is no loss of power to the equipment. The battery will simply start to drain and not be recharged via utility power. On-line double conversion UPS devices are also better suited for use with a standby generator. When the generator kicks in, dirty power with nasty looking squared of sin waves goes in and clean power comes out thanks to the battery conditioning. These devices have a downside though. They are more expensice to purchase and to operate. Since power is not being passed through directly, more total power is consumed to power the same loads leading to a little increase on the power bill. Also, since the batteries are being used all the time, they wear out more quickly then a line interactive system and require replacement sooner.

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Nagios XI keeps you in the know

As technology expands, the need to monitor it all increases as well. They say that knowing is half the battle, but we say, “Why should knowing be a battle?” Nagios Enterprises offers Nagios Core and Nagios XI as their main products. The Core version is free and open source while XI comes with support, updates, more features, and a much simpler interface for adding and maintaining your monitored services. We have recently transitioned from Nagios Core to XI for our own data center and assisted other enterprises do the same.

When something important on your network is acting up, knowing about it as soon as possible is the only way to a speedy fix. Let’s say your company email goes down on a Saturday afternoon. A few employees might check their email and get an error but assume the IT department is aware of the issue. When Monday morning rolls around the service has already been down for more than a day and a crisis sets in. The email partition has run out of space. Now the IT admin has to reactively scramble to free up more space. Feeling pressure from all sides, the admin applies short term bandages to bring services back to life but will then have to some up with another long term fix at a later date. The company has lost money in productivity, the admin looks bad, and the management is upset.

If the company had a monitoring solution, the admins would have known weeks before that the server was running low on storage. The on-call tech could have been alerted of any issues with the server via a text message and taken care of them before most of the company knew there was ever a problem. How many IT problems could have been prevented with a little advance warning?

Nagios is our preferred monitoring solution for several reasons. The biggest being it is the most adaptable solution we have seen. Monitoring software has massive compatibility requirements for any enterprise. It must be able to communicate with routers, switches, servers, PCs, Internet connections, wireless equipment, printers, power infrastructure, environmental conditions, and more. All of these devices may also be running different versions and operating systems. This is where the real power of Nagios kicks into top gear. There are tons of modules available for Nagios that let it talk to a wide array of devices. Given the open nature of the software, programmers from around the globe are constantly contributing to the project.

MCS is a Premier Nagios Reseller, and the only Nagios partner in the United States with that distinction. Not only can we provide the licenses, but also specialize helping companies plan, setup, and migrate to this solution. Please let us know how we can help your organization move forward with a complete monitoring solution with Nagios.

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HP to Release Thin Client Game Changer

HP is about to release a new all-in-one thin client, the t410. It works off of a single network wire at 13 Watts. This also requires no configuration. Just plug it in and it finds the correct server. It is compact, saves a ton on energy, powerful, and will save time for IT professionals. We feel this is a game changer in the thin client space and are very excited to get our hands on one. It is rumored to be released sometime this summer in the $429 price range. Considering the money a company will save on energy, IT services, and security, this has the potential to save a lot of money over its lifespan.

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IBM Announces PureSystems

Last week IBM made a once in a decade announcement. They unveiled their PureSystems platform that simplifies enterprise cloud infrastructure. Expert integrated systems fundamentally change the experience and economics of IT with built-in expertise, integration by design and a simplified experience. This means that new deployments are up in a matter of hours instead of months and overburdened IT staff can get out of the weeds and become more productive. Checkout thinkMCS.com/ibm for more information.

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Testimonials Section Added

We have added a new section to the site for client testimonials. Take a look and see what our customers have to say about us. If you are a current client and would like to submit a testimonial, please contact us.

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Computer Programmer Opening

We have posted an job opening for a Computer Programmer to help us meet client need. Our programming services have been growing and we need the best and brightest to apply to join our team. We are looking for somone with a genuine passion in their field. If you are that person, apply now.

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