IT Trenches


November 24, 2008  7:43 PM

Tools for documentation – Network discovery & monitoring



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, design, documentation, facility management, howto, Metrics, Monitoring, network analysis, Networking, Performance, performance monitoring, reporting, threshold, toolkit, tools, troubleshooting

If you have not begun the process of documenting your network, then please begin as soon as you finish reading my first posting on Tools for documentation – screen marking & screen captures and this posting. These tools will come in real handy in a crunch to identify causes of issues and when you are not around to help with resolution.

The next tool I would like to describe is NeDi – short for network discovery. Take a look at this 4 minute movie about NeDi and what it can do for you.

A week with NeDi

Are you impressed yet? I know I was when I discovered this network tool and how it can be used and extended. Some of the screenshots below may help you with the decision if this tool will work for your environment or not.

Network Health

Device Listing

Network Map

Node Status

Device Write

I’m sure you have other tools and processes you use. Please feel free to share them with the others here and help make someone else’s life easier. Enjoy the movie above. I think the guy has a very good sense of humor and knows his movies!

November 19, 2008  3:58 PM

Tools for documentation – screen marking & screen captures



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, DataCenter, Development, documentation, howto, Microsoft Windows, Monitoring, reporting, toolkit, tools, troubleshooting

If you don’t already document your network and configurations, then you should begin immediately as it is a never-ending task. There are lots of ways of doing this and I will mention some of those in future postings.

One of the best tools is simply capturing screen shots and placing those in a Word document. This provides the ability to build “how-to” documentation as well as documenting existing conditions when the screenshot was taken. A simple press of the PrintScreen key will capture the entire desktop. CTRL-PrintScreen or Shift-PrintScreen will do the same thing. ALT-PrintScreen captures only the current window.

The challenge at times though is focusing on a particular part of the screen or a smaller section of a window. The tools that I use for this are Gadwin Printscreen (freeware) and BYS ScreenMarker.

The Gadwin Printscreen application sits in the system tray and is called by a hotkey combination that you can define (or just take the place of the PrintScreen key). I use CTRL-F12. I like the application for selecting a rectangular region of the screen rather than an entire window or desktop. The screen captures can also be saved in various formats (bmp, jpg, gif, tif or png). This is much better than the BMP format that the standard printscreen capture does.

In combination with the Gadwin Printscreen, I have started using the BYS ScreenMarker utility. This allows me to make callouts or highlights on various areas of the screen before running the CTRL-F12 capture. So, I can highlight, capture and paste in quick easy steps into an email or documentation. This is particularly useful when sending information to technical support and highlighting information shown on the client computer.

Hope this tip is useful to you. What tools or tricks do you use to document your network?


November 18, 2008  1:23 PM

Do you support Windows 2000? – Heed the support lifecycle calendar



Posted by: Troy Tate
Data security

Microsoft has updated their product support lifecycle calendar. For those of you who support Windows 2000 you will need to understand the support options available to you.

Windows 2000 Professional

    • On July 13, 2010, Extended Support for Windows 2000 Professional will end.
    • Self-Help Online Support will be available after this date.
    • Custom Support will be available. Pricing and other details to be available soon.

 

Windows 2000 Server

    • On July 13, 2010, Extended Support for Windows 2000 Server will end.
    • Self-Help Online Support will be available after this date.
    • Custom Support will be available. Pricing and other details to be available soon.

 

Window XP support lifecycle is described as below:

 

Windows XP

    • Mainstream Support for Windows XP will continue until April 14, 2009.
    • On this date, Windows XP will transition to the Extended Support phase which will be available until April 8, 2014.
    • Support for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) will end on July 13, 2010.  Service Pack 3 (SP3) will need to be installed after this date to remain in a supported state.
    • Any extensions to the sales date, do NOT change the Mainstream and Extended Support dates.

Go to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle website for details on support policy on various products. You can also signup to get a quarterly Support Lifecycle newsletter to stay on top of this issue.


November 18, 2008  1:15 PM

Did you see this? – Microsoft Exchange Online – Evaluating Software-plus-Services



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, CIO, DataCenter, design, Development, email, Exchange, Exchange 2007, howto, Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, tools

New Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide-Now Available for Download

Exchange Online — Evaluating Software-plus-Services

 

The Infrastructure Planning and Design team has released a new guide, Exchange Online — Evaluating Software-plus-Services. Download the guide here.

 

In addition to the continuously growing collection of IPD guides focusing on architectural design configurations, Microsoft is now introducing a variation of these guides. This new type of guide is designed to help you make decisions about what’s best for your organization from both a business and a technology point of view.

Considering an online solution for your organization’s e-mail services? The Exchange Online — Evaluating Software-plus-Services guide provides a clear comparison of e-mail technologies across on-premises, standard hosting, and dedicated hosting scenarios. Use the guide as a framework for evaluating the technical feasibility of Microsoft Exchange Online. An overall scoring assessment is provided for each option, identifying key mail services and requirements for your organization. Understand the impact of adopting software-plus-services, weigh the importance of each topic to your organization, and learn which offering will serve you best.

Find other Infrastructure Planning and Design guides.


November 17, 2008  7:44 PM

Surviving Cisco Telephony – SRST



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, Cisco, DataCenter, design, diagnostics, IP telephony, PSTN, risk, unified communications, VoIP, vulnerability

As you may have seen in some of my previous posts the company I work for has implemented VOIP/IP telephony at some of our locations.

VOIP – IPT – QOS – COS on and on – Oh My!

CampIT Enterprise VOIP conference

VOIP virtual panel discussion

Recently we had a phone system outage at the largest of these sites. This was a site with a clustered Cisco CallManager solution. This outage lasted 4+ hours. We were definitely surprised that both members of the cluster failed at the same time and how long it took to recover. Since that time we obviously are working with our support vendor to find a better method of providing uptime to the phone system at this site. I am also looking at making sure my other sites are prepared in the event of a similar outage.

The solution for providing a backup to the CallManager cluster is called Survivable Remote System Telephony (SRST). Think of this as CallManager light. A limited number of the phones still have connectivity and can make/receive calls. I say “limited” because the SRST function is dependent on the PSTN gateway hardware. A larger gateway can support more users. The current gateway we had was a Cisco 2821 series router. This would support 96 users. A Cisco 3825 will support 175 users.

One thing I understand though is that you cannot necessarily specify which phones will get serviced by SRST. The phones are serviced on a first-come-first-served basis. This could be an issue if there are phones that should be serviced and an outage is occurring. Unneeded phones would need to be disconnected from the network to provide capacity to support the critical phones.

Hopefully this will be the last of 4+ hour outage for the phone systems at this site and none will happen at my others. The Cisco solution has been very good for my organization and so far has been very reliable with the exception reported here.

Thanks for continuing to read my blog and hope you have a great day on the technology frontier wherever that may be for you!


November 11, 2008  4:07 PM

Did you see this? – Microsoft SharePoint Toolkit



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, analysis, awareness, debugging, design, Development, diagnostics, howto, internet, LAN, Metrics, Microsoft Windows, Monitoring, MOSS, network analysis, Networking, Performance, performance monitoring, reporting, SharePoint, toolkit, tools, troubleshooting, WAN

Many organizations are finding value in the Microsoft SharePoint technologies. Whether you use the free Windows SharePoint Services or the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, your organization will gain a lot of value from using these services. To enhance your ability to manage these technologies, there is a project on Codeplex called the SharePoint Toolbox. Per the website, the purpose of this project is as follows:

This project includes powerful and useful tools and add-ons for SharePoint that help developers and IT pros implement SharePoint based solutions more quickly and managed them more effectively. Contributions will come from the Microsoft SharePoint Product Group, Microsoft SharePoint Online Services Group, Microsoft Information Technology Group, and Microsoft Consulting Services Group.

I have personally used the CopyTimer utility  to measure throughput from remote sites to a SharePoint server. It worked well and helped gather some excellent data about the site and global network performance.

Enjoy using these tools and give me some feedback on what you find useful and how SharePoint provides value to your organization.


November 11, 2008  3:58 PM

Did you see this? – Microsoft Windows Virtualization team blog



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, awareness, blog, blogging, design, Development, Microsoft Windows, RSS, server, Virtualization

For those of you who are fans of Microsoft Windows Virtualization, this blog from the Microsoft Windows Virtualization Products Group might be of interest to you. Keep informed and provide feedback to the team as this useful technology becomes more widespread.


November 11, 2008  3:51 PM

Did you see this? – MS08-067 and the Security Development Lifecycle



Posted by: Troy Tate
administration, analysis, awareness, blog, Data security, debugging, design, Development, malware, Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, patching, risk, Security, server, vulnerability

As you probably already know, Microsoft issued an urgent out of cycle security patch recently for a Vulnerability in Server service could allow remote code execution. Look here for additional Microsoft Security Vulnerability Research and Defense information about this bulletin. If you have not already applied this patch, I urge you to do so as there are reports of MS08-067 exploits in the wild for this vulnerability. For those of you who are developers and QA testers out there and wonder about how this vulnerability slipped through testing at Microsoft. Look at this article about MS08-067 and the Security Development Lifecycle. Like many of the responses to this blog posting say: keep code as simple as possible. Automated testing is not a panacea and keeping things simple may head off signficant problems later for all users and administrators.


October 27, 2008  8:52 PM

Did you see this? – (Wire)Sharkfest 2008 videos – including Vint Cerf – now available



Posted by: Troy Tate
analysis, education, forensics, Google, howto, internet, IT education, LAN, Linux, man-in-the-middle, Metrics, Microsoft Windows, Monitoring, network analysis, Network TAPs, Networking, packet capture, Performance, performance monitoring, reporting, research, Security, toolkit, tools, troubleshooting, WAN, web, wireshark

Checkout the Sharkfest 2008 videos at LoveMyTool.com. If you use Wireshark or want to learn network troubleshooting, this is one of the best resources you can have in your toolkit. The videos will give you a better understanding of this tool and other tools out there.

There is even a video of Dr. Vinton G. Cerf, vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. He is responsible for identifying new enabling technologies and applications on the Internet and other platforms for the company. Widely known as a “Father of the Internet,” Vint is the co-designer with Robert Kahn of TCP/IP protocols and basic architecture of the Internet.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!


October 10, 2008  7:58 PM

Counterfeit Metrics – Type II Reverse Engineering



Posted by: Troy Tate
analysis, awareness, botnet, Data security, dhs, IT education, malware, Metrics, Monitoring, performance monitoring, reporting, research, risk, Security, vulnerability

If you are into metrics, you might find this article rather interesting. For Good Measure: Type II Reverse Engineering

A couple of the security metrics I find interesting:

Counterfeit hosts (zombied/botted): 30% (estimated)
Odds that neither end of a P2P session is øwned: 50–50
Bytes required to counterfeit a presidential candidate: 1

Dollar value of counterfeit Cuban
cigars: $100 million
Dollar value of counterfeit whisky: $700 million
Dollar value of counterfeit IT: $100 billion

Information like this really helps you understand why hackers and criminals do the things they do. I’m not endorsing it by any means.


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