The musings of an IT Consultant


November 30, 2009  11:55 PM

X marks the spot!

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks, so what do you do when you use multiple workstations or are mixing your browsing on multiple browsers?

Use xmarks! Xmarks is a program that allows you to synchronize your bookmarks between multiple browsers. With xmarks I can use Firefox and IE on my laptop and my desktop and on IE and Firefox. It’s a great free add-on that makes life super easy.

No more exporting bookmarks manually! You can read more about xmarks here.

-RP

November 30, 2009  5:37 AM

The importance of a management server

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

One of the things I’ve noticed in some network environments is the lack of a management server. What is my definition of a management server? This is a server that you use to manage the environment with all the things you need, such as management software and even backup software in smaller networks.

Basically when you deploy a bunch of servers in a network, if you can isolate a server just for using it to manage your network it will make your life a lot easier. This is a great idea instead of dumping all your management tools on a production server.

The reason for this is then you are less likely to cause issues with a production server by constantly logging in and out of it and doing work. If you accidently do something wrong on the management server, you can easily fix it without fixing production in short order. As I mentioned above, in SMB networks you can even use the management server to run your backup software off of. A management server can go a long way to making your life easier as a network administrator and usually doesn’t require a very beefy piece of hardware. You can easily take an older server (that still has warranty on it) and re-purpose it as a management server. Hope this helps!

-RP


November 30, 2009  5:32 AM

Does your firewall do everything you need?

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks! So as I’ve said before, not all network equipment is created equal. This includes firewalls. In my years of consulting I have had the pleasure of using countless hardware and software based firewall solutions. Everything seems to have it’s advantages and disadvantages for certain situations, and some firewalls are just horrible all around.

So the question you need to ask yourself, is does your firewall do everything you need? For example, there are some firewalls that will crush VoIP and refuse to pass the traffic properly even though they advertise they can. Or there will be some firewalls that will have a GUI or CLI but not implement it in the expected way making firewall administration a nightmare. Some block ports, but don’t do any advanced IPS or IDS.

So when you are buying a firewall, don’t just look at the security aspect of it. There is much more to a firewall than that. Also pay heed to the other features that will affect you everyday but that you just might not think about off the top of your head. Also just because a firewall has every feature under the sun, doesn’t make it a great idea to buy it. Sometimes it pays to seperate out features into different hardware appliances.

My point here is that everything is going to depend on your network needs. There isn’t one firewall that fits all. Do your due diligence and do that research before purchasing!

-RP


November 30, 2009  5:26 AM

Take advantage of competitve trade-ins to upgrade your network

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks! How many times have you found yourself in this situation? You buy all the latest and greatest gear and then a year later you find that you need to replace that equipment due to some reason or another in your business. What do you do?

Competitive upgrades of course! Almost all vendors these days offer them. Basically it’s a special offer where the vendor will give you a discount on new gear if you trade in your old gear. This doesn’t mean you can trade in your 10 billion old firewall from the dawn of time. But if you have something fairly recent, you might get decent trade-in value for it. This means you might be able to switch to a different product for cheaper than you think.

This kind of thing comes in really handy if you’re changing out your whole network infrastructure to accomodate some new application or technology that your current infrastructure can’t handle. Countless times I have seen people not pay heed to trade-ins and needlessly spend more money than they needed to. How do you find out about these deals? Contact your local vendor rep and they can probably point you in the right direction. Happy upgrading!

-Cheers, RP


November 30, 2009  5:21 AM

Newest BlackBerry Messenger 5

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks! RIM has come out with the latest version of BlackBerry Messenger and it is awesome! For those of you that don’t know, BlackBerry Messenger is the app that allows you to use the BlackBerry PIN network to communicate with fellow BlackBerry users.

RIM has come out with version 5 of this app and it has added some much needed features! For one, you can now create groups of friends that you can text at the same time, similar in concept to e-mail distribution lists. You can also add another person to your list of contacts to message by scanning their bar code off of their screen (which is generated by the messenger app) and then capturing it with your BlackBerry’s built-in camera.

You can also create a profile for yourself and share pictures with friends in your groups. What a great idea, put basic social networking into a texting application and you have a winner! I can’t wait to see how they expand this app even further in the new year!

If you want this app you can download it from BlackBerry App World.

-RP


November 30, 2009  5:13 AM

Great app for BlackBerry, WiFi Hero

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi BlackBerry fans! Another great app is out for the BlackBerry! What makes it so great? It saves your battery! If you’re like me you’re probably constantly using different apps and quickly running down your battery.

One of the nice things about the latest BlackBerries is that you can use the wifi to make calls on (UMA) and for data as well. However this causes battery rundown issues if used excessively.

Well a new app has come out called WiFi Hero. What does it do? It remembers the locations of the wifi access points you use and then turns on the wireless automatically for you when you need it and then turns it off when you don’t. This way it can save you battery power.

There is a great review over at Berry Review that you can read. The app doesn’t even cost that much at $4.99!

-RP


November 30, 2009  5:07 AM

Use the CCENT certification to qualify junior techs

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks! It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of certification. I love it when I’m looking for new techs to hire and they have a great combination of certification and real world experience. But what do you do if you are just a budding juinor tech starting out in the network world?

Well, enter Cisco. Most people believe that the CCNA is the first level certification you can get from Cisco but that is not true. There is one certification that comes before it that might be easier for junior techs to write. It’s called the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician). Most people know that getting Cisco certs are a great way to break into the industry but are daunted by the difficulty of them. The CCENT is a great way to ease in and prove your basic networking skills.

Some of the topics covered are things such as IP addressing, the OSI model, and implementing small networks. A great starting point for any junior tech and it’s only one exam! You can read more about it here.

What’s the best part of all this? After getting this certification you will only have one more exam to get your CCNA!

-RP


November 30, 2009  4:55 AM

Great SAN solution from HP for the SMB

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hi folks! So you want to implement VMware vSphere in your environment and you realize you need a SAN. What the heck do you buy? Storage has become quite affordable these days and there are a lot of options to choose from.

Well one of my favourite SANs is HP’s LeftHand P4000 series. Why you ask? Because you get a lot of bang for your buck. You get a great starter SAN for the price with iSCSI, dual controllers, thin provisioning, snapshots, remote copy and storage clustering.

Normally if you wanted to buy a SAN with all these features it would cost you an arm and a leg. The best part is that it’s from a reputable company like HP that stands behind their product. Other SANs can sometimes come in at a lower price point but then when you want to expand them and add storage, they hit you with expensive additions.

This SAN solution is a result of the HP acquisition of LeftHand. Give it a try! You can read more about it here.

-RP


November 30, 2009  4:46 AM

Writing ISCW soon…..

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hello again folks! As you know I’ve been slowly and steadily working towards getting my CCNP certification. I had planned to have written the ISCW exam by now but just haven’t been able to do it. Why you may ask?

Well I have found most of the book extremely boring to tell you the truth. It goes over a lot of stuff I already know and it covers the SDM in great detail of which I think is a very horrible product. When you’re reading a book with uninteresting material it makes it really hard to get motivated. 🙂

But I’ve decided I have to write this exam before the end of this year no matter what. I hope for future exam writers that they pull the SDM material out of the CCNP curriculum and switch to something more relevant for this day and age.

As I’ve said before, the SDM has no place in configuring Cisco routers. I’ll stick to the CLI thank you very much. 🙂

-RP


November 30, 2009  4:42 AM

Want a nice VoIP recording solution?

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

Hello again folks! In this day and age of VoIP phone service, people what every bell and whistle they can get their hands on. By going to VoIP you can get a veritable barrage of features.

One of the most common requests in the VoIP world is for access to some sort of voice recording solution. This is quite common in the legal and financial sectors. People need the ability to record what people say either for billing or contractual purposes.

So if you’re using a Cisco VoIP solution, what can you use for voice recording? Most solutions require a dedicated server on site and if you have branch offices, you might not want to deploy servers to those locations. Well Cisco partners with a product called NICE which allows you to recording at the branch office without the use of a server.

Cisco has done up a paper on VoIP recording for Financial Services Organizations that makes for a good read. You can read more about it here.

-RP


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