Archive | May, 2010

You know you should be backing up your desktop computers and servers but you dont

You know you should be backing up your desktop computers and laptops, which frequently store the most recent information at your company. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that you and your colleagues probably don’t. Why? Backing up a PC is time consuming and not as easy as it should be, so you put it off, and then you put it off again.

If some of your staff actually takes the trouble to back up their PCs, they’re probably doing it infrequently, and may in fact be doing it incorrectly. When it comes time to actually recover files and data you may be unpleasantly surprised.

Operating without a backup strategy is risky behavior if your company is highly dependent on applications and information. If your company falls under federal regulations such as HIPAA or the Sarbanes Oxley Act, you may be in the unsavory position of having to swallow a fairly steep fine. You don’t have to be a large hospital to fall under HIPAA, you could just be small doctor’s office.

That’s why just about any business needs to devise a workable strategy for backing up its desktop and laptop PC’s and, even more important, for restoring that information when a file is corrupted,or lost or when a power failure or natural disaster takes computer systems down.

For most small – and medium-sized businesses there are four basic ways to do backup:

  • Backup to Tape….this is now obsolete technology by the way
  • Backup to Disk–DAS
  • Backup to Disk–NAS
  • Backup to Disk–SAN

Backup to Tape

Tape was the chosen medium for backup for many years, thanks to its low cost and high reliability. Tape also has the advantage of portability, which meant it can be taken off site easily.

Tape is barely a viable backup medium today. and tape drives have major drawbacks in comparison to today’s other backup solutions:

It’s slow Compared to disk storage, tape performance is slow. While tape was viable for backing the volumes of business data typical in the past, data storage has grown so enormously and backup windows have shrunk so much in most organizations, that there is often not enough time in the day or night to execute a full tape backup.

It is difficult and time consuming Somebody must be routinely responsible for loading, rotating and changing tapes-typically on a daily or weekly basis- and many small businesses don’t have the staff time and expertise to take on that responsibility.

It’s not easily accessible Tape is not a random access medium. Restoring data from tape requires considerable staff time to find, load, and access a file from the tape.

It’s not always reliable Tape backup devices such as autoloaders and tape libraries have mechanical parts that will fail. If tape backup is not handled the right way, you may never find out about a mechanical failure or user error until you need to restore data from tape.

Despite these drawbacks, there are much better backup solutions today.

Backup to Disk

Hard disk storage used to be expensive and unreliable, but over the years prices have come down and reliability has gone up so much that disk is now a very viable medium for backup as long as you are backing up to more then one hard drive per backup. Backing up to one of those cheap external hard drives is really cutting corners and is not considered a professional backup solution.

The advantages of disk-based backup are many:

It’s fast There’s no comparison between the performance of disk-based backup and restore and tape. What might take hours when you’re backing up to tape could take minutes when you’re backing up to or restoring data from a hard disk.

In addition to traditional backup there are also other useful disk-based data protection methods. For example, replication copies data from one disk to a second disk at a separate location. For companies that have little or no backup window, there’s little alternative to the performance of disk based data protection.

It’s easy Once the disk storage is installed, there’s no need to load, rotate or change anything for a long time. You can configure an automatic backup strategy and then let it run on its own.

It’s easily accessible Hard disks are random access devices, so retrieving a file from a hard disk is almost instantaneous and can usually be done by the user. With a tape you often have to wait several minutes while someone loads the tape and the backup software winds the tape over to the correct spot for retrieving the file.

Disk-based backup can be accomplished using DAS, NAS, or a SAN.

DAS backup can be either PC- or server-based:

PC-based – You can attach an external hard drive to each PC and configure PC-based backup software to do regular backups. This can be practical for one or two PC’s, but it can quickly become impractical for a rapidly growing small business with lots of PCs. You usually have to depend on the PC users to let backups take place, which is risky, particularly if users are on the road frequently.

Server based – You can install a backup server with its own DAS and backup all your PCs over the LAN. This is a great way to have centralized control over the backup process. However, it does require setting up and maintaining a server and server operating system and software, with all the requisite tuning and updating. Servers can also become a network bottleneck if they’re pulling data off of several PCs over the LAN.

Nevertheless, DAS based backup can be a viable solution for many small businesses as a speedier alternative to tape. Some organizations back up PCs to DAS for performance and then back up server-based DAS to tape as a secondary measure for portability, taking the tapes off site for storage where they can be retrieved in the event of a local disaster.

NAS

NAS makes a great backup solution for many small businesses because it’s easy to set up and maintain. Like network-based DAS backup it lets you push all your PC backups over the network to a single storage device, but unlike DAS, which has to be attached to a server, NAS can be located anywhere on the LAN.

Some NAS products come with their own tightly integrated backup and replication software tuned and preconfigured to work with that device. That can make setting up and implementing your backup strategy quick and easy. And backups to NAS can be automated so there’s little need for a staff person who has other things to do to take on the daily task of backup, as is required with tape backup.

If you’re looking for extra protection from natural disasters, look for a NAS backup solution that can also replicate over a wide area network to another storage device. You get the offsite advantages of tape without the tape handling issues.

SAN

With their fast, block-based disk architecture, Storage Area Networks are great solutions for high performance backups. By placing storage on a specialized storage network, SANs take the burden of backup off your regular corporate LAN so the performance of other network applications doesn’t get bogged down.

You don’t have to know Fibre Channel technology to operate a SAN. iSCSI is simple to use, offers very good SAN performance, and runs over typical Ethernet switches.

Even simpler, however, is taking advantage of the iSCSI capabilities offered by some of today’s NAS products. Many NAS units can partition off some storage as fast block based iSCSI SAN storage. Plug your PC or backup server into the storage with an Ethernet cable, do some simple configuration on the storage device and the host server or PC, and you can run high-speed SAN style backups on a portion of your NAS, while the rest of the device serves files over the LAN.

The bottom line is if you do not take backing your data seriously, you will when your server or computer crashes and you loose all your data. Will you care then?

Posted in Computer Repair, Computers, Data Backups, Data Storage0 Comments

Your office has microsoft workstations, your tech guy likes linux, your graphics guy uses a mac. How can you share files easily between the 3 different computer platforms?

While most small businesses operate solely on Microsoft Windows based computers or Mac computers, it’s not uncommon for a small business to have a combination of two or three of these. Perhaps your business has 5 to 10 or more Windows based PCs and one or two Macs used by your graphic or media artists. Or perhaps your boss has a Mac at home and wants to use one at work as well. You may even have one techie person in your company who loves Linux or is using a Linux based PC for a particular specialized application or project  or perhaps your tech guy absolutely hates Microsoft and and wants to stick with Linux.

How can your business share its files with these various computing platforms?

Here are some common ways to do this.

  • You can configure one or more of these different PCs to share files with the others.
  • You can install a Windows or Mac OS/X based server on your network and then configure it to support all three client operating systems or vice versa. In fact, all these operating systems support client PCs running other operating systems. However, configuring them takes a good amount of technical expertise and troubleshooting time. It’s no secret that Windows servers tend to favor Windows clients and Mac servers tend to favor Mac clients.

That’s why businesses looking to share files and printing among Macs, Windows, and Linux based PC’s often take the third option, which is Network Attached Storage (NAS).

NAS devices are simple way to add storage to your network and share files with many different types of clients. You simply plug a NAS device directly into the network, do some simple Web based configuration, and you are up and running in minutes.

If you’re working with mix of client operating systems on the network, you should make sure your NAS comes with built-in support for the following file sharing protocols:

Network File System (NFS), a file sharing protocol commonly familiar to Unix and Linux based PC’s.

Common Internet File System (CIFS), also known as Server Message Block, a file sharing protocol commonly used in Windows-based networks.

Bonjour, a protocol used by Mac OS/X computers to discover printers and other computers and their services on the network.

Apple FileProtocol (AFP), a file services protocol used by the Macintosh OS and OS X.

Many NAS products support most or all of these protocols, which makes it very easy to connect all of your Macs, Windows PCs, and Unix/Linux systems to share files and NAS attached printers. Very little configuration is needed. Easily, they all just work.

Posted in APPLE, Computers, Data Storage, Linux, Microsoft, Servers0 Comments

What is Internet Marketing or Search Engine Optimization – SEO?

Internet Marketing is the process of improving the volume and or quality of visits to your website.

Let’s face it no matter how fancy or good you think your website is if your website is not making your phone ring or isn’t reaching your target audience then your website is almost useless. This is the same principle as having a physical sign for your business but instead of proudly displaying it where your target audience can easily see it you have it hidden in your garage covered in junk. What good is it?
Who cares how nice your sign is nobody can find it.

Millions and millions of people use Google each and every day to look for something whether it is information, services, a product or YOUR BUSINESS but if your website is not visible then your potential customer or client goes elsewhere for his or her needs.  Thousands and even tens of thousands of people use Google right here in Orlando Florida everyday to search for a business, service providers, information and all kinds of other things and guess what? If your website does not show up for a local search you are losing money and potential customers & clients are going to your competitor instead of you because your potential customer or clients don’t know you even exist.

Quality SEO or search engine optimization does not happen overnight and is a time consuming and tedious technical process. Internet marketing in itself is a complex science that requires special skills, knowledge and most importantly real world experience if you demand quality results. If you are a small or medium sized company and you want to achieve professional results then it is best to hire a SEO – search engine optimization expert to perform the work or guide you and provide you with quality support. You can attempt to do it yourself but if you don’t know what you are doing then it’s best to hire a professional SEO – Search Engine Optimization consultant or small firm.

Choosing a high quality SEO expert can be a nightmare in itself with all the scams and con artists everywhere. So stay tuned while we write an article on how to choose the right SEO expert for your needs and how to avoid getting ripped off which is a HUGE problem in itself and why it is best to stay away from the BIG SEO companies at all costs and we will explain why in our next SEO article.

Posted in Google, Internet Marketing, SEO, What is?0 Comments

What is web hosting?

What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the technical act of housing, managing and hosting websites on special servers referred to as web servers or clouds. Managing a web server requires special skills, expensive equipment and a 24-7 connection to a commercial high speed internet connection.

There are thousands of web hosting companies all over the world and some of the better companies use high end servers, high quality networking equipment, backup their servers & your data and employ professional and experienced computer engineers – network administrators that know what they are doing and most importantly are reliable and responsive to your needs or problems. There are also the CheapO web hosting providers that use cheap computers instead of real servers to host websites, don’t backup their servers or your data, and use cheap unreliable networking equipment and unreliable internet connections. Now don’t expect them to tell you that because most of them want you to think they are the best and of course they want your business. You can get super cheap web hosting all day long but expect nothing less than headaches and incompetent support usually outsourced to India or other countries.

Do I need web hosting?
If you own or want a website then the answer is yes you need web hosting.

What kind of web hosting do I need?
This depends on several factors such the size of your website? How much traffic does your website get? Is your website database driven? These are a few of the important questions you need to know when choosing the right web hosting for your specific needs. An Orlando Webmaster can help you decide what specific web hosting is right for you and prevent you from wasting your time and money making mistakes.

What is disk space?
In the web hosting industry or Information Technology industry disk space – aka hard drive storage capacity is the physical space that a website occupies on a server or web server web – CLOUD.

What is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is the measurement of data transfer speed through a computer network.
If you remember the dial up internet connection days you would refer to that slow connection as slow bandwidth. If you use a high speed internet connection you would refer to that as high speed bandwidth. Bandwidth is most common measured in Gigabytes. An example is one normal sized email which may be one or a few bytes in size. A typical image or photo may be a few kilobytes or larger and videos and other multimedia files can exceed megabytes in size. The data that is transferred to and from your website or computer is also referred to as bandwidth.

Posted in Web Hosting, What is?0 Comments

What is CLOUD computing?

What exactly is CLOUD computing? or CLOUD hosting?

Maybe you overheard  someone mention CLOUD computing or CLOUD hosting and now you are curious?
Maybe somebody you know uses a CLOUD and now you want to know more about CLOUD Computing or CLOUD hosting? Whatever the reason may be you want to know more about this hot topic and we are going to discuss the facts and the myths about CLOUD computing – CLOUD hosting.

So what exactly is CLOUD computing? and how does it work?
Are there any benefits to CLOUD computing? or is it just a bunch of hype?
These are all good questions so lets get started.

The name  ‘CLOUD” is just a nickname or slang for the internet.

CLOUD computing is another word for Virtual Server or Virtual Hosting or Virtual Private Server or Server Consolidation. As you can see this one technology has many different nick names.
Ok so what is a virtual server or virtual web hosting anyways?

First lets make sure you know what a server or web server / web hosting is.
A server is a special computer used to control a network, access control, store data – files, host email, host websites and many other services or roles. A web server or web hosting is a special computer usually stored in a data center which stores your website and must remain connected to the internet 24-7 in order for your website to be visible 24-7.
Most small businesses rent or lease web hosting and pay a monthly fee to host their website.

Years ago before CLOUD computing aka server virtualization came along one physical server would host 1 single website. So if you had 3 websites you would need to have 3 physical servers. Renting 3 web servers is not cheap especially for the small business owner.

Now if you have or had lets pretend and say 3 servers in your office for your business network.
And assuming each of your servers is doing something different such as server #1 is your office file server or primary domain controller and server #2 hosts your companies database and server #3 hosts something else for you.

So now you have a vague understanding of what a server does.
Remember this is a simple explanation of CLOUD computing and is not a technical how to guide.
Detailed information on how to design, configure, manage, etc virtual servers is a long and complex topic in itself.

Server virtualization allows you to combine several servers into one physical server.
So instead of having the 3 physical servers in your office you can have everything combined on 1 physical server using server virtualization technology. Imagine 1 physical server that has several operating systems running at the same time just as if they were  different physical servers. You can reboot one virtual server without rebooting all the virtual servers running on the same physical server. This can also describes as server consolidation.

What are the benefits of CLOUD computing, CLOUD hosting, Virtual servers, server consolidation?
You get the idea there are many names for this.

Some of the many benefits are.

Cost savings
One physical server costs less then several physical servers.
It costs less to share a physical server with others……vs paying to rent an entire web server just for yourself.

Physical foot print – physical space
One physical server uses less physical space then several physical servers.

Efficiency:
One server uses less electricity then several servers.
One server does not generate as much heat as several servers.

What are the cons? are there any? One that comes to mind is hardware failure.
If the server physically shuts off whether it be a blown power supply of physical hard drive failure you can count on all the virtual servers shutting down because remember the virtual servers are running on the one physical server.

Before you choose whether or not CLOUD computing is right for you, your website or your office – environment consult with a professional network administrator – computer and network expert that has extensive real world experience with virtual servers AKA CLOUDS. A CLOUD or virtual server may or may not be beneficial to you. There are many technical and financial factors that go into deciding whether or not a virtual server will be beneficial to your business or organization.

We know of one local company located in Orlando Florida that has been specializing in CLOUD computing – virtual hosting since 2004.

Infinitum Technologies, Inc which offers turn key virtual web servers and custom designed CLOUD hosting systems, dedicated servers, server clusters and all kinds of custom server systems and configurations to suite a wide variety of needs from hosting websites, email, databases , remote backup solutions and much more.  Infintium Technologies is really a pioneer in virtual hosting technology and custom virtualized server systems. There are a gazillion hosting companies out there that re-sell or market CLOUD hosting as the new hot technology to have when in fact this technology isn’t new and the only thing new about this technology is the name CLOUD computing.

We have provided professional support to Infintium Technologies when they expanded and setup another network in Orlando Florida. We were there day and night with owners Sean Faircloth and Richard Blundell and know first hand these guys specialize in CLOUD computing, know what they are doing and are serious about CLOUD computing.

So there you have it.
Now you know what CLOUD computing is.

Posted in CLOUD Computing, Servers0 Comments

Ohh No! My business has grown, my computers and server are running out of storage space and our computer network is a mess!

Like most small businesses, your technology investments likely started small. You invested in a PC for yourself and a few other desktop computers for staff members. Perhaps you even have a small server. Most likely users keep his or her files on his PC; when someone needs a file they grab it with a USB flash drive or send it via email. Perhaps you have a shared folder setup so users share a folder with each other on your network.

Suddenly your business grew and what happened? Some of your computers are running out of storage or are not performing very good. Files are scattered across computers and you run into not being able to keep data organized. You have different versions of files in different places. Which is the most current, relevant version? In many cases nobody knows.

With any small business there comes a time when slow, neglected, misconfigured desktop or laptop computers simply doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. That’s when it’s time to consolidate, centralize, and share file storage across the network. This is when you need a professional network administrator – business computer expert or consultant to step in and help you.

Why consolidate? Why seek a professional network administrator? There are lots of reasons.

It’s more efficient PC based file storage of business critical data is naturally inflexible , inefficient and dangerous. Some of your PC’s may have huge amounts of storage to spare, but no way share it correctly, while others constantly run out of storage and require repeated internal storage upgrades or the addition of connected external hard drives which are also not redundant of a safe to store critical data. When you centralize and share storage, you get a single storage pool that you can slice, dice, and allocate to users and applications efficiently and easily without having to add internal or external hard drives to PCs with limited unused storage. Upgrades are less frequent and the storage you have is used much more efficiently and if configured correctly will be redundant and much safer then storing your companies data on a PC or external hard drive which will break down and crash sooner or later.

It’s more organized When all your files are stored in one place, they’re easier to find. It’s easier to keep track of which file is the most current. And since you don’t have to have multiple versions of the same files spread across the office network, you save on data storage space and prevent unnecessary headaches.

It’s easier to protect You know your employees should be backing up their files but, really, who does? It’s just a matter of time before files are lost with no way to get them back. Put all your storage in one redundant place and it’s easier to implement a single robust backup strategy that’s efficient and effective.
Ok, so now you know you should consolidate and share storage, but how do you do that?

There are three basic ways:

Direct-Attached Storage (DAS)

Direct attached storage refers to the storage “external hard-drive” attached directly to a PC or server. You can share files stored on one of your PC’s hard disks or buy a server running Microsoft Windows Server or Microsoft Windows Small Business Server and share its internal storage. As discussed earlier, you can also add storage to an internal bay of your server or add external storage via a USB cable. This is not the preferred way and is really cutting corners.
I don’t know about you but I value my data and take protecting it very seriously.

These are viable solutions if you have a high quality backup system in place, but if you haven’t yet made the leap to the world of servers, consider your other options carefully. Why?

Complexity – You have to do some research and investigation to find the right server for your needs. Then you must purchase, install, and configure the hardware and operating system for your network of computer users. If you’re new to server technology this can take a long time with the potential for a high level of frustration.This is the perfect time to call upon a professional network administrator – computer and network expert to do this for you.

Once your server is installed, its loosely integrated collection of hardware, operating system, and software require ongoing tuning and troubleshooting and maintenance. The server operating system and software are likely to require frequent patching and updates for continued security and performance and most importantly business continuity.

Availability – DAS storage can only be accessed through the server or PC to which it is attached. If that server goes down or is turned off for any reason, the storage and data will not be available to the network – computer users.

Upgrades – If you run out of storage you’ll probably have to shut down the server to install a new hard disk. This requires downtime and staff resources. Some servers and external storage solutions let you swap hard disks in and out while the server is up and running, but these tend to be at the high end for medium and large business use.

Performance – The typical server operating system (OS) is designed to run many different applications, provide many different types of services, and carry out many different tasks simultaneously. A full fledged OS such as Microsoft small business server can have an unnecessary impact on performance if all you really want to do is share files.
” A good network administrator – computer and networking expert” will help you choose the best hardware and software for your specific needs and budget. Avoid the high pressure pushy IT sales guy that tries to sell you expensive hardware and software without fully explaining the pros, cons and different recommended options with you.
While high quality comes with a price  make sure you understand whats going on before open your wallet.

Flexibility – You can run into similar inefficiencies with server attached DAS drives just as you did with your PC attached DAS drives. As your business grows and you add more storage capacity to your network, heavily used servers and DAS units will run out of storage frequently, requiring upgrades, and have higher potential to break down or crash if you will.

Despite these concerns, DAS can be an inexpensive viable solution for many networks, particularly those that also want to run server applications like email, CRM, and other database solutions.

Storage Area Network (SAN)

An alternative to using DAS is to separate storage from your servers and put it on its own specialized, high performance storage network called a storage area network (SAN). With a SAN, storage is no longer enslaved to a single server but sits independently on the SAN where it can be shared, sliced, diced, and allocated to servers, users and applications from a single pool.

For years, SANs ran on a complex technology called Fibre Channel that was too expensive for small businesses.
Fibre channel SAN systems are popular in data center, server farm and other mission critical server environments commonly found with fortune 500 companies, banks, web hosting companies and other high end computing environments. However a fairly new SAN technology called iSCSI offers very good performance, uses the same equipment as your Ethernet network, and is relatively simple to use.

Like DAS, however, SAN storage uses a low level, block based storage architecture that requires a server with an operating system to present files to users. Each server needs its own iSCSI host adapter or initiator software to communicate with the SAN. That’s why if you only intend to share files and printers on your network, a full fledged SAN can be an overkill. SANs are most appropriate where higher network performance is desired.
If you intend to host a database or perhaps multiple databases or computer users share and access large files then higher performance is going to benefit you.

Network-Attached Storage (NAS)

Small businesses looking for extra storage to share files and print services should take a close look at network attached storage (NAS). Like a server, a NAS device sits directly on the network. And like a server, a NAS device serves files not bare blocks of storage to users and applications. However, unlike a server, a NAS device does not require installing, configuring, tuning, and updating a server operating system. And unlike a SAN, a NAS doesn’t need a separate server to serve up its blocks of data as files. Instead, a NAS comes preconfigured with just the parts of an operating system necessary to serve files to users and applications.

Most NAS devices serve files using either the Network File System (NFS), which is an open source file system, or the Common Internet File System (CIFS), which is the system used by Windows to serve files to the user. Many can use both. The growing popularity of Apple desktops and laptops has pushed many network storage devices to also support the Apple File Protocol (AFP).

NAS devices have several advantages:

Independence – A NAS can sit anywhere on the network, independent of servers, and serve files to any network connected computer or server. If a server or PC goes down, the NAS is still functional. If power goes down, there’s no need for complex reconfiguration. With its simple architecture and setup, a NAS can be up and running again in minutes providing there is no major damage to the unit or drives.

Ease of Use – NAS devices typically come as preconfigured, almost turnkey solutions. There’s no need to install a host adapter or operating system. You simply plug the NAS into the network and, depending on the ease of use of the user interface, you do some very light configuration using a Web browser. There may be a little more configuration to do on PC’s and servers accessing the device, but in most cases you’re up and running in minutes. Compared to traditional servers, NAS units require little maintenance, few updates, and little troubleshooting. Whatever administration is necessary can usually be done via a simple Web browser interface.

Easy Upgrades – Adding storage to a server usually requires shutting down the server, replacing a drive or adding a new one and then booting up the server again. To get more storage with NAS, you simply plug another NAS device into the network and are up and running with additional shared file storage in minutes. Or some NAS devices allow swapping of hard drives or adding internal or external storage while they are in operation (commonly known as “hot swap”).

Flexibility – Many NAS devices can share their files easily among Windows, APPLE – Mac, UNIX, and Linux based computers. Some are also flexible enough to be used as a NAS, as DAS for a single server, or, as a storage device on a SAN. Many also come with capabilities for sharing printers.

Easy Backup – NAS devices can be a great storage medium for PC based backups. Many of these devices come with backup software that is easy to configure and use, both for backing up user computers to the NAS and backing up the NAS to another storage device, tape, or an external backup service. When all your files are in one place, backup is inherently easier than when they are spread around the office. Some NAS’s also come with easy tools for migrating data to the device and replicating data over the network from storage device to storage device.

In summary, depending on the needs of your small business and your technical expertise, you may be best off with DAS, a SAN, or NAS solution. If simple file and print sharing is your goal and your staff has little networking technical expertise, a NAS is often the best solution. Regardless of which solution you have or are questioning don’t skip out on having a professional network administrator – computer – networking expert help you choose the best solution for YOU!

You are special, your business is special, your data is literally priceless  and preserving and protecting it should be taken seriously.

Posted in Computers, Data Storage, Servers0 Comments

Data storage solutions for small to medium sized business in and around Orlando Florida.

Not very long ago there was a crystal clear distinction between the data storage needs of small businesses and larger companies.  Small businesses depended mostly on storage contained in PCs scattered around the office, with maybe a small Windows PC or server used to share files and print services. Most small businesses lack having a network administrator or anyone with the expertise necessary to configure a server correctly or maintain even a small network.  If files are unavailable for a few hours or even a day, it is an inconvenience, not a disaster. Most large enterprises have complex networking infrastructures, with stringent security and performance requirements maintained by professional network administrators and computer experts.

The line between the storage needs of small and larger businesses has grown dramatically in the past decade. Today’s small businesses and organizations find themselves tackling many of the same storage issues as their larger counterparts, including:

How to Meet Growing Storage Requirements – The storage needs of small businesses have dramatically grown thanks to the digitization of formerly paper documents; increased use of voice, video, and other rich media; the Internet; and regulations requiring years of data and file retention. Many businesses have seen their storage requirements double and triple year after year. They need efficient ways to store and share much larger volumes of data without busting their budget or hiring an IT department.

How to Protect Your Mission Critical Data – As with larger companies, many small businesses rely on being able to access data quickly and efficiently and can barely function without data access even for a few hours. Small businesses need to find a low cost way to backup and protect their data.

How to Reduce or Eliminate Computer Downtime – Small businesses increasingly partner with larger enterprises in a global environment, or work with customers across time zones. They need simple, low cost, efficient ways to keep their data accessible on a 24 by 7 basis without sacrificing backup and server maintenance.

How to Fulfill Stringent Audit and Regulatory Requirements – It’s not just large businesses that are affected by audits and federal regulations such as HIPAA and the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Many of the smaller businesses such as lawyers and doctors need simple, workable strategies for storing and protecting sensitive data with a level of effectiveness and sophistication equivalent to that of their enterprise counterparts.

How to use storage effectively in a Virtual Server Environment – As we take advantage of the Web and server based applications such as email, shared calendars,  and CRM – customer relationship management, not many small businesses have migrated to server virtualization yet due the cost associated with paying a professional to design, build, configure, deploy, migrate data and other highly technical  tasks required to get the job done right. The long term benefits of a virtualized server environment in a small to medium size organization are savings in electricity and physical footprint space.

While these issues can seem daunting to small organizations with a limited IT budget, the good news is that Central Florida Computer Engineering has extensive experience designing, deploying and supporting the IT and data storage needs of small and medium sized businesses all over Central Florida.

Posted in Computers, Data Storage, Hardware, Servers0 Comments

Replacing a Microsoft file server / domain controller with a Linux and Samba server

This is not only a demonstration of the power and flexibility of Linux but it has as well an important economic consequence:

  • Big savings in payments of licenses for Microsoft Windows servers.
  • A similar or better performance can be achieved, even using less hardware resources than required by a Windows server (in terms of processor and RAM).

A Linux server with SAMBA properly configured can substitute a Windows NT/2000 server, it commonly shares directories, gives an active directory service (ADS) but it can also work as PDC (Primary Domain Controller), doing the users authentication with Windows 2000/NT/98/95 clients, sharing resources (directories and printers) and customizing the user sessions.
This article concentrates particularly on these aspects.

As a result, for many environments where this is the main function of a Windows server, the Linux server with SAMBA substitutes all functions of a server based on Microsoft operating system, with no changes in the clients computers.
For the steps that will be presented, it is assumed that: SAMBA is already installed and working correctly on the machine that will be used as server. The reader knows basic concepts about Linux and Windows servers.

Case Study

Consider a Linux/Samba server working as a PDC, where every authenticated user also has access to two shared directories on the server, one for a public area and other for a private area. In this article it will be considered a quite frequent case to access a private data area, the access to a personal directory for each user.

Details to be considered:

Linux/Samba NetBIOS Name:SMBServer
Windows domain name (workgroup): THEDOMAIN
Private partition for each user: H: (Windows) => /home/ (Linux server)
Public partition: P: (Windows) => /home/public

Configuration

Follow the steps:

1) Create the users that should be authenticated in the PDC – primary domain controller server (Linux with Samba).
Use the adduser command, useradd or userconf, you can also use some tool for users administration, but with graphic user interfase (Webmin, Linuxconf, Yast, etc.).

Be sure that users have access only to Linux/Samba services (if you want it), it implies they don’t have access to the Linux shell, to do it they will have /dev/null as home directory and /bin/false as shell.

2) Convert the UNIX users to Linux/Samba/Windows users, creating the smbpasswd file.

cat /etc/passwd | mksmbpasswd.sh > /etc/samba/smbpasswd

Another way to do it, execute the following Samba commands for users creation and for passwords definition:

smbadduser
smbpasswd

These commands work in a similar way to adduser and passwd commands.

3) Edit the Samba configuration file (smb.conf), making sure to include or to remove the comment signs for the options that are shown below:

netbios name = SMBServer
workgroup = THEDOMAIN
server string = Linux Samba NT Server
log file = /var/log/samba/%m.log
max log file = 0
security = user
encrypt password = yes
smb password file = /etc/samba/smbpasswd
ssl CA certificate = /usr/share/ssl/.... (cancel comment)
socket options = (cancel comment)
local master = yes
preferred master = yes
domain master = yes
domain logons = yes
logon script = logon.bat
wins support = yes

Note:

For a specific login for each user, replace the logon script with %U.bat”, therefore each user has a “logon script” with his user name, %u could also be used. If you want some way to consider the group to which the user belongs, you can use %g or %G, the meaning of these parameters and others can be found in the manual (man smb.conf)

4) Create the shared resources
Edit the smb.conf file and comment all the “shares” samples, making the necessary changes to add the following information:

[netlogon]
comment = Initialization Scripts
path = /home/netlogon
read only = yes
guest ok = yes
browseable = no

[home]
comment = User Directory
path = /home/%U
browseable = yes
writable = yes

[public]
comment = Public Directory
path = /home/public
browseable = yes
writable = yes
guest ok = yes
create mask = 0777
force create mask = 0777

Save the smb.conf file

5) You can test the smb.conf correctness by using this command:

testparm

This command analyzes the smb.conf file and reports errors if it finds them.

6) Create the directories /home/netlogon and /home/public with permissions 0754(netlogon) and 0777 (public).

7) Edit the script Logon file: logon.bat.
Important: Use a text editor for DOS/Windows (like Notepad or Edit) to create the file logon.bat (so that it is saved as text file in a MS compatible format), also you can do it using a text editor running on Linux and after that you must convert to the correct text format. You can e.g use vim’s “:set textmode” command to get a file with MS line endings.

net time \\SMBServer /y (you can also use: /yes instead of /y )
net use H: \\SMBServer\home -y
(you can also use: /yes or /y instead of -y )
net use P: \\SMBServer\public -y

8) Include SMBServer information in the lmhosts file.
Edit the /etc/samba/lmhosts file (or /etc/lmhosts) and add a line with your SMBSever information.

SMBServer, i.e: 192.168.0.10 SMBServer

9) Start/Restart the Samba daemon (smbd)

service smb restart

If it does not work correctly in your Linux distribution, you can use:
ps -auxgx | grep smb
kill -9 <process ID of smb>
smbd

10) Use smbclient to verify if the previously specified configuration is working correctly.

smbclient -L //SMBServer

if “Password:” is displayed, press “Enter” and shared resources by the server will be shown.

11) Do a client login, using some Windows 95/98/NT computer, in the domain THEDOMAIN, use some Linux/Samba user previously created (see steps 1 and 2).

On Windows 95/98/ME, it should be configured according to the following actions sequence:

Start => Setup => Control Panel=> Network =>Network Client for Microsoft Networks => Properties.

A very similar idea can be used for Windows NT/2000 clients (Workstation/Professional), although the sequence could not be the same.

Click in the option “Start session in Windows NT/2000 domain” and write this domain: THEDOMAIN (WORKGROUP).

A sample of configuration file

A complete SAMBA configuration file is presented here, this file has been tested with several Linux distributions. The reader can modify it to obtain the needed results presented in this article. Each instruction that appears is properly commented.

As last advice for those who want to achieve a quick configuration of SAMBA, can install the Webmin and/or SWAT, tools that allow to configure it in a friendly way.

#============================================================#
# /etc/smb.conf
#————————————————————————————————————#
# Main SAMBA configuration file
# File Skeleton for configuration, select the
# parameters according to your requirements.
#————————————————————————————————————#
# Tested with the systems: Solaris and Linux/Distributions:
# RedHat 6.0, 7.0 and 7.1
# Solaris 7
# Slackware 7.x
# Mandrake 6.1, 7.0 and 8.1
# SuSe 7.2
#
# This file has been developed following documentation specifications of
# SAMBA, from smb.conf(5) manual
#
# OBS: After modify this file, test it with the “testparm” command
#
#======================== Global Options =======================#
#
# General configuration
#
[global]
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# workgroup = NT-Domain-Name o Workgroup-Name, ie: THEDOMAIN
# PDC Domain
workgroup = THEDOMAIN
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Name which this machine will be anounced in the others machines
netbios name = SMBServer
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# This comment will appear in the “Network Neighborhood” Windows
server string = Samba Server
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# This line is important for security reasons, to allow connections
# with some specified computers in a local network.
# In this example, access is granted to computers connected to 192.168.8.0 network
# (commonly C class) and from “loopback” interfase. For more details, read the smb.conf
# man pages
# I.E: Shared resources can only be used from computers where IP address begins
# with 192.168.8 and with 127 (commented sentence in the following line)
; hosts allow = 192.168.8. 127.
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# If you want to load automaticaly a printer list instead of write
# one by one, use this:
; load printers = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Overwrite the printcap location (path) is possible
; printcap name = /etc/printcap
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# In SystemV printcap name properties for lpstat must allow
# automaticaly obtain a printers list from spool system
# of SystemV (good word redundance :-)
; printcap name = lpstat
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# It should not be necessary to specify the print system type unless it is non-standard.
# Currently supported print systems are:
# bsd, sysv, plp, lprng, aix, hpux, qnx
; printing = bsd
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Uncomment this if you want a guest account
# you must add this to /etc/passwd otherwise the user “nobody” is used
; guest account = pcguest
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# This is to force the use of a different log file for each computer
# that will connect with the SAMBA server
log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Put a limitation on the size of the log files (in Kb).
max log size = 50
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Read security_level.txt for more details
# Indicates the mode to do a passwords validation
# User level security = each user with his password (smbpasswd)
security = user
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# If security = server then validation will be made using another server
# Use the value “password server” only with security = server
# password server = [server authentication IP address].
; password server = <NT-Server-Name>
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# If you want to use password encryption. Please read ENCRYPTION.TXT,
# Win95.txt and WinNT.txt in the Samba documentation.
# Do not enable this option unless you have enough information about this property.
# Information: Win95, Win98 and WinNT sends encrypted passwords.
encrypt passwords = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Using the following line enables you to customize your configuration
# for each machine in the network. The %m gets replaced with the netbios name
# of the machine that is connecting .
; include = /usr/local/samba/lib/smb.conf.%m
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Documentation and some popular “tips” says: possibly you will find
# that this option gives better performance. Try it !
# See speed.txt and the manual pages for details
socket options = TCP_NODELAY
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Samba configuration to use multiple network interfaces
# If you have multiple network interfaces then you must list them here. Like the example
# Read the man page for details.
; interfaces = 192.168.8.2/24 192.168.12.2/24
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Browser Control Options:
# set local “master = no” if you don’t want Samba to become a master browser on your network.
local master = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# OS Level determines the precedence of this server in master browser election
# Commonly, the default value should be reasonable
; os level = 33
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Domain Master specifies Samba to be the Domain Master Browser.
# This allows Samba to run services as domain controller and can “view” machines
# in different TCP/IP subnets

# Don’t use this if you already have a Windows NT/2000 domain controller doing this job.
domain master = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Preferred Master causes Samba to force a local browser election on startup
# and gives it a slightly higher chance of winning the election.
# If we have more than one server, the preferred master will be the “favorite”
# when clients search for a server in a list
preferred master = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Use this, only if you have a NT/2000 server in your network, and it is working
# as a PDC (primary domain controller).
; domain controller = <NT-Domain-Controller-SMBName>
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Enable this if you want to use SAMBA as “domain logon server” for
# Windows 9x/Me workstations.
domain logons = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# If you enables “domain logons” then you must to use a logon script,
# for each machine or for each user in the Windows network

# For specific logon batch for each workstation computer
; logon script = %m.bat

# For specific logon batch for each user
; logon script = %U.bat
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Where to store roving profiles (only for Win95 and WinNT)
# %L substitutes this server’s NetBIOS name, %U substitutes the username

# You must uncomment the [Profiles] share below
; logon path = \\%L\Profiles\%U
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# Support for Windows Internet Name Service:
# WINS Support – tells to NMBD to enables his WINS Server.
# WINS protocol, converts machine names to IP addresses,
# it works like DNS works with TCP/IP.
; wins support = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# WINS Server – Tells the NMBD components of Samba to be a WINS Client
# SAMBA Server can be one of these: WINS Server or WINS Client,
# but NO both at the same time.
# Here WINS IP Server must be specified
; wins server = 192.168.8.1
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# WINS Proxy – Tells Samba to answer name resolution queries on behalf of a non WINS
# capable client, for this to work there must be at least one WINS Server on the network.
# The default value is NO.
; wins proxy = yes
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# DNS Proxy – tells Samba whether or not to try to resolve NetBIOS names via DNS nslookups.
# The built-in default for versions 1.9.17 is yes, this has been changed since version 1.9.18 to no.

# Here we can tell to SAMBA that name resolution will be made by using DNS or not.
# dns proxy = yes
# dns proxy = no (name resolution will be made by using the file lmhosts )
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
# If logon drive is not specified, the Z: unit is automounted
logon drive = P:
#……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..#
#When a login occurs this script is executed: /etc/samba/netlogon/SAMBA.BAT
# and mount disk units by using “net use”
logon script = SAMBA.BAT

#====================== Share Definitions ========================#

# Personal directory for each user
# Unit P:

[homes]
comment = Home Directories
browseable = no
writable = yes
readonly = no
force create mode = 0700
create mode = 0700
force directory mode = 0700
directory mode = 700

#————————————————————————————————————#
# Directory for temporal files
# Unit T:

[tmp]
comment = Tempora Files
path = /tmp
readonly = no
public = yes
writable = yes
force create mode = 0777
create mode = 0777
force directory mode = 0777
directory mode = 0777

#————————————————————————————————————#
# CD-ROM in server
# Unit L:

[cdrom]
comment = CD-ROM
path = /mnt/cdrom
public = yes
writable = no

#————————————————————————————————————#
# Group, corresponding to /home/grp.name_group
# /home/user/group is a link to /home/grp.name_group
# grp.name_group have permissions 770
# Unit G:

[group]
comment = Directory of Group
path = /home/%u/group
writable = yes
readonly = no
force create mode = 0770
create mode = 0770
force directory mode = 0770
directory mode = 0770

#————————————————————————————————————#
# This unit is to store applications, installation software,
# corporative software, etc.
# permissions of /net and /net/install 755, i.e: here root is the owner
# Unit N:

[net]
comment = Directory Net
path = /net
writable = yes
readonly = no
force create mode = 0750
create mode = 0750
force directory mode = 0750
directory mode = 0750

#————————————————————————————————————#
[netlogon]
comment = Logon Services in the Network
path = /etc/samba/netlogon
guest ok = yes
writable = no
locking = no
public = no
browseable = yes
share modes = no

#————————————————————————————————————#
#============================================================#

Posted in Computers, Data Storage, How To's, Linux, Microsoft, Servers, Software0 Comments

How to Configure SAMBA on a Linux Server

Step By step guide to configuring SAMBA on a LINUX server.

This is for network administrators with experience configuring and administrating LINUX servers that want to know how to configure a SAMBA file server the right way step by step.

In this step by step tutorial I am going to show you how to make a shared folder on a linux server and share it so users on Microsoft windows workstations can access it on a local – internal network.

In this tutorial I am going to make the folder called “shared folder” and allow everybody access to the folder and printer networked to the Linux server.

This is a basic how to guide for configuring a samba workgroup file server.
I will cover how to build and configure a samba PDC – Primary domain controller in another tutorial for more experienced network administrators.

STEP 1
Open the samba configuration file using a unix text editor.
I like NANO since it is very easy to use.
Below are the commands I used to perform this task.

[root@localhost ~]# cd /etc
[root@localhost etc]# cd samba
[root@localhost samba]# nano smb.conf

Ok now we are in the smb.conf file
Now delete all the text in the configuration file.
Now copy and paste the below text…after that is done hit the “control and X buttons on your keyboard to exit out of the NANO text editor.
Then hit the Y button and last hit the ENTER button.
Now we are back to the command prompt and our samba configuration file is edited and saved.

[global]
workgroup = workgroup
server string = My Linux File Server
hosts allow = 192.168. 127.
log file = /var/log/samba/%m.log
security = user
netbios name = SAMBA SERVER
encrypt passwords = yes
smb passwd file = /etc/samba/smbpasswd
socket options = TCP_NODELAY SO_RCVBUF=8192 SO_SNDBUF=8192

[shared folder]
comment = My Home Directory
browseable = yes
writable = yes
public = yes
read only = no

[printers]
path = /var/spool/samba
public = yes
guest ok = yes
printable = yes
browseable = yes
writable = yes
read only = no

STEP 2
We have to create a user acct on the Linux server itself then we will create a samba user on top of the Linux user acct.

[root@localhost ~]# useradd chris
[root@localhost ~]# passwd chris
Changing password for user chris.
New UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
[root@localhost ~]# smbpasswd -a chris
New SMB password:
Retype new SMB password:
getsmbfilepwent: malformed password entry (no :)
mod_smbfilepwd_entry: malformed password entry (no :)
[root@localhost ~]#

STEP 3
We have to start the SAMBA service.
It may already be started or it may not…so let’s check and see.

[root@localhost ~]# service smb status
smbd is stopped
nmbd is stopped
[root@localhost ~]#

The samba service is not running so let’s start it up

[root@localhost ~]# service smb start
smbd (pid 4267 4266) is running…
nmbd (pid 4271) is running…
[root@localhost ~]#

Now let’s verify the service is running

[root@localhost ~]# service smb status
smbd (pid 4267 4266) is running…
nmbd (pid 4271) is running…
[root@localhost ~]#

STEP 4
reboot your windows XP workstations then go to network “my network places” then go to “workgroup computers”.
You will see a computer there called “My Linux File Server”.
You can manually map a local drive letter to this folder or write a logon script the same as you would connecting to a Microsoft file server – shared folder.
Double click on that computer and you will be prompted for a user name and password.
Use the user name and password you choose in step #2
Now you will see a folder called “shared folder” You can copy and paste data to this folder just like it were a windows file server.

Posted in Computers, Data Storage, How To's, Linux, Servers, Software0 Comments

How to unlock and delete hidden EISE partations on most name brand computers

Did you know almost all major computer vendors like DELL, HP, IBM, GATEWAY, ACER, ASUS, SONY, Toshiba, and other pre built computer systems or laptops come with a special and hidden EISA hard drive partition that contain a system recovery utility and or diagnostic tools to restore the computer back to its factory default out of the box configuration?

These hidden EISA partitions are not really hidden because you can see them.  These partitions are usually in the FAT or NTFS file system, you cannot assign them a drive letter, format them or even delete them like you can with other hard drive partitions. These hidden partitions usually take up several gigabytes to more than 10 gigabytes in storage space.

Here is a screen shot showing the commands I typed to delete DRIVE 2.
Notice how this hard drive has a 10 gig EISA partition.
This is 10 gigs of space I don’t want to waste so as you can see below I used the command prompt and the Microsoft hard drive partition tool called diskpart to delete this EISA partition and I will delete the other partition when I install the OS. Since I am going to reinstall the operating system clean without the garbage software major computer vendors cram on their computers. I will destroy all the partitions and install only the specific software I choose to use on this particular computer.

Here are the written step by step instructions so you can compare them to the screen shot above and understand what each command means or does. I even highlighted the commands in yellow so they are that much easier to identify.

Here are the written step by step instructions so you can compare them to the screen shot above and understand what each command means or does. I even highlighted the commands in bold so they are that much easier to identify.
1. Open the command prompt
2. Type diskpart (hit the enter button)
3. Now type list disk (hit the enter button)
4. Now type select disk 2 (hit the enter button)
5. Now type list part (hit the enter button)
6. Now type select part 1 (hit the enter button)
7. Now type delete part override (hit the enter button)
8. Now type exit

Now the EISA partition is gone and you can take advantage of the freed up hard drive space.

Posted in Computer Repair, Computers, Data Storage, Hard Drives, Hardware, How To's0 Comments

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