Most people have a fear of taking their vehicle to the mechanic for even the simplest tasks just to find out they need their transfunctioner adjusted because of wear to the driver’s side steering widget. For many in the SMB market, that same fear can be found in their technology investments. “Did that last IT guy wrap our SQL server in duct tape and tie it to the web server with shoe string?” The reality is often not that bad, but it can be unsettling not knowing.
The first thing I want to check when preparing any SMB (or large scale Enterprise) for a project is the overall health of their environment. I typically use a few custom scripts, the invaluable tools from Joeware and Sysinternals, plusafewothers offered by various vendors to collect the data for analysis. The standard services are checked, like DNS, DHCP, WINS (ugh), Exchange, AD, NTP, Group Policy, CAs, etc. for overall health and misconfigurations. Even with the rich ecosystem of tools, this process can be time consuming so I am always looking for ways to streamline the process.
It seems a lot of others were looking for a quick method as well; at least one that can get a quick assessment of whether you are dealing with a disaster or limited pieces to fix. The Microsoft Essential Business Server runs a check on the environment to assess its health before installation. From this Microsoft Technet blog, “[the EBS team] noticed that Preparation Wizard was widely used, not just by customers who were deploying EBS, but anyone with Active Directory in their network who wanted to verify the health of their environment.” This gave birth to the Microsoft IT Environment Health Scanner in the summer of 2009.
This free tool does the basic checks I’m going to do anyway but it gives that quick assessment that often tells me whether I need to dig further. Microsoft’s download page states:
When run from a computer with the proper network access, the tool takes a few minutes to scan your IT environment, perform more than 100 separate checks, and collect and analyze information about the following:
Configuration of sites and subnets in Active Directory
Replication of Active Directory, the file system, and SYSVOL shared folders
Name resolution by the Domain Name System (DNS)
Configuration of the network adapters of all domain controllers, DNS servers, and e-mail servers running Microsoft Exchange Server
Health of the domain controllers
Configuration of the Network Time Protocol (NTP) for all domain controllers
Whether you have a small Microsoft IT environment or are Enterprise large, this tool is great for catching those things often overlooked during setup or changes or misconfigured. Download link: Microsoft IT Environment Health Scanner.
Looks like Microsoft is adding to its VoIP offerings. Skype should make a nice addition to their recent push with the combined services of OCS and Live Meeting in Lync. Should be an interesting day to watch the MSFT stock. The price tag keeps going up. First I heard $7 billion. Then $8.5 billion. Yikes! http://goo.gl/bhsn6
On Friday (May 6th), Microsoft released the Enterprise Beta Readiness Tool for Office365. As the name implies, this tool is meant to do a quick readiness check on your environment. Upon execution, it will automatically extract the files to C:office365reskit and launch the app within IE. If you system has IE locked down, this may be problematic or at least require the acknowledgement of a few warnings. As it’s running, it collects information (be patient) from your organization’s network into its temp directory (c:office365reskittmp). The files within this directory are plain text and offer an interesting look into the environment. Unfortunately, once the test completes, the utility analyzes and consolidates these temp files and deletes the originating files, leaving a technical person with much to be desired.
The report is long and not filled with a whole lot of technical details. It gives basic information about your organization like sip domains, AD functionality levels, Exchange org, object counts and more. It then compares that to known requirements to measure your readiness to migrate to Office365 and gives a pass/fail grade in each category. For an organization looking at Office365, this info will give a good base to start a discovery process towards Office365 readiness.
My overall impression is the tool is a bit rough around the edges but a useful for quick discovery. The information can even be helpful for doing quick, limited Active Directory, Exchange and OCS/Lync discovery (although there are better tools for this job). Microsoft is showings its commitment to what will likely become a pretty aggressive push to business migration to their cloud offerings.
Removing Virtualization Barriers and Simplifying Management with A Frameless Storage Solution and Microsoft System Center
Virtualization is no longer just an IT buzzword --your customers are asking for it, and you’re ready to deliver. But with the different types of storage hardware and protocol choices in the market, are you prepared to offer the best storage option for your customer’s virtualization solution? How about keeping management and maintenance simple after deployment?