hardware

Case Study – Server Replacement and Upgrade

We were recently approached by a solicitors, based in Staines, Middlesex. They asked us to perform a full review of the network, and make suggestions on how to improve the existing setup.

The Problem

The customer was worried the server was out of date, and was running slowly. They had to reboot the server frequently when there was access problems, and they thought that there was a problem with the hardware as a result. The server room was untidy and there were lots of computers setup and running in the room.

Review: Hardware

The customer was using an outdated HP Proliant ML350 G6, and the warranty for the server had expired a number of years ago. Although properly specified, with enough storage space and system RAM, if this main server failed, there would be a long amount of downtime until it could be returned to proper service.

In addition to this, the customer had two physical machines setup for remote access. This was because their LOB (line of business) applications did not support remote access with Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. The machines that were being logged into were also old, and were slow to access.

We recommended that the server be replaced with a newer model, with next-business-day warranty. This would mean that if the server failed, a technician would be on site from the manufacturer the next day the replace any faulty parts. In our opinion, this is absolutely mandatory for the main server in any business.

After reviewing the amount of storage space required, we suggested a Dell PowerEdge T130. These are inexpensive servers, which can still be well specified for small business use.

Review: Operating Systems

The server was running Windows Server Standard 2008, with although out of date did not need to be completely replaced. This is still supported by Microsoft until 2020.

The remote access machines were running retail copies of Windows 7 Professional. Again, these did not need replacement, as Windows 7 is still supported by Microsoft until 2020.

We suggested no change to the operating systems that are in use, but to purchase the server with Windows Server 2012 R2, to allow for a future upgrade of the domain.

Our Solution

It was clear that virtualising the existing environment was the correct way to go. The old hardware being used could be eliminated, saving space, maintenance overheads and energy. The server room would be much tidier also.

Work Carried Out

We installed Windows Server 2012R2 on the new Dell server, and the Hyper-V role was installed. We were then ready to virtualise the existing physical devices.

Working with the customer we identified all of the user accounts and computers that were still in use on the server. We renamed all of the existing client workstations from the automatically generated DESKTOP-3847393 type names, to easily identifiable DESK-1, DESK-2 etc. These computer names were updated in Active Directory, and were physically labelled on site.

Once this cleanup task had been complete, we were ready to virtualise the server. Once this task was complete, the existing server was powered off, and disconnected from the network.

We then had a virtual copy of the server running, with the existing server intact, as a backup of the configuration and data before the work took place. In a worst-case-scenario situation, this could be reconnected and the server returned to service.

We then cleaned up the server, removing HP drivers and proprietary monitoring utilities. This left a much cleaner installation of Windows Server, with just the key software installed to allow the server to function.

After this second cleanup task, we then virtualised the two remote access machines. The physical machines were then turned off, and decomissioned.

So – from 3 physical devices, all unmaintained and out of warranty, to one new physical server, with more memory and storage space.

I am most proud of the fact that all of this work was completed with zero downtime in working hours for the customer. As soon as the server was virtualised, it took over from the existing server.

Improvements made

  • Improved flexibility. If the customer has need for another remote access machine, one can be setup in matter of minutes by remote access, with no need to go on site.
  • Significant energy savings. Only one device needs to be running instead of 3.
  • Improved disaster recovery. If there is a hardware fault with the server, this will be repaired by the manufacturer, next business day.
  • Better Upgrade Path. Additional RAM and storage space can be more cheaply added if required.
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DamianCase Study – Server Replacement and Upgrade

Case Study – Router Upgrade – from 8Mbps to 200Mbps

We were approached by a client in central London to help with their internet connection. Although they had upgraded to Virgin Media’s 200MB/s DOCSIS3 service from a standard ADSL connection, they were still getting poor broadband speeds.

Old Hardware

As soon as we visited the site, the problem became apparent. They were using a Netgear FVS318v3 – this is a very out of date unit, that has a maximum throughput of 11.5Mbps. See the technical specifications here for a blast from the past: fvs318v3

Here is the speedtest with the Netgear FVS318v3:
wan-speed-test-before

It’s clear that this Netgear firewall/router is a real weak link in the chain.

We have seen many clients using older networking hardware – especially older firewalls, routers and switches. The problem is, that just like PCs, Laptops and Servers though, the performance of newer hardware is light-years ahead of the older equipment. Keeping old equipment in place can therefore be a false economy.

To compare: the Netgear FVS318v3 has a 200MHz CPU, and 16MB of RAM. It has 10/100 network ports, which limit the maximum connectivity speed. Newer firewalls and routers have much faster CPUs, more RAM, and tend to have 100/1000 network ports, which means more advanced functionality can be built in, and faster connectivity is available out-of-the box.

In this client’s case, the solution was clear – replace the firewall/router with a more modern unit.

New Hardware

We immediately thought of the MikroTik RB2011. However, this has recently been replaced with a newer model, the RB3011. See here for more information: https://routerboard.com/RB3011UIAS-RM

The throughput is much, much higher for this unit, compared to the Netgear. It maxes out at more than 3000Mbps – or realistically with firewall rules in place, around 800Mbps. This is more than ample for a 200Mbps connection, with space for future growth.

Here is the speedtest with the MikroTik RB3011:
wan-speed-test-afterA massive, massive improvement. The cost of the new firewall/router around £140 is well worth it for the leap in performance.

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DamianCase Study – Router Upgrade – from 8Mbps to 200Mbps

Case Study – Office Move

Over the otherwise quiet Christmas period, we completed an office move for a design company, from their offices in Brixton to new offices in Clapham.

Office moves are a great oppurtunity to make changes to the way a network is setup – almost starting from a blank slate at the new offices.

The new offices were to be completely refurbished, save for data cabling.

Before the move took place, working with our colleagues at West Installations, the existing data cabling was tested, and all faulty network sockets were reterminated and tested. Some new network sockets were also installed for Video Conferencing/Presentation equipment.

A new VDSL/FTTC service was installed on site by BT Openreach (to run in parallel with the old office connection, to prevent downtime). Once installed, we then went on site to complete the Router and Switch setup.

A not-so neat network cabinet before we started:

Empty Cabinet

Note the dust sheet – the building works were still ongoing!

Unfortunately, there was no budget to re-terminate the cables at the patch cabinet end, leaving a lot of too-long cables in the cabinet.

We decided to upgrade the network infrastructure as part of the works, with a new MikroTik Router installed, along with a managed TP-Link 24 Port Gigabit network switch. This would allow for improved network performance at the site, with better security than at the old site (which used the ISP provided modem/router).

Unifi Access Points were installed throughout the office to allow for perfect wireless signal in all parts of the new offices.

Once we completed the equipment install (before cable management is installed):

All powered and live

One thing we always do when on site is label cables/power plugs as we go along to make identification easier when there are 100 more patch cables in the cabinet:

Detailing of Labelling

Detail of Cable Labeling:

Detail of Labelling 2

It’s all in the detail!

Of course, at the new offices, we kept some things the same – the network SSID and Key for example – this meant the wireless was working without any configuration changes on the laptop machines.

Also, the network subnet was kept the same, so that any devices with static IP addressing would work immediately when connected to the network.

Once all of the equipment was setup and installed, we then assisted with the relocation of the desktop machines and NAS device from the old office between Christmas and New Year.

Thanks to the works before the move date, there were no issues whatsoever on the move day itself. All setup and working for the 4th of January!

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DamianCase Study – Office Move

Case Study – Network Upgrade and Tidy

We recently completed a network upgrade and tidy for a training company in South London.

The problem points:

  1. Poor performance of the internet router – often crashed
  2. Poor wireless signal
  3. No VPN access, or unstable VPN access
  4. Messy network cabinet, making diagnosis of faults difficult.

After visiting site, we found this:

Network Cabinet 1

Even though the customer had a rack cabinet, the equipment was laying on the bottom, and the wireless access point was inside the cabinet – that explains the poor wireless signal!

After discussing the requirements with the customer, we decided to consolidate some of the networking devices (router, network switch) and replace them with rack mount items.

We went with a MikroTik Cloud Router Switch – allowing fast ethernet connections in the office (gigabit ethernet) and a powerful firewall/router, to allow for remote monitoring and management. Of course, all of the usual VPN protocols are supported.

For the wireless connection, the existing TP-Link wireless access point was replaced with a Unifi UAP, to again allow for easier remote management of the wireless network that was in place.

A guest network was setup for the client, so that the main working network was isolated from visiting clients who needed wireless access.

There was a significant improvement in the network cabinet alone at the mid-way point:

Network Cabinet 2

Note this is before we ceiling mounted the access point!

Once this was completed with the Unifi supplied mounting brackets (made easier by the suspended ceiling):

UAP Ceiling

In the the customer ended up with:

  1. Improved signal strength for the wireless in all areas
  2. Improved security for the network (as the guest wireless was isolated from the main network)
  3. A tidier network cabinet, with more easily managed connectivity
  4. A powerful, remotely managed router/switch to allow reliable VPN access
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DamianCase Study – Network Upgrade and Tidy

How to reset a network card in Windows

Open Control Panel
Click Hardware and Sound
Click Device Manager
In Network Adapters, find the LAN card you want to reset – this is often something like:

  • Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller
  • Broadcom NetXtreme 57xx Gigabit Controller
  • Intel PRO/1000MT Network Adapter

Right click on the adapter and click Uninstall
You will be warned that this will remove the device from the system – ensure that ‘Delete the driver software’ is *not* ticked if this is shown
Note: Clicking OK will disconnect your remote access session if you are connected!
Click OK
The icon will disappear, and the network adapter will be disabled
At the top of the device manager list, the PC name is displayed
Right click this PC name and select Scan for hardware changes
The network card should reappear in Network Adapters
The network card will be reset to default settings, so you may need to reconfigure IP addresses, reconnect to a wireless network etc.

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DamianHow to reset a network card in Windows
linksys_smashed.jpg

Has your router been cracked wide open?

linksys router smashed

We have had a number of customers report recently that their internet browsers have been hijacked. Quite simply, this means that when they try to browse to a website, such as google.com they are redirected somewhere else.

These websites that are displayed often ask for Adobe Flash player to be updated, or inform you that a virus scan needs to be completed on the computer.

These sites are not genuine. In fact, the reason that the pages are shown is because the settings on the internet router have been changed by a 3rd party.

More information about this security vulnerability is available here: http://www.isssource.com/routers-hacked-via-email/

This of course is extremely worrying, as it means an outsider has successfully accessed the computer network, and may in future try to infect connected computers with viruses, or otherwise attempt to illegally access data.

Thankfully, the fix is quite simple – the internet router password should be changed to something other than the manufacturers default, and the system administration password should be changed to something more complex.

System administration passwords should be changed regularly as a matter of course, so this is a good opportunity to ensure that this vital task has been completed.

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DamianHas your router been cracked wide open?

Windows cannot load the device driver for this hardware. The driver may be corrupted or missing. (Code 39)

This is a common problem with Windows Vista – most typically, the CD-ROM or DVD drive will fail to function correctly.

Here are the steps we take to fix the issue (be cautious – you’ll have to edit the registry of the computer)

  • Click the Start button, and then in the search box, type regedit.
  • Press the Enter key.

NOTE: If prompted for an administrator password or a User Account Control prompt is displayed, type the appropriate password or click Continue.

  • In the Registry Editor window, in the left pane, double-click the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder.
  • In the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder, double-click the System folder.
  • In the System folder, double-click the CurrentControlSet folder.
  • In the CurrentControlSet folder, double-click the Control folder.
  • In the Control folder, double-click the Class folder.
  • In the Class folder, click to select the {4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} folder.
  • In the right pane, click to select the UpperFilters registry value.
  • On the menu bar, click Edit.
  • In the Edit menu, click Delete.
  • In the Confirm Value Delete dialog box, click the Yes button.
  • In the right pane, click to select the LowerFilters registry value.
  • On the menu bar, click Edit.
  • In the Edit menu, click Delete.
  • In the Confirm Value Delete dialog box, click the Yes button.

NOTE: Do not delete the UpperFiltersBak or LowerFiltersBak registry values.

  • Close the Registry Editor window.
  • Restart the computer.

The CD-ROM or DVD drive should then function correctly.

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DamianWindows cannot load the device driver for this hardware. The driver may be corrupted or missing. (Code 39)

How-To: Install a Graphics Card in Your PC

Tiger TV have an easy to follow walkthrough on installing a new graphics card into your PC:

Both Maplin and Insight are good places to buy a graphics card – Insight is a little cheaper than Maplin also (if you are prepared to wait for the card to be delivered!):

Of course, if you aren’t confident, or just can’t get it working – give us a call on 0845 310 2750 for some free advice or to arrange an appointment.

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DamianHow-To: Install a Graphics Card in Your PC

Using a BlackBerry with ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

Mad Analogy has a nice walkthrough on how to charge or backup your BlackBerry device under Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon. This also works fine on Hardy Heron 8.04.

Barry, the software package he reccomends installing can also be installed by double-clicking on the RPM files that are available on the SourceForge.net site for the tool:

http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=153722

You will need to download and install the following packages:

barrybackup-gui_0.14-0_ubuntu804_i386.deb
barry-util_0.14-0_ubuntu804_i386.deb
libbarry0_0.14-0_ubuntu804_i386.deb
libbarry-dev_0.14-0_ubuntu804_i386.deb
libopensync-plugin-barry_0.14-0_ubuntu804_i386.deb

Which some may find a little easier than the normal apt-get malarkey!

Link to Mad Analogy walkthrough:
http://www.madanalogy.com/2007/10/blackberry-support-in-ubuntu-gutsy.html

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DamianUsing a BlackBerry with ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

How to add more RAM to your desktop PC

Have a look at this video from howstuffworks.com – it explains all you need to know about upgrading the RAM in your computer:

A cheap place to buy RAM on the high street? Somewhere like Maplin is a great idea – they are cheaper than PC world, and will allow you to return the part it if is not correct.

Online, somewhere like play.com or insight.com are good – although watch the shipping costs! It often becomes cheaper to buy on the high street when you add that £10.

Links:

Jaytag would be happy to assist in adding more RAM to your PC if you are not confident – give us a call on 0845 310 2750.

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DamianHow to add more RAM to your desktop PC