What Makes a Server a Server Anyway?

So, you’ve decided that your business needs a server and now you’re wondering why you can’t run it on a Raspberry Pi or that old computer no one is using in accounting.

Not sure if you need a server for your small business? Read does my small business really need a server?

Bottom line, you might be able to run the software on that computer no one is using, but there are a few features you probably want to have in your server that the typical computer doesn’t have.

First and foremost, redundancy is key when it comes to servers. Second, servers are typically built with higher end components with a longer life expectancy than consumer or even business grade desktops. Third, servers should feature out of band management allowing remote access, management and monitoring. Fourth, servers may feature hardware that can be hot swapped.

Redundancy

A number of components should be redundant in servers. Hard drives should always be redundant in servers without exception. RAID is typically utilized so that if a single drive, or possibly more depending on the configuration, was to die, the server can keep running along without any interruption until the drive is replaced. As the redundancy has been diminished, it is imperative to replace the drive as soon as reasonably possible.

Frequently servers have redundant power supplies. Power supplies are often overlooked, but they do a lot of work and are susceptible to fluctuations in power and voltage spikes if the power is not properly conditioned. Redundant power supplies should be utilized so that any one source of power doesn’t cause the server to go offline. You might have going to two separate UPS systems or two separate sources of power.

In some configurations, fans, memory and other components may be redundant. While it is more likely for equipment with moving parts to fail, it’s always possible for other components to fail.

Higher Quality Components

Most equipment is rated with a mean time between failure (MTBF) which is calculated to be the age at which point 50% of those components will fail. Hardware which has been designed for servers generally has a longer MTBF which helps keep the server running. Cheaper components frequently have lower MTBF.

Desktops made for the consumer market typically only have a one year warranty. Business class desktops generally have a three year warranty. While the warranty is not the same as MTBF, you can bet the company has done the math to make sure equipment doesn’t fail during that warranty period.

Out of Band Management

If your computer gets turned off, it probably isn’t a big deal. When you come into the office, you simply turn it on again. However, if your server isn’t running, this can be a big problem when you’re paying employees who can’t access their email, applications, databases, computers, etc.

Servers should feature a remote access feature that provides basic level access even if the server is powered off. Say, for example, the power goes out in your office for an extended period (longer than your UPS was designed to keep systems running). Hopefully your server was shut down properly, but what if you didn’t set it up to turn back on automatically when the power comes back on? You’d have to go to the office and turn it on. That might not sound like a big deal, but after a long, hard week, do you really want to drive back to the office on a Friday night?

The management features on the server frequently provide advanced reporting, monitoring and access features so potential issues can be diagnosed and fixed before they impact your business. Out of band remote access may even allow remote technicians to fix problems preventing the server from booting to the operating system.

Hot Swap

If you need to replace the hard drive in your computer, it’s almost certain that you’re going to need to turn it off, take it apart and spend some time doing it. In most servers, you simply click a button to release the failed drive and insert a new drive. The system will start rebuilding the data and other than a minor slowdown (due to increased usage), users can keep accessing their applications without knowing the drive was replaced.

The same may be true for power supplies, fans and other components. Servers are designed to keep running and supporting your employees.

Bottom Line

Servers are generally one of the most important pieces of equipment that keep employees working and productive. If your business would be impacted if the server was down, you should invest in equipment that is true server class and features redundancy for critical and most likely to fail systems, high quality components, out of band management features and the ability to hot swap parts when they fail.

Finally, it is worth noting that many manufacturers are always trying to win the race to the bottom to make the cheapest equipment possible and frequently they will skimp on some of these features. The cheapest entry-level servers will not have many of these features and should generally be avoided if your business relies on your IT infrastructure for operations.

We should also note that there are many ways IT equipment, including servers, can be setup. We can’t comment on how your server is setup and you should never assume that best practices have been followed. Finally, while redundancy is important for servers, redundancy alone will not protect your data or your business operations in all cases. All businesses should have a documented business continuity plan that is checked, tested and updated on a regular basis.

If you aren’t sure if you have the right hardware for your business, schedule a free evaluation today.

Does My Small Business Really Need a Server?

I consulted with a small business last week. Their server had stopped powering on a few weeks ago. There were a few things they couldn’t do, but nothing that was causing a major impact to their business. This got me thinking: does your small business really need a server? With everything going to the cloud, what does a server really do for you?

Many businesses start out as a single user or maybe two and even if there are plans to grow the business, most often one doesn’t want to invest the capital in technology when there is no immediate need to do so. Let’s face it, when you’re one user, the benefits of a server do not outweigh the costs of purchasing and maintaining one.

However, there is a point where you’ve got a handful of computers to manage, different employees who should have selected access to files and maybe applications or databases. At this point, the benefits of a centralized server can be realized.

[Read more…]

Update: MalwareBytes Issue Fixed

It has been widely reported this morning that MalwareBytes was causing an issue blocking legitimate access to email, web sites and remote connections. We posted a workaround earlier this morning. Fortunately, the team at MalwareBytes has been able to resolve the issue.

Martin Kleczynski, Chief Executive Officer at Malwarebytes posted the following about 11 a.m. Pacific:

Earlier this morning, we published a protection update that caused connection issues for many of our customers. As a side effect of the web protection blocks, the product also spiked memory usage and possibly caused a crash.

We have triaged this issue and pushed a protection update that resolves it. If the update does not resolve the issue for you, please shut down the product and restart it.

The root cause of the issue was a malformed protection update that the client couldn’t process correctly. We have pushed upwards of 20,000 of these protection updates routinely. We test every single one before it goes out. We pride ourselves on the safety and accuracy of our detection engines. To say I am heartbroken is an understatement.

We are working hard to not only triage your issues and get your computer or business back up and running but to also rebuild your trust. We are going to overhaul how we publish these protection updates so that this never happens again.

He provided his contact information as well in the post.

It isn’t clear if devices impacted by this will be able to update automatically. If you’re facing issues, please update Malwarebytes manually by following these steps:

It is most likely necessary to expand the notification center icons in the taskbar down by the clock by clicking the ^. (This icon appears different in different versions of Windows.)

Then, right click on the Malwarebytes icon: 

If it is not already unchecked, uncheck Website Blocking:

Finally, right click on the icon and select Check for Updates:

You should be updated to database version v2018.01.27.12 or later to resolve the issue.

Re-enable the website blocking feature by repeating the steps and checking Website Blocking.

MalwareBytes Gone Crazy Blocking Internet

If you’re having a problem this morning accessing your email or other network resources or websites, and you’re getting a pop-up saying that sites are being blocked, you may be impacted by a recent MalwareBytes update that is causing similar problems for many people.

Update 11:15 Pacific: The issue has been resolved in an update. See instructions for updating Malwarebytes to the latest database. It should no longer be necessary to disable Website blocking or exit Malwarebytes.

While MalwareBytes is working on a fix for this issue, here’s the workaround:

It is most likely necessary to expand the notification center area down by the clock by clicking on the ^ arrow:

Find the MalwareBytes icon:  and right click on it, then click on Website Blocking to disable this protection module.

In the event that disabling Website Blocking doesn’t resolve your issues, try exiting the program completely. Follow the steps above to access the menu and select Exit.

Finally, click Yes to confirm you want to exit the application:

 

[Read more…]

Stop Creating Calendar Events from Emails

If you’ve recently booked a hotel, a flight or some other things like restaurant reservations or concert tickets, you may have noticed corresponding events in your Google Calendar.

For many of us, these are helpful reminders, which is why Google does it by default.

What if you use something like TripIt to manage your travels? You may want to disable auto importing events from your Google (aka Gmail or G Suite) Mail.

  • Open your Google Calendar. (If you’re using Outlook with Apps Sync, you’ll need to actually go to calendar.google.com in your browser.)
  • Click the settings gear at the top right.
  • Scroll down to Events from Gmail
  • Uncheck “Add automatically”
  • Save!

Now events will not be added automatically. If you decide you miss this functionality, just go back to the same spot and check the box.

It probably goes without saying, but if you generally like this feature, but need to remove a specific event, you can click on the event and then delete it by clicking the trash can.

Managing Junk Mail in Google Groups

Are you getting mail through a group address? For example, you might be a member of a support or accounting group. Messages sent to that group may be sent to multiple people, or the group could only have one person at any given time, but the group is used for other reasons like having a general address for listings, closings, escrow, front desk, etc.

Just like our inboxes can get spam, these groups are frequent recipients of unsolicited messages. By default, messages that are suspected to be spam are put into a quarantine where they are held for review. This prevents the messages from getting into your inbox. Unfortunately it can also sometimes catch legitimate messages.

What if you’re not getting a message that was sent to the group?

  • You can login to your group’s webpage at https://groups.google.com.
  • Click My groups.
  • Click on the group you’d like to open.
  • On the top right, click Manage.
  • Finally, on the left side bar, click Messages > Pending messages.

Note, that you must be a group manager or owner to see the pending messages. Typically these members will also get a weekly email with any pending messages for review.

From the list that appears, you can look at any of the pending messages and select to deliver the message to the group, deliver and whitelist or always allow the sender to post, report the message as spam/junk or delete the pending message. Messages will be deleted after they have been held in moderation for a while, so you may not see some older messages that were not delivered.

If you find that a high percentage of the pending messages are legitimate messages and you don’t want to wait for the weekly pending message summary or have to remember to go check the pending messages manually, it’s possible for the group owner to disable the spam control. This will allow all messages through and rely on your inbox to filter out spam. To make this change:

  • When looking at your group, click Manage on the top right.
  • Click Settings
  • Then Click Moderation
  • In the Spam messages section, select the desired option in the dropdown, likely Skip the moderation queue and post to the group.

You should no longer find that legitimate messages are held in the pending message queue. In the event that you later find too much spam is getting through, you can change the setting back to Send them to the moderation queue and send notification to moderators.

Finally, it’s worth noting that messages could also be filtered through another service before reaching your group or go through further filtering before being delivered to your inbox. If you’re still having trouble with missing messages, please reach out us or your managed IT company.

Before You Upgrade to iOS 11

Shows a list of apps that won't work with iOS 11.If you’re an iPhone user, you likely have heard that iOS 11 is coming out soon. Apple has said they will release it tomorrow, September 19th.

There is one thing you need to do before you upgrade: Check for app compatibility!

iOS 11 requires apps to be 64-bit and this means that some apps won’t work with the new OS. You should have received a warning when launching these soon to be unsupported apps, but you may not have seen the notice in a while and certainly aren’t thinking about it when you’re focused on the fun new features coming to your iPhone or iPad.

To check for Apps that won’t work with iOS 11, open the Settings App. Then go to General > About and click on Applications. You should now see a list of apps that will not work with iOS 11 if they are not updated. If you aren’t terribly concerned with managing your apps you might find a lot of apps you haven’t used in a while like Flappy Bird! You might also find some apps that have released completely different versions. For example, in my list is the video player VLC. That app is no longer available in the App Store, but they have released a new app “VLC for Mobile” which I would need to download. If you rely on an app to monitor security cameras like Ocularis, you’ll find it doesn’t work with iOS 11. Maybe the newer “Ocularis 5 Mobile” is the answer.

Bottom line, you’ll probably find that most of your apps are compatible, but you want to take a few minutes to check before upgrading and finding out that one app that you really need hasn’t been updated since iOS 6 was released!

Urgent Ransomware Alert

You may have seen the news this weekend. Criminal hackers have released a new strain of ransomware that spreads itself automatically across all workstations in a network, causing a global epidemic. If you or a co-worker are not paying attention and accidentally open one of these phishing email attachments, you might infect not only your own workstation, but immediately everyone else’s computer too.

Be very careful when you get an email with an attachment you did not ask for. If there is a .zip file in the attachment, do not click on it. When you see a suspicious email, click on the Phish Alert Button, which forwards this email to the IT team and safely deletes it at the same time. If you don’t have the Phish Alert button, delete the whole email. Remember: “When in doubt, throw it out!

Background

In case you haven’t heard, the NSA developed software to exploit a vulnerability they found in Windows Operating Systems. This exploit, which should have been protected like our nuclear arsenal, got into the hands of some cyber criminals and they have used it to infect over 200,000 systems worldwide. The number of infected systems is increasing as you read this! This doesn’t just install a backdoor as the NSA had designed, it uses ransomware to lock the files on your computer and other systems it can find. Your only option is to pay the ransom to get your files back or wipe the infected computers and hope your backups are working properly.

While we are taking all precautions possible on managed systems, it is imperative to not click links or open attachments in suspicious emails. If anything seems off, use the phish alert button or delete the message. If you are expecting an attachment from someone and the message content, links or attachments seem off, use another method to communicate with the sender (phone, text, etc.) and verify the content of what they sent you. You are the first and last line of defense!

If you are interested in reading more about this attack, please see Ransomware Attack Uses NSA 0-Day Exploits To Go On Worldwide Rampage.

Gift Card Winner Announced

Thanks to all those that warmed up with some hot chocolate at our booth at the Chamber Mega Mixer last week.

We are pleased to congratulate Dominic Gomez of Decals by Design for winning the $100 gift card.

Come Warm Up with Hot Chocolate & Win $100 Amazon Gift Card

Come warm up with us today at the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce’s Mega Mixer! We will be hosting a hot chocolate bar with all the fixings.

Warm up and find out how you can win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Today – Thursday, January 26 from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

Murrieta Spectrum
25125 Madison Ave #105
Murrieta, CA  92562

Be sure to bring your business cards, as the entrance fee is just a business card or $1.

For more info: see Facebook event or Murrieta Chamber’s website.