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:

 

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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.

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Guys. Let’s get serious for a second.

Were all of you forced to update to Windows 10 like I was????

Let’s not lie. I HATE CHANGE. However, there is nothing so consistent as change, especially when it comes to technology!!

So: decision time. Find the good, positive changes and embrace them, or be miserable.

I don’t like being miserable.

So here are a few tips and tricks that you may not have been aware of that will make Windows 10 more bearable!

1.) New start menu look

 

 

The new start menu gave me shingles.

Seriously, all those tiles, so much in your face – I just couldn’t take it. Maybe you’re the same way. Thankfully those tiles can be REMOVED.

Simply right click on any tile you don’t want to see, and click on Unpin from Start Menu.

 

 

If you’re OCD like me, you will be left with no tiles at all. And peace in your life.

2.) Shake away unnecessary windows

Does your computer desk top sometimes look like mine?

 

 

So many windows open. All at once. You start working on one thing, and then your attention gets pulled in another direction, and then another direction, and then before you know it – chaos.

And then I can’t focus.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but this tip is still a cool thing to fix this overly dramatic situation.

Whichever window you want to actually work in, click in the top of that specific window and while still clicked, shake the window back and forth.

All other windows will minimize, leaving only the window you want to work in visible.

The other windows are still open, they’re just minimized. And if you want to bring them all back right away, just click and shake again!

3.) Snap windows to size

Sometimes when I’m working, I need to have at least two windows open at once. And since I have two monitors, easy peasy! I can have my instructions for what I’m doing open on one monitor, and then the application I’m working in on the other monitor.

However….what about when I’m working on the taxes? And I need one window for the instructions, and one window for Quickbooks, and one window for the spread sheet, and one window for the other spreadsheet, and one window showing me a live stream of a meadow to keep me calm amidst all the insanity? I only have two monitors!

Well, this new tip is fantastic! You can *snap* a window to size. So, if I need to have two windows open in the same monitor, you just click and drag it all the way over to the side of the monitor. The window will automatically snap to that half of the monitor. And then you can snap the other half to the other side of the monitor.

 

And if you have three or four things you need open at once? You drag things to the corners of the monitor, and it will snap into a quarter of the monitor!

 

4.) Heads or tails?

Are you as indecisive as I am? Is that just me? No? Well, here’s a silly but USEFUL thing that Windows 10 can do for you.

Click the start button and type “flip a coin”. Click on the “Let’s chat” option that comes up and see what the results are!

 

 

So there you go! Just a few little things to help find the silver lining in this madness we call Windows 10!

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.

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

Have you guys met my friend, the scroll wheel of the mouse??

Guys…..this little beauty is the unsung hero of the mouse.  Well….not that the right click or the regular click are sung heros…..uh, I digress.

Point being, EVERYBODY knows that you can use the scroll wheel to scroll.  Up and down a page all the live long day.  But did you know that there are other things that this scroll wheel does?

The one I use most commonly is when I am looking for something online.  Let me share a little secret about me.  I am indecisive.  I couldn’t choose a restaurant for dinner or a gift for a friend if my life depended on it!  So when I’m looking for something, rather than click on an option, then go back, click on a new option, then go back – I’d rather open up each option in a new tab.  Then I can look at them, ponder them – maybe bookmark them to look at later.  And the scroll wheel has three functions that really help me out!

When I find a link I want to click on, instead of clicking on it with the left click, I click on it with the scroll wheel!  This automatically opens the new page up in a new tab.  Then I can go through pages of Amazon, and have my potential contenders all left open, instead of trying to go back and remember what I liked best.  This usually results in me making a folder on my bookmarks tab labeled Gift Ideas that I then bookmark all the contenders to look at later.

If I have a folder of Gift Ideas that has a whole slew of options I’ve bookmarked, and it is now time to make a decision, if I click on the Gift Ideas folder with the scroll wheel, it opens every bookmarked page in that folder!

When I have finally made my decision, and I now have a plethora of tabs in my browser, I can just click the scroll wheel anywhere on each tab to close it – I don’t have to navigate to the X in the corner.

And this is why I generally don’t do too much online shopping and I just wander the aisles of Target instead.

Happy scrolling!

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!

Larilyn’s Tip of the Week

We all use Google, right? For everything from the best chocolate cake recipe to which is the best microwave/dishwasher combo to buy (there’s a chance that might not be a thing).

Did you know that there are companies who pay for their name to come up in a Google search? It is pretty much guaranteed that when you search a topic, you will see sponsored results pop up among your legitimate results. This probably isn’t the most harmful thing most of the time, but it’s something important to be aware of.

For example, if I’m searching for that best chocolate cake recipe, it doesn’t matter that ten or eleven sites down on the list, there is a sponsored link from Kraft (you can tell it’s sponsored because of the ad box on the left). I might look at their recipe, I might not. Either way, no harm, no foul.

However, if I’m having issues with my Mac computer, and I can’t find the number to the local Apple store (why you wouldn’t call US is beyond me), I might google Apple tech support. And look at what is the very first result:

A link to a company with no affiliation to Apple whatsoever. Could possibly still be harmless, but it could also be a Phisher just waiting for a bite from someone willing to pay any price to get their computer back up and running.

So keep this in mind the next time you’re Googling!