Do I need to replace Windows XP in my network?

I am sure by now everyone has heard that Microsoft will end all support and updates for Windows XP in just over a month.  The IT Press is full of articles of doom and gloom similar to the Y2K predictions that were made by many back in 1999.  Well I have some good news and some bad… and what YOU need to do as you make a decision for your organization.

Good News:

Windows XP will continue to work on any computer in its current state.

Bad News:

There will be no additional Security Updates and Fixes to correct new threats that are discovered.

What can you do?

Microsoft.com

First, identify how this will impact your business.

Take an inventory of Windows XP PCs and divide them into two groups. Group 1 are those PCs used daily on your network to access the Internet for web access or Internet communication.  These PCs should be immediately targeted for replacement.  Group 2 are those PCs that have some other purpose such as controllers for machinery, dedicated PCs that run equipment or processes such as CAD, estimating, or other business processes that DO NOT use the web or Internet.  My recommendation is that you can continue to use these PCs for the lifetime of the PC hardware.

The last decision to make is based upon your installed Anti-Virus security products used on Windows XP.

Ask your security vendors such as Symantec and Trend Micro, how long they will continue to issue signature updates for products installed on Windows XP.  This should be the last possible date you continue to use a Windows XP Computer that will have any access to the Internet.

Next week we will look at the true cost of Windows XP replacement… it may surprise you that a new operating system such as Windows 7 or Windows 8 is the least expensive part of an upgrade.

Paul R. Cook
Paul R. Cook
Vice President, Network Services Group
Paul.Cook@CustomSystemsCorp.com

Things To Do With An Old Server

This Old Server

Today, we’re going to discuss things you can do with your old server hardware.  With everything going Virtual or Hosted now, sometimes you’re left with an old server that you don’t know what to do with.  Besides the obvious, (boat anchor, paper weight, etc.) we can still put that ol’ reliable server to good use.  Let’s assume that the warranty on your old server is out-of-date, and you have already moved all of your production services to either new supported hardware, or to a hosted service like Office 365.  As an example, our in-house Exchange Email server was migrated to Office 365 several months ago, and a SQL service we were providing has also been moved off-site.  That leaves us with two perfectly good (although old and no longer covered by manufacture warranty) servers.  One of these servers has plenty of disk space, but not a lot of memory.  The other has lots of memory, but not a lot of disk space.  This gave me an idea:  Use an iSCSI connection between the two servers, and setup a development environment.

Making the Old New Again

Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) has been around and in use for about a decade, but vast improvements have been made with Windows Server 2012.  Before today, you had to use either the Microsoft iSCSI add-ons, 3rd party tools, and they were more difficult to manage.  Now you can use the iSCSI tools right from the Windows Server 2012 management console.  But not only are design and setup easier; With higher performance network equipment, iSCSI connections are more reliable, and much faster than they used to be.  But you don’t need to go out and buy fiber optic cards.  Gigabit Ethernet cards can be found in just about any server built in the last five years, and are easy to find.  While I’d like to go out and buy fiber optic cards, this is only for development purposes, and I set a goal in the beginning of this experiment to only use equipment that I already had.  Both of my test servers have dual gigabit cards (two ports each), and will be plenty fast enough.

We have ways of Making You Talk

There are two simple ways to setup your physical iSCSI connection: Use a switch that supports VLANS, or just use an 8wire cross-over cable.  Many Cisco routers include a cross-over cable, so I have a few.  Just make sure that they are 8wire – many cross-over cables only have 4 wires to simply cross the transmit and receive signals – but these can only handle 100mb – and we’re going for the full gigabit here.

After installing Windows 2012 on both servers, I assign a static IP address to both primary NIC cards that resides on my primary subnet (192.168.1.x).  This is for server management purposes, and to connect to the rest of my network.  Then I assign a static IP to the secondary NIC cards that do NOT reside on my primary network, for example 10.0.0.x.  This will keep the iSCSI traffic off of my primary network equipment, and make the traffic between the two iSCSI servers MUCH faster.

Next, I use the Windows 2012 Server tools to setup my primary iSCSI management server (DEVHOST1) and my secondary iSCSI storage server (STORAGE1).  From the Windows Server 2012 management tools,   we assign all of the available disk space on STORAGE1 as a LUN to store our Virtual hard drives, which will be managed by the DEVHOST1 server.

Here’s what it looks like:

old server 1

By keeping the iSCSI network traffic on its own subnet, either on a separate switch or by using a cross-over cable, we improve the performance of both.

I can now install Microsoft Hyper-V on the DEVHOST1 server.  I can then build Virtual Servers with their large files located on the STORAGE1/LUN1 server.

This setup was for a Development environment.  I will be using it to test an Exchange 2013 server and a test SQL 2014 server.  In a production environment, I would be using new and supported hardware.

Custom Systems offers a wide range of new and supported solutions for your production storage and network performance needs.  To find out more, contact us today!

 

old server 3             old server 2

 

 

AZS-4Chase Reitter
Network Consultant
Chase.Reitter@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Securing Microsoft Exchange Email Servers

Your Microsoft Exchange Email Server needs to do four things, and do them well:

  1. Receive email,
  2. Send email,
  3. Provide access to your remote users, and
  4. Do steps 1 through 3 – securely.

Steps 1 and 2 are a part of the setup process, but you cannot just install a new Microsoft Exchange Server and expect it to work out-of-the-box.  Every install requires a few adjustments, but for the most part steps 1 and 2 are pretty straight forward.  What about steps 3 and 4?  Well, they require purchasing and installing an SSL Certificate from a third-party provider, like GoDaddy.

This blog post should be called “Banging the Drum for GoDaddy SSL Certificates”.  I know there are plenty of other (and cheaper) Exchange SSL Certificate providers out there, and I’ve used a few of them.  But in this post the other guys will remain nameless to protect the guilty.  We’ve been using GoDaddy SSL Certificates to secure our customer’s Exchange Servers for several years, and of the very few issues I’ve had, they were due to a slight misstep on my end.  GoDaddy’s Technical Support is top notch!  They have always been quick to respond to my questions, they understand what I’m looking for, and have a solution in a matter of minutes.

From start to finish, installing and implementing a new Secure SSL Certificate on your Exchange Server can be quick and easy.  Make your Exchange Servers more secure today with help from Custom Systems (and an assist from GoDaddy, of course.)

ChaseChase Reitter
Network Consultant
Chase.Reitter@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

The End is Near! (for Windows XP)

How many cell phones that were available for purchase in October, 2001 are still in use today? When we see someone on a flip phone, what do we think (or even say to them)? The excitement for new smart phones is conveyed in TV commercials while the lines of people waiting to be the first to have one, is reported on the news. We love our new cell phones and hate using old ones. The technology available today compared to 12 ½ years ago is mind blowing!

But when it comes to our Windows — we love our 12.5 year old systems! Windows XP was officially released by Microsoft on October 25, 2001. While we like using XP and have a comfort level when we sit down at our computer, time marches on. On April 8, 2014 Windows XP and Office 2003 will be officially designated as “end of life.” What does this mean? Starting April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates, upgrades, or other patches for the operating system or the office products. Below are the details from Microsoft’s website regarding the impact of Windows XP End of Life on your business:

What does end of support mean to customers? It means you should take action now!

After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.

Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your company to potential risks, such as:

  • Security & Compliance Risks: Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information.
  • Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) & Hardware Manufacturers support: A recent industry report from Gartner Research suggests “many independent software vendors (ISVs) are unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP in 2011; in 2012, it will become common.” And it may stifle access to hardware innovation: Gartner Research further notes that in 2012, most PC hardware manufacturers will stop supporting Windows XP on the majority of their new PC models.

If you still have Windows XP or Office 2003 in your business environment, you’ll need to start planning a transition to newer operating systems and office products. You’ll likely also need to consider hardware upgrades, as most modern operating systems will not run on older systems designed for Windows XP.

There are many options for upgrades these days. For the operating system upgrades you can move to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. For Office, you’ll want to upgrade to Office 365. Office 365 is a new paradigm for Microsoft: you can use the software on five different devices per user; you can use it installed on a local desktop or via a web browser; hardware requirements can be reduced with hosted Exchange and hosted SharePoint. The new office product offering is a good move and competes more directly with Google Apps. You can learn more about the new Office 365 by clicking here.

If you need assistance getting your systems upgraded or determining which version of Microsoft Windows or Office is right for you, contact us today!

For more information on Windows XP migration, take a look at our other blogs:

 

DaveDavid Bubb
Sales Director
Network Services Group
David.Bubb@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Custom Systems Corporation