Sometimes a hardware issue… isn’t.

A Tale of Hardware Support

hardwareRecently, a client of mine had a problem with their laptop’s wireless card. It just stopped working. One day it was fine, the next it wasn’t. So I called the laptop manufacturer, (it was under warranty) and they sent me a new wireless card. I installed the new card, and it still didn’t work. I then downloaded and reinstalled the wireless drivers – still didn’t work. I then uninstalled the driver, then reinstalled the driver: still didn’t work.

Manufacturer support sent out onsite tech support to replace the card, still didn’t work. They suggested that I reload the laptop. So I backed up all the data, and reloaded the laptop. That worked! The wireless card worked fine after reinstalling Windows. I still can’t make any sense of this, but it reminded me of a mantra I have, usually reserved for virus infections: Just reload it!



Chase Reitter
Network Consultant

Dear Santa: an IT wishlist

SantaDear Santa,

It’s been another great year at Custom Systems. Our teams have worked hard to make sure our clients’  technology needs have been met and that their systems are running properly. We were also blessed with some great, new clients this year.  Our business has expanded to include financial solutions and we’ve added a few members to our team, including: a financial solutions consultant, an account executive, a network engineer and a network consultant too! I guess you could say, the boys and girls at Custom Systems have been pretty nice.

Because we’ve been really nice, we’re wondering if we could ask for a few special gifts for Christmas this year.

Carolee is busy, so busy she would like a clone, another version of herself to keep up.

Craig would really like a decked-out data center complete with all the servers, software, network hardware, and power requirements to use as a lab environment.  Not quite as big as Microsoft’s but you get the idea.

Suzanne would like a server that would store movies and music so that she could access them from her iPad or any television in the house. Oh, and she’d like to also access the thermostat, run the sprinklers and have access to view cameras in any room in the house. This awesome upgrade would really be best viewed from 42″ flat screens, throughout the house… maybe smaller in the bathrooms. Finally, she’d also like to have unlimited tech support from Custom Systems (but we can take care of that!).

One of our own elves, who would like to remain nameless, is wondering if you could bring him free gigabit internet to the house and a Porsche. There’s a lot of technology that goes into the Porsche and nothing goes better with fast internet then a fast car.

Chase would really like a larger house with space for his home office. But if you can’t make that happen for Christmas, how about a bottle of Scotch: Jefferson Presidential 21-year, preferably.

Ryan doesn’t want a lot, because he knows Christmas is for giving and not getting. BUT, if it really was about getting, you could start with a full-size server. He would like a storage device with multiple terabytes of storage for movies and photos. Then maybe two servers, to set up for failover between each other. He’s got a 14 month-old, so they have a lot of photos and videos to store. He’s also like to have his whole house fitted with CAT 6 ports and business-class Wi-Fi. And since we are talking about Santa, and you are so  generous, a 100″ projection screen would be pretty awesome too. Finally, just to be safe, he’d need a battery backup to make sure everything is protected in the event of a power failure.

Kevin doesn’t really want anything technical for Christmas. He has servers, printers, laptops and tablets. And while a new switch might be nice, what he’d really like this Christmas is a new boat.

Dale would like the biggest, fastest, baddest  AlienWare PC you could build along with a few hot games, a PS4 and $500 worth of my choice games, 128GB iPad Air2,….that will be enough, until I think of some more toys.

I have to say, I can’t think of much I would like to have, Santa. We’re pretty well equipped in my home with PCs, laptops, tablets and game systems. The only thing I think would be pretty cool, and helpful since we’re a Microsoft partner… and this is just off the top of my head… is a Surface Pro 3 – 512GB/Intel i7. But really just because it would be really helpful to know it’s capabilities for our clients!

Unfortunately Santa, the rest of our team was either too shy or just afraid they were too naughty to ask for anything this year. But I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we know it really isn’t about the getting, but the giving. And we are all grateful for having the opportunity to give to our clients this year and beyond. 2014 has been a great year for Custom Systems. And we look forward to all that 2015 will bring.

Merry Christmas and a very, Happy New Year!



Lynn McGinnis
Marketing Specialist




© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014

Upgrading Windows Server 2003 Active Directory

windows server 2003 R2Windows Server 2003 was like XP.  Everyone loved it and never wanted to move off of it.  And just like XP, the time is coming quickly where you will need to move away from the much loved server or become vulnerable to threats very quickly.  Once support has ended for Windows Server 2003 there will be no more security patches, but the threats will still be there.

One of the most common systems that I see on Windows Server 2003 these days is Active Directory.  That tends to be true since moving Active Directory can be a long and tedious process.  It can also cause numerous issues along the way.

Below is a basic guide on upgrading your Windows Server 2003 Active Directory to Windows Server 2012 R2.  I would not recommend doing this on your own.  This is something that takes planning and careful consideration.  Projects like this are where companies such as Custom Systems are a perfect choice.

In case you were not aware, End of Life (EOL) for support of Windows Server 2003 is currently slated for July 14, 2015.  That date is fast approaching and will be here before you know it.  Make sure to plan for these upgrades with ample time to complete them.

I will not get into what Active Directory is and what it does, as it provides authentication and authorization services as well as a framework for other related services that can be deployed.

The below guide is only a reference and should not be considered the perfect solution for all upgrades.  Each upgrade will differ and will require extensive planning. This guide assumes that you have a 2012 R2 server installed as well as have installed the Active Directory role.  Again this guide is not to be followed without proper planning and assistance.

First step is to Transfer the Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO) Role

  1. Open the Active Directory Users and Computers console on your new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer.
  2. Right click your domain and select Operations Masters in the sub menu.
  3. In the Operations Masters window, ensure the RID tab is selected.
  4. Select the Change button.Dec 15 post 1
  5. Select yes when asked about transferring the Operations Master role.
  6. Once the Operations Master role has successfully transferred, click OK to continue.
  7. Ensure the Operations Master box now shows your new 2012 R2 Windows Server.
  8. Repeat steps 4 to 6 for the PDC and Infrastructure tabs.
  9. Once completed, click Close to close the Operations Masters window.
  10. Close the Active Directory Users and Computers window.

Changing the Active Directory Domain Controller

  1. Open the Active Directory Domains and Trusts console on your new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer.
  2. Right click your domain and select Change Active Directory Domain Controller… in the sub menu.
  3. In the Change Directory Server window, select This Domain Controller or AD LDS instance.
  4. Select your new 2012 R2 Windows Server.Dec 15 post 2
  5. Click OK to continue.
  6. Back in the Active Directory Domains and Trusts window, hover over the Active Directory Domains and Trusts found in the folder tree on the left hand side to ensure the server now reflects your new 2012 R2 Windows server.
  7. Right click Active Directory Domains and Trusts found in the folder tree and select Operations Manager… in the sub menu.
  8. In the Operations Master window, click Change to transfer the domain naming master role to the 2012 R2 Windows Server.
  9. When asked if you are sure you wish to transfer the operations master role to a different computer, click yes.
  10. Once the operations master is successfully transferred, click OK to continue.
  11. Click Close to close the Operations Master window.
  12. Close the Active Directory Domains and Trusts console.

 Changing the Schema Master

  1. Open a command prompt in administration view on your new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer.
  2. On the command prompt window, enter regsvr32 schmmgmt.dll and hit enter.
  3. Once completed successfully, click OK to close the RegSvr32 window.Dec 15 post 3
  4. Close the command prompt.

 Add the Active Directory Schema Console from MMC

  1. Open a MMC console on your new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer.
  2. Click File > Add/Remove Snap-in…
  3. In the Add or Remove Snap-ins window, select Active Directory Schema and click the Add > button.Dec 15 post 4
  4. Click OK to continue.

 Change the Schema Master

  1. In the same MMC console, right click Active Directory Schema and select Change Active Directory Domain Controller… in the sub menu.
  2. In the Change Directory Server window, select This Domain Controller or AD LDS instance.
  3. Select your new 2012 R2 Windows Server.
  4. Click OK to continue.
  5. A warning will appear stating that the Active Directory Schema snap-in in not connected. Click OK to continue.
  6. Hover over the Active Directory Schema folder in the folder tree to ensure the new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer is shown.
  7. Now right click Active Directory Schema and select Operations Master… in the sub menu.
  8. In the Change Schema Master window, click Change to transfer the schema master role to the 2012 R2 Windows Server.
  9. When asked if you are sure you wish to transfer the schema master role to a different computer, click yes.
  10. Once the schema master is successfully transferred, click OK to continue.
  11. Click Close to close the Change Schema Master window.
  12. In the MMC, click File > Exit.
  13. When asked to save the console, click No.

Once completed, open the Active Directory Users and Computers console to verify that the Active Directory database successfully replicated to your new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer.  Be aware that the database replication may take some time depending on the number of objects in Active Directory.

 Removing the 2003 Windows Server from the Global Catalog Server

  1. Open Active Directory Sites and Services on your new Windows Server 2012 R2 computer.
  2. Expand the Sites folder, then the Default-First-Site-Name folder, then the Servers folder.
  3. Expand both listed servers. One should be your new Windows Server 2012 R2 and one should be your  Windows Server 2003.
  4. Right click NTDS Settings found under your old 2003 Windows Server.
  5. In the sub menu, select Properties.
  6. Under the General Tab, unselect Global Catalog and then click the Apply button.
  7. Click OK to continue.
  8. Close the Active Directory Sites and Services window.
  9. Verify that your new 2012 R2 Windows Server is running the FSMO role by opening the command prompt in Administrative view and running the following command: Netdom query fsmo.
  10. In the Network and Sharing Center, be sure to change the Preferred DNS server to match the Alternate DNS server, then delete the IP address listed under the Alternate DNS server should it currently be pointed to the old 2003 Windows Server.

All that’s left is to demote the old 2003 Windows server by first adding the new 2012 R2 Windows Server as the Primary DNS, followed by running DCPROMO (which is deprecated in Server 2012) to demote the old 2003 Windows server.

As I stated earlier, this is a basic guide to help you understand what to expect during a Windows Server upgrade. As always, please post your comments and questions below or email me directly.


Ryan Ash


Ryan Ash
Network Consultant


©Custom Systems Corporation 2014


End-of-Year IT Tasks

time to plan Ivelin RadkovIn a previous blog, we discussed how the calendar end-of-the year can be different for IT than the rest of the year. Because of a possible fiscal year-end, possible higher resource utilization, less staff due to holiday vacations and other factors, IT operations and procedures shift or change. So, let’s discuss some of the tasks IT people need to do to prepare for the end-of-year and the start of the next:

  • Backup – We all knew this would be on the list and should probably hold a very high priority, so it is first on the list. We need to have a backup of the data at the year’s end. Unless you want one, you probably do not need a systems backup, only data. Our daily and weekly backups will take care of system state backups. What we do want is a complete backup of all data as it looked at the end-of-year. This backup will go somewhere safe. Odds are we will never need it, but we will have it just in case. In some cases, accounting and finance may need to utilize that backup to make sure they only have the previous year’s data without any from the current year.
  • Lock Production – For all the reasons mentioned earlier and other reasons that drive company policy, production systems usually get locked until the end of the year. Only emergency alterations are allowed to production.
  • Increase Support – Many companies are busiest during the holiday season. They are most likely the ones that have production locks. Being busier will increase IT support needs.
  • Increase Operations – Those busy organizations may need an increase in operations to support the increase in business. IT will have to pay closer attention to utilization and daily operations.
  • Staff Alterations – Due to higher vacation utilization at end-of-year, we may also be running on a smaller staff. There will be changes in support coverage and shift operations.
  • Enhance Development – If production is locked, that does not mean we can’t touch the development environment (unless doing so will affect production). This could be a good time to update, clean, or just plain continue work in the development environment.
  • Update Applications – Wait… Didn’t we say production was going to be locked? Well this may be one of those cases where we have no choice. There are software packages that require year-end updates or they will not have the functionality needed to operate properly. For example, accounting and payroll may need updates to tax tables for the next year.
  • Budget – At this point, the previous year’s budget should be gone or close to it. In these last few weeks, you can finalize the budget estimates for the next year. If you had not started on this yet, now may be a good time to start.
  • Reporting – Many business units are going to look for reports on the previous year to perform their required close-outs. So, reporting volume and support will most likely increase.
  • Inventory – if production is locked, now would be a good time to inventory our software and hardware. This includes servers, workstations, laptops, printers and peripherals.
  • Resource Review – This may sound like inventory, but it is a little different. This refers to utilization and consumption. We need to know how much power and computing resources we are currently utilizing and how that will affect the next year. This could occur during or after taking inventory. We should evaluate how much power our systems draw and whether we have ample power and power protection into the next year. We need to know how much of our server (and other hardware) resources we are utilizing to know what we will need for future endeavors.
  • Nothing – We may not need to do anything different. Some organizations see no difference in activity in year-end from the rest of the year.

If you think of any other end-of-year tasks to add to the list or have other points of view, please note them in out comments section.


Sr. Network Consultant




© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation