Visio Organizational Charts

This is a very simple tutorial to learn how to create a corporate organizational chart using Microsoft Visio. Of course, you’ll need a copy of Microsoft Visio and a data source with the necessary source information. The data source can be an Excel spreadsheet, a text file, Microsoft Exchange Server directory or some type of ODBC data source. For example if you wanted to create your own spreadsheet all you would need it the employee’s name, a unique identifier (which may be there user name or there email address), and the name of the person that the employee reports to. One of the great things about this method, besides that it automates the design and creation of the chart, is that you do not have to worry about the column names. When you start the wizard in Visio you will be asked what column has what information in it. You can also have Visio open up a sample spreadsheet for you that you can then fill in the needed information if you do not already have it or another method of obtaining it. To do this you simply need to:

  1. Click File > New and click the Organization Chart category picture, and then click Create. This starts the Organization Chart Wizard.
  2. On the first page of the wizard, select Information that I enter using the wizard, and then click Next.
  3. Select Excel or Delimited text, type a name for the new file, and then click Next.
    If you select Excel, a Microsoft Excel worksheet opens with sample text. If you select Delimited text, a Notepad page opens with sample text.

If you do not need to generate a sample sheet then you can continue on with the Wizard to generate your organizational chart. You can even add pictures into the chart automatically as well as show Teams of users. The wizard should ask you if you would like to use pictures but if you decide you want to add them later you can use the Org Chart option that is added to the ribbon once you start the Wizard. The option is located under Insert. You can also easily refresh the chart simply by clicking Data > External Data > Refresh All from the ribbon under Org Chart after you have updated the data source.

This is a very simple and easy way to complete what used to be a very tedious task.  As always, please post your comments and questions below or email me directly.


Ryan Ash


Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
©Custom Systems Corporation 2015


Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 4 – Implementation

We documented our inventory, created a plan, allocated the resources, procured the budget, and practiced our migration in a development environment. Now we are at the point where we need to implement our design in production. On the Active Directory side, this is a migration that should require minimal to no downtime. On the application side, downtime needed is determined by the application being migrated. Even if you believe there will be no downtime, it is preferable to schedule a maintenance window for the cutover and do the prep work beforehand. If we wait until a scheduled maintenance window, users know that access to systems is limited. The maintenance window gives you time to work without the pressure of connected users being inconvenienced. As we all know, even with scheduled downtime, you will always have that user who will be upset because you had a system down between the non-working hours of 2 to 5 a.m. on the Sunday morning of a holiday weekend. Even though your company has absolutely no weekend business hours. Ever. To be fair though, don’t make your scheduled maintenance window for your tax firm the morning of April 15.

As stated, the Active Directory side can be done with minimal to no down-time. We can build the required servers and have them ready for integration. We may want to wait until the maintenance window to promote the new domain controllers. We will have less chance of issues and faster initial replication when there is minimal network traffic. You may even want to isolate your servers from the rest of the network (if possible). One idea is to keep servers on separate switches from the rest of the network. If you need to isolate the servers, just pull the plug on the connection to the other switches.

How we integrate the new servers will determine the amount of changes that need to populate to the client side. Do not cut corners for the sake of expedience. For instance, giving a new DNS server the IP address of the existing DNS server it is replacing would keep you from having to change the populated DNS server address on the clients. For a very small environment, this may work fine. However, for a larger environment, it may not turn out to be as seamless as we think. Instead, we should consider a short period of coexistence as we move towards the new servers. Changes to settings on the clients can then be performed in groups of clients at a time. This will give us the opportunity to fix issues without everyone being affected. Almost all new settings on the client side can be populated utilizing DHCP and GPOs. If we utilize GPOs, we can delegate who gets the changes and when. Also, there are some steps in the migration process that we may want to set and then wait before doing more. Here are the general steps in performing an AD migration from Server 2003 to Server 2012:

  1. Make sure your current domain does not have any existing issues. This can be accomplished by running DCDIAG. Resolve any issues that the DCDIAG reports. This is usually the time that someone discovers an existing replication issue they did not know about.
  2. Make sure the domain functional level is Windows 2003. If not, change it. We are, of course assuming that you do not have any Windows 2000 Domain Controllers. That would require more planning and steps for this project. There is a confusion about domain functional level. This refers to the level of your domain controllers only. It does not matter is you have member servers of a previous generation. For instance, you can have a domain functional level of 2008 and still have Windows 2003 servers in it. The 03 servers are just not domain controllers.
  3. Know which servers have the FSMO roles. (On a domain controller, open a command prompt and run ‘netdom query fsmo’.)
  4. Prepare the domain if needed. If you are migrating to Windows 2008 R2, you will need to run ADPREP. If you are migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2, you do not have to run ADPREP. It is included in the process when adding the Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) role to the 2012 server.
  5. Install your 2012 R2 server and add it to the domain.
  6. Add the AD DS role to your 2012 R2 server. Follow the steps in the wizard.
  7. Transfer your FSMO roles.
  8. Configure services like DHCP for the new servers.
    1. Update settings on the client side.
    2. Run for an initial coexistence period.
  9. Remove your Windows 2003 domain controllers by demoting them.
  10. Raise the domain functional level. 

This procedure is for the migration of Active Directory. It does not take into account the migration of applications hosted on Windows Server 2003. Those tasks are a separate part of the plan, but you should now be ready to move forward on those tasks.

At this point, this series of posts has given you the basic steps needed to perform a migration from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 R2. This series was meant to give you an overview of the process and help you find the information you need. I cannot stress enough, how important it is for you to plan this out properly and test. If done right, a migration from 2003 AD is not difficult and usually goes very smoothly. If you run into issues, you are affecting your Active Directory configuration. Recovering AD can be a difficult task. In some cases, it’s so difficult, it was easier to just rebuild the domain from scratch. If you do not have the in-house expertise or are uncomfortable with aspects of this project, you can always seek help. I recommend getting help from the trained network professionals at Custom Systems.

As always, I welcome your comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them below or email me directly. Also, be sure to bookmark our site for more information from Microsoft. Also, please be sure to register for our live, Microsoft event – Windows Server 2003:  Security Risk and Remediation on February 18.




Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 3 – Build and Test

windows server 2003 R2In Part 2, we created a plan that maps out the migration from Windows Server 2003. Now we are at the point where we need to build what we designed. Notice how in all the blogs concerning decommissioning 2003 that I use the words ‘migrate’ and ‘migration’ and not upgrade? I probably should have discussed this sooner, but there is no upgrade. You cannot upgrade 32-bit Windows 2003 to 64-bit 2008 R2 or 2012 R2. No matter your plan and budget, you will need to perform a fresh install on at least one server to start the process. Also, it would be wisest to go to 2012 R2 for many reasons (particularly not having to repeat this process when 2008 reaches end-of-life). For some migration paths, you may need to install at least one 2008 server to go from 2003 to 2008 and then to 2012.

The best place to start would be a test/development environment. We know from experience that there are many smaller shops out there that do not have the budget to create a development environment. Most of them are going to rely on the expertise of their staff or outside services to get their environment from where it is now directly to an updated infrastructure without performing a lot of tests. For those environments, remember to at least do extensive planning and research beforehand to mitigate issues. For those that can build a development environment, the best way to do it is virtualization (there I go again using that word). Remember that you can make a virtual server host out of various hardware platforms. You can even install a robust hypervisor for free. To give you an example, my laptop has an extra drive that I swap instead of the DVD drive. I then manually boot to the extra hard drive where I have XenServer hosting over a dozen VMs. Is it powerful? Not really, but I can run my demo environment from it. The point is we don’t need to break the budget to make a development environment. We may not even need to touch any of the budget. If you did budget for a new virtual environment or to extend an existing one, here is where you can start utilizing that new investment. P2V (physical to Virtual) machine images of your existing infrastructure servers. From there, you can fire up a new virtual machines (VMs) housing 2012 R2 and/or 2008 R2. Once you have the test environment, take snapshots of all the VMs before making any changes. Now you can begin the process of converting your virtual infrastructure in a development environment. If you run into issues, you can utilize the snapshots to reset the environment and try again. Take detailed notes of all the steps and pay attention to any potential problems. Once you have a clear plan with detailed notes, you are less likely to run into the unexpected when updating your production environment.

So, what exactly are we testing in our development environment? There are basic services that almost every shop is going to be utilizing. Active Directory, DNS, and DHCP are the three most common services we will need to migrate to another server. The good news is that detailed directions from Microsoft and other experts can easily be found on the web. Some organizations are going to have the basics and some are going to have more services in use. For instance, some organizations may utilize Terminal Services. Migrating that to Remote Desktop Services (RDS) will be a project in itself (though a worthwhile one).

Here is an example list of services you may/will need to test:

  • Basic services:
    • Active Directory (AD)
    • Group Policy
    • Domain Naming Systems (DNS)
    • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
  • Extended services:
    • Certificate Services and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
    • Terminal Services
    • Distributed File Services (DFS)
    • Internet Information Services (IIS)
    • Network Load Balancing (NLB)

Each organization is different, so they may have some or all of the items from the above list. A lot of organizations will have more to add to the list. Aside from these services that come in a Windows server, we will need to test hosted applications. This set of blogs has been pretty much focused on the Active directory side of the migration, but what about applications? If you have Exchange, SQL, or another enterprise application hosted on a 2003 server, you are going to need a separate project just to migrate those applications. This may be the opportunity to move from in-house mail services to a cloud-hosted solution like Office 365. It is possible to focus on upgrading our Active Directory infrastructure first and saving the applications hosted on 2003 servers for a later project. However, research the applications to make sure they will still function in an updated AD infrastructure. If not, that is one of those symmetrical projects you will need to have in your plan.

The next step will be implementation into production. At this point, we are ready. We have performed tests in our development environment, gained experience in the tasks, created detailed instruction sets, and realized modifications needed in our plan.

As always, I welcome your comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them below or email me directly. Also, be sure to bookmark our site for more information from Microsoft. Also, please be sure to register for our live, Microsoft event – Windows Server 2003:  Security Risk and Remediation on February 18.




Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Windows Server 2003 Migration Resources

Microsoft will end support for Windows Server 2003/R2 on July 14, 2015.

Now is the time to migrate.

Here are some links and resources to help as you prepare for your Windows Server 2003 migration. Be sure to bookmark this page to avoid missing new resources as they are added.

Windows Server 2003 migration

– Understand what end of support means, directly from Microsoft, via Custom Systems Corporation.

Great resources from our own blog:

Upgrading Windows Server 2003 Active Directory

This is a basic guide to help walk you through the upgrade of  Server 2003 Active Directory to Server 2012 R2.

Migrating from Windows Server 2003: 64-bit vs. 32-bit

This this post, we’ll explain  one of the key points involved in moving off the Windows 2003 platform – moving from 32-bit computing to 64-bit.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Planning Considerations

Where does your organization fall today, in planning the migration process from Windows Server 2003.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 1 – Inventory

Just because a resource is not a Windows Server 2003, it does not mean it is exempt from the effects of the migration. In this first task, review your current inventory to prepare for server migration.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 2 – Planning

Now that we have our inventory, it is time to plan our Windows Server 2003 migration.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 3 – Build and Test

Now we need to build what we’ve designed.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 4 – Implementation

We documented our inventory, created a plan, allocated the resources, procured the budget, and practiced our migration in a development environment. Now we are at the point where we need to implement our design in production.


Be sure to bookmark the Windows Server 2003 Countdown Clock on our site. You’ll also find great resources directly from Microsoft here. The network services professionals at Custom Systems are trained to perform the tasks outlined in our blogs, necessary for your organization to migrate from Windows Server 2003. You can reach our sales team by calling us at 800.539.3523 or by email.  Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.