Secure Remote Access

Custom Systems and Citrix Make Mobile Access Secure and Simple

Isn’t mobility great? It makes it possible for employees to work anywhere, on any device, and be more productive than anyone could have ever imagined. But it’s not always so great for your business when it comes to making that access both secure and easy.

Increasingly, security concerns are putting companies between a rock and a hard place – having to choose whether to limit mobile access to company data on corporate or personal devices (which makes it harder for people to work at maximum productivity) or to give employees free rein to use their own devices (which makes it harder to secure sensitive data).

And don’t get employees started on the usability challenges that mobility can create. It’s hard to achieve the productivity that mobility offers when they have to use different interfaces and credentials for different devices – and even then might not be able to access all the corporate resources they need.

Fortunately, Custom Systems provides app and desktop virtualization solutions powered by Citrix that eliminate these challenges. By virtualizing apps and desktops, employees can work remotely, stay productive, and easily use the devices they prefer – from company laptops to personal tablets or smartphones – for mobile access over any type of network connection. They also receive the same consistent experience across all devices. And you can rest assured that business-critical information is safe because secure access to both data and apps is built in.

To learn more about all the benefits of app and desktop virtualization solutions from Custom Systems and Citrix, visit www.SolveITwithCitrix.com/infographic/customsystemscorporation where you can access a library of resources including whitepapers and videos. Or give us a call.

David Bubb

David Bubb, Sales Director
david.bubb@customsystems.com

©Custom Systems Corporation 2016

One of Those IT Moments: Why won’t it work?

If you are in IT, then you have probably had an experience like this. You have been trying to get something to work properly and no matter what you do, it just won’t work. You know (or are at least very sure) you have done everything you were supposed to and it still does not work. You finally give in and have someone else look at it. What happens? They figure it out within minutes. They find the one spelling or punctuation mistake, the check-box that should or should not be checked, or even the capitalization mistake. They notice the one thing you did not. Once you are done banging your head against the wall, you wonder how you could have missed that. It had been staring you in the face the whole time. I recently had another of those moments and I thought I would share that experience and others with you. I am sure many of you who are reading this have experienced these moments.

I know I have had moments like this a few times in my career.

The first time in my IT career I can remember it happening was back in college. I was in a programming class. I think the language was COBOL, so that should give you an idea how long ago I was in college. I had almost finished the assignment, but had one problem. The program gave the correct response, but then changed it. I had my buddy who was in the class with me look at it. For a short while, he was also stumped as to what was happening. After reviewing it together over and over, he finally looks at me and calls me a name that had a similar meaning to idiot, but not as nice. In the main body of the program, I had forgotten a period after the ‘Stop Run’ command. One little dot. Because it was not there, instead of the program ending where it should, the subroutine directly after the main body was run one extra time. Over 20 years later, I still remember that incident. That’s how frustrating (and revealing) it was.

Last week, I was doing a VMWare server refresh with a client. We needed to swap out some host servers that were past their prime for some new servers with up-to-date hardware. On the first server we swapped out, we hit a point where the server seemed to be configured properly in vCenter, but would not talk to the SAN. I looked into the obvious areas first like cabling and configurations, but could not find anything. Admittedly, I found a couple of little things to adjust. However, there was nothing significant. I was looking at it going nuts knowing that it should work. My client was looking over my shoulder trying to see if he could catch something. I compared settings from new to old. I checked everything over and over. I changed settings I knew were correct, but had to try anyway. We finally gave up and called VMWare support to see if they could find it. The first support person knew right away that this was not his area of expertise and handed us off to someone else. That second person, took five minutes to find it. On the SAN, in the WWN name, the letters ESX were capitalized. In the host server’s configuration, they were lower case. That was it. We had been staring at it over and over and never saw it. It was past 2 am, so we were not likely to see it. Also, in my defense, I had copy/pasted the WWN from the SAN console to the VMWare console configuration. However, there it was. One of those moments where the answer was extremely simple, staring us in the face, and we were not going to see it. By the way, I observed what happened when we did the second host server replacement. I copy/pasted again and it did the same thing. On the paste, capital letters were converted to lowercase. The wise guys reading this are thinking: “Sure, that is your excuse.” However, we are replacing more hosts this week, so I can video it happening as proof. I am not saying that I am not losing my mind. I am, but this was not a symptom of that.

Let’s face it, you don’t have to be in IT to have one of these moments.

I remember helping my kids build LEGO sets. One of them could not figure out why they were unable to do what the directions show. I would look at it and realize that they had previously used a brick with three studs when they needed one of the exact same color and similar shape that had four studs. Ever try a video game where you just can’t figure out what to do next? You go on to the Internet and find a walk-through or watch a video showing you how to do that level only to realize that the answer was staring you in the face. You did not realize it was there, but it was. Like I said, we have all ‘been there, done that’. If you haven’t, think of this article when it does happen to you (and it will). It won’t help you feel less “stupid” at that moment, but you will know you are not alone.

If you have any stories like this, feel free to share them in the comments of this blog.

AZS-3

 

 

 

Craig R. Kalty
(CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)
Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

Issue: Printing – Solution: Tricerat

triceratAs is usually the case, the subjects of my blogs tend to correlate with situations currently being seen in a client’s environment. Recently, we have had more than one client with printing issues in their environments. The problems range from driver issues to an applications ability to recognize a user’s printers. In each case, we tried to handle the situation using the built-in tools within the Citrix products to resolve our issues. Do not get me wrong, I think the current set of printing utilities Citrix offers for their products is some of the best built-in solutions we have had. However, we still had issues they could not resolve. So, it was time to turn to a third party product. As the title implies, we tested Tricerat’s Simplify Printing product. I know this is starting to sound like a product endorsement, and in a way, it is. However, my intention is to share a solution to various printing problems we faced. To be fair, I am not saying that Simplify Printing is the only solution out there, but I have been using Tricerat’s products for years and it is one of my go-to solutions.

As I was saying, I am writing about this because of recent events. So, let’s take a look at those events.

Problem 1  – Solution – Tricerat ScrewDrivers

At the first client, we had a situation where users worked from a XenApp/XenDesktop environment, but would travel to multiple company sites. They needed to print at each site while accessing a virtual desktop back in the data center. Users needed to have multiple printers for multiple sites. Just assigning all the printers to the users did not work. Typically, the user would forget which printer was defaulted and send items to the wrong printers. Our original solution was to assign printers based on IP address of the client. The problem we ran into was that the number of printers at each site made it an administrative nightmare to work printer assignments/policies at an individual user level. Simplify Printing has a utility that allows the user to assign the printers that they need for themselves. Each printer in each location has its active directory name labeled where the users know to look. The Simplify Printing utility is a published application the user can open and select the printer they need. All they had to do was look at the name label and find the printer in the list. This did take a little bit of user training, but once the users got used to this process, calls to IT for printer problems dropped to almost none. There were other benefits from the installation of Simplify Printing. The product handled all the print drivers. We no longer have printer drivers in the Citrix environment for all of those various printers. The Citrix environment no longer had to fully process print jobs which saved on system resources. External users had a better printing experience once they installed the Tricerat ScrewDrivers client because all the features of the local printer were now available to them.

Issue 2 – Solution – Tricerat Simplify

At another client, a law firm, the issues started in the XenApp environment. However, Simplify Printing was not implemented at the Citrix level. It was implemented at the domain level so all printer functions in the environment, not just the ones in Citrix, are handled by Simplify Printing. The original issue involved printers needing to be assigned based on user groups. However, just because a user was in a group, that did not mean they had the right to use all the printers the group had assigned. For instance there are users in the Marketing group that need to be in the group, but do not need rights to Marketing’s color multifunction printer. Citrix policies helped, but they got out of hand. Also, as stated before, this issue was not just at the Citrix level. The dashboard in Simplify printing made it easier to assign printing rights while also controlling exclusions. Assignments made at the domain level were inherited in the Citrix environment as well. It literally became an administrative matter of drag and drop to control printer assignments/permissions.

At a third client, we had an industry specific, third party application, which also had company specific modifications. The handling of printers in this application is archaic in my opinion and does not follow proper conventions. We also had extremely limited control over it. Built-in Citrix printing utilities could not give the application what it wanted because of how printers were named for user sessions. A script created by one of the administrators was a semi-viable solution, but still had issues. Simplify Printing’s custom naming allowed us to get a modification in the app to make the user’s printers recognizable. This is another location where Simplify Printing will soon be used for all printer assignments in the domain. They are also looking into another Tricerat product called Simplify Scanning to help with their scanning needs.

In some cases, it was a matter of trial and error to get to where we wanted to be. We even needed help from Tricerat support to get things just right. However, that is not a dig on the product. We just had some tricky situations to resolve. I am going to do a little more shameless endorsement and tell you that the support team really cared that they find a solution for us.

As stated earlier, Simplify Printing is not Tricerat’s only product. Besides printing and scanning, they have products that handle monitoring, profiles, clipboard sharing, and backup. They also offer their products in a bundle called the Simplify Suite. I have not had the opportunity to use each and every one of their products in production environments, but the scanning and profile management products are also go-to solutions for me.

As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

AZS-3

 

 

 

Craig R. Kalty
(CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)
Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

Who maintains your data?

Think your organization is following best practices when it comes to data security? Ask yourself these questions:

Do you have an IT professional looking after your network or is it an employee that has other duties within your company?

Did you hire that person for his/her IT knowledge or for something critical to your line of business?

Have you lost any of your important data? Have you experienced down time that keeps your employees from doing their job?

Data SecurityWorking in the IT field for nearly 30 years (Hard to believe it’s  been that long!),  I am astounded at the number of companies that do not follow best practices when it comes to their IT infrastructure and data. According to Price Waterhouse Cooper, 70 percent of all small businesses that experience data loss go out of business within one year. Staggering right? Yet I still hear, “We are good. Our office managers takes care of it.“

Just as we don’t normally turn to our co-workers to take care of the electricity, the water, or even the coffee for that matter, why would we put the most valuable asset, our data, in the hands of someone who is not qualified? As nice as the office manager/gamer/or electronics enthusiast is, do they have day-to-day experience with security threats and application delivery? Probably not, but our managed services engineers do. They work daily with hundreds of clients to manage their IT.

It is important to not only protect what you have, but also to build your foundation so it will grow with you. And that’s where managed services can help. Technology does not stand still. Did you ever think that having a smart phone was in your future in the 90s? Now, you can’t do without it. Who ever thought we would be able to open a tablet and review the day’s earnings while sipping an umbrella drink on vacation? With a customized managed services program, your growing data is protected as your business grows and technology evolves.

At Custom Systems we help not only large corporations but also small- and medium-size businesses realize their potential through IT, while keeping data secure. Your data is your largest asset. Don’t be the next business that loses everything due to an IT failure. You don’t have to be at risk.

Like to learn more about the benefits and features of an MSP? Please feel free to visit our Managed Services page or email me directly. Questions or comments are always welcome below.

 

Suzanne

 

 

 

 

Suzanne Chambers
Account Executive
suzanne.chambers@customsystems.com

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2016

What is an MSP?

MSP, managed services providerAn MSP (Managed Services Provider) staffs highly certified and highly trained IT Engineers to remotely monitor and maintain your organization’s network.

 

 

When you bring in an MSP you should expect that the following would be included in any monthly cost:

• Alerts – Storage, Server and Desktop
• Data backup and recovery for different devices (desktops, notebooks, servers, etc.)
• Patch management
• Security

For any small or medium sized business an MSP may act as a Virtual CTO for your company. They can not only take care of the above tasks but they help with an overall IT strategy that will easily be expanded as your company grows.  In larger corporations an MSP may act as an extension of your IT department. The MSP would take the day to day monitoring, patches and updates and free your IT staff to focus on the projects they need to focus on.
In hiring an MSP, you are not losing control of your IT. You decide what you need help with. It is after all, your company.

Like to learn more about the benefits and features of an MSP? Please feel free to visit our Managed Services page or email me directly. Questions or comments are always welcome below.

 

Suzanne

 

 

 

 

Suzanne Chambers
Account Executive
suzanne.chambers@customsystems.com

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2016

Don’t forget your reminders

This is too easy to forget

The reminderMost of us use calendars to add events that we need to remember. Some of us may write things down on sticky notes and leave them around so we don’t forget. If you use Gmail for your email service, there is another great way to set up reminders – and it’s free.  Don’t have Gmail? It’s easy to set up a free, personal account at gmail.com.

Within Gmail you have access to Google Docs. Google Docs has a great free add-on called “Add Reminders”. Once you have signed into your Gmail account and switch over to your Docs page you can download and install this free add-on. Once installed, just open a new spreadsheet file and give it a name, like “Reminders”. Then go to the Add-on button and choose your newly downloaded add-on. It is very easy to use and will all but walk you through setting up reminders. Just put in the email address, task, and date then save the file. Once setup, it will  automatically email you or anyone you choose a reminder that a particular task is about to be due.

Never forget about where you stuck that sticky note is or to look at your calendar and still be aware of an upcoming task. You may even be like me and like, and use multiple reminders for important dates like anniversaries which will help avoid getting into trouble that could result in sleeping on the couch.
I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below. Also, make sure you follow and friend us through social media at Twitter or Facebook.

Ryan Ash

 

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©Custom Systems Corporation 2016

 

New Features in XenApp & XenDesktop 7.7

Help DeskThe latest version of XenApp and XenDesktop were released at the end of December 2015. Version 7.7 of both products will be followed up by another version (7.8) currently scheduled to be released sometime 1st quarter 2016. Citrix is being a little more aggressive with these releases because they are trying to accelerate their relationship with Microsoft, increase integration between products, and (re)introduce features.

With version 7.7, Citrix has given us these new features:

    • Zoning – Why does that sound familiar? Prior to version 7, zoning was has always been a part of XenApp and even MetaFrame. When version 7 was released, zoning was not included. With version 7.7, zoning is back. It has the same purpose as before. Zoning gives us simplified management across geographically dispersed deployments. One XenApp site can now be deployed in multiple geographical locations while enabling application control from one console.
    • Application Limits – Another feature being revived is the ability to put certain limits on published applications. This is where an administrator can control how many concurrent sessions can be active at one time, how many active sessions of a published application a user can have open simultaneously, and more.
    • Advanced Database Configuration – Previously, all database activity was installed in one location. Now, the site, monitoring, and logging databases can be installed on different servers and even in different locations. As a note along this path, SQL 2012 SP2 is now installed instead of SP1.
    • Improved Maintenance Notifications – Notifications to users about system maintenance can now be configured to go out at a specific time prior to the maintenance commencing and reminders can be sent at configured intervals.
    • Skype for Business functionality – This allows for a full installation of Skype using a desktop or a virtual app. The RealTime Optimization Pack will need to be installed to provide a user with the best experience while using Skype for Business.
    • Citrix Director Improvements –
      • Defined application limits (see above) are now shown in Director.
      • Director can use your windows credentials to authenticate you (single sign-on).
      • Better SCOM 2012 integration.
      • Proactive monitoring alerts to help improve reaction time.
      • New usage views for both desktop and server OS’s. Usage can be viewed at the site, delivery group, and machine level.Along with new features, there are a number of enhancements:
    • There are updates to platform support. This is to allow and improve performance with new hardware technologies.
    • New APIs are being introduced for developers. Using PowerShell SDK, session roaming can be tailored to an organization’s needs. Another API will allow for the access of templates, images, and snapshots across multiple hypervisor connections.
    • Windows 10 support for the VDA and Studio is now available.
    • Extended integration with Microsoft Azure – You can now use Machine Creation Services (MCS) from XenApp and XenDesktop to provision virtual machines in Azure.

Look for a future blog post detailing the changes coming in version 7.8.

As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

AZS-3

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

Windows Server 2016 Administration: Modifications

Windows Server logoContinuing with a previous post on the upcoming Windows Server 2016, we look at administrative improvements in 2016. There are many articles about Windows Server 2016 that tell us about the new features we should expect, but this blog is about the modifications we should expect. We are talking about changes made to the features we already utilize in the Windows operating system. There are many changes coming and this article is not going to cover every one. It will focus on the significant changes that will affect a Windows Administrator’s day-to-day usage of the operating system, our most common tasks.

  • The Interface – The GUI will be similar to the GUI in Windows 10. The ‘Start’ button is back. That should make a lot of administrators happy being that the lack of a Start Menu was one of the top complaints with Windows Server 2012. However, we will also see a change in how we find the items we utilize. Navigation of menus and features will have some differences. For instance, certain settings may not be where you expect to find them in relation to Server 2012 and 2008.
  • Active Directory – Windows 2003 functional levels will be deprecated in this release. If your Active Directory is still at a Windows 2003 functional level or you are still utilizing File Replication Services, it is time to enact a plan to upgrade the domains functional level and move on from FRS. Enhanced security features and certificate services will improve compliance.
  • PowerShell – Everything we do in the Windows 2016 GUI can be done in PowerShell because everything done in the GUI is controlled through PowerShell. However, the reverse is not true. There are tasks you will need PowerShell commands to accomplish because there is no GUI for the task. PowerShell 5.0 will be expanding the language, commands, and feature-set to support the modified and new features in Server 2016. This article is focusing on the administration side, but we have to note that there will be many modifications/changes on the developer side as well like using classes to develop.
  • Windows PowerShell Console – For years now, we have been working with PowerShell, but our primary console to perform the work within is rudimentary. Many of the features people have been looking for in a language editor are being incorporated into the updated PowerShell Console. Features like drag-and-drop, cut-and-paste, and more.
  • Storage – While there are new features for file servers and storage clusters, the most significant update to an existing feature affects data deduplication. Optimizations in the handling of large files and large volumes will give improved access and control. Clusters will be able to run in a mixed Server 2012 and Server 2016 mode. Sever manager will be able to control deduplication of backup workloads.
  • Hyper-V – One of the big issues with Hyper-V is that it is not as feature rich as its competitors. Windows Server 2016 hopes to close that gap. Features for handling server upgrades, modifying resources to VMs while active, device access, and more were integrated to close the feature gap. The 2016 Hyper-V Manager is backward compatible so you can manage 2012, 2008, and Windows 8 VMs. Hyper-V Manager no longer has to use the security of the account logged in. You can now access Hyper-V with an account other than the one you are logged in as. Improvements in the handling of server hardware resources give virtual machines improved performance. Even the upgrade process for a Hyper-V cluster has been improved.
  • Remote Desktop Services – The most significant modifications to RDS are the updated clients and browser support. For instance, Edge is fully supported and there will be new Windows 10 and Mac apps available. Device support has been enhanced to include Pen devices. Support for OpenGL applications is also included. New features will enhance the offerings we will be able to give our users like Personal Session desktops.

These are some of the major modifications in 2016 that will affect an administrator. There will be many modifications in Windows 2016. More than what can be discussed here. Hopefully the few changes listed above will prompt administrators to take a look at what is coming and how it could affect their environment. While discussing the modifications to administration from 2016, it is hard not to mention new features. There are many new features are going to affect your role as an administrator. To see more of what is new and changing in Windows Server 2016, check out the Microsoft blogs

Feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

 

AZS-3

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

Backup and Disaster Recovery – Know the Difference

Do you know the difference between backup and disaster recovery?

backup and disaster recoveryData Backup and Disaster Recovery are not the same thing. Lately, we have been having this very discussion at multiple client sites. So much so, that I decided to explain here. The biggest misconception we have been hearing is that a company has been performing routine backups of their data and has therefore been following a disaster recovery plan. This is not true at all. Data backup is essentially the copying of your data to another medium. The purpose of this process is to provide recovery of missing data in a timely fashion. This is not disaster recovery. A disaster recovery plan is a documented process that has been put in place to resolve catastrophic events that could endanger an organization. In essence, data backup is considered a part of the disaster recovery plan/process, but nowhere near the entire concept.

Let’s take a closer look at data backup.

When we perform data backup, we are copying our existing data and putting the copy on a highly accessible medium. It has to be highly accessible in case we need to recover some of that data in a timely fashion. We archive that data over time so we can recover much older data. How far back we archive the data is usually governed by a compliance policy. An important step in protecting our data is to have the copies taken off-site. This way, if anything happens locally, data we can rebuild from is still on a medium in another location. Here is where we start getting into disaster recovery. Backing up the data is very important. Making sure we can use the backup to recover is another thing. Most organizations have backups that they perform consistently. However, how many of those organizations have actually tried to recover using a backup? Great, we have a backup of a server’s operating system, applications, and data. Has anyone tried to rebuild from that backup? If not, how do we know the backup is viable? There are a number of recorded incidents where qualified organizations needed to recover from a situation only to find out the backup they have been doing for years has had issues that have made it impossible to recover data previously thought to be safe. The success of our backups requires planning and testing. This is where our backups become part of the broader disaster recovery plan.

Now, let’s take a look at Disaster recovery.

Disaster recovery is the process required for an organization to come back from a catastrophic event. A disaster recovery plan is the documented instructions, processes, and proven methods on how to achieve that goal. Disaster recovery incorporates facilities, resources, and personnel needed to recover from a severe situation an organization could face. In planning for the big picture, the departments in an organization plan for how they are going to recover. What if a facility in an organization is leveled? What does the organization need to do to continue operations? That is disaster recovery planning.

Let’s bring it back down to the IT level.

What if the facility that got leveled housed the organizations main computing infrastructure? Yes, we have backups of our data. We even have that data offsite. But now, we do not have the original site to recover the data to. This is why we need a disaster recovery plan for the IT department. Besides from backing up data, we need to replicate it. We need a location to replicate to. If we lose our main systems permanently, do we have other systems available to recover to? If not, how can we acquire those systems in a timely manner? Where are these systems going to be located? Who are the primary people we are going to need to perform the tasks to recover these systems? If they are not available, who can be substituted? Do we have documentation on how to recover these systems? Have we tested in the past that the recovery documentation actually works? This is disaster recovery and disaster recovery planning.

We have performed a backup. We have protected the data by taking backup media to a different secure location. Or, we used replication to get a copy of the data to another secure site. The copy we have can be used to recover portions of the data when needed. That is the purpose of performing a backup. A plan in place that documents the proven steps needed to restore that copy of the data, the personnel needed to enact the plan, the facility and its level of preparation for an emergency, and the requirements to gather the resources needed. That is disaster recovery.

I hope that helps. As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

 

AZS-3

 

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)

| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Server 2012 or 2016: To Upgrade or Wait

To upgrade or wait?

Once again, we are faced with the age-old IT question – should we upgrade or wait? In this case, the question refers to Windows Server — “Should we go to 2012 now or should we wait?”  As in most cases within IT, the answer depends on the situation and is different from environment to environment.  Let’s look at the timeline that bring up this question:

  • Windows Server 2016 is expected to be released  first quarter 2016.
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 released in October 2014.
  • Windows Server 2012 had a general availability release back in September 2012.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 has a tentative End of Life (EOL) set for 2020.

Currently, Windows 2008 R2 makes up the majority of the server workloads in use today.  Many organizations have barely started working with 2012, if at all.  Most organizations are still operating Active Directory at the 2008 level.  Some are still on Windows Server 2003, even though it has already hit EOL.  The past repeats itself because we have again hit a point where the most utilized version of a Windows software is going to be two or more generations behind the latest release.  Server 2012 adaptation increased when R2 was released and particularly when Server 2003 hit EOL and companies needed to migrate off that platform.  Timing and other factors went into the slow adaptation of Server 2012.  However, Server 2012 suffered from the same issue Windows 8 did – the interface.  Server 2012 is a solid product, but the interface turns off so many IT professionals who have to live in it day-to-day.  The interface is based on the Metro Interface used in Windows 8.  The Metro Interface was designed with touch screens and tablets in mind.  How many IT professionals have touch screens available or use tablets when connecting to their Windows servers?  Yes, you can put a start menu in 2012 with a third-party product.  But how many of us are against the cluttering of our servers with unnecessary software installations?

Given what was just stated, let’s get back to the question at hand.  Should you got to Server 2012 now or wait?  The answer depends on your organization’s needs, plans, and project timeframes.  At this point, the most compelling reasons to install server 2012 right now is if you are installing or upgrading to the latest versions of a particular application, you are still on server 2003, or a company mandate is in place.  Here are some reasons to wait for server 2016:

  • At this point in the year, if you have not budgeted for an upgrade/migration project for this year, then you can put it in the budget for next year.
  • Server 2016 has an interface that is based on Windows 10’s interface. Yes, it has a start menu.
  • Going to server 2012 R2 in the near future will immediately put you one version behind.
  • Along with Server 2016, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint 2016 will be released as well.
  • The preview builds have had favorable reviews.
  • Needed improvements in Hyper-V.
  • If you migrate now, how long before you will need to migrate again.

Let’s look at the reasons against waiting for Server 2016:

  • Keep in mind that even though the release is expected first quarter, it is not a good thing to have your production environment on the bleeding edge. I usually advise my clients that adapting a new version of a software should be held off for a few months after the release at the least.  The major issues will most likely be found and resolved within the first few months.  I usually advocate waiting until the equivalent of the first service pack comes out.
  • If you are still on a 2003 environment, you are waiting too long and sitting on vulnerabilities that will no longer be remediated.
  • Application compatibility. We are looking at a new operating system.  You know there are going to be applications that are not compatible with it.  Even if a piece of software proves compatible, you may still need to wait until the vendor says it supports the installation.
  • Knowledge and the ability to support the features. This is a new Operating System.  You can relate what you know about previous versions of Windows Server, but there will definitely be new subject matter to learn.  Features like containers will need some research and knowledge.  If you are not comfortable with PowerShell, you better get comfortable.

In short, if you are not on server 2012 at the moment, are off of Server 2003, and you can wait about eight months, then consider waiting for Server 2016 to do your migration.  The nice thing I have seen so far, is that you can treat 2016 like another version of Windows Server with improvements for what you know and use now.  However, it is the new features and concepts that will make it worth the wait.  I will be posting a blog or two (or three) concerning the release of Windows 2016 in the next few months.  I usually write blogs like this one for a wide range of readers involved in IT from the technical to the not-as-technical.  The future blogs on Windows 2016 will be more technical.

Feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

 

AZS-3

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

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