10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Choose Office 365 over Google Apps

This article excerpt originally appeared here: http://managedsolution.com/off…/

As any business owner knows, staying competitive means doing more with less. It’s about being nimble, looking professional online, and getting more done in less time. But, with the many choices that are available these days, it’s difficult to find the right tools to accomplish your goals. Office 365 delivers a full-featured, business-centric online productivity experience. It is designed from the ground up to meet business requirements for security, privacy, reliability, and manageability. Now, of course, Google also offers online productivity services with Google Apps for Work, so why should small and midsize businesses choose Office 365 over Google Apps?

Below are ten 10 reasons:

    1. ENSURE THE PRIVACY OF YOUR BUSINESS INFORMATION. Your private business information should be just that—private. Your customers and partners trust you with their sensitive information as well, and Office 365 provides enhanced security by design with our state-of-the-art data centers, premium anti-spam and antivirus protection, and encrypted anywhere access to data. Google Apps for Work adheres to Google’s single privacy policy, which is shared across business and consumer applications.
    1. WORK VIRTUALLY ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. In today’s always-on business world, being able to get work done anywhere can be a significant competitive advantage—especially for small and midsize businesses looking to deliver superior customer service and to differentiate themselves from larger competitors. Office 365 delivers a familiar, yet powerful user experience across PC, phone, and browser, intelligently tailored for each platform. Google has limited offline capabilities for its services. They are only limited to Chrome browser. And the experience is inconsistent across services.
    1. BOOST PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCY WITH A COMPLETE SOLUTION. Microsoft has been improving Office productivity applications for decades, and Office 365 is a natural extension of that process. With Office 365, you get everything you love about Microsoft Office, and then some. Instant messaging, Yammer Enterprise, real-time presence, video conferencing, and more are built right in and accessible from desktop applications or in the web browser. Customers using Google Apps for Work must rely on third-party solutions for core features such as Mail Merge, Bibliography etc.
    1. GET UP AND RUNNING FAST WITH A FAMILIAR, STRAIGHTFORWARD INTERFACE. Office 365 mobile, online, and desktop applications share a consistent yet tailored experience to give users instant familiarity across devices and locations. You get the familiar Microsoft Outlook® and Office productivity applications you already use—now powered by and working seamlessly with cloud services. Share a file in Word, Microsoft Excel®, or Microsoft PowerPoint® and almost anyone will be able to use it without thinking twice. Customers using Google Apps for Work must rely on third-party tools such as OffiSync and Memeo for functionality that is similar to what is offered in Office 365.
    1. MAKE LIFE EASY FOR CUSTOMERS AND PARTNERS. Office 365 makes it easy for users to create rich documents that convince customers, preserve ideas, and drive innovation. All that richness is preserved whether documents are edited using Office tools on a desktop computer, a tablet, through a browser, or on a mobile device. Google Docs is limited in functionality compared to Office, despite recent efforts to improve.
    1. REDUCE IT COMPLEXITY. Even if you have dedicated IT staff, it’s still likely that you want to minimize the amount of time and money you spend managing systems. Office 365 is designed to be easy for most users to administer and manage, and provides the power of trusted business solutions to meet even the most advanced IT needs. Google Apps does not provide the same level of IT management functionality as Office 365.
    1. MEET YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS WITH A FLEXIBLE SOLUTION. Microsoft believes in giving customers the flexibility to choose what works for their business. That’s why Office 365 offers a choice of easy-to-buy plans to help you get the best solution whether you are a company of one or one thousand. Google’s approach is simple, but it may not satisfy all of your business needs.
    1. RELY ON A FINANCIALLY-BACKED 99.9 PERCENT SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT. Office 365 has been built from the ground up for reliability, availability, and performance. Our proven service is powered by the same Microsoft email and collaboration products that businesses have been using for decades. Because of this commitment to reliability and availability, Microsoft is one of the very few cloud services providers that offer a financially-backed service level agreement (SLA) when any Office 365 service drops below 99.9 percent availability.
    1. PLAN EFFECTIVELY WITH A CLEAR ROADMAP AND ALL-INCLUSIVE PRICING. Microsoft updates Office 365 on a regular schedule and provides customers with 12 months’ notice of significant changes to Office 365. Microsoft also contractually commits to maintaining core Office 365 features for the term of the customer’s subscription. With a new customer roadmap to help businesses set their technical strategy, Microsoft helps you understand the company’s vision and innovations. Flexible, predictable, pay-as-you-go pricing options include everything that is listed, so you can rest-assured that Microsoft will support all of the features you purchased, helping you plan budgets more effectively and avoid unexpected expenditures. Google’s approach to innovation is to release beta features with little or no advance warning.
  1. GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED WHEN YOU NEED IT. Small and midsize businesses don’t have the time to be disrupted. Microsoft provides easy-to-access support options that meet a variety of needs. For small-business customers, Microsoft provides moderated community forums to find quick solutions to problems faced by businesses just like yours. For businesses with advanced technology needs, Office 365 Enterprise plans supplement community support with 24/7 phone support for even single-user outages. And, of course, Office 365 is designed to be easy to manage, even for non-technical people.


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.





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



©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Troubleshooting: Exchange Hybrid Mobile Device Setup

Troubleshooting: Exchange Hybrid

I recently set up a hybrid configuration between Exchange 2010 SP3 and Office 365 for a client. First let me just say this process is not nearly as easy as Microsoft makes it out to be. There are many steps involved. One issue I came across after the Exchange hybrid configuration was set up was when I migrated an account from the on premise server to the cloud mobile devices such as phones and IPads. The Outlook client did not automatically update to the new server name. Everything I read says this should happen and devices should auto configure. It just failed and would not connect to the new server. After many hours of research and talking to Microsoft to no avail, I finally find the solution on my own. Below is what I found, how I resolved it and how I tested it.

After reading dozens of articles I finally pieced together what the potential issue was. When I opened a browser and went to the OWA URL for the onsite Exchange server, then typed in the user name and password for a user that I had already moved over (in this case my test user), what I found was the URL that it was redirecting to was https://outlook.com/owa/companyname.com. Company name is your company name. You would think at first look this is correct, but what I found was the address was not the correct one. Since our external DNS points to this address and that is the correct address for the onsite Exchange server it did still redirect me to the Office 365 portal because of the Hybrid configuration setup. Even though this aspect of it did work, I wanted to change the URL to what it was supposed to be according to Microsoft.

To verify that the URL I was seeing was the one coming from the on premises Exchange server, I opened the Exchange Management Shell and ran the following command.

Get-OrganizationRelationship | fl name.targetowaurl

This returned the https://outlook.com/owa/companyname.com that was wrong. The same one that I saw in my above testing. I then wanted to change this to the correct URL so I ran the following command in the Exchange Shell.

Set-OrganizationRelationship “On Premises to Exchange Online Organization Relationship” -TargetOwaURL:https://outlook.com/owa/federateddomain

Federated domain is your company name used for your OWA URL. For example, mail.contoso.com, you would use contoso.com in place of federated domain.

Once this was changed I again went through the test above to make sure the correct address was now showing up when OWA redirected me.

I have been testing moving email accounts that were set up in Outlook, on an android Samsung S5, and on an IPad and they were failing, forcing me to delete the accounts and re-add them. Now that I had made this change I wanted to test again. I had an account in Office 365 and all three items (Outlook, phone, iPad) were all pointed there and working.

I migrated the account back to the on-premise server using the Office 365 portal. Once completed, none of the devices worked. This seemed correct to me since I had read it does NOT work when going from Office 365 to on-prem.

I started a migration back to Office 365. Once completed, I checked OWA and it redirected me correctly. I then looked at Outlook on my computer and it said “An Administrator had made a change and I needed to restart Outlook”. This was a good sign. I restarted Outlook. I again got the same message. I had read this would happen twice so I restarted Outlook for a second time and once it came back up it was working correctly.

Next I checked the IPad and Android phone. Both had worked correctly and automatically changed to the Office 365 server. I checked the server name on both and it was correct.

It appears the Target OWA URL was the issue. I hope this can help anyone else that has this issue.

In case you are curious the Target OWA URL is set when you go through the Hybrid Configuration Wizard. Sometimes it appears it just needs to be changed. As explained here.

The other two websites that lead me to my conclusion are:


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




©Custom Systems Corporation 2015


Taking the Windows 10 Plunge

Ready to take the Windows 10 Plunge?

Over the next couple of weeks, you will be able to find a plethora of articles and blog posts on how to upgrade to Windows 10, along with performance reviews. I would like to share with you my Windows 10 upgrade experience.  Which I did this morning, on the system I am currently typing this blog. I also want to talk about my initial experience using the new operating system.

I need to let you know that this is not my first installation of Windows 10. I have had a prerelease version running on a couple of virtual machines for a few months now. The experience I had with the prerelease made me feel comfortable with upgrading my main desktop in my home-office. I want you to know how critical the PC being upgraded is to me. My main PC is one of the most important tools I have for work and for home life. So, the first thing I did was confirm a backup of my important data. Thanks to Carbonite, I was not worried. The next thing I needed to do was get the installation media for the release version of Windows 10. Most of us know about the icon that appeared in our system tray that will allow us to upgrade to Windows 10. To keep servers from going down and bandwidth from being obliterated, Microsoft is allowing upgrades in steps, so your PC may not have been able to upgrade on July 29, while others could. I was not one of the lucky ones to get the go ahead on the 29th. However, I did get a notice about being able to download the installer from this location: Media Creation Tool. This option is for those of us comfortable with installing an operating system.

First, I downloaded the .ISO file and burned it to a DVD (must be a DVD, not a CD). Keep in mind that this is for Windows 10 Home or Pro. There are different versions of Windows 10. Home and Pro are what were released for PC and laptop this week. If your current version of Windows is Enterprise, you can upgrade to Pro now. Otherwise you will need to wait until the Enterprise version has been released. Once you upgrade an older Windows Enterprise version to 10 Pro, I am not sure if you can freely upgrade to Enterprise again when it is released. I upgraded Windows 7 Pro to Windows 10 Pro.

So, what was the process like? I started by shutting down my PC and booting to the Windows 10 DVD. I followed the prompts, got to the option to perform an upgrade, and hit a wall. The installation process told me that I need to reboot my PC and start the installation process while in Windows. My bad, the prerelease versions were fresh installs, so I did not know this about performing an upgrade. I booted back into Windows 7 and launched the upgrade installation. It immediately asked if I wanted to allow updates. Knowing I can change it later, I let the system go ahead with what it wanted. At another point, I was offered the options to install Windows 10 Pro and whether I desired to keep my existing personal data. I checked the boxes for both options. I was warned that multiple reboots would occur and they did. The process started in Windows 7 and rebooted to its own installation procedure (as seen here):


After this process hit 100 percent, the PC rebooted, told me ‘We are settings things up for you’ and then launched Windows 10. The first thing I noticed was that the display was at the lowest resolution and only one of my two monitors was active. I performed a Windows Update just for the sake of it and waited while drivers started being recognized. After five minutes, I rebooted. This time, my second monitor came up and I was able to change to the monitor’s native resolutions. This is what my desktop looked like:


I was/am up and running. Now I needed to test my applications. I tested the following applications which are crucial to me:

  • Office 365 – Word, Excel, Outlook, etc,
  • Lync/Skype for Business
  • Citrix Receiver
  • Citrix GotoAssist
  • Snag-IT
  • World of Warcraft

The only priority application that did not function was the Cisco VPN client. When it failed to launch, I tried to reinstall it and Windows 10 told me ‘not gonna happen’. I was informed that there is no compatibility and the program will not be installed. Edge, the replacement for Internet Explorer, worked pretty well. The only issue I had there was that it will not run or install Java (by design – more about that in another blog). I use Chrome as well and it worked just fine. The last thing I am having trouble with is my fingerprint reader. I have one for my desktop and Windows 10 is not recognizing it (yet).

I have been operating on Windows 10 all day now and I can tell you that it has been a very easy
adjustment coming from a Windows 7 preference and not having touch screens. The start button is really nice. The mix of the old Metro interface along with menu access is a good touch. Cortana is very responsive. Using voice, I asked for file searches, web searches, map searches, and more. Most of the time I was given what I was looking for. One thing I noticed in searches is that I got back a lot of web clutter when looking for something local, but there is a button to select local items and that removed the web clutter.

I will play around with Windows 10 further and probably blog about my experiences in the future. In the meantime, I just want to point out that this has been an easy update and one that I have little hesitation to recommend (it is still new). Just please preform a backup of your data before you try an in-place upgrade. Better safe than sorry. Also, better safe than blaming Craig because he said it worked well for him.

Please feel free to share your own Windows 10 upgrade experience below. You can also reach me directly by email.





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



©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

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 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.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 1 – Inventory

Know your environment. The very first task you need to do in a Windows Server 2003 migration is to update your inventory on your infrastructure. This does not mean only your Windows server 2003, this means your entire infrastructure. Why? Because you need to know exactly what you have, if there are any pitfalls, and if there are any synergies you can take advantage of. Just because a resource is not a Windows Server 2003, it does not mean it is exempt from the effects of the migration. In fact, you may need to update other resources in order to function with the results of the migration. You need to account for the following:

  • The quantity of Windows Server 2003 you have and their functions. How many are domain controllers? How many are just member servers?
  • The resources that are not Windows Server 2003.
  • Of the documented resources, the quantity of them still in use. You would be surprised how many organizations have orphaned servers and resources still in their environment because no one knew it was safe to remove them.
  • The hardware those resources reside on. Is the hardware still viable for today’s workloads? Is the hardware worth supporting?
  • The software/applications residing on resources. We need to know who owns it, is it still used, the resources required to install and operate the software, and if the software can be migrated.
  • The business units who use the resources. Talk to the people to find out if they actually still need the resources. Find out if they have any projects or plans to upgrade their applications that will facilitate the migration from Windows Server 2003.
  • The other resources or clients that need to communicate with the Windows Server 2003. For example, do you have a database or share on Windows Server 2003 that other servers are accessing?
  • The servers housing applications that can’t be migrated. Legacy software is one of the primary reasons we still have older servers with older operating systems. The software is still in use or is legally needed for archival purposes. There may be no upgrade path for the legacy system.
  • The people resources available. You will need to know if you have the staff with the needed experience and knowledge, the subject matter experts on the software applications, and the manpower-time needed for the project.

I won’t go into detail here on how to perform your inventory of your infrastructure. Various third-party vendors have products (inventory management systems) to help you. There are also tools on the Internet available to help with the task. Microsoft provides the Assessment and Planning Toolkit.

Once you have your inventory, you can start working on your plan. With the inventory and knowledge of the resources, you have the basis needed to determine priorities, tasks, resource assignment, scheduling and more. Now, we can move onto the planning: See our blog “Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 2 – Planning” (available soon).

As always, I welcome your comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them below or email me directly.




Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

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

Windows Server 2003 End of Life

On July 14, 2015, Windows Server 2003 Microsoft support will end. Meaning, after that date, there will be no more security fixes, hot-fixes, patches, or any other type of development for Server 2003 from Microsoft. It also means that if you have an issue and call in for Microsoft support, they will no longer open a support case for you. To find out the information from the source and to get ideas on how to move forward, click here. Over the next few months, we will be presenting blogs with information on migrating from Windows Server 2003. In this blog I am going to discuss a topic that is a major factor in migration.

Moving from 32-bit to 64-bit

One of the key points involved in moving off the Windows 2003 platform is going from 32-bit computing to 64-bit. 32-bit and 64-bit computing refer to a change in the instruction set for processors (CPUs) and how processors handle memory. Bits (binary digit) refer to the smallest units of computer data (a value of 1 or 0). As the number of bits in a computational value increase, the amount of data the value can hold increases. A 64-bit value exponentially holds a greater amount of data than a 32-bit. This difference is exhibited the most in physical memory addressing. The key differences of 64-bit computing over 32-bit computing is more memory. Memory limits in 32-bit Windows Operating Systems (OS) depended on the version in use and the 32-bit address space. Windows Server 2003 Standard had a limit of 4GB of memory, while Datacenter and Enterprise had a 64GB limit. In a 64-bit world, the Windows OS version still controls memory limits, but the 64-bit address bar has been raised. Windows Server 2012 Standard and above have a memory limit of 4TB. In fact, hardware is actually the primary limiting factor over software.

There is a Windows Server 2003 64-bit edition, but the adoption rate of that version was extremely low. The vast majority of Windows 2003 Server implementations were 32-bit. This happened for a number of reasons. The 64-bit server product was bleeding edge when it was introduced. Until Windows Server 2008, development for 64-bit products was not mainstream. Few software vendors factored in 64-bit compatibility in their code until Windows Server 2008. On the consumer side, 32-bit was the comfortable norm and 64-bit was factored in only when there were obvious gains. Requirements and advantages in Exchange and SQL were some of the primary factors for using the 64-bit version of 2003 over the 32-bit version. The number of users you could connect to one server through terminal services was greatly increased, but then you had to make sure that you were using software that worked in 64-bit terminal services.

It’s all about compatibility

So, what does all this mean in relation to migrating off Windows Server 2003? Compatibility. Will the software we have running in Windows Server 2003 work in 64-bit 2008 or 2012 servers? Will we have software drivers available on 64-bit that are as comprehensive as the ones we used in 32-bit systems? 64-bit servers are backward compatible and will run 32-bit applications, but not all 32-bit applications are 64-bit compatible. Applications with high resource demands probably moved towards 64-bit computing a while ago to take advantage of the increase in memory and processing power. However, we still have the issue of legacy software. We may only have licenses for a certain version of an application. We may need to pay for licensing of a later version. Or the licensing was based on the server OS. For instance, our 2003 Terminal Server CALs will not work with 2008 or 2012. We will need new licenses for that. What if there is no upgrade for that legacy system that will only work on a 32-bit system? All software issues will need to be researched and a plan developed to move forward.
Look for upcoming blogs, where we will discuss the research and testing needed, peripheral drivers (printers, scanners, etc.), SQL and Exchange requirements, backup solutions and more. Stay tuned and as always, please feel free to post your questions or comments below. You can also email me directly.





Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Windows 8 File History and Backup Security

Windows 8 File History and Your Existing Backup Plan.

In one of my recent posts, I discussed backups and best methods. One of the rules I mentioned, was the “3 + 2 + 1 Rule of Backups”. This post was geared towards making sure you have multiple copies of important data in case of a hard drive crash or loss of your computer. But what happens when you are working on a document and for some reason, wish you could back up a few iterations? Or the times you deleted a file or folder and also emptied your trash can on your desktop prior to a backup running? That is where (in Windows 8) File History can come into play.

First, you’ll need an external drive or NAS for this to work. If you are backing up your computers using the 3 + 2 + 1, rule then you will already have an external drive of some sort. Let me quickly explain what File History is and how it works. Then I will explain how simple it is to turn this feature on as well as how to restore files that were backed up using this method.

What exactly is File History?

I would be willing to bet that many of you may have heard of it before. It was once called Previous Versions in the last two flavors of Microsoft’s operating system. The reason for the name change is that it has been revamped with a much easier to use, more backup-focused interface. File History does not take the place of Windows Backup. Windows Backup will allow you to back up specific folders or even your entire computer. File History instead only backs up the files in your libraries – essentially, your personal documents, files and media. You can add any folders you want to a library, of course, but it won’t back up your entire computer the way Windows Backup (now called Windows 7 File Recovery in Windows 8) does. Also, instead of running large backups every week or month, it will simply take a snapshot of your files every hour, so you can restore your files in a much easier and more fine-grained manner.

To turn on File History in Windows 8, you’ll need to have an external hard drive plugged in or have a NAS available that you can connect to. Once you have that completed you just head to Control Panel > File History. Once there all you need to do, is turn on File history and you are all set. There is one other way to turn this on and that is to simply plug in an external hard drive and when asked choose to use it for a backup. If you would like to use a NAS for this, all you need to do is to choose “Change Drive” on the left had side when in File History in Control Panel. Once you have chosen the location you will then be able to turn on the File History backup.

Restoring Files from File History

To restore a file that you accidentally deleted or changed and now want to revert back, you will open up Windows Explorer and head to the folder where that file used to reside, You than then click the “Home” button and click the File History icon on the right side of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can head back to Control Panel > File History and click “Restore Personal Files” on the left hand side.

Next, a new window will pop up that looks a whole lot like Apple’s Time Machine, but without all the fancy animations. You can search through your documents using the search at the top, or navigate to the file you want to restore. To search an older snapshot, click the Previous button at the bottom of the window. When you find the file you want to restore, click on it, then press the big green Restore button at the bottom of the window. It will restore the file to its original location. If you’re restoring an old version of a file that already exists, Windows will ask you if you want to overwrite the file, which in most cases you will.

That is all it takes to setup, use, and restore files using Windows 8 File History. Of course not a full backup plan, but simply something that can be added to a full backup plan to make retrieving of lost or needed files and or folders much easier.

Ryan Ash


Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
©Custom Systems Corporation 2014

Time to backup your backup

Don’t lose what’s important

scyther5Everyone has files that are important to them and it would be a disaster if they were lost.  Years’ worth of pictures from graduations, kids growing up, and even items like tax returns or import documents that have been scanned for digital file storage.  Keeping digital files can make it easier to store, as well as search for later.  The problem is, what happens if your hard drive crashes and you lose everything?  A good backup plan is something that most people tend to forget about.  Many people will backup pictures and documents to one main hard drive and believe that is good enough.  What happens if that drive dies?  I had a colleague bring me the external hard drive where she had kept all the pictures of her children growing up.  The drive had crashed and after looking at it, I had to let her know there was nothing I could do to retrieve the files.  The drive was dead.  She lost years of pictures.  She was under the impression that it was on an external drive and that was good enough.  The truth of the matter is, you can never have too many backups.

Don’t be fooled by cloud storage options

Cloud storage programs such as Drop Box, One Drive and Google Drive are great places to store files, but you need to keep them stored somewhere else as well.  For me , I keep my son’s pictures on my laptop and backed up to my Microsoft One Drive account.  Then from time-to-time I will run a backup of those photos to my external hard drive that I keep connected to my wireless router.  This way the pictures and important files are kept on my laptop, in my One Drive cloud storage and also on an external hard drive.  These pictures are so important to me, I will probably even back them up a fourth time to something like DVD.

Do follow the Backup 3-2-1 Rule

This rule states:

3 – Copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important

2 – Different formats at least (more is always better in this case) – examples of this would be Dropbox (or other cloud storage) + DVD, or hard drive + USB stick

1 – Off-site backup – This means using a cloud storage option such as Carbonite or Crash Plan.

Crash Plan and Carbonite are topics in of themselves, but these are great programs to back up larger amounts of data.  With programs like One Drive and Drop Box, you tend to get one folder that is backed up.  With Crash Plan and Carbonite, you can back up your entire computer if necessary.  Look for upcoming posts about Crash Plan and Carbonite where I will explain exactly how they work and why they are a good choice.  In the meantime make sure you backup your important data by no less than the Backup 3-2-1- Rule.

As always, we welcome your opinion and questions. Do you have a data backup plan in place? How are you keeping your files and precious memories safe?

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
©Custom Systems Corporation 2014