Thursday, 11 December 2014

SMB Kitchen ASP Author’s Chat: Wednesday the 17th Open To All!

You are invited to a preview during our SMBKitchen Chat on December 17th 7pm eastern. Download to your calendar now!

Our Chat will introduce the following new items at Third Tier. In addition we'll cover our usual content about security and patching. Join us for this special sneak preview of...

Tech Your Books: You know your books are supposed to do more for you than just keep you out of trouble with the IRS right? They are supposed to be a powerful business tool that helps you be more profitable and provide information so you can make evidence backed decisions about your business. It’s time to Tech Your Books!

Look, A Whale! What do you do when you’ve got a Whale? Be it a crisis or a project, your company could benefit greatly if you choose to have a third party representing your organization.

Our First Product: SBS IaaS Ever since Microsoft ceased production of small business server saying that small businesses would prefer to be "in the cloud" IT providers have wondered where that leaves them. Well we have a solution for you - Be The Cloud! 

Super Secret News: ASP members have been enjoying reading classified documents from US intelligence and security agencies giving them the early information on the latest hacks, industry targets and break-out infections. Learn about our after ASP plans to bring this information to you.

In addition to these great new Third Tier services, we are continuing to offer advanced helpdesk and microstaffing.If you would like to read more about each of these, we have some information available on our website already with more to come soon. http://www.thirdtier.net

And ItsA Gonna Be A Gooder! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Microsoft Ups Support Ticket to $499 – We Have a Great Alternative: Third Tier!

It seems that this may, or may not, depending on one’s thoughts of how Microsoft sees IT Pros in today’s “Cloud First Mobile First” be another shot at IT Pros that provide much of the front line support to SMB/SME clients.

I’ve been helping out with Third Tier for well over a year and a half now. I’ve been privileged to work on a team of amazing folks as well as work with a great group of IT Pros.

I believe that we at Third Tier offer a viable alternative to Microsoft’s $499 ticket (though I’m not sure what that will work out to in Canada as we pay substantially more than the US equivalent) for spot support or even ongoing support needs.

Given the experience our team has the Third Tier rate of $175/Hour is very reasonable. Active Directory, Exchange, Remote Desktop Services, Hyper-V, VMware, Cluster, and very soon a number of key vertical products and services to help our IT Pros get the job done right the first time!

Third Tier offers a Micro Staffing program where we can be a part of your IT Pro team for ongoing support challenges or staffing challenges. We can be a part of your team for a very reasonable cost.

I’m also excited about some of the things we’ve been working on at Third Tier to provide our IT Pros with a one-stop solution for their data centre that will allow them to provide IaaS and even our SBS (Small Business Solution) at a very reasonable cost per seat! More to come on that soon.

One final thought. If one is caught in a bind with a server down situation then the Microsoft ticket may be the best way. With Action Pack we still get BizCrit (Business Critical) support though via a call back model.

Our response model tends towards scheduled time for tickets as opposed to crash responses. So, please keep that in mind.

Here are some of the areas we can help you with:

  • Disaster Recovery Planning and Practice
  • Infrastructure planning, migration, support, and recovery
  • Active Directory and Group Policy planning, support, and recovery
  • Remote Desktop Services planning, support, and recovery
  • Exchange planning, migration, support, and recovery
  • SQL planning, migration, support, and recovery
  • Hyper-V planning, support, and recovery
  • Virtualization Solution Performance planning and support
  • Specialized Bookkeeping Support and Services
  • IT Business Models, Plans, Direction, Vision, and More

Whatever the task, we have a team member that can help. Not only that, one can expect the task to be done in short order and in a professional manner.

If you have not checked us out before please do now.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cluster: Firewall GPO Settings

Here are some firewall settings that we configure via GPO for both our AD environment but also for our cluster setups.

Domain linked GPO:

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At the domain level, thus all systems are impacted by these settings, we configure Remote Desktop inbound, Remote Event Log Management, Remote Volume Management, and finally Remote Firewall management.

Cluster OU linked GPO:

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Here we set the inbound rules that allow us to manage our clusters. The Inbound Rule for Remote Shutdown is a critical one to implement as that allows Cluster Aware Updating to run.

And, there is one rule that seems to be in both places. Chalk that up to export/import. :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Hey SMB Kitchen ASP Subscribers! Author’s Chat Starts Shortly.

Sorry about the short notice it has been a banner day for things breaking like power poles and such at client sites.

Link for the chat is in your subscriber e-mail.

Thanks for supporting us! :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

ASP Webinar Today at 1700 MST: Setting up ARR and URL ReWrite for One WAN IP

We've had a number of requests to do a Webinar specifically on how we get things set up for our Small Business Solution (SBS) whereby we only require one WAN IP address for all Internet facing services being published.

At 1700 MST please join me as I walk through a step-by-step of installing and configuring ARR and URL ReWrite.
  • Install ARR and URL ReWrite
  • Configure ARR settings in IIS
  • Configure ARR settings for EAS
  • IIS Sites and settings
  • SSL configuration
  • URL ReWrite rule configuration
  • ReWrite rule testing
By the time we are finished we will have a fully functional setup.

For this Webinar we will be using our three VM Azure based lab running a DC, Exchange 2013, and RDS.

Please do join us if you can and if not the event is being recorded and will be available to subscribers in the ASP Knowledgebase.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Azure VMs: A Series Versus D Series

We’ve been working with our Microsoft Partner Azure credit to see just how it all works as we have a client that needs a highly redundant, scalable, and global infrastructure setup.

Here is an A Series VM setup:

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This is the setup for the D Series VM:

image

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Cost wise the D series would be a bit more but the performance difference is noticeable.

When it comes to evaluating where to place client workloads one definitely needs to keep in mind what grade of VM to be utilizing.

Note that it looks as though one cannot mix A and D VMs in the same Cloud Services container. Please verify as to whether that is the case in your particular Azure Portal.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

SMB Kitchen Content Posted: Exchange Migration Documentation, Cluster Quotes, and Proposal Template

I’ve published three very significant documents to the ASP SMBKitchen knowledgebase.

Exchange Migration Guide

The following is the product of many Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2013 migrations.

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The guide walks through all of the necessary steps to migrate from Exchange 2003 and up to Exchange 2013. If migrating from v2003 then a two-step process would be required where we’d migrate to Exchange 2010 and then on to 2013.

We’ve done the two-step process on a number of occasions with small and large Public Folder stores without any real issues. It works quite well

Note that the primary focus of this guide is all of the PowerShell required to configure Exchange, work within the process, and recover from some specific errors that may happen. Everything is there as far as configuring Virtual Directories, the Service Connection Point (SCP), setting quotas, limits on send, and more.

On-Premises Proposal Document

The second document posted is an Excel spreadsheet that allows us to publish a proposal for an on-premises infrastructure deployment. It presents one number including a number for deposit to the end-user.

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It includes two Intel Server Systems based configurations, which can be changed to Dell or other system, software licensing costs, and a labour section that allows for a detailed scope for us with a brief in the proposal itself.

1U Cluster Quote

The third document is a quote in Excel for the base Scale-Out File Server Cluster setup we would propose for an on-premises infrastructure setup.

It uses the above template with four Intel Server Systems R1208JP4OC 1U single socket servers configured for either the Scale-Out File Server cluster node or the Hyper-V cluster node. It uses a 10GbE backend for SMB traffic via two NETGEAR XS712T 12-Port 10GbE switches.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Monday, 20 October 2014

How vCPUs Interact With Physical CPUs - Resources

Here are some excellent resources on how a hypervisor such as Hyper-V interacts with the CPU pipeline.

Essentially, having a bit of time while waiting for some things to complete I’ve done a bit of digging to figure out if the premise “All VM threads (vCPUs) must be processed in parallel” still applies to the CPU pipelines and architectures of today.

Check out the conversation I’ve been having with Brian Elhert on his blog with the videos as it seems that the premise no longer holds true.

There are other VM performance thoughts that we have had since day one that need to be tested or verified based on Brian’s responses.

In our experience the following can have an impact on a VM’s performance:

  • Assigning more vCPUs to a VM than physical cores (threads) available on one CPU
  • Assigning vCPU count to a VM as the number of physical cores (threads) on one CPU
  • Assigning enough vRAM to a VM to force its contents to be split between memory controllers

Hat Tip: @BrianEh (Brian Elhert)

Further reading on tuning Windows Server 2012 R2:

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
MPECS Inc.
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business