Monthly Archives: July 2011

  • July 25, 2011

    Microsoft Windows Intune – Cloud Based PC Management and Security (and a Perpetual License for Windows 7 Enterprise)

    There has been a lot of hype about cloud services recently; everybody is touting the ability to stream music and videos over the Internet, giving people the ability to have a central store for all their media. Microsoft has been one of the biggest proponents of cloud services, releasing cloud-based versions of many of their most popular productivity software packages through Office 365.  Less well known, but equally exciting and important is Microsoft Windows Intune.

    Computer management is one of the necessary evils of IT service. Companies often struggle to keep PCs up to date, ensure proper operating system and application licensing, and deploy IT policies.  Medium and large organizations can use Microsoft’s System Center product line, but even for these organizations this required some heavy lifting and TLC after deployment.

    Enter Microsoft Windows Intune, which costs only $11 per month per PC and for an additional $1 per month per PC you can also get the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) add-on.   Intune is taking the essence of enterprise level computer management tools and providing them over the cloud. Its current version provides robust anti-virus, patch management, and license management tools with active alert and report functions.

    Included with Intune are upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise, which provides a huge advantage to companies that are looking to improve productivity, control, manageability and security.  For example, your end-users can take advantage of advanced search capabilities or use BitLocker drive encryption to protect confidential data.

    At New Signature, we recommend that all of our clients select the $12 per month per PC version of Intune that includes MDOP.  MDOP is a set of six on-site advanced desktop management tools.  MDOP can help further enhance security and control and help you resolve critical issues that could not be addressed by the cloud service, such as diagnosing and recovering unbootable PCs.

    In subsequent releases, Intune will also handle full hardware and software inventories, application deployment, and many more exciting additional features (many of these are available in the beta already released).

    Most importantly, Windows Intune can provide incredible value to small, medium and large companies.  Firms of all sizes can use Windows Intune and can typically achieve at least a few of the following advantages:

    • Eliminate Capital Expenditures
    • Reduce Complexity
    • Increase Staff Productivity and Collaboration
    • Achieve Robust Business Continuity
    • Gain Enterprise-class Security
    • Acquire IT Agility and Scalability
    • Improve IT Control and Efficiency

    If Windows Intune sounds interesting to you give New Signature a call today.  New Signature is the perfect partner to help you understand cloud computing, develop strategy and take advantage of the reliability, flexibility and security of the cloud.

  • Book Review: Windows Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference

    When it comes to all things Microsoft, no one is held in greater esteem (sorry, Bill G!) than Mark Russinovich.  As the founder of Sysinternals (later acquired by Microsoft itself) he poked more deeply into the Windows kernel than any non-Microsoft employee, exposing hidden API hooks and developing powerful tools to help both system administrators and developers alike. From the ps suite of tools, to the legendary process monitor and process explorer, Russinovich literally wrote the book on the internals of Windows systems.

    Now he’s followed up with the book on how to troubleshoot Windows operating systems, the Windows Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference. In collaboration with co-author Aaron Margosis, he presents an overview of the entire Sysinternals suite of tools, and there methodically goes through the use of each one, presenting tables and graphics to accompany his explanations of their use.

    This book isn’t for the faint of heart. If you didn’t enjoy the Windows Internal series, you’re not likely to be able to use this volume, but for those of us that live and breathe through Sysinternals (or just occasionally pick up process monitor to fool around with) it’s a godsend. There’s never been (before now) the ability to exhaustively detail how the tools work without diving through multiple forums and waiting for days. With a Windows 7 computer, reliable access to the internet, and this book, you could spend weeks learning the nuances of the entire toolset.

    Russinovich’s style is breezy but detailed, and within a few chapters I’d already learned more about tools I use regularly each week than I had in the previous several years. Whether troubleshooting a pesky memory leak, speeding up boot times, or getting to the bottom of a frustrating crash, there’s a tool in the sysinternals suite for each scenario. The newer tools that allow you to see memory allocation (for physical and virtual machines) aren’t skimped on either, so there’s something for even the most experienced Sysinternals veteran. Armed with this book, no problem is too daunting, and as such, it should be on every system administrator’s desk wedged between the Windows Powershell Pocket Reference and Mastering Regular Expressions, Third Edition.

  • July 22, 2011

    Excitement Builds for Microsoft System Center Application Controller and Windows Server 8

    We’ve been incredibly excited about Microsoft’s Concero product for several months now because of the ability to manage applications across the public and private cloud infrastructure.

    At Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference we were given the opportunity to see codename Concero feature complete and with a final product name: Microsoft System Center Application Controller (SCAC).  Additionally, Windows Server 8 was officially announced.

    The full presentation covers the key feature strength of the product. Much like the relationship between Microsoft Hyper-V (Microsoft’s free hypervisor) and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (Microsoft’s enterprise-grade virtualization management software), the relationship between the yet-to-be-released Windows Server 8 and System Center Application Controller will be a strong one.

    Out of the box, Windows Server 8 is projected to support greater application-as-a-service functionality for private clouds. In concert with SCAC, once applications have been made “cloud-friendly” they can be transferred to the public cloud for greater availability and scaling, or to the private cloud for more granular control. Currently, SCAC is only setup to manage cloud workloads on Windows Azure (public) and Windows Server 8 (private) but if the platform is as extensible as System Center Virtual Machine Manager, we anticipate future expansion.

    For these reasons and many more, we are extremely excited about Microsoft System Center Application Controller and Windows Server 8 and can’t wait to test drive them later this year.

    Is your company considering moving services or applications into the cloud?  If so, New Signature is the perfect partner to help you understand cloud computing, develop strategy and take advantage of the reliability, flexibility and security of the cloud.  Call us today to get started.

  • Gaining Better Insight, Management and Security (and lower TCO) with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager

    Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and the former Systems Management Server suite have always been known for their powerful capabilities to collect information, distribute software and help control the configuration of an enterprise Microsoft Windows environment.  New Signature deploys SCCM to help IT departments comprehensively assess, deploy, and update servers, client computers, and devices-across physical, virtual, distributed, and mobile environments.

    Two great examples of the benefits of SCCM deployment come from one of my recent implementations for “Company A”.

    Example 1: We were testing the deployment of the SCCM client to workstations when the process unexpectedly failed.  While troubleshooting this failure we discovered the root cause was that the intrusion detection software Company A had installed on their workstations was five versions behind and the intrusion detection server was several revisions behind as well.  Newer releases of the intrusion detection product had been updated to accommodate SCCM, but the older version installed had blocked installation.  This discovery helped Company A’s IT leadership realize that their network, comprised of several thousand workstations, was not as secure as they had expected.  They were also able to achieve this valuable insight by simply going through the SCCM installation process.

    Example 2:  At Company A, we now had the SCCM client installed and reporting on all workstations and servers.  The inventory information was collected and eventually a request came in from the CIO, wanting to know how many computers were running the version of anti-virus software that they owned and managed.  We generated the report and found out that only 25% of the total amount of workstations and servers had the anti-virus software installed.  When we brought this information to him, he told us that the SCCM report could not be correct and that there must be something wrong with the data.  This reminded me of the famous quote from the movie “A Few Good Men” that states, “You can’t handle the truth!” After showing him detailed inventory information for specific computers that were missing anti-virus that showed all other installed software we were able to demonstrate that the problem wasn’t SCCM—it was failed policy, procedure and configuration management.  Since the implementation of SCCM at Company A, they have leveraged SCCM to raise their antivirus levels to nearly 100% and implement Microsoft Updates for the first time in their environment.  Fortunately for them, the SCCM implementation came before they were caught off-guard by a major malware attack or other exploit of their former vulnerabilities.

    For Company A, SCCM delivered enhanced insight into and control over their IT systems and is now a vital part of their day-to-day operations.

    When an organization decides to implement a configuration management software like SCCM, or through the use of an appliance such as the Dell KACE Systems Management appliances, they must remember that the information collected along the way and afterwards may expose weaknesses, but these need to be viewed as important opportunities.  This is the exact reason why these software products and appliances are so important as they provide a level of insight into an enterprise computing environment that can be entirely overlooked through status quo approaches and processes.

    Do you know the status of your enterprise computing environment?  Are you 100% sure of your software patch/update and anti-virus compliance levels?  New Signature can help your organization improve insight, management, and security and reduce total cost of ownership through the use of the Microsoft System Center line of products.  Please call us today for a consultation, we would love to help you gain insight into the operations and configuration of your computing environment.

  • July 21, 2011

    Hold Off on OS X 10.7 Lion for Business

    Apple recently released OS X 10.7 Lion to the public.  However, New Signature’s Mac experts have been testing the Developer releases for a while.

    Lion brings some great, easy-to-use features to the operating system, but at this time we don’t recommend upgrading to the new platform for our business users.  Business-critical applications such as Microsoft Office 2011 and Adobe Flash are suffering from stability issues and reduced functionality due to “under the hood” changes that have been made in the newest 10.7 release.

    New Signature’s experts are in communication with Apple, Microsoft and other vendors regarding these issues, and we are optimistic that patches will soon be released to have this new and improved operating system and important business software packages working together again in harmony.

  • Quick Tip: Exchange Management Shell – How to Identify All Critical Path Folders that Exceed Recommended Limits

    Have you ever had to quickly identify all critical path folders In Exchange that exceed recommended limits?  We certainly have and wanted to share a great script created by the Microsoft Exchange Team that makes this process an easy one!  You can also read a thorough explanation about the script entitled, “Finding High Item Count Folders Using the Exchange Management Shell“.

    The script is very easy to use – create a HighItemFolders.ps1 file using notepad (or your favorite editor) and paste the script into the file.  Using Windows PowerShell, navigate to the location at which the script is saved and execute:

    .\HighItemFolders.ps1 -OutputFile c:\HighItemsCt.csv

    It does not affect server performance when running and takes only 1-2 minutes to complete.  You will then have a csv file that lists every critical path folder in every mailbox that exceeds recommended limits. Enjoy!

  • July 20, 2011

    Extending the Enterprise Network to the iPad with the Wyse PocketCloud App

    Wyse PocketCloud, available from the Apple App store, is a great product that allows you to connect remotely to a Microsoft Windows computer from your iOS device using an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) connection.  You may already connect to your office network from your home laptop or desktop using RDP, this product is one of several available on the market that extends this capability to the iOS platform.

    Most businesses remain firmly committed to using Microsoft Windows as the enterprise operating system of choice.  However, the consumerization of the enterprise has meant that devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad are often used by employees to access the corporate network.

    When traveling staff can use PocketCloud to securely connect to your organization’s remote access terminal server in order to read email in Outlook or review a Word document or PowerPoint presentation.  When they are connected to the terminal server there is easy access to an on-screen keyboard in case you need to make any edits to a document or send a quick email.  Using this approach allows staff the ability to securely edit Microsoft Office documents on their iPad even though it does not have Office software installed on it.

    Staff may need some assistance from an IT professional to set up the initial connection, but once that is done the settings are saved and they can easily connect to the corporate network from then onwards.

    There is a free version of the software that only allows connection to one network, or a commercial version for $8.99 that allows you to connect to multiple networks.  On an iPhone or an iPod touch staff may find the screens to be too small to be practical for this application.

  • July 18, 2011

    MessageOps’ Microsoft BPOS Powershell GUI

    I grew up in the graphical user interface (GUI, sometimes pronounced gooey) age.  DOS was a thing of the past for most day to day tasks and control of the operating system and applications was through the use of menus, icons and defined workflows.  Later in life, as I developed my capabilities as a IT consultant and network engineer I gained familiarity and comfort using command-line interfaces (CLIs) for a broad range of specific tasks (go Windows PowerShell!).

    For Windows IT professionals, Windows PowerShell has emerged as a powerful mechanism to interact with a broad range of systems.  However, not everyone in the IT world is comfortable with this approach and it is important that GUI tools still exist to present available information and actions to these users.

    Take for example Microsoft BPOS (now replaced by Microsoft Office 365).   You can use PowerShell commands to make changes to passwords and mailbox permissions.  However, not everyone wants to have to remember and type out a PowerShell command just to reset a password.  For someone who’s used to right-clicking on an account in Active Directory to reset a password, this may seem alien and too labor intensive.

    Luckily there is a solution for all those who would like to use a GUI for simple PowerShell tasks with BPOS.  MessageOps makes a free BPOS PowerShell GUI.  It takes the hassle out of having to remember PowerShell commands and uses a straight forward design that guides users through everyday tasks.  To start, you save your BPOS administrator credentials in the GUI and you then have the ability to reset passwords, assign or remove mailbox permissions, activate and delete users.  Two caveats is you have to sign up for an account in order to download the free software and this only works with BPOS (we are hoping they release a similar product for Office 365).

  • July 15, 2011

    Recap of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2011

    New Signature attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2011 in force.  The conference was an unbelievable opportunity to collaborate with the amazing folks at Microsoft and other partners.  Christopher Hertz, New Signature’s CEO, spoke on the well attended Windows Intune Business Opportunities and Business Models Presentation lead by Erwin Visser–Senior Director at Microsoft within the Windows and Windows Live Division.

    Luckily, for those who couldn’t attend you can view many of the highlights online.   Here are a few choice videos that provide an insight into WPC:

    You can also browse and watch more of the 100-plus videos from WPC 2011.

    the entire partner ecosystem
  • July 14, 2011

    Brazen Careerist Taps CEO Christopher Hertz for Advice on How to Manage the Stress of Early Success and Task-Overload

    Whitney Parker of Brazen Careerist recently went on a quest to learn from those who have managed stressful jobs at an early age.  Her goal was to ask  people who have been there and done that to share tips for coping with the ever-increasing responsibilities and stress that they encounter as they climb the career ladder.

    New Signature’s CEO Christopher Hertz was one of the executives that Whitney interviewed, “Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, an IT and creative company based in Washington, D.C., says you have to know when you need support. ‘My philosophy has always been to know when to ask for help, trust the people I work with, treat everyone (clients, colleagues, vendors, partners and the community) the way I would want to be treated, and act honestly and ethically. I believe this approach can greatly reduce the amount of stress that one experiences at work.’”

    You can read the full post here.