InfoBulletin

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November 2008

Issue 105

Virtualisation, All-day computing, Small Business Server 2008, Managed routers, Communicatus interruptus, How to reduce IT costs?

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CONTENTS

*** NewsBytes ***
  1. Virtualisation: the server as commodity
  2. All-day computing
  3. Windows Small Business Server 2008: a good deal more
  4. 'Managed' routers. Well are they?
  5. Communicatus interruptus
  6. Q&A: How can I reduce IT costs?

Clicks of the Trade - IE downloads files without asking!

Recent Issues


*** NewsBytes ***
New blade servers at Charity IT conference
Dell blade servers Co-Operative Systems is pleased to be a sponsor of Charity IT Conference 2008 on 26th November at the QEII Centre in Westminster. Our stand is demonstrating Dell's latest Blade Server technology and we will have Dell's technical specialist Nigel Green on hand to provide in depth guidance on how and why this new kit can produce major benefits. Next up, "Collaboration takes off" - we will be demonstrating how we use Microsoft Sharepoint ('Intranet-on-steroids') ourselves and why its third sector usage is expanding rapidly. Charity_IT_2008 logo Also up for grabs is our roundtable discussion on a major IT infrastructure project we are undertaking for YMCA England; Lindsay Sartori, CFO will be participating together with Co-Operative Systems and Dell. Find out more about this exciting event from Plaza Publishing and book a place.
Managing IT better than your peers?
info_mngmt_benchmark
How well do you manage information inside your organisation? ZDNet's resilience and control benchmark takes a few minutes to complete and measures your organisation's results against an industry average. Slightly business-orientated data management questions but thought-provoking nonetheless. Take the ZDNet/Oracle/Bathwick Group resilience and control Benchmark.
PCs beyond the grave
Dell's Asset Recovery Service provides collection, assessment, re-sale recycling or disposal of unwanted computers. The service is WEEE-compliant and is available for any IT brand, not just Dells, and also encompasses data wiping of hard drives and destruction where inoperable. Typical costs for UK mainland are £9.75 per client item and £20 per enterprise item (min. 20 client items & 5 server items). More at www.dell.co.uk/asset-recovery
Dosh-back-on-Tosh offers
So confident are Toshiba in the reliability of their laptops, that their latest promotion offers money back your new purchase if it does fail in warranty, and you can get it repaired or replaced free. Qualifying laptops include certain Toshiba Tecra, Portégé and Satellite Pro models sold to UK and Republic of Ireland customers, in some cases extending to 3 years. Contact us for more details.
Windows no.7
Microsoft's next-generation operating system, Windows 7 (no fancy names this time around) has just been released as a first pre-beta code and rolls out a host of new features, such as a revamped desktop and taskbar, multi-touch/swipe support iPhone-style, USB drive BitLocker encryption, faster boot time and an interface generally 'less annoying' than its under-par predecessor Vista. More in next issue.
Mobile-to-go gets logo
mobile broadband logoMobile Broadband pre-installed laptops soon to be available will be easier for consumers to identify from a new Mobile Broadband logo. The initiative, led by the GSM Association, brings together mobile operators and laptop vendors such as Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, 3 Group, Lenovo, Dell, Asus and Toshiba, as well as Microsoft and Ericsson. The conglomerate hopes to deliver a compelling alternative to Wi-Fi so that notebook users can switch on and surf straight out of the box.
Linksys folds
The 20-year old company that braved a path to low-cost modems, routers and switches has been folded into its parent company of 5 years, Cisco. Now to be known as the Cisco Consumer Business Group (CBG), the unit's efforts will focus on multimedia networking services and digital TV-centred products for the home.
Are you a green machine?
Patterns of energy and computer use are among the questions asked in Groundwork's Every Action Counts survey, a follow up to that of early 2007, which polled whether VCS organisations were sticking with their green aspirations. For this year's respondents, 'points mean green prizes' as well as receiving the eventual results of the survey. Deadline for responses is 28th November.
Green IT Expo 4-5 Nov
Sustainable computing practices and IT solutions are on show during Green IT Expo at The Barbican Centre on 4-5 November 2008. Enticing keynotes such as green IT action plans, "The $5bn Challenge: Reducing IT’s Energy Usage by 50% by 2010" and "Why Green IT & Virtualisation Should be Top of the Financial Director's Agenda" from sponsors WWF’s global Climate Savers Computing Initiative, DEFRA, Forrester, AMR Research, IBM, Carbon Smart, Action Sustainability and the Green Economics Institute will play throughout both days. Reserve your complimentary place at the UK’s first free-to-attend green IT showcase.
€400m innovation grant
The Siemens Foundation is launching a new endowment worth around €400m with grants focussing on projects (both German and international) that employ innovative technology to improve social conditions, education, arts and culture as well as projects related to climate and demographic change. Established by Siemens AG, the foundation will begin operations as an independent entity in early 2009 when details of the sizes, duration and how to apply for grants will be released.
*** More NewsBytes ***


^ Back to contents ^
1. Virtualisation: the server as commodity

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Down on the farm

In the beginning was the server, a central hardware repository for file sharing, backup and applications.

Then as the Internet blossomed and ideas for applications proliferated during the dot-com boom, every corporate geek's ambition became to create a 'server farm' - assigning a unique bit of hardware dedicated to each function (email, database, file and print). These were the days when IT empires were built from flashing LED lights. A dream for performance and uptime, but a nightmare for fault-tolerance and maintenance with its compulsory service packs, backups and UPS integration.

What is virtualisation?

A short history of virtualisation

  • 1936-1937 - (yes, really!) Alan Turing puts forward the concept of an all-purpose "universal computing machine" to run any sequence of instructions now called the "Universal Turing machine".
  • 1970s – virtualisation becomes common on mainframes and large servers. IBM's Virtual Machine operating system employs a ‘hypervisor’ to assign a new copy of the actual machine to each application in its own address space.
  • 1990s - Fast, cheap servers based on Intel's x86 architecture become ubiquitous but inefficient in their use of memory, storage and power.
  • 1999 - Start-up VMware introduces virtualisation for x86 processors with its ESX hypervisor tool.
  • 2003 - Free, open-source Xen hypervisor gets first public release, having originated as a research project at the University of Cambridge under Ian Pratt, senior lecturer and founder of XenSource, Inc
  • 2004 - Storage giant EMC buys VMware
  • 2007 - Citrix Systems acquires XenSource rebranding products as its XenServer series.
  • 2008 - Microsoft ships Hyper-V, aka previously as Viridian, and Windows Server Virtualization, for x64 systems within Windows Server 2008
Compare dozens of virtual machines

Rather than placing one operating system (so-called guest OS) on each chunk of dedicated hardware, virtualisation allows us to run multiple and different guest OSes – for instance, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Pro, even Windows 98 – together on the same hardware. Some have referred to the guest OS as merely an abstraction layer, a wrapper, sitting between an application and vitualising platform.

The new technology has brought with it new terms such as "Bare Metal" and "Big Iron", reflecting the fact that applications effectively demand direct access to the hardware, as if the virtualising OS weren't there at all, thus speeding the performance of drive reads and writes and processor efficiency. Some require a hosting platform, such as Windows or Mac OS or Linux, while others provide their own 'bare metal' version. Potential hosts range from PCs and Macs to almost any hardware, now including even USB sticks, iPhones and iPods.

Where's the need for virtualisation?

Distributed computing environments lead to server sprawl. Hence, uncoordinated deployments of Windows file servers can make them tricky to maintain and backup individually. Other challenges arise too, such as the hidden costs of failover systems that need maintaining, powering and cooling hardware when demand for server performance surges. So when it kicked off, virtualisation was all about server management: improving server utilisation, enabling consolidation and generally simplifying server management.

With virtualisation platforms, it is possible to drag-and-drop live running servers on to different hardware, instantly. Since this procedure of copying the memory of the virtual machine (VM) in chunks to its destination takes only a few milli-seconds and is performed live, the VM appears to migrate seamlessly. Thus, one could prevent performance bottlenecks or user demand spikes and avoid memory overloads and potentially failing hardware all with a few clicks on the management interface.

Unlock virtualisation ...

... but don't get carried away. To put virtualisation into perspective, you can't beat reading this short article by HP: "Five keys to unlocking pervasive virtualisation"

Is virtualisation for us?

Now the paradigm has shifted towards embracing desktop control. In today's potentially data-leaky, security-conscious world, that's a big issue. With virtualised desktops, you can bring control of security policies within the same management regime as hardware and operating systems.

It's about being green too; Windows server utilisation levels may only scratch 10% uptake, while mainframe and virtualised environments can deliver close to 100% of resources. One example of increasing server efficiency is that VMware's ESX hypervisor shares out a single instance of a memory page that would otherwise be duplicated across multiple guest OSes. That translates to less memory expenditure and power loss.

Now an IT professional can host literally dozens of virtual servers on the same hardware, that run the organisation's email, fundraising databases, community forums, plus document storage, indexing and search, and so on.

Platforms offer an exceptional opportunity to reduce IT total cost of ownership (TCO) with fewer distributed pieces of hardware to keep tabs on, while monitoring their outlay.

Who's who in the virtualisation market?

../vmware_logo.jpg

A new market always starts definitely and quickly with a clear leader and in this case it has been, and still is, undoubtedly EMC's VMware, reportedly cornering 78% of market share, though with rising competition this figure is rapidly heading towards half of that.

citrix_logo_lk

The next major player, by virtue of starting out as the open source Xen hypervisor - a Cambridge University origination - was bundled and given away free in so many packages and operating systems that its market penetration is unknown. This offering was bought and rebranded by multinational corporation Citrix as XenServer, though Xen hypervisor remains freely available.

The 'newbie' in the game is Microsoft. It wants a slice of the virtualisation market, though has been understandably luke warm in the past for fear of undermining sales of Windows server licences. Having dabbled with a free 32-bit hypervisor, Virtual Server, it launched this year its Hyper-V, essentially as part of Windows Server 2008, though Hyper-V only accepts Windows and SUSE Linux its partner Novell as guest OSes thus far.

Despite emanating from the popular Microsoft stable, the area where Hyper-V will lose out is in its limited OS support, although one industry analyst has estimated the real cost of a managed Hyper-V installation to be almost three times less than a VMware comparable one. However, such comparisons are often inconsequential because the one facet of market leader behaviour which is self-evident is that when competition arrives, prices plummet. Not so good for EMC perhaps, but welcome tidings for potential new recruits to virtualisation products.

As a descriptive term, 'virtualisation' can apply to SANS too, so that virtualising storage no longer means having to rely on a single hard disc or even a single array of RAID drives, but can span a storage pool of networked drives, even in different locations, thus affording real resilience against failure. An advanced NAS-based cluster file system could handle as many as sixteen Windows servers each reading and writing to the same storage pool at the same time, sharing data and imparting benefits in performance and robustness over that of a single server.

Future perfect?

The virtual future isn't all roses. Consolidating servers is fine as a first step but virtualisation of the desktop inevitably places extra pressure on the network. Although an in-house LAN can cope well with the demands of many workstations needing, say a 5Mbps symmetric connection, applying the same scenario to a typical inter-office scheme pushes the limits of current broadband connections or otherwise imposes expensive line tariffs. It's an undeniable side-effect of the remote-working trend; as little as 30% of employees tend to work in just one centre for most of their working week.

MokaFive Player

Among several desktop virtualisation solutions worthy of note are Kidaro and MokaFive. The former, purchased by Microsoft earlier this year, will be released in 2009 as Enterprise Desktop Virtualization. MokaFive's Player accomplishes desktop virtualisation via a USB memory or any other USB storage drive; a highly available, user-specific, savable environment can thus always be accessed by simply plugging in the USB device to the computer on hand, easing group policy enforcement and desktop deployment. The user state and system state are completely separated but both can be backed up to MokaFive's site.

vmware cloud_diagram

DotCom 2.0

Having left modem days far behind, computer users have leapfrogged the 'always-on' culture, where one's reference was to look outwards to the Internet from inside an organisation. Now the modus operandum is to spend most of the time using the Internet as a stepping stone to services, dipping into their own organisation as necessary.

Of course, the nascent possibilities of cloud computing haven't escaped the attention of virtualisation companies and the resulting upsurge of interest could spawn a new dot-com style bandwagon with the label 'cloud-compatible'. Indeed, the tongue-in-cheek mantra circulating delegates at this year's VMworld convention hosted by VMware was that 'cloud computing' is the stock buzzword for Silicon Valley start-ups to secure venture capitalist funding.

The virtual cloud blues

Citrix Cloud Center C3

Hype (and Hyper) aside, there's no doubt that the major virtualisation players have their eye on ISPs, for while VMware on the one hand is selling its message to IT professionals under the banner of 'build your own internal cloud', at least as big a prize is on offer with the Internet cloud. Hence, hard on the heels of its Cloud vServices are Citrix Cloud Center and Microsoft's Azure Services Platform.

WindowsAzure

After all, when ordinary users wake up to discover their desktop environment can be made available to them from any computer through almost any connection on the planet, ISPs will suddenly find a new impetus to deliver services and the face of the Internet as we know it will alter radically once more.



^ Back to contents ^
2. All-day computing
The holy grail of notebook computing was always to create a machine that lets you off the 'charger lead' for more than a couple of hours. Heaven for digital nomads is here at last.

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"Now you can last all day!" Claims made not by dubious online pharmacies, but by the giants of the notebook manufacturing industry no less, as they finally set roaming users free.

The morning after

All-day computing: it's a welcome cry. For decades, it feels, consumers have stalked the safety of power points, wall outlets and solar chargers, fearful of draining their laptops of a miserly 2 or 3 hours of battery life. Sounds more like 'all-day commuting'. Late evenings and sluggish mornings in foreign hotels were often greeted with horrific realisation of having forgotten to put the laptop on charge the night before, as delegates abandoned the first coffee of the day to rush back to their rooms.

Only relatively recently has the norm for roaming strayed beyond 4 hours with the odd manufacturer breaking into double figures, such as the Fujitsu Siemens 13.3-inch screened Lifebook S6410 offering what seemed a record-breaking 10 hours.

But the real breakthroughs have arrived this autumn, first with a rash of new models in Dell's long-running Latitude series attaining 19 hours of computing. Then HP announced true all-day models boasting 24-hour battery durations, it's marketing campaign heralding "Dude, your Dell died 5 hours ago". For the archetypal digital nomad who is expected to drive laptop sales to over one billion in the next five years, all this adds up to quite a lot of Eurostar trips.

hdr-battery-life

HP's EliteBook 6930p sports a 14.1-inch LED screen, in place of an LCD, enhancing battery life by 4 hours and moving towards its goal of removing mercury (a common toxic in LCD screens) from all its laptops.

Although battery life is of course critically important, other new technology options have been introduced, like backlit keyboards, external SATA drive connections, and USB power sharing that allows users to charge their mobile devices via a laptop's USB ports even with the system powered down.

All hooked up

The new laptop breeds feature a lot more functionality besides longer run times. Expect to find new Wi-Fi 802.11n for faster-and-further hot spots, and WiMAX-ready connectivity for really wide area networking, if it ever arrives. Wireless connections don't stop there since several mobile broadband options, WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network), Ultra-wideband and Bluetooth 2.1 are catered for too. Some even have an GPS options.
HP_6930p

Ever ready

Another complaint ranged against laptops (the "it takes forever to start" syndrome) have been addressed with technologies such as instant boot - a dedicated low-voltage sub-processor that provides access to web, email, calendar, and contacts in seconds and can enable multi-day battery life. So too the use of solid-state disk drives (SSD), whose lack of moving parts offer faster start times, and which HP claims also boost battery life by 7% compared to a traditional drive.

It's a steal

Look out too for all kinds of new security options such as smart card and fingerprint readers, hardware-based disc encryption and contactless smart card technology. It's one thing putting all your effort and data into a machine only to leave it somewhere exposed and vulnerable on a table in a hotel lobby or exhibition hall.

Full metal jacket

The new aesthetic may start to look a bit like the old in some of its more classic versions. While bold, almost garish colour designs are sprouting on Dell's arty Mike Ming casings, some of the slicker outlines aim to reflect the functionality inside with an exterior that looks durable too. And with good reason, since some of these laptops feature full-frame magnesium alloy construction, thermally bonded to anodized aluminium and all-metal hinges. Out with the plastic and back to the bare metal.

Dell_E4200

A nice feature is that the EliteBook 6930p's webcam doubles up as a business card reader, whereby tilting the camera at a card wedged near the trackpad starts a scan. The resulting business card data is loaded straight into your address book.

HP model numbers are the EliteBook 6930p with 24-hour computing and the HP Compaq 6530b with a 16.5 hour battery life. At release in the UK, HP's EliteBook 6930p was priced at £876 ex VAT, although at the time of writing its Solid State Drive options were not shown available online.

On the Dell front, the model numbers to look for are E4200, E4300, E6400 and E6500 with the low numbers exhibiting light weights of as little as 1Kg. Dell's Latitude E4200 was priced starting at £899 ex VAT on dell.co.uk at the time of writing.

Side by side - Dell and HP all-day notebooks

Operating System - Windows Vista® Ultimate / Business 32 & 64-Bit / Home Basic / Windows®  XP Professional
Processors - Intel® Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) Processors Chipset - Mobile Intel® GS45 Express Chipsets
Memory - Dual Channel DD3 Memory, 1GB on board, 5GB max
Memory Bandwidth - 800MHz
Primary Storage - Solid State Drive up to 128GB
Modular Options - E-Family modular media bay (optional): 8X DVD-ROM, 24X CDRW/DVD, 8X DVD+/-RW, second Hard Drive or Travel Lite Module, Media base (optional): DVD-RW
Display - 12.1" Premium, UltraSharpTM  WXGA (1280 x 800) LED Display
Graphics - Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
Wired Connectivity - 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet network interface
Wireless LAN - 802.11 a/g/n
Network Security - WPA), WPA2, VPN, 802.1x with EAP modes and compatible with CCX 4.0
Mobile Broadband & GPS - Tri-band HSDPA 7.2/HSUPA 2.0 & GPS Mini-Card
Bluetooth & Ultra-Wideband - Bluetooth®  2.1 (optional)
Multimedia - 2 speakers, digital microphone Ports - IEEE - 1394, docking connector, USB 2.0 PowerShare, VGA, Display Port, RJ-11 (optional), RJ-45, eSATA, USB PowerShare, headphone/speaker out, mic, VGA, RJ-45, eSATA/USB Combo (x1), headphone/speaker out, mic
Slots - Expresscard 34, SD/MMC
User & System Security - Smart Card Reader, Fingerprint Reader OR FIPS Fingerprint Reader (optional) TPM 1.2, ControlVault – secure credential management within a trusted boundary
Weight - from 2.2 lbs/1.0 kg
Dimensions - Width: 11.4"/291mm x Depth: 8.0"/204mm x Height: 0.79"/19.95mm
Power Supply - 45Watt AC adapter with cord wrapping. 65w Auto/Air/AC Travel Adapter
Battery - 4-cell Prismatic Primary battery featuring ExpressCharge. 6-cell extended primary battery
Operating system - Windows Vista® Business / Home Basic / Business with downgrade to Windows® XP Professional custom installed / FreeDOS
Processors - Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processors (2.80 GHz, 6 MB L2 cache, 1066 MHz FSB to 2.26 GHz, 3 MB L2 cache, 1066 MHz FSB)
Chipset - Mobile Intel® GM45 / PM45 Express Chipset ICH9M-Enhanced
Memory - 1GB to 4GB 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM upgradeable to 8GB max
Storage - Hard drive 120 GB 5400 rpm SATA to 160 GB 7200 rpm SATA
Optical Drives - DVD-RW/CD combo, LightScribe DVD+/-RW SuperMulti Double Layer, Blu-Ray Disc DVD+/-RW SuperMulti DL
Display - 14.1-inch diagonal WXGA+ anti-glare
Graphics - Mobile Intel® GMA 4500MHD (integrated)
Network interface - Integrated Intel Gigabit network connection (10/100/1000)
Wireless LAN - 802.11a/b/g draft-n
Mobile Broadband - (powered by Gobi™). Broadband service provider: AT&T or Verizon
Bluetooth - Bluetooth 2.0
Multimedia - stereo speakers, stereo headphone/line out, stereo integrated dual-microphone array, 2MP webcam with Business Card Reader Software
Ports - 3x USB 2.0, 1394a, mic, headphone/line-out, battery, docking connector. Rear: external VGA monitor, AC power
Slots - Express Card/54, media card reader, secure digital
Security management - HP ProtectTools, TPM Embedded Security Chip 1.2 (disabled where restricted by law), Enhanced Pre-Boot Security, HP Spare Key, HP Disk Sanitizer, Enhanced Drive Lock, Drive Encryption for HP ProtectTools, Credential Manager for HP ProtectTools, File Sanitizer for HP ProtectTools
Weight - from 4.7 lb (2.1 kg)
Dimensions - (w x d x h) 13.03" x 9.57" x 1.23" (331.0 x 243.0 x 31.3 mm)
Power supply - External 90-watt Smart AC adapter; HP Fast Charge
Battery - 6-cell (55 WHr) Lithium-Ion; 4-cell (37 WHr) Lithium-Ion

Optimisation for a longer life

Of course these haven't been the only innovations to extend battery run times. Dell introduced daylight sensors into the screen bezel of its Latitude 630 models not so long ago; the sensors detect ambient light levels and auto-adjust the screen brightness to match, thus optimising battery drain as well as viewing comfort. And the power management and hibernation features within Windows can eke out working times by progressively cutting off devices not in use.

Check out a further ten ways to extend laptop battery life.

Prospective power potential

Power management isn't standing still. Stanford University researchers are postulating a tenfold improvement in battery life. Having made a discovery to prevent the performance degradation of conventional rechargeable lithium ion batteries by employing silicon nanowires, the outcome could spawn laptop batteries lasting well over a day on a single charge, though the technology is still several years from commercial use.

Contacts


^ Back to contents ^
3. Windows Small Business Server 2008: a good deal more
008 - licensed to serve.

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The by now traditional Small Business Server follow-up to a Microsoft Windows Server became available for purchase in November, SBS 2008, following on from Windows Server 2008.

cougar

As 'MS tradition' dictates, SBS offerings bundle many components from its parent server at great value for those with smaller budgets, while cutting down some features and altering the licence regime.

With Small Business Server Standard 2008, the bundle comprises:

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard components
  • Exchange Server 2007 Standard mail server
  • Windows SharePoint Services for collaboration
  • Forefront Security for Exchange Server
  • Microsoft Office Live Small Business integration
  • Windows Live OneCare for Server
  • Windows Server Update Services for update management across the network
  • Shared Fax server

Unlike Windows Server, the individual application servers are not merely bundled with the operating system but tightly integrated into it. While this assembly may differ from full-blown Windows Server versions, the SBS benefits to small enterprises are make or break ones.

Essential Business Server 2008

Although we are looking here at just SBS 2008 (formerly code-named Cougar), it's worth noting that another 64-bit only version aimed at medium-sized businesses called Essential Business Server 2008 (formerly code-named Centro) is being marketed as part of a new product 3-member family (Essential Business Solutions, logically enough), a product family that also includes the recently released Windows Home Server.

Back to SBS 2008 though. The big change is that it's available in Standard and Premium editions.

diag-editions-sbs

Counting the CALs

A Client Access Licence is the per seat permit that each user must have to be allowed access to all the application goodies inside Windows servers.

SBS 2003 was a low-server-cost, high-CAL-cost product, the most common complaint being that you could only buy a 5-pack minimum of CALs, even if your staff was an odd number like 3 or 9 or, most expensively, 11.

Customer demand for the inclusion of a Standard edition of SQL Server database engine has ramped up the entry price for SBS 2008 compared to its 2003 version, but the good news is that overall cost of SBS 2008 is lower beginning at around 20 users and reaching maximum cost-efficiency at the SBS 75-user limit. For networks over this number, it is recommended that a full Windows Server 2008 install be considered in place of SBS.

Comparing pick-n-mix purchasing approach, the approximate $2000 price tag of all bits of software in SBS 2008 Standard ($4000 in SBS 2008 Premium) if bought standalone is slashed to about half.

  • Windows SBS 2008 Standard Edition software, including 5 CALs: $1089 (£561)
    Additional CALs: $77 (£49) each
  • Windows SBS 2008 Premium Edition software, including 5 CALs: $1899 (£1217)
    Additional CALs: $189 (£121) each
  • Windows EBS 2008 Standard Edition software, including 5 CALs: $5472 (£3506)
    Additional CALs: $81 (£52) each
  • Windows EBS 2008 Premium Edition software, including 5 CALs: $7163 (£4590)
    Additional CALs: $195 (£125) each

Needless to say, in the current climate these prices will fluctuate.

What's familiar, new and unique in SBS 2008

SBS console

Although the management console is markedly different to SBS 2003, it's tabbed button appearance will be familiar to some, in fact anyone who has dabbled with Windows Home Server (WHS) upon which it is based. Thus users switching between SBS 2008, EBS 2008 and WHS will feel at home right away.

There are no other privilege roles between end-user and administrator, but given who SBS 2008 is aimed at, potential purchasers will value the simplicity over coping with very granular management.

As with SBS 2003, SBS 2008 comes with Windows SharePoint Services - Microsoft's collaboration server - only now WSS is bundled in. Unlike the 2003 serving, we are now up to WSS 3.0 instead of WSS 2.0 which makes all the difference for both the feel and functionality of the default Company Intranet supplied with SBS.

Windows Small Business Server 2008 will only be available for the x86-64 (64-bit) architecture. This is due to the requirements of Exchange Server 2007, whose production version is 64-bit only.

Moving towards newly added and useful features we find:

  • Remote Web Workplace
  • POP3 Connector (for Exchange Server)
  • Shared Fax Service (Fax server)
  • Shared Modem Service (Modem server, not supported in Small Business Server 2003 and later)

Remote Web Workplace

Among the features unique to Small Business Server 2008, the Remote Web Workplace stands out right away as being the in vogue application for its target audience: small to medium-sized organisations with scattered workers or those with peripatetic schedules.

SBS 2008 insider

  • Due to the inclusion of Exchange 2007 (Standard), SBS 2008 will only be available for 64-bit hardware. SBS 2008 provides licensing and media for additional x86 server installations under a virtual environment. The number of installations is dependant on which edition of SBS 2008 has been purchased

  • SBS 2008 will also include Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 3.0 to allow centralised management and deployment of Windows Updates

  • Unlike SBS 2003 Premium, SBS 2008 Premium will not include ISA Server. This is due to incompatibilities between the OS and the ISA software. In the mean time anyone purchasing SBS 2008 Premium will be offered licenses for Windows Server 2003 and ISA 2006 to enable them to set up a dedicated ISA server. This offer will expire once the new version of ISA (part of the Microsoft Forefront Edge Security program) is released at which point customers will be offered the new product instead

  • SBS 2008 CALs are now edition-dependant, so CALs purchased for SBS 2008 Standard will not work for SBS 2008 Premium

  • Both editions of SBS 2008 include 5 Client Access Licence (CAL) suites. Additional CAL suites can be now purchased in increments of 1, 5, 10 or 20

This web-based module allows users to work with email, read or modify shared calendars and remote control a machine just as if they were in front of it, a technique refined in some part by remote control applications such as LogMeIn.com.

Users log into Remote Web Workplace with their usual username and password through a web browser to an address such https://name_of_server/remote or https://ipaddress_of_server/remote. They can then access features (at least those that are enabled) of SBS and EBS such as Outlook Web Access (OWA), SharePoint pages and full remote control of client machines (if up and running) connected to a SBS and EBS networks. The latter requires a once-off installation of a "Remote Desktop ActiveX control" to the web browser, though only Internet Explorer is supported.

Remote users can also select their connection speed to be optimised internal network, broadband, or modem (28 Kbps or 56 Kbps) to suit the remote location they are working from.

Pervasive security controls help reassure SBS-newbies that all these Internet-accessible application servers and their data are secure in today's 24x7 online world. Additional controls monitor the client 'health' of its networked PCs, so that all PCs holes that can be plugged actually are.

SQL 2008 database engine

Unimpressed with supporting critical applications on the old SQL 2005 Workgroup Edition, customers and vendors alike pressed MS to include the more robust SQL Server 2008 Standard for Small Business which is now does in the Premium version of SBS 2008. If you still want to run existing applications that are not certified for use with SQL 2008, a downgrade licence for SQL 2005 Standard will be included.

Customers are now licensed to install SQL 2008 on a second server; the suite actually includes a second installation of Windows Server 2008 to accommodate this installation as well.

Hard(ware) pill to swallow

For many the biggest stumbling block will be the hardware requirements:

  • a 2GHz x64 processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 60GB hard disc storage
Windows Server 2008 vs. SBS 2008 licensing
Windows Server 2008 (Standard) Full installation and a virtual installation on same licence Run a 'live' server and a 'test' server, or 2 'live' servers, as long as one of them is a virtual machine
Windows Server 2008 (Enterprise) Full installation and up to 4 virtual installations on same licence Run a full network of servers all from one physical server
Windows SBS 2008 (Standard) Run a full installation OR a virtual installation, but NOT both Run a 'live' server OR a 'test' server
Windows SBS 2008 (Premium) Full installation and a virtual installation using the same licence Run a 'live' server and a 'test' server, or 2 'live' servers, as long as one of them is a virtual machine

Granted this isn't a very high specification for a brand new server, but anything older than a year will need a memory upgrade. Effectively the 2003 version stopped short where 2008 only just begins: 4GB. And all that's only as long as it has an x64 processor. Failing this, it's a new server hardware purchase. This will likely mean that most people looking to upgrade/migrate/install to an SBS 2008 server are going to need to buy new kit.

'Multi-use' licences

Microsoft have made some changes to licensing models with the introductions of both Windows Server 2008 (Standard) and Windows SBS 2008 (Premium)

In essence the changes are specific to the number of concurrent installations you can have running. These 'multi-use' licences are also available to the SBS market but in a different arrangement (see table).

Judging by the info on offer, it would appear that if you chose to run both of your installations in virtual environment then you are entitled to run a 3rd installation as the host OS for the two virtual installations. However this 3rd install cannot be used for any network activities and must be used purely for supporting and running the virtualisation system.

Contacts

Acknowledgements: Arik Fletcher


^ Back to contents ^
4. 'Managed' routers. Well are they?
2008 could be the year that ISPs sat back in their chairs. And got really comfortable.

Help at hand.
Back issues just a click away


router_lights

Internet domain applications are still flooding into ISPs in while registration costs to the customer have stopped plummeting. Web hosting space is slightly on the downward trend, yet raw disc capacities continue to rocket through the roof while their wholesale prices are virtually in free-fall. Only those ISPs purely in the broadband market are having their margins squeezed.

However one source of revenue remains fairly lucrative as a relative bolster for providers, and that is the managed router service.

What is a managed router?

As the name implies, the hardware is supplied by your provider (normally their choice), but they also take responsibility for ensuring the router functions properly under some sort of agreement. To all intents and purposes, 'managed' in this sense means a kind of insurance in that you pay a regular fee to cover router failures and the provider can access the router remotely to resolve problems.

On hand?

In common with many insurance schemes however, some providers appear to be wriggling out of their commitments at the first opportunity.

Customers find themselves unexpectedly commandeered as a remote pair of eyes and hands

Customers might readily arrive at this conclusion because of the lethargy on display when it comes to tackling managed router problems. Cynics would go as far as to say the customer is doing as much of the managing, if not more.

Watch out for a number of standard ploys that precede the phrase "... and then call us back":

  • "Try turning the router off and on again"
  • "Pull out the broadband cable and plug it in again"
  • “Check your BT cable connection”
  • "Find the reset button on the back of the box and use a pencil to press that"

The fly in the ointment is that the whole of this scenario presupposes the involvement of some local IT support guru, usually at the point when real buttons and switches need pressing or plugs need pulling out. In the absence of a handy geek, the only pair of hands available are often those that made the original purchase – probably yours.

Getting physical

The sticking point, as many customers realise to their chagrin once the Internet connection has died, is that there are a number of scenarios that this kind of service cannot tackle for the simple reason that the provider doesn’t factor call-outs into the cost of their service. It's either remote access or DIY. Or wait for a replacement router in the post.

Bearing in mind that responsibility for management generally stems from the router out as far as the provider's connection, the scenarios that generally cause hiccups are:

Problem 1 - No Internet connection

A variety of physical causes could be to blame, such as old or damaged network or power cables and sockets.

Problem 2 - Intermittent connections

Always the hardest to troubleshoot, even when physically on site - at which point the symptoms miraculously vanish when an engineer turns up. Often the hardware of an individual module in older routers starts to go faulty. There can be at least 5 crucial ones such as DHCP, DNS, broadband modem, etc.

Problem 3 - Services stop passing through the router

Specialised services such as VoIP, Instant Messaging, or VPN fail to route, perhaps because the router firmware is out of date. In theory, a managed router's remote 'manager' should upgrade the firmware to benefit from the router security fixes and features supplied by the manufacturer, but often they don't. See it from their point of view: once again unless they factor the time required into their service and charge appropriately, it’s a task that drops to the bottom of their to-do list.

Part of the managed/non-managed router issue does indeed lie with the poor old customer who, faced with a raft of ISP choices, plumps for the easiest. Given, say, three well-known broadband providers all throwing in a managed router with charges from £30/month to £100/month, the under-informed punter will be hard-pressed to make a fair judgement and will look to their budget to make the decision for them.

Gleaning the worthiness of an ISP's reputation in such a moving market is about as fruitful as trying to eat spaghetti with chopsticks, and those plumping for a managed solution from the cheaper end of the market usually get a managed service to match.

In such circumstances it's often better to own the router outright and have cover provided by your IT company or in-house techie. At least such personnel will be formally charged with the responsibilities of first-line troubleshooting of the sticky problems outlined above, rather than phoning the provider only to be unexpectedly commandeered as a remote pair of eyes and hands. In this non-managed setup, the Internet Service Provider is literally then only responsible for the Internet service (the flow of data packets) down the line, rather than supporting your on-site hardware in a less than embracing fashion, and demarcation lines are clearer.



^ Back to contents ^
5. Communicatus interruptus
Renewals for domains, web space and Internet connectivity can be confusing. Bone up on the background before you get bumped.

Help at hand.
Back issues just a click away


The ISP's view of priorities for Internet service subscriptions seems all upside-down. Or rather the ease of renewal doesn't tally with the importance of the service. Thus it's very ease to lose a basic, but essential Internet connection by forgetting to renew or not automating the process enough, but ditching some web space is much harder.

adsl filter

Light comes on, light goes off

Although billed as a contract, ISPs have marketed Internet subscription-style connections to bring on board large numbers of consumers at marginal rates, on the basis that a cheap customer is better than no customer at all. However this has led to "1 month contract" or "no contract" deals in the effort to lure people in with the promise being able to bail out quickly or switch to another provider.

However, for those consumers or organisations intending to stay with their ISP for a while, it's crucial to ensure continuity of service with a stable payment regime over the possibility of abandoning ship at any given moment.

Thus, many ISPs take regular payments from the credit card assigned to the account, the only hiccup being that when the card is re-issued every few years, the new details will need updating with the ISP. The same applies for standard BT phone lines over which the broadband runs. Still sticking with this method payment? Check your ISP or telecomms provider has correct contact details for your phone, postal address and email.

A better guarantee of Internet continuity is to set up direct debit for ISP/broadband and phone line charges, otherwise the resulting cut-off and reinstating of the line could take over a month.

Defending your turf

Domains too are now often renewed automatically on the basis of the credit card currently in force on the account, but in the absence of an valid card the registrar/ISP is unlikely to do much more than fire off a few alerts by email: the slim margins made on domains plus the fact that registrations must be allowed to lapse and taken up by new owners if necessary won't have them sending the bailiffs.

Hence the new, and somewhat confusing, phenomenon of Nominet's 'last chance' emails warning that you have allowed a UK domain to lapse. Renewal is then still possible via Nominet but the fee could be around eight times what your ISP would have charged!

Old web servers never die ...

... and the bills certainly don't fade away!

Ironically the payment schedule for web space - arguably less critical than your Internet connection - is the other way around. In other words, you have to give notice that you wish to relinquish your bit of shared disc space or dedicated web server hardware and therefore end the contract. Otherwise the web hosting company flags up the invoice just the same and charges the credit card on record with the annual or monthly bill.

In the absence of automated payments or payments on the nail, the hoster will likely cut off access to your web space, after all they have a few hundred hungry web servers to support, and your web site will disappear, irrespective of whether the domain name is active or not. Worse still, if the only copy your web content was actually on the web, you can kiss goodbye to to that too.

What many fail to realise is that the matter doesn't simply fade into obscurity by letting the invoice for web space lapse. A contract agreed with a web hoster often implies 30 days' notice for cancellation, so if you missed this boat it means coughing up for another year, if only to re-open the account for subsequent transfer. Moreover, the hoster will quite often pursue those who quit-and-run through phone and postal address details, even if the account is no longer required. The cancellation notice period is the overriding factor.

Those who the entertain the possibility of just 'walking away', and doubt the powers of hosters and registrars to demand domain and hosting fees for another year just to re-open their account, should examine Nominet's FAQs:
"95% of cases involving a registrar change are made without any problems. However, sometimes your existing registrar may refuse to move your domain name to a new registrar. In this case, we can help you by making the change for you. However, this will not cancel any existing contracts between you and your registrar and you are still liable to pay any fees owed to them."

'Nuff said. It's not just a matter of letting services whither away. Ensure your essential Internet services are kept on board through automated payments, and note down expiry periods for those you may want to dump or switch.

Learn more about domains and hosting.

Paul Craig



^ Back to contents ^
6. Q&A: How can I reduce IT costs?

Question
Mark

QuestionMark

Hi Mark,

In anticipation of a looming funding crisis next year, how can I cut IT costs, aside from laying off staff and selling the computing equipment?

Help at hand.
Back issues just a click away


Fundraisers expectations contradict economic downturn

Blackbaud Europe’s State of the Not-For-Profit Industry Survey reports increased demand for services with flat staffing levels. European countries expressing optimism for their organisations’ financial outlook in 2009 were the Netherlands with an 86% increase in total income, UK 71% and Germany 62%. The full report will be available for download from 1st November 2008 at www.blackbaud.co.uk

An especially pertinent question since the public dramatically overestimates how much charities spend on fundraising and administration by a factor of two or three, according to recent research published by think-tank nfpSynergy.

It's certainly a worrying time, though indications are that it will be quite a few months before the effects of the downturn begin to bite third sector organisations hard - in fact, fundraisers across Europe are expecting their finances to grow. So you have a little time to plan.

Laying off staff can produce fast and large savings but also dumps projects, campaigns and possibly funding too. However, focusing attention on whether employees are working efficiently will bring savings now and stand your organisation in good stead for later on. Starting with the easy tips ...

Convert inkjet printers to lasers - Inkjet printers and all-in-one multi-function are ridiculously cheap to buy but expensive to run with per page costs often above 15p. Lasers used to be the other way round but are now in the sub-£200 bracket with consumables remaining at 8p per page or less, even for colour printing.

Get network-ready printers - Plug-and-go network-ready printers too have dropped in price and spread a single piece of hardware (and its maintenance) across as many staff as you wish, compared to USB printers connected to a dedicated PC.

Minimise paper use - Maximise electronic transactions using email, electronic newsletters, scanning of paper documents and document exchange formats such as PDF. If you can persuade incoming funds and donations to be paid by BACs, then you will save on banking trips too.

Shut down before you leave - Ensure staff switch off PCs at night, and have them set to standby or hibernate during lunch times to save on electricity costs. Preventing overnight running might easily save £25 to £50 a year on each PC.

Cut down wasted staff time - Analyse areas where they: wait for slow PCs or unreliable Internet connections; implement laborious processes such as financial conversions that could be automated with scripts; need training for tasks where their familiarity with the software is only rudimentary. All the wait and struggling can add up to a lot of staff down time in a year when you could be maximising performance instead.

Sit up and take notice - Remedy poor working practices and postures(keyboard and mouse too far away, chair and screen heights inappropriate, screen text barely readable) to combat future back pain, visual problems and stress - and improve their health! Check out the Health and Safety Executive's guides and FAQs on Display Screen Equipment.

New for old - Find out what gear you've got, how old it is and when it will need replacing. To make costs and budgets predictable, run audits or a continuous inventory. Replace older machines with new in-warranty equipment to avoid wasting money on parts for obsolescent equipment. The financial plan will tell you over how many years you have already written of the cost of the original purchase for the purposes of insurance.

Share alike - Use hot desking to share computers and reduce overall numbers.

Find a good IT fit - Choose the best technology fit and price fit depending on your organisation's size and needs. A mix of Google Applications, Microsoft Servers, SANs, and remote hosting may well make up the mix for you.

Consolidate servers - where possible, reduce your server overheads, power consumption and costs through virtualisation (see article 1 in this issue).

Use flexible outsourcing - a plug for Co-Operative Systems of course, but one of the biggest trends in recent times has been the realisation by charities that IT outsourcers can be more versatile and specialised than in-house payroll-based teams, but can continue to work with them too.



^ Back to contents ^
Clicks of the Trade - IE downloads files without asking!
--- Quick tips for happier clicks! ---

Help at hand.
Back issues just a click away


Long, long ago when you first opened Internet Explorer, remember that IE always asked you before opening a file?

Now somebody (maybe you in haste) has unticked the tick box titled "Always ask before opening this type of file" and IE ignores the file download confirmation and just goes ahead every time. file_types_panel More than annoying, this is downright dangerous, since unknown documents (.doc) can carry macro viruses and even jpeg pictures (.jpg) can be disguised as executable worms, sneaking malicious programs on to your PC. Of course, your anti-virus checker should catch them, but it's senseless to expose the computer to this risk.

It's a cinch to disable the automatic opening or saving of downloads - in other words re-enable the Always Ask Before Opening tick box - though you will need to have administrative privileges on the PC before starting.

  • open Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) or My Computer or My Documents
  • pull down Tools menu | Folder Options | File Types tab
  • scroll down and highlight the file type whose downloading you want to prompted for
    Tip: press the "d" key to speed the scrolling down to .doc Word files, "p" key for PowerPoint presentations, etc
  • click the Advanced button
  • In the Edit File Type window, untick the Confirm open after download tick box
  • click OK to exit

Just repeat this for other file types, and thereafter downloads of these types will prompt with Open or Save As options again.

Windows Vista PCs now require this reset to be done via the registry (see Microsoft article 905703) so some care in editing is advisable.

** try it now **

More Clicks of the Trade


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Interpreting Information Technology