Is your phone password protected?

Symantec recently “lost” a bunch of cell phones to see what would happen when they were found. What they found will make you want to password protect your phone right away. Check out the news story here: http://digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/08/10595092-exclusive-the-lost-cell-phone-project-and-the-dark-things-it-says-about-us

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Low Cost Disaster Recovery Options For VMware

For years now Corner Edge Solutions has been using VMware exclusively for all of our new server installs, and even for hardware upgrades by virtualizing the original server install and configuration to a new physical server with VMware.  This goes for even a small, one server setup as well.  We have felt this is a great way to increase reliability as well as improve disaster recovery times.

While having two complete setups of VMware is probably cost prohibitive, with the small footprint of VMware ESXi, you can use a simple workstation or even a laptop as a cold spare DR backup.  As you’ll see below, I have easily installed VMware on my laptop, and with a large enough hard drive, and enough memory, I could run a small to medium office server environment setup on my one laptop, or even a mid-range business desktop.  The cost of these is usually around $1500-2500, and when you consider the cost of a second server may come in at $5000 or more, this is a great low-budget way to have your office back up and working quickly in the event of a major disaster.

To do this simply, just power off the VM’s on a schedule that fits your DR needs and copy the files from the main DataStore and upload them the the DataStore on your backup setup.  You will want to make sure your backup processor is a 64-bit proc with VT enabled if you are running 64-bit VM’s, you have enough storage space for the foreseeable future, and definitely install as much memory as your budget and workstation will allow, and that should be it.

You clearly shouldn’t expect the same performance of this setup as you would get from a true server, but it would get people back online and running again while you work on the main server.

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Here is a quick picture I took of my laptop running VMware ESXi just for fun.  I had installed ESXi on a USB stick, and booted to that when I powered on my laptop.  This install was originally done on a PowerEdge 2950, and without any modifications to the install, it came up just fine on an Dell Latitude E6500.  Simply carry a USB flash drive and a large external storage drive and you can have a backup ESXi server wherever you go.

VMware ESXi Server Keeps Running with Failed RAID Array

We at Corner Edge Solutions LOVE VMware.  It’s not too hard to tell that based on our blog, but this past week we found a new reason to fall in love all over again.  One of our ESXi 4 servers in a cluster had a double drive failure on our RAID 5 array, which would have completely crashed a server had it been a typical setup, but since it is running VMware ESXi with all the VM DataStores on a iSCSI storage device, we had ZERO impact on our environment.  ESXi is the lightweight version of the original ESX server which runs entirely in memory, not requiring disk access once it has been loaded at startup.

Since this machine was part of a cluster, we simply migrated the VMs on the failed server to the other working ESXi server through vSphere vCenter Server.  The working VMware server was able to overcommit the available physical memory by almost 50% with room to spare.  We then took down the server with the bad drives to rebuild.  We also took this opportunity to install the OS onto a USB flash drive, which installed internally to the server, and remove the remaining two working hard drives to run a completely diskless server configuration.  With a small amount of configuring to VMware, the newly rebuilt server was ready to join the cluster again and the VMs were then evenly distributed throughout the cluster, all the while never having to power anything off.  That means never having to send out maintenance notices to customers that their hosted servers will be offline, and keeping out uptime in tact.  The whole process took only about 5 hours as well.  When was the last time a total failure on a system RAID drive, and nothing went down, and everything was upgraded and repaired in 5 hours?

Western Digital ShareSpace Permissions When Writing to the NAS

There are a lot of forums where people are having trouble writing to the WD ShareSpace and getting an Access is Denied error.  I have seen this plenty of times, and no matter if you set the shares to Public access, or set users with permissions, it is the same thing.  While i think the root problem lies with Western Digital’s architecture, there is a way around it that works well.

First, create the share you want to use, or use an existing share you have already setup and are having trouble with.  After that, set the user permissions in the web interface to be Public, or whatever you would like.  So far, this is probably what you have done with no luck writing to the Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.

This is the part that will help you.  Browse to the device in Windows Explorer (\\[NAS Name or IP Address]), and right-click on the share you are trying to use.  Go to the security tab and click advanced.  Go to the Owners tab and make yourself the owner; you will probably see the current owner is “root(Unix User\root)”.  You will want to put a check mark in the “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects” also, so this change trickles down if you have any other folders there.  Click OK until you are back at the Windows Explorer view.

You should now be able to write and delete to the share.  To be sure you are the owner, you can always right click in the column header and add Owner to the current view to confirm you are now the owner.

I hope this helps get your Western Digital ShareSpace NAS online and usable for you.

High CPU Usage in VMware Guest may NOT be CPU Problem

Hi CPU usage in the VMware guest may not be caused from an overloaded CPU.  It may be from a DataStore that is too slow.  Check the performance tab in your VMware client and see if that too is showing high CPU utilization.  If it isn’t, consider the speed of your DataStore.

We recently moved a VM from a RAID 5 with 3 slower SATA drives to a RAID 10 with 6 SAS 15k drives and with no other changes to the VM configuration and the machine performance has increased dramatically.

The problem appears to be caused by a backup writing files to the disk, which backs up the processor causing it to run at near 100% utilization waiting to be able to move on to its next task.  This will probably be most noticeable with database servers like Exchange and SQL.

Take this into consideration also when you are spec’ing out a new VMware server, as upgrading the DataStore disks to faster ones is not a simple job.  Include growth into your design; it’s always better to have an under-utilized server that is fast than one that is over-utilized and slow.

Windows Tweaks – is that little trick really working?

Lifehacker had a great article today showing the good old windows tricks to make your PC faster.  Which ones really work?  This is definitely worth your time if you are into tweaking or tuning your computers performance.

Windows Maintenance Tips: The Good, Bad, and Useless

You might be surprised which ones help performance vs. hurt performance.

pfSense Firewall Settings to Allow Internal Access via Public Name and IP Address

OK, who hasn’t tried to get to a website on your internal network using the public name or sometimes IP address when troubleshooting.  sure enough, “Page not Found” shows it’s head.  But i know it’s there and running, i can get to it using the internal IP or with a modified hosts file.  well, a lot of firewalls by default don’t redirect outgoing traffic back into the network.  Well, if you are using a pfSense (a FreeBSD based OS focused on firewall and routing tasks), this is a very simple fix.

Assuming you already have the port forwarding set and the site is accessible from the internet, there is only one check mark you need to remove to get this working from the inside.  Start by hovering over the “System” in the menu bar, then click “Advanced”.

Home Page of pfSense firewall

Home Page of pfSense firewall

From there, scroll almost all the way down to the “Network Address Translation” section, and uncheck the “Disable NAT Reflection” option.

pfSense System -> Advanced -> Network Address Translation

pfSense System -> Advanced -> Network Address Translation

Now you will be able to type the public name or IP address into your browser and be able to see the page being hosted on your internal LAN.  No more keeping hosts files to keep things easy, which sounds even easier to me.