Category Archives: 199

WHS – Now ready for Business PrimeTime?

One of the knocks on Windows Home Server (WHS) is that it contains the word ‘Home’ in its name. If that issue has kept you from selling or installing WHS in businesses, then check out the news from HP — they have released WHS with a new name: HP StorageWorks X500 Data Vault

The equipment is almost identical to their HP MediaSmart Server models, except with a faster processor, and SKU’s with larger (1TB and 1.5TB drives) in them.

I install WHS in all my business client offices — even those with SBS servers. Are you?

WHS & SBS: Approved for Backups

For more than a year I have been promoting the use of Windows Home Server as a local backup solution in a Small Business Server (SBS2003/SBS2008) environment (per these two blogs: blog1blog2). I already have WHS installed at most of my SBS customer sites.

It now seems as if Microsoft is now willing to say “Yes” — that using WHS to backup your workstations and servers is a viable and supported scenario!  Read more on Microsoft’s Technet site.

WHS Business Opportunities

If you are a Microsoft Partner, there will be a 5W/50 webinar entitled “Business Opportunities with Windows Home Server – Updated with PowerPack 2 Content” today at noon (EDT) given by Grey Lancaster and Kevin Royalty. If you think WHS is only for homes, then you’re still thinking within the box! WHS is a perfect fit with SBS 2003/2008.

WHS and the Acer Aspire easyStore H340

Talk about a deal too good to refuse! Acer recently came out with their WHS server, that competes straight up with the HP MediaSmart Server. For the rest of this post, I will refer to it as the ‘easyStore’. A week ago I stumbled on a deal through NCIX (USA) that was offering the easyStore for $399, with a 1TB drive and 2GB memory, and for a limited time was throwing in a second 1TB drive. I jumped at the chance. And it arrived by FedEx this afternoon.

Within 30 minutes I had it unboxed, powered up, installed the WHS connector to my Win7 laptop and now running a full backup. A few random thoughts:

  • It comes with a real honest-to-goodness printed manual (in 6 languages)!
  • Astethics of the external box is very nice. Black color, USB port in front, 4 more in the back along with an Ethernet port
  • System started up and was up and running without a hitch or issue. I like that!
  • WHS PowerPack 1 is already installed on it. Be sure to get Power Pack 2 installed on it!

What’s new or different with the easyStore versus HP?

  • The easyStore comes with an IP Configuration tool to adjust the server’s IP settings. Since this works from the rmeote WHS console, you no longer need to access the server via Remote Desktop to make such changes.
  • Acer has implemented a one-touch USB backup. What you may say? Simply put, plug in a USB drive that contains various media files and press the USB button. The easyStore will automatically copy all the files on that USB drive to the Public shared folder on the server, and automatically place each file in it’s appropriate sub folder (Music, Photo, Video)! How cool is that. You no longer have to logon to the WHS console in order to access the USB drive and copy files.
  • The easyStore comes with a 6 month subscription to McAfee’s Total Protection software pre-installed
  • The easyStore also comes with the WHS Lights Out addon that allow you to suspend or wake up the server at specific times, such as when its time to backup workstations.
  • The easyStore also comes with Digital Media Server (DMS) and an iTunes Server.

For a more in-depth review, along with pscreenshots, check out Andrew Edney’s blog post on the Acer easyStore.

Once my first backup is completed, I’ll test adding the second drive to this server and report on my findings!

SBS, WHS and Backup Software

One of my mottos has always been: “You cannot have enough backup!”. So, I am always investigating and testing backup software. When Microsoft first releasd Windows Home Server (WHS), I knew that this was a product I would be testing. Well, tonight, it saved my bacon!

My own SBS 2003 server that has been running for years experienced a serious hard drive failure. Fortunately I do use Raid-5 disk configuration. So I shut down the server, replaced the drive, fired up the server to rebuild the Raid, and then rebooted. But apparently something else was amiss, as Windows would not boot up properly, reporting a failure or corruption with Active Directory. After trying a couple of other options unsuccessfully, I decided to see if WHS would get me back online.

Yes, I use WHS as my backup software of choice for backing up my SBS 2003 server! (P.S. The WHS Team has an informative article here).

So, I pulled out my WHS Restore CD and booted my server off the CD. However, it did not load a driver for my NIC card. No problem, as I knew the drill: go to another workstation, fire up the WHS Console, view the backup directory for the computer in question (my SBS server), and copy the contents of the WHS Drivers for Recovery folder to a USB thumb drive, and rename the folder to DRIVERS. I then took the thumb drive back to the server, where the WHS restore screen has a convenient button to install additional drivers. An hour later my server was back online and operational!

Lessons learned? There are lots of vendors offering backup software solutions for the Windows marketplace. I have used Acronis, ShadowProtect, and others. These are all good products. But WHS is a real winner for me, and for many of my small business customers. I have WHS installed and backing up both SBS 2003 and SBS 2008 servers, plus serveral peer-to-peer networks. It just works! It has even recovered a Windows 7 Beta laptop for me!

Now, someone may say that offsite (or remote online) backups are required, and I would not argue that point at all. Remember: I believe in multiple levels of backup solutions. But for the small business and home environments, WHS is an excellent backup software solution.



WHS Restore CD and Realtek NIC

I’ve been testing out the Windows 7 beta on one of my laptops this week. And following my own best practices, I made sure I installed the WHS connector on it and made several backups during my testing. So, yesterday I tried (unsuccessfully) to join the Win7 laptop to a SBS2008 domain. (Yes, I’m aware of my changes required on SBS 2008 to allow Windows 7 to join the domain via http://connect). But still, it failed.

So, when I got home I wanted to restore my laptop to its state before my attempt to join it to a domain. Talk about wasting valuable time!

First, I couldn’t find my Restore CD. So, I downloaded the WHS Restore CD (PPK1 version) from Microsoft’s web site. But, in trying to burn the ISO image, I encountered two bad CD’s in a row. Fortunately, the third CD worked. Once I got the CD created, I booted my laptop from it only to find that it could not find my WHS server. Think, Kevin … I told myself … it has to be an issue with the NIC driver. Sure enough, a quick Google (errr, Live Search), and I found instructions on how to grab the drivers from the WHS Backup directory, put them onto a USB stick, and then at the appropriate time request the WHS Restore CD to scan for additional drivers.

No good. Still could not see the server. More searches and I discover that other people had encountered the same issue. Common denominator? A Realtek NIC was involved! I went to the Realtek support site, and download the drivers, and put them onto the USB stick. Still no good! More searches all indicated that grabbing the drivers from the Realtek web site should do the trick. So I went back one more time, and for some reason, the files I download this time from the Realtek site were different than the drivers I had downloaded 20 minutes before. (I later discovered that my original search for Realtek drivers had taken me to an outdated web page on their support site).

I dumped the drivers onto the USB stick and voila! — the WHS Restore CD found my server, and six minutes later I had my laptop restored.

Hope this helps!


Experience with the Seagate disk drive fiasco

As most of you know, last week there were widespread reports of Seagate Barracuda SATA 7200.11 drives failing. Initially only the 1TB disk drives were thought to be the issie. But later it was determined that the problem also existed in some of their other 7200.11 drives.

I know, as I got hit with an SBS 2008 server that had four 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 drives!

Seagate has since come out with a free firmware upgrade and utility. The download is in an ISO format as you must create a bootable CD to run it. However, please note that this firmware utility will not run on systems utilizing SATA Raid controllers. Instead you will need to remove the drives from your server and connect them one at a time to a desktop station that is running a standard SATA drive controller.

To determine if your drive is amongst those with the bad firmware, and download the appropriate firmware, click here.

Good luck!

Backup fails after bare-metal restore (SBS 2008)

I had a situation today where I had to reformat & reconfigure the raid drives for an SBS 2008 server. That part went fine, and doing a bare-metal restore of the server from the scheduled SBS 2008 daily USB backup went flawlessly. After we brought the server back online, I attempted to do a new full backup, but the backup failed with the following error: Creation of the shared protection point timed out. Unknown error (0x81000101)

A quick Internet search found KB 956136 (“If calls to VSS management interface API’s are made…”). Now, the title of this KB article may not sound like it is applicable to any problems with performing a backup. But the details of the article includes this statement:

For example, assume that you perform a Bare Metal Restore (BMR) for a Windows Small Business Server (Windows SBS) 2008-based system. Then, you use Windows Server Backup (WSB) to perform a backup operation after the BMR operation. In this situation, the first attempt fails and generates the following error message: Creation of the shared protection point timed out. Unknown error (0x81000101)

Sounds like my situation! And sure enough, running the backup later in the day worked perfectly. Hope this helps someone!

SBS 2008 and Sharepoint Log file

If using SBS 2008, one of the things you want to do is to install and run the SBS 2008 Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) on a regular basis. At my first SBS 2008 installation, BPA recenlty reported that my Sharepoint log file was larger than 1gb in size. Strange, I thought, since this customer had not even started using sharepoint. Beyond that, BPA did not offer any suggestions for resolving this issue.

So, here are the instructions (from the SBS BPA team) on what to do:

Step 1: start up command prompt in administrator mode. You do this by clicking on Start, then right clicking on Command Prompt, then clicking ‘run as Administrator’

Step 2: From the command prompt:
1. Type: sqlcmd –E –S \\.\pipe\MSSQL$MICROSOFT##SSEE\sql\query and press Enter
2. From the 1> prompt, type: select name from sys.databases and press Enter
3. From the 2> prompt, type: go and press Enter
This will display a list of all databases know to SQL server. One of them will look something like this:

Step 3: Now, with the actual name of the Sharepoint database, you will want to enter the following commands, replacing dbname with the actual name of the Sharepoint database. Be sure to leave the brackets [ ], parens ( ), and _log, as noted:

2> Go
1> Use [dbname]
2> Go
1> DBCC SHRINKFILE([dbname_log],2)
2> Go
1> Exit

For example, if your Sharepoint database was named SharePoint_Config_12345, then you would type in:

1> BACKUP LOG [SharePoint_Config_12345] WITH TRUNCATE_ONLY
2> Go
1> Use [SharePoint_Config_12345]
2> Go
1> DBCC SHRINKFILE([SharePoint_Config_12345_log],2)
2> Go
1> Exit

Hope this helps!