Best Practice Ezine #91 – Five More Litmus Tests

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Best Practice Ezine #91 – Five More Litmus Tests

What I want to do most of all this week is convey my Litmus Test concept.  While each test is worthwhile for itself, my greatest joy would be for you to carry forward the Litmus Test idea into everyday life and create your own tests.

How three separate ideas gelled into – Guy’s Litmus Tests

The best ideas arise when two or three disparate factors gel.  My brainwave for the Litmus challenge came to me when a delegate said:- ‘Guy, I have just joined a company; how do I know if their network and servers are running properly?’  So I went away and wrote out a check list, which would help him discover whether his network was run by amateurs or professionals.

Flash back to school

As I was wondering what title to give the check list, my mind flashed back to my schoolboy days.  Suddenly I remembered my chemistry teacher ‘Sniffy’Pugh showing us Litmus tests.  Perhaps you remember the test?  What happens is you dip Litmus paper into a liquid, if the paper turns red it means acid, whereas if it turns bluethe liquid is alkaline.  It struck me that Litmus test was the ideal name for a quick test wherethere are only two possible results, one good the other bad. 

Once I coined the phrase Guy’s Litmus Tests, I could not help finding other applications both in computing and every-day life.  Here is a selection of five tests which will feature in next week’s free ebook.

Five Litmus Tests to apply to your Windows Servers

  1. What is FSMO?
  2. DHCP – Options
  3. Remote Server Administration
  4. Disk Quotas
  5. UPS

1) What is FSMO?

Amateurs believe you when you tell them that FSMO is a new brand of Alcopops.

Professionals not only know what the acronym means, Flexible Single Master Operations, but also, they are capable of finding the settings and can even switch the Master roles if necessary.

My hidden agenda with FSMO is to get a reaction when you throw this acronym into conversation.  If the supposed guru’s face clouds over when you mention FSMO, you know you are dealing with a chancer.  However, when they tell you how they once snatched the FSMO role from a crashed server, using NTDSUTIL, you realize that they are indeed a guru.

2) DHCP – Options

Amateurs don’t configure any DHCP Options – The reason is they are not using DHCP, instead they allocate the IP address of every workstation manually – phew!

In addition to creating the actual IP Scope, professionals set at least two options – Default Gateway (003) and DNS Server (006).  Mad Mick also configures (015 Domain) and even sets the exotic WPAD (252) (Web Proxy Auto Detect).

Since everyone knows something about assigning IP addresses, but only a few know all the settings and nuances, DHCP is a fruitful ground for litmus tests.  Other questions you could ask are do you set conflict detection.  Also have you checked the DHCP logs under System32\dhcp?  You may be surprised if you go there and have a peek.

3) Remote Server Administration

Amateurs always make that long walk to the server, which is housed in that smelly, noisy room, way down in the company dungeon.  Professionals know how to save travelling time and remotely administrate servers with Remote Desktop or the AdminPak.  Mad Mick once convinced a company that he needed to fly over to Spain to fix a server.  You and I know that he should have at least tried some form of Remote Admin before he jetted off for an expenses paid holiday in the sun.

Professionals understand what Remote Server Administrator offers, how to set it up, and when it constitutes too much of a security risk and therefore, decide to disable this feature.

Guy Recommends: Tools4ever’s UMRAUMRA The User Management Resource Administrator

Tired of writing scripts? The User Management Resource Administrator solution by Tools4ever offers an alternative to time-consuming manual processes.

It features 100% auto provisioning, Helpdesk Delegation, Connectors to more than 130 systems/applications, Workflow Management, Self Service and many other benefits. Click on the link for more information onUMRA.

4) Disk Quotas

Disk Quotas constitute an interesting Litmus Test.  In the old days administrators would moan that there was no way of controlling how much disk space users consume.  Now that Microsoft provide Disk Quotas for each volume, those same administrators don’t use them. As for moaning they have a fresh complaint every day – very tiring to work with such people.

What seems to happen is that IT professionals just cave in to user’s demands and buy more disks.  My hidden agenda for enforcing Disk Quotas is that it puts Tech Support in control.  Even if you are not serious about the limits, you still make the users beg and crawl for extra allocations, all the while sending the message that you are in charge of the network.

5) UPS

Servicing the UPS is a task that cheapskate amateurs are always putting off.  Professionals get into the habits of servicing the Uninterruptible Power Supply and other such electrical necessities annually.  One company that I nearly worked for saved money by not servicing the UPS, after 10 years it started leaking acid.  The fire brigade reckoned that it was  concentrated Sulphuric Acid on shredded paper that started the fire, which burnt down not only the server room, but also half of the company offices.  When did you last look at your UPS?  Could it be leaking….

Guy’s near death experience

Have you ever had a near death experience?  I haven’t but last week my Ezine had a close shave when Mr Nobody deleted my ezine subscribers’ database.  In the millisecond after I believed that all of my readers email address had been deleted, my brain raced through a kaleidoscope of thoughts, I remember musing, ‘I could live with not writing an Ezine every week, but I could not cope with not being able to say goodbye to all those who had supported my ezine and website’.

Fortunately, thanks to Third Sphere Host’s backup, my database, like a modern day Lazarus, rose from the dead and this is the proof that the Ezine will live on.  The only bad news is that the backup was 10 days old; consequently any changes you made after May 20th were lost, therefore if your changes were affected, please amend your email address or format preference one more time.  If they weren’t affected do you need to change your email address? 

Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT) IP Tracker

Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets.  IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:

For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges. 

For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker

Reader’s Letters

A timely homily on testing your backup

The research lab (at a University which shall remain nameless) where I used to work lost 2 TERABYTES of data when the main server crashed ALONG with the ‘failsafe’ tape backup system. As it turned out, nobody had ever tested a restore. Had they done this, they would have realized that the backups weren’t even saving our lab’s directories. The ‘IT’ department had no excuse or explanation — but for political reasons managed to keep their jobs. It took approximately 1 year and countless man-hours to restore about 50% of the data. The remainder of the data was deemed lost forever.

Kindly sent in by DS.

See more interesting Litmus Tests

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