Remote from a Mac

I like this method of connection, as it gives me instant access to all the resources and applications on the Windows system, and I know they’ll all work as there are no compatibility issues. This is a great way to be able to do quick logins to systems for troubleshooting purposes: it’s fast to set up and easy to use, which is just the way I like it when I’ve got a lot of systems located in different places and need a fast connection to one of them.DM

Remote from a Mac

Wince Maker

The phone call had been a little unclear – something to do with a server not working, and they wanted me to come and look. The address wasn’t many miles away, I’d already finished my morning coffee and it didn’t sound too calamitous from the description, so I jumped in the car and drove over. What I found was a small manufacturing business, where the boss ran the entire operation – he was CEO, financial director, salesman and everything else as well. He was assisted by a secretary, and there were men in brown overalls in the manufacturing and warehouse area. A typical small business, the backbone of the UK’s dwindling manufacturing base. It was clear that the server wasn’t responding to repeated proddings from the secretary: she stabbed at her copy of Word running on her Desktop and kept muttering ‘File open, File open’ under her breath, as if this incantation would somehow breathe life into the server. A quick examination established that something was dead: could be the power supply, could be the motherboard. The hard disk wasn’t spinning, which pointed to a PSU issue, at least at first sight.

Unfortunately, it transpired that this computer ran their entire business. A few tentative enquiries about backup pointed me towards a neat row of aged DAT tapes on the shelf, which were much older than the fresh server itself, and it turned out that the previous server had died about one month previously. Apparently, a friend of the owner was press-ganged into moving the DAT drive from the old server into the new, and he’d managed to link up the old hard disk into the new machine as a slave drive to transfer over the information into a fresh installation of Small Business Server 2003. What then came to light will be of no surprise to those of you who’ve ever worked in this space – no-one had ever performed a disaster recovery from those DAT tapes. They had no idea what to do, how to go about it or even if the tapes would work. The tension in the room noticeably increased when I betrayed a quite involuntary wince at this discovery.

A few days later, I was having dinner with some senior Microsoft managers from the storage and Windows Server team. Recounting the gory details of my piece-it-together disaster recovery from several tapes, each of them faulty and incomplete, lent an extra chill to the Chablis. At the end of my rant, I concluded that Microsoft’s SBS team had no idea what the ‘duty of care’ involved. With the recent mental scars from this episode still fresh, perhaps I was a little more passionate than usual, a little over the top even, but I was angry. The Microsoft managers looked quizzically at me and asked politely how this was Microsoft’s fault, and how had it failed in its duty of care?

I led them through a typical SBS installation. Forget that small percentage of installs done by highly qualified SBS gurus – those people are expensive and few companies have the resources or vision to pay someone to do the job properly. After all, it can’t be too difficult: just pop the CD into the drive and follow the instructions. For this group of users, which I contended was actually a majority of the SBS installations performed in the real world today, Microsoft had failed them badly. I told them that a standard SBS installation, after running to completion in the normal way, should result in a system that’s locked down into single-user Administrative mode. It should be impossible to enable any user accounts, and you shouldn’t be able to unlock the server into ‘production mode’, and thus allow your end users to log into it, until two further things had happened.

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