Thursday, September 30, 2010

Windows 7 Optimization – User Environment Tuning

In an effort to optimize the Windows 7 environment, we have covered the removal of unnecessary network and system services. These on their own will make a significant difference in the overall performance of the system, but there are still other opportunities for improvement within the user environment itself. As was the case with the previous optimization techniques, there is not a "one size fits all" configuration, so there will be some discussion surrounding the impacts of the various items.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Windows 7 Optimization – Remove Unnecessary System Services Part II

As we discussed yesterday, the systems services area includes a significant number of items that are likely not being used and are just robbing CPU and memory resources from the user community. In today's article, we will cover the 2nd half of these services that can likely be turned off and disabled in your environment with little or no effect on the user community.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Windows 7 Optimization – Remove Unnecessary System Services Part I

Just like the network services portion of the OS, the systems services area includes a significant number of items that are likely not being used and are just robbing CPU and memory resources from the user community. In today's article, we will cover the 1st half of these services that can likely be turned off and disabled in your environment with little or no effect on the user community.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Windows 7 Optimization – Remove Unnecessary Network Services

Roughly 1 year ago Microsoft released Windows 7 to the retail world and it has definitely been received as a significant improvement over its predecessor Vista. Many of the organizations that took a pass on Vista to stay with XP are starting to give Windows 7 a serious look for its use as their workstation OS platform going forward. As a result, we thought that we should take a look at ways to improve overall system performance within the Windows 7 environment.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Diagnosing Queuing Problems – Part II

Over the last 2 days we have been seriously polishing our "magnifying glasses" in effort to improve our mail delivery efficiency. Thursday, we covered the basics of the queue manipulation commands. Yesterday, we covered how to use those commands to address the most common mail queuing issues.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Diagnosing Mail Queuing Problems – Part I

With yesterday's posting covering the basics of the queue viewer commands (Playing Traffic Cop – Commands for Working with the Exchange Mail Queues), we now have a new set of tools to allow us to fulfill our role as the "Sherlock Holmes of NDRs". With that said, most mail flow interruption scenarios that can usually be classified in one the following categories:
  • Cannot connect to destination machine to deliver mail
  • Messages stuck in a delivery queue, but destination is working properly
  • Messages rejected by destination
  • Cannot route one or more recipients of a message
  • Messages stuck in the submission queue
  • Messages show in the poison queue

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Playing Traffic Cop – Commands for Working with the Exchange Mail Queues

So far this week, we have talked about how to react when Exchange has given up on a message and returned an NDR. Starting today and continuing the rest of the week, we will be discussing how to step in and be the traffic cop to help direct traffic around congestion, "road construction", and other obstacles before the dreaded NDR event happens. There are a number of tools available in the Exchange environment to help diagnose the problem and restore normal traffic flow. These tools include the queue viewer, protocol logging, connectivity logging, message tracking, etc. This article is going to focus on how to use the queue viewer commands to diagnose mail flow interruptions.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deciphering TLS Issues within Exchange

What do you do when you suspect that there is an encryption problem preventing mail delivery? Identifying these types of issues is usually pretty easy. You add the domain to your TLS exempted send connector's scope and the mail delivers; remove it and it fails. Unfortunately, getting the details as to why it fails is many times far more difficult than it should be.
Circumstantial evidence is often your friend in these situations. Think about it, if you are able to send messages via TLS to one organization and not to another, the chances are that you are not the organization with the problem.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whose Fault is It Anyway?

Unfortunately, even with the NDR codes to help and detailed SMTP logging turned on, there are a number of situations where it is still not obvious if the problem lies within your mail system or the destination domain's mail servers. That's where it helps to be able to be the mail server itself.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What to do When the Postman Doesn’t Knock

No matter how much we try, there will inevitably be messages that the system gives up on and are unable to be delivered. Luckily Microsoft Exchange, as our postman, does a pretty good job of giving us the clues as to why the message was not delivered.

Friday, September 17, 2010

File System Cleanup

Let's face it both applications and people are terrible at cleaning up after themselves. As a result, cleaning up file systems has to be one of the most common requests I have had to help organizations through in my career and it's not always the servers needing the cleanup. Workstations often need the cleanup far more than the servers do. Organizations often target the network share locations for cleanup because that is where they see direct costs associated with this unnecessary collection of files in the form of additional backup media and premature system replacement costs. Workstations though also have file system cleanup needs as well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cleanup Unused User Profiles

Whether it is a terminal server, a loaner laptop, a training machine, or simply a machine that has outlived its owners, user profiles tend to collect on end-user accessed machines consuming system resources with no payback. It is best to address them and keep them addressed before the space they consume causes problems during an application push or other endeavor.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cleanup Unused User Accounts

If your environment is anything like those that I have been a part of, it is a relatively simple thing for user accounts to continue to exist long after their true usefulness is past. Most organizations are good at cleaning up accounts that actually belong to a person, once the individual has moved on for whatever reason. This is because there are usually checks and balances in place, such as a reminder from your HR staff, to make sure these accounts are properly closed out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bulk User Changes

Whether it is due to organization changes, staff promotion, mobile carrier changes, or some other reason, keeping all of the user detail fields such as Title, Phone number, etc. can be a huge task especially as your organization grows over about 20 people. Luckily, there is an easier way to attack this problem than manually updating all of the user account object manually.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Computer Account Cleanup

With the Labor Day holiday now behind us, the summer vacation season is unofficially over. It is time to buckle down and address the cobwebs that have been collecting in the environment while you have been short-staffed addressing paid time off throughout your organization. With that in mind, I thought I would share some of my favorite scripts this week that help to keep the systems environment tidy.
One task that many organizations struggle with is keeping computer accounts throughout the domain structure in check and current.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Office 2010 – Build Your Installation Package

With the tasks that were discussed earlier in the week already underway, it is finally time to start prepping the actual installation media for your rollout. As was the case with the previous versions of Office, Microsoft has included a tool, the Office Customization Tool (OCT), to allow you to customize the installation properties for your organization's rollout. This tool greatly simplifies the installation process and lessens the chances of human error resulting in a much higher installation success rate for your rollout.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Office 2010 – Preparing Your Environment

With template identification/migration and the training plan well under way, one would think that the next step would be to start worrying about the application package and rollout plan, but with an application as far reaching as Office that would still be jumping the gun. One still needs to make sure that the environment itself is ready for Office 2010.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Office 2010 – Addressing the User Training Problem

With any new product comes the need to train the end-user. When the product you are changing is something as significant as the Office Application Suite, this fact goes from need to NEED.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Office 2010 – Start with Templates

When the assignment comes to start working on your organization's Office 2010 upgrade, don't immediately reach for the installation media. Due to its ubiquity, Office upgrades come with a far bigger opportunity to impact your organization's efficiency than most other products.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Formally Close Out your Projects

In too many organizations, projects never really end; they simply "fizzle out". All too often this leads to confusion in both the user community and the support organization.
  • Is the system in production or is the migration still happening?
  • How are people added to the system?
  • Are there any approvals required for change?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Setup a Self-Help Portal

Ever wonder why people are always so frustrated when they call the Helpdesk? Even in an environment where the Helpdesk continually does everything absolutely right and the problem usually addressed immediately at the 1st level, tensions are typically still rather high on most calls. Even in such an ideal support environment, users still are hesitant to call the Helpdesk. When you ask why there is such hesitation to call, People have courteously created a number of excuses:
  • "I didn't want to bother them with my small problem"
  • "I didn't have time to work on it"
  • "I am too busy"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

1% Improvement Every Day

In an Industry that seems to pride itself on "reinventing" itself every 12-14 months, change is a given in the day-to-day life of the IT professional. Unfortunately change, especially change at that high of a rate, cannot be absorbed by most end-users; and if the end-user community doesn't adjust have we really gotten our money's worth?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Involve the User Community Early, Including Your Detractors

"There's no way that if you get participation out of a person can they say you didn't rock it." ~Jam Master Jay
Many organizations feel that the best time to begin engaging the end-user community is during the pre-rollout testing phase of a project. While this is an important time to be talking with the user community, hopefully you are engaging them far earlier than this. Otherwise, you are at serious risk of adversely affecting their processes/workflows.