Protecting SharePoint with DPM

by Shijaz Abdulla on 19.11.2008 at 12:47

The protected computer prerequisites document lists some of the things you need to have in place before you can protect a SharePoint farm with DPM. I soon learnt that the list was not, lets say, exhaustive – and I learnt it the hard way… Disappointed

So here I present some things that I learnt along the way:

  • The SQL instance name on the production SharePoint farm and the recovery SharePoint farm should be EXACTLY the same.
  • The Windows, SharePoint and SQL Server patch levels should be same between recovery and production farms. When I say EXACT, I mean EXACT, right down to the last hotfix you applied.
  • The latest version for the DPM remote agent should be downloaded and applied to recovery and production servers concerned.
  • If you enabled SharePoint Enterprise features in the production farm, make sure it’s enabled on the recovery farm as well
  • Use the same system account that you used on the production farm on the recovery farm as well.
  • On the recovery server, run DComCnfg and navigate to Component Services > Computer > My Computer >DCOM Config. Check the Properties > Identity of WssCmdletsWrapper. It should be configured to run with the same farm admin account that you used on production.
  • On the recovery server, the farm admin account should be a member of the following local groups on the server:
    Administrators
    IIS_WPG
    All groups starting with WSS_
  • Make sure network connectivity is perfect between DPM, recovery farm and production farm servers. Near perfect wont do.
  • Run ConfigureSharepoint.exe on the recovery server and make sure you save the farm admin password there.
  • All features, language packs and templates that exist on the production farm should exist on recovery farm as well.
  • On recovery farm, all Sharepoint services, Application pool on IIS, SQL VSS service, etc should be using the farm admin account.

It took me two long cases with PSS to get mine working. Good luck! Thumbs-up

When DPM 2007 email alerts don’t work…

by Shijaz Abdulla on 19.11.2008 at 12:11

If you’ve configured DPM 2007 to send email notifications for critical alerts, warnings or informational messages, and you do not receive the email alerts, even though the ‘Send Test Email’ works fine, try this:

  • Enter the username simply in the format username. Do NOT use DOMAINusername or username@domain

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If you are entering multiple recipients for sending notifications on the Notifications tab, make sure you separate them with commas (,) and not semicolons (;). If you enter semicolons by mistake you get an error that the FROM address is invalid.

Removing leading/trailing white spaces from displayName using PowerShell

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.11.2008 at 06:09

I am moving thousands of Exchange 2003 mailboxes to Exchange Server 2007 over this weekend. Most of these are student mailboxes which have been provisioned using another third party system. Due to a minor bug, the third party system added a trailing space to every student’s display name.

A trailing space is a whitespace at the end of the displayName string. This may look like a very small issue, but unfortunately Exchange Server 2007 is very fussy about such things:

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The DisplayName property contains leading or trailing whitespace, which must be removed.

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More of that… (ouch!)

Exchange 2007 would not let me move these mailboxes across from Exchange 2003 unless I correct the DisplayName property for all the mailboxes.

I have several thousands of mailboxes having an ‘inconsistent’ display name. Correcting each of these manually would have been a frustrating exercise – so I decided to coin my own PowerShell command to remove leading/trailing spaces from all mailboxes in a given mailbox database. Nerd

get-mailbox -Database ‘SERVERMailStore’ -ResultSize 4850 | Foreach { Set-Mailbox -Identity $_.Identity -DisplayName $_.DisplayName.Trim() }

where SERVER is the Exchange 2003 server hosting the mailboxes you want to modify, MailStore is the Mailbox store on that server containing those mailboxes. I set the ResultSize to 4850 because I have more than 4000 mailboxes and by default the get-mailbox command fetches only 1000.

Why there is no ‘Office 13’

by Shijaz Abdulla on 11.11.2008 at 06:10

Elevator with no 13th floor - Wikimedia The current version of Microsoft Office is Office 2007, also known as ‘Office 12’, based on the version number. That would make it more likely that the next version of Office should be code-named Office 13.

But it is not so. The next version of Office has been code-named ‘Office 14’ instead. Microsoft has skipped version 13, simply because 13 is an ‘unlucky number’!

"…but that’s is an unlucky number so we’re going to skip Office 13 and call the next one Office 14" says Jensen Harris, Group Program Manager for Microsoft’s Office User Experience Team and the man behind the "ribbon" interface of Office 2007, which has attracted mixed feelings from users.

Maybe it’s Triskaidekaphobia! Smile

Some may argue that the world’s largest software company shouldn’t be worried about seemingly ridiculous superstitions. However, if one looks at the bigger picture, there may be customers who believe in these things, and may show reluctance at the very mention of upgrading to something that’s called Office 13!

Some of the new features that users can expect in Office 14 (based on publicly available information):

  • Office in the cloud: The next version of Microsoft Office will include applications (Word, Excel, etc) that can be worked off a web browser/over the Internet, instead of having the need to install thick apps on PC’s. (Software plus services initiative)
  • Ribbon interface may be extended to all Office applications. (Currently Outlook main interface, Publisher 2007, etc do not make use of the ribbon interface)

Exchange 2003: Support ending April 2009

by Shijaz Abdulla on 10.11.2008 at 09:35

Mainstream support for Exchange Server 2003 will end on April 14, 2009. This means that you cannot contact PSS for supporting problems on Exchange Server 2003 after this date, unless you sign up for ‘extended’ support at an additional cost.

Maybe this is a good time for organizations to seriously start thinking about upgrading to Exchange Server 2007 and make use of the new, advanced features.

For those who have made it to Exchange Server 2007 SP0, here is a shocker: Mainstream support for Exchange Server 2007 SP0 (i.e. Exchange Server 2007 with NO service pack installed) will end on January 13, 2009. Yes, that’s about two months from now.

For those who are still wary of installing SP1 on Exchange Server 2007, it’s time to take a call on the chicken-and-egg upgrade dilemma between Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2007 SP1.

Some more information:

  • Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 will go out of mainstream support on July 2010.
  • Windows XP will go out of mainstream support on April 14, 2009.

IT Evolution 08 @Abu Dhabi

by Shijaz Abdulla on 04.11.2008 at 15:40

The IT Evolution 08 event was held today at the Corniche Sheraton, Abu Dhabi. There were several informative sessions on Microsoft Virtualization technologies in the IT Pro track such as Hyper-V and Application Virtualization with SoftGrid/MDOP. The developer track included presentations on SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio .NET 2008 and Silverlight.

Partner presence included HP, Dell and Citrix. Yusuf Bismilla, Anton Delsink, Shahid Gaglani, and Amr El Garhy of Microsoft presented various topics.

Attendees were also given a chance to have their picture taken with the gaming character Master Chief from the Halo 3 game from Microsoft Game Studios.

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Me with Master Chief of Halo 3 (left)

0xC004F038: The returned count from your Key Management Service is insufficient

by Shijaz Abdulla on 02.11.2008 at 10:19

We have a KMS Server that has been activating Vista clients for several months. A few days ago our desktop team came across the following Windows Activation error on one of the Vista Enterprise machines:

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Error 0xC004F038 The computer could not be activated. The returned count from your Key Management Service is insufficient.

The KB Article 942961, which describes this error message, did not apply to us, because our KMS count is more than 25 and the article suggests that this problem only happens when the count is lesser than 25.

We resolved the issue by re-arming the Windows Activation on the client machine and then trying to do an automatic activation after a restart. Here’s how we did it:

  • On the offending Vista Enterprise client, type:
    slmgr.vbs -rearm
  • After a restart, type the following command on the same machine:
    slmgr.vbs -ato

The -rearm switch "re-arms" or "resets" the Windows Activation on the client machine. This can be done a maximum of three times per Windows Vista installation. The re-arming also extends the grace period, so it is particularly useful if you are looking for a temporary fix to buy some time while you sort out KMS issues.

Software + Services: MS Office apps on web browsers. What next?

by Shijaz Abdulla on 29.10.2008 at 08:35

Microsoft has announced that the next version of Microsoft Office will include applications that can be worked off a web browser. Microsoft is said to have confirmed that these applications will work on non-Microsoft web browsers like Safari and Firefox.

This initiative is consistent with Microsoft’s "Software + Services" vision. Software plus Services is Microsoft’s take on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market.

From Wikipedia:

Software as a service (SaaS, typically pronounced ‘sass’) is a model of software deployment where an application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer’s burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support.

With Microsoft services like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and CRM 4.0, organizations big and small now have more choices in how they access and manage enterprise-class software – from entirely Web-based, to entirely on-premise solutions, and anywhere in between.

Having a variety of solutions to choose from gives customers the mobility and flexibility they need to meet constantly evolving business needs. To meet this demand, Microsoft is heading towards a hybrid strategy of "Software plus Services", the goal of which is to empower customers and partners with richer applications, more choices, and greater opportunity through a combination of on-premise software, partner-hosted software, and Microsoft-hosted software.

The web-based Office applications will be light-weight versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. These apps can be accessed anywhere using a web browser from a PC or via a downloadable application on a mobile phone.

Unlocking files that are in use

by Shijaz Abdulla on 22.10.2008 at 21:20

Sometimes you cannot delete or rename a file that is currently in use. You might receive an access violation error, or simply a message telling you that your action could not be completed because the file is open in another program.

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You may have already come across the Unlocker freeware tool that lets you "unlock" files that are in use by some application.

Here is another way (let’s call it the ‘techie’ way) to unlock files that are in use. It makes use of the Process Explorer tool from Windows SysInternals.

  • Download the Process Explorer tool. Execute procexp.exe
  • Choose Find > Find Handle or DLL option

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  • Type the name of the file you want to unlock and hit Search.

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  • The process EXE locking the file and the path to the file are listed. Double click on the result.

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  • The file handle will be highlighted. Right-click on it and choose Close Handle.

Your file is now unlocked and can now be deleted, moved or renamed.

A little disclaimer here, closing handles might cause data inconsistency, loss and/or other undesirable effects. Make sure you understand what you’re doing before you do it.

Are we there yet?

by Shijaz Abdulla on 22.10.2008 at 10:37

Organizations today are constantly looking for ways and means to gain a competitive edge while at the same time increase revenue, attract and retain customers, meet governance requirements and face other challenges of an increasingly connected global economy.

The Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization model helps organizations to align business with IT, reduce operating costs and security risks, reduce complexity, comply with standards, empower the people workforce, and enable IT to respond spontaneously to dynamic and ever-changing business requirements.

The Infrastructure Optimization Model (IOM) helps customers assess where they are today in terms of core, business productivity and application infrastructure and projects and understanding of what a dynamic and agile IT shop looks like, and how to get there – or at least – move closer to that state of nirvana.

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IOM: The journey from a basic to a dynamic system

So, are we there yet? Find out – by making use of the online Infrastructure Optimization Assessments. These will help you profile and assess your customers if you are a partner. Or, if you are a Microsoft customer, you might want to do a little self-assessment using this great tool. The tools consists of a set of profiling questions for Core Infrastructure, Business Productivity Infrastructure and Applications. Based on your input detailed assessment reports are generated.

The IOM is based on proven methodologies and more information can be found at http://www.microsoftio.com/.

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