In his article “Fixing Network Problems” (January 2009, InstantDoc ID 100660), Michael Dragone talks about error-disabled ports—that is, the errdisable state on Cisco switches. He suggests that people use the Show Port port number command to identify ports that are in an error-disabled state. Although that method works, a better solution is to use the Show Status Err-Disabled command to show any and all error-disabled ports on the switch. As far as VoIP and VLANs are concerned, Michael doesn’t mention the need for or use of Quality of Service (QoS). Suggesting the use of firewalls and SOHO routers is also something that will only frustrate users trying to go down that path.
—Steve Van Domelen
Thanks for writing in with your comments. The Show Status Err-Disabled command is a good suggestion that I would have covered if I'd had more space. I briefly mention QoS when I introduce routing between VLANs. As I mention in the article, a SOHO router will get you up and running. Although I'd hope no one would declare their VoIP deployment finished after buying a $20 NETGEAR router with a free copy of an antivirus scanner, it's an alternative in a pinch (or an emergency). Many firewalls—such as Cisco's ASA line and SonicWALL's NSA Series—include at least some degree of QoS support and are clearly a better solution than a SOHO router, given the choice.
Cloud Computing Questions Remain
I read Jeff James's IT Pro Perspective, “Cloud Computing” (January 2009, InstantDoc ID 100943). As an IT consultant, I have a vested interest in cloud computing. My clients hire me to provide the most efficient, cost-effective technology available. My view is simplistic. When evaluating Software as a Service (SaaS), I put everything in the context of the five-pronged ISO network management model: fault management, configuration management, accounting management, performance management, and security management.
During evaluation, almost everything (technically speaking) can be put in the context of the ISO model. For example, if I put an app in the cloud, how well will it integrate with another app that I can't put in the cloud? How secure is the cloud? How can I know that my mission-critical data is secure? What is my exit strategy if my SaaS vendor exits the industry or if I decide that the vendor isn't providing the service I expect? What do I do if the performance isn't acceptable? What do I do in the event of a problem?
As you can see, many questions not only need to be answered (and not by marketing) but also need to be proven for SaaS to be a viable alternative to software that's in-house, secure, and available almost 100 percent of the time—not to mention in a place where I can access at gigabit network speeds.
SBS 2008 and EBS 2008
As someone who continues to deploy Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 with relative regularity, I read Karen Forster’s “SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 Revealed” (November 2008, InstantDoc ID 100259) with great interest. But the article me nervous about my impending first experiences with either of these products. One of the first things I do after installing a fresh version of SBS 2003 is undo and work around most of what I call SBS wizardry. Over the years, I’ve become quite adept at disabling all the features and built-in configurations that Microsoft deemed best practices when it released SBS 2003. Often, though, I miss a setting that results in an emergency call from a client.
My latest confounding problem involved the puzzling decision to limit all users’ default mailbox sizes to a draconian 500MB (in SP2). To make matters worse, the default setting is to disallow sending and receiving if a user reaches his or her limit. The result in my case was a frustrated customer with an email import that was stuck at 45 percent and a mailbox that wouldn’t accept new messages.
I understand Microsoft’s objective to make deployment as easy as possible for novice users. But I wish the company would take experienced Windows administrators into consideration. I would suggest two deployment modes: express and advanced. The advanced mode, in contrast with the user-friendly express mode, would cover every SBS/EBS setting that Microsoft thinks is necessary to configure for the novice and give the administrator the option to immediately change it. I generally don’t use folder redirection and synchronization for my clients. Instead of being forced to remember to remove that GPO before joining the first workstation to the domain, why not prompt me to determine whether I want to use it at all?
Microsoft’s SMB offerings let me provide affordable, reliable solutions for my clients. I just hope I don’t end up wasting too much time trying to undo all their settings.