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Apr 14 / blogadmin

IT Stumpers: 3Ware 9650SE + Seagate Hard Drives = ?

With over 23 years of experience in IT Consulting for the New York City area, we rarely get stumped. Though no two situations are ever alike, chances are we’ve already been through a similar situation and have a good idea on how to solve a problem.

But every now and again there comes along a problem that really has a unique answer to it. Here at Tech Alliance we call these problems “IT Stumpers”.

Below is an IT Stumper our IT Guru Michael Hernandez came across. It’s concerning a hard drive system that was not properly configured to be used to its full potential.

This one even had the tech vendor stumped! Enjoy.

I recently worked with a client who had 16 Seagate brand hard drives and 2 3Ware 9650SE RAID cards.  It seems that the configuration that was done initially did not make use of the RAID cards, and the client decided that since he owned the cards that he might as well use them, especially since they were already installed.  I expected this to be easy – I’ve done RAID array setup a million times before, the hardest part is usually deciding how to use the disk space after it’s ready.  As you may have guessed by now, it was far from easy!

It started simply enough, I rebooted the machine and entered the RAID card BIOS setup, set up a RAID 5 array on the first card and let it initialize. No issues whatsoever, as I expected. Things got interesting with the second card, however. I selected the 8 drives that were connected and opted for RAID 5. The card started to initialize the array, but failed and told me there was no response from the firmware. Odd. The drives were known-working, they were just in use moments ago (albeit not as part of a RAID array.) Since the other card was working, I thought the card might be failing and so I called the server vendor (I’m not naming the server vendor here because we’re not in the business of slander…) – the support staff at this particular vendor was not great. The tech seemed to just agree with whatever I said (ever been “yessed to death”?) and in the end, shipped us a new RAID card.

A week later, I installed the new RAID card and the same problem happened.  Now I was beginning to get angry. I called support again, and this time the tech seemed to be even less informed! We agreed that I should try upgrading the RAID card firmware, but the tech couldn’t tell me how to go about doing it. While he had me on hold, I searched on my smart phone and found the answer.  Very frustrated already, but happy to have found what I hoped would be the solution, I hung up on the tech and proceeded to update the 3Ware card firmware (this actually took a while because 3Ware requires DOS to update the firmware, and this was a Linux server.) Eventually, I got the firmware upgraded, and the problem persisted!

At this point I was perplexed. I searched again, this time adding Seagate to my search terms. Voila! The first result was a post from 3Ware saying there was a problem with the 9650SE cards and certain versions of the Seagate HD firmware! I downloaded the (linux based!) seagate HD firmware upgrade software, and after a few clicks, all the drives had new firmware. After a reboot, everything worked fine!

That was the only time I’ve ever had to upgrade the firmware on a hard drive. Thanks to Seagate for a great, easy to use, linux based firmware upgrade utility!

Mar 29 / leelemus

T.A. Q&A 003 – Help With Slow Network From Remote Location to Server

Being one of New York City’s top IT Consulting firms, we have many of our clients (and non-clients) asking us for help with problems that require research, experience and, at times, plain luck.

Today we continue with T.A. Q&A 003

In our third installment, we help out a client who has a question about a slow connection between a remote location and server.

If you find this post and/or find it helpful, we would love to hear from you. Comment the post or contact us! Enjoy.

Network Connection Speed Question

Client

Why is Our Network Connection From Our Remote Location to Our Server so Slow?

We have our primary location server and our secondary location which is off site. We have two T1 line running through from the network connection to our server where we keep our database. However, when the offsite location attempts to run our ERP system, there is a VERY long delay before the information is displayed. I haven’t got a clue as to why this delay is occurring. I’m hoping you can offer some suggestions and that I can start to test some possibilities.

Our ERP system is installed locally on each client but points to our server at the HOME location. This server is called TF01. On the off-site location they’re running through a local server called SF01. I’m wondering if there is a port that is closed or if something is filtering and looping prior to releasing the connection to the server. I know I’m vague, inexperienced, and am sincerely hoping you can point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance!

Tech Alliance

In order to find out if there is something slowing down your connection between locations and how much it is slowing it down by, you would need to measure your maximum TCP and UDP bandwidth performance. Our recommended measuring tool for this is Iperf.

Iperf was developed by NLANR/DAST (National Laboratory for Applied Network Research/Distributed Applications Support Team) as a modern alternative for measuring maximum TCP and UDP bandwidth performance. Iperf allows the tuning of various parameters and UDP characteristics. Iperf reports bandwidth, delay jitter and datagram loss.

Once you use this tool, you should be able to diagnose the problem between both your connections and be able fix it.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/iperf/

There is a windows version as well if you need it.

If you’re having similar problems as the user above and need help, do not hesitate to contact us here at Tech Alliance. We specialize in troubleshooting network connections problems and optimizing such connections.

Give us a call at (212) 727-2100 or contact us today!

Feb 16 / leelemus

T.A. Q&A 002 – LogMeIn’s Wake-On-LAN Protocol

Being one of New York City’s top IT Consulting firms, we have many of our clients (and non-clients) asking us for help with problems that require research, experience and, at times, plain luck.

Today we continue with our new blog category: T.A. Q&A.

In our second installment, we help out a user who has a question about LogMeIn’s Wake-On-LAN protocol.

If you find this post and/or find it helpful, we would love to hear from you. Comment the post or contact us! Enjoy.

LogMeIn’s Wake-on-LAN protocol Question

Client

I’m used to using LogMeIn to access customers’ machines. The Wake-On-LAN feature has proved useful in the past. We have a tech-savvy customer who wants to block any use of this feature to their employees as (understandable) not all employees are trusted. Can anyone guide me on how the LogMeIn’s Wake-On-LAN feature functions through routers?

Tech Alliance

Logmein doesn’t function through routers it wakes machine to machine on the LAN. Every machine that has Logmein installed phones home every few seconds, which is how it communicates with the Logmein central server. It is also possible for any user to open Logmein on their workstation and simply change the Logmein account associated, locking you out and giving themselves control. You have to have a minimum of 2 Logmein machines running on the LAN in order for the Wake On Lan function to be enabled.

For a better more secure method check out www.poweronmypc.com for an Internet wake on lan solution that has administration features to allow access to so selected users.

Feb 7 / leelemus

T.A. Q&A 001 – Cisco VPN Client for Windows 64 bit OS

Being one of New York City’s top IT Consulting firms, we have many of our clients (and non-clients) asking us for help with problems that require research, experience and, at times, plain luck.

This being the case, we have decided to add a new category to our blog: T.A. Q&A.

The premise is simple. We post the questions and answers to problems or questions our clients have had that we feel might be helpful to others.

If you find this post and/or find it helpful, we would love to hear from you. Comment the post or contact us! Enjoy.

Cisco VPN Client For Windows 64 bit Operating Systems Question

Client:

I have a Cisco PIX / ASA firewall with VPN access. VPN works great with XP client and Vista machines using microsoft’s VPN access connection, have a Vista Home 64bit client machine and the Microsoft VPN client will not connect. (I read something about ms-chap v1 isn’t in vista which the PIX uses) Does anyone have a solution? I found some information about a Cisco 64 bit VPN client for Vista/7 but I cannot find a place to download it on the net. Not even sure it will work with the PIX. I do not have an active login to Cisco CCO to download software.

Tech Alliance

Try downloading the Cisco VPN client for 64 bit Windows, Microsoft VPN will work but the ASA/PIX has to be correctly configured to allow it.

http://www.4shared.com/file/xY9Dr2PG/vpnclient-winx64-msi-50070290-.htm

Client

Thank you for the download, that worked perfectly. One last thing, I cannot find what needs to be set/added on the Cisco ASA / PIX 515e for the Microsoft VPN to work with a Vista 64bit client.

Tech Alliance

Enable L2TP for Microsoft VPN adapters in the configuration of the ASA VPN

Feb 2 / leelemus

Vulnerability in IE Could Allow Access to Passwords

A recently discovered security vulnerability found in Internet Explorer could allow criminals to collect passwords and banking information of user of Windows versions XP, Vista and 7. Microsoft is warning Windows users to be aware of the problem, with a manual work-around available, but there is no downloadable software fix available yet.

Microsoft Internet Explorer Security Flaw

Microsoft says it “has not seen any indications of active exploitation of the vulnerability.” but there have been security experts that have indicated that there is “proof of concept code” and that it’s a matter of time before this flaw is being exploited. More details, along with the suggested workaround (check under the FAQ section), as part of the security advisory.

Microsoft is continuing to investigate the Internet Explorer flaw, which it says could allow an attacker to create script that could “spoof content, disclose information, or take any action … on the affected Web site on behalf of the targeted user.” Microsoft notes that in a “Web-based attack scenario, an attacker could convince a user to click a specially crafted link that would inject a malicious script in the response of the Web request.”

If you’re unsure of what to do and don’t want to fool with the Fix it tool, you can switch to another browser or contact Tech Alliance for help in this situation.

Jan 20 / leelemus

Yahoo IPv6 upgrade could shut out 1 million Internet users

Network World – Yahoo is forging ahead with a move to IPv6 on its main Web site by year-end despite worries that up to 1 million Internet users may be unable to access it initially.

Yahoo’s massive engineering effort to support IPv6 — the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol — could at first shut out potential www.yahoo.com users due to what the company and others call “IPv6 brokenness.”

Yahoo has been one of the most vocal Internet companies to express concern about industry estimates that 0.05% of Internet users will be unable to access Web sites that support both IPv6 and the current standard, IPv4.

IPv6 experts say some Internet users will experience slowdowns or have trouble connecting to IPv6-enabled Web sites because they have misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment, primarily in their home networks. Corporate users also could experience IPv6 brokenness because of faulty firewall settings.

The Internet Society’s estimate that 0.05% of users will be unable to reach IPv6-enabled content may seem miniscule, but it actually represents around 1 million Internet users based on estimates that 2 billion people access the Internet.

Read Article

Jan 4 / leelemus

Microsoft Word’s RTF Bug Targeted by Malware

After finding malware designed to take advantage of a Microsoft Office’s flaw in how RTF (Rich Text Format) documents are handled, Microsoft is reminding user to update Office.

According to Microsoft’s Malware Division, malware has been found online that is exploiting a bug in Microsoft Word to download additional malware onto Windows PCs.

The flaw was actually patched this past November, but after detecting the first pieces of malware in the wild that exploited the flaw, the security team is reminding users about the update to fix the RTF vulnerability. It had also updated the bulletin several times since November to include updates for more applications, according to the FAQ.

The is for Microsoft Word 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2010 (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions) for Windows. There is no fix as yet for Word 2004. Mac versions of Office have also been patched.

The exploitation consists of using a malicious Rich Text Format file to generate a stack overflow in Word. Once the user’s Word installation has been compromised, the malware downloads and executes additional Trojans onto the computer.

According to Symantec, users don’t need to manually open the malicious RTF file or the e-mail with the file attached to be infected. The malware executes automatically if users running Office 2007 or 2010 preview the e-mail in Outlook in its Reading Pane. In fact, if the attacking e-mail is the most recent message received, it opens automatically in the Reading Pane when Outlook starts.

Microsoft also said that Outlook is not “directly” affected because the malware executes only through Microsoft Word. However, because Word is the default e-mail reader in Outlook 2007 and 2010, criminals using e-mail to spread the malicious RTF files present a particularly dangerous threat, the company said.

The attacker gains the “same user rights as a local user,” according to the alert, so the attack’s impact would vary depending on the configuration of a user’s account on a given system. While all systems are vulnerable to remote-code execution, users with restricted rights would be affected less severely than a user with administrative rights, according to Microsoft.

The vulnerability was rated as “1” on Microsoft’s exploitability index, meaning the team expected an exploit to appear within 30 days. The RTF bug is “critical” for Office 2007 and 2010 installations, but “important” for Office XP and Office 2003, according to the Patch Tuesday update. It is also “important” for the Open XML File format Converter for the Mac as well as the Mac versions of Office – 2004, 2008 and 2011.

If you need help with patching Microsoft Office or need any other security help, you can contact us via email or call us at (212) 727-2100

Dec 29 / leelemus

Critical IE Security Bug Found – Microsoft Working on Fix

Microsoft late Wednesday confirmed that all versions of Internet Explorer (IE) contain a critical vulnerability that attackers can exploit by persuading users to visit a rigged Web site.

The vulnerability in IE6, IE7 and IE8 surfaced several weeks ago when French security firm Vupen disclosed a flaw in IE’s HTML engine. Tuesday, researchers posted a video demonstration of an attack, and added a reliable exploit to the Metasploit penetration toolkit.

Microsoft Internet Explorer Security Flaw

Although Microsoft said it would patch the problem, it is not planning to rush out an emergency update.

That exploit used a technique revealed earlier this year by McAfee researchers that defeats a pair of important Windows defensive technologies — ASLR (address space layout randomization) and DEP (data execution prevention) — designed to stymie most attacks.

The appearance of the Metasploit attack code may have been what prompted Microsoft to take action, as the company’s more technical “Security Research & Defense” blog highlighted the Metasploit module.

In that blog, Microsoft security software engineer J. Serna also confirmed that IE’s “mscorie.dll” file does not always automatically enable ASLR, a technology that randomly allocates executable memory to make it difficult for hackers to run their code.

Until a patch is ready, Microsoft urged users to use the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) utility to bolster IE’s defenses. The company provided instructions on how to configure EMET to block attacks in the accompanying security advisory .

EMET is a tool designed for advanced users, primarily enterprise IT pros, and manually enables ASLR and DEP for specific applications. It’s often used to reinforce older programs.

If you need further help using EMET or need any other security help, you can contact us via email or call us at (212) 727-2100

Dec 20 / leelemus

Improper Disposal of IT Equipment Can Compromise Security

A new survey that has come out states that about 1 out of 2 businesses do not erase the data on their old hardware before throwing them out.

The actual report can be read here, but basically the survey found that 49 percent of respondents said their organization regularly erased data when disposing of computers. Thirty-percent said no, while 21 percent weren’t sure.

This problem doesn’t just affect private companies. According to an internal audit at four NASA facilities, inspectors found that equipment was being sold without verifying that all data had been removed, in violation of existing data security requirements.

The audit goes on to say that inspectors found 14 computers still containing data out of a sample of 730 pieces of IT equipment that NASA was disposing. The auditors also found one computer being prepared for sale that still contained shuttle technology data that were subject to export controls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

“Our review found serious breaches in NASA’s IT security practices that could lead to the improper release of sensitive information related to the Space Shuttle and other NASA programs,” NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said in a statement.

Why does this happen? Well from our experience with our own clients, many of them do not have a plan or the personnel dedicated to dispose of IT equipment (specifically hard drives and storage devices) properly. Once the hardware is out of use, it’s out of mind and ends up in the dump without being properly cleaned.

Worried that your are not disposing of your hardware properly? Tech Alliance can help.

Tech Alliance has done security IT audits for companies of all sizes since 1987. With the audit, we can properly help you set a plan of action in order to make sure your data is secure and your hardware is disposed of properly. Email or call us at (212) 727-2100 to set up a security audit.

Dec 1 / leelemus

Cabling Chaos to Cabling Bliss 102

Welcome to the second installment of “Cabling Chaos to Cabling Bliss”.

This series consists of before and after pictures from some of the most “chaotic” cabling projects we work on.

Without further delay, below is this installment’s “Cabling Chaos to Cabling Bliss”

Scenario

This client, a successful financial firm, came to us for help with their IT situation.

Their CEO and main IT person explained to us that business is going real well. So well, in fact, that they are going public and expect their IT needs to double after going public. The process of going public, they explained, had hit a road bump with their IT setup. They explained that part of the process of going public was to have the SEC audit them for approval.

They feared their current IT infrastructure would not meet the SEC’s standards nor be able to handle the added burden of IT needs they expected.

Their business grew so much over a short period of time that their IT infrastructure was a series of knee jerk reactions to the demands of the business. There was never a plan or goal specified for IT other than “make it work” and to make sure it was compliant enough to laws/standards in their industry.

With this going on for years, they had an IT infrastructure which was, in short, chaotic and barely meeting demand. And now with the SEC audit and expected demand, they needed to revamp their IT infrastructure in a matter of weeks.

Before

Years of knee jerk IT management had left them with an infrastructure that had:

  • Many cables that were unused, unlabeled, and at times, had no way of knowing what they were for.
  • IT equipment (i.e.: servers, UPSs, switches, phone servers) that were obsolete but were never phased out properly, resulting in said equipment taking up precious space on their racks
  • Security and Backup issues that needed to be addressed.

Below is a picture of a section of their IT setup.

Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System

Here’s another two images.

Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System

Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System

After

After our discovery meetings with the CEO and CIO, we realized that for all the knee jerk reaction decisions made, their IT setup needed some major reorganizing.

Our Tech Alliance engineers set out to take inventory of what IT equipment/services the client had and started getting rid of what was not needed and consolidated services where applicable. This resulted in extra space for new equipment and streamlining of services without needing to purchase more equipment.

Then they took a look at the cabling structure. With an eye to the future, we concluded that we could streamline and increase capacity with a fresh wire management plan and wire upgrade. With the saved space we were also able to minimize that amount of racks needed to handle the extra demands once their company went public.

Below is the result of said reorganizing. As stated earlier, we did not add any new equipment except cables, racks and some wire management tools.

Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System

Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System

Below is the second rack we installed for the client. The client is now ready to handle any increase in IT demands that results from them going public (not to mention pass the SEC audit).

Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System
Tech Alliance Before Installation of Data Cabling System

Tech Alliance can do this for your company too!

Big business, small business, public or private, if you need help with your IT and Cabling needs give us a ring at (212) 727-2100 or click here to learn more about how Tech Alliance can help you with your IT and Data Cabling needs.