Ford St. Thomas Plant May Have a Buyer

Standard

In case you missed it, yesterday the London Free Press revealed that there is a London-led business group hoping to buy the old Ford St. Thomas Assembly plant, spend $700 million redeveloping it, and then leasing  it out to various users/companies. The initial $700M would be a boon to any local companies that are selected to assist in the redevelopment, and of course turning the plant into usable space once more, potentially housing up to 2,000 employees, would be terrific for the London area.

I, for one, have a few hopes for this plant. Hopefully whatever is done there is done in the most environmentally way possible. The redevelopment is going to cost a tonne of money anyway, so spending some of that money to help reduce long-term energy usage, reduce energy waste, and perhaps even introduce some self-reliability (some solar panels) would be nice. I don’t personally have any skin in the game, but hopefully the business group is thinking of these sorts of things.

Good luck with the purchase and redevelopment, folks!

Windows Server 2012 In Your Small Business – Part 4

Standard

Today I’m going to highlight a few features that all revolve around Hyper-V. They are:

- Live Migration
- VM Import
- Hyper-V Replica

Live Migration

If you’ve been working in virtualized environments for any period of time, you’ll likely agree the migrating a VM from one host to another used to be a tedious task to undertake. Typically the VM would have to be shut down, all of the associated files moved, make sure the hypervisor manager reflects the move, and then started up again. If it was a big VM (filesize), and you weren’t running 10GbE yet, well then it took even longer.

While being able to perform live migrations isn’t new, the approach Windows Server 2008 R2 took required a fairly beefy infrastructure. With Server 2012, Live Migration is now possible if the VM is stored on a shared folder on your network, or without using any shared storage whatsoever. I won’t bore you with the process Hyper-V uses to move a VM without using shared storage, but if you’re like me, feel free to look it up in Microsoft’s “Introducing Windows Server 2012″ book. The implementation is very, very smart.

Anyway, the improvements to Live Migration are a huge improvement for small businesses that can’t afford (or don’t need) a storage area network (SAN), or have two standalone Hyper-V hosts.

VM Import

During the VM import process, Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 now checks for possible configuration problems, and resolves them automatically if it can. A big time and headache saver. You also don’t need to export a VM from the original host either; you can simply copy the files over to the new host, and then start the import process. Another time saver.

Hyper-V Replica

It’s not likely your small business can afford a full-blown VM backup and restore solution, or an entire set of servers solely for business continuity purposes. Hyper-V Replica can help solve this issue, by providing you with the ability to replicate VMs across a WAN (or Internet connection) periodically, and asynchronously. It doesn’t require shared storage, and it works in clustered and nonclustered environments.

I see small businesses using this to replicate their mission-critical VMs to a hosting provider, ensuring those services are still available in case something happens to the on-premise servers. You can obtain Windows Server 2012 VMs from a hosting provider for under $150 per month, and that’s a small price to pay to make sure your business can keep running in case of a disaster.

Thanks for reading! That’s all the information I wanted to share with you today. We are half way through the series, so keep checking back for more ways Windows Server 2012 can benefit your small business.

Hyde Park Was a Quaint Village

Standard

I recently read a story in the London Free Press about how the citizens and businesses of Hyde Park are disappointed about the “progress” taking place in Hyde Park. And Monday night the city planner’s recommendations were ignored by the planning committee, obliterating the fact that Hyde Park was once a quaint village. My bus used to go through it everyday when I was in high school, and I got that village vibe then.

Councillor Matt Brown, who represents Hyde Park, knows what used to be, and what was supposed to happen. Beyond the massive plaza at the corner of Hyde Park Rd and Fanshawe Park Rd W (Walmart, HomeSense, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, etc.), I felt the space between Sarnia Rd and Seagull Rd was being used reasonably well. A nice mix of housing types have been built including townhouses, a high-rise condo building, and of course single detached homes. That’s all been well and good, fully introducing the concept of being able to live in the same neighbourhood your entire life.

Unfortunately, the rest of the land that was previously set aside for additional residential use has now been re-zoned for commercial use at the behest of Kenmore Homes.

A lot of people like to say, “Well, we need jobs!” Yes, you’re right, we do. But unless this commercial space is mostly turned into offices, these are not going to be the well-paying jobs that most people need and want. Another retail location is simply another barely-more-than-minimum-wage (if that) job that barely keeps the employee above the poverty line. Strong nations and communities are not built on a strong retail sector.

And while Joe Swan may have recently driven through the area and not felt that “quaint village that they talk about,” that’s because he’s about 10 years too late. It did feel like a quaint village at one point, and many things could have been done to keep that feeling. Instead it’s starting to feel like the corner of Dundas St E and Clarke Rd, where residential and commercial collide in the most heinous way possible.

Windows Server 2012 In Your Small Business – Part 3

Standard

This is probably the coolest feature I’ve ever seen, in any piece of software.

If you don’t feel the same by time you’re done reading this, then perhaps you’ll agree it’s easily the coolest and easiest way to provide users with remote access to network resources.

DirectAccess was introduced in the last generation of Windows Server and Windows desktop products. So while it isn’t new, it’s been enhanced to make deploying it, and using it, easier. The idea is that anytime a user has an Internet connection, their device will automatically establish a connection to the corporate network as well, giving them remote access to shared folders,
internal websites, applications, etc.

No VPN to manually configure and initiate. Thank goodness for that.

From what I’ve seen, deploying DirectAccess in Windows Server 2008 R2 was a pain. Lots of steps, in and out of the command line on the server and the user’s device(s), and on and on. In Windows Server 2012, it can be done in about 6 steps. Configuring and managing remote access can take place immediately after. And it’s dead easy.

With Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, your server no longer requires multiple network adapters, servers and clients do not have to belong to the same domain, and new policies/domain settings can now be deployed over DirectAccess. This all means that remote workers never have to physically get their device onto the corporate network anymore, making everything easier for all parties.

I’ve worked for several companies where remote access was provided. And each mechanism used either required a great deal of third-party components to make it work, or opened up huge security holes. Not to mention that a lot of hotels, cafes, and other public places don’t allow for VPN connections to be initiated in the first place, so you wouldn’t be able to connect anyway. DirectAccess is much easier to use, and it’s automatic. And if it doesn’t work, the tools provided to users to help the IT troubleshoot what’s happening are superior to anything I’ve seen from any third-party VPN solutions.

The one caveat is that DirectAccess requires IPv6. If your ISP has not deployed IPv6 yet, then you can opt to deploy an appliance that can perform IPv6-to-IPv4 translation.

That concludes the information I wanted to share about DirectAccess. Keep checking back for more ways Windows Server 2012 can benefit your small business.

Finally Taking SQL Seriously

Standard

On Friday, one of my co-workers and I decided to hash out a better way for us to find out that customers had added a reply to a help desk ticket. The idea was to poll the database for new comments, but only to have the script notify us if it was new within the last 5 minutes.

Well, that proved to be (at first) something I didn’t know how to do. Thankfully, with a bit of time, research, and trial & error, I was able to put together the code required. The result?

SELECT [SUBJECT],[INCIDENT],[CUST_ID],[COMMENTS] FROM [IncidentSQL].[dbo].[Incident] WHERE ([NEW_DTE] BETWEEN DATEADD(MINUTE, -5, GETDATE()) AND GETDATE()) AND (STATUS_EXT = ‘NFB’);

We select just the four fields of information we need, and the first WHERE statement subtracts 5 minutes from the current date/time, and the AND statement makes sure we only find help desk tickets that have had new comments added in the last 5 minutes, and are currently set to the current status only.

I felt it was quite the feat for someone who hasn’t done any substantial SQL scripting since 2003, and felt good about seeing the results work. Next, we have to figure out how to email the results to the tech support mailbox without adding a ton of complexity.