Blockchain Technology in Plain English

Global - @SeniorDBA

Generally speaking, Blockchain is the digital and decentralized ledger that records transactions. Technically it is an algorithm and distributed data structure for managing electronic transactions without a central administrator. This makes it perfect for transactions among people who know nothing about one another. It was originally designed for the crypto-currency Bitcoin, and was initially driven by the rejection of government-guaranteed money and expensive bank-controlled payment transfers.

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Disaster Recovery Planning

Disaster Recovery

In your business, you are probably the only one tasked with understanding what types of disasters can strike your business and the task of planning to prevent those disasters from bringing down the business. As Alan Lakein said many years ago, “Failure to plan is planning to fail”. As an information technology professional, one of your many tasks is to understand the risks to your business systems and plan to prevent or overcome those risks from impacting your business.

About 40% of businesses do not re-open after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Similar statistics from the United States Small Business Administration indicate that over 90% of businesses fail within two years after a disaster.

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10 Facts About Deploying Microsoft Office 365

O365 - @SeniorDBA

Microsoft Office 365 is a popular choice for enterprises that want a cloud-based suite of productivity and collaboration applications. The latest version of Office 365 gives you access to online Microsoft Office solutions anytime and anywhere on multiple Operating System platforms.

Microsoft’s marketing description of Office 365:

Microsoft Office 365 now includes Office 2016 and gives you the full Office experience. With access to the latest Office applications as well as other cloud-based productivity services, whether you need Office for home, school, or business, there is an Office 365 plan to meet your needs.
Our Office 365 subscription plans include Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, Office 365 University, and Office 365 for Mac. With each plan, you can install the 2016 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote (Access, and Publisher are also included only for PC users). When a new version of Microsoft Office is released, you’ll get instant access to it so your applications are always up-to-date – and because Office 365 is optimized across your devices it’s easy to get anywhere access to your stuff on your laptop, phone, tablet and more.

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Understanding StorSimple

StorSimple - @SeniorDBA

Microsoft is selling an appliance named StorSimple, that can be used for archiving files, a network backup target, or even as a file server. Microsoft bought the company named Xyratex, a former subsidiary of Seagate, to acquire this solution. This appliance was originally not very useful, because:

  • It shared storage via iSCSI only so it didn’t fit well into a virtualization stack, especially Hyper-V which has moved more to SMB 3.0.
  • The file storage engine that decided which files stayed local vs. were moved to the Azure cloud was almost useless.
  • The physical appliance required space in your server rack, when virtualization is the focus for most solutions.
  • While the box was free, it did require a purchase of an enterprise agreement and paying for moving files out of Azure as some files were accessed.

Microsoft has improved StorSimple over the years and now the product is much more useful.

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Ransomware Lessons

USB Hacks - @SeniorDBA

Ransomware is malicious software that attacks a computer or your entire network to force you to pay a fee (ransom) to regain access to your systems. If the fee is not paid within a set timeframe, the criminals who now has access to your systems will wipe the data. Since those systems are unavailable to your organization most businesses are faced with a decision to pay the ransom and get back to business or refuse to pay the ransom and risk forever losing customer data.

Like any other virus or malware the ransomware is usually downloaded from the internet, most often by clicking a suspicious link in an email or on a website.

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Spam and Outlook

Microsoft Outlook - @SeniorDBA

Many people don’t understand how a spam filter works, especially with the email software from Microsoft called Outlook. In my experience, people are confused about how emails are blocked, or how emails are filtered into the Junk Email folder inside Outlook.

Generally speaking, your email server is usually used to block common unwanted emails, known as spam. This means the email server has the ability built into the server software to detect and filter (block) emails from being delivered to your email interface, or there is some additional software installed and configured to perform that filtering process. This means less unwanted email is delivered to your inbox.

There is an additional feature built into Outlook that looks at the emails delivered to your Outlook client to determine if it should block the email and redirect it into your “Junk E-mail” folder.

Junk E-Mail - @SeniorDBA

Any email forwarded from your email server (usually Exchange, but could be Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) but identified as spam by our Outlook client will be automatically moved to your “Junk E-mail” folder. Depending on your spam filter settings inside the Outlook Options, you may find you missing emails in this folder. You may disable the filter, but that doesn’t mean all your emails will now be delivered to your Outlook inbox.

As we discussed already, the spam filter on the email server could have blocked the email, Outlook may move the email to Junk E-mail, or even your anti-virus software might have blocked the email. If you work with your team in you IT department, they have tools available that can tell them if the server ever received the email, if it was forwarded to our computer, if it was intercepted by your anti-virus software, etc. They will need to know the address of the person sending you the email, when it was sent, and the subject line (when known).

How can I disable the Outlook spam filter?

How can I mark emails detected as spam by Outlook as “not spam”?


Microsoft Plans Office 365 Upgrades

Office 365 - @SeniorDBA

A few months ag0 Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would receive major updates just twice a year, scheduled for September and March. Based on feedback from enterprise customers wanting a more tolerable schedule, Microsoft moved to make their release schedule more predictable.

What some people missed is that they also announced an identical schedule for corporate subscribers to Office 365. They aligned the update schedule with Windows 10. Microsoft says they plan to deliver and support Office 365 ProPlus updates, starting in September.

Microsoft also extended support 50% from 12 months per update to 18 months. The additional six months means your IT team can choose to push updates just once or twice a year.

Office 365 update channels, showing the new update channel names and release cadence

The twice-a-year feature updates will be named Semi-annual Channel (Pilot) and Semi-annual Channel (Broad), each describing how Microsoft envisions them being deployed in the enterprise. Most people will probably just refer to them as simply “Pilot” and “Broad”.

You can get more information here.