Exciting things.

We have whole school enrichment days at our main schools, normally it means all IT is booked out, and the network is just creaking. We don’t always have a direct input – but this is good – staff are confident to use the technology and plan with it themselves.

However, the upcoming enrichment day is one we are heavily involved in – and I am looking forward to it because we are doing some exciting things with IT kit to enhance the day. The theme is communication.

So we start off with a whole school radio station  – beamed lived from our office, on a MAC running NiceCast – and with staff tuning in around the school with VLC player – pupils will have access to Spotify and an expensive Snowball microphone to create 15 minute shows throughout the day, with a lunch time request show played live to the field and into the hall.

11265610_10152793891401691_3347506271467140059_nAnd secondly, we are rolling out skype and webcams into every classrooms – we have recently been linking up with some partner schools abroad via skype, and want to showcase this way of communication to pupils.

Both are exciting use of technology to enhance the day and I know my team and I are really excited to work on it, so much so, that we set up skype between our school ICT support offices, and then wondered why we even had our weekly meetings, when we could be online and connected all day!

Making people listen

I had a fun job this half term – I had to migrate SIMs from SQL 2008 to 2014 – as the next SIMs release doesn’t support it.

Unfortunately the timing wasn’t great, recently we have had a few issues – and in the middle of some staff doing reports via remote desktop.

The migration didn’t go to plan, and it resulted in a night of downtime, as I disabled the server to stop people somehow, magically, loose data (I knew it was impossible, but didn’t want to risk it!)

Being the holidays, it threw into light our ability to communicate with staff during the holidays, or even out of normal school hours when things go wrong. These days our systems, across all 5 schools are used pretty much at all hours, I have seen staff logged on till 1/2am – and some start again at 5/6am – I have seen staff logged in on christmas day!

Our ability, therefore, to communicate outages (particularly in holidays when we complete maintenance and I am loathed to send out all staff emails that many will not read and disregard – and therefore they can think they can do the same with more important future emails) is especially important.

Our school website is hosted externally by Vidahost, so we are able to set up a status page on there, to allow staff, students and even parents who use Insight, access to see any issues. The page, as well as letting us write updates, pings key services to check availability, a quick way for staff to see if it is us – or them!

After updating the page recently with a few issues, I decided to update the pages design, to simplfy it – http://www.st-bedes.worcs.sch.uk/parents-information/service-status/ and to remind the staff of its existance.

A lot of staff emailed me directly, bypassing even the helpdesk, and this is not helpful. Our aim is to provide fast and efficient support, to do this – my team need to see issues that are reported. People have holidays or specific tasks, that may mean they are not on the helpdesk, but there is always someone there managing it – if things are sent to me, they will be dealt with as and when I can, and normally just me forwarding them to the helpdesk.

I wonder in business if this would actually happen. School’s want, nay, need professional IT support to move things forward for them and get best value from the people they have there, that is why many are not outsourcing. When teams put in procedures and resources – we now need to work with staff to make sure they understand why they should use the systems, ultimately it means a better service to them.





Tales of woe: Exchange, SAN and Smoothwall failures

What a week.

It all started last week, when our exchange server just decided to stop working. One of my techies was updating SSL certificates as Chrome is sending warnings that it is out of date. A fairly simple process – but it turns out changing the SSL certificate raised issues from where we removed the old exchange server incorrectly after decommissioning it when upgrading 2010>2013 – causing IIS not to work, so no activesync, no autodiscover, no OWA.

Luckily, once we worked out where the issue lay, a bit of digging in ADSI edit and IIS manager and issue resolved. Phew.

Onto the next challenge, one of the Volumes on our cluster is down to 9% free, some 200GB, it decreases a fair bit each week, on investigation I think it is out Smoothwall server, a new VM, which is now logging.

So the next job was to move Smoothwall to a dedicated machine. Two reasons – I was fairly sure the logging and requests would be hammering the SAN and ISCSI links, and also if I located the physical server near the Virgin box, it would reduce the traffic accross the network, as the VM box is in a different building.

As smoothwall was a VM on our 2008r2 cluster, I exported the server, and then tried to import and boot on the new 2012R2 Dell mini server I had got, only to find you can’t do that. For future reference, 2008r2 needs to either go 2008r2>2012>2012r2 – or forget exporting, and copy and paste the files directly.

A weird gotcha, but a lesson learnt. Box worked today, upgraded the RAM a bit tonight, and then moved into front server room, minimal downtime, but the move did mean a late night, 12:30 finish last night

On Friday the week before, triumphant after the hassle with exchange I was doing easy jobs – one was to get the serial of the SAN to enable a supplier to quote on a JBOD (as I say, cluster storage is filling up!). When logging in to the SAN, which admittidly I don’t do very often, I noticed it was ‘degraded’ – DotHill’s very speedy support identified a faulty controller, which they replaced today.

Only problem being, the controller they replaced (a refurbished product) has failed. Luckily we have dual controllers, so no immediate danger, but a very annoying issue none the less, awaiting a reply and replacement now.

So, an eventful week – but I am focusing on the positives > Exchange sorted quite quickly considering the weirdness, and now old server all gone. The SAN’s failover has worked, twice, the failover cluster, failedover and Smoothwall is on it’s own box, on a VM so can easily be moved again.

At least it’s not been boring!

How to fix Error code: 0x81000037 when using Windows 7’s Backup and Restore.

I have a few private clients that I have setup Windows Backup on to send data to a NAS drive. All works fine, until I get hit by an email saying backup isn’t working.

Twice now, it has turned out to be the same error code, and an error about not being able to read from the shadow copy.

The backup was not successful. The error is: Windows Backup failed while trying to read from the shadow copy on one of the volumes being backed up. Please check in the event logs for any relevant errors. (0x81000037).

I spent an age trying lots of different fixes – but the issue is NOT with your backup drive or location – its actually your PC/Laptop, and probably your anti virus. In my cases, it has been down to Security Essentials, a quick clear of the infected items (History > View all) and the backups work a treat

More info here: http://www.pagestart.com/win7br0x8100003701.html