Thursday, May 31, 2018

Maybe syncing Active Directory to your hosted email is not such a good idea...

Maybe syncing your on-premises Microsoft Active Directory to your hosted email provider is not such a good idea. This statement might be provocative but let me explain.

Separation of duties, that is my reason. If your on-premises AD gets compromised and you are syncing the directory with your email provider then all of those mailboxes also get compromised. So why not separate the two (2) environments? Don't let what happens to one environment affect the other. My personal philosophy is to have these two (2) environments completely separate, that way if anything happens to one, it won't affect the other.

A few years ago Saudi Aramco's internal network was attacked with the result being that digital operations world-wide came to a halt including email. I don't want that to happen to my organization. So even if my internal network grinds to a halt, email will still flow and customer communications won't be affected by my on-premises systems.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

All Those Different Web Browsers

Because of the nature of what I do for a living, I work from a laptop with a very large external display. So working this way I get to use a traditional web browser, in my case actually I use four (4) of them to manage the various cloud services that I'm responsible for. The fact that I can't find one that does everything that I need is frustrating. Chrome is the gold standard but it does eat up resources on your system (go and check Task Manager and the running processes to see what I'm talking about). There is Microsoft's Edge browser but only for those users on Windows 10 (which I am). I can't believe how many times I run into problems with Edge, especially when it comes to sites associated with Microsoft or with services that are built upon Microsoft technologies & platforms. How is that even possible? Do the folks on the Edge team not talk to other departments? Again, how is that even possible? I also use Mozilla's Firefox product (I'm writing this post using it) which recently has improved itself. And then there is good old Internet Explorer. There are many, many sites that both myself and the users I support that IE works best for. I will close this post by saying that as more & more work of technologists (like me) is done "in the Cloud" the need for a stable, robust web browser is essential and Google's Chrome browser is my product of choice.

Remember there is no Cloud, your data is just located on someone else's computer!

Friday, March 02, 2018

How Microsoft Helped Me To Love FaceTime

I could think of no better title for this post than, "How Microsoft Helped Me To Love FaceTime." I use some Apple products on a regular basis, I'm not part of their cult and until recently didn't use Apple's FaceTime app at all. That has changed and it's all thanks to Microsoft. Allow me to explain.

I'd attended a Microsoft event where they spoke about the real world uses for their HoloLens product. My initial thought was, "Good for Microsoft, they've finally found a use for it." Of particular interest to me that day was an example for doing service in the field. They had a video of a junior technician visiting a site and troubleshooting some industrial equipment. The junior tech ran into an issue so he contacted a senior engineer who then donned a HoloLens headset so he could see what the junior tech was seeing from his service glasses (which were streaming a video feed). The senior engineer told the junior tech to check this pressure gauge, look for that indicator light and then things would be fixed. It actually made a lot of sense to me but didn't give it much thought after I left the event.

So its some time later, I'm thinking about an issue going on in one of my branch offices (specifically in another time zone) while looking at my iPad. For some reason that Microsoft event came to mind while I'm staring at the screen and the green FaceTime icon catches my attention. Why not FaceTime with the branch manager (after all, they all have iPhones), have her flip to the front facing camera so I can see what's going on? It took about 30 seconds to "see" what was happening, walk her through resetting the device and everything came back online.

So I'd like to thank Microsoft for helping me to love FaceTime as a low cost alternative remote support tool to their very expensive HoloLens product.👍

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

What does an official notification look like?

As I've read about what went on during the 2016 Election and recently about data breaches, the term 'notice from officials' is thrown about. So a public official (a Senator or Member of Congress) is the target of a hacker, entities within the US Gov't know this and then notify that individual. But what does that notification look like? What is an official channel? And just as importantly, how does the US Gov't notify a business or private entity (let's say a campaign)?

Day after day we see dozens of "official notices" that turn out to be spam or worse, phishing attacks. So how do you tell the difference between what is real and what is a "fake" notice and a spear phishing attack? How does the US Gov't notify an entity that they are the target of an attack, via an email? How about a phone call where the Caller ID shows as unidentified. Does it take a person with an FBI badge showing up to your office and telling you that your company has been targeted for an attack? The next question to ask is, once notified, does that information become public? If you've been hacked and there's been a data breach the first thought of the company might be they have to keep it quiet. But if it was the FBI, DHS or some other three-letter-agency that informed you of the breach, does news about the breach get out to the public?

I'll ask the question again, what does an official notification look like?

- Rob

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oh that pesky DNS!

I chose "Oh that pesky DNS!" as the title for this post because if you don't get both your internal (private within the corporate network) and external (public facing) DNS right you run into trouble. These days every organization operates in a hybrid mode, the days of only having a network perimeter have gone the way of the moat. So when testing do it both from inside of your corporate network and also from the public side. Wait, the app works when you log in from home but not when you try and log on in the office? First place to look is DNS. Does your internal DNS look like the external DNS that you have setup with your SoA (which stands for Start of Authority; this is an important term and defining what it is should be a part of the hiring process for any IT related jobs). CNAME (canonical name), SRV (service) and MX (mail exchanger), these are all terms that are part of DNS. And don't forget that syntax for all DNS entries has to be perfect, no exceptions. What, I forgot a period at the end of the entry and that is why things aren't working!?!?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Do You Quantify “Better?”

It’s a simple question with an oh so complex answer, how do you quantify better? Specifically, in terms of cost, how do you quantify better in the context of paying for a better class of internet access?

Internet access is the foundation for everything that gets done in the business world today, you simply cannot operate a business without your employees having access to the public internet. If you have an office where your people gather to work together, they need a fast, reliable connection to the internet. As an organization how much are you willing to pay for internet access? How much is too much? Do you need a 100 Mbps symmetric fiber connection or will coax cable be enough? Can you scrape by and use a Wi-Fi hotspot that has a cap on the amount of data that can be used without incurring additional charges?

These days practically every task that is part of what your employees do takes place in the cloud. So if everything is in the cloud, a fast & reliable connection to the internet should be considered mission critical. I’ll ask the question again, how do you quantify better (in this case better internet access)? How much are you willing to spend so that your employees have a fast & reliable connection to the Internet?

 - Rob  

Friday, February 10, 2017


How do you defeat ransomware? Versioning, that is how you defeat it (and other malware). Let me explain...

There was a time when the only options for backup & recovery was versioning in the form of a tape device. You put a blank tape into the device, the backup job ran during off hours and the tape was automatically ejected once the backup job completed. So that tape represents one version of your critical data and it has the added advantage of being physically separated from all systems after being used. Fast forward to now when its all about continuous backup of data. An excellent concept and useful for backup & recovery of certain types but take a step back and consider how versioning works in the context of continuous backup. Part of the answer comes from the type of backup & recovery solution that you are paying for. If you're willing to spend a bit more money, you can put a solution in place that allows for versioning of data and that is a critical factor. Do not assume that whatever solution you have allows for versioning, make the vendor prove it. Another aspect of versioning has to do with the way the vendor has built out their back-end systems. Are they multi-tenant? Does your data literally sit right next to another customer's data? If something infects your data, can it jump and infect another customer's data? Don't laugh, don't dismiss this because there are documented cases of this happening. And the infection could go back months.

Have a backup to your backup & recovery solution. Independent of whatever cloud-based backup & recovery solution have an additional in-house process for backup & recovery of critical data. I know its a bit old school but tapes are still a viable, cost effective solution. Automate the process & rotating the tapes will allow for your own "version" of "versioning."

- Rob