Posted by: Anthony Drewery | September 24, 2009

Storage Expo – The Great Tape Debate

Storage Expo takes place on the 14th and 15th October 2009 at London Olympia. I’ve been asked to participate in a panel discussion titled “Is Your Backup & Archive Effective: The Great Tape Debate”.

The long term viability of tape in the enterprise is something we’re debating internally at the moment. Some of our pain points are:

  • Effective management of various backup jobs to fit within our backup window.
  • Cost of tape collection and storage.
  • Prolonged recovery times due to tape recollection from off-site storage and subsequent restoration.
  • Maintaining a variety of tape formats within our business.

Our requirements are:

  • Twice daily snapshot of core data available for instant recovery.
  • Daily backup stored off-site and retained for 4 weeks.
  • Monthly backup stored off-site and retained for 1 year.
  • Annual backup stored off-aite and retained for 7 years.

We have 2 main sites each with an EMC Celerra NS120. We’re looking to utilise snapshot and replication to achieve some of our requirements, then augment our investment with virtual tape library, de-duplication and archiving technology to hit the rest.

I’ll be completing a 60 second interview on the subject in the next few days that will be published on the Storage Expo website. I’ll post the link once it’s up and go into more detail on my thoughts.

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | July 21, 2009

Swine flu pandemic contingency planning

Pandemic contingency planning should form part of your business continuity plan but is often overlooked. However, with the current press about swine flu and the government’s predicted impact it has now risen to the top of many organisation’s agendas.

When putting a contingency plan together three areas you may want to consider are:

  • Reduction of personnel.
  • Remote access to critical systems.
  • Support and maintenance with a reduced IT team.

Reduction of personnel

Many companies, including my employer, are planning for a loss of 25% of the workforce. This could be due to illness or them having to care for family members. With talk in the press of schools possibly being closed in September there is a very real risk that parents will have to stay home to look after their children.

Some thoughts around this area:

  • Identify which roles are critical for the business to function through a pandemic.
  • Identify if non-critical personnel have the skills, or can be trained, to support critical functions. In my organisation many staff have risen through the Sales Centre so with a bit of refresher training could step in to make up a personnel shortage.
  • Can any of the critical roles be fulfilled remotely or part time? If someone has to care for a family member they may be able to continue to work remotely or on a part time basis.
  • If the whole nation is affected will your business be correspondingly less busy? I can’t imagine many people booking holidays when they’re laid up in bed with flu.
  • Do you have any policies and procedures in place to control ‘skiving’? With doctors turning people with flu symptoms away there is no way to obtain a doctor’s note to support a flu related absence. Some staff my use this to their advantage.
  • Do you have a method of contacting staff with updates or advising them to stay away from their place of work? A dedicated phone line with a recorded message or one of the many web based SMS (text messaging) solutions may be the answer. Are your contact details for staff up to date?

Remote access to critical systems

If you have an outbreak in your business you may be in a quarantine situation. This could be dictated by your company or the government or simply be because staff refuse to come in to the workplace for fear of contracting an illness. In such situations having remote access to systems is vital.

You should consider:

  • Capacity of remote access systems. Many business have remote access to support travelling staff or occasional homeworkers but can the systems scale to support a large volume of prolonged usage?
  • Do you have a telephony system that can be accessed remotely? This can be particularly important for businesses with call centres. Could you use something like Skype in a crisis?
  • Do staff have equipment to work from home? They may have a home phone and PC but it is likely these will need to be shared with other family members. Could you re-allocate company laptops and mobiles from non-critical staff?

Support and maintenance with a reduced IT team

A pandemic situation could potentially be a very busy time for your IT team but they are just a likely to be affected as the rest of the business. They may be scaling up systems at short notice, providing home support and deploying equipment to users.

Some points to think about:

  • Identify your critical applications and skills required to support them.
  • Do core skills sit with more than one member of the team? Could you implement some knowledge transfer and cross training.
  • Are your systems well documented?
  • Do you have standard products – Cisco, RedHat, Exchange etc that you could cover with contract resource if necessary.
  • Could your team work from home during flu season so they are less at risk?
  • If you have have 3rd party support contracts do those companies have their own contingency plans in place?

These thoughts are by no means comprehensive but should give you a starting point when preparing your own plan.

Useful links:

UK Government Swine Flu Information

National Pandemic Flu Service

BusinessLink Swine Flu Advice

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | February 19, 2009

Redirecting a WordPress blog using .htaccess

I recently moved my WordPress blog from being self hosted to The transfer was easy and straightforward. I simply upgraded the original blog to WordPress 2.7 then ran an export followed by an import into the new blog. This uses the WordPress eXtended RSS (WXR) format. allows me to use my own domain name ( but doesn’t let me use a subfolder structure as I did with my original blog ( This presented a challenge for my existing Google rankings with links to the old location. The solution came from Chris Himsworth, a developer that I work with, in the form of a custom .htaccess file. The file sits in the location of the original blog, parses the URL then redirects to the new location appending part of the original path. By using a 301 permamanet redirect Google then updates the links. The file is below:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /blog/
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | April 27, 2007

WordPress WP-ShortStat plugin issues

Some time ago my blog stats stopped updating. I was using Jeff Minard’s WP-ShortStat plugin that was based on ShortStat by Shaun Inman. I did a little digging at the time and ran some MySQL DB maintenance as I was convinced I’d reached some sort of limitation in my hosted environment. This didn’t help and I let the matter drop as I was busy with other commitments. 

It now seems like this is a known issue that began when I upgraded to WordPress 2.02. Luckily Markus Kämmerer has continued development of the WP-ShortStat plugin, adding new features as well as fixing the bug. You can get the updated plugin at Installation is a breeze and my stats are updating once again.

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | February 12, 2007

Changes to US Daylight Savings Time

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the changes to daylight savings time in the USA. The changes have come about due to the 2005 Energy Policy Act. In previous years, DST in most of the USA ran from the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. From 2007 DST will be from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. I’m based in the UK so these changes do not affect me directly but I work for a global company with a global Windows/Exchange environment so there is an impact to address.

Microsoft has had a patch available to address the issue since late November 2006. This has recently been updated to include DST changes in other time zones around the world. My recommendation is to deploy this patch to ALL Windows machines in your environment. The patch can be distributed via WSUS if you have this facility available.

Once the patch has been deployed you may need to correct entries in the Outlook calendar. Microsoft have provided two tools to do this. The first ( is a tool that needs to be run individually for the affected users. The tool requires user interaction so you may want to distribute a link to a file share along with detailed instructions on how to run it and it’s potential impact. You should also give examples of why the tool is necessary so that the users have a good understanding.

The second tool is for Microsoft Exchange ( and will allow you to update the calendars centrally. If you are going to take this approach you need to carefully consider the risks of a blanket update. KB930879 lists the pros and cons of this method.

You can find more information from Microsoft about the DST changes here:


There are now patches for Blackberry ( and Windows Mobile (

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | January 16, 2007

Creating a FavIcon

I came across this useful site to create a FavIcon for your website:


Posted by: Anthony Drewery | November 3, 2006

VBScript to remove specific SMTP proxy addresses

This script will remove proxy addresses for a specific SMTP domain from a specified list of users. You can change the domain by editing the strSMTPDomain value in the script. The input file called users.txt is a list of display names. For my needs I reformatted the output from my previous script. By specifying the domain and the list of users it reduces the chances of any mistakes.

The script takes the input file and processes each listed user. It checks all the proxy addresses for the user and deletes any that match the specified domain. Two output files are produced. The first is a processing log which lists whether each user was found and how many addresses were removed for that user. The second file is a log of all addresses removed which can be used as a reference in the event of a mistake.

You can download the script here: StripLegacyProxyAddresses.vbs.txt

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | October 27, 2006

VBScript to export SMTP proxy addresses

Part of the way my current employer has grown is through acquisitions and mergers. Consequently we’ve been supporting more than 10 legacy SMTP domains from various shipping lines. Now that we’re decommissioning our systems it’s time to do some housekeeping and discontinue these domains.

The first step was to check that all objects had their primary SMTP address set to the main domain name. This was done more than a year ago but needed to be reconfirmed. A custom LDAP query that included the syntax  (!mail=* sufficed.

Next I wrote a script that exported all SMTP proxy addresses for user objects. This was to be used as a reference in the unlikely event that problems arose down the line. The LDAP query can easily be modified for groups, contacts and public folders. It’s not the most exciting of scripts but it does the job. You can download it here: AllSMTPProxies.vbs.txt

As I wanted to be very specific and meticulous in the removal of legacy proxy addresses I wrote another script that targets a specific SMTP domain. In this script you can specify the domain by changing the strSMTPDomain value. The script will then only export the names and addresses for proxies that match the SMTP domain. You can download the script here: SpecificSMTPProxies.vbs.txt

In my next post I’ll be using PutEx in a script to remove proxy addresses from AD objects.

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | October 24, 2006

Enabling remote connections to a MySQL server

By default MySQL only permits connections from the server on which it resides. Although this makes for good security there may be times when you need to access the database from elsewhere. This might be using ODBC from your office or maybe a script running on a separate web server.

Using a SSH client like PuTTY connect to your MySQL server. You then need to edit /etc/my.cnf (# vi /etc/my.cnf).

Under the [mysqld] section comment or remove the skip-networking line and add the bind-address=IP_of_MYSQLserver line e.g.

# skip-networking

Save the file then restart the MySQL service (# /etc/init.d/mysqld restart) 

Now using the MySQL admin tool of your choice create your user accounts but specify the host that they will be connecting from. For example if you are creating a user that connects from the IP address the username will be in this format: username@

Posted by: Anthony Drewery | October 24, 2006

VBScript to output the logon script assigned to each user

With some guidance from my colleague Ben Christian I’ve been working on several VBScripts to assist with the decommissioning of our systems. The scripts range from simple reporting to modifying objects. By posting them in this blog someone else may get some use out of them. They are posted "as is" and I accept no liability arising from the use of them.

This script simply creates a tab delimited text file showing all users with their logon script and object’s distinguished name. You’ll be notified by a prompt when the script has finished processing. Simply open the resulting text file with Excel to see the information formatted into columns. You could modify the script to output to a CSV file if you don’t use commas in your display names. Download the script here: WhichLoginScript.vbs.txt

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