Yet more Bad IT Support Companies!

Following on from my earlier Blog Post about bad IT Support Companies (here) I visited a potential new customer today to look over their IT.  The background information I got from the company was that they had used their existing IT Support Company (a one-man band) for the past 5 years or so and whilst mostly happy with their service, there were some outstanding issues that were being neglected and this was causing some concern to the company.

They had recently installed a ‘server’ and their IT wasn’t running as smoothly as they had anticipated, so wanted to get a 2nd opinion about their setup and my company (IT Eye Ltd) was recommended by a mutual company.

Once I arrived, I had a quick look over their IT and came across 4 PCs and a Netbook.  Asking where the server was, I was directed towards an HP xw6600 Workstation with a label on it suggesting it had come out of a company in New York City (NYC-XXXXXXXXX)!  I then used Remote Desktop to connect to the server and discovered that it was running SBS 2008.  This prompted the question about when the server was purchased and I was told May of 2012.  I then asked how much they had paid for the server and they advised me £2,500.

Okay – so they had a recently installed SBS 2008 server of which Exchange 2007 was now no longer supported by Microsoft because the Mainstream Support had now expired!  That begged the question why SBS 2011 wasn’t installed and to that there wasn’t an answer.  I then looked for a license sticker and couldn’t find one, so that also begged the question if they were actually legal.  This conversation continued to the other workstations and no conclusive evidence was available to suggest that they were even remotely compliant.

Looking at one of the XP workstations I saw that it was running XP pro, so checked to see if it was part of the Domain and saw that it was still configured as a Workgroup.

Data was being shared from the server, so at least the server was being used for something other than a drain on their electricity bill, but data was still being held on the Netbook and the data wasn’t being copied to the server or backed up, so was at risk of being lost.  No evidence of server backup was visible either.

I then asked about emails and found out that they were being hosted externally (1and1) and were being collected via Outlook configured as an SMTP/POP3 account and to allow for shared calendars to be accessed, they had turned to Google Mail.

I then pointed out that their server had Exchange built-in and that they need not pay for mail to be hosted externally or use Google Mail for shared Calendars as they could do everything on their own server.

At this point – I think they had decided that they were not being well looked after by their existing IT Support Company and I left them pondering my findings.  We will wait to hear from them and see how they want to proceed.



Why are there so many bad IT Support companies out there who don’t have the first idea about IT?

Having taken on two new customers with SBS 2003 servers within the last week, the first server was in a very bad way with 58Gb of Exchange logs piled up since the last Exchange full backup in about August 2010 and the SBS 2003 backup hadn’t worked since the 23rd August 2011 (we 1st saw the server on the 15th September).

The SBS backup was configured but fell over the second it tried to start.  After a quick poke about, I edited the selections in the SBS backup job and then re-ran the backup.  This time it worked and started to backup.  It subsequently failed with a corrupt font file in the ClientApps\Outlook 2003 folder (so I replaced the file from the CD) and problems with the Exchange database, so I took the store offline, ran a repair (eseutil /p), defragmentation (eseutil /d) and integrity check (isinteg) and that solved those problems.  The backups are now running to the end and all 58Gb of Exchange logs have been purged from the disk – finally!

Updates had not been downloaded / installed on the server and WSUS was installed but had not synced to Microsoft since it was installed.  All very basic, simple maintenance tasks that should be performed by any competent IT company.

Backup Exec was installed – heaven knows why – as it wasn’t being used.  Probably made the IT support guy some money selling software that wasn’t necessary I suppose.

There were various errors showing up in the Event Logs, mainly Disk errors and IP AUTD failed to Initialize (simple registry fix for this).  A quick tweak to the registry and a restart of the DNS Server service and the IP AUTD error went away (see KB956189).  Waiting to run a disk check to clear the disk errors.

This customer apparently lost all their data when their server crashed recently and it took the IT guy 3 weeks to get their data back.  Presumably after this, they would have made sure the backups were working 100% – but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Symantec Anti-Virus Management Console was installed – but there were no clients using Symantec Anti-Virus.  Symantec Mail Security for Microsoft Exchange was also installed, but the definitions expired in August 2008, so spam filtering wasn’t going to work, but then as they were using POP3 collection for their emails, what good was Symantec Mail Security going to do for them as it can’t scan POP3 collected mail – only SMTP delivered mail!

Turkey, Poland and Spain were very interested in the server and trying on a minute by minute basis to try and breach the Administrator account – so far unsuccessfully, but it probably won’t take them long if nothing is done to stop the attacks.  As soon as we get the go-ahead to start fixing the various issues – we will be bolting the server down and monitoring it for unwanted attention from foreign parts.

Having been shocked by one server in a week, we secured another customer and started to examine their server in detail, installing some monitoring software which picked up a lack of a completed backup by the SBS backup job, or the Backup Exec software that was also installed (but not configured).

On the second server – the SBS backup was configured to run and was happily running, but as soon as the backup had written about 4Gb of data to the external HDD used for the backups, the backup failed!  Guess what – the drive was formatted as FAT32 not NTFS so the backups were doomed from the start.  A quick re-format of the disk and the backup now completes successfully.

I have only scratched the surface of the 2nd server, so anticipate more problems to surface, but I just can’t believe how two different IT Support companies can provide such useless support and actually charge for their services.  It is beyond belief.

So – if you are happy with your current IT Support company then great.  Why not try asking them to recover a file from backup that you have accidentally deleted (moved to your Personal Computer) and see how long it takes them to recover it.

If you want an IT Support company that makes sure that the servers they look after are backing up properly, have Anti-Virus software installed and updated, doesn’t let spam through to the users because of excellent Anti-Spam software, then please give me a call or drop me an email.  I can happily review your existing servers and advise you if your backups are working properly or if something else is going wrong but you are blissfully unaware of it.