The Partner Online Technical Communities are one of the best kept secrets at Microsoft. Actually, they are not a secret, but I keep running into Partners that haven’t heard that they have unlimited no-cost support break-fix, developer, and presales incidents for over 50 Microsoft technologies, including:
As you can see, Windows 7 RC was just added to the list. These are not newsgroups where you hope someone eventually comes along that has seen your problem before, the Partner Online Technical Communities are staffed by Microsoft employees that guarantee a response time according to the following table:
Gold Certified Partners
4 business hours for break-fix queries
8 business hours for presales questions on any Microsoft technologies.
Small Business Specialist Community
Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS)
8 business hours for break-fix queries
Gold Certified and Certified Partners with the ISV/Software Solutions competency
Registered Members in the Empower for ISVs program
Partners with the Custom Development Solutions competency
Web Solution Partners 4
8 business hours for developer questions related to Microsoft ASP.NET, Microsoft Silverlight, Microsoft Expression, SQL Server, Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft Visual Studio, C++, and C#.
Registered Members 5
1 business day for break-fix queries
OEM System Builder Partners
2 business days for pre-installation queries
4Microsoft Action Pack Special Edition Web Solutions Toolkit holders 5Registered Partners who do not meet the preceding criteria will receive a one-business-day response time.
The Service Level Dashboard is an application built on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. It is designed to work with an existing Operations Manager 2007 R2 infrastructure configured to monitor business-critical applications. The dashboard evaluates an application or group over a time period that the administrator selects during setup, determines whether it met the defined service level commitment, and displays summarized data about the service levels.
The Service Level Dashboard integrates with the Operations Manager Data Warehouse database and displays service level metrics on the Windows SharePoint Services interface. All the customized and personalized data associated with the Web Parts of the Service Level Dashboard is stored in the Windows SharePoint Services Content database.
The dashboard can summarize the current status and health of all defined SLOs against an application or group of objects. Key measures used to evaluate various aspects of the health of defined SLOs include such information as service level metrics, mean time to repair (MTTR), mean time between failures (MTBF), and service level trends.
New features in Version 2.0 of the Service Level Dashboard include:
Get it here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc540485.aspx
You know… the kind of day where all of the hard drives fail on one of your domain controllers, and then the new sysadmin runs a script on your production AD environment that deletes all user accounts, and then a hurricane hits your backup datacenter and floods your server room, submerging the last few backup servers you had left?
I hate it when that happens…
Fortunately, the Planning for Active Directory Forest Recovery guide has been updated to cover AD environments with Windows Server 2008.
This guide contains best-practice recommendations for recovering an Active Directory forest, if forest-wide failure has rendered all domain controllers in the forest incapable of functioning normally. The procedure steps in this guide, which you must customize for your particular environment, describe how to recover the entire Active Directory forest to a point in time before the critical malfunction. They also ensure that none of the restored domain controllers replicates from a domain controller with potentially dangerous data. The procedures apply to Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) in Windows Server 2008 and the Active Directory® directory service in Windows Server 2003.
The time to plan for disaster is BEFORE it happens. Read through the guide, build a solid backup plan (including offsite backups), and practice the disaster recover process often enough that you know what to do when a real disaster strikes.
Download the guide here: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=326c8a7a-dcad-4333-9050-a6303ff3155c#tm
If you are performing a greenfield or clean install of SharePoint, it is a good idea to install the latest version (which as of today would be Service Pack 2 with the April Cumulative Update). The latest install media for SharePoint, however, only has SP1 integrated, so today I will show you how to slipstream the latest updates into your install media.
To get started, you will need a copy of the SharePoint 2007 install media, the SP2 installers for both Windows SharePoint Services and Office SharePoint Server, and the latest Cumulative Updates for both WSS and MOSS. You can download them all here:
Edit: October cumulative updates have been released. Follow the same steps, but use the two following CU files instead of those released for April:
First, create a folder that will hold the slipstreamed installer. In my case I’ll call it c:\SP2Slipstream.
Next, extract the install media into that folder as follows:
OfficeServer.exe /extract:c:\SP2Slipstream (there are no spaces after the /extract switch). You will end up with the folder structure below.
The Updates folder is where we are going to extract all up the SP2 and Cumulative Update files, and setup.exe will be smart enough to integrate the updates at install time.
Next, extract the four update files as follows:
When you are done, the Updates folder will be full of msp files.
One last step before you burn the SP2Slipstream folder to a CD… Delete Wsssetup.dll from the updates folder because it conflicts with Svrsetup.dll. Having both Wsssetup.dll and Svrsetup.dll in the updates folder for a slipstreamed installation source is not supported.
Burn your SP2Slipstream folder to a CD and you are all set to go!
*Update: I had someone ask me if the above steps will work if you are starting out with SP1 Media instead of RTM, and the answer is yes. I just like using the RTM Media as it starts out with a clean Updates folder instead of being full of SP1 updates that are superseded in SP2.
I just finished installing Service Pack 2 on my team’s SharePoint server, and the process went absolutely flawlessly (which is very different from some of my past upgrades). What made the difference? Reading the instructions (something we geeks tend to not do :)
Before we get started, here are the links for the current updates (Service Pack 2 and the April Cumulative Update) in case you want to start downloading in the background.
You will want to install the updates in the sequence above, but feel free to cancel the SharePoint Configuration Wizard that pops up at the end of installing each update. You only need to run it once at the end.
So… before you get ready to update SharePoint, make sure you visit the following:
Updates Resource Center for SharePoint Products and Technologies
This site will always list the latest updates, as well as information on the best practices for installing them.
Next, read the article about deploying software updates for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or the article about deploying software updates for SharePoint Server 2007. These articles are money and are what made my install go so well. Some tips that I did not follow on earlier upgrades that may help you out (there are many more tips in the above articles):
The article covers other important steps such as the correct order in which you want to install the update in a farm, how to speed up the upgrade in a farm with large content databases, updating language packs.
Make sure you also visit the Known issues that you may experience when you install the 2007 Microsoft Office suite Service Pack 2 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Service Pack 2 page in case there is any late breaking issues that CSS becomes aware of from customer calls.
Lesson Learned: Read the instructions (especially on a beastie as complex as SharePoint)
Todd Klindt has already covered the new stsadm commands that were added in Service Pack 2 (SP2) of SharePoint here (Top 6 new STSADM operations in SharePoint 2007 SP2), but it looks like we slipped in a few more in the April Cumulative Update:
Lets a site collection be marked as deleted, which immediately prevents any further access to its content.
Added in the April Cumulative Update to perform gradual deletion of site collections. When an operation uses gradual deletion, a site collection is immediately marked as deleted, which prevents any further access to its content. The data in the deleted site collection is then deleted gradually over time by this timer job instead of all at once, which reduces its effect on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and SQL Server performance. Gradual deletion is available in the Deletesite: Stsadm operation (Office SharePoint Server)and Mergecontentdbs: Stsadm operation (Office SharePoint Server)operations.
Sets the current values of the Enterprise search settings in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.
For additional information about how to manage settings to improve search results, see Helping users make successful queries (Office SharePoint Server).
Displays the current values of the Enterprise search settings in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.
The two following articles were updated to include use of the gradualdelete parameter:
Back up and restore site collections by using built-in tools (Office SharePoint Server 2007)
Delete a site collection (Office SharePoint Server)
Today I was getting ready to install the virtual lab for a SQL Server maintenance class I am taking, and since I am on Windows 7 RC, I figured it would be a good chance to try out the new version of Virtual PC and XP Mode.
You can download both from here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/download.aspx
Don’t make the same mistake I did… you can’t install XP Mode without first installing Virtual PC. Install both.
Installation is very straightforward, and when it has completed you will have a new icon for Virtual Windows XP in your start menu.
Start up Virtual Windows XP, and you will be prompted to enter a password (you can have it remember the password if you would like).
The next screen prompts you to enable Automatic Updates (why would you do anything else?)
and then Virtual PC proceeds to complete the expansion/setup of Windows XP in the background.
After a bit, VOILA! You have Virtual PC running a fully licensed version of Windows XP SP3.
Programs that you install in the VM show up in the “Virtual Windows XP Applications” folder, and clicking on any of those applications will launch the application itself while hiding the underlying Windows XP that runs it.
It works quite well, although I am so used to the subtle look-and-feel of Windows 7 that appearance of Windows XP themed-applications hurts my eyes a bit. That’s fine… I won’t be using this on a day-to-day basis. This is really design as a transitional technology until small businesses can update their applications to versions that run natively in Windows 7.
Where did Virtual PC go?
If you get this far, you are going to run into an interesting issue. Virtual PC (the actual console) doesn’t exist.
According to the Virtual PC page, this is a feature :) I’ll withhold judgment as I was not involved in the design discussions, but it was certainly confusing to me as a long-time VPC user.
So how do you create new VMs or change settings? The answer is a new special folder (technically a Known Folder called “Virtual Machines”).
Once you open this folder (you can also get there by tapping your windows key and typing vmwindow and hitting enter), you can see a list of your machines, their status, allocated memory, hard drive locations, etc. You would create a new machine by clicking the button at the top of the window.
If you have an image selected, two more buttons show up.
The “Open” button will start up the VM, while the Settings button pulls up the familiar UI for changing VM settings.
Other than my difficulty with discovering the new UI, the VPC team has added a ton of oft-requested features such as USB support, Folder integration between host and guest (for My Documents, Pictures, Desktop, Music, and Video), clipboard sharing, and printer redirection.
Download and play with it here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/default.aspx
If you have been tasked with securing SharePoint, there are a lot of considerations to take into account. How do users authenticate? Does part of your farm live in an extranet or DMZ? How do you secure user-to-server communications? How do you secure server-to-server communications? How do you scan for viruses? How do you harden the servers in the farm?
While I cannot answer all of those questions in a single post (the Roadmap to security content for Office SharePoint Server 2007 is a great place to start), I can give you a HUGE leg up on the last question. How do you harden servers in a SharePoint farm? There are a ton of dependencies (on IIS, on SQL, on TCP/IP, potentially on IPSEC, etc) and it is very easy to miss a setting or misconfigure something that will break functionality.
Fortunately, there is a feature that was introduced in Windows Server 2003 SP1 that will make your life much easier…. the Security Configuration Wizard (SCW). In short, the SCW automates the process of hardening SharePoint (or any other type of server) by using security templates that will lock down the server as tight as a drum. Even better, if you choose a wrong setting or somehow break something while configuring security, you can simply un-apply the template and you are back where you started. No more wondering which setting you applied that broke functionality.
The SCW wizard will walk you through configuring settings including:
Assuming the generated security policy works well for your needs, it is a simple matter to apply that policy to similar servers (such as all Web Front End servers) in your farm.
The templates used to power the wizard (and generate the security policy) are standard XML files that store all the settings specific to a given component. The SharePoint template, for example, specifies what services SharePoint requires, what ports, that it has a dependency on IIS and ASP.NET, etc. To begin, download the Security Configuration Wizard Manifest for Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 here:
If you open up the file, you can see everything that will be configured by applying the template.
The Security Configuration Wizard is not enabled by default, so stop by the Add/Remove Programs control panel, click on “Windows Components” and check the appropriate box.
Once installed, SCW will show up under Administrative Tools.
From there on, just follow the steps in the wizard. It will detect the services and roles you have installed, and most of the defaults should work fine. Most of the screen shots are self explanatory, so I’ll let them speak for themselves.
For more information on the Security Configuration Wizard, there is a page up on TechNet with all the information you may need: