Network Upgrades

January 22, 2014

It has been some time since I have spoken about IT and Networking on this blog. In fact I’m not certain I have every talked about IT and Networking on this blog but now is as good a time as any to start.

Over the past few years I have built my home network up as a way to test new technologies and keep current with my IT knowledge. After getting married and adding computers and having kids and adding more computers I had developed a pretty robust network with many moving parts. I had settled on Windows Server 2003, MS Exchange, Microsoft WSUS for updates, scripted backups and a host of other software for monitoring, Spam filtering, and other networking needs. At one point I had over 10 physical servers running and at least 5 workstations/laptops. In 2006 I was introduced to Virtualization thru VMWare and Microsoft Virtual PC and my life changed. I was able to consolidate most of my physical servers into virtual machines and I was happy.

Over the last few years I transitioned out of full time IT to work more on my Audio/Visual consulting career and my network started to run stale. I signed up for a Microsoft’s Technet subscription and downloaded more recent software but didn’t want to take the plunge because of how much work it would be; my network over the years has become quite elaborate with many hooks and interconnecting parts and I knew it wouldn’t be an easy upgrade path. However this part Dec (2013) I had just finished up a video project and had some downtime. My brother had sent me a new firewall to install and I figured now would be the time to do it.

We tackled the firewall first and spent 10 hours working on getting the VPN working. I have a Zyxel Zywall USG 50 and was connecting to his Fortinet 40c. The reason it took 10 hours (which is literally 9.75 hours more than it should have) is because while the USG50’s GUI says that it is sending certain information and it really isn’t. It took a logged ssh session that captured the information the USG50 was sending that it was pretending that it wasn’t sending. Once we had that information and made the right changes ont he 40C the VPN was up and running.

After that success I decided to upgrade my server from 2003 (now a 10 year old OS – good grief, where has time gone) to 2008R2. I didn’t want to go to the latest Server 2012 because I have no experience with it yet. It would be better for me to set that up as a VM and run some applications on it first to see how it reacts to my network config. As I mentioned my family is using my network as well and you cannot have your family’s network access down during school season *if* you want to stay sane for any length of time.

I didn’t do any in-place upgrades from 2003 to 2008. I created new virtual machines and transitioned the services from the old to the new…. and I was reminded how complex my network is. Through the transition I blocked my mail from being forwarded correctly on two occasions and had mail backed up twice. I discovered that none of my backup scripts would work with the new (and totally scaled down to worthless level) Server 2008 Backup application. I also have two older applications that I have to start manually so that I could get the GUI working correctly; if I start them manually the on-screen logging applications does not show any connections.

I also upgraded my WSUS server from Server 2003 to Server 2012 R2. That process was not as straight forward as it could have been and I ended up spending a lot of time tweaking some problems. Due to changes in connection ports between the older version to the 2012 version my clients could not connect and of course the obtuse error message didn’t provide a clear path to the solution. It took quite a bit of searching and a Skype call to my IT guru brother to get a solution to the problem. At least now everything is working.

So I’ve gotten a lot done but still a lot more to go. I want to consolidate more services to have fewer VM utilizing more resources, I need to retire older VMs for good and then I can start looking forward to hardware upgrades…. Any donations would be accepted. At least I’ve gotten 2014 off to a great start in rediscovering my IT background and learning new things. It’s never a bad day when you can learn something new!



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