Wireless authentication with usernames and 802.1x

If you’re at all interested in keeping your network and data secure it’s necessary to implement 802.1x. This authentication standard has a few significant benefits over the typical wireless network password used by many companies.

  1. It makes sure wireless clients are logging into _your_ wireless network. It’s very easy for an attacker to create a wireless network with the same name as yours and have clients connect and unknowingly send sensitive data over it.
  2. Authentication is specific to the user. The wireless network password isn’t the same for everyone. People who leave and their account gets disabled lose access immediately.

All enterprise network hardware supports 802.1x and NetCal can implement it to keep your network flexible, fast and secure.

5 Must-Have Features of Your Remote Monitoring Services

Remote Monitoring Services Features You Must Have

As a managed service provider (MSP), we have a desire to take your business to the next level. The MSPs that are successful in this endeavor have a key ingredient in common: they are armed with the right tools for growth. The most critical tool for success in this business is a powerful remote monitoring services and management (RMM) solution.

So the question is, what should you be looking for when you purchase an RMM tool, and why are those features important to your business?

The right RMM tool impacts your business success with five key benefits. With a powerful and feature-rich RMM solution in place, you can:

  • Automate any IT process or task
    Work on multiple machines at once
    Solve issues without interrupting clients
    Integrate smoothly into a professional services automation (PSA) tool
    Manage everything from one control center.

To better understand why these features are so influential, let’s talk a little more about each of them.

Automate Any IT Process or Task

Imagine being able to determine a potential incident before your client feels the pain and fix it in advance to avoid that negative business impact. Being able to automate any IT process gives you the proactive service model you need to keep your clients happy for the long haul.

Work on Multiple Machines at Once

To solve complex issues, an MSP must be able to work on all the machines that make up a system. If you are attempting to navigate this maze via a series of webpages, it is hard to keep up with progress and makes it easy to miss a critical item during the diagnosis. Having the ability to work on multiple machines at once is paramount to developing your business model and maximizing your returns.

Solve Issues Without Interrupting Clients

One of the biggest challenges that MSPs face is fixing issues without impacting their clients’ ability to work. With the wrong tools in place, the solution can be nearly as disruptive as the issue it’s meant to fix. The right tool must allow a technician to connect behind the scenes, troubleshoot and remediate the problem without impacting the client’s ability to work.

Integrate Smoothly Into a PSA Tool

Two-way integration between your RMM and PSA solutions eliminates bottlenecks and allows data to flow smoothly between the tools. The goal of integration is to enable you to respond more quickly to client needs as well as capture and store historical information that leads to easier root cause analysis.

A solid integration will also increase sales by turning data into actionable items that result in quotes and add-on solutions. The key areas to examine when looking at how a PSA and RMM integrate are:

  • Managing tickets and tasks
    Capturing billable time
    Assigning incidents based on device and technician
    Scheduling and automating tasks
    Identifying and managing sales opportunities
    Managing and reporting on client configuration information

A solid integration into a PSA will create an end-to-end unified solution to help your more effectively run your IT business.

Manage Everything from One Control Center

The control center for your RMM solution should be the cockpit for your service delivery. Having the ability to manage aspects that are directly related to service delivery such as backup and antivirus from the same control center keeps your technicians working within a familiar environment and speeds service delivery. Also, it cuts down on associated training costs by limiting their activities to the things that matter on a day-to-day basis.

Success means equipping your business with the right features and functionality to save your technicians time while increasing your revenue and profit margins. Selecting an RMM solution that solves for these five influential features is the key to getting started down the path to success. What are you waiting for?


This article was provided by our service partner Labtech.

Windows Server 2016: 5 Things You Need to Know

On October 12th, Microsoft released their latest server operating system – Windows Server 2016. To ensure your success, we’ve gathered a list of the top 5 things you need to know.

We’ve been preparing for Windows Server 2016 for the past couple months, and even attended Microsoft Ignite a few weeks ago, to make sure we’re up to date on all the latest and greatest news.

While TechNet has already published a “What’s New in Windows Server 2016” article, at ConnectWise we want to take you a bit deeper and call out a few things technology solution providers like you should be aware of.

Patching

Windows Server 2016 continues Microsoft’s move to deployment rings. Windows 10 introduced 6 deployment ring options spread across 3 phases (also known as servicing branches):

Insider – 1 ring
Current Branch (CB) – 2 rings
Current Branch for Business (CBB) – 3 rings
Then, enterprise customers wanted an even slower option, so a special edition of Windows 10 was released called Windows 10 Enterprise Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) – which essentially added a fourth phase / seventh deployment ring.

With Windows Server 2016, the installation option you choose will determine which servicing branch you default to. Server 2016 with Desktop Experience and Core will both default to the LTSB, which is great for reducing problems in a production environment. Just be aware that the LTSB won’t include certain things, like Edge browser.

Nano

There’s been a ton of hype about the Nano Server option. But before you start spinning them up in production, you should know that Nano Servers don’t use the LTSB (see above). Instead, they default to the CBB, which means more frequent patches (CBB is Phase 3. LTSB is Phase 4).

Given some recently reported issues with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, we’ll let you decide whether this is a good idea or not for your business and clients. Also, it’s important to note that Nano Servers requires Microsoft Software Assurance.

Licensing

Speaking of Software Assurance, you may have noticed that Microsoft is changing how they license certain editions of Windows Server 2016.

Back in 2013, Microsoft introduced core-based licensing because processors weren’t a precise enough measure (since each processor can have a varying number of cores). Though, you could still get Datacenter and Standard editions under the processor-based licensing model.

Starting with Server 2016, processor-based licensing is no longer available for Datacenter and Standard edition. If you were lucky enough to renew your Software Assurance agreement recently, this won’t apply to you until renewal.

Even then, during renewal, you’ll get 16 core licenses for each applicable on-premise processor license and 8 core licenses for each service provider processor license.

Containers

On the plus side, if you opt for Datacenter or Standard under the core-based licensing model, you’ll now be able to use one of the most talked about features of Server 2016 – containers!

For anyone that’s not familiar with containers, Microsoft considers them “the next evolution of virtualization” and they come in two flavors:

Windows Server containers
Hyper-V containers
With either of the core-based editions for Server 2016, you can run unlimited Windows Server containers by sharing the host kernel. If that’s a security concern for you or your clients, then you’ll want to use Hyper-V containers to isolate the host’s kernel from each container.

Just know that unlike Windows Server containers, you can only run 2 Hyper-V containers on each Standard edition server. If you want unlimited Hyper-V containers, you’ll need Datacenter edition. But whichever choice you make, both types of container can work with Docker.

Windows Defender

When upgrading to Windows Server 2016 from a prior version with antivirus installed, you may run into problems. That’s because the upgrade process installs and enables Windows Defender by default.

Luckily, whether the user interface is enabled or not (which seems to depend on edition), there’s a quick PowerShell command you can run to disable Windows Defender entirely:

Uninstall-WindowsFeature -Name Windows-Server-Antimalware

(Bonus) Modern Lifecycle Policy

While not directly related to Windows Server 2016, here’s a bonus that partners should be aware of: Microsoft has announced their new Modern Lifecycle Policy. For now, this policy only applies to four Microsoft products:

System Center Configuration Manager (current branch)
.NET core
NET
Entity Framework core

The new policy essentially says that Microsoft will only support the current version and once they announce End of Life for a product, you have 12 months before support ends.

Given the heavy push to Microsoft’s new serving model for Windows 10 and now Server 2016, it’s a safe bet that the list of products this policy applies to will grow.

When it comes to the release of Windows Server 2016, there’s a lot to digest (known issues, PowerShell 5.0, WMF 5.1, Just Enough Administration, IIS 10).

Given the number of clients you support that may ask about upgrading older systems or virtualizing, we’re sure you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn more… but before your clients ask, we wanted you be aware of some of the business and technical nuances.


This post was provided by one of our service providers ConnectWise.

Network Management : Is SNMP here forever?

The first SNMP release came out in 1988. 28 years later, SNMP is still around, a go to Network Management tool … Will this still be the case in 10 years from now? Difficult to say but the odds are lower these days. Why are we predicting SNMP could go away?

If you’re already savvy about SNMP, check out this blog for getting insight into current SNMP limitations and why we are making this prediction.

SNMP was designed to make it simple for the NMS to request and consume data.  But those same data models and operations make it difficult for routers to scale to the needs of today’s networks. To understand this, you first need to understand the fundamentals of SNMP.

SNMP stands for Simple Network Management Protocol. It was introduced to meet the growing need for managing IP devices in a standard way. SNMP provides its users with a “simple” set of operations that allows these devices to be managed remotely. SNMP was designed to make it simple for the NMS to request and consume data. But those same data models and operations make it difficult for routers to scale to the needs of today’s networks.  To understand this, you first need to understand the fundamentals of SNMP.

For example, you can use SNMP to shut down an interface on your router or check the speed at which your Ethernet interface is operating. SNMP can even monitor the temperature on your router and warn you when it is getting too high.

The overall architecture is rather simple – there are essentially 2 main components (see Figure 1)

  • A centralized NMS system
  • Distributed agents (little piece of software running on managed network devices)

NMS is responsible for polling and receiving traps from agents in the network:

  • Polling a network device is the act of querying an agent for some piece of information.
  • A trap is a way for the agent to alert the NMS that something wrong has happened. Traps are sent asynchronously, not in response to queries from the NMS.

How is information actually structured on network devices? A Management Information Base (MIB) is present on every network device. This can be thought as a database of objects that the agent tracks. Any piece of information that can be accessed by the NMS is defined in a MIB.

Managed objects are stored into a treelike hierarchy as described in Figure 2:

The directory branch is actually not used. The management branch (mgmt) defines a standard set of objects that every network device needs to support. The experimental branch is for research purposes only and finally the private branch is for vendors to define objects specific to their devices.

Each managed object is uniquely defined by a name, e.g. an OID (Object Identifier). An object ID consists of a series of integers based on the nodes in the tree, separated by dots (.).

Under the mgmt branch, one can find the MIB-II that is an important MIB for TCP/IP networks. It is defined in RFC 1213 and you can see an extract in Figure 3.

With that mind, the OID for accessing information related to interfaces is: 1.3.6.1.2.1.2 and for information related to system: 1.3.6.1.2.1.1

Finally, there are 2 main SNMP request types to retrieve information.

GET request – request a single value by its Object identifier (see Figure 4)

GET-NEXT request – request a single value that is next in the lexical order from the requested Object Identifier (see Figure 5)

 


This is a repost of a blog by one of our service partners Cisco.

The power user’s guide to PowerShell

PowerShell is a powerful tool to master. Here’s our step-by-step guide to getting familiar with Windows’ über language.

If you’ve wrestled with Windows 10, you’ve undoubtedly heard of PowerShell. If you’ve tried to do something fancy with Win7/8.1 recently, PowerShell’s probably come up, too. After years of relying on the Windows command line and tossed-together batch files, it’s time to set your sights on something more powerful, more adaptive — better.
PowerShell is an enormous addition to the Windows toolbox, and it can provoke a bit of fear given that enormity. Is it a scripting language, a command shell, a floor wax? Do you have to link a cmdlet with an instantiated .Net class to run with providers? And why do all the support docs talk about administrators — do I have to be a professional Windows admin to make use of it?

Relax. PowerShell is powerful, but it needn’t be intimidating.
The following guide is aimed at those who have run a Windows command or two or jimmied a batch file. Consider it a step-by-step transformation from PowerShell curious to PowerShell capable.

Step 1: Crank it up

The first thing you’ll need is PowerShell itself. If you’re using Windows 10, you already have PowerShell 5 — the latest version — installed. (Win10 Anniversary Update has 5.1, but you won’t know the difference with the Fall Update’s 5.0.) Windows 8 and 8.1 ship with PowerShell 4, which is good enough for getting your feet wet. Installing PowerShell on Windows 7 isn’t difficult, but it takes extra care — and you need to install .Net Framework separately. JuanPablo Jofre details how to install WMF 5.0 (Windows Management Framework), which includes PowerShell, in addition to tools you won’t likely use when starting out, on MSDN.

PowerShell offers two interfaces. Advanced users will go for the full-blown GUI, known as the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE). Beginners, though, are best served by the PowerShell Console, a simple text interface reminiscent of the Windows command line, or even DOS 3.2.

To start PowerShell as an Administrator from Windows 10, click Start and scroll down the list of apps to Windows PowerShell. Click on that line, right-click Windows PowerShell, and choose Run as Administrator. In Windows 8.1, look for Windows PowerShell in the Windows System folder. In Win7, it’s in the Accessories folder. You can run PowerShell as a “normal” user by following the same sequence but with a left click.

In any version of Windows, you can use Windows search to look for PowerShell. In Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, you can put it on your Ctrl-X “Power menu” (right-click a blank spot on the taskbar and choose Properties; on the Navigation tab, check the box to Replace Command Prompt). Once you have it open, it’s a good idea to pin PowerShell to your taskbar. Yes, you’re going to like it that much.

Step 2: Type old-fashioned Windows commands

You’d be amazed how much Windows command-line syntax works as expected in PowerShell.
For example, cd changes directories (aka folders), and dir still lists all the files and folders included in the current folder.
Depending on how you start the PowerShell console, you may start at c:\Windows\system32 or at c:\Users\<username>. In the screenshot example, I use cd .. (note the space) to move up one level at a time, then run dir to list all files and subfolders in the C:\ directory.

Step 3: Install the help files

Commands like cd and dir aren’t native PowerShell commands. They’re aliases — substitutes for real PowerShell commands. Aliases can be handy for those of us with finger memory that’s hard to overcome. But they don’t even begin to touch the most important parts of PowerShell.

To start getting a feel for PowerShell itself, type help followed by a command you know. For example, in the screenshot, I type help dir.

PowerShell help tells me that dir is an alias for the PowerShell command Get-ChildItem. Sure enough, if you type get-childitem at the PS C:\> prompt, you see exactly what you saw with the dir command.

As noted at the bottom of the screenshot, help files for PowerShell aren’t installed automatically. To retrieve them (you do want to get them), log on to PowerShell in Administrator mode, then type update-help. Installing the help files will take several minutes, and you may be missing a few modules — Help for NetWNV and SecureBoot failed to install on my test machine. But when you’re done, the full help system will be at your beck and call.

From that point on, type get-help followed by the command (“cmdlet” in PowerShell speak, pronounced “command-let”) that concerns you and see all of the help for that item. For example, get-help get-childitem produces a summary of the get-childitem options. It also prompts you to type in variations on the theme. Thus, the following:

get-help get-childitem -examples

produces seven detailed examples of how to use get-childitem. The PowerShell command

get-help get-childitem -detailed

includes those seven examples, as well as a detailed explanation of every parameter available for the get-childitem cmdlet.

Step 4: Get help on the parameters

In the help dir screenshot, you might have noticed there are two listings under SYNTAX for get-childitem. The fact that there are two separate syntaxes for the cmdlet means there are two ways of running the cmdlet. How do you keep the syntaxes separate — and what do the parameters mean? The answer’s easy, if you know the trick.
To get all the details about parameters for the get-childitem cmdlet, or any other cmdlet, use the -full parameter, like this:

get-help get-childitem -full

That produces a line-by-line listing of what you can do with the cmdlet and what may (or may not!) happen. See the screenshot.

Sifting through the parameter details, it’s reasonably easy to see that get-childitem can be used to retrieve “child” items (such as the names of subfolders or filenames) in a location that you specify, with or without specific character matches. For example:

get-childItem “*.txt” -recurse

retrieves a list of all of the “*.txt” files in the current folder and all subfolders (due to the -recurse parameter). Whereas the following:

get-childitem “HKLM:\Software”

returns a list of all of the high-level registry keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software.
If you’ve ever tried to get inside the registry using a Windows command line or a batch file, I’m sure you can see how powerful this kind of access must be.

Step 5: Nail down the names
There’s a reason why the cmdlets we’ve seen so far look the same: get-childitem, update-help, and get-help all follow the same verb-noun convention. Mercifully, all of PowerShell’s cmdlets use this convention, with a verb preceding a (singular) noun. Those of you who spent weeks struggling over inconsistently named VB and VBA commands can breathe a sigh of relief.
To see where we’re going, take a look at some of the most common cmdlets (thanks to Ed Wilson’s Hey, Scripting Guy! blog). Start with the cmdlets that reach into your system and pull out useful information, like the following:

set-location: Sets the current working location to a specified location
get-content: Gets the contents of a file
get-item: Gets files and folders
copy-item: Copies an item from one location to another
remove-item: Deletes files and folders
get-process: Gets the processes that are running on a local or remote computer
get-service: Gets the services running on a local or remote computer
invoke-webrequest: Gets content from a web page on the internet

To see how a particular cmdlet works, use get-help, as in
get-help copy-item -full

Based on its help description, you can readily figure out what the cmdlet wants. For example, if you want to copy all your files and folders from Documents to c:\temp, you would use:
copy-item c:\users\[username] \documents\* c:\temp

As you type in that command, you’ll see a few nice touches built into the PowerShell environment. For example, if you type copy-i and press the Tab key, PowerShell fills in Copy-Item and a space.

If you mistype a cmdlet and PowerShell can’t figure it out, you get a very thorough description of what went wrong.
Try this cmdlet. (It may try to get you to install a program to read the “about” box. If so, ignore it.)
invoke-webrequest netcal.com

You get a succinct list of the web page’s content declarations, headers, images, links, and more. See how that works? Notice in the get-help listing for invoke-webrequest that the invoke-webrequest cmdlet “returns collections of forms, links, images, and other significant HTML elements” — exactly what you should see on your screen.
Some cmdlets help you control or grok PowerShell itself:
get-command: Lists all available cmdlets (it’s a long list!)
get-verb: Lists all available verbs (the left halves of cmdlets)
clear-host: Clears the display in the host program

Various parameters (remember, get-help) let you whittle down the commands and narrow in on options that may be of use to you. For example, to see a list of all the cmdlets that work with Windows services, try this:
get-command *-service
It lists all the verbs that are available with service as the noun. Here’s the result:

Get-Service
New-Service
Restart-Service
Resume-Service
Set-Service
Start-Service
Stop-Service
Suspend-Service
You can combine these cmdlets with other cmdlets to dig down into almost any part of PowerShell. That’s where pipes come into the picture.

Step 6: Bring in the pipes

If you’ve ever used the Windows command line or slogged through a batch file, you know about redirection and pipes. In simple terms, both redirection (the > character) and pipes (the | character) take the output from an action and stick it someplace else. You can, for example, redirect the output of a dir command to a text file, or “pipe” the result of a ping command into a find, to filter out interesting results, like so:

dir > temp.txt
ping askwoody.com | find “packets” > temp2.txt

In the second command above, the find command looks for the string packets in the piped output of an askwoody.com ping and sticks all the lines that match in a file called temp2.txt.
Perhaps surprisingly, the first of those commands works fine in PowerShell. To run the second command, you want something like this:

ping askwoody.com | select-string packets | out-file temp2.txt

Using redirection and pipes greatly expands the Windows command line’s capabilities: Instead of scrolling endlessly down a screen looking for a text string, for example, you can put together a piped Windows command that does the vetting for you.

PowerShell has a piping capability, but it isn’t restricted to text. Instead, PowerShell lets you pass an entire object from one cmdlet to the next, where an “object” is a combination of data (called properties) and the actions (methods) that can be used on the data.

The hard part, however, lies in aligning the objects. The kind of object delivered by one cmdlet has to match up with the kinds of objects accepted by the receiving cmdlet. Text is a very simple kind of object, so if you’re working with text, lining up items is easy. Other objects aren’t so rudimentary.

How to figure it out? Welcome to the get-member cmdlet. If you want to know what type of object a cmdlet produces, pipe it through get-member. For example, if you’re trying to figure out the processes running on your computer, and you’ve narrowed down the options to the get-process cmdlet, here’s how you find out what the get-process cmdlet produces:
get-process | get-member

Running that command produces a long list of properties and methods for get-process, but at the very beginning of the list you can see the type of object that get-process creates:

TypeName: System.Diagnostics.Process

The below screenshot also tells you that get-process has properties called Handles, Name, NPM, PM, SI, VM, and WS.
If you want to manipulate the output of get-process so that you can work with it (as opposed to having it display a long list of active processes on the monitor), you need to find another cmdlet that will work with System.Diagnostics.Process as input. To find a willing cmdlet, you simply use … wait for it … PowerShell:
get-command -Parametertype System.Diagnostics.Process

That produces a list of all of the cmdlets that can handle System.Diagnostics.Process.
Some cmdlets are notorious for taking nearly any kind of input. Chief among them: where-object. Perhaps confusingly, where-object loops through each item sent down the pipeline, one by one, and applies whatever selection criteria you request. There’s a special marker called $_. that lets you step through each item in the pipe, one at a time.
Say you wanted to come up with a list of all of the processes running on your machine that are called “svchost” — in PowerShell speak, you want to match on a Name property of svchost. Try this PowerShell command:

get-process | where-object {$_.Name -eq “svchost”}

The where-object cmdlet looks at each System.Diagnostics.Process item, compares the .Name of that item to “svchost”; if the item matches, it gets spit out the end of the pipe and typed on your monitor.