Response Point SP 1 released!

Today Microsoft has released Service Pack 1 (SP1) for their Response Point Phone system and with that comes the official release of Response Point into Canada. Response Point is a phone system designed for small businesses that takes away the complexity of most phone systems (and the large price).

Response Point is a hardware and Software system available from three hardware manufacturers, Syspine, DLink and Aastra. Here at Sysguy Consulting we are authorized partners for the Syspine and Aastra systems.

Service Pack 1 adds the long awaited ability to use SIP Trunking (VOIP) with your Response Point system as well as using POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Other additions include click dialing from your PC, call history and live status views of other users phones from your PC.

We have downloaded the software and the firmware for our Syspine Demo system and will be applying it soon. Once we have run through it we will be posting a more indepth review.

Please contact us if you want to see a demo of the Response Point system in your office.

Microsoft Response Point Coming to Canada in June 08

I attended a Small Business IT conference in Toronto a few weeks ago and we were fortunate to see get first Canadian Partner look at Microsoft’s Response Point system. Response Point has been available in the US for about a year now and with the service pack 1 release it will now be available in Canada.

So what is Response Point? To put it simply, Response Point is a hardware and software phone system designed for small businesses (1 to 50 phones). The software is developed by Microsoft and embedded into the hardware phone system. There are three approved hardware manufacturers making the handsets and base units Syspine, D-Link and Aastra.

The system works with your existing telephone lines and with the release of service pack 1, also with VOIP providers.

The handset plug into the Ethernet port in your office and then your computer can plug into the handset. With this configuration, you can make calls using the client software on your PC by clicking on your contact list. The client software also shows you the status of other users using the system on your network.

The strong point of the system though is it’s voice recognition features. You can pick up parked calls, transfer calls or dial calls using voice commands.

Other features that come included in the system;
Automated Receptionist
No answer call transfer
Voicemail to Email
Forwarding to Mobile devices
Ability to pick up parked calls from anywhere
Easy setup and changes
Built in Voicemail
Music on Hold
Power over Ethernet handsets
Integrated Caller ID that works when call is transferred to another user.
Three way calling

The price of the system is affordable for most small businesses. For example a base unit and 4 handsets can be purchased for approximately 2500.00. Additional handsets (can be mixed and matched between vendors) can be purchased for as little as 139.00 each.

Because it is a complete hardware and software system, many new features can be added via software updates.

While there are some limitations in version 1 and in SP 1 (lack of fax handling, no Active Directory integration, no direct Outlook integration), for most businesses these will not be deal breakers.

We here at Sysguy Consulting are currently trying to get one of the Syspine Demo kits to test and demonstrate the system. We will write a more detailed review once we play with it for a bit and again after the SP 1 release. If you are interested in learning more about Response Point please feel free to contact us.

Alberta Only SBS Promo Starting soon

Starting April 2nd listen for a new Microsoft Campaign in Alberta promoting one of our favourite SMB Solutions, SBS 2003 R2. MS will launch on the top radio stations in Calgary and Edmonton a promotional deal with HP. This will soon be followed by a direct email campaign. If you are looking at getting a server for your small business, now would be the time to start looking.

As a Microsoft Small Business Specialist, Sysguy Consulting will be involved with the promotion and we should be getting some referrals from MS. Please contact us if you are interested in finding out more about this promotion!


Expanding the use of my Blackberry Pearl

Some of you may know that I picked up a Blackberry 8100 (also known as the Pearl) in early December. As a cell phone the device has been great. Voice quality is clear and signal strength has been really good wherever I used it. For email I was just using the Rogers Blackberry Internet Service which gave me the ability to create a default blackberry address and then add up to 10 POP email accounts to the device. The problem with this was that I could not control when the mail was picked up. Another issue I had was that while I could connect and get mail from my own exchange server (SBS 2003 server at home) via Outlook Web Access, I could not use the calendaring feature of exchange.

If you are not aware there are actually two ways that a Blackberry can work. The personal option is the BIS service offered above, while most corporations use Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) to send and receive emails, synchronize calendars and address books with their corporate email systems. I always thought that BES was a very expensive service (starting at 1500.00) and never thought I would take advantage of it, but there are some Hosted Exchange services that offer BES for a monthly fee (typically 9.99 USD per month). If you run a Microsoft Small Business Server and use email that way and have just a couple of users then the BES solution may have been an expensive option for you.

Then about a month ago, I got a post in one of my SBS tech lists about a free version of Blackberry Enterprise Server, called Blackberry Enterprise Server Express. This version comes with a single user CAL meaning one user can be connected and additional users (up to 15 can be added for about 100.00 USD). I did a Google search, found the page input my data (you have to supply a Blackberry Pin) and downloaded the software.

Today I finally got around to setting it up. Installation on my SBS 2003 Standard Server was fairly straight forward. The documentation guides you through the set up of a User account (requires SBS Cal) and applying the permissions that are required. Then you install the software. My first go really didn’t work right as I skipped the installation of SQL thinking it was on my server. While this server is an SBS 2003 R2 Premium server, I currently have it running as a Standard Server (No SQL and No ISA servers running). My first set up failed because I didn’t have SQL set up , so I installed SQL2005 Express (Another free download) and re installed the BB software (paying a little more attention to what I was doing). The install went fine and the databases set up fine. I went into BES Manager set up my user and then activated my Pearl using the Enterprise Activation on it. It synced everything up and I was in business. Now I can use my SBS server and Blackberry together for contacts, wireless sync and calendaring!

I did run into a few problems thought receiving emails afterwards, in fact my Exchange server had a problem receiving emails period. Turns out that an email archiving program that I was testing and uninstalled was still trying to archive my messages. I got that fixed and the mail started flowing properly again, when I ran into another problem. An MS patch removed the send as permissions on the BESADMIN account. Using an MS and Blackberry support article got that problem fixed and it looks like I am in business again.

One of the best things is that I can use both BIS and BES on my Pearl. So I still get email from the POP3 accounts that I set up but now I get email from my SBS 2003 server as well!

If you are interested in looking at this option please feel free to contact us and we will help set up your SBS server so that you can teach your BB new tricks.


Version of Windows Vista for Software Assurance Clients only

For Sysguy clients that have MIcrosoft Open License and Software Assurance on their Windows Xp systems. There is a version of Windows Vista that will be available exclusively for them.

This version contains all the features of Windows Vista Business in addition to BitLocker Hard Drive encryption, application compatibilty and multiple language support. This version is not available for retail purchase and will only be made available to clients with current Software Assurance on their XP Pro systems.

To find out more about this new version you can go to this blog

To see the features of Windows Vista visit Microsoft here

To view the editions of Windows Vista visit this site

Or contact Sysguy Consulting to learn about how you can get your machines enrolled in Software Assurance. If you have purchased a PC or Laptop since October of 2005 with Windows XP Pro you can be eligible to add SA to these machines!


SBS Backups Tape VS USB Hard Drives

Currently there is a debate raging on the yahoo small business server mailing list about what is better for servers, backing up to tape or backing up to USB Hard Drives. Like all situations there is positives and negatives to both sides.

Our views
We have been using both types of backups for our clients but lately have been making the move to USB Hard Drive most often. Lower end tape drives (Travan) have not kept up to the ever expanding size of hard drives and I have found can sometimes be unreliable. Higher end tap drives with the proper capacity are expensive and the media is very expensive (Drives cost between 1000 to 5000 dollars CAN, and media is 100.00 – 200.00 CAN per tape). The largest two advantages of a tape system however is that the media is portable and easy to store offsite and you can add additional tapes to archive data over a longer period of time.

USB Hard Drives on the other hand are very inexpensive and often you can get 4 or 5 300 GB drives in enclosures for the cost of 1 lower end tape drive. There are a couple of problems that can occur with USB hard drives. The drives are more fragile than tape media. Dropping the enclosure can result in significant damage that renders the backups on it useless. The drives are bulkier than tape media. As well if a part of a backup set get’s corrupted due to bad media, the whole backup set may be useless, whereas with a tape the corrupted part of the media could still be skipped and the rest of the backup files restored. The biggest advantages are that they are fast (USB 2), they can hold much more data than a tape and they are inexpensive!

What have we been doing for our clients? Currently for Small business we are recommending a minimum of 2 USB Hard Drives in a rotation at minimum. Ideally 3 or 4 would be better. 1 Drive backs up 1 week and is rotated out and stored off site, and then the other drive is substitued. With a 3 or 4 drive system one drive could be used for archiving monthly backups. In addition with the cost of external hard drives dropping on a regular basis a new drive could be added every 5 to 6 months to store and archive backups.

Off site storage and archiving is very important. Many things can happen to a physical location (Fires, Theft, Flooding) and if there is no backup taken off site, important company data could be lost. For companies that are publicly traded and operating in the US, Sarbannes Oxley regulations force them to maintain archives of 7 years of all their data and email. Think to yourself. What would happen to my business if all of our data was wiped out today? A well planned, maintained and tested disaster recovery plan is well worth any cost in implementing!

We would be happy to discuss backup solutions with any of our exisiting clients or new clients. Soon we will be contacting everyone for a review of their existing disaster recover plans and where shortfalls may lie.

To the same affect most home users should also implement some sort of backup system. Often we work on PCs where there is a failure of either physical components or software issues where we attempt (and are usually successful) at recovering data, however this can become very expensive and time consuming.

There is an old IT expression that states “you are only as good as your last backup!” So true!


SBS Grey Screen of Death

A big whoops over to the people at CA (Computer Associates). In late August they released a virus signature package to their E Trust products that mistakenly flags the required LSASS.exe system file as a trojan horse/ Virus and the real time scanner would delete the file. Upon reboot the server would freeze at a grey screen. This was discovered fairly early but in some cases the damage was already done. You can read more about this error at this blog

I have checked the servers of Sysguy clients that have CA ETrust 8 AV on them and all appeared to have notbeen affected by this signature update problem. However I would ask that all Sysguy Clients running this software please contact us before rebooting their servers so that we can be on standby to fix any problems.


MS Small Business Specialist

We are proud to have recently acheived our Microsoft Small Business Specialist Designation. This designation shows that we are proficient in evaluating the needs and requirements of small businesses and to design and build computer networks and solutions specifically for small businesses.

Contact us to have a free technical assesment done of your small business and see if can implement a solution to make your office more productive.