27 Jan
12 May

Sharpening the Ax – The Plan

Crashing servers and data centers, aging PBX’s that are “out of gas”, out of parts, or suddenly out of service, crises caused by the challenge of managing people and operations at multiple locations without the tools to do so — all can trigger a company to suddenly move to upgrade its IT infrastructure or communication platform. But are allowing crises moments and the types of decisions made during them the best way to move an organization forward? Probably not.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

Putting the time and effort on the front end to plan for and anticipate the needs of your organization can ultimately enable you stay ahead or abreast of your competition and meet the needs of your stakeholders. Not only is your competition likely already striving for ways to get ahead, but your shareholders, employees, customers and clients are expecting you to do so too. As William Gibson wrote in the Economist, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

At Telcion Communications, the solutions we offer our customers include us investing the time it takes to understand your organization’s needs today and into the future. The best, most cost effective solutions are designed and implemented when we begin planning with our customers at the earliest stages to resolve current pain points, or meet anticipated business challenges and opportunities. That planning typically begins many months in advance of an implementation of a solution, and in some cases, years.

Of course, Telcion can quickly and effectively respond to crises at your company, but if your organization is working to stay ahead of a crises and plan for your future — whether it’s for voice, video, or virtualization — we want to join that conversation with you today.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Let us help you sharpen your ax. Contact us at sales@telcion.com for a more information.

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28 Mar

Well, It’s a Good Thing I Have a Back-Up… Part 2

In my last blog I discussed the backup process for a Cisco Unified Communications solution. If you didn’t see that you can read it here. As I mentioned previously, backing up the voice servers is only half the battle. There are several other components in your network infrastructure that can cause just as much pain as a server going down and potentially impact many other services beyond your voice applications.

What happens if your firewall, router or one of your switches dies? In the Cisco world you carry a Smartnet or Smartcare contract for hardware replacement or maybe you have a shelf spare that you can quickly put into place. Those are all great options to get another piece of equipment up and running quickly. However, the equipment is useless if you don’t have the proper configuration to make the replacement part function correctly. No matter the manufacturer there are methods to copy/backup the configuration. Some may be easier than others and some may be downright tedious. Whatever the method, you will be thankful you have the backup when the time comes and the pressure is on to get services restored as fast as possible.

As we are a Cisco Partner, I will focus on methods for backing up Cisco devices. The most common devices will be switches, routers and ASAs. There will be one more part to this series that dives a little deeper into the ASA backups as there can be items that a basic configuration backup doesn’t capture. I know there are several methods to do these backups, certainly too many to list in a single blog. I will be focusing on two free methods – Kron and Rconfig.

Kron is a great scheduling tool that allows you to schedule privileged mode commands on a switch or router. Some older IOS versions don’t have the Kron commands, so if you can’t configure Kron it might be time for an upgrade. The easiest way to get your configuration backup is to just copy your running configuration (or startup configuration) to a TFTP server. Here is a sample configuration of one way to schedule a copy of the configuration. Naturally you’d change the IP address in the configuration below to match the IP of your TFTP server.

******

kron policy-list test-kron

cli copy running-config tftp://10.10.10.10/router-a.txt

kron occurrence Weekly in 7:0:0 recurring

policy-list test-kron

******

For testing purposes, I change the kron occurrence Weekly to 1 rather than 7:0:0. This will make the scheduled command run every minute. With that, you can test everything and know your configuration is working. Then adjust to the time you want and you are all set. By the way, if you want to confirm the schedule just run the “show kron schedule” command.

For those that want a more robust feature set, you should take a look at Rconfig. Having been released in December 2012, it’s a fairly recent addition to the scene. Rconfig takes the basic configuration backup to a whole new level and gives you many of the features of a paid management tool.

For instance, you can run configuration comparisons right from the webpage. It also has the ability to monitor device configurations for policy compliance. The product may take a little bit to setup but the configuration guides are very detailed and will walk you through step by step to get this installed and running. There is also an active user forum where the developer responds to many, if not all, of the posts.

Being in IT can be difficult and the list of tasks you need to complete is long. I’m sure adding one more to the list isn’t very appealing but hopefully the information in this blog has encouraged you to add configuration backups to the list. Having to rebuild a complex configuration from scratch during an outage is the exact opposite of fun. Since I’ve been in that situation in the past, I’m a firm believer in maintaining configuration backups. With any luck you will take this information and implement something in your environment and when the day comes where you need the backup, you’re ready to go.

Check out “Well it’s a good thing I have backup…Part 1″ for the beginning of this story.  And as always, please feel free to contact us at sales@telcion.com to discuss your disaster recovery plans.

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30 Jan

Well, It’s a Good Thing I Have a Back-Up… Part 1

Backups are really your last line of defense when it comes to any type of failure. Sure, you might have RAID arrays, redundant servers, and three other methods to make sure your server never goes down. For those lucky few that have never experienced the dread one feels when you are neck deep in a major outage, I say count your blessings. At some point you will need to rely on a backup to get your system operational.

The backup for a Cisco Unified Communications solution is somewhat different than what is typical of many servers you manage. The Cisco products have a built-in backup application called Disaster Recovery System (DRS). However, on its own, DRS cannot complete a backup. DRS must point to an SFTP server running somewhere in your network to receive the backup information. You must first configure the SFTP server with the appropriate user and password information and setup a directory on the server to hold the backup files, then configure DRS to use the SFTP server.

When we discuss the use of an SFTP server to complete the backup process, most customers are not familiar with an SFTP server. Questions like, “What is it?” or “Do I need another server to run this?” are common. Fortunately the answers are simple — it’s just a small application that can run on any of your existing Windows or Linux servers. There are several SFTP servers to choose from. The DRS administration guide for Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) explains the entire DRS system and lists a few recommended SFTP servers.

The whole process really is very simple to set up, but it is not something that allows you to “set it and forget it”. As with any components of your network, you must maintain them to ensure they are running as expected. There are methods to automatically notify the administrator of a failed backup but nothing can replace a simple manual check to confirm everything is working. Adding a backup confirmation task to your weekly checklist is a great way to verify a successful backup. This only takes about a minute or two per system. For example, if you have CUCM, Unity Connection and Unified Contact Center (UCCX) you could confirm all of the backups were successful in about 5 minutes.

Now that you are confident your Cisco Unified Communications solution has a backup that will be there when you need it, what’s next? Don’t forget about the devices that make the network function. Here’s a scenario that may be familiar to some — your firewall (or router, or switch) just died. No problem, we have a 4-hour hardware replacement contract. That’s great! What about the configuration, who has a copy of that? Well, that’s a topic for another blog…

If you want to discuss a disaster recovery solution for your company, give us a call 209.632.5700 or email us at sales@telcion.com.

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