Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Accessing Multiple Exchange Accounts for Multi-Company Executives

Have you got an executive that has more than one company to exec at? I do. What do you do to allow them access to multiple Exchange accounts from one computer? Pop3? You lose Calendar, etc. OWA? A little different interface with limitations. RWW? Got to have a pc at the office or a virtual machine at the office to login to. RDP? Same issue as previous.

Well, none of those are very elegant. All either require extra steps and/or give up some of Outlook's strengths. BAH! Need real Outlook that is local and quick. Something simpler that allows them access to their all their different companies' exchange accounts from the same computer/laptop even when not connected to the internet.

You see, Outlook will only support one exchange account at a time. "AT A TIME" is the magic phrase. With some extra thinking, I thought myself out of this box. Two solutions (gems produced by the overheating of my brain and pressure inside my head) have come to mind.
  • Outlook Profiles:
    Create a profile for each exchange account, setting them up as "Outlook Via HTTP". The executive would have to select which profile to access at a time, but not a time intensive or error prone problem.

  • Virtual Machines (Coolness!!)
    This is the techie "Cool" way to do it. It involves running Outlook in multiple virtual machines at the same time. I created a virtual machine on an XP Pro workstation, loaded XP Pro on the virtual machine, and then loaded Outlook into the virtual machine. The host XP Pro computer had Outlook that accessed one exchange account and the virtual machine had an Outlook that accessed a different exchange account. Sure its more complicated. Sure it requires more licenses. But it is COOL. ... And it does work. I can have both Outlooks open and see them get email AT THE SAME TIME! Did I mention it was COOL?

I am glad to "work around" my original problem of providing this for an executive. The practical way is the first one. It can be done without any additional software cost. The second is appropriate if the executive requires more than one PC attached to the domains of the different companies. Thankfully, that is not the case with my executive.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I am sitting in the Yellow Lounge at the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference 2007, in Denver. This is the premier conference for All IT professionals that support Microsoft software and the Vendors that make the software and hardware that depends on Mr Softie's software.

"Sure", you say, "but it is expensive!" Yes, you are right!. Microsoft is not a cheap date.

Exposure to new products, discussion with product managers, business courses, networking with your peers, etc... How can you not be here? We are saving a space for you.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Swapping Motherboards - No More Nail Biting!

Swapping motherboards in a existing computer is nothing to be relished. Driver incompatibilities will drive you to chew your nails off.

Fear no more.

The HIR (Hardware Independent Restore) feature in the ShadowProtect IT 3.o Edition is marvelous! But it can be used in a case where you did not backup an image.

I had a client that had a computer go to electric heaven this week. Just the motherboard stopped working. The hard drive was replaced within the last four months. Told the client today that I would build them a new computer and have it ready with all the employee's stuff on it before the employee returns from vacation on Tuesday. There is just one problem.

EQK! I am leaving for WWPC in Denver on Sunday.

How could I get this done in time? StorageCraft to the rescue. I had a revelation earlier this week. Since ShadowProtect HIR has a mode to allow it to work on the image after it is restored, I could use it to change and match drivers on hard drives without restoring an image!

That fit my current situation. I ran by my favorite component distributor just before they closed on Friday and picked up all the parts for a new computer except the hard drive. I constructed the new computer and transferred the old hard drive to the new computer. I booted from the IT Edition cd and used HIR to replace the drivers. I only used drivers that were a fair match or higher. The network card and audio card showed no driver matches, so I did not replace the drivers. A quick reboot and Voila! Windows XP booted on the new motherboard. I then ran the drivers cd for the new motherboard.

What a relief! I will hand the computer to my backup tech tomorrow night at dinner and he will install it on Monday for me while I am hobnobbing at the Small Business Symposium :^).

Wow! A quick switch of all hardware except the hard drive, a HIR config, load some drivers, and now a network station from a SBS network is ready to go back on the network WITHOUT any additional configuration! And I still have my nails!
The Waiting Game - Virtual Server 2005 R2 and ShadowProtect

I think Mr. Gates is smiling about that Fossal watch. I could have really used it to track the hideous amount of time that it takes to restore ShadowProtect images to virtual disks mounted in virtual machines under Virtual Server 2005 R2.

Mark Crall inspired me to try this. His presentation where he restored a Windows 2003 server ShadowProtect image stored on a flash drive to a virtual machine over a wireless link has now become the stuff of legends. Well, we all know that legends are made from people that were foolish enough to do things that everyone else was too smart to do, and they succeeded! So, I had to take my hand at it. Unfortunately, I used Virtual Server instead of Virtual PC. My bad :(
I have just replaced my server with a new box and used the Swing Migration method to move my AD over. As stated in another post, it took some time, but I finally got a good result. No fault of Jeff Middleton; just preexisting issues that had to be cleared up.
So, I say to myself, "Self, lets virtualize the old server so that we can refer to it in the future!" You tend to use "we" in such conversations. I am very cautious and always want to be able to "dial back" to a previous point in time.
I re-setup the old server and made fresh ShadowProtect images of the system and data partitions, and set them aside. Then I decided to use the old server to actually create the virtual machine and drive. I loaded Virtual Server 2005 R2. Hey, why not? If Virtual PC is good, Virtual Server should perform even better! I gave the new virtual machine a name and created a static virtual drive for it. After creating 2 partitions and formatting them, I booted the virtual machine with ShadowProtect IT Edition 3.0. Since I had the virtual machine and the ShadowProtect images on the same USB drive and since Virtual Server cannot directly give a virtual machine access to a usb drive, I had to create a share for the partition containing the images and let the host share it with the virtual machine.

Do you get all that? Not a wireless network like Mark, but a images on a usb drive being accessed going through 2 virtual network adapters to be restored to a virtual hard drive located on the same usb drive. Well, I was not sure it would work and, sure enough, it gave me the devil for 3 days. The restore of 30 gigs of data to the system partition on the virtual hard drive lasted 14 HOURS before failing. The time indicated to completion climbed to 2 DAYS PLUS! 3 Hours was what I would have expected. 2 DAYS PLUS? Crips!

What was happening here? A problem with the virtual network adapters? Was this just TOO weird for VS 205 R2 to handle?

I was not to be deterred! So, change up on the setup. I placed the images on another drive on another machine on the network. Started the restore again except this time I was not accessing the images on the same drive as the virtual hard drive I was restoring to. Though shorter (1 DAY PLUS), the restore time was ridiculous.
I mentioned to Mark Crall that I was having this weird super elongated restore to a virtual hard drive. A discussion in sued. That is when I learned that he had never done his test with Virtual Server, only Virtual PC. What the Heck! I'll try it with Virtual PC. I installed Virtual PC 2007. Setup and restored the images from a network drive.


It worked. And within the original time frame I expected! Just over 3 hours to restore both partitions ( one 30 gig and one 40 gig).

So... why the drastic difference in performance for this situation? Who knows! I just know that, if I am doing demos, I better use Virtual PC.