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Have you tested that software yet?

April 8th 2014.  You may want to add that date to your diary as it is the end of support date for Windows XP.  If you are still on Windows XP after that date you will not get any further security updates from Microsoft and your systems will be vunerable to all sorts of nasties if they are connected to the internet.


But that seems ages away so why should I worry right know?

True it is still a while away but it is always better to start planning these things early so you don’t end up struggling to make the switch right at the end.  Another thing to think about is will your software run on Windows 7 (or even Windows 8)? Getting systems for employees and training them up on the new operating system is one thing but not having a piece of business critical software running correctly (if at all) is a BIG problem.

If you start thinking about what software you use now, along with slowly upgrading your systems then the cost in terms of training and system outlay can be spread out.

OK so you know what software you currently have and what you will probably need in the future but how do you go about testing it with Windows 7?  You have the following choices.

1. Go out and purchase a system with Windows 7 and install the software on it.  Use the software over a period of time (personally I would say one month) and try to accomplish tasks you would do on a daily basis.  This should give you an idea how the software performs on the new operating system.

2. Install Windows 7 as a virtual machine on your existing system and test the software as described above.  The advantage of this method is that you only have to purchase a copy of Windows 7 and not a complete system.

3. If your software is not able to run on Windows 7 you can try either running it inside a Windows XP virtual machine, running it in XP Compatibility Mode or you may have to purchase a similar piece of software which does run on Windows 7.

Whichever method you chose I would strongly suggest you start thinking about testing your software sooner rather than later.  In doing this any teething issues that you weren’t expecting can quickly be resolved (my printer doesn’t work with Windows 7 — argh!!).

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

Running a Hardware Firewall inside a virtual machine

Running a firewall is paramount so that ‘bad people’ don’t get access to your system or network but the question is always which should you choose, hardware or a software firewall?  Going from past experiences I have found hardware firewalls to be more powerful and less resource intensive than their software counterparts however not everyone has a spare system lying around to install one on.  Here is an idea – why not install your hardware firewall inside a virtual machine on the system you already have?


This is the approach I have taken for my own network.  I have a Ubuntu 12.04 server with Virtualbox installed.  I have multiple virtual machines running at the same time and wanted a firewall to cover them all. So I run a hardware firewall (in my case Smoothwall Express 3.0 – I was originally running Untangle Gateway) inside a virtual machine which is configured to start at boot should the server have to be restarted.  The are multiple reasons for doing this:

1. I don’t have a spare system lying around to use as the hardware firewall.

2. Electric bill is reduced as there is only one system running instead of two.

3. The virtual machine is protecting my entire network not just the system it is installed on.

4. Any attacker would have to compromise the hardware firewall first before moving onto the main system.

5. Disaster recovery is simpler and quicker with virtual machines than traditional systems.

6. Software firewalls consume resources (ie CPU, RAM etc) on whichever system they are installed on so system performance can be affected, whereas hardware firewalls are separate systems.

This approach would benefit any network (big and small) and is starting to be implemented in enterprise networks using virtual switches as well as the ‘traditional’ hardware firewalls. As for which one to use my favourite at the moment is Smoothwall Express 3.0 which can basically be installed on anything.  It is not resource intensive and the web GUI is excellent. Until recently I used Untangle Gateway but Smoothwall is faster to boot up and Untangle requires 512 Mb of RAM.  The interface is fantastic though.

Anything which makes it harder for someone to access your systems is good in my book.  Do you agree?

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

Disaster Recovery in Virtualbox – How to import a virtual machine


It has happened.  Your virtual machine has a problem which is preventing it from booting up.  Assuming you have a Windows installation you would try all the usual first – Safe mode, Last Known Configuration, Repair Installation etc.  But what happens when none of these work?  Restore to factory settings and then from backups? Assuming you have exported the virtual machine as part of your backup strategy there is an easier (and quicker way).  Import the backed up virtual machine!!

For the purpose of this tutorial I will be using Virtualbox 4.1.18 hosted on a Ubuntu 12.04 system.  I will show you how to import an Exchange Server 2010 virtual machine which has already been exported.

Open up Virtualbox and go to File – Import Appliance to start the wizard.

Click on Choose and select the location of the virtual machine to be imported.  Click Next.

On the screen that follows check the import settings and when you are happy click Import.  And that is it!! Depending on the size of the file being imported it may take some time.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

How to clone a virtual machine in Virtualbox

Today I will show you how to clone a virtual machine in Virtualbox.  I can hear the voices now “Why would you want to?” To answer this I will give you a couple of examples.


1. You already run Windows 7 Professional as a virtual machine and you want to test the deployment of some new updates.  You clone the existing Windows 7 virtual machine and deploy the updates on the clone machine.  This way it does not effect the original system.

2. You want to test some new software you have developed for Ubuntu Server 12.04 which runs as a virtual machine.  Instead of deploying it on your working system and seeing what happens you clone the Ubuntu system and use that instead.  The cloned system has the exact same configuration so you get workable results.

Ok so that is WHY.  Now onto HOW.

Open up Virtualbox and go to Machine – Clone.

When the wizard appears (below) choose a name for your new cloned system and click Next.

On the following screen you will be asked to choose between a Full Clone (clones everything including virtual disks) or Linked Clone (clones everything except the original disks which it links back to).  For the purpose of this tutorial we will choose a Full Clone.

And that is it!! Your existing virtual machine will now be cloned.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

How to add a second hard disk to a virtual machine in Virtualbox


Today I will show you how to add a second hard drive to your virtual machine using Virtualbox.  If your first hard drive is slowly filling up this is a very easy way to expand your storage.

Time to fire up Virtualbox.

For the purpose of this tutorial I will use the Windows 7 virtual machine (make sure it is powered off first!!) and add a second sata hard drive of 20Gb.

Time to change those settings so click on Settings.

We now need to click on Storage, locate the Sata controller (as shown above) and click on the Add hard disk icon (shown above).  You will then get the message below.

If you already have a disk set up click Choose Existing Disk but for the purpose of this tutorial click Create new disk.

This will now start the Virtual Disk Creation Wizard.  On the first page make sure you choose the VDI format for your hard drive and click next.

The next page of the wizard is Virtual Disk Storage Details.  You can either choose a dynamic disk or a fixed size disk.  Dynamic disks slowly grow over time to the maximum value you set whereas fixed is just that – a fixed size.  Fixed are faster to use but take longer to create.  Let’s create a fixed size of 20 Gb.

Next we have to decide where to store this new virtual disk.  Personally I don’t store any virtual disks on the same hard drive as the host operating system.  This means that in the event of the host disk dying my virtual machines are kept separate.  I can then quickly retrieve them and get them back up with little time lost.

The final page is the Summary page.  Review your configuration options and when you are happy click create.  Your second hard drive will now be created and attached to your virtual machine.

All that is left to do is fire up your virtual machine and check if you have a second hard drive of 20 Gb available.  On a Windows machine you will need to go to:

Start – Control panel – Administrative Tools – Disk Management

and format the drive with a filesystem and drive letter.  Only then will Windows recognise it as another hard drive.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

Can you run a virtual machine inside a virtual machine?


I spent all yesterday afternoon trying to answer the question can you run a virtual machine inside a virtual machine?

To answer this question I downloaded Vmware Player and  the open source Virtualbox and started ‘playing’.  After a couple of hours I came up with the following.

1. Running a virtual machine (either Linux or Windows) using Vmware Player inside Vmware Player is a non starter as Vmware do not support this.  I tried and got internal monitor errors everytime and then a system crash.

2. Next I tried to run a VMware Player virtual machine inside Linux Mint 11 which was hosted on Virtualbox.  Nope it didn’t like this either as the virtual machine started, got passed the BIOS and then nothing.  Had the same issue with Windows 7.

3. Time to keep going so next I tried to run a Virtualbox virtual machine inside Virtualbox.  Virtualbox spat out the dummy once you got passed the BIOS.  The screen would freeze up and then nothing.  Again I had the same results on both Windows 7 and Linux Mint 11.  I had heard that if you run different versions of Virtualbox you might get it to work so I tried that too.  Again Virtualbox was not playing.

4. Finally I tried running a Virtualbox virtual machine inside VMWare Player.  This configuration got as far as loading the kernel and then hung.  Further research indicated that you can load a different kernel which ‘might’ work.  I didn’t try this.

So to answer the question, no you can’t run a virtual machine inside a virtual machine (as long as you are using either Vmware Player or Virtualbox).  I have not tried the other virtual software options on the market yet.

But now I will ask another question.  Even if you could why would you want to?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

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