Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Disaster in the office

Earlier this month our PDC (Primary Domain Controller) for our internal office network gave up the ghost. I guess this was not that surprising considering it was running on an Windows NT server set up in 2000. What I was unaware of however was the disruption it would cause within our office. It did the authentication of all staff computer logins and Microsoft Exchange 5.5, which was managing all our bidorbuy.co.za domain email. Without the PDC no one could login to their PCs, get access to their mail or access the file server. While we had backups of all our data we did not have a backup of the PDC so what a disaster it turned out to be.

Fortunately we had been planning to switch over to the new Google Apps service offering an outsourced managed solution for your domain's emails. After realising we were in over our heads restoring Exchange 5.5 (for which we no longer even had the original installation disks) we decided to do an emergency switch over to Google Apps Premium Edition. Within a few hours we had all staff set up with a web based gmail account using their bidorbuy.co.za email address. We had also already switched over to a help desk solution called Cerberus for our company support emails, which simply pops emails from the respective gmail account. Each gmail account has 10GB of storage, which of course is plenty.

So far all this has worked out great. I am using a single Gmail account for all my email requirements (at work I still use Outlook to receive and send emails through my gmail account). The best part is the spam filter on gmail is brilliant (I seem to get about 2 spam emails for every legit email). It is also a treat not having to use clunky IMAP to check my emails when out of the office. The main down side is emailing large attachments (using normal client side pop and smtp) and the delay of internal email between staff. However overall the pros seem to far outweigh the cons.

I am also using Google docs and Google calendar (which is now also synced with my Outlook client at work although I am still trying to figure out what is the best syncing tool to use). I am quite impressed with Google spreadsheets. Although it does not come close to Excel in functionality, it serves our purposes for managing our development task list. With one of our developers based in New Zealand it is proving a great way to manage our projects (sure beats emailing a spreadsheet back and forth, which easily gets out of sync).

Now we are in the process of switching over our internal office servers to Linux only. We will only have a PDC (backed up) and a file server running internally. Everything else will be managed outside the office.

The only problem is we still do not have access to all our past emails in Exchange so if any one has a copy of the install disks for Microsoft Exchange 5.5 please let me know (apparently this is what we need to restore it without the original PDC).


henkk said...

Google Apps is definitely the way to go. Just wish the Calendar API was two way (you can write a script to read FROM Google Calendar, but not to write TO it)

If you're looking for a really nifty way to manage your development projects, look no further than Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com).

Andy Higgins said...

Actually the tool I am using to sync my Google calendar is two way. Its called Companion Link: http://www.companionlink.com/google-apps

It seems to work quite well - the only thing I don't like is having to manually tell it to sync (although it is simply a click of the mouse). I think there is one out there that will automatically sync both ways but I still need to test it.

Lazyant said...

Dammit! I forgot to give it to you on Friday, Andy, but I have managed to source a Exchange 5.5 CD for you.

Please remind me to give it to you tomorrow if I don't remember.