More Chapter 3: Check the SBS network and perform quick tests

Hi gang – I am Harry Brlesford and the author of Windows Small Business SErver 2003 Best Practices. I am posting up my book – a bit each day! My background and more about me at www.smbnation.com. Read on!

Check the Network

Has the cabling been properly attached to the hub? Perhaps this was a task that you assigned to the cabling specialist who installed the cabling at your site. If it hasn’t been done, do that now.

To verify the fitness of your network, you must perform the “green light” test. After everything has been plugged in properly to the network, including the network hub, do the following:

1                    Turn on the network hub.

2                    Briefly turn on the server computer.

3                    Observe whether a port light on the hub turns on. (This typically illuminates as the color green).

4                    Observe whether the network adapter card connection light on the back of the server illuminates. (Again, typically green).

5                    If you see green lights at both the hub and network adapter connec­tion, you’re green lighting!

 

Perform Server Quick Tests

So you’ve put the computer together and connected it to the network. Now is the time to turn on the computer for a few moments to see whether the BIOS information is correctly displayed on the screen during the power on startup test. (This is called POST and is a term used in the technology community). This quick-and-dirty test is important for several reasons. It will check:

                      Video card — If you see no information displayed on the computer monitor, it is possible that the video card has failed. Such was the case during an SBS class I once taught. Not only was the computer unusable for the SBS class, but valuable time was wasted trying to determine exactly what the problem was. At first and second blush, it wasn’t entirely clear that the video card had failed, as this type of problem can disguise itself.

                      Component attachment — Did you know that if a ribbon cable between the computer motherboard and floppy drive is incorrectly attached, the computer might fail to start, leaving you with only the sound of a failed start up: three quick beeps? This is but one example of how incorrectly configured internal components in your server can pre­vent you from having success with your computer. These are exactly the type of issues that you want to catch immediately, before you try to install SBS.

                      Hidden partition server tools — First, of all, let’s just get this out in the open. SBS 2003 works fine with hidden system partitions (you may recall SBS 4.5 had a distinct problem with this, requiring you to delete the hidden system partition). Now for the next point. Starting up the computer also allows you to determine whether the computer manufacturer’s server tools were correctly installed on a hidden parti­tion on the hard disk. When manufacturers ship their servers to you, they might or might not install their server tools (e.g., HP/Compaq’s SmartStart). Typically, the paperwork received with the server remains unclear on this point. The best way to test that is to look for language at

 

the top of the screen during machine startup. In the case of an HP/ Compaq server, such language instructs you to hit the F10 key to launch SmartStart.

BEST PRACTICE: If the manufacturer’s server tool hasn’t been installed to a hidden partition on the server, it is essential that you do this now. Failure to do this at this point would mean that you would forever be prevented from installing these wonderful and helpful tools designed to configure and manage your server. That’s because after the operating system and SBS are installed, you cannot go back and install the manufacturer’s server tools on a hidden partition.

To install the manufacturer’s server tools on your system, be sure to follow the setup instructions for the specific tool. In the case of HP/ Compaq’s SmartStart, it is very simple. Because a Compaq server is designed, by default, to boot from the CD drive, you simply place the SmartStart CD in the CD drive and restart the computer. On startup, and with no further fuss, you are presented with the SmartStart installation screen. Several minutes and one reboot later, SmartStart is installed on your system. Again, tools such as SmartStart provide the capability to configure your server properly, create driver disks, monitor your server’s health, and so on.

          BIOS operation — There is simply no better test to make sure the computer’s all-important BIOS is functional than to turn on the machine and observe that the BIOS information (copyright, date, stor­age device configuration, and so on) is displayed on the screen. Com­mon BIOS names are American Megatrends and Phoenix.

BEST PRACTICE: It is very common for BIOS manufacturers to release upgrades shortly after the original BIOS has been shipped to market. These upgrades typically consist of bug fixes and the like. So consider downloading the BIOS upgrade and prepare to install or flash the BIOS upgrade. But be extremely careful about applying a BIOS

upgrade to your server. If you’ve applied the incorrect BIOS version to your server, the server can be rendered inoperable or become unreliable. See the BIOS discussion on upgrades, installation, and flashing at your BIOS manufacturer’s home page. And if you are at all uncomfortable with this, consider hiring a qualified technician or consultant to research and implement a BIOS upgrade for your server.

          Operating system status — By performing the quick power-up test, you can determine whether any operating system has been installed on the computer. It is common for clone-makers to both format and SYS (apply basic MS-DOS files) the primary drive (C: drive) of the server. If no operating system has been installed, you will see a character-based error message that indicates the operating system is missing. If you purchased a name-brand server and elected to have SBS preinstalled (OEM style!) as discussed in Chapter 2, you will notice the SBS setup process launches after the initial POST phase terminates.

BEST PRACTICE: Note that in the SBS 2000 time frame, I recommend running the Windows 2000 Readiness Analyzer Tool. I’ve searched high and low in the SBS 2003 time frame and haven’t found a like tool to recommend for you to run. Perhaps your guide for “readiness” should be the Windows Server 2003 logo on your components. This signifies the component has been tested to work with Windows Server 2003.

Notes:

And no discussion about assessment and fitness is complete without pulling out a third-party tool. I’ve used CheckIt Professional Edition, a relatively low-cost computer assessment application from SmithMicro Software. For more information, visit http://www.smithmicro.com. This is shown in Figure 3-1.

Figure 3-1

CheckIt is a long-standing favorite of technicians to peer inside their systems. It’s been around for years and is now owned by SmithMicro Software.

 

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