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Jason Faulkner

Jason Faulkner is a developer and IT professional who never has a hot cup of coffee far away. Interact with him on Google+

While there are a myriad of useful applications and utilities which are available via portable distributions, many tools still remain in their “install only” format. This limitation, however, should not discourage you from using the respective program as a portable application. With a few tricks we are going to show you here, you may be able to add these programs to your collection of portable tools yet.

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Virtualization has become an incredibly powerful and flexible way to deploy environments. So much in fact that Microsoft has integrated the ability to attach virtual hard drive (VHD) files as physical disks in the Windows Disk Management tool. This process is easy enough to do manually but if you attach VHD files often then we have a solution which enables you to mount and unmount VHD files with a single click.

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If you try to update certain Windows files (such as programs or word documents) while they are in use, you get the the standard “access denied, file is in use” error. While the reasoning behind this is obvious, it can be quite annoying if you need to update a small executable which is currently in use by another user. In these situations, you have, among others, the following choices, all of which take up your valuable time:

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Every server administrator has a set of utility programs they like to use. Typically, these tools are kept on each machine to ensure availability and can come from a variety of sources such as Sysinternals and Nirsoft.

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Backing up SQL databases regularly is must. We have already covered ways to can easily backup all your SQL server databases to a local hard drive, but this does not protect against drive and/or system failure. As an extra layer of protection against this type of disaster, you can copy or directly create your backups on a network share.

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The zip format is the standard for file compression, however many power user and system admin types prefer to use the 7z format because it offers significantly better compression ratios. The zip format does have a few things going for it such as speed (relative to other compression formats) and application support.

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Many programs and utilities are distributed as portable applications which do not require you to install them. While this is a great option to have, there are a few reasons you might want to “install” these programs. For example, installed programs appear in the Programs and Features (Add/Remove Programs) list and they typically have entries in the Start Menu. A utility which both installs and builds installers for installer-less programs is NirSoft’s ZipInstaller.

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Perl is a very popular scripting language which is used to develop a wide variety of tools. One of it’s well know uses is web based CGI (Common Gateway Interface) applications which allow Perl scripts to be executed from a web server. With a little configuration, you can configure IIS 7 on your Windows Server 2008 system to serve Perl scripts via CGI.

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We have already covered how to backup a SQL Server database from the command line, so what if you want to backup all your databases at once? You could create a batch script which runs the backup command for each database, but this script would have to be updated each time a database is added or removed. Additionally, the database backups will all be appended to one file which will grow by the size of the new backup each time it is run. Instead, in true “set it and forget it” fashion, we will create a batch script which will adapt to your SQL Server as new databases are added and removed.

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Perl is a very popular scripting language which is used to develop a wide variety of tools. One of it’s well know uses is web based CGI (Common Gateway Interface) applications which allow Perl scripts to be executed from a web server. With a little configuration, you can configure IIS 6 on your Windows Server 2003 system to serve Perl scripts via CGI.

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We have previously covered a simple SQL database restore using the command line which is ideal for restoring backup files created on the same SQL Server installation, however if you are restoring a backup created on a different installation or simply prefer a point and click interface, using SQL Server Management Studio (or the Express edition) makes this task easy.

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The most important part of a SQL Server maintenance plan is backing up your databases regularly. To backup a database, you cannot simply copy the respective MDF and LDF files of the database as SQL Server has a lock on these. Instead, you need to create a true backup file through SQL Server.

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One of most popular development platforms on the web is PHP which powers many popular applications and sites such as Facebook, WordPress and Joomla. While most of these systems are ‘designed’ to be used on a Linux system running the Apache Web Server, you can deploy PHP applications via IIS 7 on your Windows Server 2008 system.

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While the Microsoft Sysinternals tools are incredibly powerful and useful, the one feature they lack is the ability to check for new versions. Currently, you have to periodically check the Sysinternals site and compare versions between your system and the most recent official release in order to stay up to date.

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One of most popular development platforms on the web is PHP which powers many popular applications and sites such as Facebook, WordPress and Joomla. While most of these systems are ‘designed’ to be used on a Linux system running the Apache Web Server, you can deploy PHP applications via IIS 6 on your Windows Server 2003 system.

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When you create a Microsoft Virtual Hard Drive either through Virtual PC or Virtual Server, you have to specify the maximum size of the file up front. While you can set the VHD to be a fixed or dynamically sized file, the total size the VHD is determined at the time you create it. Over time, however, you may want to increase the total size of the VHD file as requirements for the system change to allow more space for installed programs and data files.

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When it comes to gathering statistics on web sites, you can never have enough. While one of the most popular method for tracking statistics is through services such as Google Analytics, log file analysis remains a reliable way to track your visitors as they are immune to script blockers. A widely used tool for log file analysis is the open source tool, AWStats.

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As an IT manager, there are a lot of things you can do which directly impact your company’s bottom line. While the most obvious are direct hardware and software costs, an often overlooked aspect is energy/electricity consumption by computer systems. While servers need to be available 24/7, desktop systems only need to be available when the respective user needs it or for scheduled maintenance tasks. The rest of the time (usually more than 50% of the time), the system can stay in low power mode which reduces power usage, hence cost.

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All Dell servers come with the Dell OpenManage Server Administrator software which has the ability to monitor and display system level indicators. Additionally, through the Alert Management tab you can configure actions to execute whenever an alert is triggered. Unfortunately there is no vehicle for applying uniform notifications to all events, so we are going to provide a script which configures all the alert actions to send an email notifying you of the respective event. While you could set these up manually, having a script is ideal as you can easily deploy this across multiple servers.

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Unless you have a special setup, you typically only need a single IP address from your ISP to run your network. With your network sitting behind a firewall/router, you can direct your incoming traffic to the appropriate servers to handle email, web, remote connections and anything else. The problem comes when you have multiple servers which need to receive traffic from a common port. Instead of adding more public IP addresses (and cost), we are going to show you how to handle this situation using on a single IP.

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A common function of many programs is the ability to send email. When working on development projects or doing product demos which utilize email, having an environment you know will work can be critical. For these situations, having a completely self contained email system, that is all emails “sent” never leave the local machine, is the answer.

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Microsoft Office 2007 introduced a new XML based file format for the Office suite of products. Word files use extension “.doc” for Office 2003 and earlier with “.docx” for Office 2007, etc. Most likely, none of this is new to you.

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There are lots of great utilities out there which do essential tasks such as monitoring and reporting that once you have configured them, they just sit in your system tray and do their job without you ever knowing. While this works great for desktop machines, this model is not ideal for server use which, typically, does not have anyone actively logged into it.

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