Monday, June 25, 2018

The Challenges of Microsoft Exchange Recovery (Backup is not always the solution)


The integrity of Exchange Server and the associated mail storage should always be the top priority of an Exchange administrator. Email is essential in an organization as it is a primary communication tool in conducting business both internally and externally. Many users place emails in folders and rely on them for their work processes. Corruption of mailboxes and loss of emails could be detrimental to any organization. Therefore, without an Exchange data recovery plan in place, the IT team never retrieves lost data, which can bring an entire organization to a standstill. 

This post explores the challenges of maintaining the integrity of Exchange Server while providing some of the best practices for Exchange data recovery planning; solidifying the protection of data loss within an Exchange Server infrastructure.


Data Recovery Plans
The top challenge in my book is not having a plan at all. It is essential to document steps and processes for the remediation of issues and disasters. A document or Wiki page within an IT's intranet site provides a resource for understanding what needs to be performed to resolve critical incidents. Shirley Zhang, a data recovery expert, explains what should be included in a document plan in her article hereShirley has the lack of plan as her second challenge, however, her remaining two  challenges revolve around the plan itself. 

It is one thing to have a plan in place and documented, however, the plan is only as good as the due diligence and testing of the processes outlined. It important to prove out the disaster recovery steps and perform testing, if not in production then at least a staging environment that mimics production and is not isolated to a virtual standard environment. 

Backup Technology and Processes
Recovering from data loss or corruption usually involves the reliance on backups. Depending on the backup cycles, there could still be a lapse of data restoration. That is, data recovery may only provide the information and transactions from the last backup; which could mean the lose of data for the past 12 hours or so. In a database environment, there are logs to roll forward. This also applies to Exchange but it could get hairy as shown in Microsoft's procedures hereBackup restoration and log processes can become tedious. 

It may be better to repair your Exchange databases if you had a robust and reliable third-party tool. I did find one here by Stellar Phoenix. They have produced software for Mailbox Exchange Recovery.

Disk Space and Data Size
In many organizations emails fly by the thousands. Users can send and receive several hundred emails per day. Business emails often contain attachments which are usually kept in the email itself. Therefore, mailboxes can become very large.

Multiply one large mailbox by the amount of employees and the gigabytes get up there. This presents a problem with disk space for backups as well as the duration for restoration. Restoration may require downtime and, with large amounts of data, this could take longer than the business can tolerate.


As you can see from the challenges, once you have a recovery plan, the backup restoration may not be the best option using the standard "out-of-the-box" procedures. Without a third-party tool, restoration is better than repair as Tej Pratap Shukla `Dexter points out in his article here

However, with the right software, repairing your Exchange mailboxes instead of restoring would provide a quicker remediation with less downtime and a higher confidence of success.  The Stellar Phoenix Exchange  Recovery tool (available here) is very reliable and gives you the coverage for dealing with mailbox disasters. This tool recovers, repairs, and restores Exchange assets making it a no-brainer for Exchange administrators to have in their back pocket.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Uber Announces Improved Driver Experience with New App

Los Angeles, Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - 10AM PT

Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahiannounced on Tuesday major upcoming improvements to the driver experience. These improvements entail the deployment of an updated Uber Driver App. Several key players presented the improvements as well as discussed the development process including Alpha and Beta versions (along with retrieving feedback and bug reporting). The new Uber Driver App will be rolled out in a phased approach over the next few months. Continuous feedback and additional improvements will continue during this deployment phase.

The new app encompasses the following improvements:
  • Current daily earnings posted at top of driving screen
  • Cleaned up maps for improved clarity
  • Navigation to promotional or surge zones
  • Enhanced surge map display with improved street/landmark clarity
  • Time and Distance displays to rider pickup
  • Quick (text) responses to riders will now be possible
  • Handling of lost of internet connections such that trip progress is no longer hindered
  • Improved organization and presentation of notifications
  • Reorganized driver profile
  • New enhanced help guide including videos


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Completely Uninstalling Programs from Windows

Download the Perfect UnInstaller Software Here!

Have you ever been bothered with software/application/program that is half-installed/uninstalled incorrectly?
Have you been annoyed with the program you don't want is not in the currently installed programs list so you can not uninstall it through the standard Windows Add/Remove Programs?
Have you been afraid of the system errors or system crashing as you uninstall a corrupted program manually?

Perfect Uninstaller is a better, easier and faster way for you to completely uninstall any unwanted program that standard Windows Add/Remove Programs can't remove.

The key is that it searches for leftover files and registry keys --- and removes them! Here is my video:

Download the Perfect UnInstaller Software Here!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

SharePoint 2016: Exploring SharePoint Databases


This post introduces the various types of databases within a SharePoint farm and explores each type and instance.

Types of SharePoint Databases

The databases that are created for use of SharePoint 2016 are categorized as one of three types:

  • Configuration
  • Content
  • Service Application

The configuration database is created when you install the first instance of SharePoint and create a new farm. There is only one configuration database and it is essentially your “farm” from a SQL Server perspective. When you attach servers to your farm you select the configuration database accordingly. The Central Administration content database may also be considered a configuration database as the content it stores deals with the configuration of the farm. More details about the configuration database are explained in the next section.

Not to sound smart but the content databases store all of the content within the SharePoint sites. Each Web Application that is created on the farm may have one or more content databases associated. This is where all of the pages, list items, documents, etc. are physically stored. The smallest block of content in a content database is a site collection. Therefore, a content database stores one or more site collections. A site collection can only “live” in one content database.

It is a good idea to have multiple content databases to help partition the SharePoint sites and provide flexibility in backup and restoring. It is much easier to maintain a 40GB database than a 400GB database for example. This book will explain more details and functions that may be performed with content databases.

Finally, the DBA’s nightmare, are the service application databases. For each service application in SharePoint, one or more databases are created to maintain the settings and configurations of the particular service application.

Previously in SharePoint 2007 (MOSS 2007), several of these services (Search, User Profiles, Business Data Catalog, and Excel Services) were combined into the Shared Service Provider (SSP) service of SharePoint. Usually this meant only one SSP database although you could have more than one SSP and thus multiple databases.

SharePoint 2010 changed the architecture of the SSP and split out each service into its own service application. This provided more flexibility and scalability; however, it also created more databases.

The same architecture model exists in SharePoint 2016 and there are several new service applications - which again means more databases. So that’s why I say these are the DBA’s nightmares because now there can be 10-20 databases just for the service applications (Enterprise search creates and uses four itself). 

Configuration Database

The configuration database, as explained previously, is essentially the “farm” from a SQL Server perspective. This database is generally small and should maintain with less than 1GB of space.

The configuration database stores data about the following:
  • All of the other SharePoint databases
  • IIS Web Sites
  • Site Templates
  • Specific Farm Settings - Quotas, Blocked File Types
  • Trusted Solutions
  • Web Applications
  • Web Part Packages

This database is very read intensive, however, as modifications and deployments are executed, the transaction logs can get bloated. Therefore if you keep the recovery model in the default Full state, it is recommended to backup the transaction log regularly for truncation purposes. Otherwise, it is recommended to switch the recovery model of the configuration database to Simple.

Central Administration Content Database

The Central Administration (Central Admin) Content Database is used to store the content of the Central Admin web application which is used to administer and configure farm wide systems and services. This database also is generally small and should maintain at less than 1GB of disk space (just like the configuration database). 

The recovery model defaults to Full it is fine to keep it that way. There shouldn’t be too much read/writes as it is usually just the SharePoint Administrator(s) who is/are making modifications and generally content such as documents is not uploaded to Central Admin like a normal content database. However, it could increase in size if PowerPivot is installed and deployed within the SharePoint farm. All of the Excel worksheets and Power Pivot data files used in the Power Pivot Management Dashboard are stored within the Central Admin content database.

The default database name is SharePoint_AdminContent_<guid>. DBA’s tend to hate the GUID in the database name because a) it is not  “clean” and b) backup programs tend to have issues with the GUID involved. Therefore it is recommended to create the Central Admin site via PowerShell as explained in Chapter 2 of my DBA Guide.

Content Databases

The Content Databases store all of the content for all of the site collections on the farm within a given web application. This includes list items, documents, web part settings, user information, and other site related configurations.

Each web application must have at least one content database but may have multiple. A site collection can only live in one content database. While the recommended max size is 200GB (although up to 1TB is supported), I personally like smaller 40-50GB content databases. It is easier to backup and restore smaller databases as well as copying the backup files around to different servers.

A web application may have multiple content databases which house multiple site collections

Service Application Databases

The service application databases are created when their respective service applications are created. If not all service applications are needed or created, then obviously the databases are not needed or created.

The details of each service application database are explained in my DBA guide book.


There are many databases involved in a SharePoint farm. Understanding each database and how to manage them is essential for SQL Server administrators. My DBA guide attempts to enlighten those that manage SQL Server but do not understand SharePoint.

Monday, January 22, 2018

CORTANA Animal Facts

Installing Stellar Phoenix SQL Database Repair

Video of Repairing a Corrupt MDF File with Stellar Phoenix SQL Database Repair

Repairing a Corrupt MDF File with Stellar Phoenix Database Repair

No matter what you do to prevent issues, there will be times when one of your SQL Server databases will become corrupt. Whether it is a live database or a copy, having a busted MDF file is not fun. The usual process to recovery involves restoring the database from a full backup, restoring incremental backups, and then rolling the logs forward from the last incremental backup. This standard process is warranted but can be time consuming and nerve racking.

I have found an easier way to repair my databases without worrying about backups and logs. Stellar Data Recovery has produced a SQL Database Repair application that will quickly scan and repair corrupted SQL Server databases.

While it is possible to run the repair process on a live database, my scenario involved an MDF file that I wanted to attach to my database server. 

My MDF file was obviously bruised as SQL Server Management Studio did not recognize it as a primary database file; even though it was supposed to be.

Luckily, I had Stellar Phoenix Database Repair installed. The software can run on your local machine or on a server. I recommend installing it on your local machine as the software can connect to your SQL Server instances and doesn't need to be local to the database(s).

Upon launching the repair app, the Select Database dialog automatically appears which saves the step of clicking on the Select Database top ribbon button:

All you need to do is select the database file using the Select Database button and then click the larger Repair button. The software will process and repair the database. It did not seem to take too long in my case. Once complete, you will receive a success message as follows:

Originally I thought that this process fixed the MDF and that I could now use the original file. This is not the case. The Stellar Phoenix Database Repair application has brought all of the database structures and data into its system; your database is technically repaired in memory. You can review the table structures and data right within the app itself.

Therefore you need to save to healed version in some fashion. 

While the software provides several options, I chose the MSSQL default option:

This option connects directly to your SQL Server and recreates the damaged database including the data itself. There is an option to create a new database or run the process live on an existing database. In my case I just needed a new database.

It may be a good practice to create a new database to isolate things and not disrupt a live database, however, if the live database is corrupt it probably does not make a difference anyway.

As the save process runs, the Log Report window displays the progress of the database recreation which mainly involves the tables and their data. This process can be time consuming and is dependent on how much data is in the database. I noticed that the amount of columns in the table determined the performance of the recreation.

Overall, I experienced the processing of 1000 rows in anywhere between 2-4 seconds. Tables with less than 10 columns were closer to the 2 seconds per thousand rows and tables with over 10 or 20 columns were processing closer to 4 seconds per thousand rows. Therefore, for average and planning sake, I would comfortably state that 3 seconds per 1000 rows is a good bet.

Nonetheless, I would attempt to calculate an estimated time as it could elapse anywhere from 5 minutes to 50 minutes depending on your data. Users, help desk, management, etc. always like to understand how long things will take to correct and be brought back online.

Once the save process is complete, a message box appears accordingly:

Navigating to the database server in SQL Management Studio yields a recovered database:

Overall I felt very confident in the repair of my MDF file using Stellar Phoenix Database Repair. I did not experience a live database corruption although it would be a similar scenario as the recommendation is to take the database offline and copy the MDF file to a different file system location.

Using a third-party tool such as Stellar Phoenix Database Repair streamlines a SQL Server disaster recovery scenario and takes the headaches of restoring backups and logs out of the mix. While there is always a chance of lost data or incomplete records, you need to do what's right and attempt for a 100% recovery; using Stellar Phoenix Database Repair will give you an edge!

Here are my overall impressions (and witty words) of the software:
  • Easy to use
  • Click and fix
  • Save/Recover like a charm
  • No-brainer compared to backup/restore processes
  • Easy peasy
  • Could save your day

A free download of this amazing repair software is available here.

I have two videos that compliment this post as follows:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

CORTANA Bad Jokes - English UK

I switched my Cortana language to English (United Kingdom) and not only did I get a set of different bad jokes, she also included many of the English (US) bad jokes. I was able to pull out 88 bad jokes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Blowing Cortana's Mind: One Cause of Unresponsiveness

I have been playing with and experimenting with Cortana on Windows 10 recently. I have noticed that after too much use, Cortana becomes unresponsive. I noticed that, in my case, the cause was a spawn of Windows Error Reporting processes that are disk intensive. To see if this is the cause, review this video.

To disable Windows Error Reporting, see this post.

Disabling Windows Error Reporting in Windows 10

The Windows Error Reporting service can cause havoc to your computer, depending on what you are doing, as it will spawn processes that peg your disk I/O. I have done this several times by playing with Cortana (see this post for insight). I decided to simply disable the service such that I could avoid issues in the future This video  shows how to disable the Windows Error Reporting Service.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

CORTANA Jokes for Your Kids

Recording a PowerPoint Show or Video without Audio


You would like to create a presentation in PowerPoint that automatically plays and navigates through your slides, however, you do not wish to record any audio/voice.

Overall Solution

The overall solution is, ironically, not to record a slide show at all but yet simply save your presentation as a PowerPoint Show or Video (e.g. MPEG-4 Video). Therefore you will not need to use the Record Slide Show option as you would normally do to record a presentation with audio.

Use the Record Slide Slow when you actually want audio
Without making any other modifications, you can save your presentation as a PowerPoint Show and you will have an automated show but the user will need to click to advance each slide (this is not the objective). 

If you save your presentation as a video, you will have an automated presentation that advances through the slides, however, the default display duration is 5 seconds per slide which may not correspond with your content. 

Therefore, you need to modify your presentation to advance slides automatically according to your needs or liking.

Solution for a PowerPoint Show

The key modification to automate a PowerPoint Show without having the user click through the slides is to change the advance slide setting from On Mouse Click to an After time duration. This may be accomplished from the Transitions tab. 

With a slide selected, click on the Transitions tab. On the far right, uncheck the On Mouse Click checkbox:

Next, click the After check box to select that option and enter a time duration (in seconds):

For PowerPoint Shows, the selected slide will now advance after the duration that you have entered without having the user click. To save time and establish a foundation, click on the Apply To All button such that each slide will no longer advance on a mouse click and use the duration setting you entered.

Now all you need to do is go to each slide and tweak the After duration accordingly. When you save the presentation as a PowerPoint Show, the presentation will automatically advance through the slides based on your timings.

Solution for a PowerPoint Video

When you save your presentation as a MPEG-4 Video, the On Mouse Click option (as shown in the previous section) is ignored. The default duration of each slide advance is after 5 seconds.

To tweak and modify your presentation video, follow the same steps for the PowerPoint Shows and modify the After duration accordingly. When you save the presentation as a MPEG-4 Video, the presentation will automatically advance through the slides based on your timings.


  • To record a presentation without audio do not record a slide show at all
  • Uncheck the On Mouse Click option under the Advance section of the Transitions tab
  • Modify the advance timings of your slides from the Transitions tab
  • Save your presentation as a PowerPoint Show or MPEG-4 Video

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