Mac Tips for Techs: Troubleshooting network issues on a Mac

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If you are used to Windows and have to troubleshoot networking on Mac, it’s a bit different of a process. The commands you are used to running in the cmd prompt on Windows don’t apply to a Mac, since the Mac uses a Linux-based OS. You can fudge your way through some basic commands. However, what if you need to do quick networking, and you don’t have the ability to Google-search your commands? Mac actually has a really nice built-in tool called Network Utility that can help when you’re trying to figure out why your Mac cannot connect online.

Network Utility can be found on your Mac by searching with the spotlight. In the upper right hand corner of your desktop, you can click on the magnifying glass and type: Network Utility. This will launch a window that gives you a multitude of commands to be run on the various network adapters available to you.

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If you need to see whether your adapter is getting an IP address from the DHCP server, simply check the Info tab. You can choose the adapter you need to check, and when it pulls up, you get the MAC address (called “hardware address” on a Mac), the IP address, link speed, status, vendor and model. On the right you also have packet information.

Your next tab is Netstat. This allows you 4 options:

  1. Display routing table information
  2. Display comprehensive network statistics for each protocol
  3. Display multicast information
  4. Display the state of all current socket connections

Your next tab is the Ping. This allows you to either enter an IP address or a hostname for pinging. It will also allow a constant ping, if necessary.

Your next tab is the nsLookup tab. This allows lookups on the IP address or hostname, depending on what you need.

Your next tab, like nsLookup, is Traceroute. It will allow both IP address or hostname, depending on your needs.

The next tab is something you normally don’t have built into PCs, but can be very useful, is the Whois search. You have many options for whois servers to use, or you can enter your own. This information is obtained when connected to the Internet, so you can use that feature here instead of going to one of the Whois servers.

The next tab is the Finger tab. This tab is not very well known, and it is a very early form of status updates, according to Apple. You probably will not find this tab very useful, however it is still built into Macs for use, if necessary.

The last tab is the Port Scan tab. This is a great tool if you are an engineer wanting to know what ports are open on a network. You can choose to only test ports between a certain amount, or you can test an entire network. The scan takes a bit to bring back the open ports, however, it can be very useful when working on a firewall.

Of course, all of these commands can be done through the terminal (Mac’s equivalent of the command prompt). However, if you are troubleshooting the reason that a Mac cannot connect to the Internet, and you are not a Mac Genius, this is the best tool for you.

If you need help with your Mac, we do have Mac engineers on staff here at Everon IT to help with your Mac needs. Call us at 888-244-1748, we’ll be glad to help!

Tech Tips for Techs: Dealing with errors when creating IRM rules in Office 365

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In this TechTip, I want to address a potential fix for an error message we’ve come across when creating a rule in Office 365 that encrypts email messages. Encryption in O365 leverages a Microsoft service called “Information Rights Management,” or IRM. This is supposed to be an enabled/provisioned feature for an Enterprise (read: E3) tenant when it’s created, but as we’re all painfully aware, not all of these automatic provisioning things happen as they’re supposed to. That having been said, if you’re trying to create encryption rules in 365 and run into the following error, chances are that IRM isn’t completely/properly enabled and you’ll have to do it manually through Powershell:

You can't create a rule containing the ApplyOME or RemoveOME action because IRM licensing is disabled.

Should you see this, log into MOP as a global admin, and from Service Settings -> Rights Management -> Manage make sure that Rights Management is active. Once done (and making the assumption that you are in North America), connect to Powershell as a global administrator, and run the following commands:

Set-IRMConfiguration -RMSOnlineKeySharingLocation “https://sp-rms.na.aadrm.com/TenantManagement/ServicePartner.svc”

Import-RMSTrustedPublishingDomain -RMSOnline -name "RMS Online"

Test-IRMConfiguration -RMSOnline

Set-IRMConfiguration -InternalLicensingEnabled $true

The third command (Test-IRMConfiguration) should come back with an overall result of PASS. If it does not, you will not be able to run the fourth. If you hit a FAIL during the test, contact your 365 support folks. We’re advised that this can take up to 24 hours to take effect. I’ve seen it apply as quickly as within a few minutes, but if not, wait the obligatory full day before raising hell. ;)

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UH OH!! – The “Cloud” has been hacked and well known people exposed!

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Welp, someone has gone and done it again. They have hacked “The Cloud” and exposed a ton of A-List celebrities. It seems as no one’s personal information is safe. From the Edward Snowden chronicles to this most recent incident, it is a little unsettling to most people — more than likely some of you fall into this category.

You may be sitting at home or at your desk wondering, “If they can get ahold of celebrities’ data (i.e. people who have a ton of money and resources to safeguard their images), then it probably would not be hard for them to get my data, or even worse, our company’s financials!” Well, let’s talk about that for a moment.

This “cloud” (that no one seems to really be able to get a grasp of, on its concept) is rather confusing, and in this case it can have multiple platforms. When they are talking about these celebrities’ “cloud” accounts getting hacked, they are referring to personal, Apple® iCloud® accounts. This is where individuals store a backup of their mobile devices and computer’s information (i.e. pictures, contacts, etc.).

In the business world, the cloud has the same concept, but it is a lot more secure. When we refer to the cloud, we mean that your data that is being stored there is actually getting stored on a physical server(s) in a secure data center of the company providing the service. These companies pride themselves on providing – and are required to provide — multilevel security platforms to safeguard your company’s data and providing the redundancy that cannot be established by a physical server in your office.

Okay, so now that we have a little better understanding of what the “cloud” is and the two different uses in this case, let me put it all into perspective. People, including these recently exposed celebrities, who are using Apple’s version of the cloud called iCloud® are using a FREE service that is highly targeted because of its pinholes and lack of security. You, as a business, are using a paid service that is prideful of its security and which has certain federal regulations that it has to meet, security-wise, to ensure the safety of your data.

This alone is a great example as to why we here at Everon push and push for people to utilize profession PAID services for storing data. We cannot make people pay for a service and prevent them from using a free service, but as you may be able to tell, you get exactly what you pay for. I know for me, personally, I would rather have a guarantee that my information is safe. What do you choose? If you have any questions about the cloud and secure storage, please contact Everon at 888-244-1748 and we would be happy to have a discussion with you.

Tech Tips for Techs – “Value cannot be null” error when creating rules in Office 365 OWA

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In this TechTip, I want to discuss briefly an error message I’ve been asked about in Office 365 that led one of my peers on a wild goose chase.

The error, verbatim, reads: "Value cannot be null. Parameter name: identity"

This message pops up when trying to create a rule in OWA whereby you are trying to specify a group as either the sender or the recipient. So, while it would make sense to have a message from “sales@somecompany.com” go to an internal Distribution Group of “salesgroup@yourcompany.com,” the mechanism within Exchange Online that processes Transport Rules cannot enumerate the members of a DL and, as such, will not allow you to create a rule that forwards to a distro group. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, the message doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on as to where to look next.

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The only workaround to this is to abide by the restrictions that Microsoft hath lain before us: list all of the destination emails individually.

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For larger groups of people this becomes a huge pain in the posterior. Yes, I’ve complained. No, they won’t do anything about it. Unfortunately, this is all by design, and there are no plans in place (that I’m aware of) to change it anytime soon.

 

How Do I Know If I’ve Found “The One?” Finding the right IT provider

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Finding an IT provider with the technical chops to support your business is essential—of course it is. But a good IT services firm is not just in the business of delivering technology management and support. Their role as a partner to your organization can be the difference in having the capability to grow, in the productivity of your staff, and in the protection you have for your most critical asset: data. So how do you know if you’ve found the one? A good starting place is to first understand your business’s needs in the following areas:

  • Threshold for downtime. Knowing whether your company can tolerate downtime of email, shared drive, websites, internet connectivity, file access, etc. is a critical starting point to finding your IT provider. A business that can keep functioning in the absence of email and internet while awaiting technical assistance may be more apt to employ an hourly consultant and take the gamble of their system going down. However, a business where downtime equates to a loss of productivity and revenue is a better fit for a full time IT service provider who both monitors and manages their network.
  • Cash Flow/Budget. Understanding the importance of both predictability and overall IT budget inside your organization is critical. For instance, a company with volatile cash flow month to month may think they should sign up for hourly services with little-to-no set, monthly charges. While this may seem more affordable on the surface, and can accommodate a smaller budget, it can backfire when you need support. If systems go down and the company has no threshold for downtime, they’ll more than pay for it in immediate hourly support, which can financially strain a business that already has no buffer in its monthly cash flow. Some businesses favor predictability over affordability because of the inherent stability. We tend to think of this type of plan as ‘IT insurance.’ Businesses pay the same, flat rate each month so their bills don’t change, and whether they need support one time or every day for hours on end, they can call without hesitation or worrying about the minutes adding up. These plans pay for themselves in the long run for both the customer and the IT provider. Rather than troubleshoot isolated incidents as they occur, a technician has more time to investigate and stabilize the overall infrastructure, reducing future incidents.
  • curt and jesseAvailability of Live Engineers. The time it takes to connect with a live engineer is often a deciding factor when selecting the IT provider. It’s important to know a provider’s average hold times and how often calls are routed to a live engineer when calling a help desk, rather than having to leave voicemails and wait for call backs. Understanding the frequency of how often your business may utilize the service, compared to the time it takes to connect, is imperative in finding the right solution and setting the right expectation of service.
  • Bench-strength. How complex is your IT landscape? Some businesses are 2 PCs, email, and some cloud storage, while others may have multi-site locations, multiple networks, servers, hosted email, and onsite backup solutions. Understanding the capabilities and depth of coverage in your IT solution is key. While an independent consultant may provide reliable onsite support, there’s often more benefit to having the skillset of an entire IT firm, and it’s generally close to the same cost. Finding a provider that has a large enough team to ensure high skillset, quality service, effective communication, and availability in line with the needs of your business is critical. A “two guys and a garage” IT shop may be affordable and offer fantastic hands-on service, but when someone is sick, busy, or on vacation it’s the same as having no IT at all. A firm that is too large, on the other hand, could have a watered-down approach or less familiarity with your infrastructure.
  • Customer Management. How important is it to you and your business that your IT provider knows your business and employees? A good IT services firm is virtually an extension of your business, so knowing how closely your account is proactively managed and the capabilities of the IT firm’s account management staff is critical. Find out how often you will communicate with an account manager and whether you will have a dedicated manager or just a general customer service account team. The partnership between your business and the account manager can be essential to managing your IT as your business grows and evolves.
  • Flexibility. Not one IT solution is right for all businesses. When vetting IT vendors it’s important that your IT provider work closely with your business to tailor a solution specific to your business’s needs. There is no one-size-fits-all IT plan, and it’s in your best interest to find an IT provider who carries out the recommendation of particular solutions via a conversation, rather than a directive. A sign of a capable IT provider is their ability to flex and adapt to the needs of your particular business, rather than force all of their customers into one specified set of technologies.
  • Stability. Small IT consultants and management firms have a great deal of instability. Knowing the track record or your provider is important. Engaging a new IT provider is not a small undertaking, and not one that most businesses care to experience frequently. Before partnering with an IT provider ask questions as to their history, future, stability as an organization, and the staff. This should give you a gauge of how likely they are to be there for you for years to come.
  • Customer Service. Sure, this one seems straightforward; unfortunately, that is not always the case. Hiring an IT staff, firm, or consultant is not only a question of technical skillset, but also of customer service soft skills. These individuals will be dealing directly with your non-technical staff during frustrating and stressful situations. Finding a solution where the technicians are not only technically capable but also patient, helpful, and personable through the experience can greatly improve the morale of your staff when they have IT troubles. Important questions to ask are: how do you measure customer service levels? …what qualities do you look for in your employees? …what is the work environment like? Happy employees who enjoy working with people not only make for a more pleasant environment but also a better experience for the end user on the phone. We find that the more we can do to encourage and support a cohesive and happy team, the better our service levels and the quality of employees we attract. 

  mountain flowersI hope these topics help guide you on the path to selecting the right IT provider for your business’s needs. To discuss how Everon may be a good fit for your organization and to walk through your technology needs, please feel free to contact me at aswanigan@everonit.com. Or, you may claim a free technology assessment at www.everonit.com/technologyassessment.