Tip of the Week 5 – When sfc fails, DISM prevails

In the last month or so, I have come across a number of servers where the only possible cause remaining for the “issues” is file system/OS corruption. This has been across various scenarios; Cloud hosted, on premise physical, on site virtualised etc. and each time the obvious Googleable thing to try is a sfc /scannow.

For those who do not know this command, it is an old, old, old Windows built in tool designed to scan and repair corruption within Windows itself, notable directories such as System32. File system corruption can occur for many reasons, a dodgy build of the OS to start with, Windows Update issues, potentially caused even by viruses, or remnants of. So the cool thing about running sfc /scannow (from an elevated Command Prompt), is that it is has been around since Windows 98 – incidentally my first OS on a PC that was solely mine!

So sure, I have run this many times, probably more than a hundred, but recently on more advanced operating systems such as 2012R2 and 2016, I have seen it failing a little. Usually the result of the scan states

“Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them

Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.Log.”

So if you see this does it mean your system is totally broken…

 
 

All is not lost

 
 

If you have seen my previous posts on DISM you will know it is great for keeping a system tidy, especially when it comes to Windows Updates and the bits they leave behind. However, did you know that DISM could also be used to repair the file system? – Well no, neither did I until this year!

There are a couple of commands very useful to try, when a sfc fails:

  • DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth

    This checks for corruption without attempting repair

  • DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth

    This checks for Windows Image corruption and takes significantly longer than a CheckHealth

  • DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

    BINGO! – this one will actually attempt the repair of a corrupted filesystem, and from experience means an sfc /scannnow will also complete without errors.

     
     

 
 

Please note I am not saying this is the solution to all file system/OS corruption, what I’m saying is in the last few weeks it has saved 3 servers from being binned!

 
 

So yet again, system maintenance via the DISM tool is a winner, whether keeping it tidy or just in one piece.

 
 

Happy New Year

Wow, 2018 has come around already and its time to yet again share some techy tips and posts that will hopefully not bore everyone too much.

I hope everyone who celebrates the festive season enjoyed it and are feeling as refreshed as I am, ready to hit the ground running for this year?!

 

I will start next week properly, although content is already in the works, I am going share Windows Server and SQL tips going forwards to widen the reach a little, so please share the posts to anyone you feel may benefit.

 

 

Level 3 and more

So, after I gained the Level 2 certification in my last post, I soon gained the Level 3 (after a battle on a couple of tough areas)

This now means I have a bunch of certificates showing I am trained in all technical areas of the Epicor ERP 10.1 product, however this does not mean I know the product inside out or can achieve any task asked of me. For that I need experience, and in whatever “spare” time available to me, I am constantly refreshing my knowledge, diving deeper into areas of the system and getting my head around the vast areas of business processes that can run through such a diverse and complex system.

On top of that we’re gearing up for a new release, and the 10.2 version looks set to be a game changer for many areas, and I will be sure to post links to the PR and marketing as I truly believe the new version looks the business! Watch this space…

Day to day I’m still installing and configuring ERP systems for many customers, I’ve lost track of the numbers a little bit, but probably installing 3-4 sites per month, many of these are upgrade projects from legacy versions and we now have fantastic tooling in place to make that journey less painful for the customer. It’s fair to say I’m very lucky having so many skilled and talented people around me, making my day job a lot easier!

Another area I’m very much moving into is training and on-site consultancy. If a customer needs a full system admin training course, or just a refresher then I’m part of a UK team that can now deliver that. To date I have delivered 2 full 2-day courses on sysadmin, and 5+ remote refresher sessions for those who already know the basics (or former versions) and need specific areas covering. System Admin courses include SQL management, ERP application server deployment, usage of Epicor admin tools, performance monitoring and many other areas.

Delivering these training courses is fast becoming one of my favourite things to do as typically I get to talk tech for 2 days with other technical people, enabling them to effectively manage the systems that run their business, regardless of what they actually make or do.

Career & Tech Update June 2017

Somehow I managed to let the last 7 months slip by without so much of an update, so no doubt anyone that usually reads this, no longer does!

However, I like to update this blog in order to note my milestones, especially where my career is concerned. I reference all aspects of the last post Found Here

So far in 2017 I have been pretty much doing what I did in the last 6 months of 2016, working with customers to develop technical solutions around their ERP systems. Primarily I am involved in the initial design and install of ERP environments, by that I mean I sit down with a customer (on a technical level) and discuss the various hardware and software requirements around the product the have already signed of on, mostly this is the Epicor ERP10 solution, which is a world leading product aimed at mostly manufacturing and distribution companies across all sectors. Once a customer has made an informed choice on their physical and/or virtual environment where their new system will sit, I am involved in planning, installing and documenting the base deployment of the system. Typically 4 databases (Live, Pilot, Test and Demo) with a variety of additional elements and solutions such as Web Access, Document Management, External System interfacing etc.

Traditionally that is the point where I stop and hand over to the customer a fully documented base install – note if this is an upgrade project they would have their data upgraded as part of this process too. However, I was set a challenge by my superior, and also by myself, tp go beyond the installations and technical planning stages, to spread my wings and my reach a little bit further, deeper into the product.

And so, after 6 months of mixing the day job as described above, with the other day job of keeping my old “managed services” customers up and running, and a few “tech days” on site at multiple customers; training their IT people on managing the ERP infrastructure with an addition of 9 solid days (spread out) of online classroom training, and additional self-paced learning courses… I am now certified as a  Level 1 Tools Consultant up to the latest released version of ERP10 (10.1.600). 

Whilst Level 1 does sound rather basic, and may even be ridiculed by some, what it has given me over the last couple of months, is an ability to understand and appreciate the inner workings of an ERP system, to finally understand how and why customers do not use these systems “out of the box”. Tools consulting is all about helping tailor a system to a company’s individual needs through the use of inbuilt tooling. I am also fortunate that I work alongside a number of people who go one step beyond this into the custom solutions world where they utilise external tools and code to further enhance the systems. I am no developer, but have always dabbled in code, and examples on this blog from years gone by show the random times when I have explored that side of my technical work. Being able to potentially start consulting on tools related work will definitely allow me to mix all aspects of my career to date, and this hopefully will be a great fit for me, allowing me to further enhance and adapt my career.

Back on my last post in November 2016 I listed a number of areas where I was developing within the IT/Tech world. I’d like to review some of those with an update:

  • SQL Skills – With the release of SQL 2016 and a number of challenges regarding compatibility with various platforms and products, I have yet again become rather adept at installation and configuration of SQL environments. I’m also starting to develop a nice library of useful SQL query snippets, from resetting DB ownership, to replacing strings in fields and backup/restore/overwrite of entire ERP environments!
  • ERP – As discussed above I now have a much deeper understanding of the implementation and usage of ERP systems, recent training has opened my eyes to the worlds of finance and manufacturing processes. I have also branched out further into some specific areas, such as CRM and Field Service setups. More of this to come I am sure.
  • Hyper-V – Not really had the chance to go really hands on with this level of setup, in most cases I advise the customer how to set things up but don’t actually get involved in those stages. That said I’ve fixed a handful of Hyper-V snapshot and backup related issues for multiple customers recently so I have to keep my knowledge up where possible.
  • VMWare ESX – same as for Hyper-V really, although I have some interesting migration/decommission work coming up soon so maybe a watch this space.
  • RDS  – I finally have my RDS customers stable and happy, with good performance and no recent complaints! I’ve also worked on implementations related to handheld warehouse devices and ERP client deployment both on RemoteApp and Desktop Sessions.

Do you remember the Coming up list…

Back in November I listed 3 key areas of focus for 2017, with a little Watch This Space…

It seems that out of the three items, two of them are very real, in fact the whole beginning of this post/story covers the Tools area, the other is Solutions, which as a side note to the day job appear to be my area of expertise. By this I mean i have become the main installation resource for a variety of extended solutions (CRM clients, Document Management Email plugins, Project Management integration etc.), also I have become a suport contact point for these and have had some significant contact around the globe  identifying and troubleshooting issues on these solutions. Basically becoming a human intermediary between Developers and Customers – as we all know Developer’s are beyond human  😉 

My last point was Cloud, and in a way without realising it Cloud is part of every day life at home and work. I need to specifically do more work with it, and have targets set against that, so I hope that by the end of this year I will be able to update in more details on that!.

 

Thanks as always for reading what is by far my longest post!

 

4 years ago…

4 years ago this week I was preparing for a 2 week trip to Amsterdam for the EPSIAE Green IT trip. With a focus on sustainability in IT, and alongside my fellow students from Birmingham City University we visited the Dutch HQ of IBM, Microsoft, Philips and Cisco, we even visited a data centre and a regional electric company! From the information we gained over the 2 weeks, and with many laughs along the way, we worked towards the theory of cloud, which featured in many of our final year projects in some way or other. Between the 4 of us, guided by our lecturer we developed the ECCF (European Combined Cloud Framework) – this is better explained in the animation below, however the concept is something I have come back to this week. After delving more into the world of cloud computing, and potentially running enterprise applications at that level (it’s early days) I have come to be baffled by the different terminologies and technologies used across cloud providers, why can’t we all just agree on our a basic set of principles that are named and defined the same? Sure each provider will have its niche (otherwise there’d be no competition), but the standard set of “here’s a server with 2 cores, 4gb ram and 500gb disk” should be stated in the same phrasing! – Rant over, here’s the rather dodgy animation I did 4 years ago…