WServerNews: What IT pros have been learning from working during COVID-19

In this week’s newsletter

We need to teach customers about risk. Hopefully we can survive the slowdown. Struggling with licensing questions. I just need to be able to plug everything in! An IT pro’s struggles with traumatic brain injury. Ask Our Readers: FortiClient VPN and Windows Intune. Ask Our Readers: PowerShell guru needed. Ask Our Readers: Updating an ActiveX control over a VPN. Tip of the Week: Working with PDF docs on SharePoint. COVID Corner: Entertainment and support for foodbanks. Plus lots more — read it all, read it here on WServerNews!

Enjoy this week’s newsletter and feel free to send us feedback on any of the topics we’ve covered — we love hearing from our readers!


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Editor’s Corner

In our March 30th and April 6th newsletters we shared stories about how some of our readers were dealing with both work and life challenges during in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more than a month has passed since then we thought it might be worthwhile to reconnect with a few of our readers to find out what they’ve learned so far and how things are going down in the trenches. Below are some of the updates we’ve received so far — if you’d like to share your own story with us, email us at [email protected]

We need to teach customers about risk

By Andrew S. Baker, Cybersecurity & IT Operations Consulting, BrainWave Consulting

The past few months have been quite interesting overall.   For the most part, I’ve seen more life changes than tech changes.

Many of our interpersonal interactions have been somewhat less personal lately:  no familiar handshake to close out the conversation, and shorter conversations in general.   Thankfully, we have not seen any reduction of civility where we live.    My wife has taken to doing our grocery shopping much earlier in the morning to better manage the flow of people and interactions, and to take advantage of the fact that the stores are cleaner at that time.

From a technology standpoint, I haven’t really had to pick up new technologies, but I have been doing a great deal more end-user support to help out my clients who are dealing with the struggles of running a mostly remote enterprise.   Given everything that people are dealing with in their lives today, I am surprised that the interactions have been more civil, and more calm than the stereotypical “end-user” interaction.   It has been a pleasure to help them with USB docking stations, VPN connectivity, PDF processing of major files, multiple monitor support, or whatever else has come up over the past month and a half.

I’ve also had some time to update a few key command-line utilities that I have developed for automation and workflow.  Using my FILEHASH utility, for instance, I’ve been rolling out (or updating) basic file integrity monitoring for some clients that are not yet prepared to deploy a commercial solution.

There is one thing that has been on my mind for a while, though, and it has been the overall response and reaction to this pandemic.   Having worked in IT and Security/Compliance for quite some time now, I’ve had my fair share of situations where I and my colleagues saw significant business threats that we felt were not getting enough attention or funding.  Sometimes, reality has been more kind to us than we deserved.  A few times, the actual incidents that played out were even worse than we had predicted.   While I am in no way trying to compare the scope of the security or IT risks that I have managed against to COVID-19, I must say that while looking at the global response to this pandemic, I had a sense of déjà vu relative to my own corporate and consulting experiences.

I really think we need to find an effective way to accurately convey risk in different situations.  I don’t want to imply that everyone is poor at doing that today — because I don’t believe that.  But I think we can get better at it.  And we will need to.

It doesn’t mean that we will be listened to all the time, but perhaps an improvement of even 15-30% would be helpful.

Covid-19 has taught me that the right crisis will cause people to significantly change behavior — even if only temporarily.  And I need to be prepared for that.

Now, I have to figure out how to help my customers deal with risks in a better way that they have, without making every risk sound like a possible pandemic.   It’s going to be a challenge.

Hopefully we can survive the slowdown

By Craig Hollins from Australia

Well, after a few weeks of shutdown, we’re starting to look at light at the end of the tunnel — at least in Western Australia.  We’ve gone a week since our last positive test and there are just 14 active cases remaining out of a total of 528 infections.  Sadly there have been 9 deaths.

Our restrictions are starting to ease. We are now allowed group gatherings of up to 10 people.  Many shops are starting to reopen but all restaurants and bars are take away only.

From the business perspective, we had a bumper month in April with our technicians scrambling to get everyone working from home.  Video conferencing has also been a skill our guys have had to become experts in.  We are only just now starting to experience the slowdown that the rest of the business community has been complaining about.  Hopefully our April busy period will give us a bit of fat to survive the downturn as long as it lasts.

Both Australia and New Zealand are aiming to be virus free “safe zones” and our respective governments are talking about creating a travel bubble between the two countries.  Nobody is allowed in or out of either country at present.  The idea is opening these up will provide a much needed tourism boost to the economy.  It will also assist the airlines that have seen 90%+ drop in passenger bookings.

There have been some strange happenings as a result.  Alice Springs, a small town in the middle of the continent, is playing host to a fleet of mothballed aircraft including four A380s that are joining six 737 MAX 8 aircraft that are still grounded (remember when that was aviation’s biggest problem?). They chose Alice because it’s very dry which minimises the damage being in storage can do.  The airport estimates it will be storing between 60 and 70 heavy aircraft before too much longer.

As we emerge from this crisis we look at the news coming in from around the world and realise we dodged a bullet.  What’s happening in the US and Europe is heartbreaking and we’re thankful our leaders have worked together with the public to minimise the deaths.  We are now getting ready to rebuild.  This highlights that good leadership is the difference between a crisis and a disaster.

Struggling with licensing questions

By Mark Van Noy, Technical Lead/Architect working in the central IT department at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Greater Denver Area

There are multiple trends I am seeing in our Covid response.  Probably the most notable: our organization is no faster at rolling out new tools or solutions that it was before; we have simply adjusted how we are using our current tools.  One of our largest challenges for remote work and learning is around software licensing.  For example, Adobe does not fully support their software running in a virtual environment which causes quite a bit of concern at various levels in our organization.  Does virtualization mean we cannot run in a VDI environment, that RDS environments are considered virtual, and if shared user environments are considered fully supported do they have to run on physical servers or are virtualized servers pushing us back into a non-fully supported situation.  We are having to figure out those kinds of questions for nearly every piece of software in use so that we can determine how we can deliver software to our end users and remain fully in compliance with our software agreements.  There were no licensing questions when everyone was onsite with managed computers.

Looking to the future, I suspect that Covid will ultimately illustrate that most people do not need to be at a shared physical site to be productive.  There will likely be an uptick in BYOD again as companies realize that if the bulk of their workforce works from home they do not need large office spaces, do not need to pay the higher utility bills that go with large office spaces, need less janitorial staff and so on.  If those practices also leverage various cloud technologies then businesses will be able to dump the VPN support as well as there will be no corporate run data center.  Delivering work applications to devices that are not owned by the corporation, and therefore should not be fully installed, while maintaining the integrity of corporate data will likely be the big challenges for I.T. long term.  So an acceleration of MDM once again.

I just need to be able to plug everything in!

By Kris, a Product Manager

During the pandemic, I’ve been impressed with how my home cable network has been able to handle the additional bandwidth requirements of just about everybody working from home. I’ve got two college-age kids attending classes remotely, plenty of online gaming going on (perhaps a bit more than class and/or study time), I’m doing all of my work remotely on a laptop, several mobile phones are in use all day, and we rarely see any significant hiccups. Early on we overcame a few performance challenges with electrical outlet plug-in network extenders to get a better signal for some computers and other devices that are located farthest from the router. Other than that, it’s been a fairly smooth ride with regards to network performance. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was stringing a phone wire across my family room just to get dial-up connection that was so slow, I could barely get any work done from home!

An IT pro’s struggles with traumatic brain injury

And finally on a different note, I want to alert readers to this blog post by our colleague Jeff Stokes. Jeff currently works as Director of Technical Account Management at Tanium but he formerly worked at Microsoft and I know him well from having worked with him on a couple of projects while I was a v-dash at Microsoft. In his post Jeff tells about his recent journey towards recovery from a traumatic brain injury, about living with memory loss, and on getting back on his feet.

What I Learnt While Not Remembering: Technology and its use in Traumatic Brain Injury (Humans of IT Blog)

I’m sure there are other IT pros among our readers who have struggled or are currently dealing with similar disabilities, and I hope Jeff’s story will encourage you the way it has others as the comments to his blog post indicate.

Got more thoughts about anything in this newsletter?

Email us at [email protected]!

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Ask Our Readers – FortiClient VPN and Windows Intune (New Question)

A reader named Nikola was reading an article on our website about Always On VPN and asked the following questions:

Is there a way to create VPN profile in Intune for FortiClient vpn for Android devices?

Does anyone have any insight concerning this? If so please email us at [email protected] and/or post a reply to her comment on that article. Thanks!


Ask Our Readers – PowerShell guru needed (new question)

A reader named Trevor sent us the following PowerShell question:

I am desperate for help regarding PowerShell and although I know what I want, but I very much lack  the ‘how-to. Having found part of my issue below:


$computer = Get-Content c:\pstest\computerlist.txt

$Output = Foreach($C in $computer){

    $System = Get-WmiObject Win32_ComputerSystem -ComputerName $C | Select-Object -Property Name,Model

    $BIOS = Get-WmiObject Win32_BIOS -ComputerName $C | Select-Object -Property SerialNumber


        ComputerName = $C

                           Name = $System.Name

                           Model = $System.Model

        SerialNumber = $BIOS.SerialNumber




$Output |Export-Csv -Path c:\pstest\Result.csv -NoTypeInformation


My issue is that I need to include which devices contained in the ‘computerlist.txt’ have which hotfixes installed on them? As you can see in the script, the hotfixes are not included & even after trail and error, I am only left with frustration and failure.

Can any readers help Trevor with his difficulty? Email us at [email protected]


Ask Our Readers – Updating an ActiveX control over a VPN (new question)

A reader named Jon came across an old tip I had posted on our TechGenix site while searching for a solution to a problem he has been experiencing:

Interesting notes on ActiveX – I have an issue that needs a more “creative” solution though.

The VPN software we use for work (F5) sometimes needs to update an ActiveX control, usually after the hard drive is shealed of “junk” files. Problem is it needs Admin rights and we can’t do anything remotely for pretty obvious reasons.

Normally I would login as admin and run the software, update the ActiveX, then allow the user back in, but logging the user out terminates the VPN connection, and users are getting fed up with having to be hard wired to the network for me to correct this.

Any thoughts or solutions (preference is using PowerShell) would be most welcome.

Have any of our readers had to deal with this sort of thing in managing VPN connections for users working remotely? Email us if you have found a solution: [email protected]


Tip of the Week

>> Got any IT pro tips you’d like to share with other readers of our newsletter? Email us at [email protected]

Working with PDF docs on SharePoint

If you are using SharePoint you can manage how your users experience Adobe PDF docs by configuring the settings described in the following TechNet Wiki article:


Admin Toolbox

>> Got any admin tools or software you’d like to recommend to our readers? Email us at [email protected]

Microsoft Message Analyzer can be used for for capturing, displaying, and analyzing protocol messaging traffic, events, and other system or application messages in network troubleshooting and other diagnostic scenarios:

sp_whoisactive is a comprehensive activity monitoring stored procedure that works for all versions of SQL Server from 2005 through 2017:

WBEMTest can be used to test connectivity to remote systems, validate your WMI queries and explore WMI:


COVID Corner – Entertainment and support for foodbanks

Your Editor will get back to recommending movies for you from the 60s and 70s in next week’s newsletter so you can keep yourself entertained during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. In the meantime, this week we have another form of entertainment to suggest which comes to us courtesy of John Blackmore the VP of Content Marketing for GFI Software. John has launched a new podcast series called Fresh New Shorts that offers free short stories to listeners. John has produced six episodes so far and is doing them weekly, they’re taken from a book of short stories by him called “A Physicists Guide to Love. All of the profits from his short story eBook are going to local foodbanks during this COVID time. Here’s a blurb from John with a few details about the stories:

Fresh New Shorts offers original shorts stories from an award-winning short story author. Stories include speculative fiction, The Falling — How do people react when a spreading, worldwide catastrophe causes people to lose gravity and fall up and off the earth? Or the lighter, more humorous, The White Gorilla — about a family with high expectations for a special vacation, old guidebooks, and more baggage than what they checked for the flight.

I hope you enjoy listening to these podcasts, and if you have any other suggestions on how stressed-out IT pros like ourselves can entertain and amuse ourselves during this crisis feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

In the meantime, stay healthy and safe! And more classic movies next week 🙂


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Conference calendar

NOTE: Because of the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 situation some of these conferences may be moved online or even cancelled. Please check the conference websites for the latest updates.

>> Got an IT conference or event happening that you’d like to promote in our newsletter? Email us at [email protected]

Microsoft Inspire

July 20-24, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada


Microsoft Licensing Boot Camps

For dates and locations see


Cyber Security Summits

For dates and locations see


Other conferences

PowerShell Conference Europe – June 2-5 in Hannover, Germany

European Collaboration Summit – June 8-10 in Wiesbaden, Germany

Evolve – June 8-10 in Las Vegas

RSA Conference Asia Pacific & Japan – July 14-16 in Singapore

VMworld – Aug 30 – Sept 3 in San Francisco

Interop – Sept 21-24 in Austin, Texas

European SharePoint, Office 365 & Azure Conference (ESPC20) – Nov 9-12, 2020 in Amsterdam

DevOpsCon – Nov 30 – Dec 3 in Munich, Germany


Podcast Corner

Bandwidth in the Pandemic with Cameron Fuller (RunAsRadio)

Is LISP The Overlay Of The Future? (Heavy Networking)

Mac in the data center (Virtually Speaking)

Germans indict APT28 operator (Risky Business)

April Showers Bring May Microsoft 365 Updates (Microsoft Cloud IT Pro Podcast)

The Only Constant Is Change (Windows Insider)


New on

Configure Windows Server 2019 to act as a VPN: Step-by-step guide

While there are numerous third-party VPNs available, you can also configure Windows Server 2019 to act as a VPN. Here’s our exclusive walkthrough.

Control your business data: Managing the unmanaged mobile devices

Can we allow companies to control their business data while allowing employees to access that data on their personal mobile devices? Yes, and here’s how.

Review: IT ecosystem monitoring solution NetCrunch 10.6

You need to monitor your IT infrastructure to avoid disasters. NetCrunch 10.6 is a monitoring solution for your entire IT ecosystem. Here’s our review.

Remote working: 10 steps to making it more secure

Remote working is one thing, but doing it securely is another  —  and this has become more critical than ever during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

White paper: Benefits of third-party email archiving for businesses using Microsoft 365

Many are unaware that Microsoft 365 customers are not automatically protected against data loss. This is why an email archiving solution is crucial.


Fun videos from Flixxy

Tom Cruise To Shoot Movie At International Space Station

NASA is teaming up with actor Tom Cruise to shoot a movie aboard the International Space Station.

Hilarious Jack Russell At Agility Competition Home   Daily   Popular

Hilarious Jack Russell goes crazy with excitement at the Crufts international dog show held annually in the United Kingdom.

If Kitty Can Do It, I Think I Can Too

Rover figures out how to get through this maze.

Little Richard – ‘Long Tall Sally’ – ‘Tutti Frutti’

A tribute to Little Richard: ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Tutti Frutti’ from the film ‘Don’t Knock The Rock.’


More articles of interest

Reduce IT burdens, costs with on-premises storage as a service

Most organizations automatically associate storage as a service with the cloud — but emerging, on-premises STaaS offerings can benefit IT ops and the business just as much, if not more.

Remote access is just one of many COVID-19 IT challenges

The coronavirus outbreak stretched many in IT to the limit of their abilities to find ways to accommodate the surge in remote workers.

For VDI, coronavirus pandemic could require a new approach

Organizations may need to set up VDI deployments or alter existing infrastructure to support the influx of demand for remote work support due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DRaaS vs. cloud DR: What are the differences?

Disaster recovery as a service and cloud DR have the same end goal, but there are pros and cons to each approach that admins must consider before going with one over the other.


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Got feedback about anything in this issue of WServerNews? Email us at [email protected]

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