ShoreTel Backup Method Revisited

Occasionally I’ll get a comment on the blog that says, “This post is three years old but it worked” which is really nice to hear. It also means that at least in the case of ShoreTel most stuff is fairly consistent between versions.

I was thinking about backing up ShoreTel servers today and looked at my old post on backing up your server and thought this would be a good time to post again about using a method I’ve found that works well, but that ShoreTel doesn’t seem to talk about.

I am going to disclaim this, as ShoreTel does not suggest it. However, if you poke through this blog, other forums, and talk to ShoreTel customers and partners you’ll find out that basically none of them set up a backup plan on standalone servers. If they do it’s ShoreTel’s included scripts, which almost always fail after a minor update, if they ever worked in the first place.

Backing Up Your Stand Alone Server With Windows Server Backup

You’ll need a NAS or other remote storage for this. These instructions are a little more ‘theory’ than the precise step by step instructions I’d rather give. They’re also geared for Server 2008 and Server 2012. It should work just fine with Server 2016 and forward as Server Backup hasn’t changed much since the 2003 days. If you are still using 2003 you’ll need an external hard drive and a floppy disk probably.

You will also need an installation media for Server 2008/2012 for this to restore correctly. You can usually download this from Microsoft. Someone with a volume license agreement or a Microsoft partner can usually get you the Installation Media (I’ve never had a problem getting one for free if it was an emergency). If you have an install disk from a major hardware vendor like Dell, this will work too as you aren’t actually using the install media to do the installation. I do not think you’ll need your Server Key, but you should be keeping a copy of that somewhere safe anyway.

Step 1 – Open server backup and select the option for a scheduled backup.

Step 2 – You will want to do a full back up to a remote share. The remote share is your NAS. Depending the on the version you may be able to do incremental backups to a remote share as well. Don’t do this. Just do a full, bare metal backup of everything every night or once a week or whatever you feel comfortable with.

Note: A word on the scheduling. You want this to be some crazy hour when nothing is going on. I’ve checked logs on a few servers with this set up. It does not take long, anywhere from ten minutes to an hour at most. Depends on the speed of the machine, NAS and network. It uses shadow copy snapshots so it basically is just copying an image of the machine when the backup copy job starts. I HAVE run these during the day and it doesn’t seem to mess anything up. I would not trust that to happen on a really busy server.

Note 2: This method just backs up the server once, and wipes out the previous backup. Because ShoreTel is constantly writing and deleting stuff, I am of the opinion that a full backup every time is better. This is really for disaster recovery not recovering a deleted extension or a voicemail someone accidentally got rid of.

Restoring the ShoreTel Server

This is pretty straight forward. You want to boot from the Server 2008/2012 installation media and select the “Restore my server” or advanced options instead of the “Install” button. You’ll find a restore from image option. You can usually browse for the image on a network location, sometimes you may need to put it on an external drive (May be a version thing).

You’ll need similar or the exact same hardware to use this. Some backup software will let you restore on dissimilar hardware but, I have no idea how well this works with ShoreTel. It’s probable you could make this work somehow with virtualization though. Newer versions of Server Backup make a VHD file so, it’s entirely likely you could boot it directly in HyperV, but that’s just speculation.

 

 

Clear OS – SugarCRM Removal

How To Remove SugarCRM from ClearOS

I’m not going to show how to put SugarCRM on ClearOS because there are a lot of guides out there how to do that. I’m going to show how to take it off. Here’s how to do that. This is more of a theory guide than a step by step how to.

Theoretical Step 1 – Putty/SSH into the Clear OS and remove the SugarCRM files. Mine were under /var/www/html/sugarcrm/CRM. You may have put them under a Virtual directory or something. Here are a few commands to keep in mind:

Remove a directory – rm or rmdir

Remove a directory that isn’t empty – rm -rf [directory]
(Careful with this command)

Theoretical Step 2 – Remove the database. I show in the video how to do this with whatever version of phpMyAdmin comes prepackaged. It may vary on your version a little, I know most versions I’ve used don’t look exactly like what is on this server. You could also log into the server with Putty and fire up mysql. Since you’re probably using a root user and hopefully your root password is different in mysql you’ll need to do this:

Log into MySQL – mysql -u root -p
(It will ask for the MySQL root password when you hit enter)

Drop the sugarCRM database – DROP DATABASE sugarcrm;

Show databases  – SHOW databases;

That should remove SugarCRM pretty easily. To put it on was basically the reverse of that. Create a blank database called “sugarcrm”. Unzip the SugarCRM files into the /www/html/sugarcrm folder. Then follow the instructions for the initial setup.

 

ClearOS – Initial Configuration – Video

Recorded my initial configuration of ClearOS. Here’s the video with my commentary.

I do make a few mistakes in the video. One is the OS is really Centos, and while I did add SugarCRM, it wasn’t what I needed. I’ll be linking instructions for that soon though.

Clear OS – Initial Thoughts

Spent a good part of my weekend building a box out of parts cobbled together in my garage for a ClearOS server. Thought I’d post some first thoughts on the process and why.

What’s it for?

I’d been thinking I needed a small business server for a while to help me manage some projects and as a testing and development platform. I need to be able to develop web applications locally, invoice some consulting projects and other uses.

Why ClearOS

Normally I’d use Ubuntu Server or Windows Server for projects like this. Ubuntu is my preferred Linux flavor, and it’s rare to find something that doesn’t work with it. A friend of mine pointed me to ClearOS, however. I really like the idea of a web-based interface for interacting with the server. For rolling out features quickly, I think this is the way to go for most deployments assuming your security is tight enough. So I thought I’d give it a try.

Pros and Cons

I am looking at the Community Edition. They have paid Home and Business editions as well as pre-built appliances you can order. It’s a subscription model and pricing is fairly reasonable at every level.

First the bad.

  • Their website and documentation is good but either lacking or not updated often. I was trying to install MySQL from the Marketplace. I could not find it no matter what I did. Everything I found indicated you should just be able to search for “MySQL” and click install. It did not show up. Eventually I figured out, as far as I can tell you install “MariaDB” and that installs MySQL and phpMyAdmin. At least for the Community Edition this seems to be a recurring problem.
  • Manually installing apps is confusing. It’s basically just the yum app in CentOS/Redhat, so no big deal. However, because of the documentation issue when I tried to just install MySQL manually I wasn’t even sure it worked. The manual installation instructions were confusing and had screenshots of things that just didn’t seem to exist. This could just be because I am using the Community Edition and some things are turned off. This is one of those things that would make it sort of hard to consider upgrading.
  • The setup process makes you register the server even if you are just using the Community Edition. Not a huge deal, as you get some Dynamic DNS stuff and a few other things. This is likely why their apps are so easy to work with. If you care about your privacy, this might be an issue. Installing these for clients, this is actually a pro, in my opinion.
  • It seemed like it turned on its DHCP server for some reason. I’m not sure if it was really on or if the GUI was just indicating it was on. I set it up as a private server and didn’t have it act as a DNS server. This could be bad if it turns a DHCP server on by default.

The Good

  • It was incredibly easy to install. The entire install process took no more than about twenty minutes. Initial configuration made sense and it didn’t need too many unnecessary steps.
  • The Marketplace makes it very easy to set your server up to do whatever you need. Do you want to build a firewall? You can choose the apps you need for that really easily. Do you need just a basic web server and nothing else? Easy to do that. A couple of clicks and you have it done.
  • There are templates for Public, Private and Gateway servers as well as other functions. This lets you deploy things much more quickly than setting up a server entirely from scratch.

Overall I’m pleased and look forward to using it. There are bugs for sure but I think that something like this could potentially shave off significant amounts of time in deployment. It is not good for all situations but for small to mid-size businesses it has a lot of potential.

 

GotFreeFax Online Faxing – Free, No Ads

I was recently made aware of a great service for fax troubleshooting and basic faxing called “GotFreeFax.com“. I had used another service for my troubleshooting and just basic faxing needs online, but these guys reached out to me and I’m convinced theirs is definitely better.

Here’s a rundown of their free fax features:

  • Two free faxes a day.
  • No ads or branding whatsoever on the fax.
  • Three pages per fax.

You may get a couple fewer faxes and pages per day with this service but, in my opinion that no ads or branding on the cover page so your recipient has no idea how you sent it makes up for that. Here’s a picture of the cover sheet from a free fax I sent to myself the redacted parts are just names and some information I had to fill out:

GotFreeFax Cover Sheet

See? No ads. Just a plain cover sheet.

Sending a Fax From GotFreeFax.com

So here’s how to send a fax from GotFreeFax.com. It’s simple and you have a lot of options.

Step 1 – Go to GotFreeFax.com.

Step 2 – Fill out the sender information. This is you. You’ll need to put in your name, company name if you have one, your fax number with area code and you HAVE to put in your email address.

GotFreeFax Fax Info Entry

Step 3 – Fill in the recipient information. You’ll need to put in the recipient’s name, company information if they have one, fax number and a subject. Remember to put in an area code.

Step 4 – Enter the fax content. Typically you’ll want to just upload a document. They accept PDF files, DOC files and JPG files. So yes, you can fax a family photo. I haven’t tested with JPGs so I don’t know the size limitations, if any. I have uploaded DOCX files and it works with those just fine even though it doesn’t specifically say it will.

You can uncheck the “Use No-Add Free Cover Page”. This will just remove the cover page so you can use your own. It doesn’t give you the option to specifically upload a cover page, so you’ll need to make it part of the document.

Step 5 – Click the “Send Free Fax” button.

Step 6 – You’ll get a confirmation email. Click the link in the email.

GotFreeFax Email Confirmation

Step 7 – Wait for the success or failure email to come in.

Larger Faxes – You can send larger faxes for a fee with the Premium Pay Per Fax Service. To do this, instead of clicking on the “Send Free Fax” button, click on the proper premium paid button for the number of pages you need to send.

Use an account – You can sign up for an account and pre-pay for some pages. Just click on the button for the number of pages you want to buy. You’ll be taken through a sign up process and asked for billing information. Sending faxes with an account in the future couldn’t be any easier. You just enter your email address and PIN  in the fields under “Send Prepaid Fax” and hit “Send Fax Now” and it will automatically deduct the right number of pages from your account.