Tag Archives: solutions

Snagless RJ45 connectors – How To Make Network Cables Snagless

Patch Panel

Snagless RJ45 Connectors – the Odd Request

Snagless RJ45 connectors are that odd request that my department makes from time to time. Why do you need RJ45 connectors anyway, it’s the invariable answer from supervisors, and the typical reminder: “You have all sorts of patchcords, all dimensions…” Well, first of all, we sysadmins never have all the patchcords dimensions available. The IT racks should be something that should be kept as tidy as possible, and one way is to have custom length of the patchcords.

Depending on your infrastructure, you might want or might not want to use handmade patchcords in your racks; however, in many cases this is totally acceptable. You can probably make a Cat 5 patchcord, but you won’t be able to make a Cat 6 one. In other words your hand made patchcords will be able to run at Gigabit speeds, but not at 10 Gigabit speeds, even with the proper connectors and cables. Having said that, most of the equipment in a business server room is connected into a Gigabit switch or at lower speeds, so this would not be a problem.

Custom Patchcords – Always Broken Lokcing Tabs

The major problem with all the handmade Ethernet patchcords and cables is that the locking tab is breaking. I probably don’t have to explain why broken tabs are bad; they will not be secured into the equipment’s jack, resulting in intermittent data loss, or even disconnection.

There are two reasons for the locking tabs breaking so often. Firstly, the little locking tab is very fragile, and we can’t change that, it is fragile to keep the costs down. The other reason is the design, the locking tab sticks out, and it is very easy to get snagged and broken off. All store-bought cables come with a snagless boot; it’s the standard these days. All the cables with broken locking tabs don’t have the boots, because they are terminated in place, by either a datacom tech, or an admin.

These plugs from Panduit are the best snagless RJ45 connectors.

The connectors are meant for patch cords, and they are rated as providing Category 5e performance.

The patented tangle-free plug latch prevents snags, hence breaking.

They are easy release, unlike some snagless boots, and they save time on frequent moves, adds, and changes.

The design facilitates easy insertion and termination of wires

What Is the Solution for Broken RJ45 Connectors

One of the solutions to fix the snagging network cables is to install a "snagless" boot over the cable, before crimping the connector. After crimping, just push the boot over the connector and the boot will protect the little tab.

My preferred way to fix this is to use snagless RJ45 connectors, and a boot. This ensures the plug will not break ever, unless you purposely do it. You can also use just the snagless connectors, they are very good, and I do it very often, but if I have both the snagless connectors and the snagless boots, I will use both for optimization. The snagless plugs are slightly more expensive than the regular ones, but when you draw the line, and consider the troubleshooting needed on the long term, and the fact that sooner or later those RJ45 connectors will break and will need to be replaced, the additional cost is worth paying.

Like I already mentioned before, with the low prices for commercial made patchcords, and the quality ensured by a machine made ethernet cable, there is no need to make your own, it's just not practical.

This cables are made in a commercial facility, they are tested, and they come in a variety of lengths, just choose the one that is right for you. You can even get  to choose the color, so you can color code your patch panel connections, so everything looks tidy, and easy to follow.

Compress files in Windows

As a Windows Network Administrator I always have to make space delete unneeded files, archive old files, compress files that we don’t need but we might need at some point.
I don’t use the same compression method every time, because the scenario is different. Here are a three compression methods for Windows.

Compress Files Using the NTFS Compression

Compress Contents to Save Disk Space

This method of compression only works on NTFS partitions. You don’t have the option for a FAT or FAT32 partition.
The most usual and easier way to do this is to use the Windows’ Graphical Interface and access the Advanced File Properties and select Compress contents to save disk space.

Compact – Compress files or folders from command line

If you would like to compress files from a batch file use this command line variant. Usually if you access the advanced file properties, (right-click => properties and => advanced) you have the option to compress contents to save space. Another good use of the command line is that it gives you a better view of the progress. The graphic interface sometimes hangs and you don’t know if the job is still active.

The command to compress a folder from within the folder is compact /c /s. It compresses all of the files within the folder and marks the folder as compressed so that new files are created compressed.

Why would you choose Compact and not Zipped Folder?

The main reason is that a compacted folder can be used by applications. In other words if the path of a log file points to a compacted folder this is transparent for the application that writes the log file. As a result your log files will be compacted. You cannot do this with Zipped folders or files.

Compress files using the Windows’ built-in zip archiving utility

Send to Compressed (Zipped) folder

Why would you choose Compressed (Zipped) Folder over the Compacted Folder?

The zipped Folder has better compression and better portability. The zipped folder has a slightly better compression rate, and you can copy the files to any other Operating System, send them by email and they will retain the compression. The compacted folders will only be compressed on the original location unless you compress the file again at the new destination. Note in the image below the difference between the two file compression formats. The Windows shell has the option to “show NTFS compressed files in color”, which is a great option. Note that the zipped file is slightly smaller than the compacted, (blue colored), one.

Compact (the native NTFS compression) vs Compress the send to Zipped Folder
Compact vs Compress click to enlarge

Is there a Compressed (zipped) Folder – command line variant?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any Windows built-in option. The good news though is that there is a free archiver that has a command line version as well. 7zip is a great free utility very flexible that manipulates all of the popular archiving file formats.

Compressing from the command line with 7zip is very simple, the simplest command is 7z a NewFolder.zip “New Folder” that compresses the folder New Folder into the archive: NewFolder.zip. For more options and switches type: 7z –h, note that 7z doesn’t understand the /? switch, usual on any Windows application.

Why would you choose 7Zip over the Windows’ built in compressing solutions?

The main reason is flexibility. 7zip has a lot of options/switches that control a lot of the compression aspects and it is very easy to use in a batch file.

An interesting application is to separately archive a lot of folders from a batch file. Let’s say you have 500 folders that you want to archive and you know you will be accessing those folders on a regular. It makes more sense to archive the folders separately and not in one big file. It is easier to access smaller zip files from the Windows shell and keeps the system responsive. To do this manually for 500 folders is a nightmare. Here is a command that runs from a batch file that will compress those folders separately, each folder one zip file:

for /D %%d in (*.*) do 7z a -tzip “%%d.zip” “.\%%d\*”

To run the command from the command line and not from a batch file the command is slightly different:

for /D %d in (*.*) do 7z a -tzip “%d.zip” “.\%d\*”

There are other great archiving utilities such as Winzip, Winrar, Pkzip, etc… They are not free, but you can get a trial-ware which in many cases is good enough for anybody.

A few tips on what to compress and what not.
Usually Installation files are already compressed so there is no benefit in compressing.
Digital photos in a jpg or gif format are already compressed using special algorithms.
PDF files don’t compress.
Text files, (plain text, log files, etc…) compress the best.
Word files can be compressed but not as much as the text files.

Email Marketing – How to Avoid being placed on Spamming Lists

Filtering unsolicited email messages or SPAM is a very important issue for everybody. Companies, Internet Service Providers and Email Providers are spending more and more resources to become effective to blocking Unsolicited Emails. They will blacklist anyone who will try to send SPAM and they will stop delivering emails from sources known as spammers.
At the same time, Internet Marketing has become an important business component for most of the Companies and Email Marketing is essential for many businesses. How can a company deliver its messages to clients and not get on spam-lists? This post will try to give you some guidance on how to avoid being placed on spam lists.

Rules to avoid being placed on Spamming Lists

User related rules

  • Check the subject line of your email. Do not leave the subject line blank, have a long string of "Re:" or "Fwd:”, or use many exclamation or question marks or use all capital letters.
  • Avoid blacklisted and spammy words in your subject line and message body. Common words blacklisted at different spam filters include pornographic terms, pharmaceutical terms, "free", "money", "mortgage", and "cash."
  • Avoid adding many attachments, using only images or including a long list of URLs in the body of your email message.
  • Reduce the number of identical emails you are sending at one time. Try sending your emails in smaller batches if you have many different people who need to receive the same email.
  • Ask your email recipients to add you to their email program address book or white-list.
  • If you suspect your computer has been infected by a virus or Trojan or any other form of Malware, contact the IT Department immediately.
  • Do not use the Company’s email for personal use. Personal use includes but is not limited to:
    • Electronic Communication for personal use
    • Chain email letters – the distribution of chain letters is strictly interdicted using the corporate email. Chain emails are emails that ask or encourage you to forward the message to other people. Chain letters can include information about new viruses most of the times – hoaxes, promises of good luck, religious messages, request for help, etc…
    • Subscribing to newsletters or email lists is not allowed using the corporate email address. By subscribing to such services, you expose your account and Your Company email server to SPAM.
  • DO NOT send Unsolicited Email.

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How to avoiding the Spam Lists for the Email Administrator

  • Use and maintain SPF policies. This will help other servers to determine any rogue sender that will try to spoof email addresses in your domain. Remember, maintaining the SPF record is mandatory. If you forget to update the SPF record when an infrastructure change, (such as a new SMTP server), is made other SMTP server will treat the new server as a possible SPAMMER and will flag legitimate email as SPAM.
  • If your Marketing Department is using a new email Marketing Company, don’t forget to update the SPF records, (if they are using your regular addresses).
  • Ideally, the Email Marketing Campaigns should be conducted under a different domain name, or a sub-domain. Example: yourcompany.com is your main domain and you are using admin@yourcompany.com as email addresses and marketing. Yourcompany.com is your Email Marketing Domain Name and your address will be admin@marketing.yourcompany.com.
  • If your users use pop clients to connect to the server make sure you configure a submit port on your server (587), or install a certificate on your server and instruct users to use SSL for sending emails. This will avoid keeping the port 25 open for email clients. This should be open to servers only.
  • Block port 25 for outbound traffic on your company’s firewall. This way even if your computers get infected with a Trojan they will not be able to send messages.
  • The use of a good Anti-Malware is mandatory.
  • Write and distribute policies in the company, this document could be a good start.

How to Avoid the Spam-Lists for the Marketing Department

  • Do not send unsolicited emails – sending an email to someone who unsubscribed or never subscribed is the most serious SPAM offense.
  • Do not use Outlook or any other email client to manage mass emailing. Marketers, sometimes, have the impression that the usage of such email clients for their campaigns, give them more control over the Mass Emailing. But in fact there is no way to manage opt-outs, you will use your own infrastructure for sending mass-emailing which is not good, and you can easily send duplicate messages to your recipients or not send at all.
  • Do not use mass-emailing solutions for your email blasts. Your public IP address will be flagged as SPAMMER.
  • For Mass Emailing, use Companies that are specialized in Email Marketing. They are setup so they minimize the risk to be flagged as SPAMMERS, the applications are feature rich, with tracking options, and give the recipients the opportunity to opt-out if they choose to.
  • If you, still want to use in house mass emailing make sure you insert an unsubscribe address in your email.
  • To make sure your email does not get in the Junk Mailbox, avoid using too many links in your email, and use as little space as possible for images.
  • Do not send too many emails at once, even if the email is perfectly conceived, sending too many emails in a short period could trigger the SPAM filters, and your email will be blocked.