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By Joe Kim, SolarWinds Chief Technology Officer

 

Before last year, I bet you never gave a second thought to Alexander Hamilton. However, a popular musical has brought the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury to center stage.

 

Hamilton had some really great quotes. Here’s one of my favorites: “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.”

 

Hamilton wasn’t talking about cybersecurity, but his words are nevertheless applicable to the subject. As threats multiply and gain complexity, federal IT professionals are feeling the pressure and must take measures to protect their agencies from external danger.

 

Last year, my company, SolarWinds, issued the results of a cybersecurity report and survey that ascertained the level of concern amongst federal IT administrators about growing threats. Out of 200 government IT professionals surveyed, forty-four percent mentioned threat sophistication as the number one answer to why agencies are more vulnerable today, while twenty-six percent noted the increased volume of threats as their primary concern.

 

Hamilton would tell you to take the bull by the horns. Agency IT administrators should take a cue from old Alex and adopt ways to address their concerns and fight back against threats.

 

The fight for independence… from bad actors

 

Every successful fight begins with a strategy, and strategies typically begin with budgets. As these budgets continue to tighten, agency personnel must continue to explore the most cost-effective options.

 

Software acquisition can be more efficient and budget friendly. Agencies can download specific tools at lower costs. Further, these tools are typically designed to work in heterogeneous environments. These factors can help IT managers cut through red tape while saving money.

 

The right to bear software

 

No revolution can be won without the proper tools, however. Thankfully, the tools that IT managers have at their disposal in the fight against cyber threats are numerous and powerful.

 

The primary weapon is security information and event management (SIEM) software. Automated SIEM solutions can help managers proactively identify potential threats and react to them as they occur. Agencies can monitor and log events that take place on the network—for instance, when suspicious activity is detected from a particular IP address. Administrators can react by blocking access to a user or device, or identifying and addressing policy and compliance violations.

 

These solutions have been successful in helping agencies detect and manage threats. According to our survey respondents, users of SIEM software are better able to detect, within minutes, almost all threats listed on the survey. Other tools, such as configuration management software that lets managers automatically adjust and monitor changes in network configurations, have also proven effective at reducing the time it takes to respond to IT security incidents.

 

Hamilton once said “a promise must never be broken.” The promise that federal IT managers must make today is to do everything they can to protect their networks from mounting cybersecurity threats. It’s certainly not an easy task, but with the right strategies and tools, it might very well be a winnable battle.

 

Find the full article on GovLoop.

One of the hottest topics in IT today is IoT, which usually stands for the Internet of Things. Here, however, I’d like to assign it another meaning: the internet of trolls and their tolls.

 

What do the internet of trolls and their tolls have to do with the data center and IT in particular? A lot, since we IT professionals have to deal with the mess created by end-users falling for the click-bait material at its heart. Without a doubt, the IT tolls from these internet trolls can cause real IT headaches. Think security breaches and ransomware, as well as the additional strain on people, processes, and technological resources.

 

One example of the internet of trolls and their tolls is the rise of fake online news. It’s an issue that places the onus on the end-user to discern between fact and reality, and often plays on an end-user’s emotions to trigger an action, such as clicking on a link. Again, what does this have to do with us? Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are prominent sources of traffic on most organizations’ infrastructure services, whether it be the routers and switches, or the end-user devices that utilize those network connections and bandwidth, plus compute resources.

 

Fake news, on its own, may provide water cooler conversation starters, but throw in spearfishing and ransomware schemes, and it can have fatal consequences in the data center. Compromised data, data or intellectual property held for ransom, and disruption to IT services are all common examples of what can be done with just a single click on a fake news link by IT’s weakest link – our end-users.

 

Both forms of IoT have their basis in getting data from systems. The biggest challenges revolve around the integrity of the data and the validity of the data analysis. Data can be framed to tell any story. The question is: Are you being framed by faulty data and/or analysis when dealing with the other IoT?

 

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Had a wonderful time in Austin last week for the 50th Labiversary, as well as the Austin SWUG. Thank you to everyone that could attend in person and online. We are fortunate in that we get to have fun with our work, and I think you see that come through in the 50th Lab.

 

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

 

The 13 Future Technology Trends That Will Shape Business And Society

Some of these, like personalized food and 3D printed houses, are worth a conversation. Such discussions about the future of tech are more fun than the reality: 3D food malware.

 

Why you should standardize your microservices

Wait, why wouldn't you standardize whatever tools and services you are using?

 

Peloton – The Self-Driving Database Management System

I've seen this promise of a self-tuning database for over 20 years. Maybe the tech finally exists to make this happen, but bad code will always bring the best hardware to its knees. Face it: you can't fix, or predict, stupid.

 

RethinkDB: why we failed

"... because the open source developer tools market is one of the worst markets one could possibly end up in." Wait a minute—you built a business around an entire ecosystem that wants and expects software to be free, and then you are shocked they wouldn't pay for your software? I guess not everyone graduates top of their MBA class.

 

DeepTraffic | 6.S094: Deep Learning for Self-Driving Cars

Because I haven't written about autonomous cars in a while, here's a simulator that lets you train the car yourself.

 

Why You Should Consider Changing Your Echo's Wake Word From Alexa

Because defaults are an easy attack vector, that's why.

 

Stolen USB Drive Leads to $2.2 Million HIPAA Breach Penalty

Articles like this remind me how far we need to go to help people understand the value of their data. Too many people are taking the most critical asset for any company (the data) and treating it carelessly. You never know the true value of data until it is gone.

 

If anyone doubts how wonderful our video team is, I'm just going to show them this image:

 

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It’s a fact that things can go wrong in IT. But with the advent of IT monitoring and automation, the future seems a little brighter.

 

After over a decade of implementing monitoring systems, I’ve become all too familiar with what might be called monitoring grief. It involves a series of behaviors I’ve grouped into five stages.

 

While agencies often go through these stages when rolling out monitoring for the first time, they can also occur when a group or department starts to seriously implement an existing solution, or when new capabilities are added to a current monitoring suite.

 

Stage One: Monitor Everything

 

In this initial monitoring non-decision to “monitor everything,” it is assumed that all the information is good and can be “tuned up” later. Everyone is in denial that there’s about to be an alert storm.

 

Stage Two: The Prozac Moment

 

“All these things can’t possibly be going wrong!” This ignores the fact that a computer only defines “going wrong” as requested. So you ratchet things down, but “too much” is still showing red and the reaction remains the same.

 

Monitoring is catching all the stuff that’s been going up and down for weeks, months, or years, but that nobody noticed. It’s at this moment you might have to ask the system owner to calm down so they will chill out and realize that knowing about outages is the first step to avoiding them.

 

Stage Three: Painting the Roses Green

 

The next stage occurs when too many things are still showing as “down” and no amount of tweaking is making them show “up” because, ahem, they are down.

 

System owners may ask you to change alert thresholds to impossible levels or to disable alerts entirely. I can understand the pressure to adjust reporting to senior management, but let’s not defeat the purpose of monitoring, especially on critical systems.

 

What makes this stage even more embarrassing is that the work involved in adjusting alerts is often greater than the work required to actually fix the issues causing them.

 

Stage Four: An Inconvenient Truth

 

If issues are suppressed for weeks or months, they will reach a point when there’s a critical error that can’t be glossed over. At that point, everything is analyzed, checked, and restarted in real time. For a system owner who has been avoiding dealing with the real issues, there is nowhere left to run or hide.

 

Stage Five: Finding the Right Balance

 

Assuming the system owner has survived through stage four with their job intact, stage five involves trying to get it right. Agencies need to make the investment to get their alerting thresholds set correctly and vary them based on the criticality of the systems. There’s also a lot that smart tools can do to correlate alerts and reduce the number of alerts the IT team has to manage. You’ll just have to migrate some of your unreliable systems and fix the issues that are causing network or systems management problems as time and budget allow.

 

Find the full article on Federal Technology Insider.

In Austin this week for the 50th Labiversary, I hope you have the opportunity to join us for the celebration. Words cannot express just how much fun it was to put together the 50th episode. I hope the fun shows on camera when you watch.

 

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting, enjoy!

 

The Yahoo you know is not changing its name

No, but it is changing the people on the board, with Marissa Meyer being the biggest name to be shown the door. In the 4+ years she has been in charge of Yahoo the only thing she made better was her own bank account (over $300 million total).

 

Yahoo's security is a huge mess

And yet Verizon is still willing to buy this company because they believe that the Yahoo brand has value. In my mind, when I hear the word Yahoo, I think "the most insecure thing on the planet, next to Bluetooth".

 

Yahoo may be dead, but Lycos still survives. Somehow.

Maybe Verizon can buy Lycos next. Or Tripod, because apparently that still exists, too.

 

Trump's cyber-guru Giuliani runs ancient 'easily hackable website'

I'm sure this is nothing to worry about, right? What's the worst that can happen?

 

3 Simple Steps To Disrupt Ransomware

Because it's always worth reminding folks that backups are the key to being able to recover and avoid ransomware from ruining your day.

 

A few nights ago, over a liberal quantity of beers, my friends and I came up wit...

A fascinating conspiracy theory that I felt compelled to share here.

 

How Do Individual Contributors Get Stuck? A Primer

Interesting collection of thoughts on how people get stuck on certain tasks, and why.

 

Adding a new #nerdshirt to my collection this week:

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For many federal IT pros, cloud computing continues to show great promise. However, others remain skeptical about transitioning to the cloud—specifically, about transitioning production databases—because of possible security risks and availability issues.

 

There are legitimate concerns when considering whether the cloud is a good choice and there are ways to prepare that can help mitigate risk. Proper preparation makes the cloud environment a more viable option and harness advantages of the cloud with fewer concerns, specifically around security.

 

Here are the top five things to consider.

 

Tip 1: Know your platform

 

There are over 60 cloud providers authorized by FedRAMP and they’re not created equal. Understand what your team needs and what the different providers offer, and select a platform that requires minimal training and oversight.

 

Tip 2: Maintain your own security

 

Although FedRAMP’s rigorous security assessment is a good starting point for helping to protect data, it’s your data, so take steps to protect it. This means encrypting, data masking, and scrubbing out any personally identifiable information.

 

Tip 3: Understand the fees

 

Cost savings is touted as one of the main benefits of moving to a cloud environment. Yet some early adopters found that the cost savings did not come right away. Others did not save money at all. There are many hidden costs when migrating to a cloud environment and it’s critical to understand and account for all costs before the project begins.

 

Consider the training costs. There are also significant expenses involved with migrating and implementing your existing applications in the cloud.

 

Moving to the cloud takes time, effort, and money. This doesn’t mean you won’t save money in the long run. There may ultimately be dramatic cost savings once systems have been migrated, but it may take several years to realize that savings.

 

Tip 4: Establish a recovery plan

 

It’s not impossible for FedRAMP service providers to go offline. Service outages are rare, and most shops are used to occasional service interruptions even when they are self-hosted. Nevertheless, make sure there is a plan B in case of an outage.

 

Similarly, make sure you know what your cloud provider will do in the event of a disaster. Can that provider help you recover lost data? That should be one of your most critical questions and one to which the provider must have an acceptable answer. Losing data is not an option.

 

Tip 5: Analyze performance and identify issues

 

End-to-end application performance monitoring is a must. If an application is running slowly, you will need to quickly find the root cause and fix it or turn it over to the cloud provider. Having data helps avoid finger pointing when something slows down.

 

There are many advantages in moving to a cloud environment. The key is due diligence. Make sure you understand every aspect of the move and embrace the opportunity. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

If you are like me, you watch your fair share of movies and TV. And being a seasoned IT pro, I always watch with a discerning eye when IT plays a critical role in advancing plot. One of my particular not-so-favorite clichés is when the cynical computer whiz (baseball cap worn usually askew) sits down in front of a
GUI-based PC and just starts hammering away at the keyboard and all these windows flashing up and colors start to dazzle on the monitoring all the time muttering nonsensical IT jargon under his or her breath. Brilliant!

 

What once started with War Games, way back when that led to the proliferation of recreational BBS'es (which eventually gave way to the internet for the masses), Hollywood's focus on IT trailed off, with the occasional exception during the 90s. Over the past seven or eight years, Hollywood finally recognized geek chic and started using IT as the central theme in movies and TV.  I am still on the fence as to whether or not this is a good thing. Remember that discerning eye I mentioned? My teeth gnash and my nails dig in when I watch such obvious IT gaffes displayed for all to see.

 

Here is the latest example that a friend brought to my attention. The decent AMC show, Halt and Catch Fire. I can take it or leave it. To me, the series is filled with a little too much self-importance. An episode from earlier this season had a member doing something “dangerous.”

 

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Had a great trip to Austin last week for the filming of the 50th episode of SolarWinds Lab. It's always great to see my team amd everyone else in the office. Being able to collaborate on ideas in person is a nice change of pace for remote workers such as myself. The only downside to last week was the fact that Austin was cold! Hey Texas, I visit you to get away from the cold, not to be reminded of it! Let's hope for warmer weather next week.

 

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

 

Rumors of Cmd’s death have been greatly exaggerated

I think it is great to see Microsoft, and companies in general, finally take a stand to respond to such tactics. There is a lot of noise on the internet and in order to stand out, people will resort to "turning lies into page views" as a career choice. It's about time we all learn to recognize the trolls for what they are.

 

FTC filed a lawsuit against D-Link over failure to secure its IoT devices

Finally, we see someone take action against the manufacturers of insecure devices. Here's hoping we see similar actions taken against applications that are built insecure, too.

 

Bank robber reveals identity – by using his debit card during crime

I know, I know... if he was smart, he wouldn't be robbing a bank. But this is a special kind of dumb, IMO.

 

Copycat Hackers Are Holding More Than 1,000 Databases for Ransom

Because I thought it was time to remind you of two things: (1) don't pay the ransom and (2) don't use default security options for an internet-facing database.

 

The Real Name Fallacy

Interesting study here, revealing that people are just as apt to be jerks online even when using their real names. Oh, yes, this makes sense. See above about the folks that aren't afraid to lie and use FUD in exchange for page views.

 

MIT Researchers: 2016 Didn’t Have More Famous Deaths Than Usual

Around mid-December, I was curious about this exact thing: are there more celebrity deaths than previous years, or are more just being reported? Similar to shark attacks being perceived as "on the rise" when it was just the reporting of them that had risen.

 

The center of North America is a town called Center, and it's totally a coincidence. Really.

Funny how sometimes things just work out like this, intended or not.

 

The view from my office for much of the next few weeks:

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In March 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense embarked on a Cybersecurity Discipline Implementation Plan to identify specific tasks its IT personnel must perform to reinforce basic cybersecurity requirements in policies, directives, and orders.

 

The plan segments tasks into four key “lines of effort” to strengthen cybersecurity initiatives:

  1. Strong authentication
  2. Device hardening
  3. Reduce attack surface
  4. Align cybersecurity and computer network defense service providers

 

Let’s analyze the plan’s goals one at a time. “Strong authentication helps prevent unauthorized access, including wide-scale network compromise by [adversaries] impersonating privileged administrators,” reads a portion of the planning guidance. Tasks specifically focus on protecting web servers and applications through PKI user authentication.

 

The authentication effort helps ensure that an organization’s list of privileged and non-privileged users is always current and PKI verifies that unused accounts are deactivated or deleted. Account authentication is tied to named individuals and each account meets a level of access required for users’ roles. Individual privileged users’ accounts are tied to specific users, so accounts only have privileged access to network segments and applications required for assigned tasks.

 

“Ensuring devices are properly hardened increases the cost of, and complexity required for, successful exploitation attempts by the adversary,” the document states.

 

One of the first steps is to verify that each device on the network is mapped to a secure baseline configuration and that the IA team performs routine configuration validation scans. This activity, coupled with vulnerability assessment scans, makes sure that patches are applied expediently and that only permitted ports, protocols and services are operational.

 

It is essential to create a plan of action, and set milestones to track all findings. A mitigation plan, timing for each finding, and an identification of the severity of each finding are also required.

 

IT managers must seek to reduce the attack surface, eliminating internet-facing servers from the core of the Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN), while ensuring that only authorized devices can access the infrastructure.

 

Managers who oversee user access to applications or systems via commercial internet should have a migration plan to move the system or application away from the DODIN core and toward a computing environment that requires a lower level of security.

 

“Monitoring activity at the perimeter, on the DODIN and on all DOD information networks, ensures rapid identification and response to potential intrusions,” the document states. For the IT professional, this means making sure you know exactly what’s happening on the network at all times.

 

A SIEM solution will lead successful strategies here, as it provides log and event management among other benefits. Add in a network traffic analyzer—particularly one that provides the ability to perform traffic forensics—and server monitoring to understand interdependencies within and outside the network.

 

The DOD effort seeks a “persistent state of high enterprise cybersecurity readiness across the DOD environment,” the document states. This is the first phase of the agency’s security plan. With more to come, each step likely will focus on different DOD infrastructure areas. Our job? Be prepared.

 

  Find the full article on Signal.

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Each new President-Elect talks about the goals they have for their first 100 days in office. Life as a new (or accidental) DBA will be no different. Well, maybe a little different, because as a new DBA, you likely have a 90-day probationary period.

 

That’s right: a DBA has less time to show their value than the president! That means you better be prepared to hit the ground running. But don’t panic! I’ve put together this post to help you get started on the right foot.

 

What DBAs Have in Common With the President

 

DBAs have much in common with the president. First, half the people around you doubt whether you are qualified to hold your job. Second, every time you make a decision or plot a course of action, you will be criticized even by your supporters. Third, you will be judged by what you accomplish in your first one hundred days, good or bad, even if it was something not in your control.

 

Also consider that the president is subject to approval ratings. You will have your own version of this: your annual performance review. Come review time, you want your approvals ratings to be as high as possible.

 

Right about now, you're probably reading this and thinking that the being a DBA is the worst job in all of IT. Perhaps it is, but as long as you are aware of these things when you start, the role may not be as awful as it sounds.

 

Your first objective is to create an action plan. If you think you can show up, grab a slice of bacon, and ease into your new position, then you are mistaken. Your bacon can wait until after you start gathering the information you need in order to do your new job effectively.

 

Here’s a quick list of the questions you need to ask yourself:

 

  • What servers are you responsible for?
  • What applications are you expected to support?
  • What time of day are the applications used?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Are the databases being backed up properly right now?
  • How would you know if the backups were failing?

 

Even that list of basics shows how the role of a DBA can quickly become overwhelming. That is why you need to put together a checklist of the bare essentials and get started. Then you can start making short-term plans for improvements.

 

Trust me, it is easier than it sounds. You just need to be organized.

 

The Initial Checklist

 

By now, you should be sitting at your desk on what we will call Day Zero. Your initial meetings with HR are over, you have gotten a tour of the place, and you are making sure you have the access you need to get started.

 

The very first piece of information you need is a list of servers and systems you are responsible for. Without that little nugget of information, it will be difficult to make headway as you start your long, slow, journey upstream.

 

Because I like making lists and categorizing things, I have divided this initial checklist into sections. One section pertains to gathering information on what I simply call your stuff. Another section deals with finding information on your customer’s stuff. The last section is what I call your action plans. Focus your efforts on these three areas on Day Zero: find your stuff, find your customer’s stuff, and start making an action plan.

 

A sample checklist might look like this:

 

  1. Create a list of servers
  2. Check that database backups are running
  3. Spot check and verify that you can do a restore from one of those backups
  4. Build a list of customers
  5. List the most important databases
  6. List upcoming deliverables/projects
  7. Establish environmental baselines
    1. Server configuration check
    2. Instance configuration check
    3. Database configuration check
  8. Compose your recovery plan (not your backup plan, your recovery plan)

 

Notice that the checklist is missing things people will tell you are a must for DBAs to be doing daily—things like index maintenance, performance tuning, reviewing event logs, etc. Sure, all of those things are necessary, but we are still on your list of items for Day Zero. Everything I have mentioned will take you more than a few days to gather. If you get tied up troubleshooting some stored procedure on Day Zero then, you are setting yourself up for a massive failure should a disaster hit and you have not had time to document your recovery plan.

 

Would you rather be a hero for telling that developer to stop writing cursors or a hero for informing a customer that you can have their database available again in less than 30 minutes? I know which choice I would make so soon after starting a new position.

 

On Day Zero, explain to your manager that you will be gathering this inventory data first. By taking the initiative to perform due diligence, you are showing them that your first mission is to safeguard their data, your job, and their job as well. They probably won’t be able to produce the inventory for you, and they are going to want it even more than you do. You will have plenty of time later on for the other stuff. It will fall naturally into your environment baseline and subsequent action plans as you bring standards to your enterprise.

 

Let’s look at why each of the items in the checklist is important to address from Day Zero.

 

Create a List of Servers

 

Trust me that at some point, someone will walk up to you and start talking about a server you never knew existed. And they will be very confused as to why you have never heard of the server, since they work with it all the time. That there is a database there, and you are the DBA, so you should already know all of this, right?

 

Do your best to gather as much information right away about the servers you are expected to administer. That way, you will know more about what you are up against and it will help you when it comes time to formulate your action plans. These plans will be very different if you have five or five hundred instances to look after.

 

Start compiling this list by asking your immediate supervisor and go from there. The trail may take you to application managers and server administrators. For example, your boss might say that you are responsible for the payroll databases, but what are “the payroll databases”? You will need to do some detective work to track down the specific databases involved. But this detective work will pay off by deepening your knowledge and understanding of where you work.

 

If you are looking for a technical solution to finding database servers, there are a handful of ways to get the job done. The easiest is to use a 3rd party monitoring tool that discovers servers and the applications running on them. You could also use free tools like SQL Power Doc out on Codeplex.

 

You should also have a list of servers that are not your responsibility. There is a chance that vendors maintain some systems in your environment. If something goes wrong with one of those servers it is important to know who is responsible for what. And if someone tells you that you do not need to worry about a server, my advice would be to get that in writing. When disaster strikes, you had better be able to provide proof about the systems that are and are not your responsibility.

 

Check Database Backups

 

Once you identify the servers you are responsible for, the next step is to verify that the databases are being backed up properly. Do not assume that everything is working perfectly. Check that the backup files exist (both system and user databases) and check to see if there have been any recent failures.

 

You will also want to note the backup schedule for the servers and databases. You can use that information later to verify that the databases are being backed up to meet business requirements. You would not want to find out that the business is expecting a point-in-time restore ability for a database that is only being backed up once a week.

 

I cannot stress this enough, but if there is one thing you need to focus on as a DBA, it is ensuring that you can recover in the event of a disaster. Any good recovery plan starts with having a reliable database backup strategy.

 

Verify That You Can Restore

 

There is one, and only one, way for you to verify that your backups are good: you need to test that they can be restored. Focus your efforts on any group or set of databases. The real goal here is for you to become familiar with the restore process in your new shop, as well as to verify that the backups are usable.

 

Make certain you know all aspects of the recovery process for your shop before you start poking around on any system of importance. It could save you some embarrassment later, should you sound the alarm that a backup is not valid when it turns out the only thing not valid is your understanding of how things work. And these practice restores are a great way to make certain you are able to meet the RPO and RTO requirements.

 

Build a List of Customers

 

You must find the customers for each of the servers you are responsible for administering. Note that this line of inquiry can result in a very large list. With shared systems, you could find that everyone has a piece of every server!

 

The list of customers is vital information. For example, if there you need to reboot a server, it is nice to know who you need to contact in order to explain that the server will be offline for five minutes while it is rebooted. And while you compile your list of customers, it does not hurt to know who the executives are and which servers they are most dependent upon.

 

When you start listing out the customers, you should also start asking about the applications and systems those customers use, and the time of day they are being used the most. You may be surprised to find some systems that people consider relatively minor are used throughout the day while other systems that are considered most important are used only once a month.

 

List the “Most Important” Databases

 

While you gather your list of customers, go one step further and find out what their most important databases are. This could be done by either (1) asking them or (2) asking others, and then (3) comparing those lists. You will be surprised to find how many people can forget about some of their systems and need a gentle reminder about their importance. As DBAs, we recognize that some databases are more important than others, especially given any particular time of day, week, or month.

 

For example, you could have a mission critical data warehouse. Everyone in the company could tell you that this system is vital. What they cannot tell you, however, is that it is only used for three days out of the month. The database could be offline for weeks and no one would say a word.

 

That does not mean that when these systems are not used, they are not important. But if 17 different groups mention some small tiny database, and they consider the database to be of minor importance, you may consider it very important because it is touched by so many different people.

 

List Upcoming Projects and Deliverables

 

You want to minimize the number of surprises that await you. Knowing what projects are currently planned helps you understand how much time you will be asked to allocate for each one. And do keep in mind that you will be expected to maintain a level of production support, in addition to your project support and the action tasks you are about to start compiling.

 

You’ll also want to know which servers will be decommissioned in the near future so that you don’t waste time performance tuning servers that are on death row.

 

Establish Environmental Baselines

 

Baselining your environment is a necessary function that gets overlooked. The importance of having a documented starting point cannot be stressed enough. Without a starting point as a reference, it will be difficult for you to chart and report your progress over time.

 

You have already done one baseline item: you have evaluated your database backups. You know how large they are, when they are started, and how long they take. Now take the time to document the configurations of the server, the instance, and the individual databases.

 

Then you can focus on the collecting basic performance metrics: memory, CPU, disk, and network. This is where 3rd party tools shine, as they do the heavy lifting for you.

 

Compose Your Recovery Plan

 

Notice how I said recovery plan as opposed to backup plan. In your checklist thus far, you have already verified your database backups are running, started to spot check that you can restore from your backups, and have gotten an idea of your important databases. Now is the time to put all of this together in the form of a disaster recovery (DR) plan.

 

Make no mistake about it: should a disaster happen, your job is on the line. If you fail to recover because you are not prepared, then you could easily find yourself reassigned to “special projects” by the end of the week. The best way to avoid that is to practice, practice, practice. Your business should have some scheduled DR tests perhaps once a year, but you should perform your own smaller DR tests on a more frequent basis.

 

And don’t forget about recovering from past days or weeks. If your customer needs a database backup restored from two months ago make sure you know every step in the process in order to get that job done. If your company uses an offsite tape storage company, and if it takes two days to recall a tape from offsite, then you need to communicate that fact to your users ahead of time as part of your DR plans.

 

Track Your Progress

As a DBA, a lot of your work is done behind the scenes. In fact, people will often wonder what it is you do all day, since much of your work is never actually seen by the end-users. Your checklist will serve you well when you try to show people some of the tangible results that you have been delivering.

 

No matter how many people you meet and greet in the coming weeks, unless you can provide some evidence of tangible results to your manager and others, people will inevitably wonder what it is you do all day. If your initial checklist shows that you have twenty-five servers, six of which have data and logs on the C: drive, and two others had no backups at all, it is going to be easy for you to report later that your twenty-five servers now have backups running and all drives configured properly.

 

One thing I have learned in my years as a DBA: no one cares about effort, only the end result. Make certain you keep track of your progress so that the facts can help provide a way to understand exactly what you have been delivering.

 

 

If you are looking for a technical solution to finding database servers, there are a handful of ways to get the job done. The easiest is to use a 3rd party monitoring tool that discovers servers and applications running on them. You could also use free tools like SQL Power Doc out on Codeplex.

 

You should also have a list of servers you are not responsible for. There is a chance that some systems in your environment are maintained by vendors. If something goes wrong with one of those servers it is important to know who is responsible for what. And if someone tells you that you do not need to worry about a server my advice would be to get that in writing. Believe me, when disaster strikes, you had better be able to provide proof about the systems that are, and are not, your responsibility.

 

Check Database Backups

 

Once you identify the servers you are responsible for the next step is to verify that the databases are being backed up properly. Do not assume that everything is working perfectly. Check that the backup files exist (both system and user databases) and check to see if there have been any recent failures.

 

You will also want to note the backup schedule for the servers and databases. You can use that information later to verify that the databases are being backed up to meet the business requirements. You would not want to find out that the business is expecting a point-in-time restore ability for a database that is only being backed up once a week.

 

I cannot stress this enough but if there is one thing, and only one thing for you to focus on as a DBA, it would be to ensure that you can recover in the event of a disaster.

 

And any good recovery plan starts with having a reliable database backup strategy.

 

Verify that You Can Restore

 

There is one, and only one, way for you to verify that your backups are good: You need to test that they can be restored. Focus your efforts on any group or set of databases. The real goal here is for you to become familiar with the restore process in your new shop as well as to verify that the backups are usable.

 

Make certain you know all aspects of the recovery process for your shop before you start poking around on any system of importance. It could save you some embarrassment later should you sound the alarm that a backup is not valid when it turns out the only thing not valid is your understanding of how things work. And these practice restores are a great way to make certain you are able to meet the RPO and RTO requirements.

 

Build a List of Customers

 

You must find the customers for each of the servers you are responsible for administering. Note that this line of inquiry can result in a very large list. With shared systems you could find that everyone has a piece of every server!

 

The list of customers is vital information to have. For example, if there is a need to reboot a server it is nice to know who you need to contact in order to explain that the server will be offline for five minutes while it is rebooted. And while you compile your list of customers it does not hurt to know who the executives are and which servers they are most dependent upon.

 

When you start listing out the customers you should also start asking about the applications and systems those customers use, and the time of day they are being used the most. You may be surprised to find some systems that people consider to be relatively minor are used throughout the day while other systems that are considered most important are used only once a month.

 

List the “Most Important” Databases

 

While you gather your list of customers go one step further and find out what their most important databases are. This could be done by either (1) asking them or (2) asking others and then (3) comparing those lists. You will be surprised to find how many people can forget about some of their systems and need a gentle reminder about their importance. As a DBA we recognize that some databases are more important than others, especially given any particular time of day, week, or month.

 

For example, you could have a mission critical data warehouse. Everyone in the company could tell you that this system is vital. What they cannot tell you, however, is that it is only used for three days out of the month. So, the database could be offline for weeks and no one would say a word.

 

That does not mean that when these systems are not used they are not important. But if 17 different groups mention some small tiny database, and they consider the database to be of minor importance, you may consider it very important because it is touched by so many different people.

 

List Upcoming Projects and Deliverables

 

You want to minimize the number of surprises that await you; knowing what projects are currently planned helps you to understand how much time you will be asked to allocate for each one. And do keep in mind that you will be expected to maintain a level of production support in addition to your project support in addition to the action tasks you are about to start compiling.

 

You’ll also want to know which servers will be decommissioned in the near future so that you don’t waste time performance tuning servers that are on Death Row.

 

Establish Environmental Baselines

 

Baselining your environment is a necessary function that gets overlooked. The importance of having a documented starting point cannot be stressed enough. Without a starting point as a reference it will be difficult for you to chart and report upon your progress over time.

 

You have already done one baseline item; you have evaluated your database backups. You know how large they are, when they are started, and how long they take. Now take the time to document the configurations of the server, the instance, and the individual databases.

 

Then you can focus on the collecting basic performance metrics for now: memory, CPU, disk, and network. This is where 3rd party tools shine, as they do the heavy lifting for you.

 

Compose Your Recovery Plan

 

Notice how I said ‘recovery’ plan as opposed to ‘backup plan’. In your checklist so far you have already verified your database backups are running, started to spot check that you can restore from your backups, and got an idea of your important databases. Now is the time to put all of this together in the form of a disaster recovery (DR) plan.

 

Make no mistake about it: should a disaster happen then your job is on the line. If you fail to recover because you are not prepared then you could easily find yourself reassigned to “special projects” by the end of the week. The best way to avoid that is to practice, practice, practice. Your business should have some scheduled DR tests perhaps once a year but you should perform your own smaller DR tests on a more frequent basis.

 

And don’t forget about recovering from past days or weeks. If your customer needs a database backup restored from two months ago make certain you know every step in the process in order to get that job done. If your company uses an offsite tape storage company, and if it takes two days to recall a tape from offsite then you need to communicate that fact to your users ahead of time as part of your DR plans.

 

Track Your Progress

As a DBA a lot of your work is done behind the scenes. In fact, people will often wonder what it is you do all day, since much of your work is never actually seen by the end users. Your checklist will serve you well when you try to show people some of the tangible results that you have been delivering.

 

No matter how many people you meet and greet in the coming weeks, unless you can provide some evidence of tangible results to your manager and others people will inevitably wonder what it is you do all day long. If your initial checklist shows that you have twenty-five servers, six of which have data and logs on the C: drive, and two others had no backups at all it is going to be easy for you to report later that your twenty-five servers now have backups running and all drives configured properly.

 

One thing I have learned in my years as a DBA: No one cares about effort, only the end result. Make certain you keep track of your progress so that the facts can help provide a way to understand exactly what you have been delivering.

Leon Adato

Eat, Pray, DevOps

Posted by Leon Adato Expert Jan 4, 2017

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When I wrote about what I hoped to learn and see at DevOpsDays Tel Aviv, I listed three important goals:

  1. Meet some of our amazing customers
  2. Eat my body weight in schwarma
  3. Speak at the conference.

 

Let's be totally clear: My main goal was #2. Everything else was icing on the (kosher) cake. So sit back, grab a napkin, and maybe don't read this on an empty stomach. This wrap-up is going to have A LOT of food in it.

 

Because my travel schedule has to work around the no-fly (or work, or drive, or... well, lots of things)-zone of Shabbat, my wife and I traveled on Thursday, arriving Friday at noon. The first thing we did was drop our bags at the hotel and make a beeline for Machanei Yehudah, a multi-block open air market that has everything you can imagine, including fruit, fruit gummies, spices, chocolate souffle, and so much more.

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After that, our bags (and stomachs) full, we settled in for 25 hours of Sabbath in a way that is only possible in Jerusalem.

 

Saturday night, refreshed but eager to get on with our adventure, we traveled nearly the entire width of Israel, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. A trip that took all of about 30 minutes. Sunday is a regular workday over there, so I was able to meet up with some SolarWinds customers who had a few short questions for me.

 

Six hours later, I was back at the hotel practicing my talk. Soon after, we were invited to meet with the other DevOpsDays speakers and sponsors at Pasha, a Turkish restaurant that had food like THIS:

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But it was the dessert that really did it for me: a baklavah-like dish served with a giant heap of ice cream covered in halavah!

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The next morning, while my wife explored the shuk haCarmel, I was in full-on DevOps mode.

 

The first thing that struck me, compared to other DevOpsDays I've attended, was the sheer diversity of attendees. Part of this was the location. Tel Aviv is going to pull from a far more international crowd than, say, Columbus, Ohio. But even so, the number of women, people of color, and level of diversity (as well as nonchalant acceptance), was a joy to behold and be part of.

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The talks themselves were as diverse as the participants, from a deep dive, three-hour Statistical Analysis For Engineers session, to an expletive-filled five-minute Ignite talk done entirely in limerick form. To do them justice, even in summary, would take about two days, the same length of time over which the talks were spread. Instead, here are a few highlights that caught my fancy:

 

  • Chef founders Nathen Harvey and Adam Jacob cut to the heart of a lot of people's fear of content, especially content that is repeated in some way. They said, "We don't have a problem with repeated content when it's good (Star Wars). We have a problem when it's bad (Man of Steel)."
  • They also gave a fantastic analogy about the differences (and benefits/deficits) of simplicity and complexity. A model-T car is very simple, Adam explained. So simple that a typical group of people trapped in a locked room could assemble a working model T from their component parts before they died of starvation. But starting it without knowing precisely how would result in a broken arm. It was just that peculiar, and had that poor of a user interface. On the other hand, today's cars have a "start" button. It's not even labeled "ignition" anymore. But even a group of highly skilled engineers would be hard-pressed to assemble it from parts.
  • Continuing on that thread, speaker Avishai Ish-Shalom noted that things are complex even when we think they're simple. By way of example, he wrote a five-line "hello world" script in python, which took seven minutes of stage time and several mishaps (including missing modules). And that doesn't even take into account the complexity of the underlying operating system, hardware, etc. Complexity, he pointed out, is all around us.
  • Crystal Huff gave a talk on Interviewing Candidates (Badly), which contained the single greatest slide of all time:
    "Would you eat a kitten to get this job?"
  • She also shared a slide of this three-year old whose parents gave her the ultimate Wonder Woman photoshoot of all time (the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WW5l67xBqM)
    toddler-WW.jpg toddler-WW2.jpg
  • Charity Majors gave us, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer to Technical Decision-Making (title based on her book), in which she regaled us with a harrowing tale of Tel Aviv taxi conveyance, along with the wisdom that:
    • The best code is no code
    • The second best code is code someone else wrote and maintains
    • The worst code is everything else.
  • As well as this helpful decision-making gate:
    "If a technical change has no (or little) value added (Redhat vs Ubuntu, for example), the answer is f#&^ you."
  • And finally:
    "Celebrate engineers who remove code, deprecate, and refactor AS MUCH AS those who add features."
  • Corey Quinn bravely shared his failures and how they've shaped his decisions in his talk, The Stories We Tell and the Failures We've Lived.

 

Along with those (and many more) incredible talks, there were the usual slew of OpenSpace discussions that were informative, passionate, and nearly impossible to choose from.

 

On Wednesday, while the rest of the speakers were enjoying a tour of Jerusalem, I was back at work with ProLogic, one of our key partners in the region. Meeting with integrators, partners, and consultants gave me a chance to talk about new solutions, answer questions, and eat donuts. After all that, we went to a local Yemenite restaurant for some truly incredible soup, pita, and dips.

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Believe it or not, Wednesday marked the end of my work responsibilities for the week, leaving my wife and I free to make the return trip to Jerusalem for sightseeing, shopping, and, of course, more FOOD!

 

I am deeply grateful to both DevOpsDays Tel Aviv for inviting me to speak, and for SolarWinds for giving me the chance to experience such incredible events.

 

And now, more pictures of food.

Which I ate.

With impunity.

 

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I think we are all happy to have 2016 in our rearview mirrors. The start of a new year is a great way to try and have a fresh start towards some goals. Not resolutions, mind you, but goals. Write down one or two goals and think about the steps needed to achieve them. Then sit with your family members and ask how you can help with their goals, and how they can help with yours. If you work together to help each other, you will find it better than trying to do resolutions on your own.

 

Let's get 2017 off on the right foot! Here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

 

App Security Deserves Far More IT Respect

Yes, it certainly does, but I'm not sure it is IT that needs to focus on security more than it does already. I think it is the business side that must insist upon security when they build out requirements for applications they expect IT to deliver.

 

Better Road, Grumpier Drivers and the Logic of Discontent

Interesting thoughts on throughput versus quality here. Would you rather have your data be accurate or be fast? Most people focus on speed and assume quality. Same thoughts can be applied to roads and our commute.

 

An Amazon Echo may be the key to solving a murder case

Interesting case here where details of a murder case may be available in an Echo. I'm now wondering if it would be possible to use data from the myriad of IoT devices in a home to piece together the final moments before foul play happens.

 

US government subcontractor leaks confidential military personnel data

Because we should start 2017 in the same way we ended 2016: with massive security breaches. I wish I could say that such reports will decline in time, but right now it seems things are getting worse. Then again, maybe we are just getting better at identifying and reporting, kinda like how shark attacks were on the rise one summer.

 

Parents sue Apple, blame FaceTime for daughter's death

As much as I would like for Apple to have installed this feature, I'm not sure I can hold them responsible for the actions of the driver in this case. If it wasn't FaceTime, let's say the driver was on the phone—could you sue Verizon for allowing the call, considering they can calculate your speed as well?

 

A new iPhone bug will crash the Messages app with a single text

Here's hoping my teenage kids don't discover stuff like this any time soon and start experimenting. Then again, I could probably use the downtime.

 

U.S. Customs Starts To Collect Social Media Information

Well, that's not good news for me. Then again, I'm not sure this is good news for anyone. Might be time to think about getting off the grid altogether.

 

Nothing says "Happy New Year" like a family member asking if you could take a quick look at the problem they are having with their laptop...

helpdesk.jpg

With the new year upon us, I wanted to take one more post to thank everyone for their generosity and support of the December Writing Challenge. Over the course of 30 days, this event has gathered more than 17,000 views and over 1,500 comments (a number that continues to climb), and has provided our THWACK users with a unique channel to share personal stories and create connections and a sense of community that is all but unique among IT forums of its kind.

 

As a final look, I wanted to share the way in which your comments and essays have affected the SolarWinds team.

 

Diego Fildes Torrijos (Product Marketing Specialist) wrote:

I found that Peter Monaghan’s comment on my article on “Change” very insightful. He said the following:

I've been in IT for 20+ years now. That's a pretty long time now. Every year along the way I have read an article stating that, "...IT is Changing Now More So Than Ever..." It's cliché! The technology has always been adaptive so I figured I should be as well. I stopped trying t be an expert in anything and learned to know technology just enough to be adept. That allowed me to keep up with all the moving, and changing, parts. Change is constant. Something else I learned. Take everything on your résumé that refers to anything prior to 2000 and delete it. Nobody cares.

 

I felt that this comment really nailed the current state of IT: ever-evolving change. It really made me think about how everything I’ve learned in IT these years (I previously worked for a CMS company) is temporary, because in 10 years it may be obsolete! Wow… so that means that my adaptation to these constant changes is critical for me to be knowledgeable of RELEVANT technology, literally. And even though in my post I suggest something similar, Peter’s post really reinforced this message and made me think about where I will be in IT if I’m lucky enough to be around for +20 years.

 

Rene Lego (Corporate Marketing Director) said:

What stuck out for me is how many people actually looked up and posted the definitions of words.

 

Václav Janištin (Product Marketing Specialist) commented that a few things which touched me in some way. I wanted to understand everything not only from IT pros perspective, but from the point of human being

 

  • “You have to be willing to abandon your preconceived notions and start over - again and again if necessary. You have to accept that the solution which worked for another person in another place may not be your solution.” (SEARCH)
  • “I feel like we don’t live and die by the choices we make, you live or die by choosing to stick with your choices.” (CHOOSE)
  • “Forgive, this word has helped me grow as a person and I just wish that I would’ve figured this out at a younger age” (FORGIVE)
  • Forgive yourself all faults and all other hurts that someone did to you, because everything in live is a choice and you could choose which path lead you to wherever you want to be, but remember – stick with the previous choices doesn’t meant the right thing everytime.

 

Ondrej Skacel (Product Marketing Specialist) submitted a collection of quotes that caught his imagination:

 

The tools are out there. The question is “Is the desire and ability to learn inside of us?”

–bsciencefiction.tv

 

Learning is even more expedient in IT security because the dynamics change all the time. You wonder why a lot of people like, love or dream of Thwack monthly challenges, because it is such a great opportunity to constantly learn. Thwacking = Learning!

–femiodejide

 

The ability to "accept" results that are not perfect in the Security realm is hard to do at times but vital. This is especially true when one is new to an organization and sees current holes in security.  One must make progress to fix the holes that exist but be wary not to try to do it all at once.  One must make a multi-phase approach where there is a clear roadmap to a final solution.  While on the path, it is ok to "accept" certain risks as long as the exposure is not vital to the company.  This was a hard lesson that took some time to realize.

- dcalkins0924

 

“But we should believe - meaning to take as an article of faith that requires no proof, and which cannot be dis-proven by a single less-than stellar outcome - that we are capable of extraordinary things when we are willing to work for it.”

  - adatole

 

**********************************

(Leon here) Once again, thank you to everyone who came, who read, who commented, and who shared.

 

In this final week of writing prompts, everyone really brought their best selves to the task. I will be running the numbers later this week on GeekSpeak (and the THWACK team and I will be busy tallying up and awarding points to everyone who participated. But in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of the responses that caught my eye over this past, last week of the first ever SolarWinds THWACK December Writing Challenge.

 

Day 24: Hope

Destiny kicked off this this week with a we all can relate to: “Many of us, especially around the holidays, cling to the hope that a miracle can happen.  That during the holidays there is something in the air that helps us push through.  We hunker down and hope that we don't go too far into debt and make it out alive after the in-laws leave the house.  Hoping that the spirits we have these holidays are drank with moderation.”

 

In response, Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 evoked the words of one of the more hopeful movies of our age, The Shawshank Redemption:

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." - Andy Dufresne

 

Then tomiannelli  paraphrased the Humanist Albert Eustace Haydon,

“Our task is to shape the natural world into a home and to weave the web of social relations so that every person might know all that life can give of joy and beauty. We suffer but never surrender. The torch falls from faltering hands but never goes out. Generation after generation it is handed down and carried forward against evil, chaos and the dark.”

 

And unclehooch brought another quote which caught my eye was from, Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Day 25: Intend

It’s important to understand that network defender  has written a poem almost every day, which I share as often as I can while still giving space to the other incredible ideas that are posted each day. His submission for day 25 was:

Pay close attention

As the days portend,

For life rarely goes

As we intend.

 

Meanwhile, THWACK MVP byrona shared “I think of Intentions as potential energy, somebody with a lot of good intentions is a gold mine waiting to be realized.”

 

And pattic took a more pragmatic approach, “Accept the fact that some people don’t intend to let you down. Their best is just less than you expected.”

 

Day 26: Create

For this day’s entry, THWACK MVP rschroeder put the word into context, saying, “To make something new.  Create. Repurpose.  Reshape.  Imagine and make something new.”

 

But Richard Phillips  offered a more philosophical approach: “We can be creative, but we cannot truly create. We can be creative with what has already been created / provided, but we cannot create.”

 

And jamison.jennings  opened up about the different ways he expressed the word of the day

Interesting that we can only be creative with what has already been created.

I'm a musician, I can be creative with the notes but there are no new chords or notes for me to play.

I am a woodworker, I can only be creative with how I assemble the pieces.

I am a wood turner, I can only be creative with how I shape the items that I turn.

I would say that I was created to be creative.

 

Day 27: Bless

Kevin Sparenberg’s final essay for the year was a powerful study in how our community shows its bravery in sharing personal stories, as well as how our members support and respect each other in ways that are not always seen across the internet.

 

Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 responded by sharing “I am reminded of this Chinese proverb when it comes to "Count Your Blessing." For that saying has a truly deeper meaning: The Most Famous Chinese Horse Proverb: 塞翁失馬 (Sāi Wēng Shī Mǎ) or Sāi Wēng lost his horse. The meaning of the proverb is only apparent when one is familiar with the accompanying story of Sāi Wēng.

 

(for the details of the story, you’ll have to check out his comments)

 

mjperkins shared a bit of seasonally appropriate (sports season, ethat is) humor, saying: “Of course, there's that other 'bless' from my brother's football-playing days. Hitting an opponent so hard that they fell back with arms splayed looking somewhat like a crucifix meant you had just 'blessed' them.”

 

And byrona replied, “Ok, so when I first came to this page and saw that picture of Ralphie from A Christmas Story I about died laughing, such a good picture; how can you possibly look at that and not smile or even laugh.  You blessed me with laughter today by posting that; thanks!”

 

Day 28: Give

Video production specialist Erik Eff was able to sneak in a lead essay in this final week, offering his insights on the intersection between giving, commercialism, and personal responsibility.

 

In counterpoint to this, unclehooch shared a quote from Winston Churchil: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

 

But zelgadis6 found a more modern philosophical anecdote from the Red Hot Chili Peppers: “give it away, give it away, give it away now" bow chicka-chicka-bow-bow, give it away now

 

And network defender‘s daily poem was deeply meaningful:

Give unto others

As has been given unto you,

Be generous and loving

In all that you do.

 

Day 29: Return

In Destiny’s final essay of the year, she shared a truly personal story about how a simple item can return her to childhood moments and bring back so many positive feelings.

 

But THWACK MVP Zack Mutchler  took the word of the day in a different direction, “In the same thread as a lot of the other words this month, "return" has me thinking about wandering (maybe I'm overdue for a walkabout?) To wander away from our chosen path, or direction, is nice sometimes. But we must be mindful to not lose ourselves our our motivations and always return back to a level-set.”

 

Meanwhile, EBeach wasn’t clear whether the return was “Return of the Jedi” or one of the other episodes when they said, “I did a return of a Christmas gift, why would you buy Star Wars in anything but blu-ray.”

 

And THWACK MVP jeremymayfield found philosophical ponderings right in his own keyboard: “I like to also think of return and a refresh, much like the keyboard, when you press return you get a new line, a new starting point.   So when we return we can look at it as an opportunity to start something clean and new, and not going backwards, but forward in a familiar place.”

 

Day 30: Celebrate

In the final post of the year, tomiannelli shared his “Things to celebrate this year:

  1. 1. My mother-in-law turned 90 and we had a big party for her.
  2. 2. Got to visit my father in his new home in NJ for a week. After he got out of the hospital, he was in a comma for 10 days with acute respiratory distress syndrome. He is thriving now.
  3. 3. A friend of our became an American citizen and we got to celebrate with him and attend his ceremony.
  4. 4. 25 years with my wife Linda.....
  5. 5. The birth of our our latest Grand Niece to our nice and god-daughter just a couple of weeks ago.
  6. 6. Having pulled off our first dinner party in 3 years. For a current prime minister and his family at our home.
  7. 7. My wife's surgeries went well and she has the use of both of her hands again, without all the pain.”

 

And THWACK MVP byrona brought the workplace back to mind with, “One thing that my manager always talks about is the importance of celebrating our victories.  When we accomplish a project or achieve some significant milestone at work we often just move on to the next but it's important to celebrate those victories as it gives us the fuel to move on and tackle the next with more vigor.”

 

And finally, I had to finish with one of  network defender‘s daily poems:

Celebrate diversity

Both Left and Right,

Regardless of skin

Dark or light.

 

Different religions

Straight, LGBT or Q,

I will shake your hand

And stand beside you.

 

For I am a little weird

Normal is not me,

Accept who I am

And I’ll accept thee.

 

*****************

My sincerest gratitude goes to everyone who participated this year. Many of us are already looking forward to next years’ challenge and how it will bring our community together. In the meanwhile, all of us here at SolarWinds wish our entire THWACK community a happy, healthy, and successful 2017!

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