Friday, 31 July 2009

SBS 2008 and Anonymous Mail

As previously mentioned we’re running CommitCRM as our CRM and PSA tool and the program needs to interact with Exchange to both receive and send emails.  Although we had this working to a degree, I finally got around to troubleshooting why we weren’t getting certain emails through.  I had previously read on UKSBSG that Exchange 2007 by default wouldn’t allow anon email to be routed internally – something a scan to email device might need to do.  CommitCRM has a tool to test the email settings and this was giving the following error:

504 5.7.4 Unrecognized authentication type
RequestDone Rq=11 Error=504 5.7.4 Unrecognized authentication type

A quick Google didn’t turn up anything useful so I turned to the ever resourceful MS Partner Online Technical Community (PTOC).  As always I got a extensive reply and because it was in the SBS forum this was within four hours.  Shawn from MS explained that the application was trying to use “UTH CRAM-MD5”, but that this was supported by Exchange 2003 and not Exchange 2007.  To work around this problem Shawn laid out the steps to create a new Receive Connector for Commit to use:

  1. 1.  In EMC, expand Server Configuration, highlight the Hub Transport.
  2. 2.  Start new Receive Connector wizard
  3. 3.  On the Introduction page, follow these steps:
  4. a.  In the Name: field, type a meaningful name for this connector. This name is used to identify the connector.
  5. b.  In the Select the intended use for this connector: field, select Custom.
  6. c.  Click Next.
  7. 4.  On the Local network settings page, click Next
  8. 5.  On the Remote Network settings page, remove the existing - entry. Then add only the IP of the application server to the list
  9. 6.  After completing the Wizard, open properties of the new created receive Connector
  10. 7.  Enable the option "Exchange Servers" under Permission group
  11. 8.  On the authentication page, enable "Externally secured" option
  12. 9.  Restart Microsoft Exchange Transport service

This helped partially, but I also needed to allow Commit to send emails anonymously:

  1. 1. Open the properties of the Receive Connector we created.
  2. 2. Under the Permission Group tab, enable Anonymous users.
  3. 3. Under Authentication tab, only enable "Basic Authentication"
  4. 4. Restart the Exchange Transport Service.

I was now closer and could send emails internally, but not externally.  Via further communication with Shawn I discovered that Exchange 2007 doesn’t allow anonymous users to relay, but this can be changed with the following command in the Exchange Management Shell:

Get-ReceiveConnector "Connector_Name" | Add-ADPermission -User "NT AUTHORITY\ANONYMOUS LOGON" -ExtendedRights "Ms-Exch-SMTP-Accept-Any-Recipient"

After using this command email started flowing correctly for Commit and I’m pretty sure the same setup could be used for other devices/apps that need to route email.

Many thanks once again to the guys at MS PTOC, life is a lot easier when you know someone will have the answer.

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Getting Organised – A CRM Solution

We’ve dipped our toe in various CRM packages over the last couple of years here at Sirona, but we never quite realised how important it was until we finally had one place for everything.

We started our CRM journey using vTiger CRM, a free branch of the open source program SugarCRM.  Our primary requirement was a ticketing solution, but we also populated it with customer data and played around with it’s invoicing capability.  We used vTiger for a good twelve months until we decided to switch to using the ticketing system built in to Kaseya.  The main reason for the switch was all our customer’s PCs and servers were listed in Kaseya and tickets could be logged against them.  This meant we could run reports against individual machines to spot any issues.

We used Kaseya for probably six months until I started to want something more. My main aim was for customers to be able to email our support email address and have a ticket automatically logged. Having previously looked at both Connectwise and Autotask, I knew these products could do this.  We’ve had demos of both and they are fantastic looking products; I’m personally sold on Connectwise.  However, the cost of both is just prohibitive for us at the moment.  I think in a couple of years when we’ve grown some more we will head down the Connectwise route, but until then I needed something else.

What initially got me thinking about moving away from Kaseya was stumbling across Cerberus HelpdeskCerberus is an email based helpdesk with decent pricing and was a definite contender.  Seeing as we were thinking of a move, I decided I needed to look at more than just one option.  Searching brought up a couple of other options, Blue Folder and Zoho CRM being the two other likely candidates.  I spent a fair amount of time looking at these three and had finally decided that Blue Folder was the option when a friend suggested CommitCRM.

Now CommitCRM offered a lot more than any of the others we’d either used or trialled, in fact it bills itself as a PSA tool for IT service companies.  Like any good service it offered a free trial so I downloaded it and started using it in earnest.  That was about two months ago, we’ve now paid for it and use it on a daily basis. 

Commit allows tickets to be logged by email and will continue to track email conversations regarding tickets.  It’s not the slickest of tracking, but it works and the Commit team are actively working on improving it (we’re on the new beta and it’s already improved).  We have all our customer’s assets in there so tickets are tracked against the right asset.  We’re able to expand assets from just hardware to anything, so we track all software purchases and licenses.  We can also track contracts as to what they cover and how much they cost.  Commit will link to Quickbooks, so we’re working on getting that working to simplify the monthly invoicing tasks.  We track every piece of work we do against the relevant contract, so we can see how much time we spend on a contract in a month.  This will help us both to see whether a contract is profitable and also demonstrate to customers the value of their contract.

It’s still early days, but it’s already making a great difference in the way our business runs.  It’s great having one place for everything, but it’s also vital that we use it for everything.  Sometimes it’s easy to do it the old way, but we have to change our ways and ensure that if it happens, it happens in Commit.  Going forward it’s great to know we’ll have one place for all the history for all our customers.