Tag: migration

Migrate Sims.Net Server

Sims.Net is a very common and, in my opinion, a very badly written Management Information System used in the UK’s lower education sector – primary and secondary schools. It’s commonly used not because it’s good, but because it was one of the few options many years ago and a huge number of schools just haven’t bothered to move to something else. And I don’t blame them, it’s got a lot of history and data going back decades in that database. It’s not an easy thing to migrate off of.

ESS, the (current) caretakers of Sims.Net, have recently changed their licensing model to seemingly prevent third parties from hosting Sims.Net data on behalf of a school. I admit, I don’t know the details, but that’s the message as I understand it.

It looks like due to this, and the EOL of Server 2012R2, many school techs and sysadmins across the UK will be scrambling to get Sims.Net installed on an on-prem server.

Unfortunately, documentation is sparse. It’s a shame, but it costs a whole lot of cash to pay for third parties to do this for you. Right?

In the spirit of publishing guides for stuff organisations seemingly don’t want guides published for I’ve written up a guide on installing or migrating Sims.Net (and the horrible, horrible SOLUS3) server/database, because I struggled to find any well written and up to date guides and had to figure it out myself recently.

So if you’re looking to install or migrate Sims.Net, hop in and come for a ride. It’s easier than you think! Until you get to SOLUS3. We won’t be migrating that. But I’ll go through how to install it fresh!

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Implement but never move

I really appreciate well-written implementation guides for server-client software, but what really gets me excited is seeing migration guides for when you need to decommission that legacy OS and move onto something supported and current. Even the bad migration guides are great to have, but some that I’ve come across are works of art – numbered-list instructions that are clear and concise, incorrect assumptions busy sysadmins have during the migration are highlighted then corrected, screenshots where required, mid-migration tests to ensure things are going as smoothly as they seem… ahh, dreamy.

One of my personal pet peeves, however, is purchased server based software products that don’t come with any migration guidance or instructions.

I’m spending a lot of time at the moment moving niche (read: there’s only a couple of options and they all suck) and poorly made software from older server OS’s to newer ones, and whilst some of them are fine and can be figured out right away, most of them have… issues. Typically you can just install $dumpsterFire fresh to the new server, dump the existing database and throw it over the fence to the new server (yes, some of this terrible software rEqUiReS tHe DaTaBaSe Is oN tHe SaMe SeRvEr), maybe I’ll need to update some config files and point the new install at the existing database. One CNAME change later for the clients and you’re golden. Simple stuff.

Sometimes, however, you need to perform some forbidden magical incantations, and the kick to the teeth in many cases is that nobody in $org will write down what they are publicly. So you gotta pick the phone up and get some overworked and underpaid $tech at $org to walk you through the process, shooting down the constant stream of bugs and errors that occur along the way due to the shoddy quality of $dumpsterFire with bullets of solidified experience (that’ll no doubt be lost when $tech has had enough and leaves for greener pastures.)

Or, even worse than that… the $org requires payment for a migration because migrations aren’t considered “support” and are “optional”. Yes, it is support. And no, it isn’t optional.

Dear organisations that explicitly hide their migration guides to force an already-paying customer to pay you yet again to migrate your horrible software from one server to another (immoral), that INSIST that you “must TeamViewer in to do this” (in business hours only!?), that there’s no possible way anyone else can do it (false and stupid), that require DA/root accounts (you don’t), that have to be installed on a Domain Controller (I’m crying), that MUST have unmitigated 24/7 access by installing un-licensed teamviewer (Oh no you won’t)… There’s even one software solution here which “requires” a physical server. In 2023. The software won’t work in a virtual machine. (Oh, wait, spoiler: it works fine in a VM and has been working fine for over a decade)

To those organisations I say: fuck you. Do better.

Because I’m writing this all down, I’m recording my screen when you connect to solve unhelpful errors in your hidden log files, I’m fixing your stupid permission requirements and immediately uninstalling any additional or third party crap that isn’t a business requirement.

And I’m publishing those guides online for free.