Blog Archive

Are Charities Eligible for SPLA?

 

Service Provider Licence AgreementFirstly, there’s no logo for SPLA so we had to make one up.  Secondly if you haven’t heard of SPLA it stands for Services Provider Licence Agreement; a way for hosting companies to licence Microsoft products and host them for their own customers.  You can read about it on Microsoft’s SPLA page and we’ll write a blog about it in the future because if you’re selling cloud such as Office 365 or Azure, you should be looking at SPLA as an additional revenue stream.

A question came up recently as to discounted academic pricing – are charities eligible for discounted academic licensing through SPLA?

Let’s investigate.  The first place to look is the SPLA agreement.  That includes a supplement catchily titled the Qualified Educational End User Addendum.  Paragraph 1 states:

“Definitions. ‘Qualified Education End User’ means a Qualified Education User as defined for various regions at http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com/userights/DocumentHome.aspx or at a successor site Microsoft identifies.”

For Aardvark, see Aardvark.  We investigate further and follow the suggested link to come across the Microsoft Product Licensing Search website which provides access to licensing terms, conditions and supplemental information relevant to the use of products licensed through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs.  The page actually says ‘quick access’ but I took the word ‘quick’ out.  In the document list you should find the Qualified Educational User Definition.  This document at no stage mentions SPLA however because the SPLA agreement says that education users are defined here, then we’re good to continue.

Section G lists Charitable Organisations which operate on a not-for-profit basis and whose aims are the relief of poverty; the advancement of education; the advancement of social and community welfare; the advancement of culture or the advancement of the natural environment as being included in the definition of Qualified Education User.

Definition of qualified education user

 

I imagine David’s Ferrari California Purchase Fund doesn’t count in this eligibility list.

 

 


Select Plus Retirement

Microsoft retires Select Plus

Microsoft Select Plus was introduced in late 2008 to offer customers flexibility, better asset management and a way to balance growing technology needs with predictable costs when purchasing Microsoft software licences.  Select Plus was for large organisations, above 250 PCs, with multiple affiliates that wanted to purchase their software licenses and services at any affiliate level (centralised or decentralised purchasing), while realising advantages such as discount levels and licence management as one organization.  Since the agreement never expired, customers didn’t need to renegotiate and renew agreements every three years as they did with Enterprise Agreements.

You may have noticed we’re talking past tense here.  That’s because Microsoft announced in July 2014, at the Worldwide Partner Conference, that Select Plus would be retired.  Let’s examine why and what’s replacing it.

Firstly, there is no need to panic if you have a Select Plus agreement as this has always been a phased retirement and a lot of effort has gone into ensuring you will get the best advice from your transacting partner.

The replacement program is the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA).  MPSA has been in the market in a limited form since December 2013, has gradually been growing in scope and will ultimately supersede all the current volume-licensing plans Microsoft offers across small, midsized and enterprise customers.

Microsoft volume licensing

 

The diagram above summarises the current volume licensing programs, whether they’re aimed at small (blue) or large (purple) customers; whether they require commitment from the customer in terms of covering all qualified devices or whether a customer can purchase as much or as little as they need through a transactional arrangement.  It also shows which agreements offer non-perpetual licenses (shown by the dots) and whether Software Assurance is a built-in component of the agreement (where the SA is shown in a circle) or optional (SA not in a circle).  All of the products purchased through these agreements have traditionally been installed on-premises but a relatively recent change is that customers can buy Online Services through the majority of these agreements too with the noticeable exception of Select Plus.

What does the Select Plus customer do, who doesn’t want an EA and wants to buy Online Services through a transactional agreement?  How did customers acquire Online Services before they could purchase them through their Volume Licensing agreements?  The Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement (MOSA) exists as an alternative way of customers buying their Online Services.

You might be thinking this is sounding rather complex and fragmented.  If you are, you’ve hit the nail on the head and that’s why the MPSA was introduced.  A single, simplified agreement to purchase Online Services, Software and Software Assurance so you decide how and when you license Online Services and Software.

Transactional purchasing rules through the MPSA are just like Select Plus.  Customers can make transactional purchases of software licences only or licence and Software Assurance.  However, unlike Select Plus, customers can also purchase Online Services and work with multiple partners under a single account.  The chart  (click to enlarge) summarises the differences and for a comprehensive comparison of Select Plus vs the MPSA you can download this guide.

MPSA vs Select plus

 

 

 

 

The most recent change to MPSA was March 1st 2015 when it was expanded to include not just commercial customers but also government and academic customers too.  And in the near future you can expect to see MPSA including committed offerings as well as offerings for smaller customers.  The diagram below shows how MPSA fits into our volume licensing pattern for 2015.

Volume licensing with MPSA

 

You can see why we’ve called this a phased approach and figure 3 provides an approximate timeline of where the MPSA is headed; a complete transformation of the Microsoft Volume Licensing programs to encompass enterprise customers and small/midsized customers through the Open programs.

Microsoft MPSA roadmpa

 

You can read more about the MPSA on the main Microsoft site but now you know why Select Plus is being retired and what is replacing it, let’s look at the critical dates for commercial customers.

July 1st 2015 – Select Plus will no longer be available for new commercial customer agreements and the MPSA will be offered in its place.  Customers with an existing Select Plus agreement can continue to renew their Select Plus agreement after this date or choose to migrate to the MPSA and maintain their current Select Plus price level.

July 1st 2016 – Commercial customers with existing Select Plus agreements will no longer be able to renew Software Assurance through Select Plus agreements, or make new purchases through their existing Select Plus agreements after the next agreement anniversary.  All future purchases will be moved to the MPSA.  Customers will continue to have full rights and access to all software and Software Assurance acquired under Select Plus.

One point to emphasise is as of March 2015 the MPSA does not replace the Enterprise Agreement (EA) or the Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES), so if you have either of those, you should continue to license through these agreements.  Also note that Government and Academic customers purchasing through existing framework agreements or the Government Partner model should continue to do so as neither of these options will be supported through the MPSA at launch for Government and Academic customers in March 2015.

Finally, although most Select Plus customers should now look towards the MPSA, how might the Enterprise Agreement fit with the MPSA?  Customers with an existing EA or EES should continue to purchase through this agreement as this currently remains best option for committed licensing.  Should you want to make transactional purchases of Online Services, software licenses (with or without Software Assurance) or to renew Software Assurance, then we’d suggest purchasing through the MPSA.  Customers with an existing EA can sign an MPSA if they need a transactional option for purchasing in conjunction with their EA.

You can keep up to date on the Select Plus retirement via the Microsoft site and for more information on the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement, contact your Microsoft partner.


Office Demos to Make Customers Cry

User jumping for joy

We don’t mean make them cry in a bad way.  Let me set the scene.  Microsoft have between 1-1.5 billion users of Office applications worldwide.  The Office developers work really hard to make the applications intuitive so users can just get on and use them without needing to take a day’s training course in Outlook or Excel.  However there’s a downside.  Users tend to use new versions of Office in the same way they used the previous version so they don’t really see any immediate improvement and that’s part of the reason we see customer inertia; no-one takes the time to point out some of the fantastic things they can now do.

With new Office versions, there’s really two buckets of goodness – firstly, a bunch of new features and secondly, improvements.  The improvements might include a single button which does what used to take the user 5 minutes and twenty clicks in the previous version.  Or perhaps an improvement will stop users swearing so much!  New features are great too but I find they’re best learnt organically; take a couple of minutes each day to look at a new feature and if it will help, then practice it but don’t try to learn every new trick in Office from day 1.

So we’re starting a series of very quick demos that you can easily emulate either to learn from or to repeat if you have customers that use Office.  Welcome to number 1.

Excel Flashfill

1. Download and open the sample Excel file.  Once you’ve downloaded that, pat yourself on the back for ensuring you had up-to-date anti-malware installed and you can confidently download files from the great unwashed Internet.

2. You’ll see a simple table with five columns.  Column 2 (Data) holds concatenated strings which we need to split out into the correct columns, so the Manager column will hold names such as John, Jenny and Bill and the Category column will hold the type of expense such as Advertising, Events and Digital Marketing.  Some Excel users will look in the help for a string function that will work.  Others will look in the ribbon and perhaps try out Text to Columns.  Most users will see there’s only twenty table rows and just type or copy and paste.  That’s how errors occur; one Bill might be typed with three l’s in it; we won’t notice and the reports will be wrong.

Excel flashfill demo step 1

 

Excel flashfill3. Click in cell D4 and type John.  Hit ENTER to go to cell D5 and type Jenny.  As soon as you’ve typed Jen you should see Excel volunteer the rest of the rows.  It’s as if a little Excel intern has been watching and is now stepping into take over your work.  How lovely.  Hit enter to accept the Flashfill.

4. Now click in cell E5, type Events and hit ENTER.  Hit CTRL+E to force Flashfill to evaluate the pattern at this point and you should see the suggestions.  Press ENTER to accept.

5. Flashfill can do smarter things too.  Click in cell F5 and type John heads up events.  Then hit enter to move down into cell F6 and start typing Jenny heads up advertising.  Flashfill will complete the rows for you, including respect to your capitalisation of the category name (keeping it lowercase).

Customers have asked at what point Flashfill is checking.  You can be reassured that this is nothing scary.  We’re all happy with autofill; type in 1 in a cell and 2 underneath and you can have Excel continue the numbering pattern t0 3, 4, 5, etc.  Flashfill is just an extension of autofill, that’s all.

Flashfill step 3Sometimes Flashfill will not guess correctly first time in which case you ignore the greyed out suggestions and keep typing rows.  Your little Excel intern will keep watching and at some point will guess the correct pattern at which point you just hit ENTER to save lots of typing!  Sheet 2 includes an example of this.  Click in cell C2 and type Adriana from Germany.  Go to cell C3 and type Billy from United Kingdom.  Flashfill is suggesting incorrect matches at this point but you just ignore it and keep typing in the rows.  You will need to get down to row 5 (Damien from Germany) before the suggested pattern is correct and at this point you can accept it by hitting ENTER.

Flashfill is available as a Ribbon command too (on the Data tab) and is a feature of Microsoft Excel 2013 and Office 365 ProPlus.

Subscribe to our Twitter feed for more hints and tips, take one of our Office courses or let us run an Office Buzz Day for your users.


Buy-out Subscription Licences

Microsoft Volume Licensing Logo

One of the customers during a recent Microsoft Volume Licensing training event asked for some clarification around their Enterprise Agreement Subscription (EAS).  As the name suggest, EAS licences are non-perpetual, the customer only rents them so at the end of the agreement term, typically 3 years, the customer can either renew the agreement, uninstall the software or buy-out the subscription licences to make them perpetual.

There are two categories of product within the agreement; enterprise (or platform) products and additional products.  The enterprise products are so-called because they must be taken enterprise-wide – every qualified device must have a licence so if the customer wants to licence Windows 8.1 through their EAS, every qualified device the customer owns must be included, they couldn’t just licence 100 out of 500 pcs.

The agreement states that should a customer wish to buy-out their subscription licences, all enterprise products must be bought-out and additional products, such as SQL Server can be bought-out as required.  But many people interpret this as the enterprise products must be bought-out in order to buy-out the additional products.

The best place to check is the agreement document itself.  Take a look at the Corporate “Enterprise Subscription Enrollment” form that is signed for EAS customers and section 6 (End of Enrollment term and termination) states “If Enrolled Affiliate elects not to renew” and then goes on to offer the buy-out option “(i) Subscription Licenses buy-out. Enrolled Affiliate may elect to obtain perpetual Licenses as described in the Section titled ‘Buy-out option’ for Licenses in which a buy-out is available.”

The Buy-out clause (Section 2, paragraph g, clause v) details that

“The buy-out order must include Subscription Licenses for:

(1) Qualified Devices and Qualified Users added during the final year of the Enrollment term; and

(2) any Additional Products used by Enrolled Affiliate for which it has not yet placed an order; and

(3) either of (sic) both of the following:

1) for all Enterprise Products which allow buy-out, the number of perpetual Licenses equal to the total number of Enrolled Affiliate’s current Qualified Devices or Qualified Users for such Products, and/or

2) For Additional Products, the number of perpetual Licenses Enrolled Affiliate elects to obtain.”

Firstly it looks like there’s a mistake in the form on part 3 and it should say either or both of the following.  So if a customer wants to buy out any of the enterprise (platform) products then they must buy-out all of those products.  However they can instead buy out just additional products and there’s no need to buy out the complete order of additional products.

Finally, how do you know which products are enterprise and which are additional?  Check the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product List or attend one of our Licensing Training Courses.


When 1TB Just Isn’t Enough

Unlimited storage with OneDrive for BusinessSpare a thought for all those workers out there who still have storage limits.  A 200MB inbox for example.  For a while now, Office 365 customers have been able to enjoy unlimited Exchange Online Archiving and 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage.  But Microsoft likes to set limits that customer’s aren’t going to hit.  Starting in 2015, all Office 365 customers will enjoy unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost.  No specific timescales but every customer will be notified of their service changes.

The Office blog highlighted the change in October last year but we’re starting to see Office 365 consumer and commercial customers receive this upgrade.

One step at a time however, as the current limit on items within a OneDrive for Business library is 20,000, including files and folders.

[Update for May 2015 – the current limits of 20,000 files and 2GB per file will be removed in Q4 of 2015 when the next generation OneDrive synchronisation client is released.  However a single file limit of 10GB looks likely]


New Office 365 Datacentres

New Office 365 locationsThe issue of data sovereignty arises a lot with cloud computing so it’s good to stay up-to-date with plans for local datacentres.  Offering Office 365 services from local datacenters helps customers feel more confident about complying with regulations that require data to be kept in their own region.  Microsoft has a regionalised data centre strategy with Office 365 and the billing address of the customer, which the customer’s administrator inputs during the initial setup of the services, typically dictates the Office 365 region and the primary storage location for that customer’s data.  You can view these regions on the Microsoft Office 365 Data Maps page.  For example, customer’s in Asia Pacific will have their Office 365 hosted in datacentres in Hong Kong and Singapore, however some data may reside elsewhere such as Active Directory and Global Address Book data.

Microsoft announced they’ll be launching Office 365 services from datacenters in Japan (December 2014), Australia (March 2015) and India (late 2015) and these regions will replicate data across datacenters in a single country only.

Customers should be able to create new tenants inside these additional regions as soon as they’re online (for example Japan is available now).  Existing customers in the affected regions will have their data moved to the new Office 365 datacenters from September 2015 and will be given six weeks advance notice of their move date.

You can read more about these plans on TechNet and also about the Japan datacentre on the Office 365 blog.

No news about a UK datacentre as yet.


Microsoft Azure Resources

Stack of books and resourcesIf you’re looking to use or build a practice around Microsoft Azure, good on you.  Here’s a bunch of links that might come in handy.  Feel free to bookmark the page, we like being bookmarked.  We like it even more when you train with us.

Manage the directory for your Office 365 subscription in Azure

Get started backing up to the cloud with SQL Server Backup to Microsoft Azure Tool

Building a highly available on-premises VPN gateway

Microsoft Azure in Open Licensing

Active Geo-Replication for Azure SQL Database

Backup and Restore Windows Azure IaaS Virtual Machines using BLOB Snapshots

New Azure Active Directory Sync tool with Password Sync is now available

Install or upgrade the Directory Sync tool

Azure Virtual Machines – Common Questions and Issues

Azure Service Level Agreements

Understanding Azure SQL Database and SQL Server in Azure VMs

Guidelines for Deploying Windows Server Active Directory on Azure Virtual Machines

Installing IIS Dynamic IP Restrictions in an Azure Web Role (PAAS)

Windows Azure Availability Sets

Manage the availability of virtual machines

About Regional VNets and Affinity Groups for Virtual Network

New D-Series Virtual Machine Sizes

Virtual Network Overview

Configure a Point-to-Site VPN in the Management Portal

Configure a Static Internal IP Address for a VM

IP Addressing

Name Resolution (DNS)

How To Change the Drive Letter of the Windows Temporary Disk

High Availability and Disaster Recovery for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines

SharePoint Server Farm

Active Directory Pricing

Azure Backup FAQ

Deploy Office 365 Directory Synchronization (DirSync) in Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure: Connecting multiple VNET’s to a VNET

Add a co-administrator to an Azure subscription

Azure SQL Database Security Guidelines and Limitations

About VPN Devices for Virtual Network

Free Azure eBook – Fundamentals of Microsoft Azure


Free Azure eBook

Man holding the word freeStaff at Microsoft aren’t usually allowed to say the word free.  Someone will sue on the basis of abusing market dominance.  However sometimes, it’s justified.

Eric Ligman, a senior sales excellence manager at Microsoft, has posted a few news items in the past about freely downloadable eBooks.  Microsoft Press can be pretty generous and the latest free eBook released is titled Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure.  I heard about this smack bang in the middle of teaching an Azure course.  How serendipitous.

The eBook, written by two Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVP) Michael S. Collier and Robin E. Shahan is a great point to start about the capabilities of Azure, which I describe as an enormous box of Lego.  Azure can be anything and you need to play and practice to get the best out of it.  I’ll explain some concepts and ideas in a future blog post.

The book also has a publication date of February 2015 so is up to date.  The change cadence of Azure is bewilderingly fast so it’s nice to read something which matches the current offerings.

You can download Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure along with a host of other titles directly from Microsoft Press.  And of course, we run Azure training courses so if you are looking to gain an MCP in Azure or kick-start your Azure technical knowledge, have a look at our cloud courses or drop us a line.


PowerPoint Presenter View Says No

PowerPoint Presenter ViewAn attendee had an issue with a PowerPoint file and could not choose ‘Use Presenter View’ as it was greyed out and disabled.  What’s more, when the slideshow was started, it didn’t take up the whole screen but annoyingly, played in a window and left the system tray icons at the bottom of the display.  How is a speaker supposed to present their awesome slideshow on plans for World Domination v1.0 if they can’t even get PowerPoint working?  As you can imagine, we use PowerPoint quite a lot so were happy to point out the issue.

First thing to check of course is whether the dual monitor option in Windows is set up correctly and in this case it was.  The second cause is a feature of PowerPoint that is less well-known because most slideshows are presented live by a speaker.  An alternative is to set-up self-running presentations, either in full screen (for example on kiosk displays) or in a window.  These will typically use recorded timings for each slide and animations so they play and advance in a timely manner and might even loop continuously.  To set your PowerPoint deck up to run automatically, choose Set Up Slide Show in the Slide Show ribbon tab.

Set up slideshow button

 

 

This will open a window where you can set your play options.

Set up PowerPoint slideshow

 

 

 

 

 

In our attendee’s example, the Show Type was set to Browsed by an individual which meant the show would play in a resizable window and not full screen or presenter view.  Kiosk mode plays the show full screen and uses timings to advance the slides; users cannot click or touch to advance.  The default is Presented by a speaker and for some reason this deck had that option changed.  Once we’d selected the correct show type, the Use Presenter View checkbox was active again and the world is happy.

Of course, if you’d like to know more hints and tips on Microsoft PowerPoint or any Office application, we’d love to hear from you.

 


The Value of IT Training

man holding moneyTraining is expensive, we get that.  So how can you justify spending money and time in order to attend training courses?

Facts and Figures from Research Reports

There are many studies on the value of training, not just IT training and I don’t intend to summarise or make a conclusion in this blog.  However I did like a 2009 research report by Beth Vanni (then Director of Market Intelligence for Amazon Consulting) and a few points that sprang out included:

♦  the majority of customers indicated they trusted a certified partner more
♦  customers involve certified partners to a greater degree in future decision making
♦  certified providers gain more repeat business and sell more services beyond product purchases

The research indicated that having certified staff does not mean you can increase your prices; nor will your certifications rank highly in your customers’ criteria for choosing a partner.  Customers want strong relationships, high service levels and complete solutions.  It seems to be expected that the staff know their stuff just as it is expected that the staff will act professionally and not spend all day browsing Facebook.  Certifications are important but they are a mere fact of due diligence.

Recruitment

Of course if you are hiring new staff, you need a benchmark on which to judge their skills.  90% of the respondents to a McKinsey Quarterly survey (“Building organizational capabilities: McKinsey Global Survey results,” March 2010) said that building capabilities was a top-ten priority for their organisations.  Standards for both academic and technical qualifications are important here.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

A cliché, I admit.  I know I don’t know much about Quantum Physics but it’s a cool job title.  I’ve been dealing with Microsoft products for 25 years but I still gain a lot from watching other people use Microsoft Office.  Attending a training course helps widen your knowledge and experience and often demonstrates best practices, tools or methodologies that even experienced IT Pros may not have come across in their day-to-day work.  Training courses help you explore areas of the products and technologies that you may not have used in the past, in a guided and safe way (without risking production environments).  There’s also the networking opportunities.  I like meeting fellow course delegates; IT can be quite a small world and some of my best contacts have been gained from training courses.

See what Microsoft training courses we can offer and work towards gaining certifications today.  If you have a Volume Licence agreement with Microsoft you may be eligible for free technical training.