The path to qualifications can be a little confusing so we’ve produced a handy interactive PDF which shows the current Microsoft MTA, MCSA, MCSE and MCSD qualification routes along with the courses and exams required to get you there.
Think of this as your handy CertNav!
Why strive for an IT qualification?
For employees, 85% of IT hiring managers consider certifications a medium to high priority according to the CompTIA research paper Employer Perceptions of IT Training and Certification.
For managed services providers, a 2009 research report by Beth Vanni (then Director of Market Intelligence for Amazon Consulting) found 60% of customers trust a certified partner more and involved that partner more readily in future decision making. Also, 60% engaged more repeat business and purchased services beyond products from certified providers.
And my favourite research finding is quoted on the Microsoft certification site: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified IT Professional, and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator are among the top 25 highest-paying IT certifications.
You will try to remember us when you’re sunning yourselves on your yacht in the Bahamas won’t you?
Select Disable Updates and none of your Office applications will be updated; you won’t need to do this in each application. Somewhere in the world a puppy will start crying however, because you are defying Microsoft.
This action shouldn’t be taken lightly though; you will also not receive security patches so your products may become vulnerable. And at some point, your installation of Office will become unsupported.
Option 3 is performed by running OfficeC2RClient.exe from an administrative command-prompt and using the updatetoversionswitch with the specific version you want to deploy which can be newer or older than the current version (or you may not have one installed at all). If you don’t specify a version, it defaults to the latest one. The versions only go back so far but theoretically you could deploy an older release going back a couple of years.
How will rollbacks work when Office 2016 applications are brought into mainstream Office 365?
We’ll post an update to this blog when we try it.
The last point may seem obvious and irrelevant but we have to mention it for completeness. You can of course still use Office 2011 for Mac on the device whilst connecting to the Office 365 cloud services. But this is not going to help if you’ve subscribed to an Office 365 plan which includes Office applications; who wants to pay twice for the same thing?
Upgrading the Existing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Desktops to Windows 10
As we’ve discussed in How to Upgrade to Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (Home and Pro editions) are eligible to benefit from the 1-year free upgrade offer. If your desktop machines are upgraded within that year they have a perpetual (but not transferable) licence for Windows 10 and they are able to be reimaged or reinstalled with Windows 10.
Using Windows 10 Media as the Initial Upgrade Image
The Windows 10 free upgrade offer is aimed at consumers and most people will initiate the upgrade from their own pc. However organisations with Windows Pro are eligible to take advantage of the offer and are unlikely to want to sit in front of each pc to upgrade it so upgrade media will be provided as part of the free upgrade offer. This media can be used on a machine (or multiple machines) to initiate the upgrade process. The media image can be customised like any other Windows image, for example via DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) to include drivers, applications, etc.. During the upgrade process, a Windows 10 licence will be obtained from the Windows Store for the specific device. The upgrade media is intended to be used to initiate the upgrade process from within a currently-activated, eligible Windows OS. It shouldn’t be used as bootable media because the upgrade process validates the currently running OS to ensure it is eligible to be upgraded.
Using Windows 10 Free Upgrade Media to Reinstall or Reimage
As long as the specific device has been upgraded within the free offer year, Windows 10 can be reinstalled or reimaged on that device because the licence is tied to the motherboard, so even a hard drive upgrade is fine. So in theory, reimaging using the Windows 10 upgrade offer media will be allowed but as stated earlier, the advice from Microsoft is that it can’t be used as bootable so that makes reimaging tricky. Allowed: yes. Technically possible: it’s not clear because the upgrade media isn’t available yet.
Using Windows 10 VL Media to Reimage
One key benefit of licensing Microsoft software under a Microsoft Volume Licensing program is the right for customers to use VL media to deploy a standard image of software across multiple licenced devices. It doesn’t matter whether those devices are licenced under that particular VL program, an OEM or retail so long as certain eligibility rules are followed. The main rule is VL media may be used to reimage devices as long those devices are already licensed for the edition and version being reimaged onto them.
As long as your devices have upgraded to Windows 10 Pro within the free upgrade period, you will be allowed to use VL media to reimage them. If your VL licence is for Windows 10 Enterprise you must down-edition to Windows 10 Pro.
The Microsoft Product Terms document (a new document from July 2015 combining the Product List and Product Use Rights document) states “If a third party intends to re-image Windows on Customer’s separately licensed devices, Customer must first provide that third party with written documentation proving it has licenses for the software the third party will install.” So to cover your backs in case of an audit, ensure you have proof that the current installations of Windows are valid. With OEM, that should be easy as there’ll normally be a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker on the device.
What if the Current Editions are Windows Home?
The Product Terms document states that down edition rights for Windows through Volume Licensing are from Enterprise edition to Pro (see the image below). You cannot down-edition Windows in volume licensing to Home edition because they are different products and that’s against reimaging rules. Therefore you won’t be able to use Windows 10 VL media to reimage devices if they are only licenced for Windows 10 Home (hence the big red block in the top right of our flowchart above). Licensing is full of exception though and it is possible that rights to reimage by using a different version or edition may be granted in the EULA that came with your OEM version of Windows.
One Last Point
The main points in this article are taken from the Product Termsdocument which hasn’t yet been updated for Windows 10 but as far as we’re aware the Windows 8.1 rules will apply, and the Licensing brief: Reimaging rightsdocument from February 2015. We’ve also included some information from Microsoft sources in the case of unreleased bits such as the Windows 10 media and as such, they must be viewed as unconfirmed.
We hope that’s clear but feel free to Tweet us or contact us if you have any questions.
There’s lots of chatter about Windows 10 so we’ve posted a licensing call that we recorded for Microsoft which sets out the fundamentals of how Windows as a service will work, the editions of Windows 10, licensing Windows per-user instead of per-device and how customers can get the Windows 10 upgrade.
1 – Windows will be an evergreen service and devices on Windows Home and Pro will have Windows updated at no ongoing cost.
2 – Windows Home will be on what’s known as Current Branch which means those machines will get feature updates as soon as they’re released.
3 – Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise with Software Assurance (SA) will default to Current Branch but can be set to Current Branch for Business which allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months. If updates are not deployed within that time, the OS will become unsupported.
4 – Windows Enterprise is the only edition where customers can fix on a specific release(known as a Long Term Servicing Branch).
5 – Windows Enterprise without Software Assurance (SA) will NOT BE UPDATED. The update facility (Current Branch or Current Branch for Business) is a Software Assurance benefit for Enterprise edition, not part of the Windows licence. So Windows will only be kept up to date for Enterprise edition customers if they maintain their SA annuity.
6 – Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 devices can be upgraded at no cost for 1 year after the release of Windows 10. Windows Enterprise is not eligible for this free upgrade.
7 – The upgrade licence is tied to the specific device and is not transferable. For example if you bought Windows 8 retail, that can be transferred to another pc but the Windows 10 upgrade cannot be transferred. Within the first year, you would need to transfer the Windows 8 licence to the new machine and then kick off the free upgrade again. After the first year, if the new machine didn’t come with an OEM Window 10 then you would need to buy Windows 10 in order to install it on that device.
8- There will be downgrade rights so if you buy a device with Windows 10 you will be able to deploy Windows 8 or 7 in its place. This varies according to the channel you purchase through.
9- We’d love to get some more questions so please contact us if you have any that you’d like us to answer.
If the customer tried to create a new D series VM in the same VNet or cloud service, they will also receive the following warning message telling them the cloud service doesn’t support those compute units.
If you create an A series VM in a new cloud services, Azure’s cloud fabric will host that VM in a cluster that currently may only support A series. That’s why you’ll see the behaviour that our customer has experienced.
It is not possible to move a VM between cloud services either so even if you had a service currently hosting D series VMs, the customer would need to delete their VM (but choosing the option to keep the attached disks) and recreate the VM from the attached disks in the other cloud service.
So our little trick would be for this customer to create the VM as a D series initially and as soon as it’s created, scale the VM down to an A2. That way Azure will host the VM in a cluster capable of supporting both A and D series compute units. The customer can scale up, down and mix VMs of A and D series to their heart’s content (with the exception of the A8-A11 compute sizes). The image below shows a cloud service with both A and D series compute units.
This doesn’t work with G series currently but at present they can only be hosted in the West US and East US 2 data centres anyway. Of course the feature release cadence of Azure is rapid so it’s likely this will be possible at some point in the future.
How would the customer have known to create the D series first to avoid this trap? We’d recommend utilising a Microsoft partner with experience in Azure services or attend one of our training courses; that’s what we’re here for.
What do you notice from this eligibility list? Windows Enterprise editions and Windows RT are specifically excluded.
Windows RT is likely being replaced with Windows 10 mobile edition anyway so more will become known on that in the next few months. Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 Enterprise edition are not eligible for the free upgrade offer so how would those customers acquire Windows 10?
Customers with Software Assurance (SA) on their Windows licences have rights to Windows 10 Enterprise through the software assurance new version rights benefit.
In the days when you acquired Windows Enterprise by buying Windows Pro + SA, your underlying licence was Pro but even if you stopped SA you could retain perpetual rights to enterprise. In this case you could revert to Pro edition and go for the free upgrade. That does involve a reinstall though so not a nice option.
Or you could buy Windows 10 Enterprise + SA all over again. Possibly not an option which will be greeted by cheers.
The Windows 10 licence created during the upgrade is a consumer licence that is tied to the device. The licence will continue to work for reinstalling Windows 10 after the free upgrade period ends but only on that specific device. so if you need to replace the hard drive or do a reinstall for any reason other than replacing the motherboard, it will work.
For volume licensing customers, the licence created is not a Volume Licence (VL) and will not be in VLSC (Volume Licensing Service Centre). Whilst there won’t be any differences in the end-user experience between the free upgrade and a new VL purchase of Windows 10, the licence is different. If you buy Windows 10 Pro through VL, you could not use the image or keys from the VLSC to apply the upgrade for free to other, unlicenced machines. At present the Windows 10 Pro Upgrade licenses will be priced the same as the existing Windows 8.1 Pro Upgrade licences in case you do want to buy the full edition.
A couple of last points; even though customers on Windows 8 will get a lot of nudges to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will not force people to upgrade. They can remain on Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 and the support lifecycle for those remains in place.
Education customers have the same criteria. Upgrade goes by the eligibility of the device and installed operating system; nothing special or limited for education.
Will Windows 10 be the last ever version? Is Windows 10 going to be free? Can you plan a surprise birthday party for a psychic? Well, let’s tackle the first question here and the second question in our how to upgrade to Windows 10 blog post.
Never Pay for Windows Again
Currently, you might buy a pc and it will come with Windows preinstalled. You’ve paid for the OEM (original Equipment Manufacturer) licence of Windows. You’ll get feature updates and security patches from time to time and you can choose to install them or hide them. It’s up to you (or you organisation’s IT policy).
With Windows 10, you won’t have a choice. Windows updates will be applied when they’re ready. So in a way, Windows 10 will be the last version because you will never have to pay for the next version of the client OS on the same pc; new features will just be installed. If you need to buy a new machine, you’ll pay for the OEM licence as part of the pc’s purchase price and then Windows will just be kept up to date for the lifetime of the device.
You may be concentrating on the negative here that you won’t get a choice and must install new features. Think about two huge positives though:
you never need to pay for Windows again on the same machine and you’ll always have the latest version
Software vendors and developers can almost guarantee that 90% of Windows users will have the same build
The second point there should make you smile if your pc has ever crashed or you’ve needed to phone support because an application isn’t working. There are so many combinations of OS, patches, drivers, runtime files and versions around that reliability and consistency are devilishly hard to achieve. Applications and peripherals should work far better if the manufacturers and developers can work to a stable and single platform. Sounds a bit Apple-like doesn’t it?
Why is Windows Becoming a Service?
The world of software is changing to cloud aka software as a service. With that change comes different release cadences. If you’ve been in IT for a while you’ll be familiar with the terms 3.5 inch floppy, modem and three-year release cycles. Office 365 has a monthly release cadence. Azure enjoys weekly updates. This is the way of the world; goodbye versions and hello evergreen services. Innovation has become faster and users expect new features quicker.
What if I Don’t Want to Automatically Install Updates?
Microsoft thinks Windows 10 is going to have three demarcations of users: consumers, business users and mission-critical business systems. For each type there is something known as a ‘branch’.
Consumers will be subject to the Current Branch and will receive Windows updates as they are released. Of course, they will have gone through extensive testing via engineering builds, internal testing, early adopters and the Windows Insider program beforehand so several millions of users will already have installed these updates.
Business Users will default to Current Branch but have the option to select Current Branch for Business (CBB). This allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months after they’re released to the Current Branch. This provides ample time for testing, compatibility work and fixes and just to wait and see how the hundreds of millions of Current Branch users get on with the updates. The updates can be deferred but they will need to be installed within that eight-month timeframe. Organisations will be able to control and manage how updates (including critical and security updates) are deployed using tools such as System Centre Configuration Manager, Windows Server Update Services or a new Windows 10 service called Windows Update for Business.
Mission-critical systems such as medical, aviation, etc. have the option to deploy point-in-time releases known as Long Term Service Branch (LTSB). These will not be updated with new features but will have security and critical updates although the organisation can manage and control the distribution of these updates. LTSB releases will be supported for at least 5 years (10 years if the customers has software assurance). New LTSB releases will be made available every two-three years and customers will have the option whether to install them or not.
In short, if you don’t want to receive Windows OS updates, you will need to be on the LTSB and that requires certain Windows editions.
Long Term Service Branch is only Available for Windows Enterprise edition
Windows Home edition must be on Current Branch. Windows Pro can be on either Current Branch or Current Branch for Business. This means that both of these editions will be updated (CBB allows the updates to be deferred but only for up to 8 months).
Windows Enterprise edition is available with or without software assurance. Windows Enterprise without SA allows the customer to deploy a point-in-time LTSB release, or previous ones (downgrade rights in other words) and for that release to still be supported for 5 years. Windows Enterprise edition with SA also gives customers the rights to new LTSB release when they become available (every 2-3 years). They can choose whether to install new releases or not. SA also means the customer gains extended support so their chosen release will be supported for 10 years.
One important point to note is that Enterprise edition without SA will not enjoy updates on Current Branch either. Customers with Home and Pro editions will always get the latest features for the life of the device. Enterprise edition without SA will not. The release that’s installed will eventually become out of date and the customer will need to buy a licence again to update.
Windows 10 Enterprise Edition with SA is available through all Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs (Open, Open Value, Select+, MPSA, EA, etc.)
There are three main routes to purchasing Microsoft Azure services:
1 – Direct through Azure.com and your credit card is billed monthly in arrears for the services you use. Can result in a scary bill if you’re unsure of the cost of the Azure services.
2 – Purchase an Azure ‘top-up’ via an IT reseller through the Open volume licence channel. Just like a mobile phone top-up; the top-ups are available in multiples of $100 and if your credit runs out, your services stop until you top-up again.
3 – Purchase via an Enterprise volume licence agreement. You can read more detail in an earlier blog post about How to buy Azure.
Imagine you are an IT reseller. You might actually be one in which case, not so tricky. You have a new customer who has been running some infrastructure on Azure and purchased the services direct. You’ve worked hard to persuade them that you can offer a nice managed service with single billing. To effect this, you’ll need to move them from direct into Open licensing. How do you do this?
Call Ghostbusters Support
First, you need to create the new Azure in Open subscription and also make sure that the service administrator is the same on both the subscriptions. This will involve the following steps:
Once you log in, you should be at the Subscriptions page of the Account tab but if not, click on the Account tab at the top of the page.
Select the subscription for which you want to change the Service-Administrator
Click on Edit Subscription Details on the right hand side of the page
Change the Service Administrator to the same as the customer’s direct subscription
Then phone Azure billing support to ask them to migrate the existing services across. Billing support is included in all Azure subscriptions.
Not all services can be migrated from one subscription to another but here is a list of services that should be ok to move: Virtual Machines Cloud Services CDN Web sites Media Services Service Bus Storage Multi Factor Authentication Traffic Manager Mobile Services Virtual Network Access Control Service
Some services can be migrated easily by the partner or customer (self-service migration): VSO SQL DB Multi-Factor Authentication
Finally, some services cannot currently be moved: Azure Active Directory BizTalk Services HD Insight Backup Hyper-V Recovery Manager Azure Store Import / Export Scheduler Management Services SQL Reporting Caching
If in doubt, support will be able to advise but this should give you an idea of what’s possible.
Small and medium are pretty easy to calculate. If you have large instances, you will be paying £6.109 (prices as of May 2015) per 500GB so a 1.3TB backup would cost you £18.33 per month. A simple protection estate could be:
Windows 7 laptop
Linux virtual machine
And the cost for those would be £12.22 per month. So that takes care of the backup service; the agent, compression, encryption and bandwidth.
Next we need to calculate the cost of the storage. Microsoft have wisely brought this in line with the standard Azure Storage costs and you have the choice of locally redundant where your backup files are replicated three time within a single datacentre (e.g. Dublin) or zone redundant where they are replicated three times in one data centre and then three times in geographically paired datacentre (e.g. Dublin and Amsterdam).
We’ve put a typical price per GB in the table above. The actual figures vary with the amount of data you store and you can view current prices on the Azure Storage Prices. Determining the amount of storage is a bit of a guessing game as it depends on how much the data changes (the churn), how many restore points you want to keep and the level of compression that can be achieved. A file server with lots of Word documents will be compressed far more than a file server containing hundreds of .jpg images because the jpeg format is already compressed. Azure will only charge for the actual storage used so your estimate doesn’t need to be accurate. In our example, we might use the following factors:
1- the total storage of 375GB
2 – locally redundant storage because we only want an archiving and backup solution to replace tape-drives
3 – 20% of the data changes between backups
4 – 10% compression (this is conservative; a typical compression should be around 30-40% depending on the type of data being backed up)
5 – a backup every week
6 – retention period for the backups of 1 year (for a maximum of 52 backups stored after a year)
Our back-of-a-napkin calculation would be 375GB initial backup + 52 further backups would just be the data changes at 75GB (20% of 375GB). Total of 4.275TB, with compression at 10% this comes down to 3.8475TB.
So after 1 year (at which point we will have a rolling 52 backups retained), our monthly cost might be £53.87 (for storage at a rough £0.014 per GB) + £12.22 (for the protected instances) = £66.09
For more technical information about Azure, sign up for one of our courses and gain your professional qualification.
Sometimes Microsoft Excel is just too helpful. Like American shop assistants to an English shopper (I’m not being xenophobic, I’m just not used to lots of people asking if I want help finding things (try shopping in Reading on a Saturday afternoon).
Anyone who has tried to paste data in a filtered Excel spreadsheet knows this. Excel will also paste the data into the hidden (filtered out) cells. It obviously thinks it’s being helpful but it’s really not.
There are two solutions that we use. If you’re running Excel 2013 or above, you can utilise Flashfill. For earlier versions, you might be able to use the Fill function..
Let’s look at Fill first. Here is our example sheet:
A nice simple table with numbers in column B, whether they are odd or even in column A and the square of the number in column C. What I would like to do is filter on odd numbers (because I am a little odd), copy the square and paste those into the new column D.
Let’s try to do that in the most obvious way and see what happens.
Filter the table to show only odd numbers. Select all the squares in column C and copy.
Click in cell D2, right-click and select Paste Values. But wait! Only half of the values are shown. That’s because Excel is being over-helpful and pasting into the hidden, filtered-out rows as well as the visible rows. It would be lovely if there was a ‘Paste Values into Visible Cells’ option but you’ve already spent an hour searching the internet to discover there just isn’t.
If we clear the filter, we can see exactly that behaviour. Our five selected cells have been pasted into the interim rows.
Now go up to the ribbon (Home tab) and click Fill and Fill Right. Obviously if your destination column is to the left then feel free to hit Fill Left instead.
And voila, unlike the previous attempt, we are seeing all five desired values.
And just to be sure, let’s clear the filter condition to make sure nothing has been copied into the hidden rows.
Bingo. We have our desired outcome. Obviously this only works in the same sheet and if your columns are adjacent left or right to the cells you wish to copy. If there are columns in between, you can hide those columns and this method will still work; Excel doesn’t paste into hidden columns in the same way it pastes into hidden rows. In the screenshot below, I moved column A between the source column and the destination. I filtered on Odd numbers in the same way, then hid column C. Select Columns B and D and use the Fill Right method and as the screenshot works, once I unhide column C and clear the filter, everything still works out ok.
Flashfill Will Only Update Visible Cells
In Excel 2013, we have the lovely Flashfill feature which we blogged about previously. Flashfill will also help but it’s not relevant for Excel versions earlier than 2013 (or Office 365 ProPlus if you ‘re in the cloud).
You can filter on odd numbers, type 1 in the first cell of the destination column, type 9 in the next cell down, hit Enter and then CTRL + E to force Flashfill to take over. All the desired cells will be copied and if you clear the filter condition, you’ll see that the hidden rows haven’t been touched. This is why we love Flashfill!