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Windows Server 2003 End of Support

Windows ServerJuly 14th is a day perhaps better known as Bastille Day.  History buffs might remember it as the birth day of both former US President Gerald Ford and Jim Gordon (drummer for one time super group Derek and the Dominos).  Windows focused IT pros, on the other hand will know that July 14th 2015 is when the lights go out for Windows Server 2003 (and Windows Server 2003 R2).  In less than 200 days’ time from now, Server 2003 will no longer attract bug fixes or patches.

Looking Back at Server 2003

Server 2003 was another great version of Windows Server with a wealth of new and improved features.  It was released to manufacturing in April 2003.  This release coincided with the release of Windows XP as the client operating system for both home and business users, in effect replacing Windows 98/ME.

Windows Server 2003 included a load of new and improved features including Distributed File System, support for SANs, ISCSI, NUMA and Multipath I/O.  Active directory and it’s underpinnings (including DNS) were also much improved.

Server 2003 shipped in a large number of separate SKUs: including Standard, Enterprise, Data Center and Web. Server 2003 shipped for 32-bit and 64-bit processors and for the Intel Itanium range.  In addition a number of derivative versions were also shipped, including Windows Computer cluster Windows Storage Server, Windows Home Server, Windows Server for Embedded systems and of course Small Business Server

In December 2005, Microsoft issued a major update, Windows Server 2003 R2 (which also reaches its end of life this summer coming).  The R2 version kept the same kernel and driver set of Windows Server 2003, but included a number of non-kernel improvements, including better branch office support, improved identity and access management and, in an attempt to improve manageability a free add on Services for Unix (aka SFU) was also included.

So what?

But in just a few short month, the Server 2003 party will be over.  From that all free support will cease.  There will be no further publically issued patches.  Organisations may be able to contract with Microsoft for longer support – but such contracts will be expensive (certainly more expensive than the cost of upgrading).

From August, Microsoft will issue patches for bugs that may well have been in Server 2003 – but no patches will be issued for Server 2003 itself.  These later patches provide significant input to the hackers who can use the patches to help develop malware that would target Server 2003 specifically.  At some point in the future, any Server 2003 box that is internet facing will simply not be safe (or yours).

Now of course the sky won’t fall down on the 15th of July the day after end of life.  The world will not cease to exist from then.  But from that point on, your older systems are increasingly at risk.  One could argue that IT departments and possibly the company’s management, that fail to upgrade in time and later get hacked, were negligent.  If those servers are running inside some sort of compliance regime, you may find those servers out of compliance.  In the case of PCI compliance, you could find that Visa/MasterCard may cease doing business with you – and for some companies this could mean the end of the organisation.  Other compliance regimes can impose other sanctions.  All in all, there’s little upside to continuing running Server 2003.

There may be some cases, where upgrading is difficult, if not impossible.  Server systems running certain applications or supporting specialist hardware may find that software or hardware is not supported on later versions of the OS.  It’s easy to say that you should have had a plan B for such situations and had it figured out a long time ago.  But upgrading is rapidly becoming a requirement not an option.

Upgrading to what?

So let’s assume you do want to upgrade – what do you upgrade TO?  There are a lot of factors that you need to take into account.  These include the advances in hardware and software as well as the impact of both virtualisation and the cloud.

A lot of systems still running Server 2003 and R2 are old and well ready to be retired.  Technology has improved significantly since you implemented Server 2003.  Server hardware today is significantly faster and more energy efficient.  X64 systems now allow huge amounts of RAM, and SSD disks are significantly faster.  Networking has seen speeds rise by several orders of magnitude.  The whole hardware landscape has evolved significantly.

Newer versions of Windows Server have also provided significant new features, not least of which is Hyper-V, Microsoft’s approach to virtualisation. If you are wanting to upgrade, it makes sense to go for Windows Server 2012 R2.

Virtualisation has been another huge change in the way one designs a data centre.  In the Server 2003 era, virtualisation was not all that common, with VMware being about the only serious game in town.  Whereas Virtualisation was once a niche approach, today, there’s almost no system that cannot be easily virtualised.  There are of course some exceptions to this, i.e. servers that utilise specialised hardware – but for almost all commercial applications – virtualisation should be the only option.

In summary, you should be upgrading to the latest version of the Server OS you can.  Given that upgrading to a new version may well incur costs relating to the new Operating System – you might as well get the latest version (Server 2012 R2).  Besides the obvious feature benefits, Server 2012 R2 mean your next upgrade will be as far away as you can get!

It might be tempting to just wait for the next version of Windows Server (aka Windows Server 10).  But since Microsoft announced that this version would not ship for another year – you are going to be at risk till you can get the final version.  You could just go live on the beta versions – but going live on beta server software seems to me to be even riskier!  Waiting for the next server release is possible – but certainly a risky plan.

Your Upgrade Project

Gartner reckons it can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months to carry out an upgrade.  Now for some simple scenarios (a Server 2003 File and Print server), moving to the Server 2012 R2 for those features is going to be pretty simple.  But moving LOB of apps is likely to be harder.  And of course, almost every organisation has a number of applications that may not be simple or straight forward to upgrade.

To assist in the Upgrade, Microsoft has a couple of really helpful packages.  The first is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (AKA MAP). Microsoft say: “The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is an agentless inventory, assessment and reporting tool that can securely assess IT environments for various platform migrations”.  You can get the MAP toolkit for free from Microsoft at: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/solutionaccelerators/dd537566.aspx.  This tool should help you to assess your network with respect to upgrading from Server 2003.  It will also help you to plan your project.

Another tool that can be useful as part of an Upgrade Project is the Application Compatibility Toolkit.  Microsoft describe the ACT kit as:  “a lifecycle management tool that assists in identifying and managing your overall application portfolio, reducing the cost and time involved in resolving application compatibility issues and helping you quickly deploy Windows and Windows updates.”  The ACT helps you to identify the applications within your overall application portfolio and to evaluate the upgrade.  The ACT also enables you to ‘fix’ applications so that they run properly in the latest versions of MS operating systems.  As such this tool will be invaluable in making older applications work without having to do costly upgrades.

The ACT and MAP tool sets do overlap a bit but both are extremely valuable.  And they are also both free.  Having said that, undertaking an analysis of your existing network, a step you really need to take as part of upgrading, can take time.  It’s NOT an overnight task.  And what’s more, you may find a whole lot of applications that are both critical to the business or some part of the business but are totally unknown to IT.  You need time to assess these applications and to plan for moving these applications forward.

Get Started SOON

If you are still running Server 2003 in any shape or form – you should have an upgrade strategy.  You should work out what you are going to upgrade, and what to.  This is not necessarily a fast process.  It can take weeks to work out all the applications you have and analyse each and every one for upgrade potential.  And where upgrading to a new OS means an upgraded or a totally new application suite, you can find the upgrade process is going to be longer.

So, bottom line: if you haven’t started now – you are going to be hard pressed to finish in time.  Get moving.

Of course a great first step is to become certified in Windows Server 2012 R2.  It only takes 2 minutes to register for our 13th April Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 MCSA or any of our official Microsoft courses.

About the author: Thomas Lee is a long standing IT Pro consultant, author and trainer.  He has had a consulting practice since the late 1980s after leaving what is now called Accenture.  Thomas has co-authored several books as well as writing for magazines such as BackOffice Magazine and PC Pro.  He has also spoken at Microsoft TechEd across the world.


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.


SQL Server 2014 Licence Key

We had a question via a comment on one of our SQL Server 2014 blog posts.  It’s a little hard to answer because it lacks specific details such as part number and reseller but we like to try to answer questions.

“my company have bought 1 license sql 2014 and cd i download from website. during setup i need to insert product key. how to i get the license?”

Thanks for your query.  There are a few factors to consider which will help establish an answer:

1 – What website did you buy SQL 2014 from?  Was it a reputable reseller such as Insight or Ebuyer?  If you purchased the software through a site such as eBay, it may be that you were sold a pirated copy.
2 – What product did you buy?  Did you buy SQL Server 2014 Standard Edition Server licence or a SQL Server 2014 client access licence (CAL) or the SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition?  The price you paid (assuming it was from a legitimate reseller) will give you a clue; the standard server product with 10 CALs would be around £2,500-£3,000 whereas the developer edition would be around £50.

If you did purchase from a legitimate reseller, and was shipped a DVD in a box, then this is classed as full packaged product (FPP) and the product key to use on installation will typically be on a sticker on the DVD case.  It will be 25 alphanumeric characters in the form xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx.

In any case, your first port of call for help could either be the reseller you purchased this from or Microsoft support who can both advise you if the product is legal and legitimate and help you with the installation.  They can be reached on (+44) 344 800 2400.  You can also log a web support incident via Microsoft’s support page.

You can download a white paper on licensing Microsoft SQL Server or of course look into attending one of our licensing courses.


Save the Photographs!

My wife takes digital photos and downloads them onto her laptop.  Then she deletes them from the camera.  If you have ever taken a hard-drive apart, on those rainy days to avoid doing dull IT tasks, you’ll know how fragile they are.  Lots of memories on those small platters of film.  No matter how many external hard drives I buy, or funny-shaped USB sticks to persuade her to back up her files, she never does.  So it’s with great anticipation that Microsoft Azure Backup Vaults now support Windows client OS (Windows 7 and Windows 8) as well as Windows Server.

Windows Client backup to Azure

 

If you’re a techie, you might be thinking why didn’t I set up a home active directory domain on an HP Microserver, back-up the client devices that log-on, including my wife’s laptop, and then back the server and thus the client files up to Azure?  Well, I did but the big blue light on the front on the Microserver started to annoy me at night because it was really bright so I keep turning it off and that’s not really a good infrastructure decision.

Let’s walk through how to set your home pc to back-up to the Azure cloudy goodness.  A couple of basics first; you will need an Azure subscription and this back-up solution will cost you money.  However, backups are compressed, encrypted, triple-replicated inside Microsoft’s datacenters and once you’ve set up your back-up schedule, it’s automatic.  And think of your photographic memories safe and sound (although of course you should periodically test your recovery processes as well).

Log onto www.azure.com and go to the Azure portal.  Select Recovery Services and create a new Backup Vault.  Once you have your vault, the dashboard will show you the next steps to take.

Azure backup vault dashboard

 

The client machine needs to register with the Azure Backup Vault.  A few months ago this required creating a certificate but now Azure simply provides a credentials file to download and save onto your local machine.  Next, download the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent onto the local pc and run it.  The Azure portal provides two options for the backup agent; pick the first option (Windows Server or System Center Data Protection Manager or Windows Client).  The setup wizard is going to ask about proxy settings and will also download the pre-requisites but typically on a home network, you’ll be able to breeze through accepting the defaults.

Azure backup agent installation

 

Azure backup agent installation

 

Azure backup agent installation

 

The final step allows you to Proceed to Registration (or you can Close the setup but if you’re ready to schedule the backup, you may as well proceed to register your pc with the backup vault).  The backup agent will ask for the vault credentials file that you downloaded and then you’ll need to specify a passphrase.  This will be used for encrypting the data before transfer to Azure.  Note the data is encrypted on the client device and stored in Azure encrypted.  Microsoft do not hold the passphrase so it’s vital this is kept safe and secure otherwise you’ll only be able to restore encrypted data.  In fact, the agent will not let you proceed to the next step until the passphrase is saved to another location.

Azure backup agent

Once you’ve registered the server (the agent still refers to your client pc as a server; can’t change everything overnight), the Azure Backup app will be started and you can set your backup schedule.

Azure backup app

The wizard is pretty straight-forward to navigate; you select the items from you local pc to backup (note that Azure will only backup the data that changes after the initial backup).

Azure backup app

The next step is to set up the frequency of the backup, i.e. when it will run, and how long Azure will retain the backups for.  A recent change was the increase of the maximum retention period to 3,360 days; essentially about 9 years so this is an archiving solution as well as a disaster recovery.  However, remember your costs.  Even though Azure backup will compress the data before storage, the more backups you keep, the more storage you’ll use and the higher the monthly cost.  There’s also a limit of 120 recovery points so you may need to balance the frequency with the retention range or you’ll get an error message when you hit the Next button.  For example, the screenshot below is trying to backup once a week and keep these recovery points for 9 years which would easily exceed 120 points.  However, if I set the frequency to monthly (4 weekly to be exact), I’d be fine.

Azure backup app

There’s also a size limit of 1700GB per volume to each backup operation (so if you’re backing up files from multiple drives, you have around 1.7TB from each).  You can stop the backup or change the items to backup and then schedule by clicking Schedule Backup in the main Azure Backup application window.

Recovering items is also straightforward; you can specify the recovery point (date) to restore from and which items you want to restore.  You can also restore these items to the original location or a new location.

Back in the Azure portal, you can see the registered server (or in this case client pc) and also view the protected items and the recovery points.  You can register up to 50 machines against each backup vault and as of December 2014, you can have up to 25 backup vaults per Azure subscription.

Azure backup protected items

And just as a final part to this blog, we have to thanks one of our trainers, Thomas Lee who scored this coup by asking nicely for it!


Windows Per-User Licensing

We recently wrote a blog for Microsoft explaining the new Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS).  ECS includes a licence called Windows SA per-user.  You can read the post on the Microsoft UK Volume Licensing site.  In this post, I want to delve a little deeper into how Windows licensing can work on a per-user basis.

Windows and Office have historically been licenced per-device; the machine you use these on had to have a licence.  Software Assurance provided a little bit of flexibility by allowing roaming rights in which the primary user of a licenced device could access the software from outside of the work domain (e.g. at home).  However, mobility is the new norm.  People work on lots of devices and in lots of locations and licensing software per-device is very limiting in these instances.  Office 365 has seen enormous success with per-user licensing (overtaking the number of seats of traditional Office 2013) and Windows 8.1 can now also offer a similar flexibility.

Let’s cover some facts first:

  1. Per-device licensing is not going away and there are myriad cases where it’s preferable; for example libraries, hospitals, warehouses, etc. where many people use the same device.
  2. Office 365 allows 5 local installations of the full Office applications for the licensed user.  Windows per-user allows the user to install Windows 8.1 on an unlimited number of devices for their own use, subject to some pre-requisites which I’ll detail in this blog post.
  3. Windows per-user is not a cloud based service like Office 365.  It can therefore enjoy downgrade rights so the user could install Windows 7 in place of Windows 8.1 for example.
  4. Windows per-user is a subscription licence.  If the subscription is not continued, the licence expires and Windows must be uninstalled.  Whether there’s a mechanism to check for the subscription and remove functionality as there is with Office 365, I don’t know at the moment.
  5. Windows per-user is only available through Enterprise Agreements at the moment so it’s not a case of popping to PC World and buying Windows 8.1 per-user I’m afraid.

I’ll start by looking at some current scenarios.  That will highlight some limitations which ECS can address.

Windows 8.1 is licenced per-device.

Anyone at all can use Windows on the device, anywhere at all (e.g. at work or at home).  It helps to have the device-owner’s permission but that’s just politeness and not a licensing requirement.

Windows 8.1 licenced per device

Running Windows 8.1 virtually.

Many organisations utilise virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) whereby the client OS is not locally installed on the licenced device but stored on a network server and then remotely accessed by the user.  If the Windows 8.1 licence for the device includes Software Assurance (SA), these virtual rights, known as Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) come as a benefit of the SA.  In this way, a user can access a virtual Windows desktop through VDI from a licenced Windows device.  This is fairly simple if the device is corporate-owned, for example, a laptop provided by the company for the user.  If the user wants to use their own (or a 3rd party) device to access their virtual Windows desktop, SA provides roaming rights to the primary user so they can access their desktop from outside work but 3rd party devices cannot be used to access virtual Windows desktops from within the corporate network, i.e. at work.  The primary user is defined as being the person who uses a pc for more than half the time in any 90-day period.  Let’s mention a few scenarios: the user can use their main work desktop pc whilst in the office; they can also access a virtual Windows desktop from their personal pc at home using VDI; they could also use a corporate laptop to access a virtual Windows desktop both at work and outside work (as long as the laptop is also licenced for Windows); they could not however bring their personal devices into work and access a virtual Windows desktop.  I can sense you’re frowning so time for an illustration.

Windows 8.1 VDI licensing scenarios

In summary:

  1. Anyone can use Windows 8.1 locally on a licenced device, anywhere, no matter who owns the device.
  2. To use Windows virtually, the user must be a primary user of a device licenced with Windows 8.1 + SA and furthermore if the device on which the virtual desktop is being accessed is not owned by the company with the Windows 8.1 SA licence, it must be used outside the workplace.

Windows 8.1 licenced per-user still requires a licenced device.

Windows per-user isn’t exactly a case of licensing a user.  The user must already be the primary user of a device already licenced with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro.  Then that user is eligible to be licenced for Windows 8.1 per-user.  What if the user doesn’t have a primary device that is already licenced with Windows Pro?  There is an alternative called Windows VDA per-user which negates the requirement for a licenced device but as you can imagine is priced higher because Microsoft can’t count on the underlying Windows licence.  So we end up with two choices: Windows SA per-user or Windows VDA per-user.

Ways to obtain Windows per-user

Whichever way you choose, the licensing benefits are the same.  Firstly, it gets around the ‘cannot bring a 3rd party device into work and access Windows’ restriction.  Secondly it allows the licenced user to install Windows 8.1 onto any number of devices.  Yes, that’s pretty generous isn’t it?  I mentioned in the facts at the start of this post there are some pre-requisites and the condition for installing Windows is that on devices with a screen size of 10.1″ and above, there must already be a Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro licence.  Even if the device already has a Windows 8.1 Pro licence, Windows per-user allows you to install Windows 8.1 Enterprise and you can access virtual Windows desktops from inside and outside work.  Time for a final illustration.

Running Windows when licenced per-user

That’s a lot of green and green is good unless we’re drinking milk.  The only red is that you cannot install Windows 8.1 on an iPhone, iPad or Android device but you can run it virtually.

In summary, there are still a few things to bear in mind, for example underlying Windows device licences don’t quite go away in most cases, but licensing Windows for a user gives enormous flexibility in allowing people to work wherever they are, whatever the device is and whoever it’s owned by.