Blog Archive

More Free Events for Partners

man_spyglass_books_1600_clr_17479

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face a complex and changing landscape when it comes to understanding all of the different ways new technologies can help their businesses.

Many Microsoft partners are capitalising on the opportunity to grow their businesses by expanding their roles to that of a trusted advisor and business consultant — looking for ways to help SMBs modernise across the IT platform.

Microsoft is focused on helping you deliver solutions that address your customers’ key goals and business challenges. So you can use technology to help make them be more successful, whether by improving operational efficiency, protecting data, helping employees be more productive, or better connecting with customers. In fact, only Microsoft offers a complete platform with the flexibility to deliver the solutions your customer’s need, from server to cloud, desktop to mobile devices.

ModernBiz Technical Series

The ModernBiz Technical Series provides training, demonstrations and hands-on instruction on how to use the latest Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions to SMB organisations. This set of training courses is designed to prepare Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners to help customers get the benefits of the modern business by providing solutions and services that span the entire IT ecosystem, from server, to cloud, to devices.

In this training, you will:

  • Get hands-on experience: With a focus on building real-world solutions, this training consists of presentations, demos, and hands-on labs.
  • Get the skills you need to build real-world SMB solutions: This technical series is designed specifically for partners working with SMB customers to build solutions using the latest products and technologies from Microsoft.

Any of the ModernBiz Technical Series courses can be attended as a standalone course or as a part of the complete series.

Who should participate: The ModernBiz Technical Series course is for Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners who work with small and midsize organisations. The training is designed for those who are ready to learn more about meeting the technical needs of SMBs with Microsoft solutions.

Audience: IT Professionals, Consultants, SMB Resellers

Level: 200 (Technical) This training aligns to the Microsoft ModernBiz campaign for SMB partners.

There are free one or two day courses for each of these key technology areas.

Current Schedule:

South:

Grow Efficiently Track 1 – 12th January (Reading)

Grow Efficiently Track 2 – 13th January (Reading)

Grow Efficiently Track 3 – 26th January (Reading)

Business Anywhere – 27th January (Reading)

Grow Efficiently Track 1 – 2nd February (London)

Grow Efficiently Track 2 – 10th February (London)

Grow Efficiently Track 3 – 11th February (London)

Connect with Customers Track 1 – 1st March (Reading)

Connect with Customers Track 2 – 2nd March (Reading)

Safeguard your Business – 8th March (London)

Business Anywhere – 9th March (London)

Grow Efficiently Track 1 – 22nd March (Reading)

Midlands:

Grow Efficiently Track 1 – 3rd February (Birmingham)

Grow Efficiently Track 2 – 16th March (Birmingham)

North:

Grow Efficiently Track 1 – 4th February (Manchester)

Business Anywhere – 15th March (Manchester)

Scotland:

Grow Efficiently Track 1 – 19th January (Edinburgh)

Grow Efficiently Track 2 – 20th January (Edinburgh)

Grow Efficiently Track 3 – 24th February (Edinburgh)

Business Anywhere – 25th February (Edinburgh)

 

Grow Efficiently

These courses are designed to help you migrate customers off legacy infrastructure and get the most out of their technology. Example topics are Windows Server 2012 on-premises, Azure infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Windows 10, Office 365, and Azure.

Grow Efficiently Track 1 is designed to teach you how to migrate SMB customers off of legacy infrastructure to either Windows Server 2012 on-premises or Azure IaaS

Track 2 covers how to migrate SMB customers to Windows 10 and get started with Office 365

Track 3 teaches how to integrate on-premises infrastructure with Microsoft Azure

Safeguard Your Business

In this track, learn how to use the latest Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions that help SMBs protect company information and improve business continuity. Modules in this track include Azure Backup and ASR, Securing Windows 10, Data Loss Prevention in Office 365, eDiscovery and Archiving in Office 365, and Office 365 and Azure AD Premium RMS.

Connect with Customers

These training modules cover Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as well as Office 365 collaborative services.

Track 1 is devoted to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, including Introduction to CRM Online, CRM Online Integration with Office 365, and CRM Online Integration with Power BI

Track 2 teaches how to implement Office 365 collaborative services and business intelligence to solve business problems. Example modules include Modern Collaboration, SQL Server 2014 Data Platform, Azure Relational Database Services, Creating and Exploring a Power BI Dashboard, and Reporting from On-premises Analysis Services with Power BI.

Business Anywhere

Here, you’ll learn how to enable SMBs to work from anywhere on any device. Topics include Windows 10 Management (with IE 11 and Edge); Mobile Device and Identity Management with Intune, EMS, and Office 365; Remote Desktop Service and Azure Remote App; Deploying Office 365 ProPlus; Skype for Business Conferencing; and Securing Windows 10.

Imageframe are pleased to be running many of these courses so come along and say hi!

Keep up to date with these and more on the Microsoft Partner Network UK blog.


Free Technical Events for Partners

man_spyglass_books_1600_clr_17479

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face a complex and changing landscape when it comes to understanding all of the different ways new technologies can help their businesses.

Many Microsoft partners are capitalising on the opportunity to grow their businesses by expanding their roles to that of a trusted advisor and business consultant — looking for ways to help SMBs modernise across the IT platform.

Microsoft is focused on helping you deliver solutions that address your customers’ key goals and business challenges.  So you can use technology to help make them be more successful, whether by improving operational efficiency, protecting data, helping employees be more productive, or better connecting with customers.  In fact, only Microsoft offers a complete platform with the flexibility to deliver the solutions your customer’s need, from server to cloud, desktop to mobile devices.

ModernBiz Technical Series

The ModernBiz Technical Series provides training, demonstrations and hands-on instruction on how to use the latest Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions to SMB organisations.  This set of training courses is designed to prepare Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners to help customers get the benefits of the modern business by providing solutions and services that span the entire IT ecosystem, from server, to cloud, to devices.

In this training, you will:

  • Get hands-on experience: With a focus on building real-world solutions, this training consists of presentations, demos, and hands-on labs.
  • Get the skills you need to build real-world SMB solutions: This technical series is designed specifically for partners working with SMB customers to build solutions using the latest products and technologies from Microsoft.

Any of the ModernBiz Technical Series courses can be attended as a standalone course or as a part of the complete series.

Who should participate: The ModernBiz Technical Series course is for Microsoft value-added reseller (VAR) partners who work with small and midsize organisations.  The training is designed for those who are ready to learn more about meeting the technical needs of SMBs with Microsoft solutions.

Audience: IT Professionals, Consultants, SMB Resellers

Level: 200 (Technical) This training aligns to the Microsoft ModernBiz campaign for SMB partners.

There are free one or two day courses for each of these key technology areas.

Current Schedule:

South:

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 19th October (London)

Connect With Customers – 26th October (Reading)

Business Anywhere – 27th October (Reading)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 3rd & 4th November (Bristol)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 9th & 10th November (Reading)

Safeguard Your Business – 16th November (London)

Safeguard Your Business – 1st December (Reading)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 7th & 8th December (London)

 

Midlands:

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 7th October (Birmingham)

Business Anywhere – 18th November (Birmingham)

 

North:

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 5th October (York)

Business Anywhere – 6th October (Manchester)

Connect With Customers – 19th November (Manchester)

Grow Efficiently Track 2 – 25th November (York)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB – 15th December (Manchester)

 

Scotland:

Business Anywhere – 12th October (Edinburgh)

Connect With Customers – 13th October (Edinburgh)

Microsoft Cloud for SMB and Grow Efficiently Track 2 (2day) – 23rd & 24th November (Edinburgh)

Imageframe are pleased to be running many of these courses so come along and say hi!

Keep up to date with these and more on the Microsoft Partner Network UK blog.


How to Coexist A and D VMs in Azure

Microsoft Azure LogoMicrosoft Azure virtual machines are not the same as on-premises VMs.  Steve Plank’s excellent blog post on the difference between Azure Cloud Services and Azure VMs goes some way to explaining the reason why.  Bearing this in mind there are some common questions which only make sense when you think about how Azure services work.

Many customers have mentioned that they can’t change between an A series VM and a D series, or they can’t mix A and D series within the same cloud service.  However, it’s entirely possible to do both of those.

Firstly, why would you need to?  Let’s take a customer who has moved an on-premises line-of-business server application onto Microsoft Azure to take advantage of the cost-efficiency, super-reliable data centres and the ability to scale.  The customer has started with a Standard-tier A2 compute unit (11p per hour for 2 cores and 3.5GB RAM) but after their data volumes increase they find the IOPS from hard disk drives are becoming a bottleneck so they’d like to move the workload onto a D series to enjoy increased throughput from solid-state drives.

Having created the VM as an A2 in a new Azure virtual network or cloud service, they find that when they log on to the Azure portal and try to scale the VM up, D series machines aren’t available.

Scale Azure VMs

 

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.

Warning for Azure A Series Cloud service

 

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.

Azure mixed VMs in a single cloud service

 

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.


Azure Direct to Azure in Open

Moving vanThere 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:

  1. Log into https://account.windowsazure.com using the Live ID of the account owner or delegate for the new Open subscription
  2. 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.
  3. Select the subscription for which you want to change the Service-Administrator
  4. Click on Edit Subscription Details on the right hand side of the page
  5. 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.


How to Price Azure Backup

Safe backupAzure Backup is a great feature for simple disaster recovery to the cloud.  As with many of the Azure services, it improved and can now retain backups for a silly 99 years.  The pricing model originally depended on the total storage that was backed up but it was a lot more expensive than simple Azure storage and that made long-term retention uneconomical.  Pricing changed in April to reflect a more logical, but harder to understand, model.

Azure Backup differs from Azure Storage because it’s a service which includes bandwidth for transferring the data, the backup agent, compression and encryption.  You could simply run an on-site backup and copy up the backup files to Azure storage but you would not have encryption, you would need to manually perform the upload to cloud and if you wanted to restore any files, you might incur bandwidth charges.

The Azure pricing calculator is rather confusing but essentially when pricing Azure Backup you have the following two steps:

First, determine what you are protecting and how large each instance is.  You might be protecting a Virtual machine (this could be on-premises Hyper-V or an Azure virtual machine, Windows or Linux).  You might be protecting a Windows Server (perhaps running a server application or just a file server).  Finally, you might be protecting a Windows client machine as we blogged about previously.  Note that instances should all be 64-bit and some workloads, especially application servers like SQL Server or Exchange, will require System Center Data Protection Manager.

How to calculate Azure backup cost

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:

Instance Size Cost
 Windows Server 300GB £6.109
 Windows 7 laptop  45GB £3.0545
 Linux virtual machine 30GB £3.0545

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).

How to calculate Azure backup cost

 

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.

 


Azure Cost Estimator v2.0

Azure cost toolThe most common question we get when running Microsoft Azure events is “why are you wearing those ridiculous trousers?”

The second most common question is “How much does Azure cost?”

My favourite analogy is to compare Azure to a box of Lego. Lego isn’t in the business of selling boxes of Lego; go into a toy store and you’ll see a racing car or spaceship or a cityscape or the Sydney Opera House. Think of Azure services like hundreds of Lego blocks and rather than trying to describe this to people (“I have a box of Lego, what would you like it to be?”), create your own scenarios and solutions (“I have a site-to-cloud VPN with 5TB bandwidth”, “I have a high availability SharePoint web farm”, “I have cloud protection for 20 Hyper-V virtual machines”).

The benefit of describing Azure in terms of solutions is that you can price them, market them to whomever is paying for them and very importantly, you can automate them with PowerShell and XML which makes them easy to set-up, move, scale, etc..

A big part of creating these solutions is determining how much they will cost. There are several Azure pricing tools available; Azure.com, a more detailed cost estimator, and the new Azure scenario tool which we’re describing in this blog post.

The tool has two sides to it.  The first is an agent which profiles real-world machine hardware usage and uses that information to recommend the most appropriate Azure set-up and generate a 31-day cost estimate.  The second side is to choose from a selection of Azure scenarios (some of which are pictured below) or putting together your own package.  This menu of scenarios will grow over time as more are added to Azure documentation or come to light from customer and partner suggestions.

Estimator scenarios

The tool can download current Azure pricing with a click of button and it works in multiple currencies (24 at the time of writing).  You can also generate a report on the detailed infrastructure cost broken down by compute, bandwidth, data, support, etc.  Scenarios can be exported to XML but unfortunately there’s no way yet to use this generated file with PowerShell to automate the set-up of a particular package.

The scan agent supports Microsoft technologies (Hyper-V, SCVMM), VMware technologies (vCenter, ESXi) and physical environments (Windows and Linux).  Future updates may include XEN Server support and the option to import workloads from from MAP and vSphere.

Download the tool today from and if you have any useful feedback or suggestions please email feedbackAzureCalc@microsoft.com.


Microsoft Azure RemoteApp Overview

Microsoft Azure Logo

We’ll cover a technical look at RemoteApp in an upcoming blog post but in this post we examine what Azure RemoteApp provides and how to licence it.

Why is RemoteApp Useful?

According to Microsoft, around 75% of employees bring technology of their own to work and nearly 30% of employees use three or more devices at work. These employees clearly want to access corporate resources from their devices. One way for IT to provide this is through desktop and application virtualization where the device is merely used as a ‘window’ to the user’s full Windows Desktop running remotely on a server somewhere. So a user could be sitting in their favourite coffee shop, using their iPad, viewing and interacting with their company pc desktop and applications.

There may be times when the employee doesn’t need access to an entire desktop session but just wants to run a business application virtually. Azure RemoteApp allows IT to deliver virtual application sessions from the cloud. If the distinction isn’t quite clear, imagine sitting in front of your pc or laptop and seeing your Windows start button, background picture and the huge amounts of icons and shortcuts on your messy desktop (unless you’re one of those tidy-desktop people). Now imagine doing exactly the same but from a different device, such as your home pc, iPad or Windows Tablet. You’re seeing your entire desktop and then you would run applications, etc.

Now imagine using your iPad, home PC or Windows tablet and you have a shortcut to a business application that you need for work. Your run that application and you see the application’s window on your device as if it was a native application installed locally. That’s RemoteApp.

You should now understand the first advantage; IT don’t need to virtualize and expose entire desktops, but just collections of applications.

Secondly, at the time of writing, Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) are primarily for hosting middle-tier applications. You wouldn’t spin up an Azure VM and pop client software on it and allow lots of users to remote desktop into it. Technically it can work but an Azure VM only includes 2 Remote Desktop Session (RDS) licences so any more than two people connecting at a time requires additional RDS licences. Azure VMs are good for hosting the middle-tier applications that client (front-end) applications will connect to. The front-end applications might be a Windows application or a web-based application.

Azure RemoteApp is designed to vitualise a client-application to multiple users from the cloud and all the necessary infrastructure licences are included, including all the RDS licences.

So could a customer deploy Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus onto Azure and deliver it virtually to users via RemoteApp. Yes, in fact here’s a nice little webcast from the Office team stating just that. Office on-premises is still licensed per-device and doesn’t allow licence mobility so Office licences acquired on-premises can’t be used for Azure RemoteApp service; it’s just Office 365 ProPlus.

We must be clear here about the applications that are supported; RemoteApp delivers applications running on Windows Server in Microsoft Azure. Applications must therefore be compatible with Windows Server 2012 R2.

Azure RemoteApp has a selection of pre-built application collections to choose from or IT can upload template images to the Azure management portal. Users obtain the appropriate Azure RemoteApp client for their device via http://remoteapp.azure.com. When they launch the client they are then prompted to login, where they can choose to authenticate with either their corporate credentials, Microsoft account (e.g. Outlook.com) or their Azure Active Directory account. After authenticating, the user will see the applications their IT Admin has given them access to and can then launch whichever application they require.

Each user has 50GB for persistent user data and because Microsoft is using RemoteFX technology here, users will get a great experience: applications will support keyboard, mouse, local storage, touch and some plug-and-play peripherals on Windows client devices. Other platforms will only support keyboard, mouse and touch. Local USB storage devices, smartcard readers, local and network printers are supported and the RemoteApp application will be able to utilize multiple monitors of the client the same way a local application can.

How is Azure RemoteApp Priced?

In order to get started with Azure RemoteApp, you will need an Azure account. Azure RemoteApp is priced per user and is billed on a monthly basis.

The service is offered at two tiers: Basic and Standard. Basic is designed for lighter weight applications (e.g. for task workers). Standard is designed for information workers to run productivity applications (e.g. Office).

The service price includes the required licensing cost for Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services but it doesn’t include the application licence, for example you still need an Office licence if you wish to use that. The bandwidth used to connect to the remote applications (both in and out) as well as bandwidth used by the applications themselves is also included with the service.

Each service has a starting price that includes 40 hours of connectivity per user. Thereafter, a per-hour charge is applied for each hour up to a capped price per user. You won’t pay for any additional usage after the capped price in a given month.  Azure RemoteApp billing is pro-rated per day in case you remove a user’s access part-way through a month.

Microsoft Azure RemoteApp

As we mentioned, you create app collections which contain the applications you wish to run and you can assign these collections to a set of users. Currently you can create up to 3 app collections per customer and each app collection will be billed at a minimum of 20 users. If you have less users, you’ll still be billed for 20. Hopefully this will change as it’s a bit of an Achilles’ heel for small businesses. RemoteApp basic scales to 400 users per collection and RemoteApp standard scales to 250. If you want to extend any of these limits, or if you want users to access more than one app collection, you’ll need to contact Azure support.

We must reiterate that the customer is responsible for complying with use rights of the applications they bring onto the RemoteApp service. This includes Office and as you can see at the bottom of this table, Office ProPlus can be utilized as one of the installs for licenced users and this is treated as Shared Computer Activation.

Most existing 32-bit or 64-bit Windows-based applications run “as is” in RemoteApp but there is a difference between running and running well.  There’s guidance on the RemoteApp documentation pages at azure.com.

So in summary:
• Azure RemoteApp is priced per user per month
• The service is offered at two tiers: Basic and Standard
• Basic is designed for light-weight applications
• Standard is designed to run productivity applications
• Each service has a starting price that includes 40 hours of service per user
• Thereafter, an hourly charge is applied for each user hour, up to a capped price per user
• No charge for any additional usage above the capped price in a given month


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.


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!