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Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Bootcamp Content



We recently had the pleasure of co-presenting a series of bootcamp events for Microsoft resellers alongside HP and Zynstra.  The content covered Windows Server 2012 R2, Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Service Provider Licence Agreements (SPLA), HP Hardware and Zynstra cloud appliances.

If you would find the content useful, we’ve made the available for you to download: the Microsoft and Zynstra slides and the HP slides.  Nothing like attending an event in person of course so if this kind of event is of interest to you please do contact us as there may be some upcoming events we can let you know about.


Activate Office 365 Partner Features



A question from David in Romford: How does a partner activate the Office 365 control panel for all their clients?

The partner features enable you to act as a delegated admin on behalf of your customer’s account; useful tasks such as adding new users, assigning licences, resetting passwords and raising support calls to Microsoft.  The partner features also allow you to create and send purchase offers and trial invitations for Office 365 plans and packages.

The process of activating the partner features is simple enough to set up but varies depending on whether you have an online account (Intune or Office 365) already or not.

I explain the process in Webinar 2 of the Building an Office 365 Practice series we ran in conjunction with Ingram Micro (partner features are explained at 40’44 into the video).  You can also view a (slightly outdated) presentation from Microsoft which includes a bit more detail and extra screenshots.

 

Activate Office 365 Partner Features

Windows 8.1 Enterprise without SA



Windows 8.1

Historically Windows Enterprise edition was only available by attaching Software Assurance (SA) to Windows Professional edition.  The Enterprise edition was never directly listed on the pricelist or listed as an OEM product.  From the 1st March 2014, Windows 8.1 Enterprise is now on the pricelist without needing to pay the recurring Software Assurance annuity.  For volume licensing (VL), this only affects Open and Select Plus programs because all the other VL programs include SA.

Customers who buy through the Open or Select Plus programs can therefore save some money and still get the benefits of Windows 8.1 Enterprise.  What’s the difference between Windows 8.1 Enterprise licence only and Windows 8.1 Enterprise with SA?

We’ll describe Software Assurance in more detail in a forthcoming blog but in a nutshell, you get all the extra technologies with Enterprise but none of the licence modifications that are required to enjoy those technical benefits.  The technical benefits for Windows 8.1 Enterprise include Windows To Go creator, Start screen control, DirectAccess, BranchCache, AppLocker, Virtual Desktop infrastructure (VDI) enhancements and Enterprise Sideloading.  However you’ll still need SA to modify the licence rights to take advantage of VDI or Windows To Go.  So you won’t be able to fully utilise Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) without SA.  VDA is the ability to store the client operating systems on a server instead of directly on the desktop pc or laptop so the user can use any licensed device to access their Windows desktop.  A form of thin client computing which gives IT much more control over the deployments.

This volume licensing brief provides further detail.

Both Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise through VL are still upgrades and they require a qualifying underlying operating system.  Also customers will be able to add SA onto Windows 8.1 Pro OEM licences up until July 1, 2014.  The brief actually says the PC needs to have been purchased before July 1st but of course customers should be ok to add SA up to 90 days afterwards.


1TB for OneDrive for Business



Microsoft OneDrive for BusinessMicrosoft are announcing increased storage from 25GB to 1TB per user for all OneDrive for Business customers.  This includes customers that have OneDrive for Business as part of their Office 365 ProPlus subscription.

Although this is immediate, it may take a few months to roll the change out to all customers.

You can read the full release in the Office.com blog.


I Survived Windows XP End of Life!



The world hasn’t ended; cats and dogs still hate each other; there’ll be another series of the X-Factor (the apocalypse has its upside).  You are thinking the Windows XP end of life was a bit of a Y2K scare.  Perhaps it was and we can only hope.

But April 8th wasn’t the date you had to be worried about.  May 13th is.

Patch Tuesday is the day every month that Microsoft releases patches for their software.  Patch Tuesday is always the second Tuesday of each month.  April 8th 2014 was a Patch Tuesday and May 13th is the next one.  So on May 13th, Microsoft are likely to release security updates to their supported operating systems which describe and overcome vulnerabilities.  Those lovely little script kiddies around the world will read the updates and assume the vulnerabilities might also apply to unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP.  They will then attempt to exploit these because they know they will not be fixed.

Think about the recent Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL.  As soon as this was made public, untold numbers of malware writers rushed to take advantage of it before the affected servers were patched.  Now imagine if those web servers were never patched.  Welcome to the fun world of unsupported software.

The Microsoft Security Intelligence Report analyses threats, vulnerabilities and malware using data from Internet services and over 600 million computers worldwide.  Volume 15 of the report included some intriguing graphs.  Many people argue that Windows XP is more vulnerable because it has been around longer and is attacked to a greater extent.  However, the diagram below (click to enlarge) shows the operating systems are attacked at a fairly even rate (right) and worryingly Windows XP is far more susceptible to attacks (left).  This may be because anti-virus wasn’t included in the OS (until Windows Defender in Windows 7) or because people might be more lacklustre in patching old machines.

Infection rates across Microsoft OSs

 

The graph below provides a historic take on why you should be concerned.  The blue line shows the level of infections rose dramatically when Windows XP service pack 2 (SP2) went end of life and we can only assume the same behaviour will occur for Windows XP SP3 (the final service pack).

Graph showing Malware attacks on Windows XP SP2

 

 

 

 

 

You can check the support lifecycle of all Microsoft software through their Support Lifecycle Search.


Another Name Change



Microsoft Azure LogoMicrosoft has a real habit of changing the names of products and technologies.  One could believe there’s an entire department devoted to the practice.  There isn’t of course because if there were, we wouldn’t have the same codenames for different technologies and the names would be more consistent.

Sometimes, names are changed because of legal action (SkyDrive became OneDrive due to Sky taking Microsoft to court).

Sometimes it makes sense.  Windows Azure became Microsoft Azure in late March and this is a good thing because Azure has grown and is no longer just about Windows services or infrastructure in the cloud.

Whatever the reason for the name changes, I can’t help thinking about the huge amount of collateral we now need to change to keep it up to date.


Do Office 365 Keys Expire?



Person recording a podcastA question from Daniel: “I am sure that one of you mentioned that it’s possible to purchase Office 365 keys in advance under Open and FPP and have up to 5 years to activate them.  Could you please confirm that as we have a client who is interested in buying 3 year term instead of 12 month subscription.”

This is a very common question and there are two terms to remember here.

 

1 – You have five years to redeem (activate) an Office 365 key after the purchase date

2 – You cannot have more than 2 years’ Office 365 service at a time

So if a customer with 100 users has an amount of cash they wish to use in a financial period and they’d like to buy Office 365 plan E3 in advance for several years they can purchase 5 x Office 365 E3 100 user keys.  Office 365 uses dynamic keys, for example if a customer has 25 users, they will receive one 25-digit activation key which will enable all 25 users licences when that key is redeemed.  This also applies to a customer with 100 users: 1 activation key.  So for our example you don’t want to buy 500 E3 licences as that will result in one activation key for 500 users.  Instead, purchase 5 lots of E3 SKUs for 100 users.  That will result in 5 activation keys.  Use the first key in year 1, then when your office 365 service is coming up for renewal pop up to the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Centre (VLSC) and get the next key for year 2 and so on.

There are risks to this.  Many cloud services have gone down in price so the customer may be losing out by buying future years in advance.  And if they need to downsize to less than 100 users, they can’t change those keys.

Lastly, let’s examine the evidence here as I like to include my sources where possible.

The “Office 365 Open & FPP Business Policy and Service Activation Partner Guide” dated December 2013 lays out some Product Key Subscription Management Policies including:

  • Product Key Subscriptions cannot have more than two (2) years of service time outstanding.
  • To renew a Product Key Subscription, the Product Key required must include a greater than or equal to number of user licenses as is already assigned to the service.

The “Office 365 Open & Office 365 FPP FAQ” updated November 22nd, 2013 states “Product keys must be redeemed within 5 years from the time that they are purchased from Microsoft.”

 


Microsoft Azure- This Will Be Big



Microsoft Azure LogoTrust us, Microsoft Azure is worth understanding.  We’ve been in this business for a long time and certain technologies are essential to understand whether you sell them or services around them, use them or even if you use a competitive technology it’s good to know the field.

We’ll be creating many more blog posts about Microsoft Azure (formerly Windows Azure) over the coming months and we’re creating some training courses specifically for it.  For now though, read our blog post on how to buy Microsoft Azure and trust us.  Let’s examine some clues here:

  1. It’s no coincidence that Satya Nadella was the choice for replacing Steve Ballmer as Microsoft’s CEO; the fact he headed up the cloud and services division played a large part in that.
  2. Microsoft Azure keeps company with several other Microsoft divisions, including Windows, Xbox and Office, that bring in more than $1 billion of revenue per year
  3. Microsoft Azure revenue more than doubled (150% growth) between FY13 Q3 (Jan-Mar 2013) and FY14 Q3 (Jan-Mar 2014) according to Microsoft’s earning release
  4. Over 50% of Fortune 500 companies were on Azure as of July 2013
  5. Analysts such as Morgan Stanley are predicting enormous growth; exceeding that of Amazon Web Services (Morgan Stanley CIO Survey, 2013. “Percentage of Enterprise CIOs Greater than $1B/$10B expecting to use IaaS by YE2014”)
  6. Microsoft’s investment in its data centres provides the foundation for Azure; the new Azure Brazil South region, located in Sao Paulo state, is available for public preview and this is a huge step in cloud trust as it offers customers the ability to keep their data in-country.  Data sovereignty in Europe is sure to follow.

Microsoft SSA and PTS Accreditations



Microsoft likes the partner channel to speak the same language in terms of pre-sales activities.  To help achieve this, there are a number of accreditations that partners can take.  Some of these are mandatory in order to gain Microsoft competencies but they’re pretty useful anyway; for partners and customers alike.

The Specialist Sales Accreditation is ideal for the early stages of the sales cycle and covers product overviews, customer objections and competitive landscapes.  The Presales Technical Specialist is aimed at professionals who work in the later stages (demos, proof-of-concept, pilot) of the sales cycle.  Some staff will no doubt want to take both sets of accreditations.  They are all online exams, free to take and you can attempt them as many times as you need.  As I mentioned, these aren’t trying to be MCSA or MSCE certifications; they’re to keep partners up to date and prepared.

Imageframe delivers training for both of these accreditations and as part of our training we’ve produced summary cards to assist delegates when they take each exam.  We’d love for you to attend one of our sessions but because we like to be helpful, you can download a selection of these battlecards below.

PTS Small Business

PTS Communications

PTS Devices and Deployment

PTS Private Cloud, Virtualisation and Management

SSA Communications

SSA Devices and Deployment

SSA Private Cloud Virtualisation and Management

SSA Small Business


Building an Office 365 Practice



We’re proud to be working in conjunction with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars aimed at small and medium business (SMB) partners who want to start or grow their Microsoft Cloud practice.  You can view each webinar live by registering through Ingram’s Learn smart website or you can view the recordings below.

Webinar 1: Office 365 from the ground to the cloud – the basics

Covering the initial information that every partner needs to start selling Office 365.

Webinar 2: Making money from selling Microsoft Cloud services

This webinar will detail the route to becoming a cloud partner, benefits to be aware of and ways to sell Office 365.

Webinar 3: Building your Office 365 practice

We look at targeting the most likely customers, objection handling and promotions.

Webinar 4: How to demonstrate Office 365 compellingly

This webinar will provide resources and demonstrations for partners to create effective pitches that sell Office.

Webinar 5: Cross-selling and upselling opportunities

Leverage Office 365 to increase the deal size whilst giving the customer value.

Webinar 6: Office 365 Fasttrack – how it can help you sell and deploy solutions

The Fasttrack program is a three-stage framework for rapidly piloting Office 365 and then moving that pilot into deployment.

Webinar 7: Broaden your cloud sale with Windows Azure and Windows Intune

The webinar will cover what Intune and Azure are and how partners can use them in their accounts.

Webinar 8: Preparing for exam 74-325 – Administering Office 365 for Small Business

The newest Office 365 is designed specifically for technical professionals within partners who sell Office 365 solutions to small and medium businesses. This webinar will provide details of resources and the content required to take the exam.