The 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.
If 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.
Staff 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.
An 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.
This will open a window where you can set your play options.
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.
Training 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’ve dealt with Microsoft Licensing, you’ll know there are lots of exceptions, gotchas, myths and riddles. We want to clear some of those up in our blog posts so number one is a good place to start. These all assume basic Microsoft licensing knowledge but if you need to top this up with some free training, look at our licensing courses or contact us.
Microsoft Exchange Server is licensed in a server and CAL (client access licence) model. The CALs can be per-user or per-device. These CALs provide the user or device rights to access the Exchange server but you need a client to read and send email, deal with calendar entries and so on. The obvious client is Outlook; part of the Office family of applications. In the past the Exchange CAL included an Outlook licence but this was no longer included after Exchange Server 2003 and since then, Outlook needs to be purchased separately.
Perhaps you don’t have Outlook? That’s ok because the Exchange CAL provides the rights to access e-mail, calendar, contacts and tasks through either Outlook Web App (OWA) or through a mobile device via Exchange ActiveSync.
Typically a user will access their mailbox from a number of devices. This is fine if you have deployed Exchange per-user CALs; the user can log into OWA from pretty much any internet connected device (hotel kiosks, airport lounge machines, home, work, internet cafés, etc.) and the user can synchronise to any supported mobile device.
If you have deployed per-device CALs then the user can only use OWA from licensed devices and can only synchronise from licensed mobile devices.
Hopefully you see the gotcha here. Exchange is brilliant at providing access anywhere, anytime and on any device but only if you licence per-user. For organisations that have per-device Exchange licensing, anywhere access becomes extremely restricted.
Perhaps you’re looking for a new job and you want to refresh your certification. Perhaps you’re hiring new staff and want to skill them up quickly or meet targets to earn a Microsoft Partner Competency. What’s the easiest way to earn a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) accreditation?
Easy is the wrong word here. None of these exams are easy; they exist to test and prove your experience and knowledge in a topic. MCSA is also the prerequisite to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert accreditations which really are the pinnacle of Microsoft certifications.
However the fastest route to earn an MCSA, assuming you’re not upgrading an earlier qualification, is to work towards either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 MCSA or towards the Office 365 MCSA. Each of these routes only require you to take two exams from scratch.
Your choice should clearly depend on your IT career path and the skills you’re going to need. If you are open to all areas though, of those three MCSA options, we’d advise the Office 365 MCSA. Firstly there is only one 5-day course whereas Windows MCSA involves two 5-day courses and thus more time out of the office and more cost. Attending a course is not required to take an exam but it’s a great way to maximise your chances. Secondly, the Office 365 MCSA can be used as the foundation to gain the MCSE qualification in Desktop Infrastructure, Server Infrastructure, Private Cloud, Messaging, Communications or SharePoint. The Windows MCSA does not have an MCSE route.
Of course, we’d love to help you gain nay Microsoft qualification so please get in touch and see how we can help.