Blog Archive

Do Challenges Motivate Trainees?

Snail moving to a finish line

Not that we like to brag but we’re pretty good at motivating attendees on our courses and events.  But there’s no magic bullet or panacea.  Just like raising children – lots of advice out there but no single, simple answer.  I can sense your disappointed face.

When we’re designing training exercises or labs, we need to motivate the trainees.  One way we can do this is to break new and potentially complex tasks into simpler steps and lead the user on a journey of mini-achievements.  Success is like endorphins; keep plying the attendee with obtainable challenges and they’ll continue and remain engaged.  Sounds like common sense; “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  I believe Kayne West took the credit for that gem.

But the difficulty of these challenges is a science in itself.  This study from the University of Southern California says the key is what people think ease and difficulty mean for them.  For some people, if tasks feel too easy, the journey becomes demeaning and boring and thus a demotivator.  Too difficult and the trainee might give up.  For others, easy tasks are in themselves motivators and for others still, high levels of difficulty can trigger feelings of the task being valuable and worthwhile to invest time and effort.

How people perceive difficulty can significantly influence their learning performance and the study found that people who perform better are the ones who felt that difficult does not mean impossible and easy does not mean trivial.

So we design course materials with a mix of challenges; some important objectives that are easy to accomplish (easy ≠ trivial) along with some complex or unfamiliar tasks broken down into methods, steps and terminology that allow trainees to achieve or at least confidently tackle the problem (difficult ≠ impossible).

Demographics comes into play as well so we also need to understand our audience and the mix of people.  The study found men on a low income are more likely to view difficulty to mean probable failure so may demonstrate a propensity to ‘give up’ quickly.  Statistics should always be questioned however and the study covered only 1,000 people and may not be representative of wider communities.

In conclusion, don’t set labs based solely on people’s perceived skill or ability but understand your trainees and set the right mix of challenges in order to maximise and maintain their motivation.  Training based on motivation is likely to be more successful.


Teams is an App not a Service

Microsoft Teams Logo  I must admit to being frustrated when Teams was first introduced.  It automatically started at Windows login, sometimes before I’d even connected to wifi (and then would error out due to the lack of an Internet connection) and the disconnection between some of the Office 365 services Teams uses and the main apps for those services, e.g. Skype for Business, was hard to explain to customers.

The gap is closing however and Redmond are putting some thought into Teams now that it’s gaining momentum.  There is a healthy roadmap, some good product management and top level buy-in from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

There is still a gap between some of the native clients and functionality in Teams.  For example, you can do more in online meetings through Skype for Business currently than you can in a Teams meeting despite both apps using the Skype for Business online services.  Teams is now bringing in functionality for meetings that isn’t available in Skype for Business so we find ourselves in the familiar place where we have two apps with an overlap of features but which individually might not meet all our needs; we need to choose which tool to use and accept some sacrifices in functionality.  Check out this brief post from Satya introducing the updated features and the new, free edition of Teams.  We’ll blog about the differences over the next week or so.

The thing to bear in mind is Teams is a presentation layer; an app.  It connects to the existing backend Office 365 online services and enhances them with integration and connectivity to other services, including 3rd party services and apps.  This is the strength of Teams – it is a hub where we can perform 60-70% of our collaborative tasks before we might need to go into another app to continue or access deeper features.

We would like to see Teams become an Office 365 service in itself and have service definitions just like Exchange online, SharePoint online, Yammer and Skype for Business online.  It would need to find it’s own place for that to happen though, or displace Skype for Business completely.


Can you Spell Albuquerque?

I won £500 in a pub quiz recently because I answered a question incorrectly.  The question was “Which suburb of Seattle was Microsoft founded in?”

I started at Microsoft in 1991 and knew full well Microsoft was founded in Alberquerukey, New Mexico.  So that left me with Redmond or Bellevue.  Bellevue was the first Seattle office but I figured the quizmaster had checked a press article or something stating Microsoft was founded in 1975 in Redmond (their current location).  So I gave Redmond as my answer and won £500.  Do I feel guilty winning by giving a knowingly false answer?

No but the point of this blog post is where can you find official facts about Microsoft, the products, interesting numbers, quotes and stories?  Check out Microsoft Story Labs.  As well as news articles there are fun facts and figures like how much Fanta Microsoft employees drink (the company offers free beverages on campus) and details about the company in the Press Tools dropdown.  It’s a good resource to be aware of.

News site for Microsoft

 

Had the quizmaster asked me to spell Alberqwerky, I would have gone home empty-handed.

 

 


A different way to attach documents

Sending and receiving documents and files in the form of an attachment is something that we are all very familiar with. The recipient is required to double-click on the attachment to open it and then it can be saved off as required.

However, did you know that there is a different way to attach documents? That you can also send the contents of a document in the body of the email as opposed to an attached file? This can sometimes be really useful and can be done by simply adding a button to the Quick Access Toolbar in Word.

Open the Word document you would like to send

  • Click the drop-down arrow on the Quick Access toolbar
  • Select More Commands
emailattach6
  • Select Commands Not in the Ribbon from the Choose commands from drop-down menu
emailatach5
  • Scroll down and select Send to Mail Recipient
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  • Click Add

The Send to Mail recipient icon will now be on the Quick Access Toolbar.

  • Click Send to Mail Recipient

Email fields will show. Complete these as normal. The Word document will appear in the body as opposed to as an attachment.

emailattach1

Licensing Office 365 E5

December 1st marked two extraordinary launches: a brand new Office 365 plan called E5 and Microsoft becoming a Telco.

We described the key new features and capabilities in an earlier post and we’re going to concentrate on the licensing concepts in this blog post.

Some of the new features will be included via updates to the E1 and E3 plans.  Most of the new features will be included in the E5 plan with the exception of PSTN Calling which will be an add-on subscription.  All of the new features will be available as standalone subscriptions which will suit customers that don’t require all of the E5 functionality but do want one of two of the new capabilities.

This does mean that Office 365 E4 plan follows E2 in being discontinued.  E4 will remain on the pricelist until the end of Microsoft’s financial year, June 30th, 2016.  Customers on E4 will be able to renew it as E4 prior to that date but should look to transition into E5 or into E3 with the Cloud PBX add-on.  If customers want to maintain E4 functionality after June 30th, they can transition to the E3 plan and add the new Skype for Business Plus user subscription licence (USL) that was released on the 1st December.

Microsoft Office 365 Plan Features

Table 1: Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans with new or enhanced features highlighted in orange

 

How can customers licence Office 356 E5?

Office 365 E5 is available as a:

  • Full User Subscription Licence (USL) for new users
  • Step-up licence for existing Office 365 E3 and E4 customers
  • From SA USL for customers who currently own licences for and have active Software Assurance (SA) on Office and a Client Access licence (CAL) Suite
  • Add-on licence for customers who already subscribe to the Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS)

At launch, what you’ll see on the price list is Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing.  Office 365 E5 and Cloud PBX is available worldwide, however the PSTN conferencing feature is only available in fifteen countries from the 1st December.  Lucky UK; we’re one of those fifteen.  The remaining 191 countries (bonus points if you can name them all; I had to source from the United Nations) cannot enjoy PSTN conferencing yet so it‘s unfair to sell them full E5.

Where PSTN Conferencing is available, customers will purchase Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing and Office 365 Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing
Where PSTN Conferencing is not available, customers will purchase Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing
At some point in the future, we’ll announce a single Office 365 E5 licence on the pricelist which is likely to be priced the same as the combination of E5 w/out PSTN Conferencing and the Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing licences.

 

What channels are the new plans available through?

Being a telco brings tax and regulatory responsibilities.  Microsoft needs to sell these PSTN features in the right way so whilst the Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing SKU is available worldwide and through all licensing channels, currently Office 365 Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing is only available through direct channels: the Microsoft Online Subscription Program (MOSP) and direct Enterprise Agreements.

 

How can customers licence the new features as standalone subscriptions?

Table 2 lists the new standalone licences along with the relevant pre-requisite.

Office 365 E5 Standalones

 

Table 2: Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans with new or enhanced features highlighted in orange

 

How can customers licence the PSTN Calling Plans?

These are not available as of December in the UK.  In fact they are only available in the US but the UK should be able to enjoy this in the first half of 2016.

There are two PSTN Calling Plans: Domestic and International.  Domestic will have a set price per user/per month for 3,000 minutes of national calls.  The International Plan will include the domestic quota and add 600 minutes of international calls.  These quotas will be allocated to the organisation as a whole, rather than each user so a customer with 10 USLs for the International PSTN Calling Plan will have 30,000 national minutes and 6,000 international minutes.

 

What do the PSTN features include?

At launch, PSTN Conferencing includes the ability to advertise a national, non-freephone number (e.g. 0118 for Reading, 020 for London, etc.).  The person dialling into the conference will pay for the call charges.  Customers can also dial-out to a phone using a national phone number in order to bring someone into the Skype conference.

In 2016, there will be a consumption billing model, similar to Azure consumption billing, where customers can maintain a balance of monetary credit.  This can then be used to advertise Freephone numbers to conferences and dial-out to international phone numbers to bring people into the conference.  The call charges will be met using the consumption balance.

The same goes for the PSTN Calling plans.  If a customer exceeds their quota of minutes, or a customer subscribing to the Domestic plan wants to make international calls, the charges will be drawn from their consumption balance.

E5 and the PSTN features mark a very exciting chapter in Microsoft’s online capabilities.  Keep a close eye out for the release of UK PSTN Calling plans and the consumption billing in 2016.  We’ll continue to keep you up to date with blog posts.

 


Office 365 E5 Plan

We should be used to Microsoft announcing new capabilities and investments in Office 365 but December 1st marked two extraordinary launches.

Firstly, a brand new Office 365 plan called E5.  This joins the current enterprise plan line up of E1, E3 and E4 and becomes Microsoft’s new ‘hero’ plan.  We’ll cover what it contains in a moment.

The second extraordinary launch is Microsoft is becoming a telecommunications provider (or simply telco in modern syntax).  Microsoft has extraordinary capacity in its global data network and is putting it to good use by offering PSTN conferencing and PSTN calling plans for Skype for Business.

Before you worry that Microsoft will start making adverts starring Maureen Lipman about ‘ologies, these PSTN capabilities are aimed squarely at organisations rather than consumers at this point.

What do I need to know from the December launch?

The key new features and capabilities are below.  There’s a post on Microsoft’s Volume Licensing site covering how to licence Office 365 E5 and the standalone features.

 

Microsoft Office 365 Plan Features

 

PSTN Conferencing

PSTN Conferencing (Public Switch Telephone Network) offers audio conferencing within Skype for Business web conferences.  If people can’t connect to a conference over the internet, it’s nice to give them a phone number so they can dial-in and listen to the audio.  Currently you need to set up an account with one of the audio conferencing providers in the Office 365 Marketplace, or have on-premises Mediation Servers and PSTN gateways.

Dial-in conferencing allows meeting attendees to dial into Skype meetings through a local phone number and in the near-future, a Freephone number (when consumption billing is released for Office 365).

Dial-out conferencing enables presenters in the web conference to add others to the meeting by dialling their phone number.  It also allows attendees to join the audio portion of the meeting by asking Skype for Business to call them on a specified phone number.

Cloud PBX

PBX stands for private branch exchange and is the internal phone system an organisation uses.  Cloud PBX can offload that requirement entirely to the cloud, or connect cloud PBX to an on-premises PBX in hybrid configurations.

It includes all the features you’d expect including calling by name & number from Softphones, IP Phones and mobile devices, Call History & Redial, Call Hold/Retrieve, Transfer, Forwarding, Call Waiting, Simultaneous Ring, Team Calling, and so on.

Like the rest of Office 365, updates are delivered over the cloud so customers can avoid the headache of upgrading their on-premises PBX.  A notable update in the pipeline will be PBX features for call centres.

Cloud PBX can be connected to the PSTN through two different capabilities.  First, a customer can purchase a PSTN calling service add-on to Office 365, available initially in the US only.  Alternatively, a customer can use Skype for Business software on-premises to provide PSTN connectivity.

PSTN Calling

Which brings us nicely onto PSTN Calling.  This is an add-on to Cloud PBX that provides national and international calling services directly from Office 365.  Instead of a customer contracting with a traditional telco and using an on-premises IP-PBX, they can purchase the Cloud PBX from Microsoft and add on PSTN Calling for a complete enterprise telephony experience for end-users.

So Microsoft is becoming a regulated carrier in each geography that this will be available.  Customers can get new phone numbers for users or have phone numbers ported to the PSTN Calling service.  Number provisioning will be done directly through the Office 365 admin portal or of course, via PowerShell.

Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro is a business analytics service that enables information workers to visualize and analyse data with greater speed, efficiency and understanding.  Users are connected to live data through dashboards, interactive reports and visualizations that bring data to life and make it meaningful to their role.  And don’t underestimate the live data here; this could come from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wearables for example and be up to the second.  Power BI provides a Power BI Desktop tool and Power BI mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows.  Excel also has Power BI enhancements such as being able to merge and use queries from multiple data sources, including public sources like Twitter alongside corporate data.

Delve Analytics

You may have heard or perhaps used Delve.  Delve allows an individual to see and search the documents and sites that are important to people connected to you.  It surfaces knowledge according to what and who you’re working with.

Delve Analytics on the other hand, allows managers to discover how their team or organisation works.  It provides insights into important business problems like organization collaboration, who’s talking to whom, siloed team detection, identification of most connected employees, types of meetings taking place across the organization and work-life balance; which teams are consistently working beyond their shifts.  Individuals can gain a fresh perspective about the way they work including time management, network analysis and influence and reach indicators.

Both Delve and Delve Analytics use Office Graph and sophisticated machine learning to map the relationships between people, content and activity that occurs across Office 365.

Customer Lockbox

One of the common cloud topics is that organisations want to have full control over their content stored in cloud services.  Office 365 has evolved so nearly all service operations performed by Microsoft are fully automated and any human interaction is highly controlled and kept away from customer content.  Only in very rare cases does a Microsoft engineer have any reason to access customer content.  Microsoft employees do not have automatic access to service operations.  All access is obtained through a rigorous access control technology called Lockbox.  An extension to this is Customer Lockbox and if an organisation has Customer Lockbox, they have the keys to that engineer access.  The customer is notified when their content needs to be accessed by service administrators and the have total control to approve or deny such access.  They can set up Just-In-Time access to specific scopes of data and all access control activities are logged and audited.  So access currently goes through a secure workflow process but Lockbox makes the customer part of that process.

Customer Lockbox will be available for Exchange Online first and for SharePoint Online in Q1 of 2016.

Advanced Threat Protection

Advanced threat protection has been available for a few months now.  It combats unknown & sophisticated threats in email.  Let’s say you get an email with a short link, a Bit.ly link for example.  When you first receive the email, the link is fine and directs you to the Sugababes fan club site as expected.  However, sometime in the future that shortlink redirects you to a malware site and before you know it you’ve downloaded a One Direction virus.  Safe Links provide time-of-click protection against such malicious URLs by wrapping external links in special URLs that check the destination link for threats before opening them.  There’s also Safe Attachments which opens email attachments sandboxed virtual environments to detect malicious behaviour.  And Click Trace keeps a record of every user who has clicked on a URL for additional protection so if you do need to take remedial action, it’s easier to know exactly where.

Equivio Analytics for eDiscovery

Back in January, Microsoft acquired Equivio, a provider of machine learning technologies for eDiscovery and information governance.  If an organisation goes through a law suit, it’s extremely expensive and time consuming.  Data on a given topic needs to be found and collected and once it’s harvested, typically lawyers are paid lots of money to go through that data and determine relevance.  Equivio simplifies the eDiscovery process by using machine learning, tagging and predictive coding to identify relevant email and documents and reduce the amount of data that’s returned.
All of these new capabilities form part of Office 365 E5 and with the exception of the PSTN Calling plans are available as standalones licences.

In the next blog post, we’ll go deeper into the PSTN features and what they include.


Quiet people have the loudest minds

How do good trainers run great training sessions that are inspiring for different types of attendee?

As far back as I can remember I have been made to feel somewhat guilty about my introverted personality. I was that child that preferred spending the summer holidays inside reading a book, drawing or making a fabulous princess palace out of old cardboard boxes and toilet rolls. Most of my friends would be outside on their bikes or up the hills playing games but for me, it was never as appealing. I think my parents found this somewhat unusual and I was always gently encouraged to go outside and play. Sometimes I did, but all the time longing to get back inside doing something creative on my own.

As an only child I grew up enjoying solitude and seeking out activities that I could do on my own or with one other trusted person. I always felt different to others. I didn’t really understand when I was younger why I didn’t enjoy being around lots of people or partaking in social activities. I felt weird. I felt that there was something wrong with me. If this rings true for you, then you are not weird, you are an introvert.

Introvertcat2

So what is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert? It relates to where you gain your energy. It was the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that popularised this definition. Extroverts feel energised and most alive being around people and feeding off others whereas introverts get their energy from within themselves. An introvert needs solitude like most people need oxygen.

As an introvert I can tell you that if I have to spend a number of hours in a social situation, particularly with people I do not know I feel totally drained at the end of the day. My batteries are flat. I find that people tend to drain the energy out of me and I usually cannot wait to get back home and recharge. Now that makes me sound completely anti-social and a bit of a people hater. I am not. I do enjoy the company of others but it does tire me out. And this is the problem that introverts encounter on a daily basis.

All of our institutions, be it schools or the workplace are setup to cater to extroverts. The gregarious qualities of an extrovert are prized more highly than the contemplative qualities of an introvert in today’s society. It’s easy to understand why this is but let’s look at a scenario.

Richard and Daisy are both going for a job interview. They both have excellent skills and qualifications on paper. Richard walks into the interview and confidently speaks about his achievements. He oozes charisma. He has fabulous anecdotes. He’s social, gregarious, a go-getter and real man of action! Daisy follows him. She has a quiet confidence, she pauses in deep thought before each answer. She has amazing, well thought out and creative ideas but seems shy and reserved. She indicates that she works best on solo projects as this is how her creativity flourishes. As an employer, who would you hire? I am guessing probably Richard. Why? He fits the mould of the modern office environment. However, sometimes the quiet people have the loudest minds.

introvertvsextrovert

Introverts make up 1/3 of the population and in general this personality type is misunderstood. Introverts are not shy. Introverts do not lack confidence. This is the most common misconception. Type Introverts into a Word document and hit Shift+F7 to see what I mean.

I am an introvert and I do a very extroverted job. I am a trainer, which means I stand in front of large groups of people and speak. If I lacked confidence or was shy, I would find it very difficult to do the job I do. That’s not to say that I do not find my job challenging. Being in the spotlight is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve had to work at it. A lot of trainers I know are extroverts. They are comfortable running a training session with very little preparation and to a certain extent ‘winging it’. I’m not accusing them of running bad sessions or not caring as much, they are just more able to absorb the unexpected and run with it.

That’s not me. I plan, I research, I think about all the things that could go wrong in advance and try to counter them, I prepare, I practice, all so that my time ‘in the spotlight’ runs smoothly. It is this that enables me as an introvert to do an extroverts job. It’s my process that enables me to feel comfortable. It is very frustrating for an introvert when someone tries to change your process or doesn’t understand your need for meticulous planning.

This leads us into talking a little bit about training sessions and how, as a trainer, you can execute an interactive training session that is conducive for both introverts and extroverts.

Let’s briefly go back to talking about schools. Schools these days are setup in a way that caters to extroverts. Students sit on large round tables, facing each other and are encouraged to partake in countless group activities. The idea being to encourage interaction, learn how to work in a team and share ideas. I am not saying this is a bad thing. Young people do need to learn these skills. But what about the introverted child in that classroom? The child that is uncomfortable working in large groups. The child who prefers to reflect on a subject quietly before sharing his or her idea. The child that is often labelled as anti-social or difficult. Forcing introverts to work like extroverts is counter-productive and only serves to alienate that child from the group.

This is similar in an adult learning environment. Most trainers use a technique at the start of training sessions to ascertain the different learning styles and personality types of their students. It’s called an ‘Ice Breaker’ and usually involves some kind of activity or exercise. I use Ice Breakers to sort out the introverts from the extroverts. Many trainers I have met are very focused on the interactive element of training sessions. Group activities, high energy exercises, getting the students to voice their opinions, ask questions etc. I agree that these are important parts of training in order to keep participants engaged and interested. However, I would encourage all trainers to think about the introverted participants who are sitting there dreading the next group exercise or next question that puts them on the spot. Often, the fear of what is coming distracts them from their learning.

Susan Cain did an amazing Ted Talk on the ‘Power of introverts’ and I think this quote is very true. ‘Stop the madness for constant group work!!’ Think about alternative methods that will allow extroverts and introverts to flourish equally. Instead of large, boisterous group activities, pepper your sessions with solo exercises or brain training activities. Instead of large group work, stick to partner work. If you need to do an exercise in a large group, make it a more relaxed ‘Café style’ workshop where you start a discussion with the group during a coffee break. This is immediately more relaxed and informal. Students can participate as much or as little as they like with no pressure. Try not to fire questions at a student that appears to be quiet and not interacting as much. They are probably listening intently and processing.

Introverts hold so much power that is overlooked. They tend to be more effective than their extroverted counterparts, statistically more intelligent and oddly better leaders as they don’t dominate others and are more inclined to let individual ideas flourish. Introverts are creative. They are imaginative. They are deep thinkers. They are invaluable to this world. Where would we be without the likes of Einstein, Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parkes or Bill Gates? All introverts who changed the world.

Employers are slowly starting to understand this concept. Our workplaces are changing and becoming more flexible. Employers are introducing different ways of working and home working is on the rise. There is a mini revolution going on at the moment confirmed by the amount of blogs and articles popping up all over the web on this subject. Let’s embrace everyone, introverts, extroverts and all those that are in between and recognise the supreme benefit of letting individuals work within their natural personality type.

And whatever personality type you are, you’re more than welcome on our courses.

 

 


Office 2016 Releases

Office 365 Logo

Office 2016 is released on 22nd September 2015 and hits the volume licensing pricelist on the 1st October.  What’s new?  Some will be disappointed it’s not radically different from Office 2013.  Others will breathe a sigh of relief and appreciate the consistency between the versions whilst having a good level of improvement over Office 2013 which was a fantastic suite of applications.  We’ll be running a series of hints and tips blog posts over the next month detailing the main changes.

For now, if you’re a Microsoft partner you can visit the Microsoft Drumbeat site, packed full of sales training events and resources to help you start, grow and accelerate your Office 365 practice (registration required).

If you love videos of Americans waving their hands around too much and generally being very excited with words like ‘super’ and ‘cool’ then take a look at the 400 second-long Vimeo video.

FAQ

Q – Is this going to be an automatic upgrade from 2013 to 2016 if I’m on Office 365?

A – No.  If you want to deploy Office 2016 you’ll need to do that using your usual deployment processes, e.g. via the Office 365 portal.  There will be automatic upgrades in the future but there aren’t any full details on that yet, for example how to accept or prevent the automatic upgrade to 2016.

Q – Will Office 2016 still be available as a perpetual, on-premises product?

A – Yes, Office 2016 is available on-premises and through Office 365 subscriptions.  Unless you have Software Assurance on Office 2013 on-premises, you’ll need to buy the licence to Office 2016 as it’s a completely new version.  Office 365 includes new version rights so if you’re on an Office 365 which includes the Office apps (e.g. E3, E4, Business, Business Premium, ProPlus) you have the rights to 2016 immediately.

Q – I’m on Office 365; how long can I stay on the 2013 release?

A – For 12 months after the release of Office 2016.

Q – InfoPath is no longer included in the 2016 release, where can I get this?

A – InfoPath 2013 is the last version and can be downloaded from Microsoft’s download centre.  Your Office 365 ProPlus licence allows use of InfoPath 2013 and it will still be supported


Windows 10 – More Licensing FAQs

Microsoft Windows 10

Windows 10 was released on the 29th July and was made available in volume licensing on the 1st August.  The licence agreements are available on the Microsoft Volume Licensing documentation site (for software purchased through volume licensing) and the Microsoft Licence Terms site (for OEM and full packaged product, FPP).

So now is a good time to revisit some questions regarding the retail version.  For Windows 10 bought through Volume licensing, you can read the Windows 10 Volume Licensing Guide.

Q – Where can I download the ISO media for the free upgrade so I can upgrade several machines from a USB stick?

A – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10.  Of course this isn’t a free version of Windows to download and install but it allows you to upgrade several machines without requiring each of them to download the Windows 10 build from the internet.  You can also use it to perform a clean install if you have a Windows 10 product key.  Full instructions are given.

Q – When does a device cease being the same device?  If a faulty PC motherboard is replaced but the HDD remains unchanged will Windows 10 continue working?  We frequently re-install existing Windows operating systems to return to a clean test environment.  How many times will we be able to do this with a Windows 10 licence before the re-installs are blocked?

A – Typically, the motherboard is the critical mass here.  You can change the hard drive(s) and reinstall, change the video card, even upgrade the processor and Windows will still work on the device.  With the free upgrade offer, you must upgrade on a pc that has Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 already installed (except Enterprise and RT editions).  Once you have upgraded to Windows 10 on the PC and successfully activated it, you won’t have a Windows 10 product key but you will be able to perform a clean installation and select the Skip button on the product key page.  Your PC will activate online automatically so long as the same edition of Windows 10 was successfully activated on the PC by using the free Windows 10 upgrade offer.

You are also allowed to install Windows virtually on the device (but not off the device, e.g. on a network share as that becomes virtual desktop access and requires its own licensing).  Section 2d (iv) of the EULA (end user licence agreement):

(iv)    Use in a virtualized environment. This license allows you to install only one instance of the software for use on one device, whether that device is physical or virtual. If you want to use the software on more than one virtual device, you must obtain a separate license for each instance.

There are limits on how many times you can activate Windows over the Internet on the same device but if you ever hit that limit, you should be able to perform telephone activation instead.  There’s no activation limit enforced in the licence terms.  If you move a HDD containing a physical installation of Windows 10 or move a .VHD with Windows installed to another pc, it may work but you may also find that reactivation is triggered by the changes and unless the Windows licence is transferable you’ll be non-compliant.

Q – How will licensing work for people who build their own PC and would normally buy a retail version of Windows?  Is that licence going to be transferable to a subsequent build, or is the retail licence going to be limited to that particular PC [and if so, what’s the definition of “that particular PC”]?

A – You can still purchase the retail (FPP) licence of Windows 10, install that on a bare-metal pc and the licence will be transferable to another device (subject to only installing Windows on one device at a time).  Preinstalled Windows (OEM) remains non-transferable.  Now this does open up new territory for retail Windows; you can buy the retail version once, enjoy updates to Windows and when you want to upgrade your pc, simply transfer your Windows licence to your new pc without requiring an OEM licence.  It’s pretty tricky to buy a bare-metal pc from the major manufacturers however and OEM licences became a lot cheaper recently so that may not save much money.  Section 4b of the EULA details transfer rights:

b.      Stand-alone software. If you acquired the software as stand-alone software (and also if you upgraded from software you acquired as stand-alone software), you may transfer the software to another device that belongs to you. You may also transfer the software to a device owned by someone else if (i) you are the first licensed user of the software and (ii) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement. You may use the backup copy we allow you to make or the media that the software came on to transfer the software. Every time you transfer the software to a new device, you must remove the software from the prior device. You may not transfer the software to share licenses between devices.

If you are an OEM or System Builder, there remains the COEM (Commercial Original Equipment Manufacturer) product for just that purpose.  Windows 8.1 COEM licence removed the DIY (personal use rights) addendum so if you’re building your own pc for personal use, buying the retail product is the correct way to licence.

Q – How is the lifespan of a PC going to be determined?  If I have a PC with Windows now, will it still be supported as long as the hardware is still operational, or is there going to be a time limit?  Or just a drift towards bits of hardware no longer being supported which would result in being forced to upgrade to a newer PC [and a new Windows licence]?  Not everyone cares about the latest capabilities – plenty of people only use PCs to browse the web.

A – No time limit but you’ll find that certain components will become superseded and as such the minimum system requirements for Windows may change.  The Microsoft Product Lifecycle pages state:

• Updates are cumulative, with each update built upon all of the updates that preceded it.  A device needs to install the latest update to remain supported.
• Updates may include new features, fixes (security and/or non-security), or a combination of both.  Not all features in an update will work on all devices.
• A device may not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (“OEM”) support period.
• Update availability may vary, for example by country, region, network connectivity, mobile operator (e.g., for cellular-capable devices), or hardware capabilities (including, e.g., free disk space). 

Q – How much will an OEM version of Win10 cost; a version to be incorporated into our instruments?  I cannot find any info on this.

A – There are new editions of Windows 10 called Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Core.  These are ideal for industry and embedded devices such as instruments.  They’re on the price list and you should be able to get this information from your Microsoft retailer.

Keep the questions coming!


Microsoft Certification Map

Microsoft retires Select PlusThe path to qualifications can be a little confusing so we’ve produced a handy interactive PDF which shows the current Microsoft MTA, MCSA, MCSE and MCSD qualification routes along with the courses and exams required to get you there.

Think of this as your handy CertNav!

Why strive for an IT qualification?

For employees, 85% of IT hiring managers consider certifications a medium to high priority according to the CompTIA research paper Employer Perceptions of IT Training and Certification.

For managed services providers, a 2009 research report by Beth Vanni (then Director of Market Intelligence for Amazon Consulting) found 60% of customers trust a certified partner more and involved that partner more readily in future decision making.  Also, 60% engaged more repeat business and purchased services beyond products from certified providers.

And my favourite research finding is quoted on the Microsoft certification site: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified IT Professional, and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator are among the top 25 highest-paying IT certifications.

You will try to remember us when you’re sunning yourselves on your yacht in the Bahamas won’t you?