The WIndows 7 Power Users Guide, by Microsoft MVP Mike Halsey, shows you to how to get the very best out of Windows 7. It’s suitable for users of every ability, from complete novices to tech pros, and includes step-by-step guides, illustrations and diagrams on every page and quick tips throughout. Download your copy here.
Here’s the blurb:
Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7 with SP1 enables IT administrators to manage roles and features that are installed on computers that are running Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Server 2003, from a remote computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows 7 with SP1.
TechNet Professional Subscription - the choice is yours – three free extra months, or 10% off all 12.
You’ve heard about our great 12 months for the price of 10 offer, open until 30 June, right? Simply use code TN3M11 to receive an additional three months of service on a new 12-month subscription to Microsoft TechNet Subscription Professional, for a total subscription term of 15 months. Terms and conditions available here.
Well, now we have another offer for you. If 12 for 10 doesn’t suit you, you can choose a 10% discount off a new TechNet Professional subscription – just use code TNYE11. Again, terms and conditions apply, but don’t they always? Have a read through the small print below.
If you’re ready to, get your subscription now.
10% off a new 12 month Microsoft TechNet Professional Subscription Terms and Conditions
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Grab your copy of this free guide from Directions on Microsoft. Yes, you need to register but it’s worth it. Here’s the blurb:
This 44-page report is a definitive guide to licensing SQL Server 2008 R2. Use it to get clarity about the type and quantity of SQL Server licenses your organisation needs and the best way to purchase them, for both conventional and virtualised servers. This guide provides detailed information about the eight editions of SQL Server and when they're most appropriate, product bundles that include SQL Server and when they make the most economic sense, the different licensing models you can choose between and how to decide, and much more.
Download the guide here.
I’ve seen a few pretty good offers on eLearning and certifications recently – have a look and see if they might be useful to you.
Microsoft eLearning for IT Professionals – 80% off until end of September 2011!
Until the end of September 2011 you can get 80% off the IT Pro Enterprise Deployment Bundle – a bundle of IT Professional eLearning courses providing you with a great opportunity to improve your knowledge of Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 and other technologies. Hit the link above for all the details and an outline of the courses included in the bundle.
For some totally free training on Windows 7, visit the Deployment Learning Portal, where you’ll find modules covering everything you need to know about Windows 7. These modules have been written by the same people that write the certification exams, so it’s great practice if you’ve got an exam coming up.
Speaking of exams…fancy 20% off Microsoft Certification Packs?
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Jonathan (right), with colleague John Donaldson, about to leave the NUMed campus in the middle of a heavy storm
A typical working day for me starts with kissing goodbye to the family, followed by a podcast/audiobook then email triage and some Kindle reading on my walk-Metro-walk commute from North Tyneside into Newcastle city centre. I suppose technically I've been heading in to the same job at Newcastle University for the last dozen years, although it has transformed, keeping pace with technology, so that every couple of years it bears little resemblance to the years before. It's that constant evolution that's kept me interested, and most times when I look back to how things were done not that long ago it's slightly cringe-inducing, like going from working on Server 2008 R2 back to Server 2003!
Today isn't a typical day though. I woke up in a hotel in Johor Bahru, on the southern end of the Malaysian peninsular, with quite an impressive view over the water to Singapore, then had a taxi ride to a handful of practically finished buildings in the middle of a huge building site in Nusajaya, the home of our new branch campus. The demand for places in our Medical School from South East Asia is sufficiently great that we've decided it's worth us going to them and we're opening Newcastle University Medicine (NUMed) Malaysia.
I arrived here for the final week of a three week on-site project to build the IT infrastructure for the campus ahead of the hand-over from the developers and the arrival of our permanent staff. Much of the heavy lifting had already been done by other members of "The J Team" (because we accidentally all had names starting with J - Jason, John, James, Jeff, Jonathan - although honorary membership has to be extended to Stuart who did a lot to pave the way with the networking, and lots of others have been involved in the pre-staging), so a lot of what I'm doing is dotting i's, crossing t's and testing, testing, testing. Things like making sure that we can build PCs with WDS, adding all the necessary software for the teaching and admin functions via GPO, making sure that devices connected to the WiFi can get mail via EAS, and a bunch of more serious stuff, like what happens if we lose power to a building.
It's an interesting project for a lot of reasons, not least because it's the single biggest project I've been involved in since implementing Active Directory with the launch of Windows 2000. Being on the other side of the planet, we've had to make sure that the site has lots of resilience built-in, so that it can happily exist with the loss of the link to Newcastle and one of the two data centres. Being a green-field site, it's also given us the opportunity to implement some new things, like Windows 7 on the desktops, and Exchange 2010, which we'll only be able to upgrade to at home when our 3rd party archiving software catches up. In actual fact, because of all the newer technology and redundancy that we're building in here, I wouldn't be surprised if we could practically run our much larger home campus off this infrastructure.
Of course a job like this is not without its challenges. I actually thought that my first obstacle might crop up before I arrived, but the airport security in Newcastle and Dubai didn't seem to think there was anything at all unusual about my suitcase being half-full of 250m of Cat 6 cable or the dozen SAS disks in my hand luggage (because we haven't got round to sourcing such supplies in-country yet) - I can tell you, patch leads start to get heavy when it becomes sensible to talk about them as a fraction of a kilometre! While we've been getting things setup, the time difference has been a barrier to collaboration with colleagues back home - the working days only overlap by a couple of hours, and since we're about the only folks working inside these building the air con is timed to switch off at 5 - if we work too long into the evening it gets uncomfortably hot pretty quickly.
We're going to have a full-time local member of staff to do the day-to-day things here like swapping out failed hard drives and dealing with user support, but the majority of the systems management is going to be done remotely from the UK. We're happy that the link is good enough to use remote desktops, or connect via ILO, although personally I favour using remote PowerShell, and it works well on this fairly high-latency line. The nice thing about that is that it offers a consistent experience for managing pretty much everything that we've got out here - both the Microsoft server products and VMware.
I wouldn't mind coming out here from time to time - the weather is pretty good between the electrical storms, not that we've spent much time outside - but mostly I'll be happy to manage it remotely, so that I can go home to my family at the end of the day as normal, and so that I won't have to be missing the North East Bytes user group meetings, like I am tonight, or recording the NEBytes Bytecast (podcast), that I'm involved with back in the good old North East where (it's already been pointed out by some colleagues from Southampton University, who are looking to teach Engineering next-door here) a lot of women wear far, far less despite it being far, far colder!
Infrastructure Systems Administrator
IT Pro Evangelist
Managing from the cloud with Windows Intune
Securing and managing the devices that users take for granted when accessing the cloud is top of mind for IT Professionals everywhere and there are lots of solutions to make things more secure. What about desktops PCs? Everyone in the desktop world is accustomed to managing, patching, remote controlling and securing computers but are there new opportunities presented by the cloud? The answer is of course yes. Windows Intune is a new Microsoft product that allows you to manage Windows computers from the cloud, without the back end infrastructure normally associated with endpoint management.
One of the most striking benefits and one that resonates very strongly with those responsible for paying for business IT is the potential cost savings that come from not having to intensively manage infrastructure. Windows Intune is a pretty cool product because it allows for management of corporate PCs without the need to deploy costly servers and spend time engineering that back end infrastructure normally required in a corporate environment. Not only that but some interesting license benefits make Windows Intune exceptionally valuable for some organisations. First off let’s understand what this new offering does.
Manage Windows Update
Windows Update is one of Microsoft’s largest publically available cloud services providing patches and updates to millions of computers around the world each day absorbing the scale required on busy days like patch Tuesday (the 2nd Tuesday of every month when Microsoft releases patches). In fact if you every try to update a computer from Windows Update you’ll find that the service is out there, ready to serve. Contrast that to the “traditional” approach whereby you have a Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server installed in your business to achieve control over the patches applied to corporate computers and you’ll see that, whilst its and essential service, it’s another server to run, another server to manage and another server buy. WSUS is perfect for some circumstances but increasingly whilst WSUS provides both local caching of updates and control over which are applied the caching is a reducing requirement with increased bandwidth.
With Windows Intune you have control over which updates are applied to which computers and when within your organisation. All updates are pulled from the highly available public Windows Update service though reducing the need for a local WSUS server. Why this need for control? Occasionally an update can cause issue with an incompatible line of business (LOB) application. Windows Intune allows you to group computers together to apply updates or to reject them so you can create a scenario just like I have in my test lab: I have a “testing” group that applies all Windows Updates automatically, when I’m sure they’ve not caused any issues with the applications running on those machines I allow my “corporate” group to apply the updates but I have a group of special machines “CXO office” that only allow updates to be installed when manually approved. This scenario allows me to retain control, something that some people fear the loss of with cloud.
Windows Intune comes with anti-malware software built in that uses the Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection and Microsoft Security Essentials technology to provide a highly reliable yet simple to use solution. The testing I’ve done found every test virus in seconds as you’d expect but the notifications to the end user are simple, elegant, unobtrusive and easy to understand. The centralised management that’s built in lets administrators know that malware was detected and what action was taken to resolve the issue or if there was a reason that the issue wouldn’t be resolved lets the admin know what to do next. When it’s a known malware problem the admin is given detailed information from the Microsoft security response centre which makes their workflow even easier by giving them useful follow up hints.
Updates to the malware protection features are handled through Windows Update so as long as you’ve got an internet connection updates area available and they’re controlled in the same way as Windows Update. That makes it simple to introduce testing or validation if your business needs it.
Manage Windows Firewall
Increasingly with laptops and devices being more mobile a device firewall is essential and increasingly so within the corporate environment. Two examples for you of why they’re necessary. Firstly you need to defend those devices when they are used in less secure locations, like a coffee shop when your sales guys are having a meeting. Secondly within the corporate network you are likely having (let’s call them) uncontrolled devices coming in, someone brings their mobile in and connects to the corporate WiFi network or the like. You don’t know what could be on that device so better to protect all your devices to some degree and one way is with device firewalls. Windows includes one as standard in all versions from XP to Windows 7 and Windows Intune allows you to centralise that management, to be able to push out policies to devices and even to be able to open or close firewall ports on those devices.
Knowing what hardware and software you’ve got in your organisation is a critical task for most administrators and one that introduces enough pain that most hate the task: I know I once had to write a script that used WMI to interrogate more than 5000 devices! Windows Intune includes hardware and software inventory that reports back on what software is deployed to which computers and will simply tell you what hardware each computer has. The information can be used to populate spread sheets or create HTML based reports but critically it can be used to understand what you need to do to upgrade to Windows 7.
I’ll do licensing in a bit but every Windows Intune license includes Windows 7 Enterprise for the life of the Windows Intune license.
Not only do administrators get alerted about updates that have been missed or malware that’s been detected by they find out about all sorts of computer specific stuff that could be causing users concern. For example hard drive space shortages can be spotted and addressed by admins with a phone call explaining how to clean up some space, or by ordering a new drive. That’s the kind of shift in customer service that users love but that cloud represents, IT being able to add more value and do more with less.
One of the best tools for helping users is to be able to take control of their computer or even just to watch it whilst they explain a problem. For me that traditionally meant knowing some kind of information about the computer and obtaining that from the user was like pulling teeth… “I need your hostname”… “my hostname?”… “the name of your PC” … “where do I find that” … “right click Computer and select properties” … it says “Local Disk: C: , Devices with removable storage” … “no, right click” … etc. etc. sound familiar?
Windows Intune doesn’t need any of that, the user clicks a link in the Windows Intune client software and the administrator is sent a link to start a remote session. No back and forth or preamble, it just works.
The only software required for Windows Intune is a client application which when downloaded from the Windows Intune administrators console is unique to your organisation. From then on as soon as it communicates with the Windows Intune cloud service the computer is identified as your organisation and off you go. Zero client configuration required, just Next, Next, Next.
The back end
It’s a cloud service; there is no back end infrastructure to deploy. It’s that simple.
How much does it cost?
Ah now onto the always very worrisome licensing conversation. Except that it’s not a worrisome conversation and in this case I think you’ll like it. Licensing for the UK is £7.25 per month, per PC and included into that you get Windows 7 Enterprise installation rights for any PC that is licensed with Windows Intune. That means that for £7.25 per month per PC you can finally get them all to the same version of Windows and get the best possible Windows 7 experience. On top of that pay a little more 60p per PC and you’ll get the rights for MDOP…so you get App-V, Med-V, DaRT etc.
And to answer your question yes, if you have an EA it does get cheaper, and yes the more machines you have it does get cheaper, go over 250 machines and the price drops then again at other levels.
Is it right for you?
If all the above sounds fantastic then you’re probably thinking you’d like to investigate you can get a trial for 30 days free, have a look at http://windowsintune.com for details. Who is Microsoft aiming this at though? Well it’s perfect for smaller businesses that lack an existing solution and for larger businesses that don’t have the need for Operating System Deployment (OSD) or Enterprise Software Deployment (ESD) those are the two things that Windows Intune can’t yet do. It has however been tested up to 20,000 devices in an organisation, which will do most people I think.
I like when there’s an and finally part to a post, a couple of things that I think are brilliant about Windows Intune but that don’t get a lot of air time. It’s the cloud; that means that the infrastructure is run for you, so upgrades happen for you, when there’s a new version of Windows Intune there will be a smooth way to upgrade and Microsoft will do it for you.
Also because it’s the cloud the second the computer can see the internet it can see Windows Intune and the Windows Update service and that means that wherever that computer is you can manage it. You can deploy updates, update malware definitions, update anything else needed and provide remote assistance. That for me is the biggest advantage of Windows Intune, it could mean an end to devices brining in malware and such just because they’ve not been connected to a VPN for a while and not hit the antimalware and patch servers that are available only inside the traditional corporate environment.
What to do now
Get the 30 day trial and give Windows Intune a go yourself and don’t forget to download the trial guide to get the most out of the trial. You might also want to take a look at this video to see Windows Intune in action.
Download free 30 day trial: http://www.microsoft.com/uk/windows/windowsintune/pc-management-how-to-try-and-buy.aspx
Windows Intune TechCentre: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/ff472080
Watch video: http://www.microsoft.com/showcase/en/gb/details/41c9e668-c28b-4629-a687-8a92e34ca133
Microsoft Office 365 for IT Professionals Jump Start Class - Microsoft Productivity, Email, & Collaboration in the Cloud
Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of our most trusted email, communication and collaboration software – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online – with our familiar Office Professional Plus desktop suite. This fast-paced, demo-rich online course features the best experts teaching the technical aspects of Office 365 for IT pros. This three-day Jump Start class is specially tailored for IT pros looking for real-world proof of how cloud-based Office 365 enables you to solve more problems from more places.
What’s a “Jump Start” Course? Training specifically designed for experienced technologists and IT leaders whose jobs demand they know how to best leverage new, emerging Microsoft technologies. These advanced courses assume a certain level of expertise and domain knowledge, so they move quickly and cover topics in a fashion that enables teams to effectively map new skills to real-world situations.
Duration: 6 hours per session
Day One — “Office 365 Platform” May 24, 2011 | 10am-4pm PDT | Live online training – we’ll post on demand links following the event, should you prefer not to rise and shine at 2am
• Microsoft Office 365 Overview for IT Pros •Deploying Clients for Office 365 •Administration & Automation using PowerShell •Identity and Access Solutions •Directory Synchronization
Day Two — “Exchange Online” May 25, 2011 | 10am-4pm PDT | Live online training
• Exchange Online Overview for IT Pros • Exchange Online Administration • Staged Exchange Online Migration • Hybrid Options with Exchange Server & Exchange Online • Exchange Online Archiving & Compliance
Day Three — “Lync & SharePoint Online” May 26, 2011 | 10am-4pm PDT | Live online training
• Lync Online Overview & Configuration for IT Pros • SharePoint Online Overview • SharePoint Online Administration • SharePoint Online Extensibility & Customization • Office 365 Deployment Overview
Register for the class here. You’ll also be able to access this course in the Microsoft Virtual Academy in June.
The Best of MMS UK 2011 spread the word about the latest IT management products, solutions and technologies from Microsoft and how to make them work in your business. Among other news, you might remember us talking on the blog and in the TechNet newsletter about significant management product releases and announcements planned for System Center 2012 in the next 6-12 months.
Well, now you can see all the presentation slides and video recordings from the MMS UK 2011 for yourselves. Pick and choose your best bits here.
I didn’t realise, but there’s a TechNet blog dedicated to Windows Phone for IT pros. With some interesting announcements made on this topic over in the US at TechEd 2011, why not find out what’s new in the team’s latest post: Overview of New Business Capabilities for Windows Phone Mango announced at TechEd 2011.