Take a look at ITworld’s pick of incredibly useful (and free) Microsoft tools for IT pros. There are 15 on the list – do you have more? Share them with other readers in the comments box below.
You’ll find many a download here in the Download Centre on TechNet.
While raiding the archives of TechNet magazine I found this nice long list of 77 Windows 7 tips. Ranging from making Windows 7 run faster to the best shortcuts, there’s bound to be something new in the list for you. If you know of any more, pop them in the comments box below.
Mike Halsey, MVP
Mike Halsey is a Microsoft Valued Professional (MVP) and the author of “Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out” from Microsoft Press. You can keep up to date with him on Facebook and Twitter.
Is your reluctance to deploy Windows 7 a ticking time bomb?
Now the reasons are changing, partly because of the harsh economic times in which we find ourselves; with businesses only wanting to upgrade to a new OS when they finally replace ageing hardware, and because of the limited amount of time that Microsoft will continue to support Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.
While it’s reasonable and rational for companies to sit on old operating systems and software “that just work”, are you aware you could be sitting on a time bomb?
There are now less than 1,000 days of support remaining for Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6. Microsoft say that when this happens, they will “no longer provide automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance. Without Microsoft support, you will no longer receive security updates that can help protect your PC[s] from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.” But what does this mean in the world of business and how concerned should you be about it?
In recent months we’ve seen many major companies hacked by criminals who want access to sensitive customer information. These criminals, who have broken into every type of business and even governments worldwide, have stolen between them tens of millions of people’s personal records. Don’t think either that the cases you hear on the news are the only ones. You may have had reports from your within your own company that haven’t been shared with the wider world.
This isn’t the only threat facing your company though. Are you properly defended against threats from inside? The good news is that Microsoft’s newest products provide excellent defences against both internal and external attack. It’s simply not just about the extended support life, there’s so much more to it than that.
Failure to properly defend against external and internal attack is an offence in many countries where customer data is put at risk. The result can be huge fines, significant public embarrassment and loss of customer trust. All of this is made worse by an ever more vocal public using ever-increasing numbers of online social forums.
Despite rumours to the contrary, Windows 7, especially when paired with Windows Server 2008, provides Enterprise-level legacy compatibility for businesses of all sizes. Couple this with the added benefits of tight integration with the latest cloud services, including Office 365 and Windows Intune, means that even the smallest business can save time, money and greatly boost security.
As the author of Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out from Microsoft Press I’ve heard all the horror stories from businesses large and small about data loss, hacking and downtime. I find the largest irony being that the very thing they’re trying to protect the most, dependability, would be the first thing an upgrade would improve.
It seems crazy then not to begin migrating your systems to Windows 7, especially when your company may well already have paid for licences through the Software Assurance programme. If you’ve not made the leap yet, don’t wait too long. That time bomb isn’t going away, and criminals are just waiting for you to hesitate.
Windows 7 Springboard pages on TechNet
My name is Brian Reid, and I run my own freelance Exchange consultancy company called C7 Solutions (www.c7solutions.com). I'm based in Oxford in the United Kingdom and one of the many jobs I do is to teach on Microsoft’s advanced certification program, the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington. My specialised subject for the training is the Exchange transport, though I am an MCM in my own right.
At the time of writing we’re in the middle of the first week of rotation 9 of the MCM Exchange program. We’re also in rotation 35 of the program which goes as far back as Exchange 2000 as a Microsoft employee program called Ranger, the aim of which was, and still is, to produce the best Microsoft Exchange Server consultants in the world.
Week one of the program typically covers transport and client access roles, though this week database internals is the second delight on the menu. I arrived on Saturday on the direct flight to Seattle from London Heathrow and have been in nearby Redmond for a few days now to try and combat the jet lag, as the teaching goes from 8am to at least 8pm local time and has gone on even later than that!
Today we have been examining email routing in depth, followed by high availability of emails using the new shadow redundancy feature, a topic which takes about four hours to cover at the depth the MCM class runs at. Something that would be covered in less than 30 minutes on a standard Microsoft Official Curriculum class! We will attempt to cover moderation, rules and journaling today as well, but that depends upon the questions generated amongst the students and in which direction this vital part of the training takes us.
Each student gets their own internet-connected lab environment for the class, and some of the required lab exercises include shadow redundancy cross forest, email routing within the company, shared namespace routing cross different exchange organisations and, newly added to the MCM class, integration with Office 365. Lab exercises are typically a series of tasks to complete and do not come with detailed instructions, so everyone is able to do what they like to their own lab environment. By having hands-on and instructor-led training, students prepare themselves for the exams at the end of the course - one online exam and one lab-based exam - both of which are very difficult. To date there are about 100 Exchange 2010 MCM's in the world and somewhere in the region of 250 for all versions of Exchange since 2003.
The MCM training is the hardest job I do, not just in terms of time taken! Teaching at least a twelve hour day of level 400 content to 25 Exchange experts is a great challenge, and though I only teach for two-and-a-half days I need another three to recover from it and the jet lag. Once back in the UK it’s back to the usual job of helping my clients build, maintain and improve their infrastructure, bringing them the skills obtained from being an MCM, along with keeping skilled-up on new technologies such as Office 365. My clients benefit from having someone help them with the changes in technology without them needing to be experts in all the fields that their infrastructures demand. This ensures that each of their businesses have the skills to hand both in-house and on retainer to keep their IT running well every day.
Microsoft Learning Certified Master Program page
Microsoft Certified Master - Insider's View
MCM Exchange Video Preview
Bojan Nenadic, the Aspiring Microsoft Certified Master
Catching an Edge - On the Trail to Microsoft Certified Master
If you’re considering Office 365 or have started with the free trial then you’d be well placed to head over and check out the Office 365 Service Descriptions where you’ll find some really deep information about what’s included in each part of the service. I’ve seen some mention of Office 365 not providing two factor authentication (some competitors doo)…well actually Office 365 does too as it says in the Identity Service Description:
Two-Factor Authentication for Office 365 Two-factor authentication (also called strong authentication) provides improved security by requiring users to meet two authentication criteria such as a user name/password combination and a token or certificate. Planning for Two-Factor Authentication with SSO To use two-factor authentication, you must implement an single sign-on strategy using Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 with Office 365. When planning your implementation, consider whether users have a supported operating system, are inside or outside the corporate network, and are using rich clients or web browsers. Also consider the ability of your authentication provider to interoperate with other services.
Two-factor authentication (also called strong authentication) provides improved security by requiring users to meet two authentication criteria such as a user name/password combination and a token or certificate.
Planning for Two-Factor Authentication with SSO
To use two-factor authentication, you must implement an single sign-on strategy using Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 with Office 365. When planning your implementation, consider whether users have a supported operating system, are inside or outside the corporate network, and are using rich clients or web browsers. Also consider the ability of your authentication provider to interoperate with other services.
These guides are essential for anyone working their way through deployment of Office 365 in a large environment and probably for anyone considering the move
If you’re a fan of the TechNet library you’ll know there’s a lot of good stuff in it to read. The TechNet team has introduced some cool new functionality that allows you to build your own custom set of articles from across library topics that you can then export or print. It’s like having your very own TechNet book.
Read this post for more information, or head straight to TechNet to get started on your article collection.
If you’ve been asking yourself any of these questions about the recent release of Office 2010 SP1, you’ll find this post over on the Microsoft Office Updates blog most useful.
There’s an abundance of Office info available to help you get started with deployment and your answer technical questions. Find it all at your fingertips on the TechNet Springboard pages.
Take a look at this virtual lab and get started with Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.
Find more Windows Small Business Server info here on the blog or on TechNet.
Windows Azure Connect provides a simple mechanism to set up IP-based connectivity between on-premises and Windows Azure resources, making it easier for you to migrate existing applications to the cloud. You can explore, deploy, manage and maintain the technology and products that bridge on-premises and Windows Azure systems with these step-by-step resources on TechNet.
Windows Thin PC enables you to repurpose existing PCs as thin clients by providing a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows 7. Get the lowdown and find out how you can reduce the end-point costs for your virtual desktop infrastructure here. You’ll also find a host of technical documentation, including a deployment guide, and a link to the 90- day Windows Thin PC trial.