Microsoft UK evangelist Steve Plank recently wrote an excellent whitepaper called Business Agility and the Cloud, which you can read over on our UK Cloud Power portal. Steve surmises that cloud technology offers businesses the opportunity to react to change more quickly while maintaining profitability. Have a read.
If you haven’t explored the rest of the Cloud Power portal yet, have a look around while you’re there. It’s a great place to find out what cloud technology’s all about and what it can do for your business. The cloud sessions from our recent UK Tech.Days event offer insight from businesses already moving to the cloud. There are also links to technical resources on TechNet ready for you when want to get down to the nitty gritty.
It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for our weekly round up of news and views from the UK TechNet blog team. We’ll be back with more of the same on Monday. Have a great weekend.
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
Read Simon’s TechNet blog and chat with him on Twitter.
Why should you try Office 365?
Wouldn’t the world be a great place if you didn’t have to worry about your users quickly running out of email storage space; if your users had a single place where they could collaborate on documents; if they could contact each other at the click of a button and if you didn’t have to waste time upgrading your servers? Sounds a little too good to be true already, but how about if they could do it from any mobile device with a familiar experience on the desktop and web no matter what computer they use or where?
We’ve launched Office 365 and it’s something you should try right now, because it’s free to trial, but more importantly it’ll help you explore what it can do far better than a technical document can. Office 365 combines all the parts your businesses depends on from Microsoft to be productive: Office 2010 Professional Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. The very latest versions managed by Microsoft’s experts and backed by uptime guarantees that give your business money back if things go wrong.
With all that said you might be thinking there’s less for you to do: less time spent patching, less time installing server software, less time ensuring uptime, but of course you’ll spend more time making your users happy.
Office 365 can integrate with your existing Exchange environment or run stand alone and it links with Active Directory Directory Services (AD DS) so your users still only have to sign on once. If you don’t have AD DS in place, don’t worry there’s a single sign on client for smaller operations. Small businesses using Small Business Server as their platform also benefit from tight integration between Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Office 365 - they act as one. Office 365 works with your existing infrastructure to provide a cloud only or hybrid approach (connecting on and off premises) that matches the reality your organisation faces today. Let’s be clear though, the skills you bring to bear as an IT pro will help make it seamless to the people who matter - your users.
The tools to do the job are just what you’d expect: there are hundreds of PowerShell cmdlets like this one and the Exchange 2010 MMC can be used to manage Exchange Online (just like Exchange 2010). SharePoint sites can be created and managed in browser or with SharePoint Designer or even Visual Studio 2010, just like they can with the on-premises versions.
For me the most interesting stuff in the System Center 2012 is the cloud stuff. Some of this is obvious - there’s cloud button in Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012, and there’s even a new product in the line-up, currently called Concero that is totally cloud focused.
Some of the cloud enablement is, however, more subtle and is really an extension of what System Center has always been capable of i.e. automation and event handling.
For example one of the capabilities that marks the private cloud out from a traditional data centre is the ability to provide a self service capability. I don’t see this being used by the conventional end user, but rather by what I would refer to as applied IT professionals as distinct from the data centre professionals. The applied IT professionals might either be embedded in a business unit or an expert in a particular application, like the DBAs, Exchange and SharePoint administrators. This group would have limited rights to create services and provision VM’s within limits set by the data centre professional. In System Center 2012 there are several ways to accomplish this:
The other key feature of cloud computing is scalability, and System Center can support this depending on what the service needs:
One final thought: we never discuss backup and disaster recovery of the private cloud but of course it’s essential, and in fact protecting System Center 2012 itself from disaster is also essential if you’re using it to manage your data centre. The least known of the System Center products, Data Protection Manager (DPM), is also being upgraded for 2012 to allow remote management and a single console view to allow all your DPM servers to be centrally managed, so you can quickly find the data you need to recover from wherever you are working.
Not all of this is in beta right now but you can get your hands on:
and I’ll keep you posted on the rest.
Tune in on 16 August at 5pm to hear Forrester Research's Bob Cormier present findings from his total economic impact (TEI) study of Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.
Forrester interviewed six Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP) customers to discuss each organisation's experience upgrading from Internet Explorer 8 to Internet Explorer 9. Then, Forrester created a TEI case study, in which it describes the costs and benefits of using a composite organisation. Forrester concluded that the composite organisation would achieve a risk-adjusted net saving of $3.3 million over three years as a result of upgrading to Internet Explorer 9. In this webcast, Cormier outlines the costs, benefits, and flexibility options of the composite organisation. Find out how your company can save costs by upgrading to Internet Explorer 9, by registering today.
Find more Internet Explorer 9 resources on TechNet and here on the UK TechNet blog.
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.
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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.
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