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August, 2013

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  • COMING SOON: TechDays Online 2013 is on it’s way….

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    We are currently within planning stages of TechDays Online 2013, which we are incredibly excited about.

    Last year was a huge success, we had 3 days of exciting Dev and IT Pro content. Highlights included Jeffrey Snover (father of PowerShell), lots of great MVP’s and even world cup winning rugby player Will Greenwood joined us for a Skype Call.

    Building on last year’s success, we hope to make this year event even bigger, and even better. We have a wave of innovation coming through which will undoubtedly feature, but also want to throw it out to you the audience to impact what happens this year.

     

    QUICK POLL 

    - What would you like to see featured this year? 904179_516553658410875_1299570889_o

    - Last year we delivered dedicated IT Pro and Developer content days, we would like your feedback on whether this worked well for you?

    - Would prefer to have dedicated days split up over two 1/2 day sessions and a general technology day for both audiences?

    - What did you think of TechDays Online 2012?

     

    We are keen to learn your thoughts on how to improve and enrich your online experience for TechDays Online 2013!

    PLEASE COMMENT BELOW.

     

     

     

  • #TechNetTidy Competition

    How tidy is your physical environment? Have you any cabling left lying around or temporarily put in place which has now become 'live'?

    Being the curious cat's we are, we thought it would be fun to see a few photo's of your server rooms. Chaos or Clean? To find out we have decided to run a monthly competition, kicking off this month we want to see just how chaotic or well maintained our readers keep their server cabinets.  

    Prize ‘bundles’ (bundles I hear you say… yes bundles) awarded to both – ‘Tidy’ and ‘Untidy’ server cabinets each month. 

     Type 2 - Super Server Sammy 

      So are you a ‘Super Server Sammy’?

     

     

    Type 1 - Chaotic Cabled Colin

     

     

      Or are you a ‘Chaotic Cabled Colin’?

     

     

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Enter via:

    Facebook

    1. Like the TechNetUK Facebook page.

    2. Upload your server cabinet housekeeping image to the TechNetUK Facebook page wall, using the hashtag -  #TechNetTidy

    Twitter

    1. Follow the TechNetUK Twitter page.

    2. Tweet your server cabinet housekeeping image to @TechNetUk, using the hashtag - #TechNetTidy

    Find full competition terms and conditions here.

     

    PRIZES

      

      - The tidiest entry of the month will win a branded ‘TechNet UK’ cup as well as a winning competition t-shirt (as seen sported here).

      - The untidiest entry of the month will win a ‘booby’ prize (which will help you clean up your technical act), as well as a competition t-shirt.

     

     HOW TO WIN

    Winning entries will be determined by the TechNet team and at least one independent judge on the 23rd September 2013. Judging will be based on:

    - Originality and Compliance with theme - think outside the box!

    Keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter pages for entries, good luck to all!

     


     

  • #TechNetTidy Terms & Conditions

    1. ELIGIBILITY. This promotion is open to any person resident in the United Kingdom who is eighteen (18) years of age or older at the time of entry and who is a registered member of the Website https://twitter.com/TechNetUK or https://www.facebook.com/TechNetUK (the "Website"). IF YOU ARE NOT A REGISTERED MEMBER OF THE WEBSITE YOUR ENTRY WILL NOT BE VALID AND YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO WIN A PRIZE. Follow the instructions on the Website to register.

    Employees of Microsoft or its affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising or promotion agencies are not eligible, nor are members of these employees’ families (defined as parents, children, siblings, spouse and life partners).

    2. ENTRY. To be entered into the competition you must:

    [FACEBOOK INSTRUCTIONS. [LIKE MECHANIC] Like the page [https://www.facebook.com/TechNetUK ]; [and upload image to the TechNet UK facebook page wall, whilst also using the #TechNetTidy hashtag]

    [TWITTER INSTRUCTIONS [HASHTAG MECHANIC] Tweet [Each photo upload of your own server and housekeeping to @TechNetUK] and label the tweet with the hashtag #[TechNetTidy].

    To the extent that entry requires the submission of user-generated content such as photos, videos, music, artwork, essays, etc., entrants warrant that their entry is their original work, has not been copied from others, and does not violate the privacy, intellectual property rights or other rights of any other person or entity.

    Entries will be ineligible for the prize draw if they:

    · are incomplete;

    · exceed the maximum number of entries allowed per person;

    · violate the rights of any other person or entity;

    · are received outside of the Promotion Period set out below; or

    · are reported to violate the terms governing use of the Website.

    Only one (1) entry per person will be accepted. No purchase necessary to enter the promotion. Entry constitutes full and unconditional acceptance of these Terms and Conditions. Microsoft is not responsible for lost, corrupted or delayed entries. Microsoft reserves the right to disqualify anyone who violates these Terms and Conditions.

    3. TIMING. This promotion runs from [12:00] GMT on [30th August 2013] until [12:00] GMT on [20th of December 2013] (inclusive) (the “Promotion Period”).

    4. USE OF YOUR ENTRY. Personal data which you provide when you enter may be used for future Microsoft marketing activity if you indicate your consent to such activity (if applicable). Otherwise your personal data will be used by Microsoft and agents acting on Microsoft’s behalf only for the operation of this promotion.

    5. SELECTION OF WINNERS. All valid entries will be [judged as a finalist].

    Winning entries will be determined by a panel of judges with at least one independent judge on [23rd of each month running up to December 2013]. Judging will be based on:

    · [JUDGING CRITERION 1, e.g., “Originality of entry”]

    · [JUDGING CRITERION 2, e.g., “Compliance with theme”]

    · [REPEAT FOR ALL JUDGING CRITERIA]

    A maximum of one prize per eligible entry is allowed. Winners will be notified [by private mail through the Email or by Website - Facebook/Twitter] by [23rd of each month leading up to December 2013]. If a potential winner has not confirmed receipt of the notification within TEN (10) days after the first attempt, an alternative winner will be selected on the same basis as described above (either at random for prize draws or according to the same judging criteria for competitions). Winners may be asked to provide identification proving their eligibility before they are entitled to receive the prize. Winners may be asked to participate in further publicity or advertising.

    6. PRIZE(S). There will be [Two (2)] prize(s) in total each month. The prize(s) will be as follows:

    · [1x] [Pack of @TechNetUK branded cable tidies, with a Microsoft branded #TechNetTidy T-shirt] [£20 approximate value]

    · [1x] [Microsoft @TechNetUK coffee mug, with with a Microsoft branded #TechNetTidy T-shirt] [£20 approximate value]

    · Prizes are as stated and are not transferable. No cash alternatives available. Microsoft reserves the right to substitute the prizes with prizes of equal or greater value. All prizes will be sent by Microsoft or its agent no later than 28 days after the prize draw has been made by Microsoft. Unless otherwise stated, all prizes are subject to their manufacturer's warranty and/or terms and conditions.

    Prizes may be considered as a taxable benefit to the winners. Winners will be directly responsible for accounting for and paying to HMRC, or other relevant tax authority, any tax liability arising on their prize. Please contact ukstat@microsoft.com for any query related to the taxable amount for reporting to HMRC, or other relevant tax authority.

    7. WINNERS LIST. Each winner consents to his/her surname being made publicly available upon request. Winners’ names will be available for a period of 28 days after the selection of winners by written request to [t-stmul@microsoft.com – this can be an email address of the vendor operating the promotion or a Microsoft address]. << Unsure of what this means

    8. OTHER. No correspondence will be entered into regarding either this promotion or these Terms and Conditions. In the unlikely event of a dispute, Microsoft’s decision shall be final. Microsoft reserves the right to amend, modify, cancel or withdraw this promotion at any time but only before the delivery of prizes, without notice.

    Participants in this promotion agree that Microsoft will have no liability whatsoever for any injuries, costs, damage, disappointment or losses of any kind resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from acceptance, misuse or use of a prize, or from participation in this promotion. Nothing in this clause shall limit Microsoft’s liability in respect of death or personal injury arising out of its own negligence or liability arising out of Microsoft’s fraud.

    Microsoft cannot guarantee the performance of any third party and shall not be liable for any act or default by a third party.

    9. SPIRIT OF THE COMPETITION. If an entrant attempts to compromise the integrity or the legitimate operation of this promotion by hacking or by cheating or committing fraud in ANY way, we may seek damages from that entrant to the fullest extent permitted by law. Further, we will disqualify that entrant’s entry to this promotion and may ban the entrant from participating in any of our future promotions, so please play fairly.

    Promoter: Microsoft Limited (“Microsoft”), Microsoft Campus, Thames Valley Park, Reading, RG6 1WG, England.

  • Microsoft Master - Antonio Vargas, Exchange Extraordinaire.

    Last month it was brought to my attention the achievements of Antonio Vargas, a Microsoft Exchange senior solutions architect at Intercall Unified Communications UK, who in July 2013 had been awarded a Microsoft Certified Solutions Master’s certification in Exchange Server 2013.

    A Quick Insight…

    20130821205844__SAM0079Antonio has held 12 years’ experience in Unified Communications, mostly working for a large IT Firm in Portugal. His willingness to progress led to a job invitation from Unified Communication experts Intercall based in the UK, where he’s been working for the last year.

    He gained his first Microsoft certification 12 years ago on Active Directory. Since then he’s completed 24 additional Microsoft certifications all based around unified communications.

    With 25 certificates under his belt, Antonio was ready for his next  challenge – to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) in Exchange Server 2013.

     

    If I’m being entirely honest, I hadn’t a great deal of knowledge on what an MCSM entailed, but I knew it was a great achievement. I decided to track Antonio down to find out more about his mammoth undertaking to get a better understanding of the process, how it works and why you’d go through it. It was a fascinating conversation so I thought others might find it interesting too... so here’s what he said.

    What was the driving force behind your decision to take the Master’s accreditation?

    Having successfully passed numerous certifications I was getting to the point in my career where I‘d exhausted all the potential courses at my current level. I’d wanted to specialise in a particular area for a while, so in order to do that and progress a Masters certification was next on my list.

    Why Exchange?

    Unified Communications is the area I am most interested in, but it goes beyond interest. A Master Certification in any technology is incredibly hard, and you truly need to love that technology as you’re going to be devoting lots of your time on self-learning, it’s not going to be easy to do a masters in a technology you’re not entirely sure of. Exchange was my favourite, hence why I choose it.

    What’s the process for completing a Masters?

    I always had plans of progressing to a Masters, it’s been something on my to do list for a couple of years now. So when I finally decided to go for it around June 2012, I had to prepare well in advance.

    I began to build a study plan, during the 6-9 months period I began out of hour’s preparation, light reading around the varied TechNet articles and blog content and some good books about Microsoft Exchange, the last 6 months leading up to the course I started heavier reading around more focused content, some specialised books and TechNet articles around Office 365 especially. The last few months I was getting hands on learning, taking advantage of the Microsoft Masters advanced training labs which took place in the US, presented by instructors from Microsoft and Microsoft partner organizations. This was a great opportunity to study but also to network with a varied group of like-minded field experts also going for their Masters. My study plan was incredibly helpful but the real experience I was able to gather from my work at Intercall was on par if not as important to the progression route.

    Challenges you faced, and how you overcame them?

    Time constraints was the main issue - any free time I had, I was reading. Microsoft provide a pre-recommended reading list to anyone planning on taking their Masters, and this helps greatly with finding relative material. My employer was also incredibly helpful, I was provided solely with projects focused on Exchange on the last few months leading up the rotation, this helped further my focus on the product, rather than having to work on other technologies.

    Have you reaped any benefits from your experience and certification yet?

    Firstly, it’s been beneficial to the company having an employee who masters in a technology which is a large focus of their business, this will hopefully be a real selling point for our customers.

    Personally, I’ll also be able to get involved in bigger projects as a result, which will give me greater experience and responsibility. Another huge benefit is the contacts and friendships I’ve formed along the way, I’m now a member of the Microsoft Masters community, a group where we share ideas, resolve queries and network with experts from various IT backgrounds. These are invaluable connections which will undoubtedly be hugely beneficial to my future career.”

    Have you got any tips for others seeking a Microsoft Certified Masters or alternative certifications?

    • Love the technology, this will make your certification easier to achieve.
    • Build a solid study plan (Masters - one year in advance), and read as much as possible – aim to go outside of your comfort zone.
    • If possible, seek out hands-on product experience with real customers.
    • Masters Advanced Training (highly recommended) - Invaluable networking opportunity

    (Note: If you choose to take the advanced training course, basic questions need to be pre-determined, don’t waste this valuable experience asking questions which could be found in advance).

    Antonio Vargas 2

     

    Antonio has shown great skill and determination leading up to and throughout his Masters certification and we applaud his achievement as a Microsoft certified Exchange Master. Antonio also told me he not only has future plans to renew this certification in a few years, but also further ambitions of completing a Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certificate. There’s no stopping him! We wish him the very best in his future career.

    If you, like Antonio, are ambitious and eager to improve your skillset and qualifications, we have Microsoft Virtual Academy courses where you can learn at your own pace (?) and gain accreditation. You might not have the stamina or will to go all the way to a Masters, but that’s OK, you can learn through your lunch hour. Check out Andrew Fryer's ‘A Month of Lunchtimes’ article and tell us how you get on!

  • Remote Working: Let the cloud work for you…and your people

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      By Asavin Wattanajantra, Digital Copywriter at Metia

     

     

     

     It’s snowing. Transport is a mess. It’s impossible to get to work. Peter still has his regular breakfast and gets dressed for work because he’s got an important meeting with his colleague in Sweden.

    Through a USB key he picked from work Steven runs a version of Windows on a computer where he accesses the Microsoft Office applications he’s so familiar with. Through Microsoft Lync he’s able to talk to his colleague in Sweden via a video connection.

    Work files are available because his home system has synced them. He opens a PowerPoint document with an app that works exactly the same way as it does in the office. He shares the document with his Swedish colleague. They get down to business.

    The workplace is changing. Gone are the days when it was essential for employees to be stuck in an office cubicle for their entire working lives. Good businesses realise that flexibility is beneficial for a happy and productive environment.

    It allows them to hire valuable staff that for any number of reasons can’t work in a traditional office: for instance freelancers working in a different country, or people with valuable but extremely unique technical skills that are difficult to find.

    An organisation won't lose valuable people who might want to start a family or move to a different part of the country. And you'll find that employees working from home can be more productive without the distractions of an office, or the time wasting of a tortuous car or rail journey.

    The biggest challenge that businesses find is putting the right technology in place. If you don't have, for example, the right hardware (laptops, servers or web-enabled devices like smartphones) together with suitable connectivity, you're fighting a losing battle. However, it is becoming much easier for IT departments to implement remote working thanks to cloud computing.

    Securing information and data

    The ability to access business information and applications on-demand over the internet is a big change. Previously it would have been a huge effort for IT staff to keep business information secure on different devices. Now, software like Microsoft Office 365 is available on demand, which provides access to Office applications and documents across any devices you might have in your company, as well as the various gadgets employees bring in from the outside.

    For the IT department, Office 365 takes much of the worry away.

    · As Office 365 is cloud-based, your back- end services are monitored 24 hours a day and you get a financially backed uptime guarantee.

    · Data is encrypted through transit, and held in datacentres which are independently audited and some of the most secure in the world.

    · You can manage security by adding users, setting access rules, and remotely locking and wiping devices if stolen.

    To get these types of services on-premises was and is very difficult. Cloud technology allows you to reduce costs, automate processes, increase scalability and simplify your IT. You can manage all the technology from a centralised location, making growth and expansion much easier and with lower setup costs.

    Communication issues

    But increased remote working brings some natural concerns. Will employees will be equally or more productive without the face-to-face pressure of a manager? And how do you stop the detachment that comes from not being part of the office team? Again, cloud technology could be the answer, as there are powerful online collaborative tools available which will benefit whatever organisation you're working with or for.

    Office 365 features include:

    · The ability to share up-to-date master copies of Word, PowerPoint and Excel files quickly and easily on different devices with SkyDrive.

    · The potential to gain access to company bulletins, docs and policies from anywhere. It also offers the possibility of using a team site to manage reports, proposals, calendars and budgets.

    · Functionality with Lync, which means you're just a real-time message or video call away from a mobile worker, and they are with their colleagues

    Whether you're IT support in a large enterprise, or an IT manager in a small business, there’s now an expectation integrating remote working into the organisation. With cloud computing, it is now much easier to make it a reality.

     

    Bio:

    Asavin is a specialist technology writer with more than five years experience writing for different web publications. He’s particularly interested in Microsoft technology and how it fits for business needs throughout the world.

     

     

  • The Annual SharePoint MOT - 5 Reasons to do a SharePoint Health Check this Summer

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      By Simon Wright, Managing Consultant at PointBeyond Ltd

     

     

    As summer takes a firm hold and thoughts turn to holidays, your organisation probably seems a little quieter than usual. This respite can often be an ideal opportunity for IT departments to get around to those long overdue housekeeping chores.

    Take your SharePoint environment for example. Having tirelessly served the business for the past year, in the same way you would expect to service and MOT a car, now is the ideal time to prepare your mission critical platform for next year’s journey.

    We’ve identified the top five reasons for doing a SharePoint health check, based on our experience of delivering health checks for numerous customers across various sectors:

    1. What we originally designed and built our SharePoint environment to do and what it is doing now are completely different.

    You may have more users, more sites, more content, more customisations, more third party tools, or all of the above! You want to be confident that your environment is stable and you are not about to experience an outage or failure.

    2. SharePoint seems slower/less reliable recently – we want to maintain user confidence in the platform.

    Maybe you even know some aspects aren’t working correctly, but haven’t had the time to address them.

    3. Nightly backups and/or search crawls are taking longer and longer to complete.

    Scheduled tasks regularly run into the next working day and make the whole environment incredibly slow.

    4. The business is looking for re-assurance that the environment is secure.

    The business critical and sensitive nature of data held on your SharePoint Farm, together with recent high profile cases of systems being compromised, has highlighted a need for ensure that the environment is built to Microsoft Best Practice and is secure.

    5. We are interested in laying the groundwork for an upgrade or migration project.

    You want to know that your SharePoint environment is stable and you have a firm footing on which to plan a migration. 

    The overarching theme tends to be that ‘SharePoint has become mission critical for us now. We’re thinking about it more strategically as a platform and want to make sure our house is in order before considering next steps.’

    This is understandable given some of the most common mistakes we see, such as: 

    1. There is little or no SQL maintenance taking place on SharePoint databases 

    2. Incorrect service accounts are being used to run services and application pools

    3. Security concerns around service accounts being local administrators and/or using weak passwords

    4. Backups are not regularly taking place, or restores have not been tested

    5. Search crawl, user profile import and timer jobs are regularly failing

    Time to get your house in order?

    With this in mind, we’ve put together a free self-help check list that can be used to determine whether your SharePoint 2010 environment is in need of some care and attention. Covering vital areas such as Services on Servers, SQL maintenance and with explanatory notes for each check point, the list can be an invaluable starting point for organisations wanting to health check or improve their existing SharePoint environment.

    Full details can be found here.

     

    BIO:

    Simon Wright is a Managing Consultant at PointBeyond Ltd, UK specialists in SharePoint Strategy and Business Solutions. Simon has extensive expertise in delivering SharePoint implementations, solution strategy, business systems analysis, development and implementation to organisations across many varying sectors. You can contact Simon at info@pointbeyond.com.

     

  • Gadgets for the IT guy: The Jawbone Jambox

    In his new column Microsoft Infrastructure Evangelist Simon May explores gadgets that the average IT guy will find useful – ‘cos we all love our gadgets. First up is the turn of the Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth speaker, Simon looks into what makes it good and why it suits the IT guy in him.

    A few weeks ago I decided to start writing this column and started looking for the first gadgets to review, fortuitously I won a Jawbone Jambox in an internal competition and the subject of the first article become obvious. The model I won was a special edition, not the one pictured here but a really nice purple and grey number.

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    The device itself feels really solid, it’s got a good weight to it – not enough to knock someone out, just enough so it doesn’t move. The top and bottom are made from a non-slip rubber that keeps it firmly located and on the top there’s buttons for adjusting the volume and getting the jam box to tell you how much battery is left. On the side of the device are the on/off and paring switch, a 3.5mm jack and a micro USB connector.

    Powering on the Jambox makes a satisfying thud from the base and powering it off is like turning off a small robot, or at least what I imagine that would be like. Pushing the power button up puts the device into Bluetooth pairing mode and there’s a really nice Star Trek like communicator noise to accompany it. The Jambox comes with a 3.5mm audio cable to directly connect to devices but I’ve actually only found myself using it over Bluetooth directly paired to my phone.

    The sound quality is great, amazing actually for such a tiny unit (it’s about 20cm by 15cm). The very cool thing that I realised quickly (I don’t read the manual I’m an IT guy) is that this thing is actually also a great unified comms device. When it pairs with your phone it pairs as a music device and a headset. Jawbone’s history of great audio from their Bluetooth headsets comes through strongly and the noise cancelling and audio pickup are great. I’ve had some of the best Lync call experiences over the past couple of weeks with this.

    Also in the box is a micro-USB cable to connect it to your PC so that the software in the Jambox can be upgraded. If you don’t like voice that comes built into the Jambox you can change it really easily with Jawbone’s myTalk software.

    The really attractive thing about the Jambox is that it has a battery built in and charged through the micro-USB and that battery makes it a go anywhere device…anywhere like a server room!

    Back in the day when I was doing real work – server admin stuff – I worked in the usual noisy datacentre and I’d spend a good few hours standing at servers, usually bored out my brain. Quite often we’d break out the radio and turn it on but it’d need to be over the other side of the room and would be virtually inaudible. Of course we couldn’t wear headphones in the room lest the halon alarm (we had one of these!) went off and we didn’t hear it – that would have been bad! I thought then that a little real world test of the Jambox was in order…

    So I went down to my nearest datacentre, swiped my access card and went in. Immediately I was hit by the burrrrr drone of the fans and the air con and that smell…every datacentre I’ve ever been in smells the same. It’s a kind of electric, dust and sweat smell that I know you know. Anyway I digress. The noise was enough to make us have to shout at each other, I took a friend because I shouldn’t be loose in a production DC. We were stood infront of a FlexPod with some additional Cisco kit and Net-App storage, it was kinda loud…then I Bluetooth’d some music from my phone to the Jambox. It wasn’t enough to drown out the fans but it was plenty good enough to hear. If I’d been standing at a KVM setting up some kit I would have been well entertained. Test past.

    Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this first Gadgets for the IT guy post and you’re thinking you too want to go grab a nice little USB speaker. If you’ve got any thoughts on the next thing you’d like me to try and obtain to try out then let me know in the comments. Of course if you’d like me to review your product then drop me an email.

  • Cutting the cost of IT: What's your virtualisation strategy?

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      By Asavin Wattanajantra, Digital Copywriter at Metia

     

     

    Have you virtualised your datacentre?

    Virtualisation makes it possible for IT teams in small and large businesses to be more responsive internally and externally, provide better service, and react more quickly to events. It allows companies to run multiple operating systems on the same server at the same time, which can make an IT professional’s job much easier.

    Virtualisation has been known as a potential IT game changer for some time, and even longer as a concept – since the time when mainframes were king. In the last few years forward-thinking businesses have given a green light to virtualisation strategies – which have helped financially and from a technical point of view.

    With the right software, virtualisation allows companies to cut costs by reducing hardware, as well as cutting the cost of managing and maintaining it. With fewer machines, firms can save more money by becoming energy efficient, which also helps the environment.

    Iconic British car manufacturer Aston Martin was one company which went for server virtualisation, making its systems more efficient in the mission to develop luxury sports cars. The Aston Martin IT department chose the Windows Server 2012 operating system, including Hyper-V technology, to virtualise its data centre and build four private clouds.

    Aston Martin developers now have a private cloud which they can use for their own projects. The IT team provides developers standard images of servers and a test environment – if the developers break it, they can rebuild it themselves. They can also quickly scale out the environment for load testing.

    Virtualisation can also help with the management and administration of applications across the organisation, without having to physically install them on the computers of end users. Through Microsoft Application Virtualisation (App-V) virtual applications work more like traditionally installed applications, making them straightforward for IT teams to manage centrally.

    App-V lets companies host applications centrally in one place, making them available to multiple authorised users. It can also make it much easier to install applications on multiple devices, providing users with the necessary permissions to access certain files and systems.

    The server version of Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, has built-in virtualisation through Hyper-V. IT departments can use it as a foundational virtualisation platform that allows a business to transition to the cloud.

    It's easy to be wary of new technology that offers significant cost savings as being too good to be true. But businesses around the world have successfully implemented virtualised environments, moving forward competitively and reaping the rewards.

    Find out more about Application Virtualization here.

     

    Bio:

    Asavin is a specialist technology writer with more than five years experience writing for different web publications. He’s particularly interested in Microsoft technology and how it fits for business needs throughout the world.

     

     

     

  • 10 reasons all businesses can benefit from Windows 8.1

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      By Asavin Wattanajantra, Digital Copywriter at Metia

     

     

      

    On April 8 2014, Microsoft will be ending support for Windows XP and Office 2003. IT departments throughout the world won't receive new security updates or support options.

    It's time to seriously think about migrating to a new Windows system, if you haven't already. Whether you're an IT administrator looking to keep your IT systems safe, secure and simplified, or a forward-thinking manager already thinking about how to incorporate touch and tablets into your infrastructure, Windows 8.1 can work for you.

     

    Here are five reasons why system administrators will love Windows 8.1.

    1. Control devices employees bring in from the outside

    It's a fact of workplace life that employees will want to bring in their own devices, and it's traditionally been a difficult problem to control their access to the corporate network. Windows 8.1 feature Workplace Join which solves this problem, as it allows end users to register devices they bring in from the outside. IT can then control how much of the network is available to the device.

    2. Sync data on all devices

    Employees ideally like to work from anywhere. A feature called Work Folders gives them the power to access work documents, while reducing the risk of losing information and losing track of the data. It allows an employee to save company data in a Work Folders directory on their device, which is synced to an IT-controlled file server. This means any work they do remotely will be synced, with all the changes they made automatically saved for when they get back to work on the doc in the office.

    3. Create a mobile Windows workspace using a USB key

    Windows To Go is a nifty feature which allows you to create a version of Windows on any compatible computer, booted from a USB-connected external drive. It’s a fully manageable Windows 8 environment and suits workers on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) lifestyle – they can work with the same associated applications and data without having to lug a laptop home from the office. Businesses will appreciate the lowered hardware costs without sacrificing data protection or compliance policies.

    4. Encrypt devices and create a more secure application environment

    Hardware can disappear – either through loss or theft. Windows 8.1 has BitLocker tools which allow devices such as laptops and portable storage to be locked down with encryption. Another feature called AppLocker allows you to specify which users or groups can run particular applications in your organisation. This means you can set rules to allow or deny apps from running.

    5. Control the Start Screen

    Windows 8.1 has a new start-up screen. Using a new feature called Start Up Control, you can control the layout of the Start screen on company-issued devices to make sure key applications are accessible to certain individuals. If system administrators want to keep the corporate identity on devices being used outside of the office, they can stop users from customising the Start Screen. 

    And five reasons Windows 8.1 is ready for the future

    1. It's touchscreen-friendly

    The tools of the consumer are penetrating the enterprise world. Workers are becoming more tech-savvy - bringing in the technology they use at home, such as tablets and smart phones, in the workplace. Windows 8.1 is designed for touch screens as well as the desktop. Technology moves fast, and the managers of tomorrow may be demanding touch-friendly equipment. We're already there.

    2. It's cloud-ready

    Windows 8.1 is designed with the cloud in mind. IT administrators can choose whether they want to embrace and integrate services like SkyDrive Pro, which allows you to share information with co-workers and mobile devices. You have a place to store documents in a secure location, whether you choose to go with the cloud or a SharePoint server.

    3. Access useful apps from the Windows Store

    Employees are free to download useful apps from the Windows Store if you let them. You can also control the availability and functionality of Windows Store apps on client computers in accordance with your business policies. And if there is an enterprise app available from the Windows Store that might be useful for the workforce, it is simple to add these to a Windows image.  It’s also possible to develop Windows Store apps for use only in your enterprise and add them to Windows devices you manage through a process called sideloading.

    4. Hyper-V technology is built in

    Many companies have looked at server virtualisation as a great way of reducing costs, and Client Hyper-V is built into Windows 8.1. Client Hyper-V enables you to run more than one 32-bit or 64-bit x86 operating system at the same time on the same host computer, running inside a virtual machine. IT professionals can easily maintain multiple test environments and quickly switch between these environments.

    5. Print using NFC and Wi-Fi

    Windows 8.1 offers tap-to-pair printing – simply by tapping a Windows 8.1 device against an enterprise NFC-enabled printer. There's no need to buy special printers. Simply attach an NFC tags. You can also connect Windows 8.1 to Wi-Fi printers without the need for additional drivers or software, allowing printing with a peer-to-peer network between the device and the printer.

    Time to get ready for tomorrow, today? Windows 8.1 is officially available on October 18, but you can already download the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview here.

      

    Bio:

    Asavin is a specialist technology writer with more than five years experience writing for different web publications. He’s particularly interested in Microsoft technology and how it fits for business needs throughout the world.

     

     

  • Green IT Fatigue

    I recently got asked to do an interview on  for TechWeek Europe about green initiatives in the IT industry. However let’s be honest, computers burn a lot of power, require a lot of power to make and are made of some nasty exotic compounds and chemicals, so they aren’t going to save the planet by themselves.  However a few years back everyone was talking about Green IT, and more properly sustainable IT, and while that topic is no longer trending, we don’t seem to have done anything about it and Green Fatigue has set in across IT . 

    Looking at what has been happening in the data centre then good work has been done, but not in the name of green IT. For example server consolidation has meant physical servers are better utilised now; they are typically running 10+ VMs each rather than idling at 10%.  We have also got better at cooling those servers, but this has sometimes been driven not by a green initiative but because of the cost of power and the capacity available from the power supplier in a particular location.

    Later versions of virtualisation technologies always make best use of the latest hardware but swapping out server hardware to get the benefits of the latest CPU or networking has to be balanced against the cost of making the new server and disposing of the old one, so you’ll want to focus on how you can extend the life of your servers possibly by just upgrading the software.

    Virtualisation by itself can also cause more problems for the environment than it solves because while you  have achieved some consolidations you may well end up with a lot more VMs that aren’t doing much useful work.  Effective management of those VMs is the key to efficiency for example:

    • Elimination of  Virtual Machine sprawl.  Typically this shows itself as a spread of numerous dev and test environments, and the only way I can think of to check this over use of resources is to charge the consumer for them on the basis of what they have committed to use so chargeback or at least showback.
    • Dynamically optimising a workloads based on demand – Reducing the capacity of low priority under used services or stopping them altogether to free up resources for busy services without needing more hardware.  
    • Extreme Automation to reduce the number of IT guys per VM, these reduces the footprint per VM as each member of IT uses energy to do their work and often has to travel to work so if this can be distributed across more VMs than that is more efficient.

    These three things are actually all key characteristics of clouds so my assertion is that cloud computing is more environmentally efficient, without necessarily being Green IT per se.  Given the fact that public clouds operate at much greater scale and efficiencies than what is possible in many internal data centres1 plus they are often located specifically to take account favourable environmental conditions all of which means they are greener than running services in house. 

    So we are getting greener, it’s just we don’t call it that, and no doubt no that we are fed up with the word cloud as applied to IT we’ll change that to something else as well.  

     

     

     

     

    1 Internally a Microsoft Global Services defines a data centre having more than 60,000 physical servers

    http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/interview/video-green-fatigue-microsoft-125267