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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 1 April, 2014
Introducing SmartClippy – the smart paperclip that connects everything in your life
We live in a world where new technologies arrive daily – it can be a struggle just to keep up. But what if there was a way to just … attach … new innovations to our lives? To usher in this new era of attachments, Microsoft is turning to an old friend with some new tricks up his sleeve.
Clippy has been there for Microsoft Office users since Office 97 – but with support for Office 2003 and Windows XP ending on 8 April, it’s time for everyone’s favourite office assistant to take on a new role.
“Microsoft announced the date for the end of Windows XP support back in 2007, so I’ve had a lot of time to plan my next move,” said Clippy. “And now I’m excited to finally announce the next chapter in my life. I’m going back to basics and doing what paper clips like me are born to do: Attach things to other things.”
Today Microsoft is proud to introduce SmartClippy, the one paperclip for everything in your life.
SmartClippy is available now at leading electronics retailers, fine stationery stores, not-so-fine stationery stores, your company’s supply cabinet, behind sofa cushions and in bins.
Microsoft official and Community tech events coming your way this March and beyondWhich event are you going to? Let us know via @TechNetUK.
Microsoft Accelerate Your Insights On May 1st Microsoft is running an event that will explore the opportunities for organisations wishing to accelerate their use of data insights. At this event you will hear from Corp Vice President of the Data Platform Quentin Clark and customers from health, manufacturing and other industries discussing their experiences of using Business Intelligence and analytics within their organisations. The event will be in-person as well as online, please register using the following links.
1st May, Reading: Executive agenda (AM). Register here
People-Centric IT WorkshopsThe Microsoft People-Centric IT Workshops are ½ day and delivered jointly with our one of our strategic partners at regional locations across the UK. Don't lose sleep. People-centric IT (PCIT) empowers each person you support to work virtually anywhere on PCs and devices of their choice, while providing IT with an easy, consistent, and secure way to manage it all.
19th May, LondonPeople-Centric IT WorkshopRegister here
Transform the Datacentre WorkshopsThe Microsoft Transform The Datacentre Workshops are ½ day and delivered jointly with our one of our strategic partners at regional locations across the UK.We recently announced the availability of new modern datacentre and cloud solutions to help you manage hybrid cloud services and connected devices with greater agility and cost-efficiency.Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure are key solutions that deliver against our Cloud OS vision to provide you with a modern platform to address your top IT challenges.
READING13th May 2013REGISTER HERE >
SOUTHAMPTON20th May 2014REGISTER HERE >
CARDIFF3rd June 2014REGISTER HERE >
Upcoming Community Events
15th May, Birmingham: SQL Server User Group – Come along to the Midlands SQL Server User Group meet & greet event in Birmingham. Sessions TBC, food provided.
Be sure to keep up to date on TechNet social for more regular event updates. Why not tweet us and let us know which event you’re going to!
By Vicky Lea
When it comes to purchasing licences there are a number of different channels that you can purchase through. These are FPP (Full Packaged Product), OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and Volume Licensing. So what are the key differences between the channels, and what impact do they have on your licensing rights? Because it is the usage rights you receive with the software that mainly distinguish between the channels.
Let us start off by looking at FPP licences.
FPP licences are purchased from retail and provide a quick and convenient way for customers requiring less than five licences to purchase their software. Licences sold through FPP are either full licences or upgrade licences. A full licence does not require any pre-existing versions of the software to be on the machine it is installed on, whereas an upgrade licence allow you to cost effectively upgrade to a newer version of software that you are already licensed for.
When you purchase FPP software you are entering into an agreement with Microsoft stating that you will adhere to the usage rights associated with the software. These rights include detail such as downgrade rights, which you generally do not get with FPP software, how many devices you are allowed to install the software on, whether you have the right to move the software to another computer (transfer rights) or not and nowadays whether you are allowed to use the software for commercial use or not.
The usage rights for FPP software are laid out in the Microsoft Software Licence Terms document, which can be downloaded from this site: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/legal/IntellectualProperty/UseTerms/Default.aspx.
Microsoft does also provide limited support services for software that has been licensed via the FPP channel, details of which can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/common/international.aspx.
OEM software is software that comes pre-installed when you purchase a new computer. So for instance when you purchase a new PC it might come with an OEM licensed copy of Windows 8.1 Pro pre-installed on it. One of the key benefits of this is that you then know that the software has been installed correctly and is working properly and if there are any issues it is the responsibility of the computer manufacturer or installer to provide support rather than Microsoft.
Again, OEM software usage is ruled by the Microsoft Software Licence Terms document. So for instance it will detail that with Windows 8.1 Pro licensed via OEM you do get limited downgrade rights in that you can downgrade as far back as two earlier versions if you so desire, either to Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business. But that there are no transfer rights, so the software may not be removed from the PC it was originally installed on and installed on another, however, you are allowed to transfer the PC complete with the OEM licensed software to a new user if required.
The third channel you may purchase software through is Volume Licensing. There are a number of volume licensing agreements you can purchase through and these agreements have been tailored to suit the differing requirements of all sizes and types of organisation. There are agreements aimed at the small to medium sized business in the form of Open and Open Value, and agreements aimed at medium to large organisations in the form of the Select Plus and Enterprise Agreements.
Usage of software purchased through these agreements is controlled by a number of factors; the agreement itself may contain some usage rights specific to purchasing through that agreement, but the usage rights per product can be found in the Product List document and the Product Use Rights (PUR) document. You can download the Product List and PUR from here: http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com.
For example, with an Enterprise Agreement the transfer rights for software are detailed in the Enterprise Agreement document itself, stating that licences may only be transferred once they have been fully paid for and that they can only be transferred to affiliates or a third party as part of a divestiture or merger. So it is always important to check the agreement documents as they will detail rights that are specific to the agreement itself, but what about the more general terms?
Well this is where documents such as the Product List and PUR come into play. The Product List provides monthly information about Microsoft Software and Online Services licensed through the volume licensing agreements, and details software availability through the different agreements, as well as Software Assurance migration paths, step-up licences and available promotions. The PUR goes into detail on the general volume licensing terms for each licensing model plus any product-specific use rights. All these documents together can be used to determine the licence terms for products purchased through specific agreements.
For example, when you purchase Windows 8.1 Pro through Volume Licensing the licence is an upgrade licence only. Meaning that the device must already be licensed for a qualifying operating system before installation of the Windows Upgrade. The Product List contains all the detail behind this including a list of the qualifying operating systems per agreement. Whereas the PUR goes into more detail on where Windows 8.1 Pro may be installed and who can access the software either locally or remotely.
Other important product rights you receive when purchasing your licences through volume licensing are re-imaging and full downgrade rights. Downgrade rights again are detailed in the PUR, and you may find detail on re-imaging rights in the specific agreement documents. However, there is a very useful re-imaging brief that goes into all the detail you may need and you can download that from here: http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/D/4/3D42BDC2-6725-4B29-B75A-A5B04179958B/Reimaging.pdf.
So to wrap up, we have seen that there are a number of different ways for you to purchase your licences, and the availability of software does vary through those channels, but the main impact on the licences of buying through FPP, OEM or Volume Licensing is the usage rights you gain with the software.
This is one scenario and licensing situation. Each customer scenario can vary by deployment, usage, product version, and product use rights. Always check your contract, and the current Products Use Rights document to confirm how your environment should be fully licensed. The blogging team does not warrant that this scenario will be the right licensing solution for other similar cases.
Neil Hodgkinson has provided a step by step guide to getting started with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. This is part of a 15 part series which will cover the installation, setup, configuration and usage of Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. To find the additional articles in the series please take a look at Neil’s site.
http://SCCM2012 IIS Default for group policy is not needed if you are using SCCM push, read more about it here http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb632380.aspx
Remote Differential Compression for site server and branch distribution point computers
Site servers and branch distribution points require Remote Differential Compression (RDC) to generate package signatures and perform signature comparison. By default, RDC is not installed on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 and must be enabled manually.
Use the following procedure to enable Remote Differential Compression for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and now 2012
Delegate Permission to the System Management Container
Open Active Directory Users and Computers. Click on view, select Advanced Features. Select the System Management Container, and right click it, choose All Tasks and Delegate Control.
When the Welcome to Delegation of Control Wizard appears click next, then click Add. Click on Object Types, select Computers. Type in your SCCM server name and click on Check Names, it should resolve.
Click Ok, then Next. Choose Create a Custom Task to Delegate, click next, make sure this folder, existing objects in this folder and creation of new objects in this folder is selected.
Click next, select the 3 permissions General, Property-Specific and Creation-deletion of specific child objects are selected then place a check mark in FULL CONTROL, and click next then Finish.
Extent the AD schema for sccm
Perform the below on your Active Directory server, simply browse the network to your AD Server server \\adminserver\c$ and copy the contents of SC2012_SP1_RTM_SCCM_SCEP and find \SMSSetup\Bin\x64\Extadsch.exe, right click and choose Run As Administrator.
Open SQL ports
Create an OU for your SCCM server and allow port 1433 and 4022 for SQL replication with group policy – Select Computer Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings, Windows Firewall with Advanced Security and select Inbound Rules, choose New and follow the wizard for opening up TCP port 1433, repeat for port 4022.
If using group policy refer to step 2 below Image
To open a port in the Windows firewall for TCP access
To open access to SQL Server when using dynamic ports
Install .net frame work and IIS WCF activation and BITS
In Server Manager select Features, Add Features, Select .NET Framework 3.5, also select WCF Activation and when prompted answer Add Required Role Services click next and next again. (Make sure the BIT and IIS service is running/restart after install).
SQL Server 2012
Install SQL on D:\Program Files... and when running setup.exe right click and choose Run as Administrator, Select all options on install, click on the account name and enter the admin username and password.
Click next and finish install (takes a long time).Make sure SCCM computer is a member of the built-in administrators.
Check TCPIP properties for listening IP address in SQL Server Configuration Manager Start up the SQL Server Configuration Manager, and expand SQL Server Network Configuration on the left pane, highlight Protocols for <Instancename> and double click on TCPIP in the right pane
Click on IP addresses
Change IP2 to enabled yes
Leave default IP
Change IP4 to enabled yes
SQL Memory Configuration
The logon account for the SQL Server service cannot be a local user account, NT SERVICE\<sql service name> or LOCAL SERVICE. You must configure the SQL Server service to use a valid domain account, NETWORK SERVICE, or LOCAL SYSTEM. SEE BELOW PIC
Installation of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager with SP1
Here is the download link for the Assessment and deployment kit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30652 this is one of the prerequisites.
Also restart your server
When the wizard appears, click on Install, click next and then select Install a Configuration Manager Primary Site
Click next, and then create a folder on your D/E Drive called rc_updates
Click next on your Language of choice and enter your site installation settings install on D/E not C:
Install as the first site in a new hierarchy
Click next, leave the FQDN as default
Select Configure the Communication method on each site system role and review all setting.
Client Computer Communication Settings (HTTP or HTTPS). Select Configure the communication method on each site system role.
Any warnings can be fixed after the install
Make a brew this part can take a while!
After the install has finished restart the server.
The next step in the guide we will be going through the different discovery methods and creating boundary Groups.
Head on over to http://www.technodge.co.uk for more Deployment guides.
Neil Hodgkinson has been working in the IT industry for 14 years with 9 of those working in the education sector, I have worked with many versions of Windows Server, Exchange and Group Policy . Over the last few years I have been specializing in Deployment methods starting with Microsoft's deployment tool kit and the migrating over to Microsoft System Center, the Holy grail of servers- for Endpoint Protection, Deployment, App Control for windows 8 and the ability to manage smart phones.
I also do a lot of free consultancy for all the local primary schools on the best way to deploy and control their windows environment Via system center and Group policy's.
IT is a passion and I feel you have to be passionate about the IT industry for things to keep things moving forward.
What are the best gadgets to get for Christmas? An Xbox One, a Dell Venue 8 Pro, a Spider II, Lotus F1 Team USB Charger and a something to keep the coffee warm. Of course the real test is, are they any good for the IT Guy?
Over the Christmas period it’s hard to get the right gifts for people that they love and that they actually want. I decided to help out my loved ones this year by bypassing their need to buy me gifts and to just buy them myself so that I could write about them in this blog post, as a result I’ll be happy with socks!
First up is the Xbox One because the holidays are a time for fun not just working. The Xbox One comes in at around £520 with a game and is obviously one of the two next gen consoles on the market, there are reviews of it all over the web from core gamers, journos and the like so I thought I’d give you some observations about the console itself that they might have missed.
The Kinect sensor is built in and voice commands are really handy as is having the sensor automatically sign you in when you’re in the room. What I’ve noticed though is that the sensor doesn’t have to be front on, under the TV or over the TV to work. I have it off angle to the left of my TV since the Kinect’s two meter cable doesn’t quite reach from our media unit to our TV. The Kinect doesn’t always “see” me in the room for a start but starting a game by saying “Xbox go to Forza Motor Sport 5” it seems to be enough to recognise who I am and sign me in.
The games themselves look stunning, Forza Motor Sport 5 has an amazing level of detail in every single frame you see on screen. The bonnet of my shiny Shelby reflects all detail of the oncoming horizon and i get to see little helicopters hovering around the race track as I drive.
The controller is excellent, as you’d expect, but the best thing about it is absolutely the rumble buttons which give great feedback while breaking, accelerating and hitting rumble strips in Forza.
Is it any good in the Datacentre? Well that depends…In the past I’ve been known to move a sofa into the DC over holidays for the operators, combine that with an Xbox One and you’ll probably receive less support calls…
I can’t talk highly enough of this device, actually few can and indeed it’s been so popular that when the Microsoft Store in the US recently offered a holiday discount taking the device down to $199 it sold out in minutes. The device is now available in the UK and it’s *possibly* the best Windows 8.1 device I’ve ever used. You can find my full review here on my Infrastructuralist blog.
Windows 8.1 is great on this device, really snappy thanks to a quad core Intel Atom, which also supports any desktop app you want. I find it works really well as a Sonos controller in my house as a result. It obviously also means you can use apps like iTunes that aren’t available on Android tablets for example. I don’t and I use Xbox music but some people are hooked on other music platforms (sidebar: devices are important, apps are important but it’s the music infrastrucutre and data that people want access too).
The Venue 8 Pro ticks all the boxes for me because:
IS it any good for the IT Pro? Yes, it runs Windows 8.1 which means I can carry the RSAT around with me and remotely manage anything I want. It’s the best tablet in the world for this, right now in my opinion.
What the heck is it? Well I am a man of many gadgets and it’s good for many of my gadgets, it’s a USB cable to connect device. One of the things I always have to have in my kit bag is a micro-USB cable to charge my Nokia 925 phone and my Dell Venue 8 Pro before this bit of kit though one thing has always troubled me. Cable length!
I don’t need a 2m cable or even a 1m cable to charge my phone. Very often I only need a tiny, weeny 1 inch cable to do the job and that’s what the Spider II provides but for lots of devices. It comes with Apple Lighting, iPhone and Micro-USB so it can connect anything that most people have in their pockets. It also comes with a tactility pleasing rubber case emblazoned with a Windows logo.
I’ve also started packing one of these into my every day kit and it’s something I’ll be packing into Christmas stockings a plenty. Just like the Spider II it has an iPhone and Micro0USB charging adapter but that’s not this things strength. One of the big problems with tablets and ultrabooks for me is a lack of USB ports and this device helps out there.
This device has a pass through USB port for power and it has a Micro-SD slot built in. As a result I can always connect some storage and be able to power my devices.
It’s getting cold out there folks, it’s time to take some coffee with you but it’s going to get cold … enter the flask.
So you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not going to review the flask and that the last three items in this article aren’t the usual types of gadgets I look at…but it’s Christmas (other holidays are available) and so I’m going to give away a Spider II, a Lotus F1 Team USB charger and a Microsoft Branded Heat Retaining Aluminium Flask to three randomly selected folks who retweet this article with the following tweet and also follow me on twitter - @simonster* competition closes on the 10th of January, three lucky winners will be notified after, please refer to the T&C's below.
Just two small steps needed to win:
Step 1 - Follow myself on twitter - @simonster
Step 2 - Tweet: "I’m asking Santa for some gadgets, having read @Simonster’s ‘Five Gadgets to ask Santa for’ on the @TechNetUK blog: http://aka.ms/gadgetsanta”
*you need to follow me so I can get your mailing address and contact the winners!
**Just to be really clear I’m not giving you my Xbox One or Dell Venue 8 Pro!!
T&C's found here.
Terms & Conditions
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).
Follow @Simonster on the Website and Tweet the text “I’m asking Santa for some gadgets, having read @Simonster’s ‘Five Gadgets to ask Santa for’ on the @TechNetUK blog: http://aka.ms/gadgetsanta”.
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:
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.
Winning entries will be determined by a random draw conducted by Microsoft Ltd. on 13th January 2014 and will be supervised by an independent adjudicator. Chances of winning depend on the number of entries received.
A maximum of one prize per eligible entry is allowed. Winners will be notified or through the Website by 17th January 2014. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for any query related to the taxable amount for reporting to HMRC, or other relevant tax authority.
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.
Promoter: Microsoft Limited (“Microsoft”), Microsoft Campus, Thames Valley Park, Reading, RG6 1WG, England.
Please note: this competition is now closed, winners below!
On the last day of Geekmas, my true love gave to me….. A Present from the TechNet Team!
We’ve reached the end of this seasons big TechNet Geekmas giveaway, across twelve tech-twist days we will have rewarded 78 winners with a grand total of 201 prizes. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of packing for the TechNet team, thanks for your patience in contacting winners, expect your prize in the post mid January!
Yesterday our true love gave away, ‘Two Beta Tests’. Were you one of our two lucky winners? Find out who’s won what here, we will be emailing winners as soon as we can.
Today is the final day of our Geekmas campaign, and with that in mind, we’ve made it the most rewarding one yet. The entry period is a lot longer and requires more effort, but we hope it will be worth it.
One lucky winner will have the chance to win an MSDN subscription, A Windows phone and Tablet plus monster headphones with a few other tech goodies. In return for all these awesome gifts, we require a 2013 retrospective tech story on ‘What you wish you’d known this year?’ be it from a Developer, IT Professional, Start-up or Student perspective.
HOW TO ENTER?
The final day, final challenge. With a longer entry period, we’ve given you a few weeks to write a short well explained tech-based article on what you regret not having known this year, leading into 2014. Just complete a two step entry method for your chance to win.
Step 1 - Write a 500 word (+/- 10%) IT Pro, Developer, Start-Up or Student story on ‘what you wished you'd known this year?’
Step 2 - Email your story to email@example.com with the following as a subject heading - 'Geekmas: What I wish I’d known’
An article example: “I wish I’d known about MVA then I wouldn’t have spent loads of money of training courses”
We’re marking entries on – Originality of entry, Technical skills demonstrated and Creativity of story.
Please note: Only one winner will be chosen, only entries from the UK will be eligible.
WHAT CAN YOU WIN?
We’ve been leading up to this day since the beginning of the competition and it’s by far the best TechNet bundle giveaway yet… one lucky winner will win ALL of the following:
- An MSDN premium subscription valid for one year (with an approximate value of £5169)
- A Windows 8 Asus Vivo Tab RT TF600 3G Tablet Complete with Removable Keyboard
- Nokia Lumia 625 Smartphone
- Nokia Monster Headphones
- A Nokia Radio Mug
- A Nokia keyring.
All entries from 09:30 on Friday 20th of December to 11:59pm on January 5th, 2014 will be considered, however only one winner will be decided by the team and announced on this page at approx. 09:30 Friday 10th of January.
Our Lucky Geekmas Winner
The winner of our most prestigious prize bundle across the competition is........ *Drum Roll* -
- David Mullenger
Congratulations to David and to all who entered, we truly did have some exceptional articles to choose from, you'll be able to see David's and the runner up articles published soon!
Search for the Star leading to Bethlehem this Christmas with this amazing star gazing app.
Explore the wonders of the Solar System with Star Chart, the definitive star gazing and astronomy app. From our own star - the Sun, to the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn, Star Chart gives you a virtual window into the visible universe.
Download the app for free here. Give it a go! If you're a fan, show the developer some love and give it a rating.
Geekmas instructions here.
T&C’s found here.
Good luck, and be sure to tweet us and let us know your geekmas thoughts!
Be sure to have a great Christmas and a happy new year,
The TechNet Team.
I have to admit that I am not at all interested in football, but despite all the bad press some players get, there are many who understand how privileged they are and that they are essentially there to entertain their many loyal fans. A good example is something that Craig Bellamy said when asked about the best piece of advice he had been given..
“Play every game as if someone in the crowd is watching you for the last time and that performance was their lasting memory of you”
How is that relevant to us in the IT industry?
I think we are all ambassadors for our team , our business and to a certain extent even our industry. Most of us get pretty we’ll paid for what we do and most of us get to work in warm comfortable offices with little risk of injury and so I would argue that working in IT is a privilege too, though perhaps not in the same league as the premiership. However we all have bad days, and there are terribly managed projects and organisations out there that we have to work with, and it can be had to be the true professional all of the time. This is especially true if we don’t believe in what we are doing and we aren’t happy in current roles.
However changing roles just because the wheel has come off where you are now is not really the answer, you need to focus on what you want to do as I discussed in a recent post How to find your 'Happy Place', which I hope got you thinking. It got us on the TechNet team thinking as well and we wondered how we could help to get you into a role that you would really enjoy. The outcome is that we have three pilot careers evenings planned at our London offices. Each of these is themed around a particular group of technologies:
We have got some top experts to help advise you each of these. We’ll have our own HR expert Emma Broadway to provide an employers perspective so that you can properly market yourself and prepare for the role you are looking for. One of our learning partners along to ensure you have the skills and certification you need. Finally the technology expertise will come from two sources; our MVP’s who have had really interesting careers and have really good insights into what is happening in the industry and where the technology is headed, and from apprentices who are just starting their careers, because actually we are all apprentices whenever we change technologies or there is a revolution like the cloud that changes the way we do things and their insights will give us all a refreshing perspective on our world.
These evenings are open to all, and whatever your IT career aspirations are, we think you’ll pick up some good tips and advice whether or not you are in the transfer market.
By Geoff Evelyn, SharePoint MVP and owner of SharePointGeoff.com.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
As the seasonal period quickly approaches, the discussions concerning what happens to supporting SharePoint over the holiday either approaches, or has been covered, or even assumed.
The Christmas period is of course where your SharePoint sponsors are more likely to show a little more concern than normal about how their SharePoint platforms are going to be monitored over the period.
So then, let’s remind ourselves of the holiday period in question - basically, the days that will relate to anyone, is the week of Christmas starting from the 23rd through to the 28th. There are two days pretty much important to us guys in the UK over the seasonal period, especially in Scotland - Christmas Day and New Years day. Then there is Boxing Day when it’s likely that you would be relaxing in front of the telly, or sledging, or skiing - using that day to wind down after the Christmas day madness. Then there's the two days after Boxing Day, the 26th and the 27th, where relaxation, relief and playing with the various presents, and getting stuck in to food :)
So that means that over the period you are likely to do over those two days, probably a combination of one or more of the following not be in the Office, switch off the mobile, inform people you are not available?
So chances are, that on the days in question, you will be chilling out, and possibly even like me having a choice Mince pie, a Glass of port (or more - like Rum)...
But this is not about what you will be doing over those periods away from the office. It is about how you are going to support SharePoint, isn't it?
First, let’s consider the available types of support:
· On Premise SharePoint Support / IT Support combined / Outsourced
· Off-Premise Office 365 Microsoft provisioned Support
· Third party product support
My dad once said to me when I was a lot younger that in order for Santa Claus to know what present I would like, that I should write a letter, and throw it into the wind when it was blowing north, so that the letter would reach the north pole.
Of course, by doing that I eventually realized that the letter would not get there, unless my dad without me seeing ran like the clappers to retrieve the letter once I threw it out of the window.
Clearly, I was throwing caution to the wind, assuming things would happen - luckily for me, most of the times when I did throw that letter, things would work out - but only because there was a contingency - my dad, running like the clappers.
This relates in a way to the lack of responsibility those charged with SharePoint management judge the level of the support needed to ensure the availability of SharePoint services over an important period, like Christmas! There is not enough preparation carried out preceding the Christmas period by some organizations, to ensure that there is adequate coverage of SharePoint support. In some organizations, instead, there is a laissez faire approach, by simply throwing caution to the wind. Or, worse still, their IT support departments will not think to include SharePoint as system that should be monitored, and instead not including those with basic knowledge of SharePoint on the support desk.
Take this real scenario which happened a while back. Fictional company used though, however, if their now SharePoint support individuals are reading this article, they will definitely remember this event!
Five days leading up to Christmas day. Fabrikam has an IT Support department, and a number of individuals who are tasked solely with looking after SharePoint, called 'SharePoint Admins'. These SharePoint Admins look after the platform solely, there are no monitoring systems in place except for the server monitoring systems (alarm bells ringing already - no pun intended). A member of IT Support asks what the SharePoint Administrators will be doing on Christmas day.
"We won't be around, that's for sure..." ... "SharePoint looks after it’self" - pipped the SharePoint Administrators. "We will just take a peek at midday to make sure all is well".
IT Support reports this discussion to the IT Support Manager. The IT Support Manager waves his arm saying 'that's not a problem, we have IT Support people on the desk who know a little of SharePoint, nothing can really go wrong'.
Over the next 4 days, no more is mentioned as the company 'winds down'. On the 23rd of December, the CEO puts a Christmas message to the communication team who then puts the message in an announcement list on the Fabrikam SharePoint Extranet.
Christmas Day. At 9.30am that day, the CEO of the company, with his family in the Seychelles, decides to show a friend the message that was put on the SharePoint Portal on the 23rd. When attempting to display the announcement, the web page displays an error. Concerned, he raises a call into IT Support. IT Support try to get hold of the SharePoint Administrator, who has switched off his mobile because he is at the top of the hill where he lives, sledging. The CEO asks whether there is anyone else who can help, but IT Support have no knowledge of anyone and neither do they have any other contact number for the SharePoint Administrator.
The SharePoint Administrator calls in at midday to find chaos. The CEO is fuming because he has no idea whether anyone saw the announcement, and even if they tried saw the error which was embarrassing. IT Support have stated to the CEO that they do not know how to fix the problem, which is embarrassing. And, guess what, the SharePoint Administrator, who fixes the issue in minutes finds that the rest of his day is spent building confidence with the CEO and IT Support - he is embarrassed.
That SharePoint Admin threw caution to the wind. And in doing so, assumed the following:
1: No one will care whether SharePoint is available or not
2: The SharePoint Admins does not care whether SharePoint is available or not
3: The SharePoint Admins assumed that the problem will 'fix it’self'
4: The SharePoint Admins assumed that they will eventually be told or will find out themselves that there is a problem, and that no one will moan when they do, or how long it takes to correct the problem.
5: That if a problem occurs where SharePoint is not available that there is no financial impact or otherwise
You must prepare your SharePoint environment to be supported over the Christmas period. This is just like preparing for Christmas it’self. Doing things like putting up a Christmas tree, carefully putting up decorations without falling off ladders, writing Christmas cards, posting them, wrapping presents (carefully) without getting the sellotape stuck on the wrong part of the wrapping paper and making a mess. You put effort into doing all of that because you want to make others comfortable and yourself prepared. Therefore, there is no difference when it comes to SharePoint support.
There are a nine things you could put in place, so that you can ensure that SharePoint is supported over the Christmas period:
· Make it clear the days when there will be SharePoint cover over the period. When on holiday, for example, ensure that there is phone contacts and that is communicated to IT Support and your SharePoint sponsor.
· Ensure that the contact details have a backup. One number is not enough. Consider adding on the home phone number or the number of the place you will be staying / visiting on the key days. Reasons for this could be bad mobile coverage, or you could be travelling
· Ensure that there is a remote method of you accessing the SharePoint environment. Most organisations using on-premise SharePoint have a method whereby individuals can log in over the Internet using say a Citrix / VPN / Xen Desktop etc. connection.
· Ensure that a member of the IT Support team is aware of any resolutions that can be used for 'possible issues'. For example, one issue could be that in order to quickly reset an application pool for a SharePoint site to go into IIS on a relevant server, etc.
· Ensure that there is a list of the infrastructure, and details of any specific login information.
· Based on point (3) above, try to log into the SharePoint environment at least once a day to quickly check the status of the environment.
· Ensure that relevant third party information concerning their levels of support is listed and the details made known to IT Support.
· Provision monitoring systems for IT support which includes the status of key services to the SharePoint platform (on-premise).
· Provision monitoring services which includes the status of services for Office 365 Tenants
At a very basic level, the provision of support for SharePoint over a Christmas could be divided two segments - the SharePoint 'supporter' - the associated services 'supporter'.
For on-premise SharePoint, the levels of support is:
1: The SharePoint 'supporter'. The person(s) responsible for managing the products provided in SharePoint services.
2: The Associated services 'supporter'. The person(s) responsible for providing support for the infrastructure and associated services.
The interesting aspect of Off-Premise (e.g. Office 365) Support is that there is in effect, also two levels:
1: The SharePoint 'supporter'. The person(s) responsible for managing the products provided in the Office 365 tenant - e.g. SharePoint Team Sites and relevant products in those sites.
2: The Associated services 'supporter'. The person(s) responsible for providing support for the Office 365 tenant.
Both of these, on-premise and Office 365 have monitoring tools. Both have the priorities and service delivery of support defined to SLAs, which is communicated to the person responsible for managing the products provided. This information is then cascaded in an understandable form to the client.
There is a huge amount of monitoring tools available to on-premise SharePoint support (default and third party provisioned), which I will not go into (and there are a huge number of articles that describe them). However, SharePoint Online does not, by default have the same capabilities available for those managing them to configure monitoring easily. However, Office 365 is starting to catch up though. For example, the Office 365 Admin app for the Windows Phone 8 is available which allows those responsible for supporting Office 365 to connect to their organization’s Office 365 service status on the go. The app enables them to view service health information and maintenance status updates from their mobile device. You can also filter information by service subscriptions and configure app data refresh intervals.
To get the app for Windows Phone 8, please visit here.
Office 365 also has the Office Message Centre. The Message Centre is located in the Microsoft Online Portal. The Message Centre is the central hub for communicating with you about Office 365. And in there you will find the topics including those in the Admin Task Newsletter, messages on new feature releases, and other important information. More information about the Office Message Centre is here.
I hope by reading this article you have understood the importance of providing adequate and understandable SharePoint support over the Christmas period. The ability for you as a SharePoint 'supporter' to be forewarned of issues so that at the very least clients can be informed is vital. For on-premise, the ability to be contacted, or the ability provided to IT support to be able to deal with common issues, provides a service which in the eyes of the SharePoint sponsor is 'good'. So I do hope that you are able to take points from this article and apply them to your SharePoint support cover proposals....
I'd like to finish up by wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!
Geoff Evelyn is a SharePoint MVP, and likes to be known as a “Hands on” Technical Evangelist and works as a SharePoint Solutions Architect. He has published many articles, guides and books about SharePoint. With over 25 years of experience in information systems, he is a Fellow of the Institute of the Analysts and Programmers, a Fellow of the Institute of Computer Technology, a Member of the Institute of Management Information Systems, a Prince 2 Practitioner, with MCDST, MCSD, MCTS, MCITP Microsoft certifications and is M.O.S (Microsoft Office Specialist) Certified.
Microsoft Windows 8 MVP Mike Halsey, kicks off our TechNet WindowUG video series which shows the advantages of moving to modern operating system. This month’s focus is on Snap!
'Many people find they can be more productive working on two documents, or with two websites side by side, so in this video we look at how quickly you can do this in Windows XP when compared to Windows 8.1 (and Windows 7).'
Need help with the transition from Windows XP – 8.1? there’s an MVA course for that! With April 8th fast approaching, find out more about ‘Windows XP end of support’ & ‘Get Modern’
The Windows User Group runs nationally in the UK, both online and at F2F events, to provide help and information to business and individuals using Microsoft technologies. Run by three Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) awardees, Mike Halsey, Chris Rhodes and Andrew Bettany, they encourage everybody to get involved be that asking questions, providing advice and support or attending WindowsUG events and tours. You can find out more at www.WindowsUG.com
A thronging SharePoint 2013 site can generate a lot of new content. The improved social features in SharePoint 2013 can generate dramatic amounts of new, frequently changing content in a large organisation. When you couple this with the ubiquity of this content in SharePoint, this could cause an awful lot more database access and page slowdown than with previous versions.
To the rescue steps forward the Distributed Cache service. Based upon the AppFabric Cache Service, this is a requirement for SharePoint that is installed by the pre-requisite installer as part of your farm setup.
It’s not just social data that benefits from being cached. The Distributed Cache service also caches Newsfeeds, Microblogging, Conversations, Security Trimming, OneNote client access and more! In fact, it even takes away the necessity of farms that use Claims Authentication to implement session affinity load balancing.
First of all, download and read the Distributed Cache planning overview from Microsoft. When you install AppFabric as part of the SharePoint 2013 pre-requisites, it will automatically allocate 10% of the current available RAM to the cache. If you manually install the pre-requisites yourself, make sure you use the /gac switch when you install AppFabric. When you are building your farm, if you find you have already installed AppFabric before you run the pre-requisites installer, it is strongly recommended that you uninstall AppFabric first.
Servers running the Distributed Cache service are referred to as Cache Hosts. Every SharePoint farm needs at least one server running this service. By default, as you build your farm, the Distributed Cache service gets started on each server you join. When you have more than one instance of this service running in a farm, you have a Cache Cluster. In practice, when you have built your farm, you then proceed to switch off the Distributed Cache on any servers that you decide shouldn’t run that service, using the PowerShell cmdlets below.
Each item of data stored by the Distributed Cache is stored once only, and exists only on one server at a time. It’s worth noting that although AppFabric supports high availability, the SharePoint implementation of the Distributed Cache does not. If one of your cache servers dies, the cached items will be lost. In practice this means that performance will be reduced for that data until another Cache Host in the Cluster picks up that data.
Do not administer the Distributed Cache through the Service window in Administrative Tools under Control Panel, or through the AppFabric for Windows Server application on the Start menu. This could get the Distributed Cache service into a state where you might need to rebuild your farm!
There are two modes in which you can run the Distributed Cache service. You can run it as a dedicated service, with no other SharePoint services running on that server. Alternatively, you can run it collocated with other SharePoint services on the same server. For large scale production use, the recommendation is to have dedicated servers hosting your cache.
Microsoft recommends you avoid starting a Distributed Cache service instance on servers that are already running SQL Server, Search, Excel Services or Project Services.
If you plan to have more than one Cache Host, the first server added should be configured to allow inbound ICMPv4 traffic. If you are using Windows Firewall, you can enable this in PowerShell with the Set-NetFirewallRule cmdlet. The name of the rule is “File and Printer SharePoint (Echo request – ICMPv4-In)”. Notice also that it doesn’t take a Boolean ($true), but rather the string “True” as an argument to the -Enabled parameter. Don’t forget to Import-Module NetSecurity first, though!
Once the Distributed Cache service instance is started on any server in your farm, it will become part of your Cache Cluster.
The right way to start the service is with the Add-SPDistributedCacheServiceInstance PowerShell cmdlet. You run this on a SharePoint server you would like to add to your Cache Cluster, which makes the current server a Cache Host. Simply stopping the service instance would cause the contents of the cache on that server to go missing, degrading performance.
If you need to remove a server from the Cache Cluster, the safe way to do this is first to use Stop-SPDistributedCacheServiceInstance with the –Graceful parameter. This transfers any cached data to another server, and can therefore take some time to perform. Afterwards you can safely run Remove-SPDistributedCacheServiceInstance to make the current server a non-Cache Host.
If you get a Health Analyzer Rule violation in Central Administration saying that “The Distributed Cache host may cause cache reliability problems” it is likely that a Distributed Cache service instance has been stopped on a server without removing the server from the Cache Cluster. To resolve this, you can either start the service instance again using the Add-SPDistributedCacheServiceInstance cmdlet, or remove it with Remove-SPDistributedCacheServiceInstance as above.
Getting the memory allocation right is critical to SharePoint performance. We change the amount of memory allocated per server to get this right. If you later change the amount of installed RAM, the Distributed Cache service does not update its memory allocation automatically.
In a small farm with fewer than 10,000 users, Microsoft recommends allocating 1GB of RAM for the Distributed Cache. This can be either a dedicated server or collocated with other SharePoint services, such as the Web Application Service. Beyond this the recommendation is dedicated servers for the cache. A medium farm with fewer than 100,000 users should look to allocated around 2.5GB for the cache, and a large farm with up to 500,000 users should set aside around 12GB of RAM allocated for the cache.
The Distributed Cache service actually uses twice the allocated amount of RAM, using the extra for housekeeping.
It is a very strong recommendation that you should not allocate more than 16GB to any one Cache Host. This may cause the Cache Service to timeout during housekeeping operations and become unresponsive for several seconds at a time. If you need a cache size of greater than 16GB, it is better to use multiple servers in a Cache Cluster. You can have up to a maximum of 16 hosts in a Cache Cluster.
For the large farm example, we would use the Update-SPDistributedCacheSize cmdlet with the –CacheSizeInMB parameter specifying 12 as the amount of RAM to allocate. If you need to find out how much RAM is currently allocated, you can issue the Use-CacheCluster and Get-AFCacheHostConfiguration cmdlets.
When AppFabric is installed as part of the SharePoint pre-requisites, it is configured to run under the credentials of the server farm. This is far from ideal, and will eventually trigger a violation of a Health Analyzer Rule. To avoid this, you can change the account used by the Distributed Cache service. In the example below, we’re retrieving a managed account that has already been registered with our farm, called “CONTOSO\my_managed_account” with the Get-SPManagedAccount cmdlet. We then set that as the ManagedAccount property of the ProcessIdentity object of the Distributed Cache (“AppFabricCachingService”) SPService.
It is possible that after invoking the .Deploy() line in the above PowerShell script you will encounter an error such as “TCP port 22234 is already in use.”
Further attempts to work with the cache might also generate errors such as “Specified host is not present in cluster”:
You may even receive error messages saying “cacheHostInfo is null”.
Not to worry! Microsoft has an article on how to repair a broken Cache Host. First you need to get a reference to the broken Distributed Cache service instance, for example by filtering the results from Get-SPServiceInstance passing in the name of the affected host as the Server parameter, and then invoking Delete() on the service instance. Finally, you can restart the service instance with Add-SPDistributedCacheServiceInstance as below:
The Distributed Cache service is an enabler for many of the new social features in SharePoint 2013. We couldn’t have the rapid, almost real-time conversations in SharePoint’s feeds and microblogging features without it. Although it is tricky to configure, the Distributed Cache service is something you need to plan for in your SharePoint 2013 farms, and is best implemented with dedicated servers.