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Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Tad from VM Limited Virtualisation

Even if you have no interest in Virtualisation or Cloud Technology take a look at the video. It shows that Microsoft have a sense of humour when trying to get across their message around the cloud.

If you know nothing about Cloud Computing this is a great, tongue in cheek, introduction to the topic. Find out all about Tad and VM Limited.

Its a great video and congratulations must go to the Microsoft Marketing department. You can find out more about the Microsoft Cloud and Virtualisation strategy by going to the Microsoft Website.

Microsoft to buy Skype

Microsoft have entered into a definitive agreement, today, to buy Skype for 8.5 Billion Dollars.

You can read the details in the full Microsoft Press Release at http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2011/may11/05-10CorpNewsPR.mspx

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.

What impact will this have on Skype?

Skype have more than 170 million connected users and last your racked up over over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations. In the last 18months they increased the ‘calling minutes’ buy around 150 percent. Given the huge amount Microsoft are paying for Skype I can’t see them turning their backs on the successful formula, so I wouldn’t expect to see major changes at the high volume consumer level.

Where you can expect to see changes to Skype is its acceptance and use within large businesses and its going to have a huge impact on the VoIP market. Microsoft already have a presence in the consumer, peer-to-peer, voice market with Messenger, they also have a business product with Lync. This is where I expect to see the major changes with the technology behind Skype being integrated into Lync. So in the short to medium term I would expect Skype to become a business carrier product, and billable platform, for businesses even if they don’t realise that they are using Skype.


Malware Protection CenterMicrosoft Malware Protection

The Microsoft Malware Protection Center shows the latest information from Microsoft about the new additions to Security Essentials and Forefront, for Enterprises.

What the Microsoft Malware Protection Provides

The Microsoft Malware Protection Center provides:

  • Information about the latest Viruses and Malware that have been discovered
  • Detailed information about specific Viruses
  • Advices on how to avoid Viruses and Malware
  • Access to the Threat Encyclopedia

What else is available in the Microsoft Malware Protection Center?

In addition to the detailed information about specific Threats you can also download Anti-Virus updates for the following Microsoft Security Products.

  • Microsoft Forefront
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Microsoft One Care
  • Microsoft Defender

Microsoft have a robust anti-virus and Malware portfolio of products with the Forefront range of Enterprise products. Small Businesses and home users can now benefit from the same infrastructure and investment.

System Center Essentials Computer Discovery Never Finishes

If you have just installed Microsoft System Center Essentials to manage a Small Business Environment one of the first tasks, once the initial installation has completed, is to discover the computers to be managed.

SCE Discovery never completesIf the Computer Discovery process seems to continue forever and never completes, and the screen on the left is displayed forever then its likely that you have a problem with the SQL Server configuration on your SCE database. If this is the case then the System Center Essentials Computer Discovery will run forever and no error messages are generated.

Typically, on a healthy system, the System Center Essentials Computer Discovery will complete in just a couple of minutes and then display the list of computers that are available for you to install a System Center Essentials Agent on. At this point you simply select the computers that you want to install to and continue.

System Center Essentials Computer Discovery

Microsoft list 1 item on the SCE Discovery screen, which relates to the SQL Service Broker. If this is a new SQL Server installation then this will NOT be the problem, as by default SQL Service Broker is enabled.

SCE Service BrokerYou can check that the SQL Server Broker is enabled by following the link that Microsoft provide.

The most likely cause of System Center Essentials Computer Discovery running forever

The most likely cause of your SCE Discovery running forever is that SQL Server is configured to run under an account which does not have permissions to access the network. If your SQL Server is running under either:-

  • Local System
  • A Local User account

Then the System Center Essentials Computer Discovery will run forever.

How to fix a System Center Essentials Computer Discovery

To stop your System Center Essentials Computer Discovery running forever all you need to do is to set SQL Server to run under a domain account, this account does not need to be a Domain Admin, it can be a user level account.

Create yourself a ‘Service Account’ (a domain user account where the password is complex and set never to expire) and then use this account as the account to run SQL Server. Once you have changed the account to be a Domain account you will need to stop and restart SQL Server.

Once SQL Server has been restarted you can re-run your System Center Essentials Computer Discovery which will then complete within just a few minutes.

Provance IT Asset Management for Service Manager

IT Asset Management Pack for Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2010

Provance have recently announced version 1.1 of their successful IT Asset Management MP for Microsoft Service Manager.

What does the IT Asset Management Pack do?

The Provance IT Asset Management Pack is a Process Management Pack that runs within Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2010 to provide Software and IT Asset Management. The supplemental capability provided by the Provance IT Asset Management Pack allows Microsoft System Center customers to take control of IT costs, improve IT Service Management efficiency and reduce security and compliance risks.

The Management Pack extends Microsoft System Center Service Manager with additional functionality to manage the financial, contractual and organisational information necessary to support Software Asset Management, License Compliance, IT Asset Life Cycle Management, and more cost-effective and efficient IT Service Management.

What is New in the IT Asset Management MP from Provance?

Highlights include of version 1.1 of the IT Asset Management Pack include:

  • Support for the new Microsoft System Center Service Manager Authoring Console, which allows you to create new or modify existing data, forms and automated workflows that work with the Provance IT Asset Management Pack
  • Export of data to CSV files from Views and Searches for viewing and manipulation in Excel
  • Editing of multiple hardware or software assets
  • Enhanced financial management including tracking of hardware asset cost events and currency conversion against specified base rates
  • New views of relationships between hardware, software, contracts and users
  • Assignment of software purchases and software license keys to specific users and hardware assets
  • Additional reports for forecasting, reconciliation and time-based trending

IT Asset Management Pack – Evaluation Download

You can find more details of the IT Asset Management Pack for Service Manager on the AKCSL website, where you can download your free evaluation copy.

Windows Live Office

If you have a Windows Live Skydrive account then you now also get access to the applications included in Windows Live – Office, or Office Web. Windows Live Office allows you to create and update Microsoft Office documents on the web, without you having to have a copy of Microsoft Office installed on your PC, great for those last minute updates to your Word document or PowerPoint presentation.

What applications are included in Windows Live Office?

Windows Live Office comprises web based versions of:- 

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote

Windows Live OfficeYou can create and save Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents to your SkyDrive and then upload or download them to your PC.

There is even an option to directly open your document using your local copy of Office if you want.

Creating a Word document in Windows Live

Windows Live - Save Document

When you click on the Word icon you are prompted for a name for your blank document, this saves a copy of your empty Word document to your SkyDrive, in Word 2007 (.docx) format.

Once the empty document has been saved then you are presented with the ‘standard’ Word interface within your web browser. This then allows you to work, pretty much, as you would with a local version of Word on your PC.

Using Word in Windows Live Office

Windows Live - Word User Interface

As you can see the Windows Live version of Word looks and acts very similar to a ‘real’ version of Microsoft Word.

The other applications in the Windows Live Office Suite function in a very similar fashion to Word. You can use normal Microsoft functions like ‘cut and paste’, Image insert, spell check and Clip Art.

So if you get sent a Microsoft Office document and don’t have a copy of Office installed you can now open the document and view, update. The one thing that you can’t do directly from the Windows Live version of Word is to print the document.

Windows Live Office, or Office Web

Depending on where you look the suite is referred to as both Office Web and Windows Live Office. I have even seen people referring to the suite as Office Web Applications (OWA), but this just confuses things with the original Microsoft OWA (Outlook Web Access). Personally I think that Office Web will stick as a short form for the suite as its just simpler than Windows Live Office.

You can use any of the Office Web applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for free and store your documents in your Windows Live SkyDrive. At the moment your SkyDrive account gives you 25GB of free online storage.

Business Continuity - Can your business survive the Winter?Business Continuity, Is your business disaster proof?

Do we really need Business Continuity for Small Businesses? The snow and general bad weather, at the beginning of the year in the UK, meant that many people were unable to get into work for a while. Did you loose business as a result of the weather because you weren’t able to get the phones answered, you weren’t able to deal with email or were unable to get into the office for a while?

Whilst, for the UK at least, the weather conditions were unusual there are several other problems that can cause similar problems for your business. Most people think of the major disasters, like flood or fire but what about a power cut or your ADSL line being down.

There is no reason why you should loose business as with the technology available today you can have access to email, your phone system and even your PC in the office from almost anywhere that has Internet connectivity. So how can we provide Business Continuity for Small Businesses?

What does a Small Business Continuity Solution need to provide?

How does a Business Continuity solution work and what are the minimum services that it needs to provide? Think about the way that you do business on a day to day basis, do you recieve a lot of phone calls, is most of your customer communication via email?

Make sure that your primary ways of doing business are covered, typically the immediate concern is managing existing customers and prospects – i.e. Can we continue to ‘Do Business’ ?

So for 90% of Small Companies that is:-

  • Send and receive email
  • Answering the Phones
  • Generate Invoices

Below are some of the methods that you can use to make sure that you have a business which can survive a disaster and have a viable Business Continuity plan in place.

email access methods


If you have a laptop, or webmail access, you have probably been able to keep up with your business email, even if you haven’t been able to get into the office. One of the big advantages of email systems is that, typically, you can get access to them from anywhere that you can get an Internet connection. That is certainly true of things like Hotmail, Googlemail or Exchange Online, where all you need is a web browser.

Most companies that use Microsoft Exchange, or Small Business Server (SBS), will also provide webmail access through Outlook Web Access (OWA). OWA allows you to send email and read your company email from any web browser, you can also look at your calendar etc, just as though you were using Outlook in the office. If you don’t have access to any form of company webmail then its worth talking with your IT department to see if they will set provide you access to OWA.

Mobile devices

If you have a Blackberry, iPhone or Windows Mobile device (SmartPhones) then you can probably get access to your company email on that. In most cases it is a relatively simple task to configure SmartPhones to work via your Exchange Server and to send and receive your company email.

Don’t forget that if you send email via OWA or your SmartPhone and its going via your Exchange server then you will have a copy saved in your sent mail items and, if your signatures are applied on the server, then your email will get all of the correct footers, branding etc. that it would have if you sent if from your desktop machine in the office.

Hosted Exchange

Hosted Exchange is now a scalable, cost effective solution especially for Small Businesses. Microsoft have entered the hosted market and offer Exchange Online, either on its own or as part of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

In the UK you can get Microsoft BPOS for £6.71 a month, per user or just Exchange Online for £3.36 a month, per user. There is a minimum number of 5 users.

BPOS is a great way of providing a low cost, scalable, robust, enterprise grade, Business Continuity solution for small businesses.

Business Continuity and Phone Systems

If you use a hosted VoIP phone system, then you can easily make and receive calls from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. These calls will appear to come from the office number and will get billed to the office rather than your home phone number. So in the bad weather you can work from home and appear to be in the office. Even if the power is out in your office using a hosted VoIP solution means that your calls will still get delivered, as all of the redirection is carried out in the hosted PBX. If you have a softphone on your PC then the calls don’t even need to get redirected they just get delivered to your softphone.

If you don’t have Internet connectivity then its simple enough to make a phone call and get your calls re-directed to your mobile phone or home phone. There is no need not to be able to receive the office phone calls even if no-one can get into the office to answer the phone.

You can even use the Hosted VoIP solution to make sure that all of your calls still appear to originate from the office number, even if you are using your mobile to make the calls. What happens in practice is that our Hosted PBX calls your mobile, then dials the number you want to talk to – as soon as they answer the calls are connected. Its really simple to configure, in just 2 mouse clicks and is included in your base cost.

Call Me Now

Click to call meClick on the Call Me Icon, on the left, and enter your phone number and we will call you right back to discuss your requirements. Call Me is a standard part of the Voiplicity phone system, so is something that you will be able to do on your website with just a few mouse clicks.

So we can provide Business Continuity for your phone system, from anywhere with Internet access.

Off-Site Backup

As part of a Business Continuity plan we to need to consider what you would do if the office was destroyed. If you have gone done the route of Hosted Email and VoIP then you will probably be able to continue to ‘do business’, but what about all of your company records, customer details, contracts etc? How are you going to be able to access that information if the office no longer exists?

Data Backup

You should have off-site copies of your computer backups, after all there is no point in keeping your backup copy next to the server. At a minimum the daily backups should be held off site in a secure location. That could mean taking the daily tape home and keeping it safe, or using of of the many Online Backup services.

Online Backup

An Online Backup, or Hosted Backup, service will continually take copies of your data and ship it to a secure data center. Depending on the service you subscribe to this could be a continuous backup, or scheduled on a daily basis.

Most of the services allow for a local copy of the data and the off site copy. The local copy allows you to quickly restore files in the event someone accidentally deletes a file. The off-site, or hosted copies, are for disaster recovery / Business Continuity in case the office gets destroyed.

Hosted Services

If you use Microsoft BPOS, Google Apps, or any of the other hosted services then your data is held in a secure data center. It will actually be held in multiple geo located data centers, so your data is secure. In this case you can continue to work and not need to worry about your data. You also have access to your applications from anywhere in addition to having a copy of your data.

One thing about Hosted Service and Online backup services, make sure that you select a vendor who will host your data in your country, or legislative area. The reason for this is that not all countries have the same approach to Data Security and Data Protection, so you want your data where it is covered by the same data protection laws as your business.

Remote PC Access

You can also use systems like LogMeIn, GoToMyPC or the functionality built into Remote Management Systems like SystemAssure that will let you access your office PC from a web browser. Typically this type of application will let you print on your local, home, printer and also copy files and documents between your office PC and your home PC. If you are a BPOS user you wouldn’t even need access to your Office PC, as all of you data will be stored within the SharePoint Online section of BPOS.

So whatever the weather, if its snow, floods or even if you want to sunbath in the back garden rather than go into the office there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do everything that you can do from the office. You can either do this will a combination of different applications that you put together yourself or let SystemAssure take the strain and do the work for you.

Business Continuity For Small Businesses

Yes it is entirely possible to provide your small business with a cost effective Business Continuity solution. By doing this properly you also increase the scalability of your business and also remove the need to ‘step’ investments in hardware as your business grows.

Planning Business Continuity for Small Businesses from day one can dramatically reduce your need for capital investment and also give you flexibility in work practices.

Need Assistance with Business Continuity planning?

If you would like assistance in designing and  implementing a Business Continuity plan for your small business then please contact me through the SystemAssure Website.

Free Online Storage

Skydrive - Free online StorageIts not often that you are offered something for nothing, but that is what Microsoft have done with their Windows Live SkyDrive.

They are giving you 25GB of free disk space to store files, pictures etc. You can keep files private or share them.

You can get your own SkyDrive by going to http://windowslive.com/online/skydrive and signing in, if you have a Windows Live account. If you use Windows Messenger you already have a Windows Live account, so you can just start saving files to your SkyDrive.

Free Online Storage for Travelers

If you are traveling on business and want to make sure that you have copies of important documents, save a copy from your laptop to your SkyDrive. That way even if your laptop is damaged whilst you are traveling you will still be able to access those important documents. Its also safer than leaving a copy of your documents lying around on a USB drive, which anyone could get at.

So get your 25GB of Free Online Storage with the Microsoft SkyDrive today.