Microsoft delivers new Windows Azure updates

Here is a highlight of some of the new features now available;

Database Manager for SQL (GA)
Windows Azure Marketplace (beta)
Windows Azure Virtual Network Connect (CTP)
Extra Small Windows Azure Instance (Beta)
Remote Desktop General Availability
Elevated Privileges General Availability
Full IIS Support General Availability:
Windows Server 2008 R2 Roles General Availability
Multiple Admins General Availability

In order to use these new features, you will need to download and install the new Azure SDK which can be found here – http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=128752. Once you do that, open up the project in Visual Studio and a conversion process should kick off.

More information can be found here – http://blogs.technet.com/b/stbnewsbytes/archive/2010/11/30/microsoft-delivers-windows-azure-platform-updates.aspx

I’ll be updating our Azure hosted website in the next day or so and blogging about some of the additional features in more detail.

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Posted in Cloud Computing, Windows Azure | Leave a comment

Is BYO Device a game changer or time waster?

Bring your own device or laptop is starting to get some serious traction, with this week EMC announcing it will be pushing their BYO device pilot out to some 5000 users.

If you’re a company and want to provide a differentiator in this day and age especially with Gen Y’s, this could be a really good move for you. Why? there are a few reasons;

  • because people generally already have a device which they use everyday and are blurring the lines between work and social time at all hours of the day and night.
  • a lot of people like to keep the individuality of their own machine, it’s set up how they like to use it and how they feel most productive.
  • would like the ability to have their own choice when deciding which device suits their working environment and the way their work is done.

Some of the things you need to think about when evaluating whether this will be achievable for your organisation;

  • how will users get access to the applications they need to do their jobs?
  • will they be accessing sensitive data which must be accessed in a secure manner?
  • does this access just require a web browser?
  • how many different types of devices do I want to allow connection from? (ipads, macs, windows laptops)
  • who is going to support the devices if they are not company owned or is it just up to the individual users?

A critical component is SECURITY!! Be prepared for a shift in the way you look at security and securing your environment. Now applications and infrastructure need securing rather than endpoints/corporate machines. VDI would be a great solution here to stop corporate data leaving your environment and onto BYO devices but are you really saving money by doing this?

Perhaps another way to look at it is to evaluate all the applications in your environment and make an assessment as to whether you are fine with them being accessed over a browser. Especially if you already provide remote access to that application over the internet like Web mail/Outlook Anywhere etc. There could be some workers in your environment which all they need to use is the Office suit of tools and email so why give them access to VDI?

BYO device is starting to gain traction and we believe with cloud computing more and more services are consumed over the internet. It’s only a matter of time before we see this being adopted by more and more organisations. Watch out for BYO device coming to a company near you!

Posted in Cloud Computing | 1 Comment

What is Windows Azure?

Over the past couple of days we’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with Windows Azure. Why? to learn more about it and learn where it can be used. So here is some of the basics to hopefully assist you in deciding whether it’s right for your organisation.

Windows Azure is Microsoft’s play on a Cloud Operating System and to be fair, I think that analogy is pretty accurate. Applications or programs are deployed as roles and there are two types of roles, Web and Worker. Web roles are used to create Web applications and to host Web services/sites.  Worker roles are used for background processing. All configuration of these roles is controlled/manipulated via Visual Studio with VS 2010 having a lot of the built in deployment configuration wizards baked into the product.

A role is deployed into Azure as a virtual machine/server and can be small, medium, large or extra large. When you create your service model in Visual Studio, you can specify the size of the virtual machine (VM) to which to deploy instances of your role, depending on its resource requirements. The size of the VM determines the number of CPU cores, the memory capacity, and the local file system size allocated to a running instance.

The following table describes each of the available options for VM size:

VM Size CPU Cores Memory Disk Space for Local Storage Resources
Small 1 1.7 GB 250 GB
Medium 2 3.5 GB 500 GB
Large 4 7 GB 1000 GB
ExtraLarge 8 14 GB 2000 GB

There is plenty of information on the web around pricing so I won’t go into any detail but as a guide, the small VM will cost you $0.12 per hour or around $90 per month.

As a test, I redeployed our website onto Azure and to be honest, found it pretty easy and intuative especially considering I’d never used Visual Studio before. You can view the test instance here – http://redember.cloudapp.net

With any service which has been designed on the kind of scale Azure has, there are some limitations. The biggest one I have found is there is a 1:1 relationship between a website URL and the project within Visual Studio. As a minimum a project must have a Web role as per my test deployment of the Red Ember website. This means as a minimum you have to pay for 1 Small VM and you cannot host multiple websites on that Web role. However Azure does have some excellent benefits such as application segregation, dedicated resources, ability to scale and add more web roles and worker roles to your application as the demand for consumption increases.

If you’d like further information or would like to know if Windows Azure is right for your organisation, please drop us a line. (info at redember dot com dot au)

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Beware of fake twitter software updates

Please be aware of the latest update scam coming from Twitter. Recently, I have observed malware writers using compromised Twitter accounts to post the fake tweets about the ‘latest TweetDeck update’ as mentioned on the TweetDeck Support portal. The tweet contains a URL that points to the fake TweetDeck update file called ‘tweetdeck-08302010-update.exe’, a small executable file 95KB in size. When the file is run, nothing appears to happen, but in the background, malware will infect the computer.
Most anti-malware solutions should protect against this threat, detected as Trojan:Win32/Alureon.CT.
Pleae don’t respond to alarmist demands to update or else! Verify where your update is coming from; make sure you are getting updates from a reputable source!
Posted in Productivity | 1 Comment

Is Outlook just a mail client?

Well no not really! I’ve uncovered some pretty neat features of late in particular with Outlook 2010.

Multiple Exchange Accounts

Not only can you connect to your Exchange email account, but with Outlook 2010 you can connect to MULTIPLE Exchange account

Website Browsing

You can view websites from within Outlook. This is a matter of creating a folder and setting the address and enabling the folder to show home page by default for this folder.



Sharepoint Integration

You can connect to any document libraries you have within Sharepoint and they will be displayed and even cached for offline use by your Outlook client.

RSS Feed Integration

You can connect to any of your favourite RSS feeds by configuring them in your Account Settings -> RSS Feeds option. Just make sure you configure them to download to a separate PST otherwise they’ll be added to your mailbox quota.

So in short, Outlook is not just an mail client, it’s a productivity tool!

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What is Sharepoint and how can it help my business?

Microsoft SharePoint lets you create a central location where co-workers, partners, and customers can share issues, contacts, announcements, Web links, and calendars. Team members can easily create workspaces for meeting discussions, surveys, documents, task lists, and other collaboration needs that increase their productivity.

Users can create team workspaces, coordinate calendars, organize documents, and receive important notifications and updates through communication features including announcements and alerts, as well as the new templates for creating blogs and wikis. While mobile, users can take advantage of convenient offline synchronization capabilities.

With enhanced document management capabilities including the option to activate required document checkout before editing, the ability to view revisions to documents and restore to previous versions, and the control to set document- and item-level security, Microsoft SharePoint can help ensure the integrity of documents stored on team sites.

For more information on our Hosted Sharepoint offering, please visit http://www.redember.com.au/hosted.html. We have also made sure we have the maximum flexibility in our Sharepoint offering so we have the following Sharepoint site templates for you to choose from when creating your site;

  • Absence Request and Vacation Schedule Management
  • Help Desk
  • Budgeting and Tracking Multiple Projects
  • Inventory Tracking
  • Bug Database
  • IT Team Workspace
  • Call Center
  • Job Requisition and Interview Management
  • Change Request Management
  • Knowledge Base
  • Compliance Process Support Site
  • Lending Library
  • Contacts Management
  • Physical Asset Tracking and Management
  • Document Library and Review
  • Project Tracking Workspace
  • Event Planning
  • Room and Equipment Reservations
  • Expense Reimbursement and Approval Site
  • Sales Lead Pipeline
  • Board of Directors
  • Employee Training Scheduling and Materials
  • Business Performance Rating
  • Equity Research
  • Case Management for Government Agencies
  • Integrated Marketing Campaign Tracking
  • Classroom Management
  • Manufacturing Process Management
  • Clinical Trial Initiation and Management
  • New Store Opening
  • Competitive Analysis Site
  • Product and Marketing Requirements Planning
  • Discussion Database
  • Request for Proposal
  • Disputed Invoice Management
  • Sports League
  • Employee Activities Site
  • Team Work Site
  • Employee Self-Service Benefits
  • Timecard Management

So how can Sharepoint help my business? with a vast array of site templates there are many use cases like storing documents, creating expense reports, tracking sales and leads, tracking a project, etc.

FREE!!! Don’t you just love that word…..well we are also giving away free 250MB Sharepoint accounts to create your own Sharepoint sites. To take us up on this offer, please send an email to info@redember.com.au with your contact details.

Posted in Productivity | Leave a comment

Great Sharepoint App for iphone/ipad

Shareplus comes in lite (free version) and full version, available in the app store or via itunes link – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shareplus-lite-offi

Posted in Productivity | 2 Comments