How do you know which version of Microsoft licenses your organisation owns and is licensed to use?

Image of trees Photo by Ju On on Unsplash - Mirosoft licensesDo you know which version of Microsoft licenses your organisation owns and is licensed to use? The Microsoft Business Center Portal (BCP) by design displays the original license view in case of licensing model changes. For example, with the licensing model for Windows Server having changed from processor to core licensing with the 2016 release, are you able to tell what your organisation owns and is entitled to?  So, as an example, with licenses for Windows Server 2012 R2 that expired on 31st October 2018, the SA term and the original order proves and guarantees entitlement to use Windows Server 2016 and/or 2019 instead of the 2012 R2 version.  But the BCP does not show or highlight this in any way.  In fact with a recent scenario we have seen the BCP shows no evidence of the SA term and expiry.  This could lead organisations to purchase the current version when in fact it is already owned.

At The SAM Club, we maintain the records for our clients in their SAM Workbooks and provide the help and guidance to ensure new software purchases are not made when a license already exists. If you would like to know more about our service then please get in touch.

Do you need to reset your MyCitrix logins?

If you haven’t logged in to your MyCitrix portal recently you may find that your login doesn’t work.

Padlock on a fence - MyCitrix portal

For security reasons Citrix has been invalidating users’ previous passwords, thereby, forcing users to go through a password reset process.

We suppose that by doing this, Citrix will effectively purge the ability of users who are no longer active or who have left their firms from being able to login.

So, you may wish to check that your login still works and, if not, to reset it before an urgent, time-critical situation arises for you to access your MyCitrix portal.

P.S. Whilst you’re in your MyCitrix portal you might like to perform a health check &/or do some tidy up, e.g.

  • Delete any out of date users
  • Check/Update your active user list
  • Check/Update your support renewal contacts
  • Check/Update who is your preferred Citrix Partner
  • Archive old licenses

OR, The SAM Club can help you do this and look after your portal on an on-going basis as part of our Managed Service. It may seem like a simple thing to manage a licensing portal, but it’s easy to miss some of these little things that can actually save you thousands in licensing costs – read our Adobe licensing portal blog for more info.

Please contact us for an exploratory discussion.

Are your Microsoft Azure Costs Spiralling?

As more organisations start to use Microsoft Azure it is important to review your Azure portal(s) on a regular basis.

Spiral Staircase - Microsoft Azure Costs spiralling?

There are two portals. The original portal, aptly named ‘Classic’ and the newer version Azure Resource Manager (ARM). Moving from Classic to ARM is not straight forward but it’s worth considering for potential cost savings as Classic has limitations.

Windows Server Hybrid Rights

As you start to migrate VM’s to Azure, your Windows Server Datacenter & Standard Edition licenses with SA or Windows Server Subscriptions can be used with Hybrid Rights for the OS’s hosting VM’s within ARM. This saves you licensing additional Windows Servers for the Azure VM’s thereby helping to reduce your costs. *Note that this option is not available with the ‘Classic’ portal.

Disks

If you review the Disks that you’ve purchased, there is a column called ‘Owner’. Where this is blank it indicates that the Disk is not being used by a VM. However, this Disk would have been purchased and is, therefore, contributing towards your costs.

Reserved Instances (RI’s)

This is where a VM can be reserved for dedicated use on a one- or three-year basis. RI’s require a one-time up-front payment but can offer discounts up to 70% when compared to the standard on-demand pay-per-use VM pricing model. *Note RI’s are not available within the ‘Classic’ portal.

The ARM portal also provides performance information on VM’s. After a 30-day period, you can see information on VM’s that may have been specified incorrectly and only using a small % of the CPU available. This provides another option to review and reduce Azure costs.

Are you using Azure for Test and Dev environments? Are you making full use of the Azure credits which come with your Visual Studio subscriptions? Visual Studio Professional provides a credit of US$50 per month and US$150 per month with Visual Studio Enterprise. But, these credits are for use by your named licenced developers and cannot be used on a team basis.

At The SAM Club, we monitor our clients’ Azure Portals and provide regular reports for review, highlighting potential cost savings for consideration. Contact us if you would like to know more about our independent Software Asset Management Service. We are not a license reseller, so you can be confident that the information we provide is unbiased and, in your organisation’s, best interest.

If you are considering moving to Microsoft Azure you might find attending our regular Azure User Group meetings useful.

Azure AI ChatBots is the hype justified

SAM Club Azure AI Chatbots - User Group meetingAzure AI Chatbots was the topic of the 4th SAM Club Azure User group meeting, the meeting was kindly hosted by Gardiner & Theobald at their offices in London.

The conversations started with a client who is looking at developing Chatbots in Azure discussing the reasons they are considering AI Chatbots. Law firms are increasingly being asked what makes them different from their competitors. Technology is included in this for example: Can they get 24-hour access to policies that can be accessed via mobile apps? Chatbots can be developed to offer these services.

Microsoft invited ANS who are one of only 40 Azure Managed Service Partners (MSP) globally, but headquartered in the UK, who develop and design Chatbot’s. Chatbot’s are more than just a frequently asked question (FAQ) function on a website. The truth is the technology behind it is much more versatile.

Some examples of the different types of bots mentioned were:

    • ExperienceBot

For a website to help a prospect to find the right contact within a firm. An ExperienceBot could help point someone in the right direction of partners with the relevant knowledge.

    • StaffBot

Employees wanting to know how many days holiday they have, requesting holiday, maternity benefits etc this could all be accessed via the bot rather than contacting HR. Chatbots are not only able to automate tasks, they can be proactive. Feedback provided into the bot from staff can help answer common queries and can also be used as an anonymous way to capture data.

    • SupportBot

How many support calls are being received on what topics and it is possible to automate the responses to reduce the number of calls and increase response times.

A Chatbot is only limited by your own creativity. Could we see websites where you answer a few questions such as looking for a new car which then returns all makes and models for consideration?

An example of a successful Chatbot use case is the ‘Do Not Pay’ chatbot that was developed by Stanford University student, Joshua Browder. It is now perhaps the most recognisable name of any legal chatbot and is now known as “The world’s first robot lawyer”. It was developed to help users contest parking fines and has helped save motorists $13 million in parking fines.
The bot is now giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support.

ANS created a parking Chatbot to help assist with their staff parking, using a camera in their carpark and data sources such as staff holidays, meetings and weather they can predict when parking spaces might be available.

A Chatbot can never answer every question that anyone will ask. But built in ‘error’ replies such as ‘I don’t know the answer but can ask someone to contact you’ can help. Gathering information on additional questions can then be beneficial to develop the Chatbot further.

ANS have created a ‘BaseBot’ which is free to download on GitHub that enables you to deploy an AI powered Chatbot in under 1 hour. A great starting point for a simple Chatbot for a pilot.

Microsoft offer an QnA Maker in Azure where you can create a simple FAQ service from existing content. This offers an ideal starting point for organisations thinking about Chatbot technology and can be set up for only a small investment.

There are many off the shelf bot technologies, but if more bespoke Chatbots are required then working in partnership with a developer is recommended so they can integrate your data and build to your specific requirements.

A final use case that ANS presented was with Staffordshire University, they developed an AI-driven coach and support assistant using intelligent Chatbot technology. It provides students with key information such as course timetables, campus facilities and extra-curricular activities. It is also a support tool to help identify any at-risk individuals who may be unhappy or unsettled and provide guidance and support.

Feedback from the roundtable highlighted resistance from partners and how to drive change and get buy in, as there can be too much technology. The suggestion is always to start small with a pilot group that can then champion the concepts. ANS recommended a collaborative approach; upfront involvement from partners to discuss their pain points with developers who can translate that into what’s possible with AI Chatbot technology. Also starting off with a version one of a Chatbot to prove it’s use, then develop it further with internal and external data.

Next Azure User Group

The meeting rounded off with discussion on the topic for the next event which was agreed as Microsoft Cloud Assessments. This process looks at client’s workload on-premise and works out the costings/commercials for moving to Azure with a detailed report. The next event will be held in early August and will be announced soon.
You can find blog articles from our previous events here:

Azure User Group meeting
Azure User Group meeting 2 Dev /Test
Azure User Group meeting 3 Security & Compliance

Microsoft announce the special Office Professional plus installation rights will remain

Microsoft announce that they will not now remove the special Office Professional Plus installation rights that customers are currently entitled to with Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 From SA licences. The current rights are detailed on page 54 of the May 2019 Product Terms, and this announcement confirms that the rights are here to stay rather than being removed after 1st August 2019.

Citrix Workspace - digital workspace

The SAM Club can help you understand your licensing position, document and maintain your software assets and help with new technology planning and renewals. Find out more.

Security & Compliance in the Azure Cloud

Security and Compliance Azure was the topic of the 3rd SAM Club Azure User Group meeting, that was kindly held by HEMPSONS at their central London office. The group has grown with several new attendees to this event and it was great to have their insight on the journey to Azure.

Azure Security & Compliance - SAM Club event 9th Apr 2019

The meeting kicked off with a presentation from Stuart Aston, National Security Officer at Microsoft. Discussing how the journey to Azure starts for many companies, it tends to start with Office applications via Office 365, or IaaS as it’s an easy left and shift of on premises services.

Microsoft Service Trust Platform

Stuart introduced the group to a great resource for fact finding around security and compliance of the Microsoft Cloud. This portal provides access to reports such as ISO surveillance, penetration test results and government blueprints.

Microsoft spend $1 billion a year on security to provide assurance to clients that their data will remain safe in the cloud and work closely with Government cybersecurity.

Decisions to make internally when moving to Cloud

Identity – one of the first things to be targeted by hackers. Microsoft highly recommend using Multifactor authentication, it reduces the chances of success two-fold.

Device – Devices need to be secure and software updated, policies such as BYOD need to be reviewed if considering moving to cloud. A BYOD policy equals higher risk – the Martini effect: Anytime, Anyplace Anywhere. The end user device is where most data breaches happen and is where the hackers target. Consider regular health checks on the device and consider if it is safe for the end user to access firm data via that device.

Apps and data – decisions need to change around risk assumption, such as admin users having unrestricted access.

An example was raised of the Ashley Madison website hack, where 37 million user’s personal information was leaked and there were many work email addresses used. One in five people use the same password for work and personal use. How many people in your organisation are doing this?

Azure Sentinal

Stuart recommended a new tool from Microsoft called Azure Sentinal which enables IT to see and stop threats before they happen. It is a Cloud and AI application that provides a bird’s eye view across the enterprise.

Microsoft share threat intelligence and are part of the CISP (Cyber security Information Sharing Partnership) which is an initiative between the government and industry to combat cyber threats.Information is shared on threat intelligence only, not any customer information or data.

Stuart recommended joining CISP if your firm is not already a member.

Microsoft Datacenter security

Stuart discussed the level of physical security at the 39 Microsoft datacenters around the world – such as tank traps, zigzagged roads, biometric and body scans people must get through before even entering the building.

Even then the data is totally anonymous, nobody in the building knows which company’s data is stored on a server and all hard disks that are not in use are destroyed on site.
There are several highly regulated industries already using the Cloud and it’s unlikely that most organisations would have the billions of dollars spent on security that Microsoft do.

Cloud Principles

There is access online to guidance on what to request from suppliers when compiling questions and gaining evidence to present to the board when moving to the cloud to address security and compliance concerns.

Azure Security & Compliance - SAM Club event 9th Apr 2019

Round table discussion

The round table session posed some questions from the group:

Stuart was asked to discuss an example of a use case where there was resistance to moving to the cloud and what the success factors were in converting them.

Cost – Microsoft state it’s generally cheaper to move infrastructure to the cloud
Security – it’s more secure, Microsoft carry out more PAT tests, they have an attack team who regularly try to penetrate their own systems. They have access to threat intelligence and are always using the latest Operating System.
New features are delivered faster in Cloud – this does also provide some level of risk.

Where data is held is the biggest fear for law firms

There are 39 Cloud regions worldwide. When starting with Azure you can decide on which region to use to store your data. Stuart mentioned the Microsoft Dublin data centre case to highlight the lengths Microsoft went to in ensuring an individual customer’s privacy. Microsoft took the case to one of the most expensive courts in the World to challenge a warrant seeking emails belonging to an individual stored in Dublin.

How AI is used to check for malware

Law firms are using Mimecast to protect their email and Microsoft also recommend Defender ATP, plus steps made internally to whitelist and stop people gaining admin access – making hacking harder. Scanning your own services for attacks – defence in depth should be a policy to lower the risks.

Multifactor Authentication outage

Microsoft’s outage of the MFA service caused users a lot of problems with accessing Office applications. Stuart said that whilst this was not good enough – it happened, and organisations should plan for offline working in case of any outage incidence.

OneDrive is a back up solution so that users can access office applications.

How can the IT dept keep up with the complexity of new features from Microsoft?

There are notifications from Microsoft of new features and Roadmaps provide details of the new features coming up, these are now drip-fed throughout the year rather than in one hit. Need to monitor and prioritise which vendors to invest time in tracking.

To help with training and implementing Azure and new features the following resources are available:

Microsoft direct account team
Fast track Azure Team
Online Learning – MSLearn
The Trust portal is a useful tool for presenting to the board, it can help you put together a matrix of questions and evidence to present to them.
Office 365 Security and Compliance guide

Next meeting

The meeting rounded up with an agreement on the next topic : Chatbots – how they are implemented and real use cases.

To find out what was discussed at our previous meetings, please see our recent blog posts – Azure User Group Meeting and Azure Dev Test. If you are interested in attending the next meeting please register.

SAM Club Kickers Fantasy Premier League Winner announced

What a final week of the season… Great comebacks from both Liverpool and Spurs in the Champions League to reach the final. And then Arsenal and Chelsea also getting through to the final of the Europa League. With all the talk about Brexit, it is a bit ironic that English Clubs are dominating European Football….

Back to the Premiership – what a season for both Manchester City and Liverpool. It is amazing that Liverpool’s 97 points would have won them every single Premier League title apart from last season and this season. So Manchester City have won the Premiership for the last two seasons.

Now onto The SAM Club Kickers final positions. And it is congratulations to Jonathan Bush who takes the title for the 2nd year running…..emulating Manchester City. The trophy will be on its way to you shortly.

Have a great summer, keep an eye on the transfer activity (unless you are a Chelsea fan….although it looks like Hazard is on his way!) and look out for information on next seasons Fantasy Football Competition.

Noticed how Ian has managed to get himself in the top 10 snapshot 😉

SAM Club Kickers Fantasy Premier league winner

Visual Studio 2019 now available

Microsoft announced that Visual Studio 2019 is available to download as of 2nd April 2019. With improvements on the previous version, Visual Studio 2019 enables users to get into code more quickly by making it easier to use.

Visual Studio 2019

Visual Studio is licensed per developer and provides Azure Credit for subscribers:

  • US$50 for Visual Studio Professions (standard subscription)
  • US$150 for Visual Studio Enterprise (standard subscription)

Note: Overages are billed after the monthly credit has been consumed.

If you are considering Azure for Dev & Test purposes, then check out our blog from our recent Azure User Group meeting on this subject.

Visual Studio is also the perfect solution for gaining access to the latest Microsoft releases for Dev & Test use (Windows Server, SQL Server etc).  See the latest version of the benefits by subscription level here.

If you would like to know more about licensing Visual Studio or to get advice on your current licensing position, please get in touch.

System Center 2019 now available

Microsoft announced the general availability of System Center 2019 on 14th March 2019. As customers grow their deployments in the public cloud and on-premises data centres, management tools are evolving to meet customer needs. System Center continues to play an important role in managing the on-premises data centre and the evolving needs with the adoption of the public cloud.

System Center 2019

Some of the features include:

  • Tools to monitor and manage data centers
  • Support and manage capabilities in the latest versions of Windows Server
  • Enable hybrid management and monitoring capabilities with Azure

System Center 2019 is in the LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) which provides 5 years of standard and 5 years of extended support.

Click here for further information on the announcement and how System Center can benefit your organisation.

If you would like independent advice on your current licensing position, please get in touch. We offer an independent SAM Managed Service or can work with clients on a project basis for upcoming Microsoft renewals and compliance reviews.

Veritas announced the End of Standard Support for Backup Exec 16 with effect from 2nd April 2019

The latest release of Backup Exec is 20.3

Veritas Backup Exec 16 Ened of support

Existing customers with active maintenance may be entitled to upgrade at no charge. Veritas Support is available to assist customers who are actively upgrading from Backup Exec 16 to Backup Exec 20.x. Upgrade Support is limited to upgrade assistance and does not include step-by-step guidance nor consultancy about the upgrade process nor troubleshooting Backup Exec 16.

Customers running Backup Exec 16 who wish to migrate their existing jobs and backup data to new hardware can follow the steps provided in the articles below as appropriate for their environment:

• Article 100020224 – How to migrate (move) Backup Exec from one system to another with the same version of BE, Windows and same or different computer names
• Article 100001807 – How to migrate Backup Exec to another server with a different Windows OS version
• Article 100020072 – How to migrate (move) Backup Exec from one version to another on a different server with a different server name
• Article 100012412 – How to migrate (move) Backup Exec from one computer to another using the same version of Backup Exec and Windows, and the same computer name
• Article 100017867 – How to Copy the Backup Exec Database (BEDB) from an existing Backup Exec Server to a new Media Server with the same or different server name
• Article 100027163 – Disaster recovery of Deduplication Disk Storage in Backup Exec 2012 and above
• Backup Exec Administrator’s Guide, Duplicating backup sets or a job history manually

As from 2nd April 2019, requests for support for Backup Exec 16 releases will be denied by Veritas Customer Care unless the customer has a valid Extended Technical Support contract in addition to a valid maintenance agreement. Please see the links below for more information.

Veritas Technical Support Solutions Handbook

Veritas Product Lifecycle:
Veritas Services and Operations Readiness Tools
Veritas End of Life Policy
Veritas End of Life Table

Please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk if we might help you understand:-

• Your Backup Exec Licenses
• Releases that you are entitled to
• Your Support & Maintenance Renewal Dates
• If you’re confused by the data in your MyVeritas licensing portal – we provide a Licensing Portal Health Check & Clean-up Service
• Explore converting your Agents & Options licensing model to the Capacity (per Terabyte) licensing model & if this might result in ease of use and/or renewal cost savings