Global Relationship Study – chance to win!

We often work with Anthony, Pierre and Mitch, the evangelists from the IT Pro team at Microsoft Canada.  They asked us to share this important message with you.


The team at Microsoft Canada is focused on ensuring that they help set you up for success by providing the information and tools you need in order to be get the most out of Microsoft based solutions, at home and at work.


Twice a year, Microsoft sends out the Global Relationship Study (GRS for short); it’s a survey that Microsoft uses to collect your feedback and help inform their planning.  If you receive emails from Microsoft, subscribe to their newsletters‚ or you’ve attended our any of their events you may receive the survey.


The important details:


  • Timing – March 4th to April 12th 2013
  • Sent From – “Microsoft Feedback”
  • Email Alias – “feedback@e–
  • Subject Line – “Help Microsoft Focus on Customers and Partners”

Many of you already read the Microsoft Canada IT Pro team’s blogs‚ connect with them on LinkedIn and have attended their events in the last year or so. So you may already know that you’re their top priority. So they want to hear from you.


Pierre, Anthony and Mitch use the GRS results to shape what they do, how they do it and if it’s resonating with you. Tell them what you need to be the “go-to” guy (or gal).  Tell them what you need to grow your career.  They want you to be completely satisfied with Microsoft Canada.

This year, Pierre, Anthony and Mitch have delivered 30 IT Camps and counting across the country.  Giving you the opportunity to get hands on and learn how to get the most value for your organization.  They have a few more events planned this year, so keep an eye on their
plancast feed for events near you.  Based on your feedback, topics they’re planning to cover will include:

·         Windows 8

·         Windows Server 2012

·         System Center 2012

·         Private Cloud

·         BYOD – Management and Security


That’s not all.  They’ve heard you loud and clear so in addition to hands on events, they’re also delivering more technical content online via the IT Pro Connection Blog.  Windows 8 continues to be a big area of focus for them.  They covered a lot of great content at launch and they’ve complimented that with new content like:

·         Security Concepts

·         Enterprise Focused Content

·         Windows 8 and System Center 2012 Integration


In addition to this, there are some valuable online resources you can use like Microsoft Virtual Academy, Microsoft’s no-cost online training portal.  Or software evaluations (free trials) on TechNet that allow you to build your own labs to try out what you’ve learned.

Regardless of how you engage with the team at Microsoft Canada‚ you’d probably agree that they hear you. They’d also encourage you to continue to provide that great feedback. They thrive on it‚ they relish it‚ they wallow in it and most importantly of all‚ they action it. So please keep connecting with them and keep it coming! Pierre, Anthony and Mitch are listening.


Resources, Tools and Training

·         Tim Horton’s Gift Card Contest – We’re giving away 350 Tim Horton’s gift cards, all you have to do to qualify is download a free qualifying software evaluation (trial).  Download all three for more chances to win, but hurry, the contest closes soon.*


·         Windows 8 Resource Guide Download a printable, one-page guide to the top resources that will help you explore, plan for, deploy, manage, and support Windows 8 as part of your IT infrastructure.


·         Windows Server 2012 Evaluation – Get hands on with Windows Server 2012 and explore the scale and performance possibilities for your server virtualization.


·         Microsoft Support  – Get help with products‚ specific errors‚ virus detection and removal and more.


·         Microsoft Licensing  -Visit the Volume Licensing Portal today to ask questions about volume licensing‚ get a quote‚ activate a product or find the right program for your organization. 


*No purchase necessary. Contest open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec.  Contest closes April 11, 2013 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET. Three-Hundred-and-Fifty (350) prizes are available to be won: (i) $10 CDN Tim Horton’s gift card.  Skill-testing question required. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries. For full rules, including entry, eligibility requirements and complete prize description, review the full terms and Conditions.


Here’s your chance to tell Microsoft how they’re doing.

Every fall and spring, a survey goes out to a few hundred thousand IT folk in Canada asking what they think of Microsoft as a company. The information they get from this survey helps them understand what problems and issues you’re facing and how they can do better. The team at Microsoft Canada takes the input they get from this survey very seriously.

Now I don’t know who of you will get the survey and who won’t but if you do find an email in your inbox from “Microsoft Feedback” with an email address of “ ” and a subject line “Help Microsoft Focus on Customers and Partners” from now until April 13th – it’s not a hoax or phishing email. Please open it and take a few minutes to tell them what you think.

This is your chance to get your voice heard: If they’re doing well, feel free to pile on the kudos (they love positive feedback!) and if you see areas they can improve, please point them out so they can make adjustments (they also love constructive criticism!).

The Microsoft team would like to thank you for all your feedback in the past – to those of you who have filled out the survey and sent them emails. Thank you to all who engage with them in so many different ways through events, the blogs, online and in person. You are why they do what they do and they feel lucky to work with such a great community!

One last thing – even if you don’t get the survey you can always give the team feedback by emailing us directly through the Microsoft Canada IT Pro Feedback email address .

They want to make sure they are serving you in the best possible way. Tell them what you want more of. What should they do less of or stop altogether? How can they help? Do you want more cowbell ? Let them know through the survey or the email alias. They love hearing from you!

Cloud Computing with Microsoft

As the “Cloud” becomes more and more popular and business try to decide if it the right fit for them, the task is often complicated by uncertainty, policies and regulations governing data, technical vacuums, etc. that all combine to create enough mystery to put the idea on the back burner until more can be learned.

Office 365 and Windows Intune are great applications to get you started with Cloud Computing. Many of you emailed me asking for more info on what Cloud Computing is, including the distinction between “Public Cloud” and “Private Cloud”. I want to address these questions and help you get started. Let’s begin with a brief set of definitions and some places to find more info; however, an excellent place where you can always learn more about Cloud Computing is the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Public Cloud computing means that the infrastructure to run and manage the applications users are taking advantage of is run by someone else and not you. In other words, you do not buy the hardware or software to run your email or other services being used in your organization – that is done by someone else. Users simply connect to these services from their computers and you pay a monthly subscription fee for each user that is taking advantage of the service. Examples of Public Cloud services include Office 365, Windows Intune, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Hotmail, and others.

Private Cloud computing generally means that the hardware and software to run services used by your organization is run on your premises, with the ability for business groups to self-provision the services they need based on rules established by the IT department. Generally, Private Cloud implementations today are found in larger organizations but they are also viable for small and medium-sized businesses since they generally allow an automation of services and reduction in IT workloads when properly implemented. Having the right management tools, like System Center 2012, to implement and operate Private Cloud is important in order to be successful.

So – how do you get started? The first step is to determine what makes the most sense to your organization. The nice thing is that you do not need to pick Public or Private Cloud – you can use elements of both where it makes sense for your business – the choice is yours. When you are ready to try and purchase Public Cloud technologies, the Microsoft Volume Licensing web site is a good place to find links to each of the online services. In particular, if you are interested in a trial for each service, you can visit the following pages: Office 365, CRM Online, Windows Intune, and Windows Azure.

For Private Cloud technologies, start with some of the courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy and then download and install the Microsoft Private Cloud technologies including Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center 2012 in your own environment and take it for a spin. Also, keep up to date with the Canadian IT Pro blog to learn about events Microsoft is delivering such as the IT Virtualization Boot Camps and more to get you started with these technologies hands on.

Finally, I want to ask for your help to allow the team at Microsoft to continue to provide you what you need. Twice a year through something we call “The Global Relationship Study” – they reach out and contact you to see how they’re doing and what Microsoft could do better. If you get an email from “Microsoft Feedback” with the subject line “Help Microsoft Focus on Customers and Partners” between March 5th and April 13th, please take a little time to tell them what you think.

Additional Resources You May Find Useful:

Springboard Series
Your destination for technical resources, free tools and expert guidance to ease the deployment and management of your Windows-based client infrastructure.

TechNet Evaluation Center
Try some of our latest Microsoft products for free, Like System Center 2012 Pre-Release Products, and evaluate them before you buy.

AlignIT Manager Tech Talk Series
A monthly streamed video series with a range of topics for both infrastructure and development managers. Ask questions and participate real-time or watch the on-demand recording.

Tech·Days Online
Discover what’s next in technology and innovation with Tech·Days session recordings, hands-on labs and Tech·Days TV.

De-mystifying Microsoft Licensing

Are you not quite sure what licensing to purchase or are you a bit confused with even what type of licensing requirements to look for?  It can be a little intimidating trying to figure out what you really need from a legal perspective and, of course, you want to be sure you are legal while at the same time not spending more money than is necessary.

While I’m no licensing expert, I have some information that might help you navigate you way through the system to purchase what you need for your environment.

 Hopefully, this will be useful to you.

You may want to review this blog post that lays out licensing basics for any organization that needs to license software for more than 5 or less than 250 devices or users. It details the different ways you can buy a license and what choices are available for volume licensing, which can give you pricing advantages and provide flexible options for your business.

As technology evolves and more organizations move to online services such as Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Windows Azure Platform, Windows Intune and others, it’s important to understand how to purchase, activate and use online service subscriptions to get the most out of your investment. Once purchased through a volume licensing agreement or the Microsoft Online Subscription Program, these services can be managed through web portals:

·         Online Services Customer Portal (Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Intune)

·         Dynamics CRM Online Customer Portal (Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online)

·         Windows Azure Customer Portal (Windows Azure Platform)

·         Volume Licensing Service Center (other services)

Learn more >>


Licensing Resources:

Additional Resources You May Find Useful:

  • TechNet Evaluation Center
    Try some of our latest Microsoft products For free, Like System Center 2012 Pre-Release Products, and evaluate them before you buy.
  • Springboard Series
    Your destination for technical resources, free tools and expert guidance to ease the deployment and management of your Windows-based client infrastructure.
  • AlignIT Manager Tech Talk Series
    A monthly streamed video series with a range of topics for both infrastructure and development managers. Ask questions and participate real-time or watch the on-demand recording.

Microsoft Technet Evaluation software

Did you know that you can test drive some of Microsoft’s marquee software – for FREE!

A short list of stuff that is available to trial:

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1

Windows 7 Enterprise

Windows HPC (High Performance Computing) Server 2008 R2

Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1

Windows Small Busines Server 2011 Standard and Essentials

Office 2010 Suite

System Center products

Forefront Products

Cloud Products


Drive on by and see for yourself!–MVP49


Server 8 – Data Deduplication

Whoa!  As I was poking around just now on another machine I built I ran across this little gem!

**Updated – screenshots!!

1)  From Server Manager, ensure DASHBOARD is selected in the navigation node then select Manage in the top right corner of the window.

2)  Select Add Roles and Features from the context menu.


3)  Press Next on the Before you Begin screen.


4)  From the Select Installation Type screen, confirm that Role-Based or Feature-Based installation is selected.  Press Next.


5)  Select the server you are targetting from the Server Pool pane, then press Next.


6)  From the Select Server Roles screen, place a check beside File Services.  Press Next.


7)  On the Features screen, accept the defaults by pressing Next.


8)  Read the blurb on File Services, then press Next.


9)  On the Select Role Services screen, place a check beside Data Deduplication.  Press Next.


10)  Read the Confirm Installation Selections screen, then press Install if you are certain all looks correct.


11)  You can watch the progess on this screen.


12)  If the installation was successful, press the Close button to exit.


Notice now in Server Manager there is a FILE SERVICES navigation node available!


**Note: If you don’t see this node available after refreshing and you recheck Steps 1-6 and find the File Services box is not checked now – perform the following:

1)  Ensure you have turned on Automatic Updates.

2)  Launch PowerShell, and run the following commands –

> Import-Module ServerManager

> Add-WindowsFeature -name FS-Data-Deduplication

> Import-Module Deduplication

Your File Services Node should now be present.


Setting Up Deduplication on a Volume.

If you select that node, your server should show up in the middle pane with an Activation Status of Not Activated (meaning you have not yet setup any Dedupe).


If you right-click on the server’s line item a context menu appears.  At the top of the menu is an entry for Configure Deduplication Settings.


Here you can enable background optimization and a Primary and Secondary schedule for it to run.  Setup your preferences and press OK to continue.


Again, in the Navigation Node (left pane), you select Volumes to show a list of volumes present.


Right-click any volume (other than the System or Boot) and your option for Configure Deduplication is there.


Selecting this entry opens a screen where you can check Enable Data Deduplication on the Volume.  You can exclude folders and extensions also.  Press OK when you’re done.


Data Deduplication can’t be enabled on the System or Boot Volumes – this is the same as any disk-based service limitation.

This feature is fantastic!  Native De-dupe – finally….



Server 8 – Group Managed Service Accounts

Managed Service accounts were introduced in Server 2008 R2, and while it was a good start, they weren’t useful for what you really wanted to do with them – such as using them as a cluster service account.

Server 8 has improved on these accounts with Group Managed Service Accounts – a new security principal called gMSA. 

With gMSA, you can now have services running on multiple hosts inside your domain using these accounts. 

The requirements are pretty steep, so you would need to determine if using gMSAs would be worth the risk. 

1)  The Schema must be brought up to the Server 8 version.  So, the Forest Root needs at least one Server 8 DC.

2)  Each domain within the Forest requires at least one Server 8 DC.  This is because the gMSA principals need to be run through the Group Key Distribution Service for password management / updates across whatever servers they are being used – which is a new service on Server 8.

3)  Only services running on Server 8 can use these principals.

As was the case with MSAs on Server 2008 R2, only the IIS Application Pools and the Windows Service Control Manager supports these accounts.  Authentication for these accounts can be done against any DC running any version of OS.

These accounts can only be created via Active Directory Administrative Center and their password change interval can be set here at the same time.

Once I get Server Manager working again, I can post a few screen shots!





Server 8 – Fine-Grained Password Policy GUI

Since Windows Server 2008 we have had the ability to use more than one Password Policy per domain.  It was less than idea to setup and configure this feature, so many Admins held off.

Now, Server 8 brings us a GUI to manage it.  The only two prerequisites are having Active Directory Administrative Center installed and the Domain Functional level must be 2008 or better.

1)  To get started, launch ADAC.

2)  Create a few Global Groups – add some test users to each.

3)  Select your domain in the Navigation Node panel, and double click the System container in the center panel, then double click on the Password Settings Container.


4)  From this next screen, select New>Password Settings.


5)  On the Create Password Settings screen, fill in the required information.  In the Name field, use something descriptive that you can relate to the purpose of this unique policy.  In my example, I named it the same as the Global Group it would be applied to – this way, I could use the description field in the Group properties to describe more detail of restrictions.  You also have a Description field within the Password Policy that can be used to detail whatever change needs to be applied.  For the Precedence field, start your numbers with enough free numbers between the number you select and 1, so that you give yourself the ability to add policies with higher precedence in the future without the need to change this constantly.  Change any other settings you require, don’t forget to put something in the Description field that is meaningful to the policy details.  When you have completed the policy details, select the Add button under the Directly Applies to panel header.



6)  The standard Select Users or Groups applet appears.  Type in your group name, press Check Names, then OK if the principal resolves to a good name.


7)  From the Create Password Settings screen, press OK if you are finished.  You should now return to the Password Settings Container that shows your new policy in the centre pane.


8)  Any of these policies can be editted by right-clicking the policy and selecting Properties, making the changes then pressing OK.

9)  To delete a policy it is necessary to open it and uncheck the “Protect from accidental deletion” checkbox and pressing OK before you are able to delete it.

More information regarding Fine-Grained Password Policies and how they work can be found here: