Thursday, September 24, 2015

So Much to Watch - So Little Time!

Yeah, I know... I barely have time to watch these things too, but there is some good stuff out on the interwebs that you might want to check out.

Available Now
On TechNet Radio, in Part 4 in our “To the Cloud” series, Blain Barton examines Microsoft Dynamics CRM and shows us how you can improve your customers' experience with sales, marketing, and customer service anywhere, anytime and with any device.

  • [2:50] DEMO: Dynamics CRM
Tuesday, October 6th
Watch the Microsoft 2015 Virtual CIO Summit, streaming LIVE from the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA!
Time: 8:00am - 2:45pm PDT

Hear from industry thought leaders, key Microsoft experts and your peers at this year’s CIO Summit. The Summit will cover key topics ranging from how the digital age is changing the way IT leaders do business to understanding the threats of cybercrime and how changing customer expectations are making strategic IT investments and partnerships all the more important.

Save the date and join us online for the 2015 Virtual CIO Summit to learn more about these key trends and new technologies that can empower you and your business.  Check out the agenda and register here!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Learn Quick with Azure Documentation Short Videos

It's hard to carve out 45 minutes (or more!) to watch a video training or webcast.  Sometimes 10 minutes or less is all you can spare.  So look no further than the Azure Documentation Shorts.  You'll find quick, to the point videos showing you how to perform specific tasks in Azure.  New videos are added weekly.  Here's a sample:

Attaching a Data Disk to a Windows VM

One of these days, I'll figure out how embed videos. But meanwhile, just click. :-)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Business Continuity and the Cloud

This week marks the start of TechNet on Tour, coming to twelve cities.   The full day workshops include lecture and hands-on-labs where you can learn about some of the ways you can utilize Microsoft Azure to help with your disaster recovery planning.

But let me tell you about the first "business continuity" plan I was part of.  It involved a stash of tapes, daily backups on a two week cycle with the Friday backups being held for a month.  The nightly backup job fit on two tapes and every morning, I ejected the tapes from the machine and dropped them in my bag.  They went home with me, across town, and came back every day to be swapped with latest ones.  Whenever I took a vacation, I designated an available person to perform the same task. 

That was it.  The tapes were rarely looked at, the data never tested and fortunately, never needed.  We were partying like it was 1999. Because it was.

Still, the scenario isn't uncommon.  There are still lots of small businesses, with only single locations and still lots of tapes out there.  But now, there is more data and more urgency for that data to be recovered as quickly as possible with as little loss as possible.  And there are still only 24 hours in the day. How annoying to arrive at work in the morning, only to find the overnight backup job still running.

As I moved through jobs and technologies evolved, we addressed the growing data and lack of time in many ways…  Adjusting backup jobs to capture less critical or infrequently changing data only over the weekends.  More jobs that only captured delta changes.  Fancier multiple-tape changers, higher density tapes, local "disk to disk" backups that were later moved to tape, even early "Internet" backup solutions, often offered by the same companies that handled your physical tape and box rotation services.

We also chased that holy-grail of "uptime".  Failures weren't supposed to happen if you threw enough hardware in a room.  Dual power supplies, redundant disk arrays, multiple disk controllers, UPS systems with various bypass offerings.  Add more layers to protect the computers, the data.

Testing was something we wanted to do more often.  But it was hard justify additional hardware purchases to upper management.  Hard to find the time to set up a comprehensive test.   But we tried and often failed.  And learned.  Because each test or real outage is a great opportunity to learn.  Outages are often perfect storms… if only we had swapped out that dying drive a day before, if only that piece of hardware was better labeled, if only that was better documented… and each time we made improvements.

I remember, after a lengthy call with a co-location facility that wanted us to sign a year agreement even though we only wanted space for 3 months to run a recovery test, how I wished for something I could just use for the time I needed.  It's been a little over 5 years since that phone call, but finally there is an answer and it's "the cloud".

Is there failure in the cloud? Of course, it's inevitable. For all the abstractness, it's still just running on hardware. But the cloud provides part of an answer that many businesses simply didn't have even five years ago.  Business that never recovered from the likes of Katrina and other natural or man-made disasters, might still have a shot today.

So catch a TechNet Tour if it passes through your area.  Look at taking advantage of things like using the cloud as target instead of tape, or replicating a VM to Azure with Azure Site Recovery.  Even starting to dabble in better documentation or scripting with PowerShell to make your key systems more consistently reproducible will go a long way.  Do a "table top" dry run of your existing DR plan today.

Sysadmins don't let other sysadmins drop  DLT tapes in their bags.  Let's party like it's 2015.  Because it is. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Server 2016 TP3, Containers and Azure - All Together

Sometimes I think I'll never get caught up. Every day, there are new, interesting announcements from the technology companies we use every day, plus we have to juggle the tasks, fires and projects we have at work.  It's really hard to keep up.  I'll bet you are feeling that way right now.

This week, it's possible for you to check a few new things off your list - ALL AT ONCE!  (And it's already Friday!)
  1. Try out Azure
  2. Check out Server 2016
  3. Learn about Containers

First make sure you have an Azure subscription or trial.  If your company has an enterprise agreement with Microsoft, you might have credits to use in Azure and not even know it.  So check there first.  If not - go to to sign up for $200 you can use for the next 30 days.

Once you've got access to Azure, you'll find we have two web portals for accessing it.  The "classic" or current portal at and the preview portal at Depending on what you need to do, the feature set varies between portals.  But for this, it doesn't matter.

Whichever portal you pick, you've opened the door to the easiest way to test out new versions of Windows Server.  No hunting around for free hardware, no downloading ISO images and practically no wait. Just take advantage of your own personal datacenter in the "cloud". 
Next, look for the Server 2016 versions - there are two of them. One is the Full GUI version, listed as Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3.  (In the new portal, the Full GUI version can be found in the Marketplace.)  The other one is listed as "Windows Server Container Preview".

If poking around with the new full version is your goal, spin that up and get started.  RDP to it and you are good to go.  If you need a walk-thru on how to set up a VM on either portal, you can find it here :

If your company develops software and is thinking about micro-services and "containers" are new buzzword in the office, you'll want to spin up the Container Preview.  And even if your company doesn't fit that description and you just want to see what this container/Docker thing is all about, spin up the Container Preview too.

Once that machine is up and running, you'll log into to find yourself at a command prompt window and nothing else.  Containers are supported only on the Windows Core (and eventually Nano) versions. To get you started, take some time to review this documentation ( and dust of your command line skills.

Viola!  Now go check off that list. :-)

Note: With the preview, there is A LOT of work to be done still, so don’t be surprised when things aren't super polished and feature-rich yet.  And seriously, don't try to use any of this for production.  This is just the tip of the iceberg to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer Reads!

Ah, summertime…. Vacations, relaxing on the patio, fruit salads, sparkly drinks and learning. Right? I spent some time by the beach and the pool recently and then came back to a pile of interesting things I wanted to read or try out.

There are also two new video blogs available on Channel 9 that will keep adding new content you might want to check out.