Join SHI for a Microsoft Office 365 Webinar on Feb. 28

SHI Microsoft Webinar Series

Whether you’re a small or midsize business, an academic institution, a government organization, or large enterprise with advanced IT requirements, customers agree that Microsoft Office 365 makes it easy to create, communicate, and share in the cloud.

That’s why the next webinar in our Microsoft Spring 2013 Webinar Series is dedicated to showing how your organization can use Office 365 to securely collaborate with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. We’ll also cover Office 365 licensing, subscriptions plans, and deployment options.

The webinar is taking place Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. EST, so be sure to register here (scroll down to #5). Oh, and just for attending you’ll receive a chance to win an Xbox 360 to do with whatever your gaming heart desires, such as inviting me over to bust moves with you in Dance Central 3.*

If you can’t make it but have questions about Office 365, let us know in a comment below.

*Disclaimer: Video game and dancing partner not included.

6 reasons why SHI should be your ITAM partner

Although IT asset management (ITAM) gets VERY complicated VERY quickly, the key to selecting a partner can be boiled down to two simple questions: Who do you trust? Why do you trust them?

In a recent article, Paul Sheehan argues that companies that sell software licenses cannot function as independent and objective third-parties when it comes to helping clients manage those assets. The argument has merit. But, the author also clearly states that he works for a company that does not sell licenses, but does provide ITAM services.

I work for a company that does both, so it’s not surprising that I have a differing opinion. I believe that a world-class VAR with a world-class Software Asset Management (SAM) process is the best SAM partner a customer can have.

Here are the top six reasons why it’s not only possible – but likely – that the IT asset management solutions offered by a company like SHI are second-to-none.

  1. SHI is not your average VAR. Under the same private ownership since 1989, SHI has the advantage of answering to only one group of key stakeholders: our customers. With a 99 percent annual customer retention rate and clients who have been with us for 10, 15, and 20 years, SHI’s account teams are never put in a position to make decisions based on meeting quarterly Wall Street expectations. Our only interest is in the health of the long-term relationship we have with our clients. (more…)

Updates and changes to Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Office 2013 was made available to business customers last week. As with previous releases, this launch not only includes updates to the Microsoft Office Suite, but also to the full line of desktop and server application products including Project, Visio, Lync, and SharePoint.

The last month of our Fall 2012 Webinar Series will be dedicated to exploring Microsoft’s new changes. But if you’re anxious to dive into Microsoft 2013 now, here are five key changes you want to keep in mind for this launch.
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Is your Microsoft licensing in compliance? A quick reference guide

This is a big week for Microsoft — the Windows 8 launch today, the release of Microsoft Surface tomorrow. Media and techies have been hyping these new products for months, both for their innovation — some are calling Surface the “PC of the future” — and also for the licensing re-haul associated with them.

Caitlin already touched on the licensing changes inherent with Windows 8, so we won’t be going there today. Instead of looking forward, we thought we’d take a quick look back at how Microsoft got here. Below we’ve compiled a handy table recapping the new Microsoft products launched in 2012 and the licensing models associated with each. Let this serve as a quick reference to make sure your software licensing is in compliance. (more…)

Windows 8 licensing: Your old license is obsolete, and so is your old BYOD policy

With the debut of Windows 8, Microsoft is also unveiling a new licensing model that has significant impact on companies that are using desktop virtualization and, specifically, have BYOD policies. With this post, I’m going to explain what these changes are and then we’ll make some recommendations for how your BYOD policies needs to be updated to align with the new licensing. First, let’s look at the changes.

Traditionally, Windows desktop licensing has always been an OEM license that came with the option of upgrading and adding software assurance via volume licensing. That was meant to cover basically any device that was connecting to a virtualized desktop installed on a server. With Windows 8, Microsoft is making it very important that you are the primary user of the primary licensed device in your environment.

Now, you not only get the virtual desktop access rights that you’ve always gotten (four virtual machines per licensed device), but it also comes with Windows To Go rights — meaning you can sideload a full Windows 8 OS onto a thumb drive for remote usage. Take that, Linux fans! (more…)

What’s new in Windows Server 2012 and why does it matter?

The excitement about Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 is definitely hitting the marketplace, because last month I found myself fielding a ton of questions on both. When it came to Windows Server 2012 customers were concerned about the order in which they should perform their updates, the effect it will have on their existing cloud services, and the exclusive use of the Metro interface.

All of those are important issues, but the number one issue for SHI customers is how Windows Server 2012 will affect Windows OS licensing. That’s what I’d like to address today.

Windows Server 2012 will revamp the world of Windows Server OS versions, licensing, and capabilities in an effort to facilitate easy management and integration in highly virtualized public and private clouds. There are three major changes to the volume licensing of Windows Server 2012 that SHI customers need to be aware of:

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Windows 8 shows us the next generation of Microsoft

Microsoft plans to release the next full version of its desktop OS, Windows 8, later this fall. On the heels of this announcement last month, I took to the SHI Blog to outline the 4 most important ways customers can prepare for a smooth update process. Now, with the release date fast approaching (in fact, Microsoft revealed today that Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing), I want customers to know the top features of this new OS and how it will enhance their business.

Windows 8 is geared toward a full range of disparate hardware, including PCs, laptops, and touch tablets. People can expect the same solid foundation Microsoft laid down with Windows 7, but with a totally new look and Start screen. The new Start screen centrally locates all the information the user needs in a single panel, including contacts, appointments and calendars, weather, websites, favorites, playlists, photos, and favorite applications. Users have the ability to organize their view preferences easily, allowing them to act faster and more efficiently than ever before.

But the most important part of this update is that it was designed for today’s mobile society. In other words, Windows 8 will be fully compatible with all of your organization’s BYOD needs. Here’s how:

First, Windows 8 aims to standardize the OS user interface across a multitude of devices. This way, users can use whatever device they want, whenever and wherever, with a similar and familiar view and experience. Windows 8 is fully capable of running (and in fact, was built to run) on touch-enabled PCs and tablets. Users can choose between two touch-screen keyboard modes: a full-sized keyboard with large buttons, or a thumb keyboard that splits the keys to both sides of the screen for comfortable and portable use.

Second, Windows 8 is completely cloud-connected right out of the box, making users’ Microsoft accounts more portable and personal. As soon as the user signs in, his Windows 8 device is personalized and cloud-connected. Users storing information in the cloud can start a project on one Windows 8 device and finalize it on another. Unifying the experience even further is the People app for Windows 8, which pulls all contacts from major social networks, such as Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and more. This creates a fully connected address book.

Third, Microsoft has significantly reworked the features and functionality to include important mobile broadband features, such as 3G and 4G telecommunication and a broadband metering feature to help manage data usage and costs.

Fourth is Windows To Go, a feature of Windows 8 Enterprise that will allow IT administrators to place a corporate Windows image on a USB storage device for off-site and mobile workers. With Windows To Go, employees are able to work with a consistent and personalized desktop that is as secure as a regularly managed PC. Also, a part of the Windows 8 Enterprise update is Direct Access, which allows remote users to reach into their Windows 8 OS remotely without the need for a VPN connection.

The final benefit of the update that I predict my customers will take advantage of is BranchCache, which has been improved to store ample data, serve more clients, store files more efficiently, and eliminate duplicates.

To me, it has always been easy to see that adopting Windows 8 will give customers bandwidth savings and better network performance. I believe that through both its basic and mobile improvements, Windows 8 is a true representation of the next generation of the Windows desktop OS by Microsoft. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that it promises to change the way entities work — anywhere and everywhere.

Top 4 questions customers are asking about the migration to Windows Server 2012

In my last post, I went over how those planning to switch to Windows 8 can best prepare for the conversion. However, in addition to Windows 8, Microsoft will also be gearing up to release Windows Server 2012.

My prediction is that (assuming the server is clear of any last-minute bugs), the two will be released within a month of each other. Some are even saying that they will be released on the exact same day. On June 4, Windows Server 2012 came out of its beta stage, and Microsoft made the first release candidate available for those that want to participate in the evaluation of the release.

But while discussions and previews of Windows 8 have dominated the media spotlight for the past year, Windows Server 2012 hasn’t caught much mainstream interest. However, our IT and enterprise customers have tapped me several times looking for more information on it. So today, I’d like to share the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Windows Server 2012:

1. Should customers planning on moving forward with both Windows Server and Windows 8 install them in any particular order?
The answer is no. They can move piecemeal. They could even upgrade Windows Server first, wait a year, and then go to Windows 8. As long as an older version of Windows is still supported, they can still run it and shouldn’t see any problems.

2. What is the most important thing to watch out for during these updates?
My advice is to treat this as if it were any other update. Do this by making sure that all the applications running on the desktop are going to be compatible.

3. The slogan for Windows Server 2012 is “every app to any cloud.” What effect will Windows Server 2012 have on the private cloud?
Well, it will make the cloud easier to manage for even the smallest of our customers. In fact, it can basically produce a private cloud by itself. There’s definitely going to be symmetry between on-premise installations and any cloud-based solution. I anticipate a seamless interface between those two, whereas before we might have seen more of a login-type scenario. Overall, Windows Server 2012 will provide users with a common identity and management framework, giving enterprises with highly secure and reliable cross-premises adequate connectivity.

4. The Windows 8 previews showed that users will be able to choose between the Metro interface and the traditional Windows interface. Will those options be available on Windows Server 2012?
Judging by the Windows Server 2012 release candidate, it looks like Metro will be the exclusive interface. This might take some additional adaptations on the user’s part.

Of course, there’s a lot more that can be said about this after the product has been evaluated by a significant number of users. In the meantime, if organizations are interested in participating in evaluating the release candidate, they can download the operating system by registering on the Windows Server 2012 website.

What Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer means to SHI

Upon first reading the rumors that Microsoft would soon acquire Yammer — and that this acquisition was based on Yammer technology to improve the social aspect of SharePoint — I reacted in roughly the same way that Tommy Lee Jones did when Harrison Ford proclaimed, “I DIDN’T KILL MY WIFE!” in the movie “The Fugitive.”

I didn’t care.

It’s not that these revelations weren’t significant. They were. Acquiring the cloud-based enterprise social network could improve the social collaboration capabilities of the next version of SharePoint (possibly in Q1 of 2013), if Microsoft chooses to do so. (As for the other? Well, Ford jumped off a 225-foot dam into an active spillway without a scratch.)

SharePoint has been the backbone of SHI’s company intranet since 2006. Over these past six years, I learned that an effective, enterprise-wide rollout of SharePoint is as much about the business and cultural decisions made as it is the technology itself.

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