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Category Archives: General

For a second year in a row, Micromail has won Microsoft Ireland’s Licensing Solutions Partner (LSP) of the Year award. The 2017 award was presented to Willy Kelly (Micromail Sales Director) at the recent annual Microsoft Ireland Partner Awards dinner at the Inspire 2017 conference in Washington DC. The Licensing Solution Partner (LSP) of the Year award recognizes excellence in licensing solutions & services, along with the highest levels of customer service. Winning this award again confirms Micromail’s position as Ireland’s leading LSP.

Also, congratulations to our colleagues in Ergo who won two awards on the night,  Cloud Productivity Partner of the Year and Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Security Partner of the Year.

Inspire - MicroMail 3

The presenter Aisling Curtis, SMSP Director, Microsoft Ireland, and Willy Kelly, Sales Director, Micromail.

 

Inspire - Ergo Cloud Productivity Award

The presenter Aisling Curtis, SMSP Director, Microsoft Ireland, and John Purdy,  CEO, Ergo.

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

The rising popularity of cloud service platforms presents a unique challenge for IT security. These platforms can hold user identity and organisational data, but because of their separation from the corporate network, tend to be outside the reach of traditional on-premises security analytics software. This gives rise to a blind-spot in terms of security for IT administrators that can be difficult to resolve.

On the user side, it is often not possible to see centrally if third party applications are granted access to cloud data by users, for example unauthorised email or calendar tools. These applications can provide legitimate services to users but if there are flaws in their design, critical or sensitive data may be left exposed and become a target for hackers.

This issue is made more difficult with the widespread use of unmanaged personal smartphones, computers and tablet devices for business use, potentially leading to privileged information being accessed through third-party applications on devices with an unknown security or patching status.

Microsoft’s is a large cloud service provider and their Office 365 suite of applications run on encrypted servers within their world-leading datacentres. These datacentres are protected with layers of advanced security and certified by leading certification providers including: ISO 27001, HIPAA, UK G-Cloud and EU-US Privacy Shield. While this highly secure infrastructure ensures that information is stored in an environment that is as safe as it can be, user identity is left as the path of least resistance for malicious access to gain access to organisation data. This can be achieved in a number of ways including: weak user passwords, users continuing to use previously compromised passwords or “brute-force” password attacks where huge numbers of passwords are tried against each account and made easier if users are using weak passwords or the same password across a number of services.

Office 365 Advanced Security Management

To help secure against these type of threats, Office 365 Advanced Security Management monitors 70+ different metrics for each user account within Office 365. This allows alerts to be automatically generated when policies are triggered and manual or automatic actions to be taken to prevent security breaches.

Advanced Security Management policies are created and customised to monitor for specific user account activity with the aim of identifying suspicious behaviour. Each one can be set to look for specific actions and thresholds; for example, downloading large amounts of data in a short space of time or repeated login failures from an unexpected location. Once an alert is generated, administrators have the option to take an action on the users account right from the alert page or, if it’s a particularly serious scenario, have the account suspended automatically on detection pending further investigation.

General behavioural analytics are also performed on this stream of data, learning what normal activity looks like for each user and a “Risk Score” is generated based on the full range of parameters. The score is based on how unusual or risky the behaviour is; this can be logging in at an unusual time, making administrative changes from an unexpected location or many other metrics. The risk score is attached to each alert to assist IT administrators in deciding what further action to take.

Advanced Security Management also includes an “App Discovery” dashboard within the Office 365 control panel. This service can analyse logs uploaded from firewalls and proxies and produce reports on cloud application activity within the organisation across a large range of non-Microsoft cloud platforms. This can give a view of how many potentially unapproved cloud services are in use by users across the organisation and how much data they are uploading to them.

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Security Management services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled. For organisations that have any other Office 365 licensing, Advanced Security Management can be added as an add-on license to enable these features.

Contact Micromail today to discuss your IT security requirements

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

Email remains top of the list for hackers and cybercriminals looking to gain access to restricted systems or data. Traditionally this has comprised of emails infected with malware and viruses, sent either out to databases of random addresses or targeted to a specific organisation or individual. The standard defence against this type of attack is using email filtering solutions that scan against a continuously updated list of known threats.

With the constantly increasing number of viruses and malware, this type of protection is as important as ever. On top of this, there are a new set of challenges that need to be addressed – unique threats hidden within email attachments, including rapidly changing malware and zero day attacks, and malicious URLs in the body of emails. These are designed to avoid standard protection by behaving in a way that does not flag them as a threat and once delivered to the user, have a high chance of successfully infecting the target network.

Microsoft Office 365 offers inbuilt, robust protection against traditional email threats through “Exchange Online Protection”, which is enabled on all existing Exchange Online mailboxes by default. This email filtering service uses multiple scanning engines and the latest virus definitions on each email to effectively defend against these infections.

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

Defending against threats that have not been seen before requires a proactive approach to email scanning. Office 365 “Advanced Threat Protection” provides in depth scanning services for attachments and URLs using technologies called Safe Attachments and Safe Links.

Safe Attachments takes incoming email attachments and opens them within a special environment to monitor their activity. This service simulates a number of different operating systems to maximise the chance that novel viruses and malware are identified and blocked before they get anywhere near your network. Suspicious attachments are then blocked and stripped out of the email before it is sent on to the destination mailbox for delivery.

Safe Links follows all web links within an email to their final destination to determine if they lead to any malicious sites or content. This provides security against links that first go to a legitimate site but are automatically redirected to a malicious site thereafter. Any dangerous links are disabled within the email before it is delivered to the end user, allowing the content to be safely viewed. Included with Safe Links is the ability to generate a report containing the users that have attempted to follow the disabled links. This allows organisations to identify users that are potentially vulnerable to malicious emails and to provide information on how to recognise these emails in future.

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Threat Protection services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled. For organisations that have Exchange Online, Enterprise E1 or E3 licensing, Advanced Threat Protection can be added as a standalone license, adding an additional layer of security to existing email services.

Contact Micromail today to discuss your email security requirements

Micromail has once again won Microsoft Ireland’s prestigious LSP Partner of the Year award. The 2016 award was presented at Microsoft’s annual Irish Partner Awards dinner at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto on 12th July.

The LSP Partner of the Year award recognizes excellence in licensing solutions & services, along with the highest levels of customer service. It confirms Micromail’s position as the most successful LSP (Licensing Solutions Partner) in the country.

Congratulations to all the Micromail team. This award is a tribute to their expertise in software licensing, and their dedication to exceptional customer service.

Adobe Select – New Licensing Options from Adobe

Adobe today have launched a major update to their VIP (Cloud) licensing program for Commercial & Government customers – and it’s good news for customers already on the Cloud or contemplating joining. These new licensing options, dubbed Adobe Select, offer great value and budget predictability. Furthermore, they bring structured discounts within the scope of a regular Cloud user.

Changes in discount structure

This is the main update that will interest & affect Adobe users. Previously Adobe Cloud programs had discount bands, but they were unrealistically high. An order for 50+ seats was required to access any additional discount from Adobe! This was completely out of the scope of most Irish Creative Cloud customers. The new reduced discount bands offer a great opportunity for savings – an order of 10+ seats of either Creative Cloud or individual Apps (like Photoshop) provides access to an additional 5% discount, possibly rising to 10%.

The old and new bands:

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 14.14.39

10+ seats opens a new Adobe Select Agreement, or converts your current agreement to Select

Current Customers

What of companies who already have an Adobe VIP Cloud agreement in place with over 10 seats? Well, good news. Once you reach your Adobe ‘lookback’ period (31 days before VIP Agreement anniversary) you will be automatically upgraded to the level which you qualify for – and can then avail of the new rate of discount for renewals and new licenses.

3 Year Extended Term

Further good news – Adobe Select customers (10+ seats) will now also be able to lock down their pricing for three years. Once an order is placed, contact Micromail and request a 3-year commit – this will allow you to pay annually for three years, with price protection in place. Even better, Adobe will offer an additional 10-15% discount for committing to the three years.

Don’t have the necessary 10+ seats currently, but interested in securing Adobe Select pricing? It’s possible to commit to a 10+ seat purchase so you can avail of the additional extra discount immediately – simply contact Micromail for further details.

Fionán Ó’Cinnéide is seen here with his award for winning the Adobe Education Salesperson of the Quarter for Q4 2014 in the UK and Ireland. Fionán has clocked up more than 7 years experience guiding customers from all sectors through the various Adobe licensing programs. Currently, with Adobe’s ongoing transition to an annual subscription model, he is busy working with 3rd level institutions on how best they prepare for the termination of perpetual licensing.

Congratulations Fionán, well deserved.

By Stephen Foley, General Manager.

Fionan10

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Adobe have announced that CS6 & perpetual licensing will be removed as an option for educational institutes at the end of February.

What will this mean for educational users who have not yet moved to the Creative Cloud? Well, essentially it’s a significant change from once off payment to an annual cost. While this may not be entirely palatable, there are a number of great advantages:

  • Annual budget predictability  – stable reoccurring costs rather than large unpredictable payments.
  • New version cover included – always have access to the latest feature releases of the software.
  • Huge range of new products & services to access compared to traditional CS.

 

Further good news is that there are migration paths in place for institutes with previous Adobe agreements; and two particular offers will run until the end of March:

  • 25% off Year One & Two subscriptions if ordering 25+ seats
  • 40% off Year One & Two subscriptions if ordering 40+ seats

 

We will be covering all this in extra detail on the 25th of February – join us for a free webinar to discuss CS6 end of life, and the great benefits of the Creative Cloud for educational institutes & charities.

When: Wednesday 25th of February @ 11AM – 45 min session
Where: Online

Register Now

Regards,

Fionán Ó Cinnéide

CESI 2014 Conference took place in Galway on the 28th Feb/1st March. Founded in 1973, CESI or Computers in Education Society of Ireland, has strived to deliver information and understanding to teachers on how best to use technology in the classroom. It has been a forum ‘organised by practitioners for practitioners…’, hosted on their busy website, as well as the usual social media and of course the annual conference. The conference offers a chance to meet those people you have spoken with throughout the year, as well as a chance to meet vendors and see what’s new on the market.

On the road to TeachMeet

Having been offered the chance to present on the Saturday, I drove up Friday afternoon in order to attend the TeachMeet event that evening. TeachMeet is a more informal event where presenters are given 2, 5 or 7 minutes to present something they believe would be of interest to the (largely primary/secondary school teacher) audience. They were encouraged to do so without PowerPoint, a big departure for those familiar with such events!

Highlights included Mary Linehan’s (@linehanbm) presentation on using MineCraft in the history classroom. She demonstrated how the development of your character in MineCraft closely resembles the development of society through the ages, from agrarian societies through the iron-age and into the industrial revolution. A really interesting presentation, and no PowerPoint!

Another standout presentation saw Bianca Ní Ghrógáin (@groganbee) demonstrate how she turned her pupils into piano keys. How? Well, by electrocuting them by the look of it!! All questions to @groganbee on the actual methods involved. This demonstration saw @groganbee trending higher for a time than the Eurovision qualifiers. The interest in the presentations saw the running times extend slightly. No one was in a rush to finish up and the TeachMeet ran into the early hours. Of course I retired at a reasonable hour, in order to be prepared for my own presentation the next morning!

Onward to GMIT for CESI proper

The next morning saw the venue move from the Clayton Hotel to the main GMIT campus and after a welcome address and keynotes, the breakout sessions began. Tom Lonergan, National Co-ordinator of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (Formerly NCTE) gave an impassioned speech about the use of wireless networks in schools, as well as touching on the BYOD phenomenon. Tom was anxious to warn schools to shop around when contracting for a wireless infrastructure contractor, as well as stressing the need for a substantial support contract.

Other memorable breakouts were ‘An Introduction to the Raspberry Pi’ by Jake Byrne, ‘Open Education Resources, Portals and Communities, Supporting Innovation in Education’ by Neil O’Sullivan and a number based on the options around bringing CoderDojo into your classroom.

Microsoft Licensing In Education

I took the stage shortly after 12:30 to run through my presentation on licensing software in schools, with a specific look at the Microsoft and Adobe options. After running over the basics of software licensing, I discussed the potential benefits of certain agreement types over others. I also touched on the new Student Advantage benefit for schools with an annualised agreement which includes Microsoft Office. This benefit offers the school’s students the opportunity to deploy Office 365 Pro Plus on up to 5 of their personal devices.

Microsoft  O365 Student Advantage

Adobe for Schools

I also ran through the basics of Adobe licensing for schools, as well as highlighting such free resources as the Adobe Apps for Education and Adobe for Academics. Both of these resources offer training tools and forums for educators.

Adobe Apps for Education

The presentation was well received (I hope!), with a number of follow up questions from teachers about their specific site requirements. If you would like to discuss the topics covered, or indeed run through the presentation itself, feel free to drop me a line directly at sean@micromail.ie. Looking forward to CESI 2015 already!

Regards, Seán

So your new server is up and running and you have of course correctly licensed it with Windows Server 2012. Now you want to get on with the real task, installing SQL Server 2012. But what about the pesky licensing for SQL itself, well the licensing surrounding SQL Server can seem complicated initially but the basics are relatively easy to get a handle on.

First of all you’ll need to purchase the server license itself. You can choose between three options here*, depending on what you need to get done.

Starting at the top end, SQL Server 2012 Enterprise is what would be required for Mission Critical and Tier 1 applications, high availability and Data Warehousing. Click here for more information.
The ‘middle ground’ offering is new with the 2012 release – SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence (BI). BI edition offers the full suite of powerful BI capabilities in SQL Server 2012, including PowerPivot and Crescent. One major focus of this edition is empowering end users with BI functionality. This will be ideal for projects that need advanced BI capabilities but don’t require the full OLTP performance and scalability of Enterprise Edition. It allows for ‘Managed self-service BI’ and scalable analytics. Click here for more information.

SQL Server 2012 Standard is the entry level SQL license for small to medium network scenarios. Standard edition is designed for departmental databases that require only basic database functionality and basic BI functionality. Click here for more information.

Standard suits most SMB scenarios – that said, the linked resources above should have all the information you need to decide which is right for your set-up.

CALs and Cores

As with the Windows Server licensing you will also need to license each user or device connecting to the server in question. Devices and Users are licensed by purchasing Client Access Licenses, or CALs. The type of CAL needed is usually decided by which is more cost effective, i.e. do you have more users or devices? There is however another option which allows unlimited users/devices – this is known as the ‘per core’ option.

Decisions, decisions…

As outlined above there are two distinct ways to license the CAL side of things. You can license the server and then each device or user connecting to it OR purchase a ‘per core’ SQL license. The ‘per core’ option licenses the server and allows an unlimited amount of devices or users to connect to it. If you go for the ‘per core’ model, you will need to license a minimum of 4 Cores per processor. The good news is that each license includes 2 cores, so your minimum purchase here will be 2 licenses. There is a ‘Core Factor’ that needs to be considered but in general it is simply 1:1. Learn more about the ‘Core Factor’ (PDF).

The decision (between CAL and Core model) may be influenced by the size of your network or by the role assigned to the SQL Server – for example, a web facing server with a limitless or unknown amount of devices and users connecting. If all this wasn’t complicated enough – Microsoft have restricted the CAL/Core option to certain SQL 2012 editions. So once you have an idea which model fits best you now have to weigh the answer against the available editions. To this end, SQL Standard 2012 can be licensed by one or other of these methods. SQL BI 2012 can only be licensed Server and CAL, while SQL Enterprise 2012 can only be licensed ‘per core’. So as you can see, your choice of SQL 2012 edition may be affected by both functionality and ‘target group size’. Here’s a handy chart that breaks down the edition functionality and the licensing options available for each:

SQL 2012 Editions Comparision

SQL 2012 Editions

Virtualisation Considerations
A common consideration when licensing SQL is the virtual environment you might be planning. In short you will need to license each individual VM or license all physical servers for Enterprise edition. Adding Software Assurance in both cases here will enable License Mobility. License Mobility is necessary if you need to re-assign the license within a 90 day timeframe, e.g. in a server farm.

This blog entry is meant as a beginners’ guide to licensing SQL as you can see, there are many nuances that can surface depending on the licensing scenario. Feel free to contact me if you have any queries or suggestions. Micromail is a Microsoft Gold Partner for Volume Licensing and provide licensing consultancy for SQL Server.

Sean Deasy.


*Excluding SQL Express, a product free-to-download – aimed at very small user scenario.

In the PUR it states that External User Access is licensed with Server. That looks simple enough, but what about this:

Under Additional Terms it states:

CAL Waiver for Users Accessing Publicly Available Content

CALs are not required to access content, information, and applications that you make publicly available to users over the Internet (i.e., not restricted to Intranet or Extranet scenarios).

This term might appear to limit the External User access right. Why else exclude Extranet scenarios from the CAL waiver? Doesn’t it appear to say in the above that content that is restricted to Intranet or Extranet scenarios does require a CAL? In other words, the PUR appears to be implying here that Extranet users require CALs, just as Intranet users do. As I read this Additional Term it means that the only circumstance in which no CALs are needed for external users is when all of the content is publically available.

However, the Microsoft Licensing Brief published in January 2013 http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/briefs/SharepointServer2013.aspx, contradicts this reading. In the Extranet scenario it states: The identifiable external users (educators from other universities) who are permitted to access otherwise restricted content inside the firewall do not require SharePoint CALs, because external user access is permitted under the server license.

Exchange Server 2013 also includes External User Access licensed with the server. But again there is an Additional Terms section which limits the applicability of the general condition. In this case external users must not authenticate via AD or Lync Server.

If we set the CAL waiver aside as a (temporary) distraction, then we could interpret the Licensing Brief consistently with the PUR as follows:

Private SharePoint sites require CALs for internal users (staff, onsite contractors) but not for external users (non-staff, but authenticated). This applies to Intranet and Extranet scenarios.

Public SharePoint sites don’t require CALs since, by definition, all information is publically accessible and users are not identified or authenticated.