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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.

Office 365 in Education, and Recent Changes

Microsoft have been very generous to educational customers looking to subscribe to their Office 365 services. They have been less generous however when it comes to explaining exactly what services are on offer, and of informing customers when changes to these offerings occur. There is a lot of information ‘out there’ but in our experience this seems to have caused more confusion than clarity.

So what is on offer, who qualifies and how do eligible customers access these service offerings?

To begin, a short history of the Office 365 family and the different suites available to education. The majority of my discussions around Office 365 start by explaining that Office 365 is a family of products, rather than the ‘latest version of Office’. A lot of customers (educational and otherwise) believe that ‘Office 365’ was the natural successor to the Office 2013 suites (Office Standard and Pro Plus). This, as we know, is not the full story: ‘Office 365’ is essentially a suite of products, largely cloud based, which chiefly consists of Exchange, Skype for Business, SharePoint and Office 365 Pro Plus. As cloud based services Microsoft provision and manage Exchange, SharePoint, Skype and Office 365 Pro Plus from their datacentre infrastructure (cloud I/F). Office 365 Pro Plus here is what people typically associate with ‘Office 365’, that is the familiar applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Rather than these products being the ‘latest version’, they represent a new licensing model, namely a change to ‘per user/per year’. So if you want to use Office Pro Plus 2016 you can still purchase it outright as a perpetual license if you please, or via a 365 per user/per year subscription. In essence the product’s functionality is the same, however the move to ‘per user’ and a Microsoft managed update cycle bring some major benefits and challenges.

The Education offerings and recent changes

Microsoft have for some time made a suite of the 365 products available to education for free. Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint were originally made available to education for free as part of the O365 Education A2 Plan. This plan lacked some ‘enterprise’ features available in the higher plans but was intended to bridge the gap for customers who up to this point largely viewed Enterprise class email as beyond the means of school IT budgets. The paid for O365 Education A3 Plan enabled access to all enterprise features, as well as the Office 365 Pro Plus per user subscription. There was some reshuffling of the suites in early 2015, when A2 became E1 and A3 became E3. For all intents and purposes, the offerings remained the same – E1 gave you hosted Exchange, SfB and SharePoint, while E3 added the Office 365 Pro Plus product etc. Microsoft announced some significant changes to the line-up at their worldwide partner conference in Orlando in July 2015, where they announced and have been rolling out a rebranded ‘Office 365 Education’ which replaces the E1 offering. Just another name change, right? Well, no, not in this case. The launch of Office 365 Education (still free!) saw Microsoft opening up ‘enterprise’ features of Exchange, SfB and SharePoint under this free subscription offering. For a comprehensive breakdown of what is offered, see the following live pivot.

What about the Office suite of products?

Well, Office 365 Pro Plus remains a paid for product – unless your organisation has a qualifying annualised agreement in place. What does this mean? Well a typical scenario would look like this – a school licenses their on premise desktops and laptops etc. via the Open Value Subscription Education Solution Agreement (OVS ES). This allows schools to pay an annual fee based on staff count, which covers them to deploy their chosen software site-wide on all school owned computers and laptops. If that set of software includes Office, the school typically qualifies for free Office 365 Pro Plus for students and staff.

Finally, a word on Office 365 Education Plus

This suite was rolled out directly to qualifying customers’ tenants by Microsoft. It combines the feature set of Office 365 Education and Office 365 Pro Plus. This is important as it halves the work for both the customer and partner when it comes to assigning seats and aligning renewal cycles. Furthermore, unlike the Office 365 Pro Plus subscription, the subscription is auto-renewing. Customers already using O365 Education and Office Pro Plus should simply assign these licenses instead.

Feel free to drop me a line…

Clear? Well, hopefully you’re a bit clearer on the Office 365 offerings in education now, but feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

For more information on Office 365 in Education please contact
sean@micromail.ie
or
phone 021 4515590

Regards,

Seán Deasy

 

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.

Image

Both Adobe and Microsoft products for students have been hugely reduced!

So what products are included?

Microsoft Office 2013 is €29.99 (incl. VAT)* (which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and more)

And purchase is simple. Just click here and choose your product. There are some limitations, so be sure to check. This is a limited time offer, so tell everyone!

A number of Adobe products are also reduced:

  • Adobe Acrobat XI
  • Adobe CS6 Design Std
  • Adobe CS6 Master Collection
  • Adobe CS6 Production Suite
  • Adobe CS6 Dreamweaver
  • Adobe CS6 Flash
  • Adobe Lightroom 4
  • Adobe Photoshop CS6
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 & Adobe Premiere Elements 10

 

*price for final year students, €89.97 (incl. VAT) is for all other students (still the lowest it has ever been!)

ImageSo you’re buying a server? You’ve decided on the hardware and need to address the licensing. Where to begin?!  First you’ll need to license the Server OS of course but which one and how many do you need? Below I will outline the basics of getting up and running with the licensing surrounding Windows Server OS.

At its heart, this process isn’t too complicated. You’ll simply need to license the server and then each device or user connecting to that server. You can choose which Server license suits best, depending on some factors I’ll discuss shortly. 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, again more on this later.

It is worth pointing out initially that with Microsoft licensing, you must purchase the most recent version of the license. However you can choose to deploy a previous version if you please. This ‘downgrade right’ may come into play if your hardware necessitates a previous version for example. The great thing about this licensing right is that you can always deploy the newer version at a later date if you manage to persuade your finance guys to upgrade your system!

With this in mind, new version releases can see new licensing rules come into play. While you might be planning to deploy the version‘n-1’ of the software in question, your purchase will be governed by the version and licensing rules. In my outline below I will only be discussing Windows Server 2012, as this is the current version.

So, let’s get started – you’ll need to decide what edition of Windows Server you’d like to run. The good news is that with the 2012 release things became a lot simpler – there are now 4 editions of Windows Server – Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacentre. I’ll be dealing with Standard and Datacentre below*

Windows Server Standard 2012 will suit standalone servers or servers with low to medium virtualization requirements, allowing two virtual instances of the Server OS to be run on up to two processors for every license purchased. The number of licenses you need per server is determined by the number of processors on that server and the number of virtual machines you plan to run. Note – each license will cover up to 2 processors on any one server. You have a server with 4 processors? You will need to purchase 2 licenses. Want to virtualise? Go for it – up to a limit of 4 Virtual Operating Systems Environments (VOSE) of course (in this case)! You can add as many licenses as you like per server but at a certain point (10 or more) it becomes more cost effective to go with the Datacentre edition, which offers unlimited VOSE.

I’ll pause a moment here to note that the product stack/features of Standard and Datacentre are identical. The difference between the editions is essentially the allowed virtual instances. Why virtual instances? Well to cut down on hardware outlay in short. As long as you can manage and maintain a correctly licensed (!) virtual load, the virtual license rights of these new editions can seriously work to your advantage, more anon…

Windows Server Datacentre 2012 is the top of the line offering – as many users as you’d like to license, unlimited virtual instances and the full stack. Remember the feature stack is the same as Standard – this is where your virtual load plans will come into play. If you’re looking at running 10 or more virtual instances, the Datacentre becomes better value. Again you’re licensing per physical processor here. If you have a server with two processors a single Datacentre license will allow you to run unlimited VOSE (remember each allows for up to two processors per server)! If you have a four processor server, you’ll need to purchase 2 licenses.

Those of you familiar with Server licensing may be confused by the ‘per processor’ terminology used here. In the past ‘per processor’ was used strictly to denote specific server licenses that did not need corresponding CALs. With the 2012 release there was a change in terminology and this is no longer the case…more on this in a later post about SQL Server – feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this. In short per processer now simply means counting the processors per server in order to purchase the correct amount of licenses.

Okay, given the brief outline above you’ve come to a decision on which edition of Server 2012 suits your needs. You will now need to consider licensing those devices and users connecting to the server…

CALs are strictly a licensing requirement. You get nothing ‘in your hand’ as such. You should receive a license confirmation and/or receipt of purchase from your reseller of course but as regard deployment – there is no work to do here. So how do you choose which you need? Again this is relatively simple…Buy Device CALs if you have more users than devices; User CALs if you have more devices than users!

The standard Microsoft scenario for Device CALs is the ‘shift worker’ scenario. A fixed desktop has three distinct users over a 24 hour period – three workers, each working 8 hour shifts. You can purchase a User CAL for each of these workers if you please, or simply 1 x Device CAL – as you can see, it is best to purchase 1 x Device CAL. Likewise there are many examples of when purchasing a User CAL is more cost effective than covering each device an employee may use throughout the day. This scenario is true for the Standard and Datacentre editions outlined above.  See here for more details.

This guide to Windows Server licensing is meant as a beginner’s guide. There are plenty of nuances to Microsoft licensing and server licensing in particular but the above info should be enough to point you in the right direction.

* These are essentially the Volume License options, there are also two options which may suit smaller set-ups:

Windows Server Foundation 2012

Windows Server Essentials 2012 

You can contact Sean: sean@micromail.ie, if you have any queries, or if you are looking for a quote. Our product pages are here (Datacenter) and here (Standard)

Windows 8 Step up Promo

Microsoft Windows 8 is out, and with it comes an excellent Step Up promotion. This promotion will run from Nov 1 2012 through to Jan 31 2013. It includes a 40% discount on Open Value Agreement and Open LicenseAgreement with Software Assurance (SA) Volume Licensing Programs, and a 15% discount on Open License Agreement without SA. More about Microsoft Licensing here.

Simply put? That’s a 40% discount on Windows 8 Enterprise Edition with the benefits of SA, and a 15% discount on Windows 8 Pro without the benefits of SA.

Windows 8 Enterprise edition includes premium features designed to meet the mobile productivity, security, manageability, and virtualization needs of today’s businesses. These features include Windows To Go, DirectAccess, BrancheCache, AppLocker, and VDI Enhancements.

Software Assurance includes the right to Enterprise editions, flexible use rights, and other benefits including end-user and IT training and 24×7 support. Customers with Software Assurance also have the option to purchase MDOP with App-V, and other virtualization management products.

WARNING:  With Microsoft Windows XP reaching end of support on April 8th, 2014, it is important that you move to a new version of Microsoft Windows desktop operating system, and the Step Up Promotion to Windows 8 Offer provides the perfect solution.

You can take advantage of the Windows 8 Promo and still deploy Windows 7 under downgrade rights. You can then deploy Windows 8 when it suits you.

Microsoft System Centre 2012 server management licensing is simpler than it was before. Firstly, licenses are required only for the endpoints being managed. There is also a consistent licensing model across all editions. There are two editions: Datacentre and Standard. They have identical capabilities and are differentiated only by virtualization rights.

What is virtualization?

Simply put, it is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something. This could be an operating system, a server, a storage device or even network resources. So for the Datacentre edition, there is an unlimited virtualization right which is ideal for high density private clouds. The Standard then, is for lightly or non-virtualized private clouds.

What capabilities are there?

  1. Configuration Manager: provides a comprehensive solution for change and configuration management for the Microsoft platform. It lets you perform tasks such as the following:
  • Deploy      operating systems, software applications, and software updates.
  • Monitor      and remediate computers for compliance settings.
  • Monitor      hardware and software inventory.
  • Remotely      administer computers.

Ultimately it makes the job of your IT personnel easier and allows for the creation of reports on performance.

  1. Service Manager: provides an integrated platform for automating and adapting your organization’s IT service management best practices. It provides built-in processes for incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset lifecycle management.
  2. Virtual Machine Manager: is a management solution for the virtualized datacenter, enabling you to configure and manage your virtualization host, networking, and storage resources in order to create and deploy virtual machines and services to private clouds that you have created.
  3. Operations Manager: provides infrastructure monitoring that is flexible and cost-effective, helps ensure the predictable performance and availability of vital applications, and offers comprehensive monitoring for your datacenter and cloud, both private and public.
  4. Data Protection Manager: (it’s in the name!) enables disk-based and tape-based data protection and recovery for servers such as SQL Server, Exchange Server, SharePoint, virtual servers, file servers, and support for Windows desktops and laptops.
  5. Orchestrator: is a workflow management solution which lets you automate the creation, monitoring, and deployment of resources in your environment.
  6. App Controller: provides a common self-service experience that can help you easily configure, deploy, and manage virtual machines and services across private and public clouds.
  7. Endpoint Protection: provides an antimalware and security solution for the Microsoft platform.

So now you see how both versions have all the capabilities you could need. Need more info? See here for our product page and feel free to ask us for a quote!

People often seem to think that software is a commodity – something you buy from a retailer which you then own and use. But in actual fact, with software, you license, not purchase it. Why? Well, when you license the software, the primary value comes not from an object (such as the disk it is stored on) but instead from the knowledge of the people who wrote the software – the ‘cleverness’, if you like. You can’t own that knowledge, you merely acquire a limited right to use it. Put simply, software is intellectual property.

It’s tricky to define or identify the value of intellectual property and thus, such things are copyrighted (copyrights, trademarks, and patents). This allows whoever owns the material, in this case, software to define who can access and use their property, protecting it from unauthorized use. This is in an attempt to define the value of the software.

In this line, a software license provides the legal right to install, use, access, display, run, or otherwise interact with a software program. This doesn’t always include right to media, manuals, or support. Remember checking the ‘I agree’ box whenever you install something? That is you agreeing to the terms of use of the software.