4 Questions to Ask as You Plan to Upgrade from Windows XP and Office 2003

Do you know how much is at stake if your organisation loses data due to insufficient Windows XP or Office 2003 security updates or support? Take our risk assessment to learn.

Thirty per cent of SMEs are still running Windows XP and Office 2003 — and almost half don’t know support for both of these products will end in less than a year.

While you can still run Windows XP and Office 2003, you will no longer receive security updates or support after April 8, 2014. Even if you plan to upgrade to the new Office 2013 now, it’s not compatible with Windows XP. With these pressing security and compatibility issues,plotting your migration strategy now will help protect your business from risk of data loss and downtime. Here are some questions to ask to begin executing your Windows XP and Office 2003 upgrade plan.

1. Are my applications compatible? Prior to upgrading from Windows XP, you will need to see if your software will be compatible with your new operating system, whether it’s Windows 7 or Windows 8. That’s a process you don’t want to hold off on until right before you upgrade, as it can lead to significant downtime if it turns out that your apps aren’t compatible. And it’s not just Microsoft apps you have to worry about — explore the relationship with the apps you use that rely on the underlying Windows operating system and plan for remediation and compatibility testing.

2. Does my hardware fit? If you’re upgrading your operating system, you should consider if your workstations are optimised or whether you need to arrange for procurement of new ones. Knowing the hardware you will need now will help in forecasting your budget and also guide decisions around whether hosting certain applications in the cloud makes better sense.

3. Is it time to incorporate additional desktop services? Don’t narrow your Windows XP upgrade scope to just an operating system refresh. You could also use the occasion to take advantage of software asset management, volume licensing services and desktop support. Incorporating these services into your desktop migration strategy could help lower total cost of ownership, reduce business risk and improve IT management.

4. What user training will I need to conduct? If you’re upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 or Office Standard 2013, you’ll need to make sure your end users get up to speed before completing deployment. Choosing a few evangelists to test-pilot the new products and then arranging for training and post-deployment support through a managed services provider can ensure a streamlined approach.

To help you transition out of Windows XP, Office 2003 or both, Datacom is offering four different discounts on select Microsoft products, including Windows 8, if you purchase by June 21. We can also help your organisation take advantage of holistic desktop services to streamline your deployment and align your desktop strategy with your business needs.

The Real Reasons PC Sales are Dropping – and Why It’s Not the End of the Enterprise Desktop

IDC just announced that global PC sales are down for the second year in a row, with enterprise desktop sales in particular to get hit especially hard  by 4.2 per cent compared to the overall 1.3 per cent PC slump. These statistics buoy the anti-enterprise desktop brigade, which is rallying for tablets and mobile devices to replace the workplace PC. But mobility is only part of the poor PC purchases picture, and it’s not even for the reason many people assume. Here are some of the factors contributing to the drop in enterprise desktop sales  and why the trend likely doesn’t signal the end of the PC.

Waiting for the new OS upgrade

We’re a year away from the end of support for Windows XP, yet it’s still too early for many organisations to procure new PC hardware to accompany a refresh, which is likely why IDC has said it expects enterprise desktop sales to begin bouncing back in the second half of 2013. Whilst this might be the case for upgrades to Windows 7, Datacom has found that some organisations already using that OS are waiting to see if Windows 8 adoption increases amongst enterprises. If it doesn’t, these organisations might skip Windows 8 altogether and hold on to Windows 7 or wait for the next OS, reported to be called Windows Blue and due for release mid-year. These scenarios will all contribute to whether the IDC’s prediction of resumed positive PC growth for 2014 to 2017 will in fact come true.

Mobility first  but not in place of enterprise desktops

IDC has reported that mobility is factoring into declining PC sales, but it’s more because organisations are choosing to buy enterprise mobile devices before, not in place of, new enterprise desktops. Instead of taking a side in enterprise desktop vs. mobile, organisations are attempting to have a well-rounded device profile that incorporates PCs, tablets and phones. It makes sense then that they’d hold onto their current enterprise desktops until an OS upgrade forces them to refresh, choosing instead to stockpile less costly enterprise mobile devices to be used for optimised capabilities such as answering emails and video and audio conferencing. A separate IDC report shows organisations are still favouring enterprise desktops, particularly laptop PCs, to both create and consume content.

Enduring PC processing speeds

recent PCWorld column posits that desktop sales are declining because CPU performance has reached a point where it is fast enough for average users to be able to use their PCs for twice as long as the old three-year refresh standard suggests. This has to do with both the evolution of processing speeds and more resource-intensive processes or applications shifting from being desktop-based to being delivered through cloud computing. Organisations where the bulk of PC users rely on their enterprise desktops for email or business applications  and even some of these might be cloud-based or accessed mostly from mobile devices — won’t require as regular upgrades to PCs with faster CPU performance. Their enterprise desktops will continue to perform better for longer.

Are you planning an enterprise desktop refresh in the coming year, or are your prioritising the procurement of mobile devices over PCs for your organisation?

License to Sell: 5 Signs You’re Working with the Best Microsoft Licensing Reseller for Your Business

Handled internally, software licensing becomes a constant headache for the IT department: contracts scattered amongst various managers’ desktops and filing cabinets, lapses in upgrades and vital security patches, increased likelihood of failing an audit…the list is endless.

Handled externally with the right Microsoft licensing reseller, all of these software licensing issues should be concerns of the past. Before signing on the dotted line — or, preferably, during the discovery phase —, be sure the Microsoft licensing reseller you’re considering offers these must-haves.

1. Microsoft-authorised software licensing reseller status. There are both practical and compliance reasons this is a top point to consider. Software licensing can involve purchasing a large volume of Microsoft licensing for servers, end-users and IT employees, along with meeting compliance and audit guidelines. Having an experienced and accredited Microsoft licensing reseller managing your software licensing investment will minimise your business risk. Having one reseller managing all of your Microsoft licencing and expirations will streamline an incredibly cumbersome manual software licensing process and ensure you remain compliant throughout the agreement term.

2. Demonstrable cost savings and value. Although resellers may share price sheets that show substantial discounts by purchasing Microsoft licensing through them rather than if you just purchased software licensing per machine, also known as an OEM license, their surcharges may render the discounts a moot point. Conduct the analysis to determine whether the reseller will produce true ROI, not just in price savings but in ongoing support. Ask for the complete quote, including any potential fees and what the costs are for value-added services you might want to use, such as desktop support and deployment.

3. A local presence. To ensure your organisation is working with a Microsoft licensing reseller that can help with in-person evaluation of software licensing needs, select a provider with an established local office. This local accessibility adds convenience and comfort that a large Microsoft licensing reseller with distant offices and faceless consultants can’t provide. Getting personalised service from Microsoft licensing expert near you will help you feel like you’re making the best software licensing decisions for your specific business needs.

4. Knowledge of where Microsoft licensing applies — and what approach maximises value. Microsoft licensing requirements vary by seat, server, processor and a host of other possibilities  and they often change with every new release. For example, Windows Server was once licensed according to the number of servers needed. But Windows Server 2012 is now licensed per physical processor, including a Client Access License CAL (Client Access License) that applies to each user or device accessing the server. Additionally, one license applies to two processors. Your reseller must be able to evaluate the best Microsoft licensing setup to allow for growth while reigning in expenses.

5. Value-added desktop services. Come April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially shut down Windows XP and Office 2003 support. If your organisation relies on this operating system, finding a reseller that can assist in each step of your upgrade to Windows 8 (or to Windows 7, then to Windows 8) will protect business operations and ensure stable continuity. A true valued-added software licensing reseller will offer desktop deployment and support, hardware procurement and software asset management in addition to your standard Microsoft licensing needs to guide you to your next OS.

Even if software licensing is just one part of your business, it’s a big part. Choosing the right Microsoft licensing reseller can transform licensing from a daily headache into a long-term strategic investment that drives business value.

2 Important Considerations for Successful SAM Planning

Change is tough. Adjusting the way you’ve been tracking IT assets across your business for years is a harrowing process, and one that will certainly get some grumbles from employees. But as you know by now, having a software asset management (SAM) plan is a way to tighten up your licensing budget and catalogue of IT assets. With a holistic approach, your organisation will have an easier go at implementing an effective SAM plan.

1. Executive sponsorship and delineated roles     

As with any project involving a major change to operations, Datacom has found that identifying an executive sponsor and key stakeholders is crucial to the success of your SAM program. These individuals will be the champions of the IT assets management overall, and can help plan the roadmap to change that will be necessary for SAM to be effective. In addition to this overall leadership, your organisation should nominate individuals who can carry out the daily responsibilities needed to initiate and operate a SAM program. These activities will include implementing SAM policy, tracking and recording IT assets and liaising with vendors.

2. Visibility across all IT assets          

Just because the focus in a SAM program is on software doesn’t mean you should forget about the hardware in your organisation. If you’re not managing the hardware lifecycle, you could easily forget about installed software on an old PC sitting in storage. Unused hardware means two things: legacy hardware and new hardware that no one is yet using. Tracking the software sitting on these unused pieces of hardware contributes to your overall catalogue of IT assets and gives you a clearer picture of the various versions of the same software you have running.

When tracking these IT assets, make sure to also consider virtual environments, and create plans for hardware and software retirement planning. If these tasks are beyond the current capacity of your organisation to manage, consider an IT provider that can supply tools and resources to identify, track and manage the lifecycle of these IT  assets.

The top 5 questions to ask for SAM planning

  1. Have you taken an inventory of your current software installations and other IT assets?
  2. Are you centrally managing and purchasing software?
  3. Have you identified the main gaps and areas of risk when it comes to IT assets?
  4. How will you track and optimise your licenses?
  5. Have you determined an approach to SAM in which you will continually renew processes and requirements?

3 Points to Consider Before Optimising Your Workstations for Windows 8

With Windows 8 officially on the market, there are several aspects of the newly-released operating system that enterprises should evaluate before deciding to plan for transitioning.

The enterprise technology landscape, always prone to rapid transformation, is evolving yet again due in large part to the BYOD phenomenon and the growing availability of tablets and smart phones. Before optimising your company’s workstations for Windows 8, there are three critical things to be mindful of now to streamline the switch.

1. BYOD integration: Windows 8 has a user learning curve; one challenge will be integrating different applications from the new OS with each of your employee’s well-worn platforms.  Because Windows 8 is the first operating system meant to translate across desktop, PC and mobile devices, it’s probably best for companies to test the OS on multiple devices to gauge accessibility on each. Furthermore, companies may want to consider which employees might be better candidates for using the OS, such as staff members who travel often, or work in remote locations.

Companies integrating BYOD into their IT policies should look into Windows RT, a “lighter” version of the OS, specifically designed for mobile devices and tablets. Microsoft claims Windows RT is designed to preserve battery life and is compatible with smaller and less expensive devices. Users may find, however, that they can’t run some traditional business software. The system won’t run any desktop Windows applications aside from the applications packaged with it, which excludes Outlook. Businesses should also be especially wary of the inability for Windows RT to connect to a Windows Active Directory Domain, a service that essentially enforces security policies on computers in a network.

2. Security implications: Implementing Windows 8’s new safety features may take some getting used to. Due to the complexity of new hacking techniques, software developers have restructured how users access corporate data. A new addition to Windows 8 is a graphical password, targeted to tablet users, which requires users to connect dots to gain access. A key part of the operating system’s strengthened security is its Secure Boot mode, which combats low-level security exploits and malware. Also to note: In recent years, browsers have become points of entry for security breaches. Windows 8 features a more secure Internet Explorer browser, enhanced with a permission configuration called AppContainer.

3. App store utilisation: In Windows 8, Microsoft has included a new app store that may one day compete with Apple’s own App store. The store boasts a revenue-sharing plan for apps that generate $25,000 or more, fewer regulations for app developers and mostly free apps. The mobile operating system can be extended to PCs directly without processing through store infrastructure. Through Windows 8, enterprise IT administrators have the ability to dictate employee access to company-specific apps. With this power, IT departments can customise their company app management and software experience for Windows 8. However, custom apps only available to employees or IT departments must be deployed manually and not through the app store for Windows 8.

Even if you get a good handle on these three areas of consideration when optimising for Windows 8, your organisation might still want to take advantage of outside consulting to make the upgrade more seamless. An IT provider that can offer assistance with desktop deployment, desktop support and volume licensing can take much of the headache out of your Windows 8 upgrade.

To learn more about integrating Windows 8 into your enterprise, download the video highlights version of our recent Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 event held at Microsoft Australia headquarters in Sydney.

Highlights of our Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 Event with Microsoft

With Windows Server 2012 seven weeks out in the market and Windows 8 due for release Friday, Datacom this morning hosted an informational event on both products for enterprise customers at the Microsoft Australia headquarters just outside Sydney.

Microsoft IT Pro Evangelist Jeff Alexander gave an overview and live demo of the features of both products. A full video of Jeff’s presentation will be available next week (find out how to get a copy at the end of this post). For the time-being, here are some of the highlights of the Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 event.

Windows Server 2012 

  • Allows scaling and securing of workloads through a multi-tenant infrastructure
  • Automation enabled across the data centre through cross-platform capabilities
  • Active Directory is at the core of what Windows Server 2012 offers, enabling large-scale cloud deployments
  • Offers a complete virtualisation platform, with the ability to do network virtualisation as well
  • Unlimited ability to do live migrations
  • More virtual machine storage without downtime
  • Windows Server 2012 has 64 virtual processers per VM compared with four in Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Users can still access workloads on original host while moving VM data to a single location
  • Failure recovery happens in minutes and there is secure replication across networks
  • New local Resilient File System (ReFS) increases data availability and scalability, offers rapid recovery and is resilient to power outages

Windows 8

  • Windows 8 is an attempt to answer to the “blurring” of work and life and BYOD
  • Made for touch, but users can still use a keyboard and mouse
  • Devices optimised for Windows 8 will be available on the OS’s release date Friday — there will be midnight sales through select hardware vendors
  • All apps are front and centre, can be squashed to allow for a smaller, longer view of the app stream
  • Segmented by Start, the apps used every day, News and Games

To sign up for a link to a video of the full presentation on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, enter your details into the contact form in this link.

What are you eager to learn about Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012?

2 Things to Consider When Upgrading to Windows 8

Love it or leave it, Windows 8 is almost here. Some love its new look and feel – the touch-enabled tiles especially –, while others prefer to stick with Windows XP and Windows 7 for now.

Organisations will largely base their decision on whether or not to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Windows XP or another operating system on budget and how the new OS benefits their specific business. For those considering the leap, two of the most important factors to weigh include hardware and Windows 8 training for you workforce.

1. The right hardware 

Reportedly, Windows 8 will work with any hardware that can run Windows 7. That doesn’t mean, however, that everything will be compatible between Windows 7 and Windows 8 (Windows XP will prove trickier, as told in this PCWorld piece). Certain applications and hardware drivers might be incompatible; identifying Windows 8 compatibility with networking hardware will be crucial.

If you’re doing a hardware refresh without migrating to Windows 8 right now, but are considering it for the future, look into laptops or desktops offering ten-point touch to make the transition from Windows 7 or Windows XP easier. Datacom’shardware procurement services can help you purchase and acquire the compatible hardware for Windows 8.

2. Training time and resources

Because it’s a touch-first operating system, Windows 8 will likely require considerable more training for new users than Windows 7 or Windows XP. Some reports estimate that it will cost hundreds of dollars per user each day to train employees for Windows 8. Remember, too, that usability goes beyond the basics. Employees should be as productive on Windows 8 as they were on Windows XP or Windows 7.

Organisations must determine how much budget, time and staff they need to train the entire workforce (and don’t base it on how long it took to train employees for Windows 7 or Windows XP). They should measure how long it will take to get back to the productivity levels seen with Windows 7 or Windows XP and ensure they can account for downtime. A phased approach to deployment, a pilot user group and training materials will likely contribute to a successful Windows 8 training and deployment.

Ensuring you have support, whether from the internal IT department or an external IT provider or both, will factor largely into the success of your Windows 8 deployment. An IT provider like Datacom can help plan and roll out your Windows 8 deployment, provide licensing expertise related to software used for Windows 8 and offer desktop support post-deployment.

Attention Sydney readers: Datacom and Microsoft are hosting a free informational session on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 this Wednesday, 24th October, at 8:30 a.m. at the Microsoft offices in North Ryde. If you’re interested in attending the event or receiving the post-event materials, fill out the contact form at the right of this blog post. 

cloud services, cloud, cyber security, the cloud, it security strategies, it security risks, it infrastructure security

The new Windows Server 2012 platform offers a range of features covering virtualisation, cloud, storage and more. Before they jump in and start playing with Microsoft’s latest server, organisations will need to know about a few licensing features that might affect how they approach implementation.

A processor/CAL Microsoft volume licensing model

Up until the 2012 release in September, Windows Server was licensed in a server/Client Access License (CAL) model. However, given how many multi-core processors are now in the market, moving away from this set-up seemed like a more straightforward approach to Microsoft volume licensing. That’s why Windows Server 2012 is now licensed per physical processor, instead of per server, with a CAL tacked on for each user or device accessing the server. One license applies to two processors.

Microsoft volume licensing options for Windows Server 2012

Organisations can obtain the Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and Standard Editions through Microsoft volume licensing under the Enrollment for Core Infrastructure Enterprise Agreement. Standard and Datacenter are for mid-size to large organisations, with the latter for organisations that want more options in the number of virtual machines, or VMs, they run.

Standard Edition, which caters to non- or lightly-virtualised environments, allows two processors to be licensed and two VMs, also known as virtual instances, of Windows Server 2012 to run. You can add more VMs under this edition by adding more licenses to the server. Datacenter, on the other hand, allows for unlimited VMs. The fact that you can scale up your VMs without incurring more Microsoft volume licensing costs means this edition is ideal for organisations looking to move to a highly-virtualised private cloud setup with limitless VMs.

The Core Infrastructure Suite for Microsoft volume licensing

There is a Core Infrastructure Suite available through the Enrollment for Core Infrastructure Enterprise Agreement Microsoft volume licensing option as well. For organisations that want to acquire System Center 2012 in addition to one of these two Windows Server 2012 editions, the CIS presents a more cost-effective option. The two CIS options include System Center 2012 Standard and Windows 2012 Standard or System Center 2012 Datacenter and Windows 2012 Datacenter. Again, the edition an organisation opts for will largely depend on their level of virtualisation and if they want to run limitless VMs.

Have more questions? A Datacom licensing expert can help you decide which Windows Server 2012 edition is best for your organisation depending on your volume licensing needs and level of virtualisation, including the intended number of VMs you wish to run.

How Software Assurance Can Make Your Windows 8 Experience Better

You’ve probably already heard some of the main benefits your organisation can gain through Software Assurance for Microsoft volume licensing. SA makes software upgrades, license management and desktop support easier for enterprises regardless of the operating system they’re using. With the impending launch of Windows 8, however, organisations with SA can get a number of new perks. Consider which benefits might suit your organisational needs in the years to come.

Windows 8 Enterprise availability and features

Organisations can get the rights to run the Enterprise version of Windows 8 if they have SA for Windows 8 Pro or Windows Intune and Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licenses. Even when the SA term ends, organisations will still have access to the use rights for the Enterprise edition. Organisations with SA can also run the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack, which enables features such as desktop and application virtualisation and the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT).

Workforce mobility

Much of the new SA benefits for Windows 8 Enterprise customers are aimed at enabling greater work flexibility and mobility. To allow employees to access their corporate desktop from anywhere, Microsoft has implemented Windows To Go. Organisations with SA will have the right to use a USB drive to power up a portable desktop image on their company-owned device or home computer.

What about personal devices? Microsoft licensing will cover that space with the Companion Device License. For employees with personal, non-Windows devices, this license will allow them to run their corporate desktop on four different devices in a Bring Your Own Device scenario as long as they have a main SA-licensed PC. Employees will be able to access their desktop through Windows To Go or virtual desktop infrastructure.

Not only can employees access their desktop through VDI on their personal devices — they will now be able to take advantage of extended VDA rights for Windows RT, a Windows 8 version for ARM devices. If used as a companion device of a PC with SA, Windows RT can run a VDI image.

Do you have more questions on Microsoft licensing for Windows 8? Fill out our form to get in touch with one of our licensing experts.

How to Choose a Microsoft Open License

By Lauren Fritsky

Open licensing agreements are geared toward small to midsized businesses, including commercial, health, government and education organisations, with at least five desktops. Maximising the benefits of this type of license involves knowing how you want to manage costs and how flexible you need the licensing terms to be.

Decide your ideal payment model

If you want to get your license payments out of the way, the traditional Open Licence agreement lets you pay for all your licenses up front in one lump sum. You don’t have to worry about repaying until the next two-year term begins again. If this isn’t the best payment situation for your business, you could choose the Open Value agreement, which lets you make three annual payments instead of paying everything upfront. For businesses needing to tightly control their spending, a more flexible option is the Open Value Subscription. This agreement requires the least upfront payment and allows businesses to add or subtract costs depending on how many desktops they add or remove in a given year.

Consider your ties to the software

Organisations that want Software Assurance, which offers upgrades and training support, can opt for the Open Value orOpen Value Subscription agreement. If you want your entire company to use the same software, choose the Open Value Companywide agreement. This plan rewards you for standardising your desktop fleet by offering price protection and discounts. The Open Value Subscription is essentially the most non-committal of these options, as it doesn’t require the organisation to actually purchase the licenses, but offers the ability to run the software throughout the business for the duration of the agreement term.

Determine if you need scalability

If you don’t know how many desktop licenses you’re going to need in the years to come, the Open Value Subscription allows you to scale the number of licenses as the number of seats goes up or down. Your pricing is adjusted to reflect how many licenses you need once your annual payment is due. This means you can add more desktops for a short-term basis – for contract workers, for instance – if you need to without incurring extra cost, as long as the total number of users remains the same by the time your next payment is due.