Software Resources & News

  • Office 365 vs. Office 2019 - What's the Difference?

    office 2019 vs office365

    There’s a brand-new version of the Microsoft Office on the way. Some customers who are eligible have access to a preview version right now. But what exactly is new in this version and why you should go for this version over the older version? Comparing the Office 365 with Office 2019, which done so you think will be the right one for you?

    As announced on the official Microsoft blog a few days ago, Microsoft Office 2019 comes with a new range of features as well as improvements of the old components such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. According to Microsoft, the updates will come with several new and improved features, such as tilt effects, roaming pencil case, and pressure sensitivity. In Excel, there will be more data analysis features including new charts, new formulas, and the ability to integrate Power BI. There will also be sophisticated features for presentation in PowerPoint.

    To qualify for the preview, you must be a business customer of Microsoft. This means that you should already be using Office 2016. The preview is not available for the general public yet.

    Another requirement is for you to be running Windows 10. Therefore, if you’re still using Windows 7 or an older version, then you’ll not be eligible for the preview. Besides, Windows 7 will be outdated soon so you should now consider getting an upgrade.

    When Will Microsoft Office 2019 Be Released?

    Microsoft is yet to release an official statement regarding the release date of Microsoft Office 2019. However, they have already talked about the possibility of releasing it during the second half of 2018. As for the Office 2016, it was released around the end of September. Therefore, it’s safe to think that the Office 2019 might be released about the same time. However, there’s really no way of knowing for sure when we will be able to get our hands on this latest update of the Microsoft Office.

    Customers who have a commercial license may also be eligible for a preview of the Office 2019 before it will be officially launched, thanks to the Commercial Preview program that Microsoft is offering. To qualify for the preview, your business should be registered with the Microsoft Collaborate program.

    Office 2019 vs. Office 365

    Of course, Microsoft also comes with a major office suite on top of the Office 2016. Their cloud-based Office 365 comes with a subscription service allowing business to have ongoing access to the latest version of their software, plus the advantage of cloud computing, including remote access and easy synchronization.

    The Microsoft Office 2019 is a one-time purchase only, similar to its predecessor, the Office 2016. Businesses will purchase the license, and in return, they will have unlimited access to it. As expected, the upfront cost will be higher.

    This might be ideal for some businesses, most especially for those that cloud computing is not desirable or viable. However, when it comes to Office 365 vs. Office 2019, it’s the 365 that will always be on the lead regarding features. As a matter of fact, each and every new feature of the Office 2019 has already been made available in the Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus.

    So it’s clear to see where Microsoft’s focus is. As the company pointed out, Microsoft Office 2019 will come with an easy way to upgrade to the Pro Plus version of the 365. Furthermore, the Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus promises to deliver continuous cloud-powered innovation that could lead to an increase in productivity, improved security, and having the lowest cost of ownership.

    The Microsoft Office 2019 will receive regular security updates. New features are also expected to be added in the future, although if you want to own the most modern office suite in the market that comes with the security and convenience of the cloud, the Office 365 would be the best choice.

    If, for instance, you don’t want the cloud-based tools, the Microsoft Office 2019 may be worth checking out, especially if you’re using Microsoft Office 2010, which is expected to reach its end of support by 2020.

    Office 2019 and Office 365 Licensing Schemes Explained

    Microsoft Office comes with the standard software that’s being used mostly in the corporate environments. Although Microsoft used to sell Office as a one-time purchase, it’s now pushing for the 365 Option.

    With the Microsoft Office 2019 on the horizon, Microsoft has imposed lots of new restrictions and has made some changes leaving everyone confused.

    So let’s break down the licensing schemes of Microsoft Office in such a way that it will be easy for everyone to understand.

    Office 365 vs. One-Off Purchases

    Before we discuss the changes that will take place in Office 2019, it may be best to clarify the two available plans when buying Microsoft Office.

    It’s always possible to purchase the latest version of Microsoft Office as a one-time purchase. This will give you the right to use the software as often as you want to, although this doesn’t come with any major updates. Therefore, if you have purchased the Office 2016, which is the current version, you may have to pay once more if you want to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2019.

    Microsoft Office 365 is basically Microsoft’s subscription plan. By paying a monthly fee per user, you’ll have full access to the Microsoft Office apps that include Excel, Word, Publisher, etc. The Microsoft Office 365 subscribers will also receive regular updates.

    As soon as you sign up for the Microsoft Office 365, you’ll continuously receive updates for as long as you remain a subscriber. Depending upon the plan that you will go for, your purchase may also come with cloud storage from OneDrive, making it easier to share and sync files.

    Expected Office 2019 Features

    It’s hard to speculate about what to expect from the new Microsoft Office 2019.

    However, Microsoft has always teased the interests of its users by offering several new interesting features.

    1. Microsoft Word 2019 is focused on getting things done easier. Thus, they will add new features like Office sounds, Black theme, text to speech, accessibility improvements, improved inking, learning tools audio descriptions and captions.
    2. Microsoft Excel 2019 aims to perform better when it comes to analyzing data. Thus, new features will be added like the 2D maps and funnel charts, publish Excel to Power BI, new functions, and connectors, Power Pivot Enhancements, as well as Power Query Enhancements. When it comes to analyzing and managing data, Excel is still the best app, and Microsoft is planning to kick up a notch in the 2019 version.
    3. Microsoft PowerPoint 2019 will be focused on developing content that has more impact and will add new features like zooming capabilities of slides during a presentation, inserting and managing icons, morphing transition features, SVG, improved roaming pencil case, and 3D models. These features have already been added in the Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus and are not available to those who are currently using the Microsoft Office 2016.
    4. Microsoft Outlook 2019 is focused at managing emails even more efficiently, and new features are expected to be added like focused inbox, updated contact cards, Office 365 Groups, @mentions, as well as delivery and travel summary cards. Microsoft is hoping that these new additions will help users to manage their emails more effectively and efficiently.
    5. Improved inking Users of Microsoft Surface devices are already a big supporter of Microsoft’s digital pen, a tool that allows them to jot down notes, draw, and doodle on their phones. Microsoft Office 2019 is expected to introduce all of the new inking capabilities in all its apps, including pressure sensitivity and tilt effects, which adjusts the thickness of the ink depending upon the pen’s angle. There’s even a roaming pencil case, a feature that allows users to organize and store their favorite highlighters, pens, and pencils to be used across different platforms.

    Why is Microsoft Releasing Office 2019 After Changing Its Strategy for Office 365 in a Cloud?

    A lot of the cloud-powered innovation can be found in Office 365. However, Microsoft is aware that some users are not capable of moving to the cloud in the new feature. Yet, they want to be able to support all their customers in their transition to cloud and at a pace that will be easy for them to keep up.

    Office 2019's Extended Support

    Microsoft is expected to reduce the Office 2019’s support lifecycle.

    Usually, Microsoft provides mainstream support for new Microsoft Office products up to five years after their release and then it offers “extended support.” As soon as a product enters the extended support, Microsoft will only release the security patches for it. However, Office 2019 will receive only 2 years of extended support right after the 5-year mainstream support is over.

    According to Microsoft, since the older software is a bit harder to secure, it’s understandably less productive. As the changes speed up, it’s even more necessary to transition their software into a more modern beat. With the 5+2 years of support, the Office 2019 could lower such exposure.

    It’s clear to see that Microsoft simply wants to streamline its support to lower the number of old software that it’s supporting.

    Older Office Products Will Lose Support

    Although the reduced life cycle might seem bad, it’s not really the most important change in the Microsoft Office. The company once said that moving forward, standalone releases of the Office wouldn’t be able to connect to the Office 365 services right after they left the mainstream support. Therefore, the Office 2016 won’t be able to connect right after it leaves the mainstream support on 2020.

    The services of Office 365 include Exchange Online, OneDrive, as well as Skype for Business. This is pretty significant since only the latest version can connect to the wide variety of online services of Microsoft. Without the OneDrive integration, you won’t be able to sync your Office 2016 files with your colleagues easily. This could also mean that the Office 2016 will not be able to connect with the emails of your company.

    As soon as Office 2016 loses the support by 2020, the only option is to upgrade to 2019 or perhaps switch to the Office 365. The older versions of the Microsoft Office can still work offline allowing you to create documents as well as edit the existing ones. However, the lack of online features will drive others to upgrade as soon as possible.

    Conclusion

    Microsoft released another announcement regarding the Office 2019 that it will only work on Windows 10. Although Windows 7 has extended support that goes until early 2020, while Windows 8.1 is until the year 2023, Microsoft will not be able to support the latest version of Microsoft Office on them. Nevertheless, Office 365 would go on to function in the same way as the older operating systems.

    Considering all these announcements, it’s clear to see that Microsoft is doing its best to push businesses to transition to the Office 365 and Windows 10. The change might appear a bit “forced” because both Office 365 and Windows 10 are good products, which is highly beneficial for most businesses.

    The reduced lifecycle of the Microsoft Office 2019 goes well with the company's efforts to support older products. This way, Microsoft wants to decrease the number of legacy products that are in use.

    To sum it all, here are some of the most significant changes in the Office 365 and Office 2019:

    • Office 2019 is expected to come around the second half of this year and will be released as a one-time purchase unlike the Office 365, which is subscription based. It will only operate on Windows 10.
    • Unlike the previous products, Office 2019 will only come with 2 years of extended support right after its 5 years of mainstream support is over.
    • After the standalone Office products leave the mainstream support, they will no longer be able to connect to the services of Office 365 such as the OneDrive.
    • If you’re am a user of the Office 365, you’ll always have access to the latest features, and you no longer need to upgrade separately.

    It seems that the Office 2019 will be the last one-off purchase that Microsoft will be offering for Office and it’s clear to see that they are pushing their customers to Office 365 right after the Office 2019 support ends. But we’ll have to see that once the time comes.


  • Definitive Guide to Windows Server 2019

    guide to windows server

    Just like with the release of every new Windows Server, the release of Windows Server 2019 is expected to come with several new features. However, there are a couple of things that caught our attention, most especially concerning the future of Hyper-V.

    VM Shielding for Linux

    Perhaps the feature of the Hyper-V that has received the most attention is the VM (virtual machine) shielding of the Linux VMs.

    While it might be something that’s nice to have, we believe that from Microsoft’s perspective, it might be necessary to deliver such feature in this upcoming release.

    In the past, Microsoft had achieved a near-monopoly in the industry of enterprise servers. Nowadays, however, the Linux servers occupy a good percentage of the Virtual Machines operating in many datacenters all over the world. From a business perspective, Microsoft won’t neglect these Linux VMs. If the Hyper-V is going to be successful in the long-term, then it needs to support the Linux VMs just as much as it supports the Windows VMs.

    The ReFS File System

    The ReFS file system is another thing that caught our attention during the Windows Server 2019’s presentation. We noticed that Microsoft has made some improvements to it.

    The ReFS was first released with Windows Server 2012 as a way to replace the NTFS file system that’s already old. The main goal of Microsoft with the creation of the ReFS is to come up with a file system that can meet the demands of the datacenters of today while providing a high level of resiliency at the same time.

    As a matter of fact, the term “ReFS” was derived from Resilient File System. Thus, it’s designed to automatically detect data corruption and conduct an automatic correction while the affected data continues to stay online.

    There have been lots of great features that were included within the ReFS file system that help maintain data integrity. However, there’s one small problem about the ReFS file system, and that’s because no one is actually using it.

    Well, there are probably a few people who make use of the ReFS. However, we haven’t seen anyone operating the ReFS within a production environment.

    To us, the ReFS file system seems like a work in progress. We were expecting that Microsoft would have a great idea in mind when it decided to create ReFS. However, it looks like the group of engineers who designed it ran out of time and ended up delivering an unfinished product instead.

    We are happy to say that Microsoft is finally reviewing the ReFS for the Windows Server 2019 and has added a data deduplication feature. Still, the file system doesn’t support compression or encryption. But this is not a big deal. Adding the data de-duplication feature will finally help make the ReFS a great choice for use in volumes that contain Hyper-V virtual machines.

    Failover Clustering

    Major work has been done on the failover clustering for the Windows Server 2019 release. One of its new capabilities is being able to easily transfer an entire failover cluster from one domain to the other. Perhaps, what’s even more important is the fact that Microsoft has made it possible to come up with groups of clusters. With this, users will be able to live-migrate the Hyper-V virtual machines in between clusters.

    We have two reasons why we find these new features useful from the perspective of the Hyper-V. First, we believe that they will lay the groundwork for being able to effortlessly live-migrate the virtual machines in between Azure and our datacenters. Second, by having the ability to come up with cluster groups that could potentially become a catalyst for a major architectural change in the way that virtual machine resources are arranged. But we’re merely speculating here. As far as we know, Microsoft hasn’t really talked about this. However, we could end up with clusters designed to support specific roles in VM.

    For instance, we could create clusters that can be used solely for hosting the web frontend servers or the mail servers, as well as some other role. In the same way, we could come up with workload-specific clusters with all the virtual machines making up a specific workload belonging to a dedicated cluster.

    Since it’s now possible to live-migrate the virtual machines between clusters, we’ll now have the ability to architecturally structure the failover-clustering infrastructure in a way that will make the most sense for the needs of the organizations.

    Enterprise-Grade Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

    Upon releasing the Windows Server 2019, Microsoft has rolled up three years’ worth of updates for its HCI platform, or the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure. This is because the gradual schedule of upgrade that Microsoft is now using includes what they call the Semi-Annual Channel releases. This means that the incremental upgrade is done as soon as they are available. Then, after every couple of years, it will make a major release known as the LTSC version or the Long-Term Servicing Channel. This includes upgrades from the earlier semi-annual channel releases.

    The LTSC Windows Server 2019 is expected to be released this fall, and it’s now available to users that are part of Microsoft’s Insider program.

    Although the main components of the HCI that includes computing, storing, and networking, have all been improved in the semi-annual channel releases, for those organizations that are building data centers and high-scale software-defined platforms, Windows Server 2019 will definitely be an important release for a software-defined data center.

    With this latest version, HCI is bundled within the server license. This means that a server backbone will be running the Hyper-V to allow for a dynamic decrease or increase of the workload without the need for downtime.

    Windows Server 2019 GUI

    One thing that has surprised the many enterprises that have started using the semi-annual channel versions of the Windows Server 2016 is its lack of GUI for these releases. The semi-annual channel only supports Server GUI-less configurations. With Windows Server 2019’s LTSC release, IT professionals will once again need to have their desktop GUI of Windows Server aside from the GUI-less Server Core, and Nano releases.

    Project Honolulu

    With the launch of the Windows Server 2019, Microsoft plans to release the Project Honolulu server management tool formally. This is basically a central console allowing IT professionals to be able to easily manage both GUI and GUI-less Windows 2012R2, 2016, and 2019 servers within their environments.

    Early adopters of the tool love the simplicity that comes with using Project Honolulu. It rolls up some of the most common tasks like Performance Monitoring, Server Configuration, and Setting Tasks which run within the server systems. The tool has made it easier for administrators to be able to manage a combination of servers within their environment.

    Security Improvements

    Microsoft has continuously included a built-in security feature to help companies have an “expect breach” model when managing security. Instead of assuming that the firewalls will be able to prevent any security compromises, the Windows Server 2019 assumes that the servers and applications within the data center have already been compromised.

    The Windows Server 2019 comes with the Windows Defender ATP or the Advanced Threat Protection that would evaluate common vectors to detect any security breaches. Once detected, it will automatically block and alert any potential malicious attacks. Users of Microsoft Windows 10 received many of the features of the Defender ATP in the past few months. This included Windows Defender ATP within the Windows Server 2019, allowing them to use network transport, data storage, and security-integrity components, to keep the Windows Server 2019 systems from being compromised.

    Smaller Containers

    Organizations have been swiftly reducing the footprint and the overhead of their IT operations. They have replaced bloated servers with containers that are thinner and more efficient. Members of the Windows Insiders were able to benefit by achieving a higher density of computing to improve the overall application operations without the added expansion of hardware capacity or the added expense in hardware server systems.

    The Windows Server 2019 comes with a smaller and leaner Server Core image that’s capable of cutting virtual machine overhead by 50-80 percent. If the organization is able to get more functionality within a significantly smaller image, they will be able to lower their costs and improve the efficiency of their IT investments.

    Windows Subsystem on Linux

    About a decade ago, one could rarely say that Linux and Microsoft were similar regarding complimentary platform services, but this has changed now. The Windows Server 2016 had open support for Linux as virtual machines, and the recent release of the Windows Server 2019 has made a huge headway by adding an entire subsystem that’s been optimized for the Linux Systems to operate on the Windows Server.

    The Linux Windows Subsystem has extended the basic VM operation of the Linux within the Windows Server and offers a more profound layer of network integration, security controls, and file system storage. It can also allow for the encrypted Linux virtual instances to be enabled. This is exactly how Microsoft provided the Shielded VMs for Windows within the Windows Server 2016, but it’s now natively shielded for Virtual Machines of Linux within Windows Server 2019.

    The optimization of the containers together with their ability to support Linux natively within the Windows Server hosts can possibly decrease the cost by eliminating the need to have 2-3 infrastructure platforms. It will instead run them within the Windows Server 2019.

    Since most of the latest features within the Windows Server 2019 have been included in the updates made in the last couple of years, these features don’t really come as a surprise. But this also means that features in the Windows Server 2019 that were part of the semi-annual channel releases in 2016 have already been tried and tested. This way, organizations using the Windows Server 2019 will no longer have to wait for up to a year for the bug fixes.

    This is definitely a major change and helps organizations plan for the adoption of the Windows Server 2019 sooner than they usually do for a major release.

    What Will Windows Server 2019 Offer for Data Centers

    Since Windows Server 2008 won’t have extended support anymore after January 2020, now it’s the perfect time to start planning your upgrades. The Windows Server 2019 is expected to be available around the second half of this year along with the System Center 2019. Furthermore, Microsoft has just started talking about the new features that it’s planning to bring.

    A few of the features have already been in the “Semi-Annual Channel” version. These include Windows Subsystem for Linux which allows you to run similar Linux scripts and utilities using a Windows server and with much smaller images of the Server Core. It also comes with improved support for the orchestration of the Kubernetes support, as well as the Hyper-V isolation for the Linux containers. Other features are mere logical progressions from the features of Server 2016 like the support for Shielded Virtual Machines with limited admin access for the Linux VMs.

    However, Windows Server 2019 also includes new options for hyper-converged infrastructure as well as cluster management that fit well with the current data center trends.

    HCI will conduct continuous enhancements that include increasing its resiliency towards hardware failure, health monitoring, the ability to diagnose, performance, persistent memory support, management, and more.

    The cluster sets have grouped together several failover clusters, whether they are for computing, storage, or hyper-converged clusters. With the cluster sets, resources like the Virtual Machines will not be part of an individual cluster, but they will belong to a cluster of clusters. This means that you’ll be able to scale up to a much bigger number of nodes and still get the benefits of having a single cluster without the fragility that comes with a single, giant cluster. This has made the fabric to be more scalable and reliable.

    Having the ability to encrypt network segments to protect the network layer in between servers can also appeal to those that operate larger data centers. According to Microsoft, the SDN encryption will give organizations the ability to encrypt subnet traffic, and this is extremely useful in a multi-tenant environment that has multiple virtual networks.

    While the cluster sets will appeal to the biggest enterprise data centers, the remote server management application of Windows Server 2019 or the Project Honolulu can carry out the benefits of the HCI into smaller setups.

    As stated by Siddhartha Roy, who was part of the Windows Server Team, “We’re very cognizant that even for the smallest footprints, for a 2 to 4 node segment, we would need a separate DIY software-defined data center.” He further added that there’s a need for a more self-managed solution that’s aimed at someone who will be more of an IT generalist.

    For more information on Windows Server, speak to our Microsoft Licensing experts at Royal Discount. Call 1-877-292-7712 or contact us here.


  • SQL Server 2008 End Of Life - Backing Up to Azure

    sql support life azure

    Technology moves fast, so much so that the newest versions of software often become out of date in a matter of a few years. Older versions of Microsoft products can be daunting to manage from a support and licensing perspective. While 2008 versions of Microsoft products were innovative and new at the time, some of these products are now nearing the end of their support life. SQL Server 2008 is now several versions back so many clients are wondering what to do for their upgrades. Other SQL Server customers who still retain databases on the 2008 version may not even have decided on their precise upgrade plans. Here's the latest news from Microsoft which may assist with decisions regarding SQL Server 2008.

    Support Concerns

    Licensing and support for SQL Server 2008 was originally intended to last 10 years. We are now into that end-of-life support so what are the options for organizations still running databases on this now decade-old version?

    SQL Server 2008 brought a number of new innovations to the marketplace for databases. These new features were incredibly useful for database development at the time, so much so that many businesses have not needed to upgrade some of their databases to the newest versions. In fact, some of these clients still on the 2008 platform may not feel there is an immediate need to upgrade their databases. There may be other factors involved with such a decision such as budgetary concerns. Organizations may still be trying to determine how to upgrade their databases to the latest SQL server platform and may need more time to make all the decisions necessary.

    However, Microsoft does intend for support of SQL Server 2008 to end. This means that software and security updates will no longer be available after the support life for this product ends. While organizations are not necessarily caught flat-footed with this reality, actually completing the upgrades before the end of licensing support may well prove daunting to some organizations.

    Originally, Microsoft planned to deal with end-of-life support issues regarding products such as SQL Server 2008 with a Premium Assurance Program which was implemented last year. This program was intended to add six years of support licensing to the current ten-year limit. The intention was to provide continued compliance and security to existing databases though at an increased cost of five percent which would have maxed out at twelve percent over current licensing costs.

    Previously Existing Options

    But Microsoft has made a more recent change that affects even this Premium Assurance Program with a recent announcement. Previously, there were several options available for organizations choosing to continue using this older version of the SQL server platform. Options for SQL Server 2008 customers who wanted to remain on this version ranged from simply accepting that there would be no future security updates. The downside of this option is that databases may no longer be compliant in various industry requirements.

    Another available option has been to simply upgrade to a newer version of SQL though at some costs unless an organization already used a product assurance program. But with this option, businesses choosing to upgrade the 2008 version might face additional costs with licensing or further upgrade support while not being entirely prepared for such a change for some databases.

    The last option for current business and organizational clients of SQL Server 2008 has been to purchase a custom support license which can also be costly. This third option requires that companies provide a migration plan of some sort to Microsoft rather than keeping open-ended support available for an indeterminate amount of time when newer versions provide better solutions.

    The Latest Option: Cloud Migration with Free Security Support

    Since there are any number of detrimental effects from remaining on the 2008 SQL version, Microsoft has chosen to offer yet another option which many businesses may find extremely helpful. The recent announcement by Microsoft has been to allow product platforms like SQL Server 2008 to be migrated to Azure Cloud Services. Essentially, Microsoft is offering organizations the opportunity to remain under software support for the 2008 version until 2022 if the workload is migrated to Azure Cloud Services. The actual security support and updates are free of charge on the cloud platform and does not require that a company provide a migration or upgrade plan.

    The opportunity is quite useful for many businesses and organizations as this even allows them to use Azure stack which is Microsoft's version of the on-premise cloud system. This option is quite a flexible and useful offer for many businesses and a way for them to move into cloud computing even with this older SQL version. Microsoft is even allowing those customers who purchased the Premium Assurance Program to migrate into the Azure cloud platform on a grandfathered basis since this plan will be discontinued.

    Additional Benefits

    Now corporate and organizational customer can take advantage of Azure Cloud Services for older databases. All Azure features will be available that are relevant to SQL Server 2008. Security across the environment is consistent and provides telemetry for any intrusions. A myriad of backup features are additionally available which can also cut costs as customers look to upgrade these databases to newer versions. Workloads can be more easily managed and even scaled over the next several years while migration planning can continue.

    Additionally, the hardware for currently hosted SQL Server 2008 databases may be aging out of their lifecycles. Consequently, hardware replacement will create higher costs for new equipment, continued security and other business consistency concerns. Azure provides a less expensive way to maintain aging databases until they can be migrated to newer platform versions. Instead of struggling along with both hardware and software concerns, businesses now have the option of implementing Azure versions of their SQL databases where the hardware is no longer a concern since the cloud service keeps all of the instances up-to-date and secured. Business consistency is also addressed when migrating to Azure for this additional time period of support. Azure provides stable backup systems and support for additional security compliance needs.

    With all the additional benefits of Azure cloud services, SQL Server 2008 customers will find that implementing a workload migration to this new option can be highly beneficial as their decisions about upgrades are made over the next several years. Since the security support will remain free, there is an important savings already built into using Azure cloud services to host these older databases. Azure provides business consistency with less concern for hardware changes as well as a high level of cloud-based features which can be beneficial in assisting with upgrades to newer database platforms. Companies and organizations can easily find that their migration concerns are eased by shifting SQL Server 2008 workloads into the Azure cloud. Since Microsoft's cloud services through Azure are proven to already cut costs, Microsoft has generously offered a highly beneficial means of retaining security support for several years to come, one which is far less expensive compared to other immediate options and concerns.

    If you are currently running an outdated version of Microsoft SQL Server and want to explore options, you don't want to leave anything to chance. Contact the Microsoft licensing experts at Royal Discount - your source for all things MS SQL.


  • How To Install SQL Server 2017 (Complete Guide)

    sql server 2017 install guide
    Microsoft SQL 2017 is the latest version for Microsoft's flagship database server platform. This latest version of the SQL server software boasts some newer features which provide a wider range of performance, security and other options which should be explored with upgrades in mind. Let's take a look at the installation process for SQL server 2017 and then some of the options which are available during installation as well as those that can be leveraged to gain further insights regarding improvements with the 2017 version.

    1. Choose an Installation Path

    There are three main installation paths which you can follow to begin making use of SQL 2017.

    • A downloaded trial version can be used for 180 days before Microsoft requires that you purchase either a Standard or Enterprise license. For many people exploring the latest version of SQL server, this will be plenty of time to examine exactly what an upgrade to the 2017 version will require.
    • However, there is a developer version which is available for free also including all of the options that a trial version offers. Using the developer version allows for an indefinite period of time to fully learn and appreciate all that is offered in the latest version of SQL server.
    • Lastly, there is a fully free version, but it does not offer the entire scope of features so many high-end users will not find it valuable to test, develop or plan for an upgrade.

    For the reasons already mentioned, the developer version may be the best choice for an initial installation path so that all of the improvements can be fully explored without worrying over the end of a trial-period. This particular version will also allow for workload testing as well as use of all business intelligence and programming features. The only drawback to the developer version is that it cannot be used in a production environment.

    When installing SQL server 2017 it is important to understand that there are tools which are no longer available during the initial installation phase. As such, you may find that you will need additional time install more tools on top of the database engine and the various options chosen. For instance, SQL Reporting Services are installed separately as are the SQL Server Management Tools and SQL Server Data Tools (more about some of these are discussed further along in this post).

    2. Configure Database Options

    Once you begin an installation, there will be choices as to which initial licensing you will be using. For the sake of this article, let's consider that the developer version is being used so that all of the available options can be considered. Beyond the licensing choice, there will be a number of options to be considered, among which are the following:

    • Replication which can be used to emulate how the database will be managed including backup and mirroring. This is an important choice to consider but it is not specifically new to most database administrators.
    • Machine learning services (In-Database)
    • Installation of R and/or Python (both can now be installed on the same server instance) for programming enhancements, which also lends itself to this developer version.
    • Which query options will be used for searches including full-text or semantic extractions.
    • Data Quality Services which are important for standardizing and preventing duplication of data. This option is also important for implementing a data scale-out master with workers across several servers or instances.
    • Polybase options are available at this point of the installation which can allow for NoSQL queries.
    • Analysis services options for Business Intelligence integration are also in the mix during the installation.

    3. Setup Additional Features & Reporting

    Most of the main features have now been offered as choices during the installation, but there are additional options which can be considered based on needs. Advancing to the next steps in the insulation will provide choices for these options:

    • Client tools are available for backward compatibility with earlier SQL versions in relationship to Data Quality Services. Again, these are services which can be important when using master and worker instances across several servers.
    • SDK resources for developers are also available for installation which are additionally useful in the developer version in order to understand all the programmatic, security and performance improvement prior to using the 2017 version in production mode.
    • Distributed Relay is a feature available that is very much like the SQL profiler, except it can be distributed over multiple servers. This is used in much the same way to capture traces for security and performance when gathering information for upgrades and testing. Additionally, this is where you want to make considerations regarding this tool since it allows you to simulate workloads to further advance understanding of development and upgrade issues.
    • SQL client connectivity SDK is available for installation that provides OLEDB and ODBC connections using programming languages including .Net, Java, PHP and others.
    • Master Data Services provides the means to organize important data into models while creating rules for access and control.

    4. Configure Instances & Security

    It is important to remember that multiple instances of SQL can be used on the same server which is critical for a variety of best practices development on the SQL Server 2017 platform. Among the considerations which can be simulated are workloads, replications versus mirroring, or the separation of instances while measuring performance impact.

    In regard to security issues, the developer mode also includes the full options for SQL server authentication within Windows. Hammering out all security issues is important to achieve before making the shift to the newer SQL version and the developer version includes all of the authentication options. Windows account authentication in SQL is available to implement as is the mixed mode which is a feature allowing for the creation of logins and passwords within the SQL server environment.

    5. Setup Data Directories & Filestream

    While you are finalizing all of your decisions with your installation, be sure to check all of the data directories. It is here that you can choose the locations of your various data files and log files. A best practice is to place these various types of files on different drives in order to ensure top performance and implement good security as well as provide for effective disaster recovery planning.

    There are a few other considerations to be made while installing SQL server 2017. FILESTREAM provides for storage of non-structured data within databases. If you are looking for ways to operate in data mining mode then you will be interested in using the Analysis Services configuration which provides for creation of fast queries and report results. When considering data mining modes, you must choose between tabular and multidimensional, the former being more memory intensive. If you have plenty of storage space then multidimensional mode may be the best choice since it has the least performance impact.

    6. Install SQL Server Management Tools

    After installing the main database server engine, you will need to go back to the setup window and choose to install the SQL Server Management Studio which can further assist with tuning an SQL instance. Additionally, you can consider installing SQL Server Data Tools which are important for using Business Intelligence tools, a major plus to the newer Microsoft SQL server platforms, especially the 2017 version.

    Before installing SQL Server 2017 it is important to plan and understand what you need to accomplish with an initial installation of the newest version. The mentioned options and features in this article are meant to be considerations as a guideline for development and planning new SQL instances as well as migration of existing databases from previous versions. Making use of all the available tools for planning are as important as considering what new features can be implemented for database improvements.

    To learn more about Microsoft SQL Server, contact our experts at RoyalDiscount.com or call 1-877-292-7112 today and get a free licensing consultation.


  • SQL Server Performance: 2014 vs 2016

    sql server 2014 vs 2016

    Is an Upgrade Useful?

    Database performance is always an issue, especially when considering upgrades. Microsoft just provided a new version in 2014 of SQL Server and then another version in 2016. The 2014 version of SQL Server included some newer technology innovations that were long overdue and improved overall performance. Now the question could be raised what are the real performance differences between the 2014 and 2016 versions? Is an upgrade to the newest version of SQL Server worthwhile?

    An IT manager might well sit down with database administrators and discuss these very issues. Technical terms, code, queries and much more are likely to come out of the conversation, many of which may well leave many managers without specific database experience confused on the issue. There are some basic performance factors which can be provided that may well assist many non-database experts in their understanding of performance issues and improvements.

    One of the main factors to consider is that the SQL engine for the server version remained basically the same since 1998 when SQL version 7 was in use (specifics detailed below). With the 2014 version the engine for SQL Server was upgraded to take advantage of hardware technology improvements, so just having this version in use is a good move forward.

    But with the 2016 version there were additional changes to the SQL Server engine which made its processing better integrated with current technology so that it provides far faster processing of database functions. Some observers in the industry have likened this to cars and local transportation needs. You can have a very fast car but unless the actual infrastructure is upgraded then traffic flow may be an issue regardless of how great the car may be. Microsoft has taken the approach of improving the SQL Server engine so that it takes full advantage of technology changes to hardware.

    Likewise, when it comes to cloud-based database services, Microsoft introduced the service-based version of SQL Server 2016 to run natively in Azure. This means that all of the changes to the SQL Server engine are fully integrated on the Azure hardware platform and further means that a shift to cloud-based databases may well provide the best performance, especially for growing databases. Additionally, with newer versions of SQL in the future, databases will be much easier to upgrade from Azure for continued improvements to performance and integration.

    Comparing Performance - 2014 vs 2016

    • What should you be concerned most about when thinking of performance improvements with the latest version of SQL Server? For that answer we turn to what was changed with version 2014 which, as hinted at above, involved the server engine - specifically the cardinality estimator. Without getting into too many technical concerns, the cardinality estimator is basically the core of the query optimizer. Within this core, the cardinality estimator works with statistics within the database for best functionality. If the estimator grows less accurate, then queries are slower. The upgrade of the cardinality estimator in the 2014 version, which had not been upgraded since 1998, was a big step forward. In this regard, the 2014 version is a major improvement in performance over older versions.With the 2016 version of SQL Server, there are even more improvements to the functions of the cardinality estimator which provides even better performance. However, there may need to be testing with older databases to verify which compatibility version can run in this latest version of the SQL Server.When it comes to the compatibility levels that are available in the 2016 version you will find that if you must run an older compatibility level you may lose some of the latest feature functionalities. The good news is that if you must run the older version of the cardinality estimator there is a command line configuration which will allow you to run all of the latest features of the 2016 version with the older estimator.
    • There are a few more features which can be very beneficial to migrating to this latest version of Microsoft's SQL Server. Multi-threaded insert – select statements can now be used. Memory optimized tables can also now be multi-threaded.
    • Additionally, statistics within the database are now updated more frequently which creates a higher level of estimates for better performance. Just as an example, previous behavior for a table of 1 billion rows would have been triggered for update after changes to 200 million changes in a database. With SQL Server 2016 these updates are now triggered at 1 million changes which creates more accurate estimates of statistics within the database for much faster queries.
    • With relational databases, tables can now be linked to each other for improved data integrity using foreign key constraints. Previously there were limitations to the number of key constraints which could be used, that number being 253. With SQL Server 2016, foreign key constraints now have a limitation of 10,000. For a relational database, this means that thousands of tables can now reference to a single user table and take advantage of data integrity in a much broader range. It is important to note that this is for relational databases only.
    • The importance of the foreign key constraint changes and, as mentioned above, the number was limited with SQL Server version 2014 due to the extensive computing cost. However, Microsoft has reduced the cost to resources and increased the number of foreign key constraints by introducing a new version of the referential integrity operator. Again, without being too technical, the referential integrity checks within a database are now done within the new query execution operator. The result is much faster performance for the internal workings of databases running on SQL Server 2016.

    These are just some basic points of performance improvements Microsoft has made between versions 2014 and 2016. For a more in depth understanding of what these and other features in the latest version may mean for your database performance, you may need to consult with experts who can examine and explain more of what may be needed in consideration of migrating to SQL Server 2016 to provide the best experience to clients, customers and users of your database offerings.

    Conclusion

    It may be confusing to determine how to apply IT budgets when it comes to various upgrades, especially when considering those for databases. However, it is important to keep in mind that as databases grow in size they may not just outgrow storage availability but also processing capabilities.

    Keeping current with the latest versions will likely provide many benefits to existing databases which have already been upgraded. There may be additional factors to consider as to whether these databases are working fully integrated with the most current versions of SQL Server. In this case, it can be highly beneficial to consult with professionals who can adequately determine current health, configuration, and modes in which a database may be operating. A full investigation of organizational databases will be increasingly important to determining how performance in the latest version of Microsoft SQL Server can be improved as well as maintained for upcoming versions and possible migration to cloud-based services.

    To learn more about Microsoft SQL Server, contact our experts at RoyalDiscount.com- your online source for cheap OEM, Retail & Cloud products.


  • Microsoft Azure Cloud Security Guide

    azure cloud security

    Approaches to Security

    Anyone who's ever worked in a secure facility has developed a basic concept for what it takes to create and maintain such an atmosphere. There are any number of ways to control access to the facility using automatic gates and guards. Additionally, questions can be asked and access approved or denied based on valid need. Once an individual is granted access with in the facility, actually entering the building can also be further regulated and observed through a set of further security measures regarding doors, badges and escorts.

    Behind all of these measures are policies which have been developed and fine-tuned which provide guidance for operation of the facility. These policies are carefully developed and consistently applied in order to maintain security, even down to data access and protection. The same is true when securing data in Microsoft Azure Cloud Security. Options for securing customer information have been developed so that Azure cloud clients can rely on security facilities within their spheres of operation to maintain the confidence of data protection and mitigating unwanted access.

    Microsoft now offers a wide range of security features within its Azure cloud products which provide organizations with a high level of confidence that breaches will be minimized and any security incidents will be quickly addressed for the future. Clients can make use of Azure's tools to develop their own policies which will mitigate any intrusions and minimize the effects of those which do occur.

    Foundations of Azure Security

    Azure achieves high-end security for cloud clients by providing the following:

    • Management and control of identity and user access - Azure provides an Active Directory environment with greater control over user access to information. Multifactor authentication sign-in is available while Azure also provides greater control over authentication authorization and access control. Developers will also find tools to better integrate identity management across platforms including mobile and web apps. Authentication through Azure Active Directory can even be integrated into existing on-premise Active Directory and syncing.
    • Encryption of communications and operations procedures - Azure includes data encryption at all levels whether information is in transit or at rest. Encryption keys can be stored in vaults both on premises and in the cloud. Data can even be encrypted before it is placed into the cloud.
    • Solid networking infrastructure security - Azure hardens security networks even when communication between on-site and cloud networks are necessary. Through high-speed connections, Azure extends existing networks to the cloud using secure VPN connections while providing more design and infrastructure controls through the Azure Fabric Controller. Network Security Groups (NSG) control traffic to VM's, help secure communications between Virtual Azure Networks and implements packet filtering firewalls by default on all hosts and VM's. All datacenter locations in all regions provide a wide range of physical security and access controls to prevent breaches through such means.
    • Tools for defense against intrusion and threats - Microsoft instituted throughout all Azure regions continual monitoring, testing and prevention processes. Anything from intrusion and anomaly detection to DDoS prevention and penetration testing as well as machine learning and behavioral analytics are employed for the highest security possible. Microsoft has its own antimalware deployed to prevent intrusions into VM's and cloud services, but also supports third-party malware security solutions within subscriptions. The Azure security center serves as a main control for all client security concerns.

    Key Security Features within Azure:

    Security Center:

    From Azure Security Center you can manage all of your security needs within Azure as well as hybrid implementations between on-premise and cloud instances. This console provides a unified view of your cloud resources with discoverability across networks to on-site infrastructure, allowing for management of security and application of policies from a central location. Central management of resources including collection, analysis and search are all available in the Security Center where vulnerabilities can be found and re-mediated.

    Application Gateway:

    The Application Gateway provides application routing and load-balancing services within Azure. The Gateway is highly available and extremely scalable based on client needs. Applications, including SQL, can be protected from the most common web-based threats, vulnerabilities and exploits with a web application firewall. The Application Gateway is well integrated with other Azure services including the Azure Traffic Manager.

    VPN Gateway:

    With the use of Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) and Internet Key Exchange (IKE), Azure's VPN Gateway provides secure connectivity between more on-premise infrastructure and cloud-based resources. Point to site VPN provides VM connectivity across Azure Virtual Networks for availability even for users on the road.

    Azure DDoS Protection:

    Monitoring is always on for the Azure DDoS protection, providing adaptive tuning, application layering, complete integration with all of Azure's security features and analytics. Protection is simplified with immediate monitoring of all cloud resources to mitigate all detected attacks. Azure's DDoS protection also works through layers three through seven to counteract common threats such as SQL injections. This feature also includes alerts and telemetry reports for better understanding of any attempted attack and how to mitigate vulnerabilities against web applications. Microsoft even uses service credits as a protection against resource costs incurred from documented attacks.

    Key Vault:

    With cloud services, encryption keys are very important and Key Vault provides effective and secure storage of highly accessible keys which can be linked to applications for simple, high performance protection. The Key Vault covers passwords, secrets and policies which can be applied to cloud resources with the easy creation and migration of new vaults in a matter of minutes without the need for provisioning delays. Certificate provisioning for SSL/TLS achieves fast enrollment and automatic renewal from public CA sources.

    Azure Information Protection:

    All data can be protected with Azure's Cloud Services including tracking and monitoring of behaviors to block intrusion activities. Information can be classified through policies in such management categories as automatic, recommended or controlled by users. Protection can be extended no matter how it is shared or stored. Share controls can be passed even to customers and enacted in Microsoft Office with recommendations available for data handling for users.

    Azure Active Directory:

    Complete identity management is available in Azure Active Directory where resources can be safeguarded by intelligence driven security policies. Azure AD is highly integrated with Office 365 and enables a higher level of productivity with security and management centralized. With one identity, users can access available applications through a web-based portal along with web application availability for on-premise and mobility access.

    Azure Advanced Threat Protection:

    Threats continue to mount regularly so Microsoft's Azure's security also includes advanced threat protection. Azure Advanced Threat Protection adds the power of cloud resources to effectively detect and investigate intrusions and threats. Device, user and resource usage is monitored to determine any security anomalies for fast insight and response. The security measures improve responses to attacks and leverage Microsoft's Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection for attack remediation

    Conclusion

    Delving a bit deeper into these security categories, it becomes clear that Microsoft has created its cloud environment with security as a top goal. However, it is important to remember that security is an ongoing role in which cloud customers have, and must, retain a role. Merely possessing a cloud presence does not remove the responsibility from the organization to follow best practices and determine policies which must be applied and followed using the available tools in Azure Cloud Services.

    To learn more about Azure Cloud Security, contact the Certified Microsoft professionals at RoyalDiscount.com - your online resource for all things Cloud.


  • Choosing between Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Standard and Enterprise Editions

    sql server plan comparison

    When Microsoft released SQL Server 2016 there were a number of changes and improvements to the flagship database. However, when considering the two main editions, Standard and Enterprise, organizations must account for a long list of features before choosing between them. Let's take a look at the main differences between the two editions regarding these available options.

    First, it is important to understand the intentions behind the two different editions. The Enterprise edition provides high end data-center availability, incredible performance, a wide array of business intelligence, unlimited virtualization and user access to data reporting. The Enterprise edition is well worth the higher licensing cost for large enterprises because of how much it offers.

    Meanwhile, the Standard edition of SQL Server 2016 offers many of the same features with limitations. This edition is intended to provide smaller organizations with all the necessary tools and features at a lower cost and less need for IT staff. The Standard edition is a highly effective version for business customers looking for budget relief.

    However, there are those customers who may need to further examine SQL Server 2016 features in order to effectively make choices between the two editions. This is where a careful examination of all the features coupled with licensing can save some companies cost, while others may quickly find they need far more database computing power.

    Since the SQL Server 2016 database engine is designed for far faster performance, the needs of an organization fall into the specifics designed into each edition. Digging further into the details can provide an assessment which enables Microsoft customers to make the best-informed decision for both immediate and long-term needs. Here are some highlights when to consider among the many options and features of SQL Server 2016 when choosing an edition:

    Scale Limits

    When it comes to scale limits, SQL Server 2016 Enterprise edition provides either unlimited memory or up to operating system limits. However, the Standard edition has a variety of memory limitations which must be considered when designing database applications. It is most important to remember that Standard edition is limited to the lesser of four sockets for 24 cores when it comes to the database engine, analysis services or reporting services. Other components may also be limited in the Standard version so it's important to check for those limitations. But, it is also an important to realize that both Standard and Enterprise editions have a maximum relational database size of 524 PB. 

    RDBMS High Availability

    Comparing RDBMS high availability between the two editions, users will find that there is plenty of overlap available when it comes to features. There are a number of features that are not available in the Standard edition, some of the most important being the lack of always-on availability groups, online page and file restore, online indexing, online schema change, fast recovery, mirrored backups, and hot add memory and CPU. 

    RDBMS Performance and Scalability

    Almost all of the RDBMS performance and scalability features are available in both Enterprise and Standard editions with the exceptions being: resource governor, partition table parallelism, NUMA aware and large page memory and buffer array allocation, and I/O resource governor. 

    RDBMS Security

    SQL Server 2016 Standard edition strongly mirrors RDBMS security from that of the Enterprise edition except for transparent database encryption and extensible Key management.

    Replication

    The Standard edition also comes with many of the same replication features as that of the Enterprise edition, the exceptions being: Oracle publishing, peer-to-peer transactional replication, and transactional replication updateable subscription. 

    Management Tools

    The management tools available in the Enterprise edition are exactly the same within the Standard edition.

    RDBMS Manageability

    Standard Edition possesses many of the same RDBMS manageability features, though there are some which are not included that are available in the Enterprise edition. These features are: parallel indexed operations, automatic use of indexed view by query optimizer, parallel consistency check and SQL Server Utility Control Point. 

    Development Tools

    SQL Server 2016 Standard and Enterprise editions provide the exact same development tools which is a strong benefit either way.

    Programmability

    Almost all of the available programmability features of the SQL Server 2016 Enterprise edition are available in the Standard edition with the exception of advanced R integration and R server (standalone). This means there are a wide array of programming options available even in the Standard edition. 

    Integration Services

    Basic integration services are available in both additions, but advanced sources and destinations as well as advanced tasks and transformations are not available in the Standard edition 

    Master Data Services

    Master data services are only available in the Enterprise edition, making the higher cost a consideration for those organizations in need of these features. Contact one of our specialists for more details. 

    Data Warehouse

    There are several integration services features not available in the Standard edition which include: star join query optimizations, scalable read only analysis services configuration, parallel query processing on partitioned tables and indexes, and global batch aggregation. 

    Analysis Services

    The Standard edition does not provide support for scalable shared databases or synchronize databases, while AlwaysOn failover cluster instances only supports two nodes. 

    BI Semantic Model (Multidimensional)

    Standard edition of SQL Server 2016 does support many of the same business intelligence semantic model (multidimensional) features as the Enterprise edition. Check with one of our specialists for more details.

    BI Semantic Model (Tabular)

    Business intelligence is an important inclusion within the Standard edition of SQL Server 2016. The Standard edition supports all of the same tabular models as the Enterprise edition except for Perspectives, Multiple partitions, and DirectQuery storage mode. 

    Power Pivot for SharePoint

    The Standard edition of SQL Server 2016 does not provide any support for Power Pivot for SharePoint so if this is a major consideration for an organization the Enterprise edition may be the choice since SharePoint is a powerful Microsoft product in wide use. 

    Data Mining

    While the Enterprise edition of SQL Server 2016 does support a wide array of data warehouse features, the Standard edition only supports standard algorithms and data mining tools (Wizards, Editors, Query Builders). 

    Spatial and Location Services & Additional Database Services

    All features and options for spatial and location services as well as additional database services are the same between SQL Server 2016 Enterprise and Standard editions. 

    Other Components

    StreamInsight HA is not available in the Standard edition.

    Conclusion 

    Choosing between Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Standard and Enterprise editions encompasses a wide array of factors. It is very important to remember that with the 2016 version, Microsoft included Business Intelligence features for the Standard edition to provide non-enterprise class customers with these useful options at a limited availability. Likewise, the Standard edition widely mirrors the Enterprise edition in terms of available features, only with limitations to scalability.

    Purchasing an Enterprise edition license most frequently means unlimited scalability for many features not available for the Standard edition. Customers must consider between the two when needs might require the higher-end edition. However, it is also easier than ever to upgrade the Standard edition to the Enterprise edition so expected database growth can also be accounted for with the possibility of business growth. Customers who choose a Standard edition will find it easier to grow as necessary by moving into the Enterprise edition when necessity requires a change.

    To learn more about SQL Server, contact the licensing experts at RoyalDiscount.com- Your online source for cheap OEM, Retail & Cloud products.


  • Azure SQL DB vs Amazon RDS

    amazon sql db vs rds

    Cloud computing business customers now have new advantages which can be leveraged against on – premise systems. Companies can now implement additional infrastructure through cloud consoles without lengthy hardware procurement. Large investments of capital for IT projects are no longer a hurdle with cloud-based technology. Database as a Service (DBaaS) is now the important factor for applications in the business community.

    With the cloud in mind, it is important to understand the differences between major providers such as Amazon RDS and Microsoft Azure SQL. Both of these offerings can be surprisingly similar and different at the same time. Here is an exploration of what you can expect between the two.

    Intended market

    Microsoft Azure SQL is clearly intended for enterprise class business applications of 5 GB or less. There are more details to Azure SQL than targeted customers so what may seem limiting but  this is actually more than meets the eye.

    Amazon RDS admittedly targets a wider range of business customers. However, the Amazon offering does have its own limitations and drawbacks when all factors are considered.

    Platform

    Microsoft's cloud-based DBaaS product was designed for the cloud specifically in mind. As such, Azure SQL runs natively as a service on the Microsoft cloud platform and leverages the cloud specifically because of this design.

    Amazon RDS does not run natively on the cloud platform and is instead cloud capable. Most applications which were developed in MySQL will likely run without problems in Amazon RDS. But there is a big difference between the two in this respect.

    Deployment

    Azure SQL server database instances are not actually individual virtual servers. Since Azure SQL runs as a service natively on the cloud, these database instances are logical containers provisioned and customized for the customer's needs. This leverages cost and performance on the part of Microsoft and only the customers databases are hosted in these instances. This is based on a multi-tenant hardware architecture which does not allow for specific server level customization. Instead of focusing on hardware, Microsoft's DBaaS product focuses on cloud performance to fully leverage the intended advantages of cloud computing as previously noted. Microsoft focuses on only charging for what a customer needs, so sharding is advocated through the use of elastic pools and databases are therefore limited to 10 GB so that performance and cost can be achieved.

    Azure RDS also works on multi-tenant architecture which is the key element of cloud-based computing. However, RDS uses EC2 instances for its relational database services. This design allows RDS to allocate compute resources to databases while provisioning storage capacity separately. Since RDS charges storage separate from compute, there is a different cost to be factored versus Microsoft Azure SQL. The RDS standard level provides up to 6 TB of storage, and while RDS does not provide automatic resizing, Amazon's Aurora does scale automatically in 10 GB increments up to a total of 64 TB.

    Performance

    Not only are Microsoft Azure SQL and Amazon RDS different in terms of deployment, they are also different in approaches to performance.

    Microsoft Azure SQL includes storage units price, charging for different tiers and performance levels. While services do allow for a database size of 1 TB and up to 2.9 TB total storage elastic pools, it is important to remember that Microsoft advocates the use of sharding with elastic pools in order to achieve performance and cost goals. Since SQL database on Azure is tiered, each level is suited to different workloads and broken down into further different performance levels ranked by Microsoft's Database Transaction Units (DTU). It is with DTU and elastic pools that Microsoft customers can address performance at cost. With the elastic pools, fluctuations in workload are shared over collective resources for hosted databases and can be spread across a single customer's databases for maximum utilization that also reduce costs.

    Amazon Relational Database Services works on the EC2 concept. Database instances are allocated to compute resources with storage provisioned separately. As mentioned earlier, RDS charges separately for storage and compute so that cost is approached very differently. To achieve improved query performance, Amazon RDS allows for added replicas in its supported read-only horizontal scaling. In this way, performance is achieved. However, in comparison to Microsoft Azure SQL, there are fewer tiers and separate pricing for storage and compute. It is more likely that an Amazon RDS customer may switch to improved database instances and not use the full amount of resources.

    Scaling

    Microsoft Azure SQL includes storage in its tiered pricing and performance levels. While it seems limiting that Microsoft allows for a limit of only 10 GB per database, it reduces the likelihood of performance issues from a single bloated database server. For this reason, Azure SQL is highly scalable and very price sensitive. With the latest introduction of elastic pools, Microsoft's concept of sharing databases means that growth and performance with cost in mind is as highly available as Azure itself.

    Amazon RDS, as mentioned previously, charges separately for storage and compute. It is very easy to scale the size of a database on the Amazon platform. Aurora as a database product is easily scalable in automatic increments, making RDS single database growth easy to achieve.

    Conclusion

    Perhaps the best way to approach making choices between Microsoft Azure SQL and Amazon RDS as cloud-based database platforms is to actually measure performance. Since each platform measures performance differently, it may be important for prospective customers to use free offerings of these products in tandem with third-party performance measurement tools in order to clearly measure and compare corresponding resource performance for identical databases.

    Additionally, it is also important to keep in mind what technologies are in use in a particular organization. Amazon is not a software developer, so they offer a wider variety of database engines including Microsoft SQL server. Meanwhile, Microsoft Azure SQL is a specific product from the software developer, so they offer it exclusively as a DBaaS product.

    It is reasonable to expect that organizations which already use other database products than Microsoft SQL Server may well find Amazon RDS friendlier to their specific needs. On the other hand, organizations which are already Microsoft houses will find that Azure SQL will suit their needs best. However, it is important to consider how cost and performance are achieved on each platform and whether it suitably meets budgetary goals.


  • Azure Container Service Change

    For several years, Microsoft has offered container services via Azure as more than just a passing interest. Docker has long been considered the preeminent platform for app container development. Since 2014, Azure has offered Docker as a native service within its container product. Over the last year, Microsoft has stepped up its efforts with container services. First, Microsoft further improved its container services by offering Kubernetes as its primary container orchestration management. Then, there followed a shift in the naming of its container services from Azure Container Services to Azure Kubernetes Services. Next, Microsoft has stepped forward by purchasing Deis which is a company heavily involved in Kubernetes and then joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

    With all these moves Microsoft has positioned Azure as a foremost provider of open-source application development. The container services available in Azure now operate with what are considered the industry standards for container orchestration and development.

    Containers are a way of managing resources aside from hardware virtualization. Instead of creating virtualized hardware, containers use far less server resources by functioning in a shared operating system environment. Where VMs can run a variety of operating systems, containers instead use the existing operating system for resource management. In this way, more application containers can be run than VM's meaning that companies can operate with fewer resources while presenting standardized applications to more users. Organizations are now using container application development in growing numbers which is why Microsoft could not ignore this budding market.

    Rather than compete with existing technologies, Microsoft chose to integrate industry standard software into their Azure platform to provide a wider range of application development. In 2014 Microsoft took the step of providing Docker as a native service via Azure. While there were several orchestration options available at that time, Kubernetes has since risen as the industry standard for the management of containers.

    With these moves, Microsoft now places itself squarely as a leader in the open-source application development community. Azure now acts as the platform on which both Kubernetes and Docker operate for container management and application development respectively. Kubernetes has become a major part of Azure Container Services to the point of renaming the product because it is so popular and widely used. Even Docker now chooses Kubernetes for its orchestration needs.

    Docker encourages the development of code and faster release of applications all within a shared operating system environment where resources are better used than virtual hardware. Since 2016, the use of Docker has grown in the market by leaps and bounds with an expected revenue that will quadruple by 2021. With its ease-of-use and cost efficiencies, Docker offers many companies a way to quickly develop and standardize the use of applications.

    Containers have been around for quite some time but have grown in popularity in recent years. Cloud-based computing has had as much to do with the growth of virtualization and containers. However, cost and performance are some of the key elements customers wish to leverage when using cloud services. In many cases, containers make solid alternatives for application presentation where cost and performance area a primary goal. The specific market needs mean that a cloud provider such as Azure must stay atop its container service offerings. Microsoft has not flinched from growing its cloud-based platform in such a way that it is quickly becoming a leader in the industry. Azure is now poised for solid growth in a market which will only continue to blossom within the next several years.

    For this reason, Microsoft has most recently shifted the name of Azure Container Services to Azure Kubernetes Services, by fully embracing this orchestration platform. Container orchestration is highly important for an IT environment just like any other control and monitoring system. Kubernetes has been embraced already by Docker which is the most popular container software for developing and deploying new and upgraded applications.

    Microsoft has placed Azure as the solid foundation for application deployment and development. With Azure in place, application developers can make use of a single operating systems upon which to build orchestration environments which will effectively manage containers using Kubernetes. Upon this orchestration layer, Microsoft has already fully embraced the otherwise important development by providing Docker as a native service within its container services.

    With this layering it is easy to imagine that Microsoft provides a next-generation model of cloud computing in this growing market. As such, Microsoft shifts itself from being just a software development company to one that is providing the fullest array of cloud-based computing products. Azure container services, now renamed to Azure Kubernetes Services, is the latest step by Microsoft to keep Azure as an industry leader in cloud-computing.

    It is clear with the growth of Docker for container development and application deployment that it is a highly effective product. Kubernetes was the next step for Microsoft to solidify its burgeoning container services product to bridge Docker and Azure with the best available and most desired orchestration software in the market. Microsoft's combination of these cloud-computing products makes for a powerful development option for any business in need of leveraging the most out of server resources.

    Millions of application developers already trust Docker and Kubernetes for their container needs and laying them atop Azure is a well-considered decision on the part of Microsoft, one which many cloud-computing customers will undoubtedly embrace within the next several years. Azure Kubernetes Services is the newest name in Microsoft's cloud-computing products, but one which should resound in the container marketplace as a leader in the industry while the popularity and demands for container application development only continue to grow exponentially.

    To learn more about Azure Container Service, contact our experts at RoyalDiscount.com - Your online source for cheap OEM, Retail & Cloud products.


  • Azure Multi Factor Authentication and Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

    implementing azure mfa

    Are you implementing Microsoft Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) in your Remote Desktop Services/RemoteApp (RDS) deployments? You better be….

    Don’t Put Mobility Ahead of Security. You Can Have Both!

    As the business landscape continues to evolve and “mobility” becomes less of a buzzword and more of a necessity, many companies are implementing mobile first and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) IT strategies to alleviate expensive hardware costs and rents. An added bonus – it gives employees the autonomy to fully execute their job functions.

    A widely used solution, and one of the most popular mobile infrastructure deployments, Microsoft Remote Desktop Services provides users remote access to company owned Windows virtual desktops, data, and applications from almost any device. Users simply log in using the Remote Desktop Client from a preferred device and gain secure access to the corporate assets they need to perform their duties.

    Whether you are deploying your Microsoft Remote Desktop Services environment on-premises, to the Microsoft Azure Cloud, or your preferred Datacenter, Microsoft RDS is the platform of choice for building virtualization solutions for every business.

    But how do you protect corporate assets and your user credentials from being stolen when using RDS?

    Add a little salt to those AD credentials.

    Is authenticating using Active Directory 100% secure? The short answer is no. Although AD provides a layer of security to your credentials, even an amateur hacker using specialized tools can quickly gain access to AD credentials.

    In the best-case scenario, a hacker will be able to gain access to your RDS deployment and sensitive data. In some cases, a sophisticated hacker will use a service attack to gain admin credentials, giving the hacker access to your company network and even control over user domain. Both scenarios are considered a data breach and put your company in harm’s way.

    Average cost of a data breach in 2018.

    According to the 12th annual Cost of Data Breach Study, the average cost of data breach is $3.62 million with an average per stolen record cost of $141. Simply put, a data breach can cripple your business even if you are able to survive it at all. 

    What is Azure MFA?

    Microsoft Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is Microsoft’s two-step verification solution, a crucial step in protecting your RDS. Two-step verification is a process of authentication that requires more than one verification method and adds a critical second layer of security to user sign-ins. Azure MFA helps safeguard access to data and applications while meeting user demand for an easy sign-in process. It delivers strong authentication across a range of verification methods, including phone calls, text messages, and mobile app verifications.

    Azure MFA is an easy to use and reliable solution that provides an extra layer of security to protect users and your data.

    Make Microsoft Azure MFA Standard Across all Your RDS Deployments

    Although Microsoft Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) provides an inexpensive, easy to deploy, and necessary layer of security to your RDS environments.

    With Azure MFA successfully deployed, users and admins attempting to connect to company resources via the Remote Desktop Client will be prompted to enter a 6-digit code as a second layer of authentication to connect. This code is delivered automatically to the user’s mobile device, by either a phone call, text, or mobile app verification, after AD credentials are entered.

    Hackers may still be able to get a hold of your AD credentials; however, with MFA deployed, without access to your phone or network, their efforts are essentially useless.

    Full proof? Not quite. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

    Where can you purchase Microsoft Azure MFA Licenses?

    Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is usually purchased through an Office 365 subscription as Azure Active Directory Premium or included in a bundled plan.

    Our recommendation would be to purchase a license through a CSP partner like Total Cloud IT as part of the Enterprise Mobility + Security bundle. The. Enterprise Mobility + Security includes numerous security tools necessary to protect your data on-premises or in the Cloud.

    Need Deployment help?

    Total Cloud IT is a Microsoft CSP Partner specializing in Office 365 and Azure Enterprise Deployments.

    Purchasing and implementing the right solution can be a tricky endeavor. Let Total Cloud IT take the guess work out of the equation.

    Please contact joel@totalcloudit.com for a free consultation and get your business on the path to security.

    My name is Joel McElroy. I’ve been thinking about data security, you should be too.