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Microsoft Office 365

​Pros:

No more dealing with overly complex licensing in the form of CALs, Install Media, and Versions. No more worrying about backups, redundancy, multiple points of failure, or Spam Walls. No need to setup MS Exchange (Front End/Back End), SharePoint, Lync, Licenses Servers, or File Shares… It’s all hosted – Just setup the account, enter the billing info and GO!

Cons:

Every now and then, you find these surprise “nuggets” of non-support, system limitations, and “I was not expecting that”.

Summary:

For a flat monthly rate, Microsoft provides you licensing for Office Pro Plus (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, and Outlook), an email host, SharePoint for public and private sites, Lync for messaging or Web Conferencing, and file storage. All of these services are than hosted by Microsoft in their cutting edge data facility.

You no longer have to back up your data, create redundancies, or failovers. The only services you have to host your self are going to be Active Directory (if you use it) and any application servers beyond the standard suite.

Bottom Line:

Realistically, for all the services Microsoft is providing you for this flat monthly rate, you are getting a ridiculously great deal. It is a phenomenal cost cutting measure when you think of how many hours of troubleshooting you can remove from Exchange and SharePoint, never having to guestimate on CALs (I hate CALs), and not playing games with SSL Certs, DNS, auto discovery, and firewalls.

I would advise anyone looking to dive into this that first they take a long hard look inside and make sure they have what it takes when it comes to troubleshooting some of Microsoft eccentricities’.

What is the Cloud?

Lets take a looks at three things to get a better understanding: Why is it called the cloud? What can the cloud do for me? Is it safe?

​​​​The cloud get its name from “Network Diagrams”, those are the blueprints that IT Persons (geeks, programmers, data engineers, etc.) use to plan and build networks. Since the beginning of network diagrams, a cloud (see below) has been used to represent all things beyond their network, often times, this was a metaphor for the internet itself.

Because things stored in the cloud are stored to the internet, often beyond the local network, and at the control of an outside organization, the term Cloud was coined.

The power of the cloud is easily harnessed by those who embrace what it stands for; specialization by outsourcing, subscription based services (this is to say you are leasing something instead of buying it), and being willing to give up local control in order to increase accessibility externally.

The cloud allows you to take your data, software, and aspects of your network out of your current physical location and move it into any number of companies data-centers. The advantage to data centers is because of their buying power, they are able to guarantee high level of accessibility with things like redundant power supplies, regular backups of data, and ultra-fast (redundant) internet connections. Additionally, because of their buying power, they can by hard drives, servers, and infrastructure at a higher discount rate than an individual organization.

All of this is well and good but is my data REALLY safe? There are a plethora of organizations out there that are willing to bring you to the cloud, but not all of them are created equally. The vast majority of them are strong companies looking to give you the best experience possible, but you need to judge each organization by its merits. Look for their professional certifications, accreditations, what they can guarantee and what they are bonded and insured for.

When looking for an organization to bring your data too, Google them, see what comes up. Look for an objective company that focuses on migrating your data to the cloud (www.tcomtdm.com), they will be able to show you many of the advantages and disadvantages of working with different cloud providers. They will be able to make recommendations on what vendors they have had good success with in the past.

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SONY VIAO SVF142

Specs:

6 GB RAM
i5 Processor
750 GB Hard Drive

Pros:

Battery Life is Amazing, Sharp Screen, No Pre-Installed Bloat-ware, Lots of USB Ports, Quiet.

Cons:

No VGA Port, Needs a lot of Essential VIAO Updates before ready for use.

Summary:

I have always looked at the Sony VIAO as a Mac-Book-Killer; it is a premium laptop with Windows in the same sense that the Mac Book is a premium laptop with OSX. This laptop comes pretty well equipped with a CD-ROM, Webcam, Card Reader, 4 USB Ports and an HDMI port. I have had it 5 months and it is yet to crash on me, over-heat, or have any dead-pixels. It does seem to need a lot of Sony VIAO updates though – one such case is the Wi-Fi Update, unless you install it, the Wi-Fi will drop out for no reason, will fail to switch networks unless you restart it, and chooses to use the least amount of signal power, even if you are plugged in; no worries though, the update fixes all of this.

I also am terribly appreciative that this laptop comes with no bloat-ware. Other than MS Office Trial and Norton 365 trial, the only thing installed is the Sony VIAO software. Nothing irritates me more than booting up and HP or Dell for the first time and having to spend 90 minutes uninstalling junk-ware.

Bottom Line:

I would recommend this laptop to anyone who asks, with its reasonable (actually great) price, relative ease of use (do not worry, the updates are easy to install), and great reliability, I think this is the perfect laptop for any business or individual who uses their laptop to conduct business.

Veeam Backup & Replication v7

Pros:

Fast, reliable, dynamic backups in the virtual environment

Cons:

A new software with limited (but increasing) support in the Blog-O-Sphere for those issues not yet mentioned on the Official Veeam Form and KB Documents.

Summary:

This is a promising piece of backup software and I would not be surprised if it becomes the new Gold-Standard as to which all backups software’s will be measured against in the next few years. It comes standard with a lot of great features such as Synthetic-Full backups, WAN accelerators, and a very strong de-duplication system. Tested on a VM Cluster (of three physical hosts), it had no trouble keeping track of a constantly shifting number of VMs.

While it may have been able to back up the Physical Hosts, I was unable to find the feature with any relative ease. I also was a little baffled with the Application based restores for items in Active Directory, MS Exchange, and Databases – eventually after reading through A LOT of documentation, I was able to master it, but it was a very time-intensive matter that some of the other backup software’s do with much greater ease.

This software is also a little cheaper than some of its alternatives as well; with the same “per processor” costing model of competitors, it seems to have all the features for the basic backup, with the option to add-on for anything you might not need up front. A lot of people call this nickel-and-dime, but I would call it paying for what you need and not what you don’t.

Bottom Line:

I would recommend this software to a friend/fellow System Admin – with many great features and a lower cost per processor I think it’s an incredible new standard to measure backup software’s against.​

Microsoft Exchange 2013

Pros:

… Still Waiting…

Cons:

Nothing like the previous versions. Many glitches that need Hot-fixes. Will stop working with no warning and requires system reboot.

Summary:

Microsoft’s Exchange 2013, I was not looking to start off my first product review on a bad note, but someone needs to lay down the ground work on why Exchange 2013 was poorly executed. I would really like to think that Microsoft has a better quality assurance process than the minds that released this version of Exchange, but these are the same people that brought us Windows ME (still waiting on an apology) and Vista. I would not recommend this product to any organization who does not have a full IT Department dedicated to supporting email up-time. Any organization who has less than 100 users best stay away from this version of Exchange and move toward Office 365.

That said, it does make me wonder if that was not Mycroft’s intention the whole time – to just encourage a movement to their cloud based subscription services.

Bottom Line:

Above all else, I would not recommend updating/migrating to this product unless it’s an absolute organization requirement.