Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Azure desktop backup

A recent announcement that Azure backup was now supporting desktop operating systems I believe is a very important step in the on going move to cloud based solutions for many reasons.

You can read more about the information here:

but what I thought I’d do is step you through setting up Azure backup for a desktop machines.


The first step is to login to your Azure management portal and create a backup vault if you don’t already have one. You can, of course, create as many different vaults as you desire. Why would you do this? You may want a vault hosted in different data centre, or maybe you want different vaults to separate data.

Once you have logged into you Azure portal locate the Recovery Services option on the left and select it. This will show you whether you have an existing backup vaults.


In this case we want to create a totally new vault so select the New button in the lower left of the window.


Now because you had already navigated to Recovery Services in the main Azure portal you will automatically be shown the correct location to create a new Backup Vault as you can see above.

To continue, select Backup vault from the two options in the middle.


You’ll now be prompted to enter a name for your new vault and a data center in which the vault will be located.

Once you have completed these options select Create Vault in the lower right of the window.


You should now see the vault being created in the Azure console.


Once the new vault has been created if you select the vault name in the Azure portal you will be taken to information about the new vault.

Here you will find links to download the vault credentials and the agent for the workstation. We will need to access these from the workstation (or server) we wish to backup).


I you select the Servers option at the top of the page you will see that no servers are currently registered with this vault. That is is no devices are backing up into this vault currently. To change this, log into the Azure portal on the machine you wish to backup.


Once you have logged into the Azure portal on the client machine, select Recovery Services and then select the Backup Vault name you just created. You should see the screen above.


From here, select the link to Download vault credentials.


This will prompt you with a file to download. Select a location on your client computer to save this file.


With that complete select the link to download the appropriate client for the machine you are on. In this case it will be the first link since we are installing onto a a Windows 8 desktop.


This will again prompt you with a file to download and save. Do so and then run this download, which is the backup client.


Immediately when the agent runs it will check your system to ensure it has all the required software. If it doesn’t it will download and install what is required as shown above.


You’ll then be prompted for a location to install the programs files as well a location of the backup cache.

Once you have made any desired changes here select the Next button to continue.


You’ll then be prompted to enter any proxy details. In most cases there won’t be a proxy so you can press the Next button to proceed.


You’ll now be prompted about any Windows features that may be required. In most cases these will already be installed so press the Install button again to proceed.


The Azure backup agent and any prerequisite software will now be installed.


When the installation has completed you can simply close the installer or register your machine and set up a backup. To do this select the Proceed to Registration button.


The registration wizard should now commence. The first step in this process is to locate the vault credential files you downloaded previously to your workstation. To locate the vault credentials select the Browse button and locate the file on your system.


Once selected the credentials will be verified (they do expire after a few days so it is always a good idea to this registration process immediately).

You can see that all the information matches the Backup Vault created previously so select the Next button to proceed.


The next step is to enter a passphrase to protect the backed up information on this machine. In most cases the best practice is to select the Generate Passphrase button to create a complex and secure passphrase for you.


It is also best practice to select a location to save this passphrase in a text file for later reference. As the dialog notes:

“If your passphrase is lost or forgotten, the data cannot be recovered. Microsoft Online Services does not save or manage the passphrase”.

So ensure you save that passphrase file somewhere (not only on the backed up machine!) secure because you are going to need it!

Select the Finish button to continue.


The server will now be registered with Azure Recovery Services.


When the process is complete, leave the Launch Microsoft Azure recovery Services Agent option checked and select the Close button.


The Azure Backup should launch as shown above. To create a new backup job select Schedule Backup in the top right of the window.


Select Next at the Getting Started screen.


Use the Add Items, Remove Items and Exclusion Settings buttons to configure the information from the machine you wish to backup.

When configuration is complete select the Next button to continue with the wizard.


On the next screen select the time and regularity for the backup to execute as well retention range.

When configuration is complete select the Next button to continue with the wizard.


If everything appears correct at the conformation screen select the Finish button.


When the schedule has been created successfully press the Close button to complete the process.


The console should now report that a backup job has been scheduled as shown above.


If at anytime you wish to run the backup simply select the Back Up Now option in the top right Actions area.


Then select the Back Up button to commence.


So that is easy it is now to backup a Windows client (and server) to Azure.


If you look back in the Azure portal on the Servers option for your Backup Vault you should see the machine you just configured as shown above.

I think that by extending Azure backups to Windows clients Microsoft has made a very smart move. I would urge IT Professionals and resellers to take a close look at Azure backup, especially of desktops, as I believe it is going to have a major impact on the industry. This is only the first towards something much bigger in my books which I’ll speak more about in an upcoming blog post.

I can also see the day when every Windows machine and potentially mobile device will automatically backup to Azure without any additional cost, given how cheap web storage is these days!

Look out for more posts on Azure backups including how to restore and the differences between Azure backup and what you are doing now.

Business Basics–3 of 5


This is the third in a 5 part series of articles about improving your business. it is aimed at those people who run a small business but could just as well apply to anyone earning an income. In the article I'll focus on one or two main points around the theme but remember there is a lot more to explored in each topic.

The 5 topics that I will cover in these articles when it comes to business are:

1. Reason

2. Revenue

3. Resources

4. Risk

5. Reduction

These topics are drawn from the mentoring model I use with my students and is somewhat unique to other methods that are common place. This means you'll need to prepare yourself for concepts that are very different from 'industry standard' so I encourage you to keep an open mind on what I present here and at least test it against your current version of business reality. Please feel free to provide any feedback on what I present here either in a comment or to me directly. I welcome all feedback and opinions. All I ask is that you be respectful because if you don’t I reserve the right to remove or ignore such comments.

If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to read the other parts in this series - Reason and Revenue - to give you a better context of my thought process. Also don't forget that this is only part 2 of 5 in series and I'd encourage you to read them all and then let me know what you think.

Now part 3 – Resources

What do you believe is your most precious resource? Interestingly, I find most people overlook what is clearly the most limited resource they have and in fact everyone has. Here’s a hint. It is something that you never get more of. Something that everyone gets the same amount of. It can’t be saved, stored or hoarded and it is something that expires constantly. Can you guess yet? Yes, it is time.

The most precious resource we all have is time, because we never get more. We also don’t know how much time we will get on this earth but we know that it will end at some point. Yet, even though time is the most precious resource we have many people don’t value it and continue to waste it.

Every person has the same amount of hours in a day that everyone else has, yet some seem to get much more done than others. Why? because they appreciate the value of their time and elect to not waste it. Like any resource you need to determine the how to allocate your time to achieve what you want. This goes back to my article on reason. What do you actually want to use your time to achieve? Is the question that needs to be answered first. The longer that question goes unanswered, the more time you waste.

The challenging fact is that we simply do not have enough time to allocate to everything that we wish to achieve. This therefore means we need to prioritise how we wish to allocate our time. if you don’t have priorities on how you wish to spend your time then you are likely to waste it and unfortunately as is the nature of time, you will never get it back. This is reason why you need to make the most of it here and now.

So many people are always so ‘busy’, but ‘busy’ doing what? They have no time to do the things they need. They always seem to unable to do the things they want or need to do. Why is that? In simple terms, they are allocating their precious time resources on things that don’t effectively provide for their goals. Just because you are ‘busy’ doesn’t mean you are using time effectively at all. Typically, it indicates that you are not allocating your time effectively at all, you are in fact wasting it just as readily as if you where sitting on couch doing nothing.

The first step I encourage people to do to help them make better use of their time is to track, in as much detail as they can, exactly where they spend their time. After about two weeks you get a pretty good idea of where it is going. For many it is surprising to firstly find where they are actually spending time and secondly how much time they are spending doing low return activities (such was watching TV).

The amount of hours you have in a day is limited. Once you factor in sleep you are probably left with around 16 hours. That is now your starting point. If you have a plan for what you want to achieve each day you then need to allocate how much time to dedicate to that. Chances are that you are not going to fit it all in and now you need to start prioritising and looking for ways to optimise your time.

The time that you may spend mindlessly watching television, for example, could part of that be allocated to learning that foreign language you want to become fluent in? That time you spend bringing work home, wouldn’t you rather be spending that with your family? If you start to value your time and see it as a finite resource you pretty soon become much more discerning as to how and where you allocate it.

The best step to start valuing your time is to stop giving it away for free. If others are not respectful of your time then they really don’t deserve it. You don’t need to be rude about it, however you should not hesitate to remind others that even though their time may not be valuable yours is. Respecting your time will automatically give you respect of others time, which puts in you in good stead with others.

You can also optimise your time by developing systems to automate your time. You can look for more effective ways to make use of time. You can also outsource many of the tasks that consume your low productive time to others. Remember, there is a limit to how many active hours you have available in each day, you need to use them for the activities that will provide you with the highest level of return.

This means using things like technology properly. Stop fiddling and learn how to make the best use of all the resources you have. When you have accomplished this look at what you can employ to give you the results that you want. However, above everything else start valuing your time appropriately and then and only then will you stop wasting it and start achieving what you want.

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti at

Globalization of SMB–Webinar Series












I am honoured to be part of the Globalization of SMB webinar series conducted by Karl Palachuk. I will be featuring on the next episode on Tuesday the January 27th from 0AM Pacific time live (that is 4am here in Sydney Australia).

You can register for the complete series at:

but they will all be recorded for your listening and viewing pleasure after the fact. You can listen to the first episode featuring Harry Brelsford right now.

I’ll be aiming to provide my experiences and thoughts on how globalisation has changed all business, especially technology and especially the SMB space and how that trend is only accelerating.

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer during this session please send them to me at or @directorcia.

I look forward to seeing you at the event.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Troubleshooting Outlook in Office 365

One of the most common frustrations I see with people configuring Office 365 is setting up mailboxes. The frustration generally occurs when the autodiscover process fails.

The above video give you a good background on the autodiscover and Outlook set up process as well as the tools you can implement to resolve these frustrating issue. Normally, the solution is quite straight forward but you need to understand the process that Outlook uses when connecting to Office 365. This video will show you that and more.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 68

Here I speak with SharePoint MVP John Liu about SharePoint workflows. John’s shares what workflows are, how to create them and what business uses these could provide. He discusses with me how workflows are an intelligent method of automating business process and boosting productivity by removing reparative tasks. The great thing is that you can use workflows with SharePoint on premise or via Office 365.

You can listen to the episode at:

or subscribe to this and all episodes in iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

Episode Resources

SharePoint Designer 2013
Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition (with Update 4)
Custom Activities - these can all be used on Office 365 or SP2013 OnPrem
Office Dev Patterns and Practices samples
Paul Culmsee has a 12-part multi series that’s very fun to follow
Plumsail has a pack of custom activities that can be purchased (~$500) and more importantly, support.