Need to Know Podcast–Episode 119

Marc reports back on what happened during his first trip to the MVP Summit in Redmond. You’ll learn his experiences with the events, the people and the places as well as an interesting aside on Microsoft grass! You’ll also get the latest Office 365 and Azure news so listen for details of our roving reporter in the belly of the beast.

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Automated patching for Azure VMS

Getting started with the new Azure AD Management experience

The Azure portals

Master the art of stage presence with James Whittaker

Azure detailed login auditing

Microsoft Teams

Consider the following

This is the second part of my presentation “Making money from the cloud”. You can find the full slides at:

and the first part at:

We live in exponential times


One of the major changes that is a reality in today’s world is the fact that millennials have become the dominant component of the workforce. This also means their dominance will continue to increase as will their influence inside organisations as they move into positions of responsibility and power inside all businesses.

The question therefore becomes, what are you doing to cater for this generation? They work in very different ways from previous generations you will soon find out. Don’t believe me? Ok, tell me what happens when you send a millennial an email? You never get a reply is what happens. Why? Because they don’t use emails to communicate. They typically use social media or chat, especially Facebook. They are going to expect the same style of “social” communications tools when they work in a business. They are also going to expect communication channels such as Slack (and Microsoft Teams now) where they can contribute and be heard broadly and publically across the organisation. If the only tool your business communications support is email, don’t expect it to be a place where the best millennial talent wants to work!

Coupled with the change in worker demographic, the vast majority of interactions people have with technology and information is now via mobile devices, typically their phone. Fewer and fewer people are remaining tethered to a network cable, desktop and cubical in the business. You want your sales people out talking with customers. You want your support staff out with customers in the real world. In fact you want your whole business out in the listening to what customers want and they can only do this if they have access to information through their mobile devices.

So how are you enabling your mobile workforce? Are you supporting and encouraging staff to work from the field? Are you enabling them to work when it suits them to provide a better work/life balance? If you aren’t, then there is a good chance you won’t retain them for long. Work is no longer somewhere you go to, it is something you do. Smart businesses reward their staff on what they do, not how they do it.

We are still at the beginning of the mobile revolution. What happens when countries like India, China, Indonesia and like come fully online? When they do, it will be via mobile devices not traditional desktops. How as a business are you going to enable, and also importantly, control this mobility? How are you going to enable ease of access but also ensure your information remains secure? There are no longer any borders to your network. You business information is free to roam outside your walls, wherever your users go. How are you dealing with that?

Mobile technology puts a powerful computing device within everyone’s hands cheaply. Combined with cloud services like Office 365, Azure, AWS and like it also gives them access to computing power beyond the wildest dreams of the largest governments just a few years back. The cost of all this is mere pennies per month. Importantly, it is also available freely to anyone. Anyone can sign up today for a 30 day trial of services like Office 365 and Azure, no matter where they are in the world. Technology has become pervasive, it is everywhere and technology alone is no longer the differentiator. How you actually use technology is the main determination of how successful you are personally and your business is.

Such pervasiveness allows anyone to deliver a product or service just about anywhere in the world. Mobile app stores are available to anyone who has a mobile device 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Successful businesses understand their greatest opportunity if outside their existing markets. As mentioned before, the sheer number of potential consumer is countries like India, China and Indonesia should have any business salivating ate the prospect of selling into such markets. With technology, it is possible today. Right now.

You can never be a success in business if you do what everyone else is doing. If you are simply selling hardware items you are in a race to the bottom with companies who are larger, better funded and more suited to the commodity game. The rules of this game you should be following are – if you can’t win, don’t play!

Here in Australia we have seen the demise of large businesses such as Dick Smith and Master’s who tried to play the commodity game against stronger players and lost everything. Even our biggest retailers, Coles and Woolworths, are struggling and deathly afraid of players like Amazon coming into our market, which they are by the way:

Amazon plans to ‘destroy’ Australia’s retail industry

The only conclusion a rational individual can make is that the commodity business is for ‘mugs’ and you shouldn’t be in it, yet you continue to see so many holding dearly onto it as their sole business model. Right. Good luck with that.

The world is a very different place from what many believe. The evidence is all around us, plain as day, yet many fail to heed the new reality. In the face of just points the mentioned here alone, you should now be looking to go back to the drawing board and chart a new plan for the future. There is massive opportunities for those businesses that embrace these changes because many are still living in denial. Yes, change is hard but it is also a fact of life. Once you embrace it, it won’t control you, you won’t fear it and you’ll see the opportunities were others only see threats.

We live in exponential times. The actions that you take right here and right now are what will determine your personal and business viability in the future. Grasp the opportunity or fade away. The choice is yours.

They shall not grow old

As a student of military history it is easy to gloss over the personal impact that war reeks. Millions of people have willingly and unwillingly sacrificed their lives in the human experience that we call war, which unfortunately continues to this day.

Reflecting on the grandeous ambitions of a war to end all wars (1914 – 1918) it is truly sad to see that what it really brought to the fore were more effective methods of killing more people. Resulting in tremendous waste of human life.

Into this hellfire marched many Australia soldiers to serve for what they believed to be right. We can certainly fault that naivety given the hindsight of history, but we cannot fault their sacrifice and dedication to duty.

It is for this reason, on this date, the 11th day of the 11 month, we pause to remember theirs (and others) commitment and belief to the future which we now enjoy.

We are a product of our past and soldiers like many of those from the First World War gave up their future for something they believed in. Being right or wrong is simply a judgement history makes, however at its core is an individual making a decision that, for many, cost them their lives for just such a belief.

Today we should focus on the those that scarified in a way that many of us will never experience or hope to experience. Our legacy should be to leave the world a better place, to live up to the expectations of those who had their lives tragically cut short.

If nothing else, take a moment and simply remember those that fought and died for causes they held true and hope that you are never put to such a test.

Lest we forget.

For more information on the Australian Battlefields of World War One visit my historical site:

Enabling Azure AD Domain Services

One of the last remaining pieces of infrastructure that was required to either stay on premises or be virtualised was the Active Directory Domain Controller (DC). That is no longer the case as Microsoft has made its Directory Services as a Service available from Azure.

What that effectively now means is that you no longer need a dedicated box (physical or virtualised) for Active Directory, you can simply consume it as a service directly from Azure.

Given that this is a new Azure service there are some challenges. The main one is that Azure Active Directory Services is only available in the older Service Manager portal, not the newer Resource Manager model where everything should really be created these days. Azure Active Directory Services will be coming to the Resource Manager, however at the moment, we need to deploy it using the older Service Manager.

In preparation, I’ve used Azure AD Connect to synchronise users from an existing on-premises Active Directory to Office 365. This has also created accounts for those users in Azure AD. I’ve then added a paid Azure subscription to my free Office 365 Azure AD to enable all the services required.

Next, I created a Virtual Network in both Service Manager and Resource Manager. I then connected these together using a site to site VPN. The idea is that the Service Manager network will simply be used for Directory Services, while the Resource Manager network will hold all the other services such as member servers and so on.

Now, with the site to site VPN between Azure Service Manager (ASM) and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) in place, I navigate to the ASM portal.


Here I select my Active Directory option and then name of the Active Directory.


I select the Groups option at the top of the page and create a new security group called:

AAD DC Administrators

It is to create a group EXACTLY as it appears above.

Into this new security group add all the users from your AD that you want to be effectively Domain Administrators in Azure AD Domain Services.


Now select the Configure option at the top of the page.


Scroll down the page until you locate the Domain Services area as shown above.

Select the Yes option to enable the service.


You’ll also need to check that the DNS Domain and Virtual Network options are correct. in this case I’ve select the custom domain I have in Office 365 and synchronised from an on-premises AD.

Select Save at the bottom of the page to complete the configuration.


Azure will now hum away for about 35 minutes enabling the service for you.


When the enablement process is complete you should now see two IP addresses at the bottom of the domain services area as shown above.

You should update the virtual network on the ARM network to point to these DNS servers on the ASM network. You can think of it like the Domain Controller for the whole network is now on the ASM network which is reached by the ARM network across the VPN.

So let’s say you now spin up a member server on the ARM network. You add this member server to the domain as you would normally. When you do, you’ll be prompted for credentials to allow this. Here you’ll need to use a member of the security group AAD DC Administrators you created earlier. Apart from that everything is exactly the same as if there was a physical domain controller in the network.


So your next question is probably going to be about to manage this ‘DC as a service’? Easy. Simply add the AD management tools to any member server and as you can see from the above, the domain appears exactly like it would if there as an on-premises server on the network. If you go in and look a the domain controllers on the network you’ll two, as see above. They have a random GUID and obvious correlate to the two IP addresses provided by the Directory Service during configuration.

If you then elect to say, remove the on-premises domain controller you’ll have all your users and a fully functioning domain in Azure. You’ll have your AD now as service rather than requiring dedicated equipment, which is far more flexible as easier to manage. You’ll be able to manage your users, group policy and the like just as you could on premises, but now totally in the cloud.

At the moment there is some extra configuration because of the necessity of an ASM network for Directory Services but in time everything will move to ARM which will make it even easier to have your domain controllers as a service!

For more information on Azure AD Domain Services visit:

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 4

This is the fourth article in a series of typical customers questions around Office 365. These questions were part of presentation I did with two other resellers at the Australian Microsoft Partner Conference in 2016. You’ll find the other parts of the series here:

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 1

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 2

Answering common questions with Office 365 Part 3

The question for this article is:

My team isn’t in one location and staying in touch is a challenge. Email is not the answer as we already get too much of that as it is. How can I allow my team members to stay in touch in real time and be connected better so we can respond to customers faster?

There are obviously many potential solutions here that Office 365 can provide, however the biggest question is around mobility and real time communications.

This means that the solutions that makes the most sense are ones that are available on all platforms, both desktop and phone. Now the question also doesn’t speak to ‘collaboration’ per se, it simply talks about ‘staying in touch’. So to narrow our choices somewhat, let’s focus on Office 365 services that can typically replace the bulk of email communications inside a business.

The most likely candidate to replace many email conversations is Skype for Business. This will allow employees to conduct things such as text chats, one on one phone conversations as well as group video meetings if required. It cam even be connected to normal phone lines.

What is Skype for Business?

Skype for Business has a desktop app as well apps for all mobile platforms. You can also attend Skype for Business meetings with nothing more than a modern browser.

Download Skype for Business across all your devices

All Skype for Business chat conversations are automatically recorded within each users inbox for later reference and is also interfaced directly to each users Outlook so they can schedule meetings with others directly from their personal calendar. When they don’t have access to their Outlook calendar they can use the Outlook Web Scheduler to create meetings for anyone, inside or outside the business, to attend. Skype for Business meetings can also be recorded and output from those recordings could be uploaded to Office 365 Video for internal use or YouTube if for public consumption.

Now Skype for Business is probably more about immediate communications, much like using a phone. It is however going to eliminate many of those annoying emails that require only a simple response. For communications that you want to be more persistent, in that people can revisit topics at their leisure, you probably want to consider something like Yammer.

Yammer is an enterprise social network that allows people to post information and others to comment on it. Information appears in user’s feeds as part of their membership of different groups within the Yammer network.

The Business of Yammer

Yammer allows the posting of text discussions, images, links, videos and so on. It also supports standard social networking features such as ‘@’ mentions and ‘hashtags’ to allow people to easily focus on relevant information. Yammer also allows you to create internal or external groups, typically focused on a single topic. These groups can be have their access restricted to only designated members (for example management).

Getting Started with Yammer

There are Yammer apps on all platforms and on a desktop you simply access Yammer via a browser. When a user looks at their Yammer they will see all messages directed to them as well as other relevant messages they have not have directly participated in as yet.

The real bonus about Yammer information is that it is easily searchable using the search box in the top left hand corner of the browser page. This makes it quick and easy to locate information.

By making information that was once siloed public in Yammer it makes it easier for people to not only find the information they need but also share with others. Why email when you can Yammer?

The final option to look at here is the new Microsoft Teams, which can be thought of as basically a combination of the features of Skype for Business and Yammer with SharePoint also thrown into the mix. With Teams, messages are persistent like they are in Yammer but it is extremely easy to jump into a direct video conference using Skype for Business from Teams.

Teams also has apps on all devices, including a dedicated version for Windows 10 now!

Teams is more a collaboration solution than a pure communications service. However, most collaboration challenges require communications, so Teams is probably the right place to start if you are looking at sharing and working on files and documents, even down the track.

The great thing about Office 365 is these are only a few of the services that you can use to help make your employees more connected and productive in real time. The other great thing is that many of the services detailed here are integrated through the rest of the Office 365 suite. For example, in SharePoint Online, you can see who last modified a file and quickly launch a Skype for Business conversation with them as you can see directly whether they are online.

Working out what the right tool or tools are for organisation is probably something you’ll discover over time and with experience. However, services like Skype for Business and Yammer are a great place to start when it comes to easing the burden of email overload on staff.

Watch out for the answers to more common questions with Office 365 coming soon.

We live in exponential times

This is the first section of my presentation “Making money from the cloud”. You can find the full slides at:


The pace of technological change today is unprecedented. However, most fail to fully appreciate how fast indeed the world is changing around them. This means most don’t really understand the world in which they live.

We all get set in our ways and become comfortable with the familiar because we don’t like change, however the more we fail to embrace change the more obsolete we become. Success today is achieved by those willing to challenge themselves with the ‘uncomfortable’ for which the payoff is knowledge.

A thought provoking video on this topic is The Fourth Industrial Revolution created by the World Economic Forum. 

One of the key points made by the video is the following:

“Almost anyone will be able to invent new products and services cheaply and quickly”

The impact of that is going to be immense, in every industry. However, it is going to have the greatest impact on those who are locked into the status quo and the belief that they are immune from competition.


Most people and businesses today believe they reside in a linear world, in that if you do X, Y happens. Alternatively, if you wait X then the result will only have progressed Y ahead.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. We live in exponential times where a change X results in YN difference, with N constantly increasing. Thus, the further you get along the horizontal axis X, the great the change in Y becomes, trending to vertical.

Thus, the longer you wait in an exponential world, the steeper the curve. The more energy you need to expend to simply keep up. However, the biggest challenge is simply the fact that many still have linear expectations and face an ever growing expectations gaps between where they believe they are and where the reality is.

A great quote which I think sums this up well comes from the former CEO of GE, Jack Welch:

“If the rate of change on the outside exceed the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”

The first challenge is therefore to accept that we live in exponentially changing times. The second challenge is then to actually adapt to that and do something to deal with this. One of the most common excuses hear today is that ‘things are moving so fast, we just can’t keep up’. Yup, welcome to the exponential world. Now show me what you are doing about it? Simply whining about the challenges doesn’t make them go away and every minute you waste doing this, the further things progress. Thus, execution is what matters here.

The greater you allow the gap between belief and reality to become, the greater the risk becomes when change is forced upon you. The longer you wait, the large you allow that gap to become, the more violent the change will be to the point that the chances of survival are minimal. In short, the bigger the gap, the greater the chance of an extinction event, a al Mr Welch.

Like most things however, there is an alternate way of looking at this. If you have an open mind set you’ll see nothing but opportunity. You’ll see that thanks to today’s exponential times you’ll need to invest a very small amount of resources to yield significant resources. The scale and speed you achieve with technology now is unprecedented. Tools such as Azure and Office 365 give ANYONE access to the same resources. They provide the ability to automate and scale beyond anything that was previously possible. The trick is that you can only see these opportunities if you have an open mindset!


Evidence of our exponential world is most evident through the technology we use. The above diagram show the rapid exponential decline in storage pricing with the rapid exponential increase in storage capacity (taken from

I’ll dig into some other major trends that we see happening in our business world today thanks to technology in upcoming articles, but it is important I feel to set the scene here about how we are living in an exponential world whether you like or not. The question is, as you can’t change your environment, how are you managing your response to it?

The rate of change will only continue to increase. The actions that you take right here and right now are what will determine your personal and business viability in the future. Grasp the opportunity or fade away. The choice is yours.

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 118

After the usual cloud news wrap up with both of us Marc dives deep into Azure backup with Trinadh who is the Program Manager for Azure IaaS backup. He also ropes in fellow MVP Stephan Budo to learn more about what Azure backup can do and what options are available.

You can listen to this episode directly at:

or subscribe via iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.


Marc Kean – @marckean

Stephane Budo – @_TheWorks_

Robert Crane – @directorcia

Dynamics 365 now generally available

Microsoft Flow and PowerApps now generally available

New scheduling experience for Outlook for iOS

Azure Onboarding Guide for IT organizations

Free Skype for Business webinar

The co-author of our book:

Getting Started with Skype for Business

Greg Plum, is running a free webinar about Skype for Business can save you money by eliminating many services for which you are probably paying extra for that are in fact included natively with Skype for Business.

You’ll find the link to register here:

How Skype for Business Saved Me $2,750 and 120 Hours a Year!

If you are not using Skype for Business and you have Office 365, then you should be! Buy the book and join webinar to learn more!