Become Microsoft 365 Certified with CIAOPS

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I’m pleased to announce that I’m taking all of my experience as a Microsoft Certified Trainer and learnings with Microsoft 365 and creating a 7 week intensive study program dedicated to helping people pass the recently announced Microsoft MS-100 certification exam.

In broad strokes this exam covers:

– Design and Implement Microsoft 365 Services

– Manage User Identity and Roles

– Manage Access and Authentication

– Plan Office 365 Workloads and Applications

The CIAOPS program will provide 2 hours per week of presented content (lecture + lab) as well as additional content each will be expected to completed and submitted prior to the next week. In my experience, having ‘required homework’ is the best way to ensure that you are learning the content. All the material will be available in a downloadable portable for access on demand (including presented content). Having the material on demand means that you can attend this course even if you can’t make the live sessions.

This program is limited to a maximum of 15 students and is filling fast, so if you want to take advantage of this round then please contact me via email (director@ciaops.com) to express your interest. The cost for anyone not in my CIAOPS Patron program is AU$399 inc GST for all the material.

You may want to read my thoughts on why I believe certification is becoming increasingly important with the cloud:

The benefits of certification

Stay tuned for more certification training programs like this that will be available from the CIAOPS.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 199

I speak with Program Manager Windows Defender ATP, Iaan Wiltshire, from Microsoft all about this security offering and how it fits into the market. We discuss what Defender ATP is and what it includes, so if you are keen to hear how Microsoft is integrating threat management from the desktop through to the cloud, listen along.

Brenton and I, of course, give you all the latest Microsoft Cloud news in this first episode for 2019. There is still lots happening so listen in to stay up to date.

Also, don’t forget our invite to join us during the live recording of episode 200 on the 21st of January 2019. Just sign up at http://bit.ly/n2k200

Take a listen and let us know what you think –feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:

https://ciaops.podbean.com/e/episode-199-iaan-wiltshire/

Subscribe via iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/ciaops-need-to-know-podcasts/id406891445?mt=2

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ciaops/need-to-know-podcast?refid=stpr

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

Resources

Iaan.Wiltshire@microsoft.com

@contactbrenton

@directorcia

MSP risks for clients

Questions to ask your MSP

Report into MSP hacking

Discounted cyber security for your client

December updates video

Ignite 2019 – Sydney agenda

Contextualizing Attacker Activity within Session in Exchange Online

MyAnalytics, the fitness tracker for work is now more broadly available

Watch Microsoft Stream on the go

SharePoint Roadmap Pitstop: December 2018

Introducing new advanced security and compliance offerings for Microsoft 365

Evaluating Windows Defender ATP

Windows defender Test Ground

Microsoft Security Blog

Defender ATP Overview

Using PowerShell to download all my Office 365 scripts together

I really like GitHub but the problem is that it is really a developer not IT Pro style environment. That means there is no easy way (that I know of at least) to simply to copy every file in a repository to a directory on your local computer. Yes, you can do that with Visual Code like I do, but what if you just want a complete copy so you can run the scripts that I have created quickly and easily?

Have no fear, PowerShell to the rescue once again.

I have just created the following script:

https://github.com/directorcia/Office365/blob/master/o365-getrepo.ps1

which, when run, will basically grab every file in my Office 365 repository and download it to the directory you nominate in the variable at the top of the script.

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So the process is to copy the above script into the PowerShell ISE. Modify the variable $DestinationPath to suit your environment and then simply run the script.

The great thing is that you can re-rerun the script at any time to grab the latest updates I have made in that repository.


My software and services 2019

startup-photos

Here’s last year’s post for comparison:

My software and services – 2018

All my PC’s are running the latest version of Windows 10 (1809) without any issues and none during the upgrade process either. I do have Windows 10 and Office Insider builds happening on an original Surface PC as a testbed. All Windows 10 Pro machines are directly joined to Azure AD and managed via Intune. All machines run no third party AV as Windows Defender is a far better option in my experience.

The WD Sentinel DX4000 Runs Windows Storage Server 2008 and I would really like to upgrade this to a newer version of Windows Server, but given an in place upgrade is risky, it will probably be replaced at some stage. However, for the time being it is till doing its job but I’m starting to get more and more issues connecting to it using the Windows 10 Pro machines that are purely Azure AD joined so I maybe forced to make a change soon. I am kind of hanging out till I get better broadband when the NBN rolls into my location (due any day they tell me). When that does happen I’m going to see whether I can shift my whole on Windows Storage Server infrastructure completely to Azure and access it all remotely. I’m kind of hesitant to shell out for new hardware that I don’t really need. Moving all or part of my environment to Azure is going to give much more experience in accomplishing this which is a good things as more and more businesses are looking to do exactly the same. If I can lift and shift to Azure and with all my workstations now directly Azure AD joined it should be a seamless experience, however I won’t know until I try it. Stay tuned here for progress.

My two main tenants are an Office 365 E5 demo and Microsoft 365 Business production environments. The Windows 10 Pro machines are Azure AD joined to the Microsoft 365 Business production domain.

I use all the major browsers:

– Edge – mainly for logging into my production tenant

– Firefox – used with demo tenants

– Chrome – mainly used for non Office/Microsoft 365 browsing. I log into the Chrome with my Google identity to sync extension, bookmarks, etc as well as login to Google properties like YouTube

– Internet Explorer – mainly for logging into my Office 365 E5 tenant and the Azure environment that is also connected to that

I also generally use in private sessions in all the browsers to move between different online identities as needed.

Services like SharePoint Online and OneDrive I use regularly both in the demo and production tenant. I have the OneDrive sync client installed, running and connected to various locations on my production tenant. I am looking forward to the up coming OneDrive sync client feature that well allow me to sync across different tenants with the one sync client. That will allow me to easily sync both my production and demo environments.

I used to have Skype for Business automatically load at start up but that has been replaced by Microsoft Teams which is now my main messaging application. All the CIAOPS Patron resources like the intranet, team, etc all reside in the Office 365 E5 demo tenant but I connect to it on my desktop normally via an Azure B2B guest account from my production tenant. Thus, I can admin the Patron resources in a browser if need be but I get the same experience on my desktop as any Patron would. Handy to know what works and doesn’t work with Microsoft Teams guest access.

I use Lastpass to keep my passwords and private information secure. It allows me to do things like generate and store unique passwords for each website that I sign up for. It is also available across all browsers on my machine (including Microsoft Edge). I also now also use Lastpass to store secure notes.

The extensions I run in all my browsers are:

LastPass

The extensions I use in Chrome are:

Windows 10 accounts (allows Single Sign In to Azure Ad identity)

Windows Defender Browser protection

Pushbullet which connects alerts from my Android phone to my desktop browser and allow me to share information easily between them.

GetPocket which allows me to save and categorise websites URLs, which I then typically read at a later time. Has its own dedicated mobile that I can use on any device.

The Great Suspender which puts unused tabs in Chrome to ‘sleep’ to save memory.

Nosili which provides productivity enhancement thanks to background sounds. My favourite is rain.

Timeline Support which integrates the browser history into Windows Timeline. Really, really handy across multiple machines.

I use the automation sites If This Then That and Zapier to automate many different tasks. A good example of one of these is automatically publishing to various social media sites. I am now using Microsoft Flow more and more for automation and I am still looking to dive deeper using things like Azure Functions in 2018. I also use Socialoomph to post precisely scheduled social media posts, however I am aiming to replace this totally with Microsoft Flow this year.

For my Office 365 and Azure email newsletters I use Mailchimp.

My preferred public social networks for business, in order are:

1. Twitter

2. Linkedin

3. Facebook

Google Plus, which I use for posting my blog announcements to is going away shortly, so that’ll be one less thing to worry about.

The Apowersoft software allows me to display both iOS and Android devices on my Windows desktop which is really handy for demonstrations and presentations.

I also use Yammer extensively but for more specialised roles and thus don’t consider it really a ‘public’ social network, more a private one.

I consume a lot of content from YouTube both for business and personal interest. I also also use YouTube extensively for my publicly available training video training.

Microsoft Office desktop software is still part of my everyday workday via applications such as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. I use the desktop version of Outlook on my Surface Pro 4 which lives on my desk but I only use Outlook Web App on my travelling Surface Pro 3 device. I could happily not use Outlook on the desktop any more I believe but I still use so I understand the experience for most users. However, I do see the day when Outlook on the desktop begins to lose its appeal.

One of the things I have just added to my desktop version of Outlook is a digital certificate that signs every email that I now send. This helps the receiver confirm that the message they have received is in fact from me and that it hasn’t been altered in any way. I need to spend some more time playing around with email certificates to understand what role they can play in enhancing email security. Add yet another item to the ‘to-do’ list.

The key application from the suite for me is OneNote. OneNote is my go to Swiss Army knife for just about everything digital. I use it to capture all sort of data. I even use it as a diary as I have detailed previous here:

One of the ways I use OneNote

The reason OneNote is key is because:

1. Just about everything I put in there us searchable

2. It is freely available across all platforms.

3. All my information is synced and accessible on all devices.

4. It is available on the web or offline if needed.

There are now two version of OneNote, the Windows store OneNote and OneNote 2016. Microsoft have confirmed that there will be no future upgrades to OneNote 2016 and in fact they are starting to remove it from Office 365 implementations. I fully understand support that move BUT the Windows store version of OneNote does not yet have nearly feature parity with OneNote 2016. I’d love to make the switch to only using one version but can’t until many of the features I use in OneNote 2016 appear in the Windows store version. C’mon Microsoft, let’s get them to feature parity please.

Another key service I use everyday along with Office 365 and OneNote is Azure. Typically, I use it for running up virtual machines that I test various things with but I also use it to backup my local data as well as that of other members of my family using Azure Backup.

Azure desktop backup

There is just so much that can be done with Azure and I pretty much use it everyday.

For a subset of my local data that I wish to remain secure I use Truecrypt to create encrypted volumes. All my Windows 10 machines run with full disk encryption thanks to Bitlocker, but stuff like financial and customer data I keep inside Truecrypt volumes for that extra layer of security. I understand that Truecrypt is no longer maintained and may have some very minor security flaws, but for how and why I use it, it is more than adequate.

To capture my desktop for my online training academy or my YouTube channel I use Camtasia. I use SnagIt to capture screen shots and add highlights and emphasis to these. Snagit allows me to capture complete screens or specific areas quickly and easily.

To compose and publish blog articles I use Open Live Writer.

The majority of images I get, like the one at the top of this article, I get from Pexels. Pickit is also another great option and I use the desktop app regularly.

For improved meeting management productivity I use Microsoft FindTime.

A major addition in 2018 was Visual Studio Code in which I do most of my PowerShell editing and publishing. The end result typically is my GitHub repository where you will find a range of scripts and other resources that I maintain regular. With Visual Studio Code I can edit publish and sync all my machines and my GitHub repository no matter where I am. Very handy.

Here are also a few of the other items I use regularly that are not for business:

Amazon Prime Video – only place to the latest The Grand Tour action. I also liked the Jack Ryan series and well as the Gymkana Files.

XBox Live Gold – access to all the online Xbox goodness.

Duolingo – language learning, Japanese and Italian at the moment

Tinycards – language and facts learning via flashcards. Also handy for certification exams.

So there you have it, the major software and services that I use regularly. I continue to search out additional software that will improve my productivity and I speak more about what I have changed in an upcoming article, so stay tuned. If you use something that you’ve found really handy, please let me know and I always keen to explore what works for others.

Core Microsoft Cloud IT Professional Skills

pexels-photo-1216544

Last year I wrote an article about:

Core Professional Skills

which are still valid and I encourage you to go and read that article as well as this one.

For this article I want to focus on the more specific core skills for IT Professionals working with Microsoft Cloud Technologies such as Microsoft 365, Office 365 and Azure.

PowerShell

Being able to use PowerShell comfortably in today’s Microsoft Cloud landscape is mandatory I believe. There is so much that you can only do using PowerShell as well as it being the way to be more efficient when managing multiple environments. I am not saying however, that you need to become a developer or start using something like Visual Studio. As I often say, to be proficient in PowerShell you really only need two commands – Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V.

PowerShell allows you to easily take what others have created and run it or improve on it. I fully appreciate however, that getting up and running with PowerShell can be challenging, especially with so many services. With that in mind I wrote this article:

Microsoft Online PowerShell Setup/Update scripts

that will help you get up and running quickly. In fact you’ll find a whole swag of my scripts freely available at:

https://github.com/directorcia

Ensure you check back there regularly as I constant update and add more scripts.

The best way to become familiar with PowerShell is to use it! If you are doing things using the web interface, try replicating that task with a PowerShell script. Yes, it might take a little longer initially, but once you have the script you can re-use it over and over again. That’s one of the benefits of scripting.

PowerShell skills are not merely limited to the cloud, just about every Microsoft product support PowerShell in some form. That is a big differentiator when considering suppliers. For example, if you become a CIAOPS Patron, you get access to a best practices script that I have created and configures over 20 different items and services in a tenant to make it more secure and easier to use. You couldn’t do that easily with different vendors.

An investment in PowerShell as an IT Pro is simply a ‘must’ for anyone who wants to remain relevant in the Microsoft world going forward.

Identity

Understanding identity is something few IT Pros really have a good grip on in my experience, especially when it comes to the cloud. In short, there has to be a single master source of user identity somewhere in the environment. On prem, that was typically the domain controller. In the pure cloud that is Azure AD. However, things start to get complicated when you are talking about Azure AD Connect syncing and stuff like ADFS. This can place identity in multiple locations BUT the master is still in one place (on prem for both again). Now add to the mix things like Azure B2B and B2C, where is the master identity now? Further, add Azure AD Premium and enable attribute write back. Again, where is the master identity? Now add device management with the likes of Intune and you see pretty quickly how all of this stuff depends on identity. Get that wrong and stuff just doesn’t work.

You soon see that identity can involve a lot of moving parts very quickly. However, there are still basic principles that it conforms to, but in my experience few IT Pros seem to know these. Without these basic skills you are going to really end up chasing you tail when troubleshooting or potentially creating security holes during configuration.

Start with understanding the basic three Microsoft Cloud identity models – Cloud only, Synchronised, and Federated. Understand what the fundamental differences are between on premises AD and Azure AD (and there are plenty). Once you have a good grip on that start adding options like B2B, B2C, Azure AD Premium and so on.

Understanding how identity works in a hybrid and mobile world is critical for many aspects today and no more so than security. Spend the time and learn the basics and you’ll greatly reduce the chance of over sights or misunderstandings.

Use the stuff you sell

Another things that constantly amazes me is the number of IT Pros who DON’T use the services like Office 365 they actually sell to customers. Many still use on premises mail servers! Yes, there is an investment to be made coming up to speed with a range of new technologies but the best way to do this is to use them every day and learn in small increments. Simply ignoring them is merely kicking the can further down the road and making the mountain to eventually climb that much higher.

Sure, everything in Office 365 may not be relevant, but IT Pros should know something about everything on there. They should have some very basic idea of what the service does and how it could potentially help their customers. They don’t need to be an expert in it. If need be they can delegate that off to a partner who specialises in that particular service. Office 365 is now so large that most can’t, and shouldn’t do everything. However, they should always have the option to refer a colleague who can help if asked by a customer for anything they don’t know about because sooner or later the customer is going to ask what that service they have no idea about does. Not even knowing the basic of what it does looks really bad.

Some of the services in Office 365 you’ll probably need to play with and work out how they can benefit a business. This make it easier to sell and support customers. A recent good example I saw was a large Microsoft reseller business sending out surveys using the free version of Surveymonkey! Sure Surveymonkey can do the job but what about using Microsoft Forms and then integrating that with Microsoft Flow for automation, because the survey task doesn’t end with just collecting responses now does it? I’ve built a number of automated services in my business using Microsoft Flow, many of these I can sell to customers to also help streamline their business. What about things like Power BI and what it can do, etc, etc.

Every service in the Microsoft Cloud provides the potential to offer services around and therefore generate revenue. You don’t make money doing what everyone else does (i.e. migrating emails), that is a commodity market. You make money doing what few others can or want to do. The more work it takes to get into that area, the less competition there is and will be and higher the margins. That’s just simple business investment mathematics for you.

The opportunities inside the Microsoft Cloud of Office 365, Microsoft 365, Azure, etc are endless yet I see the majority of resellers doing almost next to nothing with these services themselves. Selling and supporting the stuff is so much easier when you actually use the stuff! Most partners also get the stuff from Microsoft for free. Go use it! NOW!

Become certified

For those that need some sort of syllabus to follow to learn the Microsoft Cloud I would suggest you consider completing the new certifications that are available for both Azure and Microsoft 365. I have written about

The benefits of certification

in the above article. It is not about getting a ‘bit of paper’ it is about using them as a focused way to learn the products, with the added benefit of being able to prove that you know your stuff.

I see that such certifications are going to become a real point of differentiation going forward. Office 365, Microsoft 365, Azure and the like are now common services that anyone and everyone can purchase and access. Thus, many believe they know what they are doing with these services but few really do. The only real way to get an independent verification of this knowledge is going to be via certifications.

I have been called into help so many customers with absolutely criminal Microsoft Cloud configurations done by some so-called ‘cloud guru’ who clearly had no idea at all of the products or what they were doing in any way shape or form. Many customers are becoming far more cautious about whom they trust their cloud services to, as they should be. They should really be asking questions about the experience and knowledge of those working with these systems. Ask yourself, how can you truly and honestly demonstrate your knowledge and experience with the Microsoft Cloud? If you can’t, then certifications maybe an option worth considering.

Above all else, I believe certifications provide a structured learning path and testing of your knowledge. You shouldn’t be afraid of failing a certification exam, you won’t die. Believe me you won’t. I haven’t and I’ve failed plenty of exams! See it as a way to confirmed your knowledge in a controlled environment. Personally, I’d rather find out that my knowledge wasn’t as strong as I thought in an exam rather than in the heat of battle. See certifications as a primary way to verify and expand your knowledge while reinforcing your commitment to professionalism in your chosen field.

Security starts at home

There is little doubt that IT security is now a big thing in the age of the cloud. Everyone is so dependent on IT systems today. No matter what the size of the business, IT security matters! Bad actors are smart operators. They know where Aladdin’s cave is typically located, inside an IT business. Why? Because inside an IT business is normally the keys to many, many other systems. If they can get in here, then the rewards can be enormous. That means IT Pros and IT businesses are big and enticing targets to crack.

If you are IT Pro, ask yourself whether you take security seriously. Are all your devices, phones, computers, files, etc encrypted at rest? Are you using MFA everywhere you can? Do you have good and unique passwords. Do you have alerting set up on your own environment? Have you reduced the surface area for attack as much as you can? Where is your documentation? What is your disaster recovery plan in case of internet outage, power outage, building inaccessibility, etc.

Unfortunately, my experience is that many IT Pros don’t have good best practices when it comes to security. They don’t follow industry best practices. They don’t have a good understanding of attacks and vulnerabilities and tend to give security best practices a low priority over getting the job done. For example, creating full admin accounts just to get something working or overriding security just to get a PowerShell script running. Yes, more security is painful, but that’s the idea. You want to make it as hard as you can for the bad actors.

Take a good hard look at all your systems and ask yourself if they are as secure as they could be. You’ll have to ask this question over and over again because the landscape is constantly changing. The price of security is eternal vigilance. Have you got things like Protection alerts enabled? What about Activity alerts? Activity auditing? Most importantly, do you have a checklist which you use to enable security? If you don’t, why don’t you? Do things randomly, get random results or in this case vulnerabilities.

Yes, security is hard. Yes, there are lots of options. But this is exactly what the bad actors exploit. They exploit the simple fact that people don’t want to put in the effort to be secure. That lack of effort sooner or later results in real financial loss.

The best way to sell security is to implement throughout your business. Ask yourself regularly, is this as secure as I can make it? Once you are serious about security other will see that and understand why they should also be. If they don’t, even after you have shown them, why should you continue to deal with them? Perhaps those businesses are not ones you should be associating with, because we are all only as secure as the weakest link in the chain and the closer you are to the vulnerable system the more financial damage your business is likely to feel when something inevitably happens.

Take responsibility for IT security seriously. Start with your own systems and be the example why others should be as well.

Write stuff down

Whether you use pen and paper, OneNote, a blog, or whatever, there is NO WAY you can keep all this stuff in your head! My number one destination for information is OneNote for many, many reasons. It doesn’t matter what you use. Just use something!

The benefit of maintaining a blog is that firstly it is available everywhere there is the Internet. Next, it may in fact help someone else. If you are reading this then you have benefited from what I post publicly. That’s the power of blogging. Adding to the aggregated knowledge of Microsoft Cloud services available for free is a good thing. Your unique experience and situation many one day turn out to help someone else in need. Pay it forward, as they say.

Another benefit of a blog is that you can point people to it to demonstrate your knowledge and dedication to your craft. Even if your destiny is not as a business owner, having a regularly updated blog stands you out from all the ‘wanna –be’s’ out there claiming to be IT Professionals. You don’t have to be more right that everyone else, you just need to show you are learning. True IT Professionals NEVER stop learning. They are not afraid to try and fail because that teaches them what not to do next time.

Learning is the one skill that once mastered will serve you no matter what changes happen in the industry, in your profession or in your life. You become better when you learn something. You become great when learning becomes part of your daily routine. Remember, most people in this game don’t actually have a structured learning system. They react, scramble around, do internet searches until something random puts out the fire. As they say, do random things and you get random results. Winners have systems. Be a winner, build a system.

True IT Professionals take a professional approach to their business and career. They are proud of the work they do and look to push themselves to improve. They are always looking to improve, invest in themselves and add value while helping others. They are humble enough to appreciate they need to continue to learn in this profession and welcome the challenge of developing their knowledge of the products and services that are available. They are always willing to help others and recognise those that help them. But most of all, they embrace the challenge that that IT profession provides them.

My Gear 2019

You can take a look back at last year’s gear here:

My Gear 2018

there were/are some major changes happening with my assortment.

Pixel XL phone – still using this as a ‘secondary’ phone. It has all the Microsoft apps installed on it and is connected to my Office 365 demo account. Most importantly, it has the Microsoft Authenticator app for MFA access to my demo accounts in Office 365. Anther major app I use on this phone is OneNote for accessing all my notes.

I connect this phone in my car for navigation (Waze), Podcast (Podcast Addict) and have recently discovered I can also get Amazon Music there as well via the phone. An upcoming post will detail all the mobile apps I use on my devices for you.

This phone continues to perform all the tasks it needs to well and I have no plans to replace it in the near future.

Summary – No change, still in use every day.

Lumia 950 XL – This Windows Phone continues to work but is beginning to show it’s age and lack of support. My main use of this device is simply to make and receive calls, but of late I’m starting to get issues where this isn’t always happening for some reason. Now that may not be the phone, it may be the sim or the network, however I’m also getting more lock ups and random reboots. Nothing major, but painful when it happens. Would it continue to work as an acceptable phone only device? Sure, but is that really serving my purpose and providing the best benefit? I’m beginning to think not.

Thus, I think one of the changes I’ll need to make in 2019 is to finally retire this device and look at a replacement. Given that I already have a functioning Android phone my choice is probably going to be an iPhone. However, given the outrageous prices of iPhones I’m not looking forward to that day and am waiting for some sort of sale or discount offer to eventuate. I have also read that there will be new iPhones coming soon with better support for e-sims so maybe I’ll hold off until then. It is really just my aversion to paying THAT MUCH for a phone.

So sometime this year it will be bye, bye Windows phone and hello iPhone (as well as bye, bye many dollars unfortunately at the same time).

Summary – will probably be replaced by iPhone sometime in 2019 once I can bear the cost of doing it.

Surface 3 and 4 – Are both working well. I use the Surface Pro 3 as a travelling device and the Surface Pro 4 as my desktop. I am considering getting a new travelling device or maybe a new desktop device, say a Surface Pro 6, and using the Surface Pro 4 for travel. I considered maybe a Surface Go as a new travelling device but decided it would not be powerful for what I need.

Looking a Surface Pro 6 brings into question what specs? I certainly don’t need a lot of local storage any more so a 256 GB SSD is fine. That storage capacity then limits me to 8GB of RAM, which I think is also fine. The final choice is an i5 or i7 processor. Since I’m going for a cheaper device here I’d look at the i5 processor as it does everything I need.

Some things to remember about buying a Surface. You’ll also need to add a keyboard and a pen. Doing so brings the price of such a device up to around AU$2,000! However, the biggest drawback is that these current generation of Surface Pro devices only come with Windows Home! On a Pro device? So, I’d now have also factor in an upgrade to Windows Pro as well. Now, that isn’t a huge issue but all up that is lot to pay for a desktop that I kinda really don’t need given the other two are working fine.

If you also couple that with the desire to get a new iPhone, the costs of hardware for both of those devices combined is approaching AU$5,000 which is madness for things I don’t really need urgently. Thus, I am putting both of these on hold until there is a more burning need for them. If a I see a good deal appear for either of these devices I might jump in, but man, that’s a lotta dollars for computers eh?

Summary – considering a Surface Pro 6 to replace Surface Pro 3 but need a practical and rational reason to make immediate change.

iPad – One of the other reasons I was considering a Surface Go was as a pure writing device to totally replace the pen and notebooks that I have. I have wanted to go totally paperless for years but never found the right device. The Surface Go was a contender but once you added all the bits, it became too expensive and somewhat bulky.

I then decided to go with the bottom of the range iPad (WiFi only) and an Apple pencil which brought the total to around AU$500. The Apple pencil is a tad cumbersome and I would prefer something about half the size. I like that it is re-chargable, which the Surface pens aren’t, but that isn’t a huge issue. The Apple pencil does write well but I see no real difference to a Surface pen in that respect but the Surface pen wins on form factor if I was to make an ergonomic choice.

Another reason for the new iPad was my original iPad 2 is now no longer able to be upgraded to new versions of iOS and has become quite slow. So my thinking was to get a new personal iPad device and repurpose the older iPad for testing. The last thing I need to do before I can fully repurpose the older iPad is move the Google Authenticator app off it to another device. That is going to be a major pain that I have so far put off but will need to be done sooner rather than later.

I’m now using this new iPad for anything to do with writing, business and personal. This new device has probably had the biggest impact on the way I do things in the last 12 months.

Summary – new basic iPad is now a central part of my daily routine. Old iPad 2 soon to be repurposed for testing.

Ubiquiti – After having a consumer grade WiFi setup for ages, and after some connectivity issues (which turned out not to be the WiFi after all) I decided that my whole setup needed upgrading. My greatest concern was that the consumer gear firmware was not being upgraded and that would potentially increase my risk, so it was therefore time to upgrade.

After reading Troy Hunt’s post on Ubiquiti and watching his free online course as well, I decided that I wanted something similar. I thus invested in:

Security Gateway

UniFi Switch 8 (150W)

UniFi nanoHD WiFi access point

Cloud Key Gen2 Plus

I left my old router in place but disabled the WiFi access point and simply use it as a pass through now. I then connected it to the Security Gateway, connected everything else up behind the gateway and then configured it all from a web interface. Very, very impressed with the results. Super simple install. Easy to update the devices and great metrics on usage, devices and so on. Highly recommended.

One of the items that I am considering for 2019 will be a Ubiquiti camera like this:

G3 micro

Again, not really a must have but I can see benefits of having one of these device to monitor things when I’m not there.

In theory, the Australian high speed National Broadband Network (NBN) was supposed to be rolled out to my location in December 2018. I hope that it isn’t too far away so I can complete the final part of the upgrade of my infrastructure and finally get some real high speed connectivity in place. I can’t wait.

Summary – very happy with major upgrade of my networking systems to Ubiquiti gear, with potentially a camera to be added. Awaiting roll out of NBN to complete project.

Docking station – Initially, I though that the cause of my connectivity issues was my old consumer grade WiFi but it turns out that the network port in the my existing Kensington USB 3.0 Docking Station SD3500v was becoming flaky. Problem was the docking station drives a lot of things besides my wired networking, like multiple monitors. The temporary solution was to just unplug the wired connection and go wireless with the Surface Pro 4. The longer term solution is going to be buying a new docking station.

The replacement is going to be:

Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to any here in Australia at the moment, so I’ve also added that to the 2019 wish list as a priority.

Summary – Kensington SD3500v has flaky network port and will thus probably be replaced with Kensington SD7000.

WD Sentinel DX4000 – I’d also like to upgrade this device as the installed Windows Server 2008 R2 is going into end of life. I’d like to be install Azure File sync on any device and that means Windows Server 2012 R2 or better. I don’t think that it would be a good idea to do an in place upgrade of the equipment, so new infrastructure seems to be required.

Now if I go for a new on prem server, do I get something a bit bigger that can actually function like a ‘normal’ server so I can do more testing? Like I said, I’d really like the ability to install additional software on there but all these wants increase the price. Maybe, I just leave the existing server in place but get a new ‘front end’ box to do what I want?

I still rather undecided on what to do here. Again, the existing server is doing its job well and suits my needs, however having some additional flexibility would be nice, especially for testing hybrid configurations. For the time being I’ve decided to put this on the back burner but would like to do something in 2019.

Summary – on the back burner to upgrade or replace.

Fitbit – The old Fitbit recharging port on the unit has become so broken that the charging cable will no longer attach to it. The cost of replacement items is too high in my books and I really don’t want another watch as I like my analogue one. Having used a Fitbit for many years, I have a lot of accumulated data that I’d be forgoing if I went to another device. However, on the other hand, how often do I look at that data? Rarely, if I’m honest.

The most likely replacement is probably going to be the Oura ring, which I really like all the metrics around it. Now the challenge is I need to get my finger measured to find the right size. Oura does ship a sizing kit that allows you to check the size using plastic mock ups before you confirm but you still need to purchase the whole unit first.

Being a few hundred US$ doesn’t make this item cheap. Being that I also REALLY don’t need this item I’ve still in the due diligence phase, making sure that it is the best investment for my money as I know there are other devices out there. So again, probably something I’ll get in 2019 but no real rush as yet and as yet I’m not 100% sold given the cost.

Summary – Fitbit has died after a long and productive life and it looks like the Oura ring will be the replacement.

Amazon Kindle – In use every day, no change. One of the best devices I have ever invested in.

Xbox One S – Twelve months old now and use it mostly to watch videos on Amazon Prime or YouTube. Play the occasional game when the mood takes me. Makes for a good distraction when the need arises.

Summary – mainly used as a consumption device with some gaming. No change or updates expected in 2019.

My major hardware investments in 2018 where new Ubiquiti networking and a new basic iPad to replace all paper notebooks. On the cards for 2019 are probably a new iPhone, Oura ring and docking station. What also will probably eventuate is a G3 micro video camera, new on prem server and maybe a new Surface Pro.

Let’s see what 2019 brings.

My Stuff 2019

his post my annual post is aimed at bringing the links to everything I have out there on the Internet together into a single place. Here we go.

About me

Social Media

Free Stuff

Regular technical and business information, tutorials, walk throughs, learnings, upcoming courses and more.

Here you’ll find currently almost 200 videos full of tutorials on SharePoint, Office 365, Azure and technology.

Presentations and whitepapers for free download.

Slideshare – https://www.slideshare.net/directorcia

Documentation for older versions of SharePoint on premises, especially the free versions and those that came with SBS.

Whitepapers and superseded documentation lives here.

With almost 200 episodes and now entering it’s 9th year my podcast focuses on providing you news and updates from the Microsoft Cloud around Office 365 and Azure.

You can subscribe using iTunes or Stitcher.

After the course complete this morphs into my Office 365 newsletter.

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This stuff helps pay for free stuff above so I appreciate your support for my paid work.

Access to the private CIAOPS community for technical support, product discounts and access to the best Office 365 and Azure information

For end user focused training on Office 365 services and applications:

Lots of courses on Office 365, PowerShell, Azure, SharePoint and the like.

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General Interest

This accounts sends a tweet to commemorate a significant dates from the Australian battles in France during World War 1.

I’m a big believer in supporting those who want to build their own business but just need a leg up to get started. Kiva is simply and easy way to provide this and I recommend this to everyone.

In 2018 I read over 20 books. That means I do a lot of reading on a variety of topics and with Goodreads you can follow along with the books I’m reading as well as those that I add to my bookshelf. I’ll have an upcoming post on my recommended reads, so watch out for that post coming soon.