5 Azure Options for SMB

Microsoft AzureAs I speak to MS partners from across the country, a single theme always emerges from the discussions: “how do I make Azure work for my SMB clients?”

Azure is big and it is not like our traditional on-premise implementations. Back in the day, a typical implementation would consist of a few servers, desktops, switches, etc. We would set up the environment systematically, working through the checklist: install server, promote to DC, configure roles, setup member server with LOB applications, the checklist goes on. For the most part, it was the same basic procedure for each client. Once the client was setup, we would then explain to them how to work within the confines of the software and the implementation. It was a one-box-fits-all type of solution.

Azure has changed that. Now, instead of squeezing the client into the pre-defined box, we can apply different boxes to the client to give them the best possible solution. Azure provides boxes in several shapes and sizes that can be tailored to each client’s business needs.

Here are the five most popular Azure services that work well for the SMB client:

Azure Backup

Azure backup provides an easy and automatic backup for servers (2008 R2 and higher), client machines (Windows 7 and higher), and Azure virtual machines. These backups are encrypted, compressed, and most importantly, off-site.

Disaster Recovery

Azure Site Recovery, without the requirement for System Center, enables us to make a replica of our on-premise VMs in Azure. It is the perfect DR solution for SMBs, as it is easy to setup, and well within the budgets of SMB clients.

Enterprise Mobility Suite

EMS combines three standalone products: Azure Active Directory Premium, Intune, and Azure Rights Management. Combining these 3 services facilitates you to control and manage devices, users, and data.

  1. Azure Active Directory Premium – from multi-factor authentication, to reporting and single sign on to 2500 SAS apps, and on-premise synchronization, AAD is your identity management and control center in and for the cloud.
  2. Intune – manage the explosion of the BYOD movement in your clients’ environments. Register and manage these devices, including the option for selective wipe of devices, and password resets. Publish apps for your users and manage it all from a single pane of glass.
  3. Azure Rights Management – keep data safe as we move away from the traditional brick and mortar environment. ARM allows you to control where your data goes and who has access to it.

Azure Virtual Machines

Azure virtual machines enable the SMB clients to expand the datacenter to Azure. VMs can be used in a variety of ways, from production to test/dev. There are several advantages to using Azure VMs over on-premise virtual machines.

  1. Fast – a fully configured SQL server VM can be up and running in about 10 minutes.
  2. Scalable – scale up, or just as important, scale down as your environment changes.
  3. Consumption-based – you only pay for the resources you use.
  4. When finished with the VM, you can delete it.
  5. Licensing, for the most part, is included when you use a VM template. Please check the specific licensing details for non-MS VM templates.

Azure RemoteApp

Hosting Line of Business applications has never been easier. Using Remote App in Azure, you can offer the LOB applications to clients using the secure and familiar Remote App interface and keep the data secure in Azure or on-premise.

These are just a few of the services to help you help your clients. Keep in mind that they can be used separately or in combination with each other, depending on what is best for your client. Azure is a great option for SMBs as it provides a flexibility that SMB clients have never had previously. It enables these clients to grow as big as they want to; both they and you are no longer limited by resources, or on the other hand, the lack of. From app development to websites, SQL databases, and content streaming, Azure can be customized for each client. Now that your clients can focus on growing their businesses and not what they run on, their SMBs will be given the opportunity to grow.

Categories: Uncategorized

Calgary IT Pro Community User Group April 21st.

Looking to learn about real life Azure experience and your in the Calgary area?  I’ll be at the Calgary IT Pro User group on Tuesday April 21st. Come join Kevin Kaminski, App-V MVP, Microsoft vTSP, Consultant and Trainer and myself as we discuss real world Azure implementation and some of the “gotchas”. I would also love to hear how you are using Azure.

Registration link and details are here.

There are some spots left in both the Vancouver and Calgary session of ModernBiz Business Anywhere.  Register here.





Come by and say hi!

Categories: Uncategorized

Getting to the Cloud…via Ottawa, Ontario

Our MVP’s from Ottawa are having a MVP Event on April 11th in beautiful Ottawa, Ontario.  Yes, it’s a Saturday, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a day.

You’ll get to hang out with:

Garth Jones – Enterprise mobility Suite – Intune

Todd Lamothe – Enterprise mobility suite – Hybrid Identity

Islam Gomaa – Hybrid Storage

Sean Kearney – Azure Automation

Colin Smith – Enterprise mobility Suite – Rights Management

Stéphane Fréchette  – SQL Business Intelligence

Garth Gorling – Building a Lab in Azure

These can rock a room…and Sean can rock the stage with Highway to PowerShell!

And the icing on the cake, all the proceeds to go the Make a Wish Foundation.

To register click here

I wish I could go!

Categories: Uncategorized

Upcoming ModernBiz Classes


Thanks to all who joined me during the last ModernBiz sessions. It was whirlwind trip, from Vancouver to Edmonton, Montreal and Mississauga. I loved meeting all of you. In April, we do it again but instead of focusing on Azure as Infrastructure as a Service, we will be looking at allowing your clients to connect from anywhere, anytime securely. This includes Intune (great solution), Rights Management and Azure Active Directory Premium, all bundled together under EMS.  We’ll also be showing you the new Azure Remote App! I was playing with the new template last week, Coffee Cup video is coming, and it’s awesome.

Here are the dates and registration links for upcoming sessions:


Calgary + Bonus…details upcoming



By popular demand we are running ModernBiz: Cloud for SMB monthly at the Mississauga office.

Hope to see you there.


Categories: azure Tags:

Working on Vacation…Yet Again

A couple weeks ago, the kids and I went to Universal Studios in Florida (painful with the current exchange rate) for the week. Before we left I decided I wasn’t going to actively work for the whole week, but with todays technology it was too easy to keep up.

I pro-actively decided to leave my work laptop at home, and only took my 8 inch Dell Venue Pro (runs full Office) and a Bluetooth keyboard. I also had my Nokia 920, which is my personal/work phone and has an awesome camera. My daughter took her tablet and Galaxy S3 and my son took his tablet. I really did set out to have a work-free vacation, but I knew I would have Wi-Fi at the hotel and I added a “roaming” plan to my phone. I did let people at the office know that I would be checking email in the evenings and would respond to important email. Best intentions.

Family Vacation


At Universal Studios, Wi-Fi was available – and faster than the hotels. I could stand in the long lines waiting for an awesome ride (and the rides were freaking awesome), and review some of the 200+ emails that came in during the week. Thursday, our last full day in Florida, we hung out at the hotel, and my daughter grabbed the Bluetooth keyboard and worked on her 1000 word essay on her phone, and was in contact with her teachers and classmates. Watching her made me think about all the emails I could take off the agenda efficiently, and I started sorting through the emails and responding to them on my tablet. Because I have full Office and OneDrive, I easily accessed required files to edit, send, or reference during a conference call.

I know some of you are thinking “you were on vacation, why were you working?” This was my choice; I love my job and what I do, and honestly by Thursday, I was bored. This isn’t the first time I have worked on vacation, and I blogged about a similar vacation experience a couple of years ago, but what struck me this time was just how much easier despite being in another country. Back in the day, when I vacationed locally, I would tether to my phone or use my data plan. If I travelled out of the country, I would not use my phone plan this time, as Wi-Fi was abundant and fast everywhere.

Does this mean I think everyone should work on vacation? Absolutely not!  Vacation is time for family and re-charging, but if you feel you have to work or opt to (as I did), todays technology has everything you need to work efficiently and effectively.

If you are like me and find it really hard not to work, there are now resorts that take your devices away from you for the duration of your stay. Here’s a list for the USA. Personally, I think it’s all about balance and that balance will  be different for each of us.

Are you able to disconnect for a weekend, let alone a full week? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Categories: Digital Life Tags: ,

Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

As most Azure Certof you know, a lot of my day is spent around Azure. I started using Azure several months before I joined Microsoft via an agency. After a good two years of becoming familiar with Azure, I decided to write 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. I’m not going to lie, it was hard, really hard, and time-consuming. It’s been a long time since I have heard my heart pounding that loud after clicking the “submit” button. Luckily (and yes, I think there was some luck or good guesswork) I passed. It was a great way to end the year!


Of course I can’t tell you what was on the exam, but I can advise you to be familiar with every study objective:

Exam Objectives 70-533

I think I have been lucky regarding my last several exams, as I have only had to write the upgrade exams; but that has also been a downfall. Everyone keeps telling me the new exams are Powershell heavy, but until this exam, I’ve been able to get by with my limited PowerShell knowledge. All I can say is know your PowerShell, not only for exams but for all MS solutions. I do love PowerShell and I know I have to use it more now that I have completed this exam. I always recommend PowerShell in a Month of Lunches as a great way to learn PowerShell.

My only other challenge was my lack of development. I really struggled with the web and cloud services objectives and my mark reflected those weaknesses.

Here’s a list of the resources I used to prepare for the exam:

Azure for IT Professionals

In-person events and other resources

Now onto 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions – once the exam is out of beta and I find some free time (that objective will be harder than the exam!). For those of you looking for study materials for this exam, Keith Mayer has a great study guide.

Let us know how your studying is going, and please feel free to join me at a ModernBiz session at a local MS office!

Categories: azure, certifications Tags: , ,

Getting to the Cloud the Right Way: Azure

Azure, Azure, Azure . . . that is where I spend most of my time lately. At the end of the 2014, I even wrote and passed exam 70-533, Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. I’ve been playing with Azure for about two years, and I was first introduced to it a year before I started with Microsoft. No one is paying me to say this, but I love Azure!!! My favourite features are its flexibility and efficiency, and I get excited when a new feature comes out – and even more excited when I get to jump head first into that feature. Unfortunately I don’t get to play with all the functionality, which does frustrate me, but there are only so many hours in a day.

As Azure is becoming a viable option for the SMB market, IT pros are finding that it can be overwhelming at first. There are a lot of questions Azure beginners have, such as “where do I start?” “how do I do this?” and “what about that?” Or “I did this, but why isn’t it working correctly?” and the common statement “I didn’t know I had to do it that way.”

To help you become more familiar with Azure, Microsoft has several resources available for you.

1. Channel 9 – the ultimate resource for Azure. I highly recommend these well-recorded training videos.

2. Microsoft Virtual Academy – additional training videos not only on Azure, but everything else MS.

3. Microsoft Partner Network – your one-stop-shop to see what events MS is hosting, and how MS can help you for marketing, training, events, etc.

4. In person events – come spend a day with me! I’ll be in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, and Mississauga providing hands-on Azure training.

Mississauga Dates:

5. Expert Series – a bi-weekly series aimed to provide you with detailed technical assistance for your Azure business opportunities.

6. Azure Coffee Cup Series – quick Azure how-to videos demonstrating how to setup the most common services in Azure. Each video is conveniently about as long as it takes to consume your favorite caffeinated beverage.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you need any further assistance. You can contact me at asksmbca at microsoft.com.

Categories: azure Tags: , ,
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