End of an era | Windows XP & Office 2003

Today I bring you some sad news. Windows XP & Office 2003 are no longer supported by Microsoft starting from April 8th 2014. I still remember the day that I made the transition from Windows 98 to XP 13 years back. I was in 7th grade back then and it was the first time that I ever installed an OS without the help of anyone and it was a life changing event for me as kid.

As IT PROs we all will have go through some dilemma in after 8th for planning the change from Windows XP. Let’s see what are the options that Microsoft has offered us for a smoother transition.

Roll-out a newer OS

As you all now Microsoft strongly recommend you to migrate from Windows XP to at least Windows 7. Now in this case someone might raise a concern “What about our existing hardware?”. Well if you are running on a grandpa system you’ll have to replace the hardware eventually. (the obvious fact)

Migrating from Windows XP is not a night mare and there are couple of good options available.

  1. System Center Configuration Manager 2012 R2 – If your organisation uses SCCM for Enterprise client management you can easily create a Windows 7 deployment task sequence with all the necessary drivers and applications per-installed. You can even migrate your user data with User State Migration Tool. (But remember everything should be under My Documents). A comprehensive Technet article is available here on how to leverage SCCM for OS deployment.
  2. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) – This is a free tool from Microsoft which automates server and desktop OS deployment. Only catch is it doesn’t provide central management capability like SCCM. I found a very good article on this one too.
  3. Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor – You can perform a in place upgrade with this tool. Basically it assess the feasibility for a Windows 7 deployment and lets you to decide whether or not you should replace the entire system. Microsoft has provided a good reference on this as well.

Backup Your data

No more security updates means that your system is highly vulnerable to virus attacks. Most of you might feel that you should buy a brand new system with Windows 8.1 and migrate your data. If you are a home user it’s best for you to backup your important data using User State Migration Tool over the network or copying into a backup media but the choice is up-to you. Most importantly I would recommend to perform a backup immediately as you may never know when you are vulnerable.

Migrate your Legacy applications

If you are still using Office 2003, 2007 etc.. now is the best time to take an action. Microsoft provides much richer user experience with the new version of Microsoft Office. For any other commercial application designed for XP, most of the software publishers have already update their product road map with Windows 8.1 but if you are a software development company that still depends on XP your luck is running out. With  Office 365 in place you no longer have to spend your money on retail version, instead you can buy the subscription version of Microsoft Office with additional benefits like free OneDrive Storage.

So take an action today while you still can and embrace the change.

Thank you & Happy Retirement! Windows XP + Office 2003

Create your DB Server in the Cloud with Windows Azure

First of all I would like you to think of your response for below questions.

  1. Are you a Database administrator?

  2. Do you have headaches with hosting your own Database server?

  3. Are hosting providers giving you hard time with limited capacity and bandwidth?

Now if your answer is YES to all of above, I’m gonna show you that you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Windows Azure provides a powerful data platform called Windows Azure SQL Database (formerly SQL Azure) and it is a fully managed relational database service. It offers flexible manageability, built-in high availability,  predictable performance, and supports scaling. No matter whether your database requirement is small or large, Windows Azure provides excellent plans for dedicated database hosting in a scalable manner.

You can either create a Azure VM with SQL or use this service to manage your hosted databases. If you want to skip all the hassle with configuring a VM then this is your toy.I had a requirement to move a hosted SQL database to Azure. Well SQL is not my area of expertise so I thought it would be a nightmare. Guess what! I was totally wrong.

Here is what I’ve done to achieve this challenge. But keep in mind I did this by restoring the hosted database on on-premise SQL server as my service provider doesn’t support Azure. Also I had to re-create the user logins and mappings (If you your SQL it’s basically creating the users and giving them proper permissions as required). You can pretty much manage everything from SQL Management Studio (2012 only) and if you need to perform administrative tasks you can easily do them the Azure Management Portal itself.

WELL WHAT ABOUT THE COST?

Actually when I compared the cost with hosting providers, Azure seems to be in the middle, but the features and flexibility worth the pennies. You can find additional information from here about SQL Azure.

So join the club today and start using SQL in the cloud.

Build your Test Lab | Client Hyper-V

If you are by any chance a developer reading my blog, you know how painful it is to go after IT department begging for resources for your test lab. Guess what! Screw IT guys (Don’t take it hard on them. They are doing their best. Only problem is $$$$) with Windows 8 & Windows 8.1 you can build your own test lab using Client Hyper-V. Now I know this first hand because I face this problem daily with our development team and we had a awareness session recently on Client Hyper-V.

Client Hyper-V is same as Hyper-V server or Windows Server with Hyper-V role installed (of source with some limitations). All you have to do is enable Hardware Virtualization in you laptop/PC and enable the Hyper-V feature in the OS.

Following features from the Server version of Hyper-V is lack on the Client version.

  • Remote FX ability to virtualize GPUs
  • Live migration of VMs
  • Hyper-V Replica
  • SR-IOV networking
  • Virtual Fibre Channel

Now lets take a peek on how to do it in a proper way.

Pre-requisites

  1. A PC/laptop with a minimum of 4 GB RAM running on 64 bit version of Windows 8/8.1 Professional or Enterprise version (Yes this is a as it is requirement)
  2. 64 bit processor with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  3. Hardware Virtualization support in the chipset. You can check this in your BIOS. Most of the modern motherboards have this feature and you can turn it on from BIOS setup. It should be something of a check box saying”enable Virtualization Technology  (VTx)”

Installation

  1. Enable Hardware Virtualization from your BIOS setup (Not so sure. Just Google it)
  2. Go to Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows Features on or off > Select Hyper-V and Click OK. You need to chosse both Hyper-V Management Tools & Hyper-V Platform. If you choose the management tools alone, you can only remotely administer Hyper-V host and cannot create any VMs on your PC.

AND THAT’S IT! NO MORE BUGGING.

Well you may still require to create a Virtual switch (External Virtual Switch is recommended in order to allow Internet access to your VMs) and associate vNICs of your VMs to that. Well here is a fully featured article from Canadian IT PRO connection blog that explains how to do it yourself. (A big thank you for them as well). Now take advantage of this cool feature from you Windows 8/8.1 PC/laptop and build your test lab in minutes.

One more thing.

More VMs = More Physical RAM + Disk Space

Obviously you need around 16 GB of RAM plus adequate disk space if you need couple VMs depending on your memory allocation. Also take a look at your CPU as well/ Better the CPU is better the performance of your VMs.