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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Update your ConfigMgr environment with a Cumulative Update: a lazier approach…

Last year I wrote a blog post on how to update ConfigMgr clients in a way I consider quite lazy, I’m talking about this one:

https://mwesterink.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/configmgr-2012-sp1-updating-your-clients-to-cu1-a-lazy-approach/

This method worked fine but it still required some administrative effort and the behavior was a little bit difficult to manage.

 

Last week, I attended a session of the Dutch Windows Management User Group, also known as WMUG NL, where two gentlemen were speaking about Patch Management using ConfigMgr. I’d like to thank Kent Agerlund and Brian Mason for sharing their knowledge and tips on how to manage Patch Management using ConfigMgr. Most of the stuff they talked about is already familiar to me, but there’s one thing that caught my attention that Brian was talking about.

Brian stated in his presentation that he uses System Center Updates Publisher 2011 to publish ConfigMgr 2012 Cumulative Updates to WSUS which will then be imported and deployed by the same ConfigMgr 2012 Site infrastructure. After some digging I found Microsoft’s TechNet article that describes it:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj553405.aspx

and

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj553405.aspx#BKMK_DeploySCUP

It even describes the required steps to publish a Cumulative Update.

I’m currently involved in a project where I have to build a ConfigMgr 2012 R2 test environment that the customer can use to test his required ConfigMgr 2012 R2 related features. It allowed to find out how to publish these Cumulative Updates. I have to admit, it was ridiculously easy to do. After synchronizing Software Updates I was able to see and select the Cumulative Updates for further deployment.

 

Using this method makes patching more or less a ‘fire and forget’ thing which is way more sophisticated than my previous approach which has now become obsolete J

For newly deployed machines using OSD, I believe I wouldn’t bother to install the patch in the client installation task using the PATCH=<whatever> parameter. I don’t like that method and it requires me a lot of administrative effort to get it right. Installing the update as a patch is far less of a hassle…

 

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OneDrive for Business has a Recycle Bin: a great feature for end users…

In my previous blog I stated I love using OneDrive for Business. 1 TB of space is available to each user and they’re free to use it and manage it as they please. Many users can store their files there and can work with them accordingly.

Many organizations use on-premise file services, the data generated by users is backed up by a backup process and mechanism. Some organizations backup data by a schedule, others use a continuous data protection mechanism such as System Center Data Protection Manager. Users are also instructed (or even forced) to store their data on designated file servers.

However, there’s one common scenario that no on-premise file service can really cover: A user is creating a file, let’s say an Excel sheet. After saving the sheet, the user unintentionally deletes the file before it was backed up by any backup mechanism. Oops, some work is gone now…

I can imagine that Service Desk staff is frequently confronted with the scenario displayed above (been there done that). Even though the Service Desk employee can’t do anything about it, they’re still on the receiving side of the user’s frustration.

So, in what way is OneDrive for Business different?

Well, OneDrive for Business has a Recycle Bin which allows users to recover deleted files themselves. This blog shows how to do it.

In my example I stored 2 folders which were extracted DELL Driver CABs which I currently need for one of my projects.

NOTE: Since I’m using Windows 8.1 Update in Dutch language the screens display each option in Dutch. I try to attempt to translate it to English but they may not be the same in the English version.

So here are my folders, completely synchronized.

Let’s delete the folder 7010.

Oops, that was not I wanted to do. Now I need to recover.

Open the menu in the systray and select Manage Storage.

Select the bottom option, this will take you to the web portal which requires you to log on to.

After logging on, the webpage will be displayed with the user’s own Recycle Bin.

(lots of erasing here, glad my laptop has touch screen).

In this scenario I will select all files and use the option with blue arrow.

After recovering all files, everything is back as it should be.

Sync is in progress, this might take a while when lots of files need to be restored…

The default setting to keep files in the Recycle Bin is 93 days. Office365 administrators can change this value to meet company policy. This allows users to provide some self-service in order to manage their data. Service Desk staff can receive significantly less calls when OneDrive for Business is used. In my opinion, this is great!

 

 

 
 

OneDrive for Business: a personal experience…

In March 2014 I started with new challenges with my current employer after I left my previous one. One of my challenges is to help customers introducing Cloud technologies. In order to do that, I need to use Cloud technologies myself. After all, my credibility might not be so great if I evangelize something and not use it myself. Since we just got started with everything, we needed to have some services available in order to do our job. It was a no-brainer to take an Office365 subscription to get started. The Office365 subscription we chose also allows us to use OneDrive for Business. Regarding OneDrive for Business, I’m using it for a while and I love it…

Recently, Microsoft announced to increase the available storage from 25 GB to 1 TB. And this is per user.

More information about the increase is available at the following locations:

https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/plans/

https://blog.onedrive.com/1tb-for-every-business-user-with-onedrive-for-business/

Imagine yourself, 1 TB for each user in your organization for just a few bucks. This makes storage for business, especially small to medium sized ones, ridiculously cheap. Here’s just a few things that organization don’t need to worry for:

  • The investment to buy hardware is not there anymore
  • The costs to manage and maintain the infrastructure for user data. For on-premise environments, think about costs such as wages for administrators, depreciation, energy costs, backup and recovery, even the rent for the office building if applicable
  • The risk of making sure the data is off-premise in case of a disaster (for example a fire), administrators don’t have to bother about this since the data is already off-premise
  • Users can access their OneDrive storage without depending on some on-premise connectivity such as VPN or DirectAccess

Personally I find it quite liberating to access my stuff everywhere, no matter where I am. At my own situation, I have some personal and company related stuff stored on an external disk (fortunately it’s less than 1 TB, I’m not a big collector). One of my fears was the disk might die before I was able to back up my data. Well, OneDrive for Business basically becomes my backup location but I don’t need to use that disk anymore. Such a relief…

 
 

Installing DELL Driver Pack for Windows OS using MDT 2013, a small issue but easy to fix…

Recently a customer asked me to create a standardized deployment for a number of tower servers which are going to be used at a number of branch offices. The server model used is a DELL PowerEdge T420 and needed to be equipped with a standard Windows Server 2012 R2 Update Datacenter deployment (including some updates released after Update 1). They didn’t request a fully automated deployment, and since no Configuration Manager 2012 R2 infrastructure is available it became pretty obvious that MDT 2013 is the tool that can do the job.

The method used is available for all supported models on the DELL Driver Pack for Windows OS media which is available at the following location:

http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/04/Drivers/DriversDetails?driverId=GHMC9&fileId=3362566210&osCode=W12R2&productCode=poweredge-t420&languageCode=EN&categoryId=SM

To deploy the driver for the specific model I extracted the files using the executable with the /s /e=<path to extract> parameters.

The next step is to create an application of the extracted files. The command line used to install the Driver Pack is spsetup.exe /s. Finally I specified the Task Sequence to install this application. After adding some additional steps to customize the deployment I was good to go testing my deployment. For their convenience I created USB bootable media of the Task Sequence since I didn’t want to interfere any PXE functionality, the customer didn’t purchase any DRAC interface so I wasn’t able to use that connect any ISO file to the server.

To keep the Task Sequence going, I enabled the checkbox Continue on error on each step I added myself. This allows me to keep the Task Sequence running so I can troubleshoot afterwards.

My first test returned an error at the Driver Pack setup. The program returned code 3, not 0 or 3010. After running it manually again, the Driver Pack setup stated an installation was already present. This means the Driver Pack setup has run successfully before.

Fortunately, this is easy to fix by adding return code 3 to the success codes in the Task Sequence.

 

After some more testing I was able to build a suitable MDT 2013 environment that allows my customer to deploy the servers for each branch office in a standardized way…

 

 

 

Windows Intune: Manage Windows Client devices, sort of…

Windows Intune is becoming more and more a viable solution to manage corporate devices. It makes sense to use Windows Intune for enterprise client devices as well. Unfortunately we can’t deploy an Operating System to a client device but we have MDT 2013 for that. This applies to devices only which are capable of receiving a new Operating System, such as desktops, laptops and certain slate devices.

This post focuses on Windows Client devices only, it doesn’t apply to Windows Phone, iOS, Android or Windows RT devices.

From a licensing point of view, Microsoft requires to use either Business (Vista only), Professional (7,8 and 8.1), Enterprise (all supported versions) or Ultimate (Vista and 7 only) editions in corporate environments. Home Editions and especially OEM license keys are not allowed to be used. Windows Intune is in sync with this requirement based on the requirements for the Windows Intune Client which is available at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn646950.aspx#BKMK_DeviceReqs

At the moment I’m running a Windows Intune trial and I enrolled my company laptop to the Windows Intune subscription by installing the Windows Intune Client. The laptop is currently equipped with Windows 8.1 Update Home Edition (OEM install). After enrolling the device, Windows Intune raised an alert that an unsupported edition of Windows is used:

Well, as expected. The Client works like a charm. I receive updates and Endpoint Protection is installed and configured as expected but it is still an unsupported client edition…

So yes, I need to upgrade to Professional or Enterprise but I’m working on that J

But what does this mean in the corporate world? If Windows Client devices are involved, then the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept doesn’t really work for these kind of devices unless a supported Operating System is purchased and deployed. However, I don’t expect employers to tell their employees to buy a Windows Client device with a supported Windows license themselves just for Windows Intune. The employers will most likely provide the device, but then it’s not BYOD anymore. For other devices, Windows Intune is happy to have those enrolled…

I can imagine organizations might go wrong with this from a licensing point of view unintentionally.

For now, I expect most organizations to use Windows Intune with Configuration Manager for now, but I expect the role of Configuration Manager to decline and eventually disappear. However, this won’t apply to organizations bound to regulations or laws regarding Cloud computing since they’re simply not allowed to use the Cloud, but they don’t use Windows Intune anyway…

 

 

 

 

 
 

A personal opinion on the future of ConfigMgr…

A few days ago a press release was announced that The face of ConfigMgr, Wally Mead, left Microsoft to become a Principal Program Manager at Cireson. You can read more about that at http://windowsitpro.com/configuration-manager/wally-mead-face-configmgr-leaves-microsoft-after-22-years?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WinBytes+(WIN%3ENews%3ENews)

With all the changes in the IT landscape happening now, this news item was still quite surprising to me. But it also confirmed some thoughts that were on my mind recently. I see more and more developments happening towards the Cloud. Eventually, the on-premise infrastructure will quickly become smaller and it dependency will shrink too. Eventually, the management tools will slowly be moved to the Cloud as well. Windows Intune is a good example of this and I expect it to take over ConfigMgr’s role completely. Okay, Windows Intune doesn’t support OSD, but those who need to deploy client machines can still consider MDT 2013. But I see the necessity of deploying an Operating System to a client device become less and less as well.

I notice that SQL 2014 is not supported with ConfigMgr either. I see some blogs passing by where people are upgrading their Site Database Server from to SQL 2014. At this time, I wonder what I’m going to miss by not upgrading tot SQL 2014. However, on TechNet SQL 2014 isn’t mentioned anywhere, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg682077.aspx#BKMK_SupConfigSQLDBconfig for more information. To me, SQL 2014 is not supported and I won’t recommend creating an unsupported configuration. This is also an indication that makes me wonder if any development of ConfigMgr is still happening…

To me it is a clear signal that I should slowly ask the question what to do when ConfigMgr is no longer there. I’ve been investing time already to recommend organizations to consider using Cloud technology because it will provide you much more sophisticated resources and it will also redefine how to handle the financial element of IT. I can summarize it to: Cloud, unless…

I don’t think ConfigMgr will be gone quickly but I expect its usage decline slowly and gradually, this process will probably take a few years. For now, I am still involved in projects with ConfigMgr involved but I expect to do a lot of other exciting things. To me, change provides opportunites and I’m not afraid of change…

Keep in mind though, that this post is very, very personal…

 

 

 
 
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