From Ashes to The Cloud – Carvers Re-Opens

On the 29th February 2012 Carvers Builders Merchants was engulfed in a fire that completely destroyed their premises, office space and all IT equipment.

FIRE 7 AE 29

The days after the fire the priority was how quickly they could begin to trade again at their 2nd site, and from our perspective how we could get Microsoft NAV and their other key systems up and running.

With an offsite backup being taken on a nightly basis, we took the data that was available and loaded the virtual servers in our data centre. This enabled Carvers employees to access the systems from the various locations they were based at over the coming weeks. The fire started on Wednesday 29th and NAV was available again 48 hours later on the Friday, while Mail and other data was available over the weekend.  We had around 10 members of Carvers sales and admin team based at our offices in Wolverhampton while other staff were based at their 2nd site. The ability to connect to their systems no matter where they were and not have to wait for new servers to be ordered/configured (which would have taken over a week with the complexity of Carvers systems) allowed them to start trading. This also allowed the Carvers Website to come back online and begin to process orders taken through the site.

I’m pleased to say that Carvers opened a new temporary trade counter at the site of the fire last week, which has resulted in new terminals being installed on the counter and business returning to normal. The critical systems are still running from our hosting facility and Carvers are considering keeping them there as they review their IT strategy for the rebirth of the business.

 

carvers1carvers2 

Having visited the site the day before they re-opened It was fantastic to see how Carvers had regrouped and come back fighting after such adversity. Although a small part of the recovery, the flexibility of cloud computing and the speed at which we could get everything back up and running was no doubt beneficial. Having spoken about these advantages many times, it was fantastic to see it in action.

If you are interested in how cloud computing can help your business please feel free to contact us on 01902 578300 or at liam.walton@tecman.co.uk

Microsoft vision of the future part 2

About 2 years ago Microsoft launched a concept video on how technology would impact our lives, the new forms of user interface like touch and gesture, new devices like slates and worktops being computers.  How data would interact with the real world with augmented reality, and how that data should flow seamlessly and between individuals and organisations. We used the video alot in presentations and have seen some of those technologies come to life in some shape or form.  Every time I showed it i got great feedback from the audience and many said it inspired them to see what IT may be capable of. Pleased to say that Microsoft have released another such video updated with new research and although builds on the original video rather than taking a different time scale. If you thinks its a little far fetched, just considered what you do with your smartphone today and how you would have felt if someone had predicted that 10 years ago…..

Enjoy the video

Productivity Future Vision

Virtualisation and Hyper V

For those of you who are considering virtualisation and understand the potential benefits of this type of technology i.e. less downtime, high availability, lower maintenance costs, etc. I thought it would be worth sharing some of the information I have increasingly seen appearing on the web.

The general consideration when looking at virtualisation always seemed to revolve around 'Microsoft Hyper V or VMware?' In all of the situations we have come up against we have always felt confident that the Microsoft solution is more than adequate for requirements especially as it is essentially 'free' with the purchase of Windows Server 2008. We of course have 'practised what we preach' and used this as the basis for the infrastructure at our hosting centre so we are fully aware of the capbilities of the software.

In the past though a lot of the posts I have seen on the web have tended to favour VMware in some shape or form. However times seem to be changing and the realisation that Hyper V not only fulfills requirements but also comes in at a lower price is even being noticed by the independent/impartial virtualisation websites as shown by the following blog post:

http://virtualizationreview.com/blogs/the-hoard-facts/2011/10/inevitable-rise-of-hyper-v.aspx

This is only going to become more obvious with the latest release of Hyper V and to indicate why some of the more useful technical benefits are listed in a post below:

http://virtualizationreview.com/blogs/virtual-insider/2011/10/5-fast-reasons-to-upgrade-to-hyper-v-3.aspx

Realistically virtualisation is going to become a standard platform moving forward, the real question is whether you want to use an effective and free piece of software or pay for something that has additional functionality but in reality you are never likely to need?

Microsoft’s Partner Conference Major Themes

Having been out with Microsoft at their Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) over the past week, i thought it may be good to list a few of the key points that i felt may be of interest. There was plenty of detailed information that was also released, but the 3 overriding themes I wanted to mention are below.

Cloud
For the 3rd year running the Cloud computing theme has been huge at this years WPC. With Dynamics CRM 2011 Online now live and Office 365 launched at the end of June, Microsoft definitely have a cloud presence already (that’s before you even consider Xbox live has 10 million paying subscribers for that cloud service!). I really think Office 365 is a great product and will be doing a separate blog posy on this in the coming days so stay tuned. However we also heard this year that Dynamics NAV will be the first of the ERP products to be available in the cloud. This will be interesting to see if it will be limited in any way in its initial release, but confirms that Microsoft see the Cloud as the future and more and more products will end up being deployed there. Technology Management have been offering NAV and CRM on there own private cloud for several years now and this platform continues to go from strength to strength. The way we deliver CRM and NAV means there will be no limitations to what you can do to the product.  We also resell CRM online with Microsoft and Office 365 as well as the on premise solution. We believe that the right product and platform depends on the customer and will continue to offer choice in all these critical areas.

Research and Development
One announcement that really blew me away is that Microsoft now spend more on R&D than any other company in the world, not just in the IT sector but in every sector. They spent $8.9 billion dollars last year… This shows how much commitment they have to develop their products, Dynamics CRM, NAV & AX are all beneficiaries of this R&D funding and should provide confidence in the longevity of the products that run your business. Microsoft don’t always get it right, however they have the ability to correct it and in the last 5 or so years there offerings have been a hit from the day of release. Think Windows 7, Office 2010, Sharepoint 2010, CRM, NAV. All leads back to that huge amount of R&D budget.

 

Natural Use Interface (NUI)
NUI played a large part at WPC and although we may feel its early days for this technology Microsoft are leading the way. Natural User Interface is the idea of voice, touch and gesture being a more intuitive way to interact with IT. Touch has already become a standard way we use devices such as smart phones and Sat Navs and it makes sense. We have seen Microsoft Kinect use gesture and motion to allow us to use the Xbox 360 and having seen how some organisations are now deploying Kinect with PC’s into industrial environment was enlightening. Voice is also available with Kinect and is something i have used when streaming movies to my Xbox, telling it to pause and resume are very basic features but it means I don’t have to find the xbox controller and voice is our main way of communicating with each other so why not with our growing range of electronic devices. Our children are already expecting to have this technology, they grow up with touch screens on their Nintendo DS’s and are used to using touch on phones and IPads. I found this out when i brought a new car home and my 4 year old said the sat nav was broken, it wasn’t it just didn’t have a touch screen and that was his initial assumption to how the technology should work.

#9 of our AX2012 Top Ten: “DIY BI”

We contiune our countdown to general availability of AX2012 with a look at “self service business intelligence”.

AX2012 
 

We’ll continue Technology Management's countdown to the launch of AX2012 with a question:

    What’s the world’s favourite BI tool?

    Clue: Hit the windows key, type “exc” and hit enter.

Chances are that you’re already familiar with it, and have been for years. Your colleagues know it, and you can be fairly certain that anyone joining your business- even a school leaver is likely to be proficient.

So wouldn’t it be great if you could directly access your live ERP data from a Microsoft office Excel spreadsheet?

It's easy if your ERP system also happens to be from Microsoft. In a matter of seconds you can pull live data from AX into Excel and view, analyse and update information in AX without ever leaving your favourite BI tool.

Providing you have the necessary authority, you can help yourself to transactional data and use tools such as Powerpivot to drill down to what’s important.

You can then save the spreadsheet locally and because the link with Dynamics AX tables in maintained, you can refresh it with up to the minute data at any point in the future.

Microsoft even have a catchy, Monday morning friendly phrase for it: “Pervasive interoperability”. Meaning Microsoft software is already pervasive within your business, so perhaps a highly integrated (interoperable) Microsoft ERP system is the next logical step.

To see "DIY BI" in action, register for our AX2012 preview event on the 20th July.

 

Will it cost more to license AX2012 than earlier versions?

Will it cost more to license AX2012 than earlier versions? If it does cost more, should you be preoccupied with a figure that comprises just one part of your overall ERP budget?

AX2012 
That is the question we’re all asking at the moment. We won’t have a definitive answer until later in July when Microsoft release their new pricing information. Anyone claiming to know the answer is either speculating, or breaking an NDA they've signed- both of which are ill advised.

Yet it would be reasonable to assume that the most powerful and usable release of AX to date (with over 1,200 new features) will come at a premium over previous releases.

However licensing only comprises a portion of the overall cost of an ERP system and one should consider the total costs of ownership when comparing AX2012 with AX2009- or the upper mid-market competition.

Microsoft have invested a significant amount of their vast R&D budget into scrutinising and simplifying business processes, overhauling the installation process and lowering development costs and risk- thereby reducing the “time to value”- i.e. the time when your investment in Microsoft Dynamics AX starts to pay for itself. With this in mind Dynamics AX2012 will be more cost effective than ever- despite our predictions about increasing licence cost.

However some of the wiliest customers may wish to have their cake and eat it: Taking advantage of a late deal on an AX2009 license, with a view to making an “upgrade” to AX2012 may prove to be a very shrewd decision.

 

Macs just as vulnerable to Malware

Remember when the answer to viruses and malware was getting an Apple Mac?

Not anymore..after the Mac Defender malware problems last week, Apple released a patch to protect against it. Several hours later the malware writers had struck again and breached the patch.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/new-apple-antivirus-signatures-bypassed-within-hours-by-malware-authors-update/3396

This isn’t an Anti Apple post (i love some of the innovations they have put into the market) just an observation that with success comes different challenges and malicious code being written for your operating system is one of them. And when you have played on the fact that you’re virus free for many years its a wake up call when you have to deal with it.

Apple are facing many of the issues that plagued Microsoft for many years including Anti Competition charges, viruses, complaints about their customer services etc, its tough at the top and maybe you sometimes have to get knocked off the perch to find some of the old magic. The Microsoft “reboot”  as they ironically called it seems to have set them back on the path to innovating and I’m enjoying the big IT companies (Apple, Google and Microsoft) pushing technology further ahead.

Windows 8 the first official demo video’s

Microsoft have been quite tight lipped about what’s happening with Windows 8, but today they shared a look at the new touch interface they have developed.

There are some similarities with the Windows Phone 7 “tile” look and feel and with the latest version of Media Centre. Personally I like it, and I love the way as with all PC’s you can do more than one thing at a time. The demo in the video shows this clearly and with the new types of devices that we are using to access data or to do our work, Windows is evolving to take this into account. It of course will work with keyboard and mouse and not just touch.

For a more in depth look and the Microsoft team getting asked a few questions around why and will businesses buy into the new look and feel, click below.

Update to Windows Phone 7

Microsoft recently announced the launch of the next update to the Windows Phone 7 software codenamed Mango.

WP7 is starting to make some inroads in the Mobile market and this update really adds some cool and practical features.

I’ve copied a list of features from a Microsoft Blog site, but check out the videos to get a better overview

  • Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are integrated in to contact cards – the integration of social continues. We think it should be an ingredient, not just an app.
  • Face Detection – that facial reco work we’ve been doing that show up in WL Photo Gallery and Kinect? It now allows you to more quickly tag photos and post them to the Web
  • Voice to text and text to voice – using your voice to text or chat…well that’s what you already do right so it’s more natural
  • Improved Live Tiles – if the Qantas app is anything to go by, we’re in for a real treat
  • IE9 – not much more to say than HTML5 and hardware acceleration. On a phone. Beauty Of The Web? Check.
  • Local Scout – other phones have it, other apps do it but hyper local search results built right in is goodness.
  • Bing Vision, Music Search and Voice – again, other phones have some of this and I’m especially intrigued to check out Vision. It allows you to initiate a Bing search by photographing barcodes, QR codes and Microsoft Tags (without using a third-party app).
  • Camera API access – enables folks like the History Channel to create a AR/GPS app that looks pretty sweet.
  • Status based communication – Windows Phone will help determine the best communications method. If a person is online, it’ll offer IM rather than SMS.

 

System Centre and Hyper V Event

Our System Centre event took place on Thursday 12th May 2011 and from the feedback forms and conversations that took place after the event it was well received. Nathan Sanders (Technology Management) and Matt McSpirit (Microsoft) both delivered some live demos showing the software in action.

Click for more info on System Centre Essentials and Hyper V  

The slides should be visible below and you can download them from the link if required. 

Thanks for everybody who attended, we only had 1 attendee that couldn’t make it on the day which I think shows how relevant these solutions are. If anybody needs any more information then please email liam.walton@tecman.co.uk or jon.archer@tecman.co.uk

Liam