My Thoughts On IT…

Brian Lewis's Thoughts on all things Information Technology related


What’s better than sitting down with a technical book? Sitting down with a Free technical book or at one you can get work to pay for. Smile Since most of us have more in the want category than we do in the budget category, I thought you might be interested in the free eBooks that Microsoft Press has available.

Here is a list of the Free Book Titles as of today.

  • Microsoft System Center: Building a Virtualized Network Solution
  • Introducing Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Introducing Windows Azure for IT Professionals
  • Rethinking Enterprise Storage: A Hybrid Cloud Model
  • Introducing Windows 8.1 for IT Professionals
  • Programming Windows Store Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, Second Edition
  • .NET Technology Guide for Business Applications
  • Microsoft System Center: Building a Virtualized Network Solution
  • Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2
  • Microsoft System Center: Designing Orchestrator Runbooks
  • Microsoft System Center: Configuration Manager Field Experience
  • Microsoft System Center: Cloud Management with App Controller
  • Microsoft System Center: Troubleshooting Configuration Manager
  • Microsoft System Center: Optimizing Service Manager

Here is the link:

Happy Reading! –Brian

OneDrive-LogoToday Microsoft announce the global availability of OneDrive. For existing SkyDrive customers, you are all set. Your files are already in the new OneDrive experience—all you have to do is head over to and log in. For those of you just hearing about the service for the first time, OneDrive gives you one place for all of your files, including photos, videos, and documents, and it’s available on the devices you use every day.

Here are three things you can do with your Free OneDrive

  • Refer a Friend.  With this release, customers who refer friends can now receive up to 5 GB (in 500 MB increments) for each friend who accepts an invitation to OneDrive.  So refer a friend, help us with the launch, and get more storage while you do it!
  • Get OneDrive for your phone and keep your photos safe.  If you have a Windows Phone, of course it works with OneDrive, and your photos are safe.  But we bet you didn’t know that OneDrive can back up photos from your iPhone or Android phone too!  Just install the new OneDrive client, launch it, and it will ask you if you want to back up your photos. From then on, every photo you take is copied to OneDrive.  We’ll even give you 3 GB just for using the camera back-up feature, since we want to help make sure you never lose another photo.
  • Use OneDrive + Office for your personal documents and notes.  Just like SkyDrive, OneDrive works great with Office and makes storing and sharing documents a snap.  OneDrive is built in to Office as the default save location, so you can see the recent documents you were working on and pick up right where you left off, even if you switch devices. With real-time co-authoring in the free online version of Office in OneDrive, you can work on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents simultaneously with colleagues or family, see edits as they happen, and rest assured that you always have the latest version.  Install OneDrive on your PC or Mac, copy your docs to OneDrive, and use Office 2013.  From then on, every doc you write and every note you take is available across your PC, Mac, phone, and tablet. 

For more information on OneDrive you can head to the OneDrive product team’s Blog here: or, follow them on Twitter @OneDrive.

Better yet, try it now!

disasterrecoveryServer Virtualization is a great way to enhance your disaster recovery strategy. Server Virtualization adds agility not only in managing your day to day server environment but it also adds agility in restoring your servers in case of a problem.

When restoring a server to new hardware it is really nice when you can restore it to the exact same hardware. For example if the original hardware has a disk controller for an array of disks then it is much easier if the new hardware has that same setup. After a full restore, new hardware with a different controller card, won’t be able to access the disk storage after your reboot. This can be very frustrating and add hours to each server restore. You will have similar problems with other hardware such as network cards. Anyone who has done a test restore or a real disaster recovery will tell you this is a huge pain.

Doing server restores to new hardware is one area where virtualization really shines for a disaster recovery. First, you will need to restore your virtualization host servers. You will run into the same driver issues here but once the hosts are up all of you VMs just work. Because the VMs are running under the virtual environment the virtual hardware is all the same so there are no driver updates needed. This enables a much faster recover and a lot less gnashing of your teeth. This benefit is the same for Citrix XEN, Microsoft Hyper-v, and VMware ESX.

There are other areas where server virtualization can help improve you DR recovery time. One example of this is using a virtualization cluster which can start your VMs automatically on another host server in case of a server hardware failure. This addresses just a local server issue and not a catastrophic failure at the Data Center. Another virtualization technology that can provide faster recovery time from a catastrophic datacenter failure is a technology like VMware’s Site Recovery Manager or Microsoft’s Hyper-v Replica. This will keep a copy of the running VM at another site. It takes just minutes to have the server up and running at the backup location. Depending on the risk you are willing to accept this may be all the DR protection you need for a server. Others you may want to add other backups either online or offline.

As Jennelle wrote about in her post yesterday, the first thing to do in your DR planning is rate the needs of your services. How quickly do they need to be up and running? How much data can be lost, if any. It would be nice to set everything to the highest level of priority on both speed to restore and importance of data retention. Unfortunately, it is cost prohibitive to offer the highest levels of protection to all data. The other thing to keep in mind is the business that you are in.  For example, a military is more likely to have a disaster at two geographically dispersed datacenters on the same day than say a bicycle manufacturer. Once you understand the different needs for your services and data you can match those needs to the available tools. There are are a lot of tools available that can provide for various levels of data recovery and speed to restore. Virtualization adds a lot of options for your tool belt.

Below is a list of a few tools used in conjunction with virtualization that are useful as you look to balance costs and needs in regards to your disaster recover and business continuity plans.

  • Windows Server Backup (supports Hyper-v for more details go here)
  • Hyper-v Replica
  • Veem – Backup
  • Vision Solutions – Double Take
  • System Center – Data Protection Manager

In other post of this series we will take a deeper look at specific tools like Hyper-v Replica and explain how it works and step you through implementation.

This is post part of a 15 part series on Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity planning by the US based Microsoft IT Evangelists. For the full list of articles in this series see the intro post located here:

DisasterRecoveryImageOver the next three weeks my team will be running a blog series with a new post each day covering Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity topics. We chose the topic of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity because this is an absolute necessity in any IT shop and we want to help give you the information you need to have a successful plan in place.

We will cover topics including best practices for DR, our personal experiences in DR, and Microsoft technologies that are useful for DR. Here is the list of topics that I will update with the links as they publish.

Day Author Blog Post Link
Feb 10 Brian INTRO TO SERIES: Disaster Recovery Planning for I.T. Pros (this post)
Feb 11 Jennelle Disaster recovery for IT Pros: How to Plan, What are the considerations?
Feb 12 Brian Value of Server Virtualization to Disaster Recovery Management.
Feb 13 Tommy How Hyper-v Replica can save the day
Feb 14 Keith Create Backups of VMs in Windows Azure by using PowerShell
Feb 17 Keith Cloud-based Backup and Restore for Windows Azure Virtual Machines
Feb 18 Jennelle Is there value in testing your Disaster Recovery plan?
Feb 19 Yung High Availability, Disaster Recovery, and Windows Azure
Feb 20 Keith File Server Disaster Recovery to the cloud with Windows Azure
Feb 21 Matt What about Fluffy the cat and saving your desktops?
Feb 24 Keith Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager (HRM)
Feb 25 Jennelle Disaster Recovery Planning Checklist
Feb 26 Kevin “The Case for the Offline Backup”
Feb 27 Keith Planning for DR capacity with the Capacity Planner for Hyper-V Replica
Feb 28 Brenda Building a disaster recovery environment for SharePoint in Windows Azure — a few things we learned
  Brian Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity Series recap

ProcexplA new version of Processor Explorer shipped yesterday and it is better than ever at helping you find unwanted malware. The new version is Version 16.0.

This version of Process Explorer introduces a new integration with, an online antivirus analysis service. When enabled, Process Explorer sends the hashes of images and files shown in the process and DLL views to VirusTotal and if they have been previously scanned, reports how many antivirus engines identified them as possibly malicious. Hyperlinked results take you to report pages and you can even submit files for scanning.

To use this new feature you just need to turn it on. After running Process Explorer click on “Options” and then Next select “Check”. The first time you enable this you will have to accept an agreement.

Try it now! You can download it from the Sysinternals section of the TechNet website here:

TwofactorauthenticationYou may have noticed that some of the Microsoft social media accounts were compromised last week by the Syrian Electronic Army. CNET story here.

Well that happened because the people who had access to those accounts used just plain old Passwords. We should all know by now that plain old passwords SUCK. I have written about this before such as in my article about password insecurity found here:

What you need is to use some form of two-factor authentication! If you don’t use two-factor authentication today, I ask you why not? It isn’t that hard and is just a little annoying but it is nowhere near as bad as someone taking over your account. Here are a list of some common sites with the directions to turn on two-factor auth.

Facebook Accounts

  1. click on the “Preferences” (gear icon) located in the upper right corner of your Facebook page and select “Account Settings”
  2. Click “Security” and enable “Login Notifications” and “Login Approvals” by clicking “Edit”
  3. Click “Save Changes”

Twitter Accounts

  1. Click on the “Settings and help” (gear icon) located in the upper right corner of your Twitter page and select “Settings”
  2. Under “Account” select “Security and privacy”
  3. Under “Security/Login verification” select “Send login verification requests to my phone” You man need to add a SMS enabled mobile phone to your Twitter account to enable this feature.
  4. At the bottom of the page, click “Save changes”

LinkedIn Accounts

The way LinkedIn handles two-step verification is by requiring you to type a numeric code when logging in from an unrecognized device for the first time. This code will be sent to your cell phone via SMS. Here is their blog page with directions on how to turn this on:

Dropbox Accounts

Dropbox has a webpage on turning on two-factor authentication which you can see here:

Google Accounts

Google has a webpage all about it’s two factor authentication. It is for it’s own service and others companies are using it’s app to enable two-factor authentication on their sites instead of creating their own app.

Apple Accounts

Apple supports two-factor authentication via SMS messages to your cell phone. Read about enabling it here:

Microsoft Accounts

Your Microsoft account can be setup for Two-Factor Authentication. Here is a link to the FAQ with step by step directions.

For more tips and general information on Social Networking Safety Microsoft has some good stuff here:

If you have other suggestions – please add them to the comments section. Thanks –Brian

Microsoft Windows Server and Systems Center Customer Research team is looking for ITPros to participate on an IT Pro panel.

As a member of the panel, you will have the opportunity to provide vision and feedback to the Cloud and Data Center Management Product team through surveys, focus groups, usability sessions, early design concept reviews, and customer interviews.

We are looking for very specific expertise profiles. Use of Microsoft products IS NOT required. To help us identify if you qualify we ask that you start by completing a short survey.

Please note, we can only accept customers located in the US but are working toward extending to an international audience soon. You do not have to use Microsoft products to participate. Interested? Want to learn more?

To access the survey click on the link below:

If you take the time for the survey – Thanks for helping!!! –Brian

Communications-NSA-SnoopingToday on the Microsoft Official Blog Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel & Executive Vice President, announced Microsoft’s commitment to protect customer data from Governments and Hackers alike.

If you follow computer security issues like I do then you have been alarmed by the realization that all governments are spending heavily to have access to your data. The MUSCULAR program, from our own NSA, is intercepting data as it flows between data centers of companies like Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft. The idea of a “man in the middle attack” has often been talked about but often dismissed as very difficult to accomplish. Now it seems very likely that most governments around the world attempt this type of information gathering. So, not only do you need your cloud providers to encrypt traffic and data but you should do so on your networks also.

Another important statement in the post is about Microsoft’s position on the proper way for governments to get access to customers data. First they need to get it from the customer as they have always done before cloud hosting. Second in the rare instance that Microsoft would need to hand over data it will fight in court gag orders that prevent notifying customers.

I am very pleased to see Microsoft and other companies taking this stance witch I see imperative to protect democracy and liberty. Please take a moment to read the official post below.

The Official Microsoft Blog
Protecting customer data from government snooping

imageIt is shocking how much a stranger can know about you from your posts on social media. Most of us know not to post that our home is being left unguarded while we are gone on vacation. However, many still share enough information when they post where they or what they are eating that someone could figure out that you are not home. It is scary.

After watching the video I have linked below I just realized how much more vulnerable we are with the information we post to social media sites. It goes way beyond someone emptying your house while you are away.

In the video below Jack Vale approaches people and convinces people that he knows this stuff from his “psychic” powers. In reality he just saw they were nearby from a social media post. He then researches them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites. Then he makes his approach. People are shocked that he knows so much about them. In one case he knows more about the lady than her friend does. 

Watch Jack Vale the Social Medial Psychic

So, what do you think? Do you share too much online?

My Windows 8 Surface machines uses BitLocker by default. That is great if you lose  your device then others can’t get  your data; however, it is not so good when you have a technical issue. Well guess what happened to my Surface today? Yep, I had an issue. I was told “You’re locked out!” It went on to tell me to “Enter the recovery key to get going again” Here is a photo of the message:


Unfortunately I didn’t have the recovery key to my Windows RT Surface machine. I did remember that the key is stored somewhere on my Microsoft account that I use to login to the machine. Great!!! Smile  Finding the key however was much more difficult that it should have been. I looked all around the settings and profile on my account. If there is a way to find it from the menus, I still haven’t found it.

So I went and googled the Internet via the Bing search engine. Surprised smile Yep, it’s true you should try it and see if you like it. Just Bing it! I did and I found the answers I was looking for on Bing! <end of commercial>

The article I found gave me the direct link to get the key from my SkyDrive. Here is the link to get your recovery key: BitLocker Recovery Keys. I still haven’t found a link in the settings to find this information. If you know where it is please leave it in a comment.


After entering my recovery key I saw this screen!!!! Hurray!!!

Here is the article I found from Microsoft that gives the link:
( )

Here is the Direct Link:!/recoverykey