Saturday, 21 October 2017

SCOM - The Value in Monitoring

Over the last 6 years I have some limited exposure to SCOM until the last 12 months where I've had a more dedicated role and focus on the product. I always found SCOM a complex beast to configure, maintain and extend it's capabilities beyond the console and for the most part had a relatively average knowledge of the product.
Generally over the last 6 years I've found that monitoring is quite a misunderstood and undervalued concept for most companies. I've seen many companies deploy the product with very little planning or actually understanding of what their monitoring requirements are before they actually implement the product then spend long periods trying to fill the gaps or just hope they don't get caught with their pants down!
There are also a lot of companies out there that also do not look at the tools that compliment SCOM such as Squared Up and MP Studio or Visual Studio. Great tools that allow you to extend the capability of SCOM.

I recently had the privilege of working with a consultant who worked as a Premier Field Engineer at Microsoft who re-invigorated my enthusiasm, passion and  interest in this product and actually made it exciting to work with.

The reasons for this were straight forward...............

Working with people who are passionate about what they do and understand the value of monitoring not just seeing it as a tick in the box exercise.
Making complex things look simple.
Nailing the basic disciplines of the product.
Being put on the right path on how to approach certain types of monitoring scenarios.

I'm hoping to make this part of my blog a one stop area where I will publish articles and useful information that may help others. There's some incredibly useful information out there on the internet where some extremely talented people have contributed massively with information about SCOM.
I'm looking to compile some of that information and reference that information in the hope others can benefit from it.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

An overview of how ATP works

Microsoft Certifications - Should Microsoft have a Re-Think?

Any IT Pro will know that certification is part of the career path although it can seem at times there are no real benefits to doing so.
For most of us it's a love of what we do, a way of keeping aligned with the industries we serve, taking pride in what we do and wanting to continually embrace whatever the industry adopts. When you look at the benefits that come associated with Microsoft certification it does make you question is it really worth it?

When you look at the particular benefits of being an MCP or equivalent there's nothing that's particularly substantial:

- A Microsoft Certificate
- A Microsoft Signature Block
- A Professional Transcript
- 40% of Microsoft Print Books
- Some 3rd Party Discounts
Microsoft will highlight that certification will dramatically improve your chances of getting a job, being promoted or opening other doors in which I don't disagree with but it's not a definitive measure or a certain outcome.
Certification can be considered just be a stepping stone, a foundation knowledge given that modern day systems especially cloud platforms are evolving constantly making some certification guides all too unreliable given they are not updated beyond their initial release. Other sites like Channel9 (, Microsoft Mechanics ( and YouTube are probably a better source of information. This was the case with the 70-533 exams (Azure IaaS) where the exam objectives changed when Azure Resource Manager was introduced into the exam.

It would be great to see Microsoft 'Re-Think' their 'Program Benefits'........

- Give better discounted exams to existing MCP's
- Give better/more opportunities to get hands on with Cloud based platforms. The old TechNet subscriptions were ended in 2013 and although there are some virtual labs and limited time that can be used on Azure it's just not enough.
- Provide more cost effective exam material including exam simulations or actually provide it for free with every exam booked.
- Provide better virtual labs that target the skills required by the certification.
Experience and longevity within the industry is key, the ability to adapt, change and embrace new technologies and principles is the real test. IT is a massive challenge for any company and only with the right motivated individuals who are inspired to innovate and put customers at the heart of everything will succeed.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Essential Guide to Office 365 for IT Pros

Brilliant resource for anyone who wishes to understand the nuts and bolts of Office 365 with free updates as the platform evolves

Azure Stack - It's More Radical than you think!

A great overview on the stack and Microsoft's vision for the future

Monday, 17 April 2017

IT Culture, Politics and Work Practices

In my 13 years in IT and I have worked in many different organisations both big and small and the one thing you know about IT is that it's always evolving, customer demand increasing and the margin for error in delivering services open to scrutiny and negative feedback especially with social media at everyone's fingertips.

More so than ever IT has become more dynamic, more challenging and more uncertain. Organisations face increased pressure for competition across various sectors and the need to drive rapid change through people and technology brings many complexities in terms of changing culture, breaking down silos and putting customers at the forefront instead of focussing on the internal politics.

In order for companies to overcome these everyday challenges they all need a vision, strong leadership, employees that believe in the philosophy, leadership and are energised and self motivated knowing that the value they add makes a difference.

Every mature organisation will understand the importance of having a corporate strategy and the ability to stimulate growth given the financial and economical instability in the world and how they will meet customer expectations. Corporate visions can only be delivered with strong leadership, listening and engagement throughout the organisation.

Leaders have many qualities but of all of them the key is in their decision making, this separates the good from the bad.

How will the organisation operate in the future and how it will benefit both customers and employees? This doesn't necessarily mean that those decisions will be popular or easy. These decisions often met with resentment but only years later realised and respected.

As an IT Pro it is currently one of the most challenging times to be in IT. In a world where cloud adoption is very much on everyone's lips or actively the driving force behind your organisation it requires a different approach a different thought process on how to embrace and re-skill successfully.

One of the biggest challenges is being caught between the On-Premises world and trying to adopt cloud technologies. Although I'm a huge advocate of cloud technologies trying to focus on the day job in an On-Premises world where 'keeping the lights on' is the big focus and then embracing the future can be seen as quite daunting as it will require a great amount of commitment to acquire the knowledge and skills. Gone are the days of re-certifying every few years in the same technology stack. Having the foresight to understand which skills will be relevant in the future and where their use cases in business will reside is the real key to success.

These types of changes normally highlight insecurities within people or teams (we all have them!). The most important thing is that the strategy and impending changes are transparent which should include anything that may initially be a disadvantage. Any information withheld could be met with resistance to change at a later time which could impact customers.

In order to drive change organisations should actively expose their IT staff to the front end services and the customers they support. The need to reconnect IT to the organisation and breakdown the silos that exist can be a huge task especially if some organisations have allowed this to manifest over many years, this is where effective leaders will identify these situations and understand what adaption is required.

Given the state of the changing world it is always concerning to see the same tried and tested processes that have become redundant with time, still being carried out because individuals, teams and leaders have lost sight at what is important, the customer and the organisation!
The philosophy of 'We've always done it this way' or 'if its not broken, don't fix it' is out of touch.
Many staff have become too comfortable with inefficiencies in technology and have a lack of desire to tackle these head on. Change & innovation to bridge these gaps is often seen as negative and a bigger risk when leaving things as they are is more likely cause bigger problems in the future.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Classroom IT Training - Where's the Value?

In the modern age of IT where there is much content easily available on the internet for free and social meet ups for technology professionals and enthusiasts it does put into question why companies would spend significant amounts of money sending their staff to classroom based training.

Infrastructure courses in particular cost from 2K upwards for 5 days training per person. When you evaluate the costs it is reasonable to understand why some companies are reluctant to invest this amount of money given that many employees will change their employment every few years and also there may be no value in re-skilling if the business model will dictate alternative skills in the future.

There are now alternative ways to train that can be more cost effective. The internet provides a wealth of knowledge and the big vendors such as Microsoft, VMware and Cisco all have information readily available to consumers. With Microsoft for example you could subscribe to resources such as Azure and Office 365 where you have purpose built environment to work with at a very minimal cost depending on what type of licenses and resources you plan to use. VMware's Hands on Labs are a great free resource for anyone looking to get some experience without spending a penny

The influence of social media in our lives makes it very easy to reach out to like minded others who we share the same passion and desire for technology. Networking and collaboration with others allows for better learning and sharing of information with the potential to open up other job opportunities. This can lead to acquiring new skills and experience within a highly evolving world and is key consideration for any IT Pro that has the energy and ambition to stay ahead of the game!

Eventbrite, Meetup are both useful resources for finding Tech events around the UK and the content of some of the sessions I have personally attended are terrific!