WindowsNetworking.com - Monthly Newsletter - November 2013

Welcome to the WindowsNetworking.com newsletter by Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP. Each month we will bring you interesting and helpful information on the world of Windows Networking. We want to know what all *you* are interested in hearing about. Please send your suggestions for future newsletter content to: dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

Windows 8.1: Ready to Roll?

As of August 2013, according to a PC World survey 45 percent of companies were still using Windows XP – a twelve year old operating system. With support ending in April 2014, just five months down the road, many of those organizations are scrambling now to get an upgrade plan into place. The question is: To which OS will they upgrade?

I haven't heard of anyone, business or individual, who's seriously considering an upgrade to Windows Vista, which was XP's immediate successor and was also arguably Microsoft's most unpopular operating system ever (although it has stiff competition for that title in Windows Me). It's actually still possible to buy Vista; you can find the Ultimate version on Amazon for $177.95. The original retail price was $319 for the full (non-upgrade) version. But why would you buy it?

Windows 7 is still available from many vendors at prices ranging from $138 to $339 for Ultimate, and it's a much more refined OS. But Windows 8 has been out in general release for over a year now, and last month Microsoft released a semi-major upgrade, Windows 8.1. Why, then, are some folks considering upgrading to Windows 7 instead? There are actually a few good reasons:

  • Learning curve for the modern UI interface: The Windows 8/8.1 interface is a big change. Many users don't like the tile style. Yes, the desktop is still there (and with third party tools such as Start 8 or Classic Shell that are readily available, you can work in it just like you did in earlier versions of Windows) but there's still more of a learning curve, especially for less tech-savvy users. If your IT department isn't up to supporting the transition, you may find it's easier to move to Windows 7 than "all the way" to Windows 8/8.1.
  • Application compatibility. Most of the programs that run on Windows 7 will also run on Windows 8/8.1. But "most" isn't "all." It's a good idea to do some thorough testing and ensure that any special line-of-business applications you depend on will work without problems on the OS you're considering.
  • Hardware compatibility. Again, this is where testing comes in. If you aren't prepared to upgrade all the systems at the time you upgrade the OS, you'll want to be sure the version of Windows you settle on will work with all of your hardware – including peripherals such as printers and scanners.

Just as there are good reasons to consider an incremental upgrade to Windows 7, there are also some good reasons to go directly to Windows 8/8.1:

  • Mainstream support for Windows 8 will run through January 2018 and extended support through January 2023. If you upgrade to the latest and greatest now, you won't have to worry about end of life for a long, long time.
  • Performance advantage. Windows 8 offers considerably faster startup than Windows 7 and out-performs it on several benchmarks. If your users have a need for speed, Windows 8 is, in most ways, the fastest Windows yet.
  • Cloud integration. More and more companies are relying on cloud services and Windows 8 was designed after Microsoft went "all in" with the cloud. It has tight integration with SkyDrive and other cloud services that make it easy for users to access their data from anywhere.
  • Touch support. Tablets are all the rage now and Windows 8/8.1 was designed to work with touch-enabled devices such as the Surface and other Windows-based convertibles that can give you all the same advantages as popular Android and iOS devices while also offering something they can't: a full Windows experience with familiar applications and ways of performing tasks.

The tech press has made a big issue out of the fact that many businesses are ignoring Windows 8, and according to Net Applications statistics compiled at the beginning of this month, Windows 8 and 8.1 combined still had less than 10 percent of operating system market share – and that's overall, not just in business. Windows 7, on the other hand, had a healthy 46 percent. The problem for Windows 8 is that many businesses had already upgraded to Windows 7 before it became available, and see no reason to upgrade again so soon.

If you're running Windows 7 on your desktops, you're probably happy. It's only if you're still running XP that you have a dilemma. If that's your situation, let us know what your plans are, and why.

TechGenix Launches CloudComputingAdmin.com!

TechGenix is pleased to announce CloudComputingAdmin.com – a new site that offers a unique perspective on the quickly evolving world of cloud computing.

To celebrate the launch of CloudComputingAdmin.com, we will be giving away a Google Nexus 10 to one lucky newsletter subscriber! All you need to do to be eligible to win is sign up for any of the new CloudComputingAdmin.com newsletters and provide your name, email address, and country of residence.

Subscribe to a newsletter here.

The prize giveaway will run until Saturday, December 14, 2013. Be sure to sign up today for your chance to win!

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP

dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

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Quote of the Month - Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. – Carl Sandburg
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3. WindowsNetworking.com Articles of Interest

4. Administrator KB Tip of the Month

Don't Disable IPv6

Here's a tip that explains why you generally shouldn't disable IPv6 on Windows and Windows Server.

Although you cannot uninstall IPv6 on Windows platforms, you can disable it if desired. However, Microsoft does not recommend disabling IPv6 for the following reasons:

  • During the development of Windows platforms by Microsoft, services and applications were tested only with IPv6 enabled. As a result, Microsoft cannot predict what might be the consequences of disabling IPv6 on Windows.
  • Some Windows features will not function if IPv6 is disabled. Examples of such features include DirectAccess and Remote Assistance.

By leaving IPv6 enabled, you can ensure that your Windows computers are fully supported and that all network-enabled features can work as intended.

For more great admin tips, check out http://www.windowsnetworking.com/kbase/

5. Windows Networking Tip of the Month

If you've been working with Hyper-V or any other virtualization technology for a while, you're probably aware of the feature known as "snapshots". When you take a snapshot, you get a point in time version of the operating system and the application running on that operating system. If the operating system is running at the time of the taking the snapshot, then you'll also get a snapshot of the working set memory, which is going to make the size of the snapshot larger, and potentially a LOT larger than if you had taken the snapshot when the virtual machine was not running. Snapshots are great to take before you make a significant change to the virtual machines, such as installing updates or testing some new software on that virtual machine. If things don't work out, you just revert the virtual machine back to the state it was before you took the snapshot.

There is a side effect of working with snapshots, though. If you want to run a virtual machine on a different Hyper-V server, you're going to need to export that virtual machine. When you perform the export, Hyper-V needs to merge the snapshots with the parent virtual machine, since the snapshots are represented as differencing disks. These difference disks need to be merged with the parent virtual disk during the exporting process. After the merge is complete, the virtual machine can then be copied to another computer so that it can be imported and run on the new computer.

For more information on importing and exporting Hyper-V virtual machines, check our Robert Borges blog at http://www.robertborges.us/2013/10/windows/windows-server-2012/importing-exporting-hyper-v-virtual-machines-in-windows-server-2012-r2/

6. Windows Networking Links of the Month

7. Ask Sgt. Deb

QUESTION:

Hi Deb,

Our company is thinking about trying to reduce storage costs by moving away from the SANs that we've been using for a long time. I read a lot about how SANs are a dying technology that won't be able to keep up with the data storage requirements of the future. For that reason, I've taken a look at the new storage capabilities in Windows Server 2012 and really like them. Now that Windows Server 2012 R2 is coming out, what can you tell me? I'm especially interested in data dedupe, since storage density is of special interest to us.

Thanks! –Carmen.

ANSWER:

Hi Carmen,

Great question! Yes, Windows Server 2012 introduced a lot of improvements to storage whereby you can use the built in SMB 3.0 capabilities and Storage Spaces to replace your current SAN. You're absolutely correct that Windows storage has come a long way since the NT 4 RAID options! In Windows Server 2012 R2, there is one major improvement that I'll think you'll like. That's the ability to put VDI workloads on a Cluster Shared Volume and have those VHDs deduped. What are the implications of this new feature? When you put the VDI VHDs on a CSV, you reduce your storage requirements by up to 95% - and that's amazing! There is also another side effect of these storage savings. By reducing storage requirements by orders of magnitude, you might just be able to switch out your slow spinning disks for ultra-fast solid state drives. Caching efficiency is also improved, which means those VDI workloads are going to absolutely scream. There is one requirement that you need to be aware of, though: if you want to take advantage of this feature, you'll need to store the VHDs on a scale out file server. That is, you can't storage them in local storage on the compute cluster. But that's not too big of a deal, since if you're interested in taking full advantage of the Windows Server 2012 storage offering, you're likely going to want to use remote file server storage for your virtual machines and connect to it using SMB 3.0. For everything you want to know about remote file server storage for virtual machines, check out the Cloud Infrastructure Solution for Enterprise IT.