Coretek Wins! – 2018 Citrix Innovation Award for Partners

2018-01-10T01:32:24+00:00 January 10th, 2018|Azure, blog, Citrix, Cloud, Microsoft, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider|

We won the 2018 Citrix Innovation Award for Partners!!

Thank so much to Wolverine Worldwide, all the people that voted for us, and of course all the awesome Coretek teammates that made it happen.  Much more to come!

See the details here:

https://www.citrix.com/go/innovation-award/partner-innovation.html

Amazing Video for 2018 Citrix Innovation Award Nomination…

2018-01-07T15:17:04+00:00 January 7th, 2018|Azure, blog, Citrix, Cloud, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider|

As nominees for the 2018 Citrix Innovation Award, Coretek recently had a video crew come through the main office.  The crew was there to interview, get scenery footage, and generally get the “vibe” of how we do what we do.

In the video, we get the overview of the amazing work we did with Wolverine Worldwide, helping them solve what is quite a common modern problem in an uncommon and innovative way.  And it is also really cool to see my fellow Coretekers “movie” extras!

Here is the completed video:

Please take a moment to watch the extremely cool video, and vote for Coretek for the 2018 Citrix Innovation Award Nomination at this link.  Then, if you like what you see, drop us a line and get Coretek and Citrix working to help you do what you do more efficiently!

Coretek and Citrix: Delivering Confidence in the Cloud

2017-12-14T19:08:19+00:00 December 14th, 2017|Azure, blog, Citrix, Cloud, Home Page, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider, Mobility, News, Virtualization|

FARMINGTON HILLS, MI – December 14, 2017 – UPDATE on Citrix Innovation Award 2018.  You’ll have your chance to vote for Coretek and the Americas, January 2-9.  Details to follow soon.  Be a part of the excitement!

Click here for the latest info and pictures for the 2018 Citrix Innovation Award…get ready to vote for Coretek early January!

 

Office 365 Integration with SCCM…..

2017-11-20T02:02:27+00:00 November 20th, 2017|Azure, blog, Configuration Manager, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider, Office 365, System Center|

Deploying Office or Office 365 has traditionally been a challenge in most corporate environments.  The file types have changed, components have been added/removed, content size isn’t the most manageable, and the amount of business processes that rely on the productivity suite of products requires close management of the deployment to ensure that work can continue once the newer version is deployed.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) — as of version 1602 — integrates with Office 365 to offer the ability to deploy the Office 365 productivity suite natively with SCCM.  The feature is called Office 365 Client Management and is found in the Software Library of the SCCM Console.  Here’s a snapshot of what it looks like:

On the left, you have your Office 365 Folder with Office 365 Updates included.  When in the folder view, you can see a summary of the number of O365 clients and their versions.  If you notice the scroll-bar indicates there’s more to see…

The different sections can be summarized as such:

  1. Number of O365 Clients in total
  2. The breakdown and summarization of the different versions in the environment
  3. A button which will initiate a wizard to create an O365 client deployment package
  4. A chart indicating the number of systems running different languages of O365
  5. A button to create an Automatic Deployment Rule
  6. Another option to create client settings (These are standard SCCM Client settings, nothing special pertaining to O365)
  7. The number of systems configured to the different update Channels for Office 365 client management
  8. If ADRs were created, they would show in this section

I’ve had some great experiences working with the Office 365 Client management integration with SCCM.  The ability to create a single package to support multiple different languages has taken my packaging time and reduced it to minutes.

In addition to providing a built-in package creation utility, SCCM also manages and services O365 packages moving forward.  The updates are all provided through SCCM’s native Software Update technology but are provided to you in a separate node in the console so that you can view only the updates pertaining to the 365 clients in your environment.  This makes it very easy to identify required and installed updates for your managed systems.

As for what’s needed to manage updates for O365 within SCCM:

Requirements for using Configuration Manager to manage Office 365 client updates

To enable Configuration Manager to manage Office 365 client updates, you need the following (summarized from link above):

  • System Center Configuration Manager, update 1602 or later
  • An Office 365 client – Office 365 ProPlus, Visio Pro for Office 365, Project Online Desktop Client, or Office 365 Business
  • Supported channel version for Office 365 client. For more details, see Version and build numbers of update channel releases for Office 365 clients
  • Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 4.0  — You can’t use WSUS by itself to deploy these updates. You need to use WSUS in conjunction with Configuration Manager
  • On the computers that have the Office 365 client installed, the Office COM object is enabled

All in all, I have to say that I’m very impressed with the integration of Office 365 Client Management into SCCM.  SCCM has been a very powerful tool and to add the ability to manage the productivity suite natively in SCCM will ensure that admins in large environments can spend more time managing than packaging.

Good Job Microsoft!

Which Azure Plan is Right for You?

2017-07-27T00:47:04+00:00 July 27th, 2017|Azure, blog, Cloud, Microsoft, Microsoft Infrastructure, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider, Office 365|

As you start to explore the world of Microsoft Azure Cloud Services, you will start to see there are many options.  Let’s discuss the three types of Microsoft programs for you to purchase.

#1 – Pay-As-You-Go Subscriptions

Pay-As-You-Go subscriptions are simple to use and simple to set up.  There are no minimum purchases or commitments.  You pay for your consumption by credit-card on a monthly basis and you can cancel anytime.  This use-case is primarily for infrastructure environments that are setup for a temporary purpose.  It’s important to understand that organizations using this model pay full list price for consumption and do not have direct support from Microsoft.

#2 – Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA)

Microsoft Enterprise Agreements are commitment based Microsoft Volume Licensing agreements with a contractual term of 3 years.  Enterprise Agreement customers can add Azure to their EA by making an upfront monetary commitment for Azure services.  That commitment is consumed throughout the year by using a combination of the wide variety of Microsoft cloud services including Azure and Office 365.  This is paid annually in advance with a true up on a quarterly basis for overages.  Any unused licenses are still charged based on the commitment.  If you are a very large enterprise, the greatest advantage of an EA is having a direct relationship with a Microsoft sales team.  Also, EAs offer discounts based on your financial commitment.  And while there are many pros to the EA approach, understanding and controlling the cost of consumption can be a challenge for customers within EAs.  Personally, I recently took over the management of our EA and can attest that this can be very complicated.

#3 – Cloud Solution Provider (CSP)

When using Microsoft Cloud Services through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, you work directly with a partner to design and implement a cloud solution that meets your unique needs.  Cloud Solution Providers, support all Microsoft Cloud Services (i.e., Azure, Office 365, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Dynamics CRM Online) through a single platform.  CSP is similar to the Pay-As-You-Go subscription in that there are no minimum purchases or commitments.  Your consumption is invoiced monthly based on actual consumption (either via invoiced PO or credit card, your choice), and you can cancel at anytime.  This will significantly simplify your Azure and Office 365 billing process!  CSP offers many advantages over Pay-As-You-Go Subscriptions and Enterprise Agreements, and in most cases can be a more cost effective solution.

As a CSP, Coretek helps customers optimize their consumption cost by working with our customers to ensure they have the right Azure server types assigned to their workloads.  We also work with customers to shut down services when they are minimally used after business hours.  As part of Coretek’s Managed Support, our team provides proactive maintenance to ensure your infrastructure is running in an optimal manor including monitoring and patching of your servers.  Coretek’s Azure Management Suite (AMS) Portal enables business users to understand where the cost of their consumption is being utilized.  The AMS portal can display real time consumption cost based on department and projects.  It also enables business users to understand what Microsoft licenses are being utilized and who they are assigned to in a simple graphical format.

Coretek Services – Improving End User Experience and IT Efficiency.

Microsoft Azure – Global. Trusted. Hybrid.  This is cloud on your terms.

Why use Cloud App Security when my firewall already does this?

2017-07-27T00:00:58+00:00 April 12th, 2017|blog, Cloud, Microsoft, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider|

Microsoft’s new Cloud App Security (CAS) is a new product feature that comes with Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security E5 line of products.  The solution is a cloud-based application model built on Azure Active Directory but can also be used independently, although the dataset will not be as rich.

The idea is for customers to be able to gain deep insight into what apps their end-users are consuming, identify data drift and leakage, be able to “sanction” or “unsanctioned” applications, and even generate a block script to block those unsanctioned apps at the firewall level.  There are two paths to gathering this data:  Firewall Logs and Connected apps.

DISCOVER

You can discover information by manually importing firewall logs or even setup a connector VM which will gather the logs and upload them to the CAS for you.  This is not much different than technologies offered by the firewall providers themselves and, in many cases, will not provide as quick of a reaction as you’d receive from those vendor provided solutions.  The connector, by default, uploads logs from the firewall every 20 minutes and imports those into the CAS.

What I believe separates Cloud App Security different from the firewall provider solutions is that it integrates with Connected apps.  A Connected app is an application where CAS leverages APIs provided by the cloud provider.  Each provider has its own framework and limitations, so the functionality for each may depend on how much the provider has extended the API.

There are currently few Connected Apps that CAS supports but I’ve found that the biggest bang for your buck will be the Office 365 suite of applications.  This allows the CAS to see usage of the standard suite of Office apps and your Azure AD connected users.

INVESTIGATE

With the data gathered from the Connected apps, you can see information on File usage, owner information, app name, Collaborators, and more.  You will be able to tell who is accessing what files and who those files have been shared with.  You can drill down on particular user activity and see all of the apps and traffic volumes for their particular usage.

The Cloud Discovery Dashboard provides a rich view of information from a graphical perspective including dashboard items like App Categories which highlight usage based on categories such as CRM, Collaboration, Accounting, Storage apps, and more.  Other items on the dashboard show top discovered apps, top users, and even a geographical map of usage based on where the apps are being used.

CONTROL

Through alerts you may be made aware of Risky IP addresses, Mass downloads, New Cloud app usage, and more.  If a particular user is a concern, you even have the ability to suspend usage of a particular connected app for a particular user.  This adds a layer of security that a standard firewall report may not provide – especially if the user roams to another location off-premise where your firewall is not present.

Using the policies feature, I can set an alert, notify the user and CC their manager, or even suspend the user based on the several configuration policies that are available to me via the console.  This allows me to mitigate threats as they happen instead of waiting for a review of alerts or logs, possibly days or even weeks after the events occurred.

To summarize on Microsoft’s Cloud App Security, I would have to say that they are opening the door to rich integration with cloud based apps and providing another avenue to secure your corporate data.  With the deep integration of Office 365, those that have the E5 licensing should definitely take advantage of this product.  Even those interested, but not licensed can subscribe for a trial version and use the firewall discovery solution to get an immediate view of what’s being used internally.  This will allow your organization to have that much-needed discussion on BYOD and the security risks that ultimately partner with an open door policy.

If setup properly, adding Cloud App Security to your environment can greatly increase the level of security your organization has regarding the mobility of your data and users!

For More information, review the following useful links:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/cloud-app-security

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-app-security/enable-instant-visibility-protection-and-governance-actions-for-your-apps

https://github.com/Microsoft/CloudAppSecurityDocs/blob/master/CloudAppSecurityDocs/what-is-cloud-app-security.md

 

5 Tips for connecting your Azure space to On-Premises…

2017-07-27T00:00:58+00:00 March 26th, 2017|Azure, blog, Cloud, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider|

Often, the easiest thing about using the Azure Cloud is getting started.  Whether it’s creating a VM, establishing a web service, etc., it’s usually as easy as a few clicks and you’ve got some “thing” running in a bubble.  That’s the easy part.

It’s what you do right after that can often be a challenge, since in many cases it involves inter-connectivity with your on-premises environment.  And at that point, whether it’s the early on, or even after long-thought-out deliberative designing, you may want to sit down and have a talk with your firewall/network team (who may never even have heard the word “Azure” before) and talk about exactly how to connect.

Please be mindful that the router/firewall people roll in a different workspace, and may have a different approach to what you’re trying to accomplish.  They may prefer to use third-party firewall/tunnel capabilities with which they are already familiar, or utilize the off-the-shelf options that Microsoft provides.  Note: This article is all about the built-in Microsoft options; we’ll have a discussion about third-party items in a future article.

Specifically when working with the native Azure connectivity options, the first thing you’ll want to do is point yourself and others at this URL, which provides most everything needed to get started:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/vpn-gateway/vpn-gateway-plan-design

…note that there are some great sub-pages there too, to take the conversation from “Why are we doing this” to “What is Azure” to “Let’s submit a ticket to increase our route limitation“.

But speaking as a server/cloud guy, I wanted to give you some simple but important tips you’ll need to know off the top of your head when speaking to your router people:

Tip #1
There are two types of Gateways for on-prem connections to the cloud: ExpressRoute and VPN.  ExpressRoute is awesome and preferred if you have that option.  If you don’t know what ExpressRoute is already, you probably can’t afford it or don’t need it — which leaves you with VPN.  The good news is that if done right, the VPNs can be perfectly fine for an Enterprise if you set them up right, and mind them well.

Tip #2
I’m mostly writing these VPN options down because I always forget it, but you need to know the definitions too:
“Static Routing” used to be called “PolicyBased” and your router person knows it as IKEv1
“Dynamic Routing” used to be called  “RouteBased” and your router person knows it as IKEv2

Tip #3
PolicyBased can only be used with “Basic” SKU, and only permits one tunnel and no transitive routing.  You probably do not want this except in the most simple of configurations.  Ironically, your router/firewall person will most likely configure your VPN this way if you don’t instruct them otherwise.  Watch out!

Tip #4
The firewall you have may not be supported.  But even if it’s not, that means two things:  you may be forced into PolicyBased (read Tip #3), or in many cases it will work just fine even if it’s not supported.  But you might be on your own if you have a problem, so know what you’re getting into.

Tip #5
Please calculate the total number of routes and gateways and such that you’ll be permitted based on the SKUs you’re chosen.  Make sure that your fanciful networking dreams will all come true when you finally get where you’re going.  Everything in Azure has a quota or limitation of some sort, and you can almost always get them raised from the low original limit, but some things just aren’t possible without changing SKUs.

Extra Bonus Tip
Look into the “Network Watcher” preview for validating some of your networking flow and security, and for an instant dashboard of the quotas (mentioned in Tip #5).  It’s only available in some locations right now, but it’s looks like it will be quite nice.

…and that’s just scratching the surface, but those are some of the things I run into out there, and I thought it might save you a minute… or a day… or more…

Good luck out there!

Coretek Services Named Microsoft Global Managed Partner

2017-07-27T00:00:58+00:00 December 9th, 2016|Azure, Microsoft, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider, News|

Farmington Hills, MI – December 9th, 2016 – Coretek Services, a global leader in managed hybrid IT solutions, has been named a Global Managed Partner by Microsoft Corporation. The prestigious distinction encompasses 20 companies worldwide, 6 of which are in the United States.

Coretek Services Managed Cloud for Azure utilizes the cloud platform and Coretek’s extensive suite of managed services, tools and experience to get customers up and running in their Azure environments quickly, securely, with less overhead and more predictability. Coretek’s managed cloud offering is one of the first of its kind to provide customers a single platform for infrastructure services on the Azure Platform.

“We are extending the value we deliver to our clients through our Managed Cloud for Azure,” said Ron Lisch, CEO of Coretek Services. “Through our services, we enable our clients to more effectively plan, build and run enterprise applications on Azure. Our collaboration with Microsoft further strengthens our leadership in offering the choice and control of managed cloud IT solutions.”

 

About Coretek Services

Coretek Services is a Systems Integration and IT Consulting Company that delivers high value and innovative solutions.  Coretek works with your team to custom-design an IT architecture based on each clients’ unique requirements; the solution encompasses server and desktop virtualization, optimization of a virtual desktop environment, cloud desktop, mobile device management, infrastructure consulting and project management.  Our goal is to help our clients achieve Project Success. No exceptions. For more information, visit coretekservices.com.

The Advantages of Working with a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP)

2017-07-27T00:00:58+00:00 October 2nd, 2016|Azure, blog, Cloud, Microsoft, Micrsoft Cloud Solution Provider|

There are many cloud services platforms — and numerous cloud service providers — to assist your organization with the strategy, deployment, and management of your cloud initiative.  In this ever-growing landscape of cloud providers, how do you choose the partner that is best for your business?

We have uncovered the key attributes which will determine your cloud projects’ success when selecting a cloud solution provider: experience, value, and fit.  Evaluating these three credentials of your cloud provider candidates will drive your cloud strategy, deployment, and management success rate.microsoft-cloud-solution-provider

Experience

First, you want a provider that has several cloud veterans that are constantly in touch with the state of the industry.  Coretek Services employs folks that are cloud product veterans in Azure and many of the other cloud technologies.  In fact, members of our team have been instrumental in building the Azure cloud solution when they were employed at Microsoft.

Next, you want to know that your provider isn’t “cloud only” but also has experience in data center infrastructure, virtualization, mobility, security, and your specific business domain such as healthcare, manufacturing, and others.  Few cloud service providers can offer you this additional depth of experience.

Value

You want your provider to provide value beyond just the cloud product being delivered.  This means that you want your new cloud partner to have significant relationships and partnerships with other technology vendors as well as the necessary expertise in those platforms.

As a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP), we have a significant value partnership in Azure.  We have relationships with the product development teams and input into the feature development process.  It allows us to represent cloud computing trends that our customers are experiencing to the cloud product development team.

cloud-service-providerWhile you get a great product in Azure because Microsoft is focused on delivering the very best, we are free to build value-added features for our customers.  For example, we can tailor automation to your business to make your cloud usage more efficient, such as decreasing services when your business is closed or by increasing services when demand bursts to higher levels.  This allows you to control your costs and forecast your needs well in advance.

Simply put — you get the best of both worlds.  It allows your organization to receive the best that Azure can provide along

with the detailed focus of your IT business needs, which Coretek Services provides.

Priority and Fitcsp

As a Microsoft CSP, we quickly identify the technical problems and bring the right solutions and people rapidly to your assistance.  Coretek Services makes your organizations needs a top priority.  We will fit into your business in the way that is most appropriate to you providing professional services, managed services, or the mix that you desire.

We believe in one thing.  Customer Success!  No Exceptions!