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It had to happen: Microsoft’s cloudy Windows 365 desktops are due to land next month

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Microsoft today introduced Windows 365 at its Inspire event: a desktop-as-a-service set for general availability on 2 August.

Windows 365, also known as Cloud PC (and previously code-named Deschutes) is a Windows 10 or (when available) Windows 11 PC running on Azure. Does not Microsoft already offer this in the form of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop?

Melissa Grant, Director of Product Marketing, told The Reg: “We think of AVD and Cloud VDI as a PaaS solution and what we’re offering with Windows 365 is a SaaS solution… you don’t have to be a virtualisation expert. You don’t have to interact with the Azure portal.”

Microsoft does not want it called VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). “We’re not shipping anything that’s infrastructure. We’re providing all that as a back-end service… If you were to classify it, it would be most aligned with DaaS (Desktop as a Service),” said Scott Manchester, partner director of program management for Cloud Managed Desktops, in a press briefing. That said, according to Manchester, it goes “way beyond what traditional DaaS provides.”

Under the covers, it is built on Azure Virtual Desktop and managed through Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM), Microsoft’s cloud-hosted device and application management solution, or for those without MEM, tools directly integrated into the Cloud PC portal. A MEM licence is therefore not essential.

Microsoft said that development of Windows 365 was accelerated by the pandemic because of the sudden huge increase in working from home. A remote worker can boot up a family PC or tablet and log on to Windows 365 through a remote desktop client or via a web browser, do their work, and close the session knowing that the state is saved. It is more secure than working on a home PC full of games and untrusted applications, and solves problems like keeping work documents where they belong, within business storage.

Microsoft's Windows 365, also known as Cloud PC

Microsoft’s Windows 365, also known as Cloud PC

Manchester told us that installing an app to access Windows 365 will not be necessary. “We support a very rich browser experience,” he said, while in future Windows 11 will have built-in integration, “to easily switch between your experience on that local device and your experience in the cloud with just a swipe of your fingers.”

We’ll be supporting offline mode where that whole virtualization environment can run locally in a container

There are even plans for an offline mode, though this will not be in the initial release. This is the scenario where a user might check out the virtual desktop at the airport, work offline during the flight, and reconnect on landing. “We’ll be supporting offline mode where that whole virtualisation environment can run locally in a container isolated from your local operating system, and then when you get connectivity restored you can then move that workload back up to the cloud,” said Manchester.

Is small business the main focus? Grant told us that Windows 365 is for “both small businesses and enterprise customers,” but that removing the need for virtualisation or Azure expertise would appeal to SMBs. “You know we have citizen developers. A lot of people are also citizen admins… having something extremely simplified and turnkey we think will be beneficial.” There are in fact two distinct products, Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise. Screenshots we have seen show a spec varying from 8GB RAM with 2 vCPU and 128GB storage at the low end, or as high as 32GB RAM, 8vCPU, and 512GB storage.

What about the technical details? Windows 365 will use AVD “personal desktops,” which means a single VM per user rather than a multi-session server. Although less efficient, Manchester said the intent is to “pattern match” physical devices so that the experience is as familiar as possible. End users log into a portal; most will have just one cloud PC but running several is also supported. Admins have extra features such as user management, adding more cloud PCs, and resetting or troubleshooting instances. “For enterprise, it is at the admin’s discretion to expose or not, for different users, options such as reset,” Manchester explained. “Coming soon will be an optional resize tool as well.”

Resetting a Cloud PC from the portal

Resetting a Cloud PC from the portal

There are new endpoint analytics tools for Microsoft 365, including latency and performance reporting, accessed through MEM. Manchester demonstrated to us how admins can review performance, identify slow PCs, and allocate a more powerful VM. “They simply log off and log back on, and they’ve got the bigger machine,” he said.

What directory is used? “Windows 365 Business today works with pure AAD (Azure Active Directory) join, no need for Active Directory, no need for a virtual network. We can scale down to users of 1. Windows 365 for Enterprise, today, does rely on hybrid join, so you must maintain an Active Directory that’s synched to Azure Active Directory,” Manchester said. “Later this calendar year we will start to expose native AAD there.”

App deployment is the same for Windows 365 as it is for physical PCs. “You can actually use the same images that you use for physical devices for your cloud PCs,” said Manchester, referring to enterprise deployment scenarios.

What about security? Windows 365 will use the multi-factor authentication (MFA) capabilities of AAD and admins can apply security policies to PCs using MEM. Microsoft has designed a custom “security baseline,” meaning a set of policies that can be applied to Windows 365 PCs. This can include conditional access policies, to define when login is allowed. Microsoft will also provide PC images “updated monthly, that have all the Patch Tuesday updates applied, Office pre-installed, all the Teams optimisation to run well in a virtualised environment,” said Manchester. “I also have the option to give users either standard user access or admin access,” he added.

Reviewing performance with options to upgrade Cloud PC configuration

Reviewing performance with options to upgrade Cloud PC configuration

This touches on a difficult aspect of Windows 365. Although Microsoft provides the tools and policies to give users a good start, Windows 365 PCs are long-running instances that are subject to the same risks as other PCs in terms of malware, update failures or registry corruption. “In the enterprise space we want to accept the current policies and processes that they’re using, and then provide additional tools to supplement that,” said Manchester. “For Windows 365 Business, we turn on Windows updates by default, matching the consumer scenario where updates are applied automatically. If we were to come up with something super disruptive, a different model, and forced that on enterprise customers, that would be an issue for them to accept this new solution.”

Microsoft has plumped for familiarity, but in doing so has left users potentially still vulnerable, compared to more secure operating systems like Chrome OS, or pure cloud-based models such as accessing documents entirely through a web browser. The mitigation is that a Cloud PC can easily be reset or replaced, with the user’s data still intact provided that documents are synchronised to cloud storage, by default OneDrive or SharePoint online. What about some crufty old Access application that saves data to c:mydata? There is no magic here; the app will work in Cloud PC but users or admins will have to take care of backup in the same way as before, or do the work of migrating the application to use a modern architecture.

Manchester noted that Windows 365 will have fast connections to Azure and Office 365 data. “Our default recommended configuration for our customers is to use OneDrive and folder redirection. They’ve got that ability to sync that content up to the cloud.” In the event of recovering to a new PC, that data will come back. “I have a 10GB download speed on my cloud PC, but I may only have a 15 or 20MB speed on my local network. If I ever need to resync my data from any Office service or application, it comes down super quick,” he said.

What will it cost? “We’ll be disclosing the pricing on 1 August,” we were told. The product will be available through Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Providers, while “enterprise customers can add Windows 365 to their existing enterprise agreement,” Grant said.

Microsoft has said that Windows 365 will be priced per user, per month, unlike AVD, which is priced based on resources consumed. A multi-session AVD setup will likely be much cheaper. AVD will continue as before. “We see them as companions,” said Grant. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/07/14/windows_365/

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Your data is your future. So why trust it to yesterday’s technology?

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Promo 2020 was an impactful year for file storage. Almost overnight, companies were forced to rethink how they manage, access, and derive value from data, casting a bright light on the advantages of cloud-based technologies. After navigating unforeseen business challenges, including ransomware attacks, remote work environments, and more, it is time to discover how to apply those lessons learned.

A broader shift to the cloud coupled with an explosion of unstructured data is driving an increasing realization that managing and extracting value from your data is critical to digital transformation. There’s also the fear that disruption and downtime can seriously imperil your company’s future, whether that’s due to creaking traditional file infrastructures or ever more aggressive attacks from ransomware extortionists and other criminals.

Which is why you should register – for free – for Nasuni CloudBound21, a global online event being hosted by Nasuni, a leading provider of cloud file storage. Nasuni CloudBound21 is dedicated to providing IT leaders with the resources and practical skills required for their organization to thrive in today’s world of modern file storage.

Nasuni CloudBound21 runs from September 28 to 30 with a jam-packed agenda including powerful keynote speakers, innovative sessions, and networking opportunities designed to equip attendees with tangible takeaways during a time zone that best matches your availability.

Learn from peers, industry experts, and Nasuni customers alike as they share practical insights, real-world case studies, and best practices.

Naturally, you’ll get up to speed on the latest technology and thinking in data protection, file backup, ransomware, and cloud-based solutions, courtesy of Nasuni, which services companies such as Pernod Ricard, SDL, and Vossing. You’ll also hear how your file storage strategy underpins and interacts with other key issues, such as digital transformation, cloud migration, and the cloud ecosystem. Each day features four hours of content, meaning you can benefit from all this knowledge, and still get on with your day job.

You’ll learn how you can potentially realize massive cost savings on your file management and storage. And you’ll hear from real world companies who have done just that. Plus, you’ll get exclusive updates on upcoming Nasuni features.

The challenges of managing your corporate data are not going to go away. But by heading here and registering for Nasuni CloudBound21 you’ll be better equipped to tackle them head on.

Sponsored by Nasuni

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/07/22/nasuni_cloudbound21/

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Financial Ombudsman Service to ditch tech heads as it open arms to Workday and outside service provider

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The UK’s consumer guardian for the financial services sector looks set to chop 38 jobs from its IT department in favour of buying Workday cloud-based HR and hiring an external service provider to support its compute plans.

Just week ago, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) launched a tender for an IT services partner capable of supporting and developing its new data warehouse and CRM systems in a deal that could be worth up to £22m. It is also set to go live in September on Workday’s SaaS finance and HR system under a £6m, five-year contract awarded in November 2020.

In a communication to the IT department – seen by The Reg – CIO Nicola Wadham said the “organisation change journey” was not over, and the team would “need to respond to changes the technology roadmap brings”.

The CIO plans to move some roles from the IT department, including some vacant positions. As a result, 38 people could be at risk of redundancy. Meanwhile, 17 new roles were set to be created to support the new structure, the missive added.

A spokesman of the Ombudsman told us that only said seven roles would be affected as part of the move to Workday.

He refused to comment on the further potential job losses at the organisation, whether team members would be able to apply for the new roles, or whether they would get a chance to do so before the organisation accepted external applicants.

“The Financial Ombudsman Service is moving to a new IT system to improve our HR and finance functions as part of our work to ensure we remain an efficient and cost-effective organisation. This change involves retiring legacy HR and finance systems. We are now consulting staff affected by this process and will continue to work with staff and their representatives going forward,” he said.

Under the ongoing tender, the winning IT services business is set to provide ongoing support, maintenance and development of the ombudsman’s new cloud-based enterprise data warehouse. Currently being built on Microsoft Azure data platform tech, including Synapse, the analytics and BI platform was due to go live in the first quarter of 2022. This deadline appears to have slipped by a few months.

That cloud data warehouse is set to replace the current on-premises system built on Microsoft SQL Server, SAP Data Services and BusinessObjects, the analytics and reporting system SAP bought in 2007.

The new data warehouse system needs to be ready for September 2021, when Workday is scheduled to go live, according to a tender notice.

“The Enterprise Datawarehouse must be in place for the Workday feed by [September] as Workday is an important source of data,” a market notice published in January said.

With redundancies in the air, the ombudsman might be about to find out exactly how much goodwill is needed to meet complex interdependent deadlines. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/07/22/financial_ombudsman_service_looks_to/

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VPN-encryption: Definition and Main Features

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Description: VPN encryption is a godsend for some people. But have you ever wondered how VPN encryption actually works? This article will provide the notion and features of VPN encryption

What VPN Encryption Means?

Let’s begin with the most important thing – the notion of VPN encryption. So, encryption is when a user can convert information and/or data from a readable form to an encoded format. It is converted to an unreadable form utilizing an algorithm. The intended encrypted form can be decoded just with a suitable decryption key. You may wonder how encryption works with a VPN. In its turn, VPN encryption is described as a method of coding data in plain text (like your internet traffic) so that everyone else cannot read it. Especially those who are trying to control you (like your internet service provider).

A Virtual Private Network guarantees that the network activity of users will be known just for these users. VPN operates as a home private network. The information and files shared through a particular VPN are protected and preserved separate from the rest of the Internet.

Importance of VPN Encryption

Many users had a question: how secure is VPN encryption? We have an answer to this issue. VPN encryption helps protect confidential data from cybercriminals. These can include the numbers of your credit cards, information about your bank account, and account passwords. Scammers will lose the possibility to follow on your online connection, for example, when using public Wi-Fi. Moreover, VPN encryption ensures that the government, ISP, and advertisers have no control over your online activities. All you need to do is to turn on the VPN. You can find many free VPN apps on the Internet and pick up the most suitable for you.

How VPN Encryption Works?

This is the process of securing data by tunneling among the VPN user and the server. VPN encryption allows you to hide your data on the Internet from prying eyes and hands. Simply put, when you turn on the VPN user and join the server, your queries are encoded before being transmitted to the server. They are then decrypted by the server and sent to the open Internet. The requested data received in response is encrypted again on the server, which then forwards it to your device. The VPN client decrypts the data on your device, and you can view it.

However, to better understand how VPN encryption in particular works, you need to keep the following in mind:

  • Encryption Keys;
  • Encryption algorithms;
  • VPN cipher types;
  • VPN encryption protocols;
  • TLS-handshake;
  • HMAC authentication;
  • Perfect forward secrecy.

Encryption Keys: What Do They Mean?

An encryption key of a VPN is a random line of bits utilized to encode and decode data. Every key is unique. The length of the key is measured in bits – as a rule. If the key is really long, it will have a high encryption level. Reliable app VPN will use only long keys. The size of the encryption keys can vary greatly. For instance, a 1-bit key allows just two feasible combinations; a 256-bit key allows many combinations in total. For example, the mightiest supercomputers will take many quadrillion years just to figure out a 128-bit key.

The encryption/decryption process uses several types of keys. They are private and public keys. These keys are mathematically connected because any information encrypted with the public key can just be decoded with the associated private key. In addition, the public key is usually in the public domain, while the private key (as its name suggests) keeps private and is known only to the owner of this key.

Encryption Algorithms: Main Types

Typically, algorithms usually are divided into several categories:

  • Symmetric encryption. This algorithm is based on identical Public and Private keys. Hence, this algorithm is regarded as the fastest. For instance, the AES encryption cipher refers to symmetric encryption.
  • Asymmetric encryption. This algorithm type (likewise regarded as public-key cryptography) utilizes various keys for procedures of encoding and decoding. While this can be comfortable, it is likewise very perilous, as a closed one cannot be restored if it is lost. The RSA protocol (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) is a good instance for asymmetric encryption.

VPN Encryption Types

A cipher refers to an algorithm that is used to perform the procedure of encoding and decoding. In contradistinction to keys, which in fact cannot be hacked, ciphers have their own flaws that allow them to hack the encryption. Fortunately, this type of problem with security can be simply shunned by utilizing a complicated cipher along with a powerful key. Remember that the name of the VPN encryption cipher is usually indicated along with the key length. Next, we’ll cover the main types of ciphers commonly used by VPN applications.

AES cipher

This cipher has 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit keys. It is really widespread among VPN clients because of its NIST certification. Another interesting fact is that the government of the USA likewise utilizes this cipher. Some VPNs use particularly strong encryption. For example, Military-level Encryption. Military-grade encryption means AES-256 encryption. Moreover, VeePN VPN for Windows uses its own encryption protocol AES-256. This is an extra reason to download this VPN for the desktop.

Blowfish Cipher

Blowfish usually assumes a 64-bit key. While this is a fairly secure cipher, many internet users doubt it. Bruce Schneier, the creator of this cipher, didn’t patent the algorithm. Therefore, it can be used by anyone for free. The developer made an odd comment about Blowfish in a 2007 interview: “However, I’m amazed that it’s still popular today.”

Twofish Cipher

Twofish is the successor to Blowfish. The basic distinction is that Twofish possesses a 128-bit key instead of a 64-bit like Blowfish has. This means that it is not as susceptible to attacks. Bruce Schneier likewise advises utilizing Twofish instead of Blowfish.

3DES Cipher

This cipher is likewise regarded as TDEA/Triple DEA. It is more dilatory than Blowfish and just maintains 56-bit, 112-bit, and 168-bit keys. Moreover, like Blowfish, it maintains a 64-bit key. This makes it vulnerable to attacks. It is also important to consider that this cipher has been officially withdrawn from circulation. It will be banned from use after 2023.

MPPE

MPPE cipher refers to Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption. This cipher is usually utilized for dial-up modem connections. It maintains 40-bit, 56-bit, and 128-bit keys.

RSA

RSA is an algorithm that can be utilized for safe online communication. However, most VPN services only use RSA to establish a connection because the cipher is comparatively dilatory. Generally, because of this, RSA is usually not used to directly encrypt user data. It’s worth mentioning that a 1024-bit RSA key is no longer regarded as safe, and security specialists recommend utilizing 2048-bit or 4096-bit keys.

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Gartner dumps IBM from 2021 enterprise backup’n’recovery MQ leader corner

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IBM has been demoted from Leader to Challenger in Gartner’s 2021 Enterprise Backup and Recovery Magic Quadrant – the only leading 2020 supplier to be so treated.

The MQ positions suppliers in a four-box 2D space, defined by an ability to execute on the vertical axis and completeness of vision on the horizontal axis. The four boxes are Leaders, Challengers, Niche Players, and Visionaries, with the bottom left to top right diagonal representing a balance between the two axis qualities. Here’s the latest MQ:

Gartner Storage and Backup July 2021

Click to enlarge

Here is last year’s equivalent MQ:

Gartner Storage and Backup July 2020

Click to enlarge

Last year’s edition of the MQ shows seven leaders: Veeam, Commvault, Veritas, Dell, IBM, Rubrik and Cohesity. Only IBM has been demoted from the Leaders box this year, while both Rubrik and Cohesity move up in the box. Gartner’s MQ report points out that IBM’s Spectrum Protect suite does not integrate with Azure native snapshot APIs. Further, backup of Google Cloud Platform environments, AWS RDS, Azure Managed SQL, and others is not supported. 

IBM depends on third-party vendors to backup Microsoft SharePoint, 365 Exchange Online, some NoSQL databases, Nutanix AHV VMs, and others. The Spectrum Protect suite also trails other leaders in its ability to provide proactive issue discovery through AI and automated incident management and response.

Gartner Enterprise Backup Table 2021

Tabulated list of changes from 2020 enterprise backup and recovery MQ to the 2021 edition. Click to enlarge

The other Challenger supplier, Arcserve, has been promoted from last year’s Niche Players box. This is despite Arcserve not responding to Gartner’s requests for supplemental information. The Gartner analysts based their ranking on publicly available Arcserve literature.

New supplier MicroFocus enters the Niche Players box. Zerto, which has diversified into backup and recovery from its disaster recovery capabilities, is a new entrant in the Niche Players box. SaaS backup supplier Druva is the third new entrant, and is placed in the Visionaries box.

Cohesity was quick off the blocks with a statement about this MQ. Since last year it has introduced backup as a service, recovery and protection from ransomware, and automated disaster recovery.

CMO Lynn Lucas said: “We believe being named a Leader in this report speaks to Cohesity’s success in delivering next-gen data management, which starts with helping organisations protect their data and rapidly recover from ransomware attacks – critically important in today’s world. Couple that with the ability to easily backup, recover, and manage data across a host of use cases – in the data centre, edge, cloud, or through as a service – all on one platform. That is radical simplicity at its best.”

Poor IBM. It hasn’t invested enough in adding new capabilities to the Spectrum Protect suite and has fallen behind the competition in the Leaders Box. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/07/20/gartner_dumps_ibm_from_2021/

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