Upgrade your way to a modern data platform – End of support for SQL Server 2005 less than 5 months away

Data has become increasingly critical to businesses, so it’s more important than ever for every organization to be utilizing a modern data platform that drives innovation, delivers business value and provides quick insight. In just under five months—on April 12, 2016, to be exact—extended support for SQL Server 2005 ends. That means an end to supportability updates, and perhaps more importantly, security updates.

In the decade since SQL Server 2005 launched, businesses technology needs have changed dramatically. Microsoft has responded with advancements in technology to meet and exceed the expectations of organizations large and small. Our current version, SQL Server 2014, opens the door to new scenarios with:

  • Improved performance. SQL Server 2014 has benchmarked 13x faster performance than SQL Server 2005 and set a new world record for SAP performance for 16 processors on an HP Superdome X.
  • In-memory across workloads for up to 30x transactional performance gains and over 100x faster queries to work with larger quantities of data and get the fast answers you need.
  • High availability using AlwaysOn availability groups for mission-critical uptime and disaster recovery to the cloud for improved business continuity.
  • Tools to manage data across the enterprise such as master data services, data quality services, and enhanced integration services.
  • Support for unstructured, complex and streaming data to help with tasks like collecting and managing manufacturing sensor data or analyzing social media activity.

Faster time to insight using Microsoft Excel and Power BI to meet demands for quick reporting and mobile insights.

In short, SQL Server 2014 delivers a high-performing, advanced data platform that keeps up with modern business needs. Let me share with you one customer’s story – TPP – and how they have benefitted from SQL Server 2014.

SQL Server 2014 boosts performance for clinical software company

The story is a real-world example of how SQL Server 2014 solved a number of issues for this clinical software provider. When TPP needed to increase its application’s scalability and performance to prepare for ambitious global expansion, they began planning for an upgrade that would support the company’s SystmOne clinical software application. SystmOne manages more than 30 million patient records and is used by physicians and other health professionals across England to accurately and securely document every appointment, medication, allergy and physician contact a patient has ever had.

A feature that became a critical component of the application’s success is the in-memory online transaction processing (OLTP) solution in SQL Server 2014. This high-performance, memory-optimized solution relies on no-locking/no-latching concurrency control, which serves to eliminate system bottlenecks resulting from scaling needs to handle additional users.

Using in-memory OLTP in SQL Server 2014 in testing, TPP saw seven times faster processing performance for SystmOne and the ability to scale to handle hundreds of thousands of additional users. The company expects to save time and money by not having to create its own database system. Plus, the doctors using the apps will be better equipped to serve patients with a more modern data platform supporting the critical health data being collected.

Immediate cost and security benefits 

According to a July 2014 Microsoft-commissioned study with Forrester on the Total Economic Impact of SQL Server 2012 and 2014, customers realize a 9.5 month payback period when deploying a new SQL Server database. If you are running Windows Server 2003 as well as SQL Server 2005, an investment in both your infrastructure and your database technology will ensure you realize the maximum benefits of a truly modern platform by taking advantage of new security features like Windows Server Core support or the ability to scale up to 640 logical processors on Windows Server 2012 R2.

Continuing to operate SQL Server 2005 without security updates and hotfixes from Microsoft may put your organization at risk for business disruptions, security and compliance issues, and increased maintenance costs. Upgrading to SQL Server 2014 before extended support ends next April is not only a necessary security and compliance decision, but a sound business decision as well.

Dynamics CRM 2016: Changing the Game in Customer Service

The way people interact with businesses has changed dramatically, and companies are looking for ways to respond.  A recent Customer 2020 report noted that by the end of this decade, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator — placing customer service at the epicenter of a company’s ability to deliver a consistent and intelligent engagement experience.

The demands on customer service organizations have never been more challenging.  According to Forrester Research, more than three quarters of today’s customers prefer to resolve product and service related issues through self-service channels. As a result, issues that require assisted service are increasingly more complex and the challenges facing service are leading to higher attrition rate. Now more than ever before, it’s imperative that customer service agents are empowered with the best tools and technology to quickly resolve complex cases.

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016, the latest release of our customer engagement solution coming later this year, Microsoft is responding to the need to put customer service at the forefront of an organization’s intelligent customer engagement strategy.   We’ve seen the stats on how speed and accuracy of response impacts customer experience and customer satisfaction. The focus of our new release is squarely on empowering the customer service agent by speeding time to resolution with effortless and positive interactions for both agents and customers. Dynamics CRM 2016 delivers on this vision and empowers customer service agents with new capabilities and innovations in three core areas:

1)     New and Improved Engagement Center Experiences:  Dynamics CRM 2016 includes a new interactive service hub that delivers tailored application experiences for Tier 1 and Tier 2+ agents so they have the information they need to be able to focus on speedy resolution.  Real-time dashboards provide a single view of their workload giving organizations and agents the flexibility to choose the order of case resolution. Interactive charts provide a visual representation of the work items and can also be used as visual filters that allow agents to slice and dice the data, view what is most important, see the next action and focus on faster resolutions.  An enhanced Unified Service Desk gives agents access to Skype and Yammer so they can engage customers and peers via chat for service resolution and collaboration.  With the built-in capabilities of Office 365, Power BI, and Excel, organizations can accurately track progress, share best practices with peers, and forecast customer needs. 

2)     Insights and information to make smarter decisions:  Our new release brings enhanced intelligence and insights to the next level in analytics-driven intelligence and a native knowledge management system for CRM.  This means that organizations can capture — and access — information that helps them systematically resolve issues faster. Service intelligence is further enhanced through analytics enabling organizations to understand and improve the performance of their service operation. Machine learning capabilities in the new release represent a dramatic step forward in agent empowerment providing answers to questions and helping them better solve problems on the spot.  With Azure Machine Learning, Microsoft is making customer engagement more intelligent, enabling organizations to learn over time from the issues they are facing so that patterns can be identified, speeding time to resolution and continuously improving performance.

3)     New ways to engage with the customer:  With Dynamics CRM 2016 Microsoft is delivering a solution that not only captures the signals communicated in various channels in the market, but also empowers the agent to provide meaningful feedback.  We will soon be adding capabilities that enable improved communications arising from listening to the voice of the customer by capturing and leveraging customer feedback through surveys to shape customer engagements with easy to use, mobile and touch-enabled tools.  Feedback can be analyzed as part of a single customer record — enabling a direct response to a specific customer concern.  Or it can be analyzed as a whole – so that organizations can better understand their market and programmatically respond to customer needs.   The new release also leverages social channels with Azure Machine Learning to instantly track and analyze relevant sentiment via Microsoft Social Engagement, and engage directly with customers on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, with the option of converting issues surfaced through social channels into cases.

See for yourself this video that shows the innovative customer service capabilities Microsoft is delivering with Dynamics CRM 2016.

Microsoft is making it easier than ever for customer service organizations and teams to purchase Dynamics CRM with the power and productivity of Office 365 and Power BI.  Microsoft is introducing a Service Productivity Solution for Microsoft with a programmatic license via the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional Add- On to Office 365.  This will be offered as a $50 per user per month add-on for Office 365 Plan E3, E5 and Business Premium licenses.  We believe every employee can benefit from our knowledgebase capabilities, so Microsoft also introducing a new, low cost Employee Self-Service license. Existing licensing options for organizations who want to purchase CRM on-premises, CRM Online, customer service and customer self-service solutions separately will continue to be available. Look for additional information on pricing and licensing in the coming weeks.

The new release brings comprehensive customer service solutions to business today – empowering the customer service agent with intelligence and insight at their fingertips, and making them better able to deliver personalized, proactive and speedy  service and resolution.  This is the true manifestation of intelligent customer engagement – empowering employees to do more – made possible by machine learning, predictive analytics and the best productivity tools on the planet.  Dynamics CRM 2016 is changing the game in customer service.

Announcing Office 365 customer security considerations preview

Office 365 provides customers with a continuous stream of innovative features that provide significant productivity improvements while keeping information highly secure. Microsoft is working on resources and tools to help you leverage Office 365 information security features and controls, so you can manage security in your Office 365 tenant. The Office 365 Service Trust Portal (STP), launched earlier this year, is an example of a feature that provides deep insights into how Office 365 services are operated and independently audited.

Microsoft presents the customer security considerations (CSC) workbook that can be used to facilitate a quick review and implementation of the security controls available in Office 365. The CSC workbook is designed to provide you with information on key security and compliance features to consider when adopting, deploying and managing Office 365.

The CSC workbook, which currently is implemented as a Microsoft Excel workbook, is in preview.

The CSC workbook contains two security-based pivots on the same set of features and information. One pivot is the Office 365 Customer Control Considerations section. Information in this section is organized into five scenarios listing the features that can be used to manage information security risks:

  • Data Resiliency—Considerations for protecting and recovering information from potential data corruption.
  • Access Control—Things to consider around managing identity and access control using Office 365 and Azure features.
  • Data Leakage—Considerations around using encryption and controlling forwarding.
  • Security and Compliance Investigations—Considerations for conducting compliance searches and forensics investigations, as well as logging and hold actions in Office 365.
  • Incident Response and Recovery—Things to consider around security incident response and recovery.

In addition to these five scenarios, an all-up list of considerations is provided.

The second pivot is the Office 365 Risk Assessment Scenarios section. Information in this section is organized by risks/threats and how you will implement various controls to manage these risks:

  • Malicious Customer Administrator
  • Former Employee
  • Credential Theft
  • Malware
  • Trusted Device Compromised
  • Attacker Foothold
  • Microsoft Operator

We hope that the CSC workbook provides you with quick information on how to help secure your Office 365 service with features/configurations that you manage. Based on the usage of this tool and your valuable feedback, we hope to expand the scope of considerations as appropriate and make it even more user friendly in the future.

To get the CSC workbook, sign in to the STP and download the “Office 365 Customer Security Considerations Preview” and “Office 365 Customer Security Considerations Preview Reference Guide” from the Trust Documents area.

If you have not yet signed up for access to the STP, you can find instructions for doing so here.