Microsoft Data Centre Dublin Visit

I remember climbing up on stage a few years ago with a bunch of security folks at Microsoft TechEd event debating cloud security. At that point Office 365 and Windows Azure were relatively newish and I must confess that like many of my esteemed colleagues, I was a little sceptical over Microsoft’s bold privacy claims.

Of course I, like many stand up on stage or teach in classrooms with lots of pretty slides and demos and tell you that, “It’s okay, you have nothing to worry about” or “Of course not. Don’t be silly the NSA are not spying on you.” But the harsh reality is that we are simply basing that assumption on trust. Ah yes there’s that word again “trust”, because at the end of the day we’d like to think that hey this is Microsoft. They are a well established company with a good reputation for quality products and services. Therefore when they say that they will store my data securely in their datacentre’s, you have to take them at their word.

So you can imagine my thrill, when last year I was offered an opportunity to visit the Microsoft Datacentre in Dublin. Now when I say thrill, I wasn’t just thinking, hey this is a great geeky thing to do. For me a a security guy it was an opportunity to see for myself if the information on all those slides were accurate. Although this happened last year, Microsoft enforce a strict NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), which places an embargo on any articles that you may right for 3 months after your visit. So in this article, be rest assured my aim is not to divulge secrets but merely give you, the reader an insight into what security is like within a datacentre.

Firstly, like many of the big providers you can’t simply walk up to a datacentre and say, “Can I come in and have a look around?” They will of course say “no.” So the first step is the application for entry. Once approved you turn up. Once you navigate through the layers of physical security, gates, turnstiles, cameras and guards. You eventually end up in the reception area. Of course Government Issued Photo ID is required along with the signing of multiple NDA agreements. Which by the way, they keep along with your cell phone for the duration of your visit. Once satisfied, your visit can begin.

Now when they say these datacentres are big, you have to think BIG! Multiple floors and buildings filled with literally thousands upon thousands of boxes which blink, bleep and whir 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. All with the sole purpose of ensuring you can continue to search the web, access your data, and play games. Now this get’s me on to what Microsoft calls its cloud principles (For Office 365 anyway). In all they have 8 golden rules. These are as follows

  1. Services are highly configurable and scalable without customization.
  2. Services are under the Microsoft Security Policy.
  3. We provide transparency in data location and transfers.
  4. We audit on your behalf and provide certification reports
  5. Microsoft’s liability is capped, consistent with industry standards.
  6. Office 365 is an evergreen service. Customers need to stay current.
  7. Our solution evolves rapidly with a documented roadmap.
  8. We provide services offers to help you migrate to the cloud efficiently

Sounds good so far, but how do you keep my stuff safe. Well upon account creation your data is matched with a datacentre in your region. For me here in the UK, it’s Dublin. Within the datacentre your encrypted data and logs are replicated to another volume at regular intervals and then to other racks and finally to a sister datacentre, which in my case is Amsterdam. This meets the compliancy issue. Data must stay within the European Union.

Ah but what if there’s a power cut? Well each datacentre (when I say each, in all Dublin has 6, soon to be 7 buildings) is equipped two independent power supplies each, so if one fails the other automatically kicks in. Then there are the battery backups, which is enormous by the way. It’s the only place where you can actually walk inside a battery. If that isn’t enough each of the 7 datacentres are equipped with 2 enormous CAT engines each. You know the kind that power ocean liners. Then if all else fails the datacentres have it within their software to switch service to a sister datacentre. When I asked “what could actually bring down a datacentre, the answer was an EMP – An Electromagnetic Pulse).” Too be frank, I don’t think anything could prepare you for the overall size and complexity of these facilities. In fact the only way to get around is by bicycle. It’s interesting to note that the European staff rejected the option to use Segway’s.

In terms of personnel Microsoft’s security policies and procedures are some of the strictest in the industry, any violation of these will lead to dismissal.

So my might ask who’s data is store within one of these vast repositories. The answer is simple, you never know. That’s all part of the security policy, separation of duties. All that the datacentre staff are aware of, is that they only look after Microsoft data (no mingling). That is data from Microsoft’s vast array over 200 services. This includes services such as Windows Azure, Office 365, Bing Search, Xbox Live, Microsoft IT and many more. So it’s impossible for a staff member to snoop on your data, as it would be difficult for them to find. This is left to the operations team who are located elsewhere.

Another important issue of course is how disks are reused. Disks containing general data, i.e. disks that do not contain any sensitive or personal information may be wiped and reused. However any disk containing personally Identifiable information or PII are NEVER reused and are destroyed by a giant crushing machine, all under the watchful eyes of at least two members of staff.

By the time we came out from within the bowels of the datacentre I was suitably impressed with the way Microsoft co-ordinated it’s security efforts in respect to ensuring my data remained private. They also answered a question that I just had to ask. “How do I know that the NSA or GCHQ are hacking into my data?” The answer was simple Microsoft NEVER divulge customer data to any authority unless through correct judicial procedures, i.e. a subpoena. Lets face it by the time you hear about this you’ll know that you’ve been a bad guy anyway. I was told that they do try and contact you up to 7 days prior to the hand over in order for you to take legal advice.

So there you have it just a taste of what it’s like inside the walls. It’s big and very secure to ensure that Microsoft meets its compliance requirements. If you’d like to know more about Microsoft datacentre operations take a look here If you are a Microsoft Partner and would like to visit a datacentre, this may be possible, but you would need to speak with your Microsoft partner contact. More details on Microsoft Security & Trust policy can also be found here for you

About the author

Andy Malone – Author, Speaker, Trainer (UK)

With a prestigious international career spanning 20 years, Andy is not only a world class technology instructor and consultant. But is also a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and multi award winning international conference speaker at such prestigious events as Microsoft TechEd, Dev Connections, TechMentor – Live 360 and the Cybercrime Security Forum. His passionate style of delivery, combined with a sense of fun has become his trademark and won him great acclaim.

Although his primary focus is security, Andy loves to talk about the Windows platform, Exchange and Office technologies. And with knowledge dating back to the MS-DOS 2 and Windows 2.0 era there is often an interesting story to be told. But technology never sleeps and Andy continues to work with the Microsoft product teams to create and deliver ground breaking material on Microsoft Azure and Office 365. For 2015 Andy is scheduled to deliver content in Europe, the Middle East and the US to name but a few. Andy has also just published his first book. A SC-Fi Thriller “The Seventh Day.” Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMalone or visit his website at

Posted in microsoft, Security | Leave a comment

Lessons In Book PR

Book writing lesson #2 remember to do PR and let the world know that your book is available. Thanks to the Stirling Observer for helping to promote The Seventh Day.

Andy with Book

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Announcing the Release of The Seventh Day by Andy Malone

Announce the availability of my new Science Fiction Thriller The Seventh Day.

Beginning in an eighteenth century Scottish village. The Seventh Day is a tense and atmospheric science fiction thriller, written in the vein of classics, such as Highlander, The Da Vinci Code and the Day the Earth Stood Still. Moving through a number of international locations, the action takes our characters on a rollercoaster journey from Alva in Scotland, to London, Rome and eventually to Iceland where the story concludes with a cataclysmic battle between good and evil.

Meet Dougie Allan. An eighteenth century Scottish silver miner who accidentally unearths a plot by a group of sinister beings called the keepers. Disillusioned with the human race and of its apparent love of violence, these creatures set about resetting the planet to allow a less aggressive species to evolve. As a consequence of his discovery, Dougie is catapulted 300 years forward through time into our modern world.

Arriving amidst a backdrop of catastrophic natural disasters. Dougie befriends a local man, Tom Duncan and a feisty reporter Kate Harding who agree to work together with the authorities to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, their investigation is hampered by a series of seemingly unrelated murders. Now they must battle for their lives against a ruthless assassin. One who appears determined to stop at nothing to protect a secret so shocking that it lies at the very heart of world power itself.

As a conspiracy unfolds and the world teeters on the brink of disaster. Dougie receives a cryptic message from one of the creatures. If deciphered he hopes that this olive branch could somehow save humanity. But as world leaders assemble in Iceland for a vital conference, everything is not as it seems. Now it’s Dougie who must face his greatest challenge yet and somehow prevent the destruction of the human race.

Now available in both Paperback & eBook from all good booksellers.

Posted in Cybercrime, Main Page | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tips on moving to Office 365 – Andy Malone

There’s no doubt that the Microsoft cloud is becoming more attractive for both enterprise customers and small businesses alike. But taking that initial step can seem daunting, what with a seemingly endless choice of SKU’s to choose from. This of course is critical as it can affect how many users you support or at the least, plan to support.

Remember that with the small business plans you can only have up to 25 users. Now while this is fine for small companies you may need to stretch things a little further. The Midsize plan can handle up to 300 users and the Enterprise (E3 & E4) plans can be unlimited. So before you think about migrating to Office 365 select your plan wisely. Full details on all the Office 365 plans can be found at and you can even try it out for a month for free!

If you are looking to migrate to 365 there are a few things to think about. The first of those is which identity provider you are going to choose. The cloud only option is of course the simplest but the chances are that if you are an established business you will already have Active Directory in one form or another. So the single sign on option will probably appeal to you. For this you will need an AD forest running on a Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (min) as well as a friendly little tool called Dirsync (Downloadable via the portal). Don’t let the sceptics frighten you about the dangers of connecting Office 365 to AD. Just think of it as a fish on a hook. Yes you are connecting your AD to Windows Azure but only through specific attributes. Although it’s important to note that every user must have a valid UPN name (User Principle Name), that’s email address to you and me.

Recently Microsoft included a new security feature into Dirsync called Password Sync. This nice feature elevates the need complex and expensive ADFS configurations and simply allows passwords to be cached, providing single sign on. Well, when I say cached, I actually mean that a hash value of the password is generated and then re-generated and it’s this secondary hash value that’s actually used. Thus no actual passwords are ever compromised. This is a good article
There you have it, just a small taste of Office 365. If you would like to know more, then join me this September at this year’s IT/Dev Connection in Las Vegas where you’ll be able to attend my Office 365 MasterClass. It’s a full day packed with everything you need to know about Office 365, including Identity, Migration, and Hybrid as well as troubleshooting and security. I hope you can make it.
Andy Malone – Microsoft MVP, MCT (UK)

With a prestigious international career spanning 20 years, Andy is not only a world class technology instructor and consultant. But is also a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and veteran conference speaker at such prestigious events as Microsoft TechEd, IT / Dev Connections, TechMentor – Live 360 and the Cybercrime Security Forum. His passionate style of delivery, combined with a sense of fun has become his trademark and have won him great acclaim.

Although his primary focus is for security. Andy loves to talk about the Windows platform, Exchange and Office technologies. And with knowledge dating back to the MS-DOS 2 and Windows 2.0 era there is often an interesting story to be told. But technology never sleeps and Andy continues to work with the Microsoft product teams to create and deliver ground breaking material on Azure / Office 365. For 2015 Andy is scheduled to deliver content in Europe and the US to name but a few. Andy is also about to publish his first book, a SC-Fi Thriller “The Seventh Day.” Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMalone

Posted in Main Page, microsoft, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Office 365 Beta Preview is now Available

Hey I’m back! I know I should have blogged more but I’ve been chin wagging on Twitter. You can follow me there at #AndyMalone for all my latest news 🙂

Anyway I’m back. I must say I like the new look Office 365 (Wave 15) the customer preview site is now up at and is very cool. It seems that there are now even more offerings on the platform including options for individuals as well as small businesses and large enterprise customers. As well as snazzy new versions of Office, users will also get the preview of SharePoint, Exchange and Lync. Also included in the new Admin Centre are improved security features such as Rights management Services which can protect your important documents from prying eyes.  Anyway don’t take my word for it, try it out today.

Here’s the scoop from Microsoft

Experience Office at its best on Windows 8 devices

  • Access what matters from the start with a fast and fluid interface that puts your most-important documents, applications and people right up front
  • Discover new and better ways to create, edit, and browse—using a keyboard, pen, or touchscreen.

Your documents and settings roam with you with Office in the cloud

  • Sign in to your account and your Office applications, documents, and personal settings are right there, just the way you left them.
  • Save your work online in SkyDrive or SharePoint where it’s easy to access, edit, and share on the go.

Keep your social networks and contacts well connected in Office

  • View multiple email accounts, Facebook updates, and LinkedIn feeds all in one place with Outlook.
  • Get ongoing updates on specific documents, sites and people delivered to your activity feed and stay connected in real-time by chatting with co-workers right within Office.

Discover better ways to create, read and share documents

  • Capture and organize all kinds of information in OneNote—notes, pictures, web pages, voice memos, and other media—and easily share them with others.
  • View Word documents in the new Read mode for a clear, focused, and easy-to-navigate reading experience on large and small screens.
  • With your documents saved online in SkyDrive or SharePoint, you can review and edit simultaneously with others, with the latest changes and comments accessible to the group*.

Talk with family, co-workers, and friends virtually anywhere

  • Coming soon, with the full release, talk to anyone using Skype, including 60 minutes of free international calls every month to landlines in over 40 countries and to cell phones in 7 countries. (Skype account required. Excludes special, premium and non-geographic numbers.)
  • Transform meetings with presenter view and high definition video conferencing. (HD video camera required)

Posted in microsoft, Springboard, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MCSE: Back to the Future!

Recognized globally as the standard for IT excellence

  • Validates deep expertise across broad solutions
  • Demonstrates up-to-date skills on changing technologies

Well as a 17 year veteran of Microsoft learning. I feel like I’m stepping through a time warp. Yes, it’s true Microsoft are in there infinite wisdom bringing back the much loved MCSE & MCSA Certifications. Although with a slight difference. It will not be a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer but now known as Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. You can start either on topics such as System Centre or SQL but it is widely expected that these will expand to include Windows 8, Office 365, Exchange 15 and so on.

Anyway, here’s the scoop from Redmond! (Well done Ken)

This is an important moment in the history—and future—of Microsoft certifications. Candidates for Microsoft certifications — and those who might employ them—are increasingly saying they need cloud services as part of the job descriptions. Today’s technical professionals need to understand a broader array of technologies in order to plan and design optimal solutions. It’s clear that our certification candidates must delve deeper in order to integrate public cloud, private cloud, and on-premise technologies effectively.

To accommodate these changes, we have reinvented Microsoft’s certification program. Our new certifications for IT professionals and developers are tiered in three levels—Associate, Expert, and Master. The flagship certification, and destination for most IT professionals, is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert or MCSE. It carries a familiar abbreviation, but has been “reinvented” to focus on the depth and breadth needed for cloud, on-premise, and hybrid solutions. Similarly, MCSD, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer, is our new expert level developer certification.

I invite you to learn more about our new certifications via the links below.

Posted in microsoft, Quality Training News | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Guest Post from GFI

How to Use a Network Scanner

One of the most effective tools you can use to improve the security of your systems is a network scanner. A good network scanner can provide you with the same view of your servers, infrastructure, and workstations, as that of an attacker who is going to try to find a way into the network; that, and the regular user of the network scanner who can also help you keep a close eye on the changes your network undergoes as a normal part of its evolution. Here are seven tips on how to use a network scanner to its fullest.

1. Use it regularly

A network scanner is not a tool you pull out once a year before the auditor arrives. It’s a tool that you ought to run continuously or at least on a weekly basis. Attackers are scanning your network around the clock; you want to make sure you find any new vulnerabilities as soon as you can. Make sure you scan from the outside as well as internally, so you get the full view.

2. Diff the results from one scan to the next, and over time

Network scanners are great at logging the details of what they find. If you scan the same way each time, differencing the results of those scans lets you find what is changing on your network, and gives you deep understanding of what is going on with your network, and the actions of the other admins.

3. Investigate the deltas

When a diff finds a delta, investigate it. Make sure that new system went through proper provisioning and change control, and that no one has plugged a rogue host into your network.

4. Confirm all open ports

When scanning from the outside, make sure all the open ports are still appropriate. Systems are retired or retasked, and sometimes that doesn’t get through to the firewall rule sets, so use your network scanner to make sure you don’t have any opening that you shouldn’t have.

5. Address vulnerabilities immediately

If your network scanner finds a vulnerability, go fix it! Don’t set it for next month’s patching process; treat it as a priority, because if you found it, it’s only a matter of time before an attacker will too.

6. Validate new systems before they go live

A network scanner is a great way to help validate that a new system is fully patched and up-to-date, and its actual configuration matches its intended purpose, before you green light it for production or open the requested ports on the firewall.

7. Spread it around

Don’t keep the output of your network scanner to yourself. Publish the results to the team portal, or send them out in a weekly summary email, and discuss them during your team meetings. When it comes to vulnerabilities, the more eyes taking a look at the data, the better.

If you use these seven tips to get the most out of your network scanner, you will find it to be one of the most valuable tools in your collection. Network scanners can provide you with a wealth of information, understanding, and automate some of the tasks that go into securing your network.

This guest post was provided by Casper Manes  on behalf of GFI Software Ltd. GFI is a leading software developer that provides a single source for network administrators to address their network security, content security and messaging needs. Read more on
the importance of using a network scanner.

All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Posted in Cybercrime, Security | Leave a comment

Windows 8 & Cybercrime Security Forum’s Announced!

After working in Norway for most of January I’m off to one of my favourite places next week. Iceland to teach Windows 8 & Windows Server 8… Whoo Hoo! Also I’m joining my friend Paula Januszkiewicz at speaking at a Security event in Reykjavik on Thursday. If you can make it we would love to see you.

I’m also delighted to announce that the Cybercrime security Forum 2012 is taking place this March in the Netherlands. Join us for 2 days of deep dives covering such topics as Wireless hacking, Social networking Security, Hardware Security. If you would like to join us at any of our upcoming events visit the following links.

12th & 13th March – The Netherlands  –

3rd & 4th May –  Norway                      –

14th & 15th May – Sweden                   –

8th & 9th November – Cyprus               –

Posted in Cybercrime, Dive Deeper Events, microsoft, Quality Training News, Security | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!!

2011 has been an amazing year and I’ve been lucky enough to have met some truly amazing people. Starting in January I travelled to New Zealand having won a prize at TechEd 2010 in Berlin courtesy of Joob Software (gosh it seems so long ago). From there on my job took me to some amazing places including Dubai, Lithuania, Serbia, the wonderful Bulgaria and the delightful Macedonia where I got to work with two of my best friends Vladimir Meloski and Paula Januszkiewicz. From there it was onwards and upwards travelling to the states for the MVP Summit in Redmond and to Atlanta for TechEd 2011. Finally I have to mention my friends in Germany and the Nordics, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. These are some of my most favourite countries and I’ve had some great times there this year. A big thank you to all my customers and delegates alike, you’ve been amazing.

With the world undergoing a horrible recession I am well aware that many of my friends have suffered and thankfully we have been blessed with survival. But I take nothing for granted as we go into a new year. I started Quality Training 13 years ago and thankfully we have ridden the storm and for that I am truly thankful. A number of Scottish customers commented to that they have not seen much of our Dive Deeper series of events in 2011, well don’t worry I have a few things planned up my sleeve, so watch this space for more details. With 2012 ahead my passport is dusted off for a busy start. First up I’m back to Germany then onward to Seattle and hopefully to speak at TechEd 2012 in Florida and Amsterdam.

A lot of folks have asked me if I have any New Year resolutions.  Well yes, as a matter of fact I do. Firstly I’ve been on a diet for a couple of months. What can I say I just love the candy! Anyway it seems to be paying off. Secondly I’m going to finally finish my book and get it published. The book thing is something I’ve wanted to do for years, so fingers crossed 2012 will be the year. I’ve already written over 100,000 words, 38 chapters and a lot of late nights. I just hope someone wants to read it when complete. So what’s it about, I hear you say? Well just for you, here’s the scoop!

Seven Day’s

By Andy Malone

From a small 17th Century Scottish Village to the very seat of world power, come’s the story of an ordinary man who makes a discovery so shocking, that it will change the very foundation of life on Earth. As he attempts to uncover the truth, he is inadvertently thrown 300 years into an almost unrecognisable world. Now lost and alone he must he must make new alliances if he is to battle an unfolding nightmare. But as the clock ticks, a conspiracy is unfolding and a deadly assassin who is determined to stop at nothing to protect a secret so shocking that it lies at the very heart of creation itself.

So there you go! Anyway as the year comes to a close I wanted to wish all my family, friends. MCT’s. MVPs, Customers and delegates alike a very Happy New Year. Thank you for your continued friendship and amazing support. I hope that 2012 will be an amazing Year for you. As we say in Scotland, The Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord maketh his face to shine upon thee and give you peace this New Year.

All the very best and warmest regards

Andy Malone


Posted in Dive Deeper Events, microsoft, Quality Training News | Leave a comment

Andy Malone Talks Office 365

In this Short presentation, Microsoft MVP Andy Malone talks aboiut Office 365. Join me as we discuss the features from administration and deployment to integration, co-existence, migration and troubleshooting. We also look at the products themselves include SharePoint, Exchange & Lync. Enjoy.

Posted in microsoft, Springboard | Tagged | Leave a comment