Mannai, Microsoft and Qtel offer cloud-based solutions for Qatar’s SMEs

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.12.2012 at 15:26

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Mannai Corporation’s ICT group presented a set of its new IT and communication Cloud-based solutions and services for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar together with its partners Qtel and Microsoft. This event was held during its ‘First End to End Cloud IT Solutions for the Private Sector’ event held at the Holiday Villa Hotels and Residence, Doha.

"With the Cloud, smaller budgets are no longer a hindrance to an SME’s ability to compete in the market with its peers and larger enterprises. SMEs can operate cloud based virtual servers and a host of applications that can be rapidly deployed and achieve a higher ROI," said Dr Sanjay Modak, Group General Manager, Mannai ICT Group.

SMEs can now obtain all their Qtel business products and services requirements from Mannai, which acts as a one-stop shop and brings a greater range of offers and value to the customer from both companies.

"Today, Mannai takes an innovative approach in offering end-to-end ICT products and services with its partners. This wide range of IT solutions, ranging from economical ERP packages to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud based offerings to website construction and e-commerce enablement, is provided on a flexible OPEX model, which reduces SME costs while providing highly scalable, elastic and affordable scenarios for SMEs to enjoy the same levels of IT enablement as large enterprises but at a fraction of the cost. As a value addition, Mannai’s managed services model allows these businesses to focus on their core competencies while leaving their IT and communications worries in the hands of Mannai," said Moni George, General Manager, New Business & Markets, Mannai ICT Group.

Microsoft, who were co-sponsors of the event, presented their Microsoft Office Productivity Solutions on the cloud. Microsoft Country Manager, Naim Yazbeck, was present at the event.


Mannai’s team presented the latest state of the art cloud based ERP and other solutions. The SME market for managed IT services is poised to grow rapidly during the coming years.

Mannai, recognizing this trend, has forged partnerships with key players and is today providing a comprehensive portfolio of ICT solutions to Qatar’s large SME market.

This includes products and services such as ERP, CRM, security, webhosting, domain-based emails, backup/recovery solutions, document management, e-commerce and Qtel’s range of voice and data solutions.

Coupled with Microsoft’s Office 365 and an unmatched support infrastructure with 24×7 customer support, Mannai is proud to bring the best technology to Qatar’s growing SME segment.

Increasing storage on your Surface RT with a microSD card

by Shijaz Abdulla on 15.12.2012 at 21:44

If you got yourself a 32GB Surface RT device, then by now you would have realized that you have under 20GB of space left after the Office 2013 and Windows updates got installed.

Fortunately the Surface RT device comes with a microSD slot (located underneath the kickstand), and you can easily insert a 32GB or 64GB SDHC/SDXC microSD card into it to increase the storage space.

However, the added storage appears as a separate drive on the device. Not very useful if you use Libraries (and you probably would). Also, you cannot add a removable device as a Library location for Documents, Pictures and Videos.

The solution is as follows:

  1. Insert the microSD card into the slot underneath the kickstand on your Surface RT device.

    32 GB SanDisk microSD WP_000198

  2. Create a folder ‘microSD’ on your C: drive.
  3. Open Disk Management (search for it under Settings and you will find “Create and format hard disk partitions”)


  4. You will find the removable disk in the console. Right click the microSD card and choose ‘Change Drive Letter and Paths’ option. Choose Add and enter C:\microSD and click OK.


  5. Now the C:\microSD folder is mapped to your microSD storage. You can now add the microSD card as a storage location on your Documents, Pictures and Videos libraries.
  6. For example, to add it as a location on your Documents library, open Computer > Libraries > Documents. Right click on the Documents library and choose Properties. Choose Add and then add the C:\microSD folder as a location. You can also create subfolders in the microSD folder and use separate subfolders for Documents, Pictures, and Videos.


Using File History in Windows 8 to backup your files to network storage

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.12.2012 at 20:35

Update: The File History feature is available on Windows RT and Surface RT devices too. You also have the option of using the built-in microSD card on your Surface device.

I have an Iomega Network Attached Storage (NAS) at home that I use to keep backup copies of all my data. The NAS comes with bundled software named Iomega QuikProtect that automatically copies my data to the NAS whenever it changes.

After I upgraded to Windows 8, I noticed the Iomega QuikProtect is not compatible with Windows 8. After a while of trawling the iomega forums, I discovered that Iomega has confirmed that their QuickProtect software is not compatible with Windows 8 and that they will not be building a version that is compatible with Windows 8.

They (and I) recommend using the new File History feature in Windows 8 instead. File History, once set up, automatically saves copies of your files to a network location or external drive. You can use the same tool to restore your files from the saved location.

Here’s how to setup File History on Windows 8:

  1. Open Control Panel > System and Security > File History.


  2. Choose Use network location and select the share on your NAS that you want to use for saving your data. If you have an external hard drive, you can choose that instead.


  3. Within moments, you are ready to backup your stuff to the specified location. You can click Turn On and the process will start. You can also check the options to see if you want to change the defaults.


  4. Click Advanced Settings to set up how often version copies should be made, size of the offline cache and how long the saved versions should be kept.


  5. You can also choose the Exclude Folders option to prevent certain folders from being copied. This is especially useful if you use Hyper-V on Windows 8 and you do not want the *.vhdx files to be copied over.
  6. When you’re ready, click the Turn On button and watch your files getting copied over. The location is usually “\\fileshare\<>\<computer_name>\


You can also troubleshoot File History from the Windows Event Viewer. Look under Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > FileHistory-Engine

Qatar First Investment Bank partners with Microsoft to build Private Cloud

by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.12.2012 at 14:35

[As reported on AME Info, Al Sharq, Al Arab, Al Watan, Al Raya, Zawya, The Peninsula,, MEED, and]

Microsoft Gulf and Qatar First Investment Bank (QFIB) announced that they have partnered to upgrade the core IT infrastructure of QFIB’s Data Center and Disaster Recovery site leveraging Private Cloud capabilities from Microsoft. When completed, QFIB’s Private Cloud model will be the first of its kind in Qatar’s financial sector.

According to recent reports by Gartner in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 44% of FS CIOs expect that more than half of all their institutions’ transactions will be supported via cloud infrastructure by 2015.

L-R : Mowafak Kowatly, Account Manager Financial Services, Microsoft Qatar ; Samer Abu Ltaif, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf ; Slim Bouker, Chief Operating Officer, Qatar First Investment Bank ;  Mahmood Shaker, Chief Information Officer Qatar First Investment Bank.

Commenting on the agreement, Samer Abu Ltaif Regional General Manager at Microsoft Gulf said, "We are very proud that Microsoft was entrusted by QFIB to design and implement such a comprehensive and mission critical project. To reinforce its commitment, Microsoft has provided the highest level of quality assurance guarantees at all stages of the project. We are also very pleased that, as part of this agreement, QFIB will be the first bank in Qatar to roll out the recently launched Windows 8 on all its PCs."

The implementation phase of this project will start in December and will entail a comprehensive transformation of QFIB’s IT environment, ranging from domain consolidation and security aspects, to desktop standardization and advanced solutions for interoffice communications. Once operational, the Microsoft solutions deployed at QFIB will provide greater cost efficiencies, faster delivery and more reliable running of applications, and a flexible infrastructure that can be scaled to meet advanced QFIB requirements.

Commenting on the agreement, Mr. Slim Bouker, Chief Operating Officer at QFIB said, "We are proud to be the first bank in Qatar to deploy Microsoft’s latest private cloud technology in upgrading our IT infrastructure (Windows 2012 Hyper-v, System Center 2012, SQL 2012 and Windows 8). Such a step will enable QFIB to enhance data security, reduce cost and efficiently support the future growth requirements of the business including servicing subsidiaries through multi-domain capabilities. We look forward to working with Microsoft on this exciting project"

Explaining the technical aspects of the project, Mr. Mahmood Shaker, Chief Information Officer at QFIB said,"We are pleased to partner with Microsoft in upgrading our core IT capabilities. We are confident that this project will reshape our IT infrastructure. By leveraging the Private Cloud capabilities, QFIB will introduce automation which will save on Banking Technologies and Datacenters expansion costs, improve IT service availability and enhance stakeholder experience"

Launched in 2009, Qatar First Investment Bank (QFIB) is the first independent Shari’ah compliant investment bank licensed by the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority. QFIB offers Principal Investments, Asset Management and Corporate Finance Advisory services. QFIB is ISO 27001 certified and is the recipient of the "Best Investment Bank in the GCC in 2011" under the Islamic Business & Finance category by CPI Financial. In 2011, QFIB was awarded the accolade of the "Best Financial Service Industry Deployment of the Year" by Computer News Middle East.

A rapid shift in attitude towards cloud banking is happening within the financial services (FS) industry, according to Gartner, Inc. A Gartner survey* found that cloud is the top priority for global FS CIOs and that 39% of those surveyed expect that more than half of all their transactions will be supported via cloud infrastructure and software as a service (SaaS) by 2015.
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 44% of FS CIOs expect that more than half of all their institutions’ transactions will be supported via cloud infrastructure by 2015 and 33% of them expect that the majority of transactions will be processed via SaaS by 2015.

CRN 2012 Awards go to Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V

by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.12.2012 at 14:08


It’s a tremendous pleasure to announce Microsoft has two industry awards from CRN. The awards are:

  • CRN 2012 Tech Innovator Award for Virtualization: Windows Server 2012
  • CRN 2012 Editor’s Choice Award Overall: Windows Server 2012

Microsoft Windows Server 2012

The final Tech Innovator award was in the virtualization category and also happened to be the CRN Test Center’s Editor’s Choice. Trailing in the virtualization market almost since there was a virtualization market, this company has worked hard for years to build a system with capabilities that are almost beyond belief. For example, imagine migrating an established LAN and its users from behind a company’s firewall to the cloud using drag-and-drop with virtually no user downtime. With its data-center abstraction layer, companies can deploy and manage virtualized applications, full desktops, servers and even orchestrated Web services using a GUI, a command prompt or natural-language scripting. And as the company’s competitors are learning, simple, core-based pricing is the method most preferred by resellers and the industry. So we congratulate this year’s Tech Innovator award winner for virtualization and the 2012 Editor’s Choice award. Both go to Microsoft and its Windows Server 2012. Accepting for Microsoft was Jeff Woolsey, principle program manager lead, Windows Server.


System Center Service Manager mobile clients

by Shijaz Abdulla on 06.12.2012 at 07:02

Our partner LinkDotNet has developed Service Manager clients for mobile devices. The app is currently available for Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Apple iOS.

Check them out:

Our partners LinkDotNet and ExpIT both offer Arabic versions of the System Center Service Manager portal.

What happens when you choose the “repair” option on a network connection

by Shijaz Abdulla on 30.11.2012 at 21:12

Ever wondered what happens when you choose the “Repair” option on your local area network (LAN) or high speed internet connection?

Here is a list of steps that are taken in the order that it happens:

  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) lease is renewed: ipconfig /renew
  • Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) cache is flushed: arp -d *
  • Reload of the NetBIOS name cache: nbtstat -R
  • NetBIOS name update is sent: nbtstat -RR
  • Domain Name System (DNS) cache is flushed: ipconfig /flushdns
  • DNS name registration: ipconfig /registerdns
  • IEEE 802.1X Authentication Restart (Windows XP SP1 and above) is now powered by Windows Azure

by Shijaz Abdulla on 23.11.2012 at 23:45

I am happy to inform that I have just finished migrating this WordPress blog from a third party hosting provider to the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud.

Windows Azure offers both Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), helping customers achieve higher degrees of agility and scalability. Windows Azure enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. You can build applications using any operating system, language or tool.

Here is a list of services currently offered:

  • Web sites (I’m using it for this blog)
  • Virtual Machines (host your VMs on the cloud)
  • Mobile Services (backend solutions for mobile apps)
  • Cloud Services (infinitely scalable apps – PaaS)
  • Big Data
  • Media (create, manage and distribute media in the cloud)

Here are some screenshots from my Windows Azure portal:




Windows Azure gives me the capability to dynamically scale the number of instances my website runs on anytime I want, helping me deal with spikes in web traffic/utilization:


The Windows Azure dashboard also lets me monitor my website easily. For instance, in the below dashboard I see a spike in the morning when I was importing posts into the new WordPress installation and the web application was processing those posts. Later in the evening I made the DNS change to switch my Azure instance into production, and the traffic started coming in.


Qatar Mosque Finder app on Windows Store

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.11.2012 at 23:29

The Qatar Mosque Finder app is now available on the Windows App Store.


image image

This free app was designed and developed by Mannai Trading Company WLL. Kudos to Antony Sebastian and his team.

Forrester names Windows Azure SQL Database an Enterprise Cloud Database Leader

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.11.2012 at 22:45

Windows AzureWindows AzureWindows Azure

Forrester Research, Inc. has positioned Microsoft as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Cloud Databases, Q4 2012. Microsoft received the highest scores of any vendor in Current Offering and Market Presence. Forrester describes its rigorous and lengthy Wave process: “To evaluate the vendors and their products against our set of criteria, we gather details of product qualifications through a combination of lab evaluations, questionnaires, demos, and/or discussions with client references.” You can read the full report for free here:

Forrester notes that “cloud database offerings represent a new space within the broader data management platform market, providing enterprises with an abstracted option to support agile development and new social, mobile, cloud, and eCommerce applications as well as lower IT costs.”

Within this context, Forrester identified the benefits of Windows Azure SQL Database as follows: “With this service, you can provision a [SQL Database instance] easily, with simplified administration, high availability, scalability, and its familiar development model,” and “although there is a 150 GB limit on the individual database size with SQL Database, customers are supporting multiple terabytes by using each database as a shard and integrating it through the application.”

If you’d like to read a few examples of customers taking advantage of these features, I’d suggest the following from the Microsoft case study site:

  • Fujitsu System Solutions: “Developers at Fsol can also rapidly provision new databases on SQL Database, helping the company to quickly scale up or scale down its databases, just as it can for its compute needs with Windows Azure.”
  • Connect2Field: “With SQL Database, the replication of data happens automatically…. For an individual company to run its own data replication is really complicated.… If we were to lose any one of our customer’s data, we would lose so much credibility that we wouldn’t be able to get any more customers. Data loss would destroy our customers’ businesses too.”
  • Flavorus: “By using sharding with SQL Database, we can have tons of customers on the site at once trying to buy tickets.”

The best way to try out SQL Database and Windows Azure is through the free trial. Click here to get started


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