Free StorSimple 7020 storage appliance with Windows Azure

by Shijaz Abdulla on 02.11.2013 at 22:52

With the recent acquisition of StorSimple, we have an interesting offer for Windows Azure customers.

Till December 31, 2013, customers who sign up for Windows Azure with an annual minimum commitment of US$ 50,000 of Windows Azure credit will receive a StorSimple 7020 appliance that supports up to 200 TB of storage on the cloud. We will also throw in free gold support for the appliance for the first year.

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The StorSimple is a unique, cloud-integrated storage solution, that works differently from conventional storage.

To know how cloud storage works, watch this video:

An overview of hybrid Cloud Storage

If you are in Qatar and would like to take advantage of this opportunity, contact me.

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Cloud Storage demystified in 6 minutes

by Shijaz Abdulla on 23.09.2013 at 15:51

This is by far one of the best cloud storage videos I have seen. Take a look:

An overview of the Microsoft hybrid cloud storage

Accessing Windows Azure storage using FTP

by Shijaz Abdulla on 25.02.2013 at 23:03

You can access the Windows Azure blob storage by setting up an FTP server connected to it. For this you will need to create a Windows Azure VM running Windows (or Linux for that matter) that will host the FTP service. Each VM gets its own public IP and DNS name on the internet which you can use to access your FTP service.

In this example, I will show you how you can create a Windows Server VM on Windows Azure and configure it as an FTP server.

Besides the method described above, there are also other options such as using open source software like FTP2Azure http://ftp2azure.codeplex.com/

1. First create a Windows Server VM on Windows Azure. I used Windows Server 2012.

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2. Connect via RDP to the newly provisioned VM and install the Web Server (IIS) role. Make sure you enable the FTP Server role services for the IIS role. I am assuming you already know how to add roles to your Windows Server and use the Remote Desktop client on your computer.

3. Create FTP site on IIS: Open the IIS Manager console, right click on Sites, and choose Add FTP Site. Specify the FTP Site Name and Local Path for the FTP site. Click Next. Specify binding and SSL information. Hit Next. Specify authentication options, click Finish.

This is just a test environment, so I’m just going to use the local administrator account for FTP login. Of course, in production you wouldn’t want to do that for security purposes.

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4. Open a Command Prompt, use the ftp command to see if you can connect locally on port 21. (You could also use telnet)

ftp 127.0.0.1

You should get something like this:

Connected to 127.0.0.1
220 Microsoft FTP Service

5. Set External IP address on your IIS FTP server. This should be the public IP of your Azure VM service. You will find this IP listed on the right side of the VM service page on the Windows Azure Management Portal.

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6. Enabling ports for FTP access on Windows Azure:

For Active FTP, you only need ports 21 and 20 to be opened. However for Passive FTP you will need to define a range of ports on the IIS FTP server and open them in Windows Azure, by defining them as “endpoints”.

a) First, define the port range on IIS using an elevated Command line using APPCMD utility, located at the System32\inetsrv in the Windows folder.

cd %windir%\system32\inetsrv

appcmd set config /section:system.ftpServer/firewallSupport /lowDataChannelPort:7000 /highDataChannelPort:7014

Then restart the IIS service.

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In this example, we are defining the port range as 7000-7014.

b) Now you need to define these port numbers as endpoints on Windows Azure. You could do it manually in the Windows Azure management portal, one by one. You do this by going to Virtual Machines > [Your VM] > Endpoints. However, defining 15 points manually is rather tedious, so you can leverage PowerShell commands.

To use PowerShell, you need to make sure you download and install Windows Azure PowerShell on your computer. Before you can use PowerShell cmdlets on Azure, you need to publish the settings file for your Azure account. You can use the Get-AzurePublishSettingsFile cmdlet, which will help you download the actual settings file that corresponds to your Windows Live ID associated with your Azure account.

After you download this settings file, you can import it to PowerShell by using the Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile cmdlet and you’re good to go.

To create the endpoints, use the command:

Get-AzureVM -ServiceName ‘ServiceName’ -Name ‘FTPPortalName’ | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name ‘FTP00′ -Protocol ‘TCP’ -LocalPort 7000 -PublicPort 7000 | Update-AzureVM

Get-AzureVM -ServiceName ‘ServiceName’ -Name ‘FTPPortalName’ | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name ‘FTP01′ -Protocol ‘TCP’ -LocalPort 7001 -PublicPort 7001 | Update-AzureVM

…and so on till you’re done with the 15 endpoints…

Get-AzureVM -ServiceName ‘ServiceName’ -Name ‘FTPPortalName’ | Add-AzureEndpoint -Name ‘FTP14′ -Protocol ‘TCP’ -LocalPort 7014 -PublicPort 7014 | Update-AzureVM

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Once the commands are done executing, here is what you will have in the portal now that all endpoints have been defined:

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7. Configure Windows Firewall to allow FTP traffic

Open an elevated command prompt on your server and issue the following command:

netsh AdvFirewall set global StatefulFTP enable

Then, restart the FTP service.

net stop FTPsvc
net start FTPsvc

8. Test externally

From your PC, open a command prompt and attempt to connect via FTP on the your VM’s public DNS name or public IP address (details will be on the Azure portal VM service details on the right side)

For example:

ftp aspiretest.cloudapp.net

If you are successfully able to connect, you are all set! Fire up your favorite FTP client and you can now use FTP to upload and download files from new VM hosted on Windows Azure.


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”)

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  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.

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  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.

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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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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\<user_sign-in_name@domain.com>\<computer_name>\

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