Friday, 11 October 2019

Azure Fundamentals 12th December

Certified Microsoft Azure Fundamentals  - AZ-900 

 1 day Web based Course - 12th December 2019

Its been a big few of weeks here at We've been accepted onto the UK Governments Digital Outcomes & Specialists 4 framework, our recent webinars have led to inquiries for our SQL Health check and Migration solutions and we're very excited to be launching our web based Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals Course AZ-900T as the next stage of delivering our aim of making Expert Skill available at Affordable prices.

If you're seeking Azure Certification or just want to gain Azure skills then this course is for you. At only £350 + VAT per delegate (£295 + VAT early bird discount for the first 5 bookings) we believe this is great value for money. This course covers everything you need to know should you wish to become Microsoft Certified at this level, and the full list of the course objectives is available here.

Here's some comments from previous training course customers:
"The Instructor was knowledgeable, and friendly. The mixture of slides, demonstrations and exercises keeps the material interesting".
"Really informative, I received everything I expected and extra!"
"Gethyn answered all questions very well in a clear and concise way and went through the material in a good speed and explained certain areas in more depth where necessary"
"Excellent clear tuition and knowledge from Geth Ellis. Thank you!"

If you would like to book please take this link, to make your booking and payment. Note prices above exclude the small Eventbrite booking fee.

So whether you're an individual, or you work for a Not for Profit, Membership body, Financial provider, Law Firm or any Public or Private sector organisation and you want to get to know Microsoft Azure, our web based course can help you maximise your investment at an affordable price. We look forward to seeing you on the 12th. To be assured of a place, please book as soon as you are able as places are limited.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Cloud Computing: Myths, Mysteries, Vampires & Vultures - a free seminar to help you learn more about "the cloud".

To be honest you probably think that migrating to the cloud sounds great, and it can be, but… it’s not without risks and many people do not sufficiently understand what the consequences of their actions really are.

In this session we'll discuss:

  • What cloud options are there and what this might mean to your business?
  • What risks you are and aren't mitigating in migrating to the cloud?
  • What responsibilities remain yours as a result?
  • If it is a panacea for all your IT worries or if you will still need IT?
  • How to get the best out of the cloud for you?

Does any of this intrigue you? Or do you think someone you know might get unwittingly bitten and should be forewarned?

If so then please register here for our free webinar. If you register and find you can’t make the seminar, don’t worry we’ll make a recording of the webinar and make this available after the event.

Monday, 5 August 2019

David's book: Putting Your Head in the Clouds

I have had a few people contact me over the last few weeks asking if David’s ebook “Putting Your Head in the Clouds” is still available. The short answer is yes it it!

If you would like a free  copy all you need to do is click the Free Training and Webinars Page at the top of the page and signup for our free training Newsletter and you will get sent an email with our back catalog of  webinars and a link to download David’s book.

If you have any issues accessing the book  do let me know.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Fantasy Football - A League of Our Own - Want to Play?

It feels daft me saying the football season is only 9 days away, when in fact The Ashes cricket series is only starting today at Edgbaston. The Ashes are starting later than perhaps they usually would and the football season if creeping forward in August. The Premier League  starts on Friday 9th August  when the mighty Liverpool take on Norwich.

Lords Cricket - England v Ireland July 2019

Last year I had a lot of fun play fantasy football, you can take it as seriously as you like, it is after all just a bit of bit of fun, but I had a lot of fun analysing the data, the statistics and picking what I thought would be a great team. Data is a big deal in football and sport in general,  as year on year  the game and moves more and more towards data driven decisions – Money Ball!

Wolves v Crusaders July 2019 (Europa League)

There is no doubt a lot of football fans in the SQL Server community and no doubt some of these play fantasy football too so I thought I’d put together a private league that we can join to see who manages the best team through the course of the season. 

With fantasy football there is a lot of data available that you can use to analyse and slice and dice  to allow you to make decisions on the best players to pick  in your team. Allowing you to get the most of your £100 Million, the fictional amount you have to build your team – your constraint. The value of the player can fluctuate over the course of a season and you can make transfers each week too so can grow or even lose some of that £100 Million  – you are limited to 1 free transfer a week but you can buy more transfers by sacrificing points. Details of how the scoring works and a full set of rule are available on the

I have decided to run  a bit of competition on the blog just for fun to see if anyone else is interested. 

I thought we could have a league of our own…. If you would like to join in and play, its open to everyone so feel free to sign up. Click this link and use the registration form at the bottom of the page. This will add you my mailing list for the league, all you need is  your  name and email addresses. I’ll send you an email that will contain a link to the fantasy football site (You can find that link below too) and also include the league code and some instructions on how to join.  You will need the league code to join the league I have created. Enter that code into the "Join a League" section of to enter your team into the league and   we can have a bit of fun with a League of our own. The site we will use is  the official premier league fantasy football and we follow all the rules and T&Cs for that site for playing the game. I'll keep you updated from time to time with league updates... There is no prize for  winning the league (I am not the organised) yet, but I'll see what I can put together, I'm sure I have a cup and some pens lying around, they will only be very small prizes, its just for fun but I'll confirm if I have managed to secure any and what they are at a later date. 

However you pick your side and however make your transfers, whether its gut instinct or you use extensive data analysis or even using machine learning algorithms to help you make those critical decisions it will help keep the football season fun and also maybe learn some things too especially if you use ML to make picks and selections…

Follow this link and signup using the form at the bottom of the landing page to get involved.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

OUT OF SUPPORT: SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2

Welcome to this post, on SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, both of these versions of SQL server will go out of  extended support with Microsoft today! 9th July 2019!

Maybe you were thinking of upgrading your legacy SQL servers to the latest and greatest versions?

Who is Affected

In the consultancy practice at we have both large and small clients. Its usually  always the way, the small clients with less of a SQL Server infrastructure footprint find it easier to keep up within two versions of the latest version of SQL Server.  Its very often the larger clients, with a large estate that struggle to keep all of their estate on supported versions and are usually the ones facing the end of support cliff edge.

I have seen SQL Server estates at many  companies and businesses and, at an estimate I'd say that between 20 and 30% of the estate is on SQL Server 2008 R2 and below. There can be a number of reasons for this, including but not limited too,  the applications the databases support require an older version of SQL Server, maybe the applications are  also coming to the end of life, but the end dates do not  not match up with the data platform end of support dates. In this situation  you have period of time where your data platform is out of support completely.

Sometimes these applications are critical to the business and everything works just fine. The business doesn’t want to disrupt the application or introduce any risk by performing a migration to a new version. It works fine as it is, why would I want to change it? In which case the end of support  cliff edge could be a problem for you too.

Extended Support End 9th July  2019

Extend support ends on 9th July 2019 – today!

If you haven't done so yet you might be making plans to migrate your legacy SQL Servers off the unsupported versions. If you do find yourself in a situation with SQL Server 2008 R2 or below still running you have four  options….

You can:
  • Run on the out of support software
  • You can modernise and migrate to the latest and greatest SQL Server platform or somewhere in-between
  • You pay for a customer support contract with Microsoft so you continue to get security updates
  • Or you can migrate the work load to Azure and you will continue to get the security updates for FREE!
There are pros and cons of each.

Run on out of support software

If you decide to run on out support software and take the risk associated with running on out of support software.  The main advantage of this approach is there is no further work for you to do. There are some disadvantages though that you should consider, the longer you run on the platform the greater the chances of you encountering a security vulnerability or failing a compliance test. Also if anything does go wrong you’ll have no support from Microsoft. When would I take this approach? If the database and its application are running on the old data platform and the application is also coming to the end of life but the dates don’t quite  match up… Then I might consider running on this for a short while, I'm talking a few months tops. It might be your happy to run on out of support software  for a month or two, maybe 6 months, maybe that’s pushing it. Any longer than that and I personally would be looking at some of the other options available.

Modernise! Upgrade or migrate to the latest and greatest SQL Server platform (or somewhere in-between)

Modernise and upgrade is one of the options that you have available.

You can upgrade your on premises SQL Server estate to use say SQL Server 2017 – which at this time is the latest version of SQL Server that has been released to market. SQL Server 2019 is no doubt not far away. Or  you could use this opportunity to jump in to the cloud! You could if you wanted  look to migrate the databases to Azure  either as IaaS solution where you run the VM in Azure or even the PaaS Azure SQL database offering

There are number of advantages to upgrading your data platform. You’ll be running your database workloads on an in support data platform, with a long support window. There will likely by new features in the latest and greatest version of SQL Server that you can use to add business value to your application – Availability Groups for example. Also you will likely find people with skills in the later technology, those skills will be more readily available in the jobs market.

The disadvantages of modernising and upgrading could include:
There will likely be a different licensing model – the licensing model changed between SQL Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2012 – it possible you might have to pay more for you SQL Server licences
If your workload and application is also near end of life the planning and work involved in an upgrade might not be worth it

When would I use? I’d use this approach if the applications and workloads living on the data platform are still in use with a reasonable shelf life and likely to be in use beyond the very short term.

Pay for a customer support contract with Microsoft

The third option is similar to the first option but instead of doing nothing you pay for a custom support agreement. The main advantage here is you can continue to get security updates and therefore potentially remaining compliant. The main disadvantage of this approach is the cost involved, which I understand to be 75% of the full license costs of the latest version of SQL Server and Windows Server.

When would I use this approach?

In all my time working and upgrading with SQL Server I have never executed this option. I think I would need to be in a situation where an upgrade was not possible for whatever reason that may be, and I had strict needs to remain complaint, or the gap between out of support and the application retiring was too long for my risk threshold.

Migrate workload to Azure

Microsoft have decided to allow SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server R2 VMs running in Azure to have the security updates for free for a further 3 years. So you can migrate your database server to azure and continue to gets security updates for free until 2022.

The main advantage of this is you get to keep running the same version of the OS and Data platform, the security updates are free so the cost is minimal and also once you're in Azure its then only a small jump to the full PaaS Azure SQL database or managed instance offering.

The disadvantages as far as I can see is you would need to move off premises, if this is not an option for you then you can’t exercise this option and there will still be work in involved in ‘lifting and shifting’ the VM to the cloud.

Whatever you do when support ends for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2  have a plan

We are running a free webinar on 31st July to discuss some of these options and look at some useful techniques and tools that you can use to migrate and upgrade your SQL Server platform... Please do sign up if this sounds interesting to you.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Free Webinar: Driven by the 9s

Driven by the 9s - A free Webinar to help you learn how to combine SQL availability features to deliver a highly available Microsoft Data Platform

Microsoft’s data platform and SQL Server comes with a plethora of High Availability features. Some of these features can work hand-in glove with each other to allow you to configure your SQL Servers to be both Highly-Available and recoverable in the event of the worst happening, but it’s not always obvious how to achieve the right balance.

If you are driven by the '9s'...have strict SLAs... and up time is key to you and your business, then...Combining SQL Server’s high availability features is something you should consider.

In this free webinar we will look at how we can combine SQL Server Availability Groups and SQL Server Failover cluster instances to keep our servers both highly available and maintain a secondary copy of your important databases at a disaster recovery site whilst considering the cost equation too.

The session is scheduled on the 28th June at 13:00 UK Time.

You can register for the session here

If you register and find you can’t make the seminar, don’t worry we’ll make a recording of the webinar and make this available to you after the event.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Research into Autism in Information Technology

Title: Exploring the experiences of employees on the autism spectrum working in information technology: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

My name is Sabrina Ellis, I am the Operations Director here at GRE Solutions, I'm also a student at the University of Wolverhampton. The purpose of this post is to introduce the idea to you and enquire whether you could support the research project going forward. I am working on a dissertation focusing on the lived experiences of employment, work place stresses and coping strategies of working age adults on the autism spectrum.

Autism has started to become a diagnosis people have heard of but perhaps do not understand. There are 16% of adults on the autism spectrum in part time work with an overall of 32% of working age adults in some form of paid work in the UK. These statistics have remained static over the past 10 years, despite government strategies implemented and updated regularly since 2010. As no two people on the autism spectrum are the same, my idea is that more in-depth research is required to understand similarities or differences individuals on the autism spectrum experience during employment.

The study will focus on potential stresses experienced at work, coping strategies utilised, any lived experience of feeling judged by others and how this may have affected their job performance, relationships at work and social inclusion/exclusion. As no two people on the autism spectrum are the same, this approach will explore, describe and interpret how participants make sense of their experience’s that cannot be elicited through numerical statistics in reports or articles.

Participants will be asked to volunteer to take part in the research project and provide written consent before the study commences. They will be involved in a face to face interview which will involve 11 pre set questions to explore their employment experiences, perceptions and what it feels like to them to manage work place stresses, relationships and individual coping strategies. All participants can gain access to the final dissertation at the end of the project.

Expected outcomes will include the successful data collection and analysis, of interview transcriptions highlighting possible themes to the employment stresses and coping strategies experienced by adults of working age on the autism spectrum.

If you are aware of any individuals who may wish to volunteer to take part in the project, I can be contacted by email at

Warmest Regards,

Sabrina Ellis

Dr. Christopher J. Cockshott
Lecturer in Psychology
Institute of Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing
University of Wolverhampton, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)1902 518943

Featured post

OUT OF SUPPORT: SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2

Welcome to this post, on SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, both of these versions of SQL server will go out of  extended support with Microsoft t...