Microsoft Azure: Schedule an Auto-Shutdown

Today when I was meddling with my Virtual Machine (VM) in Microsoft Azure, I chanced upon this new feature known as “Auto-shutdown” under the section “Schedules” although this was originally released in November 2016. The piece of news can be found here. With this naming, it tells it all that Microsoft is helping us consumers to save some costs! (Thanks Microsoft!) #MicrosoftIsGreat.

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Clicking on it further brings me into this simple form.

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As you can see that this form is rather simple to operate which also means that it is missing some features that I can think off immediately upon seeing this.

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Microsoft Azure team has built this feature to allow you to shut down at anytime at your convenience which is down right the whole purpose of this. I faced with tons of issues with time zone where I set an alarm at 6pm (GMT +7) and after a flight, it does rang only at the specified time zone even I return to my home land which is in (GMT +8).

One of the immediate limitation of this is, once you scheduled a time to have the resource to be shut down. It will be on run on a daily basis, which means that I will need to manually start the Virtual Machine if I need to. Well, a list of awesome features that I hope to see on this Schedules will be:

1) Auto-StartUp – Automatically start the resource if it is not in the Stopped State at a specified time.

2) Allow more granular control such as:

  • Control by Shutting down on a specified day of the week/month
  • Control by Starting up on a specified day of the week/month

3) What is better is, if I can even start/stop a resource by using my Mobile Device (regardless of Email/Mobile Application)

Cheers,
Milton

Unable to establish FTP connection to Azure FTP Service

It must really been a long time since I try to connect to the FTP for my Microsoft Azure Web App to get access to the files. So I happily downloaded my favourite FTP companion, FileZilla and tried to login with the credentials extracted from Azure Portal. However, I am faced with the following issue as shown in the screen shot below.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.17.19 pm

It seems like it is trying to connect via TLS with Implicit mode. More explanation on implicit mode can be found here.

Solution

On the port textbox, force it to use port 990 and all works like a charm! Back to rock and roll… 🙂

Regards,
Milton

Request for Transfer of Microsoft Azure Services Subscription

Just a couple of days ago, I was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in PowerShell Technical Expertise. Therefore, one of the perks of being a MVP is that each one will receive an annual subscription to MSDN Visual Studio Ultimate where it comes with Microsoft Azure credits to be used.

I have been running all my blogs on the Azure Platform since last year and have been paying a steady amount of money to Microsoft because I believe in giving my readers the best experience in terms of speed. Since I have credits in my account, it is time to convert my Pay-as-You-Go Services to be tied to my MSDN Visual Studio Ultimate Subscription to offset the monthly payment so that we spend it in another way! (However, I foresee using more than the available credits for certain months because I really want to gain more knowledge in testing various scenarios in Hybrid deployments.)

As I was doing a search online, I found this article which detail out the steps to get Microsoft Support make the changes for the subscriber holder but when I am walking through it, it seems to be out-dated and therefore it is vital for me to share the updated one with some screen shots.

Step 1 – Logon to your Microsoft Azure Portal

Step 2 – Navigate to “Support” on the top navigation bar as shown.

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Step 3 – Click on “Get Support” as shown.

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Step 4 – Select your “Subscription” to log a ticket to Microsoft Support.

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Step 5 – Select the type of support ticket, namely “Billing” and “Technical”. However, as long as you do not have support purchased, then you wouldn’t be able to log a support ticket through this mean. In my case, it stated clearly that I only have Billing Support only in the image.

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Step 6 – Select the problem type. There are a couple of Problem Type and I believe that this list has been streamlined over time based on the kind of support ticket being received. For the intent of this blog entry, we will select “Account, Subscription and Account Portal Assistance”.

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Step 7 – Now there is a sub-listing of the Category that is directly linked to the main Category. For this, we will select “Transfer my account, subscription or data”.

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Step 8 – Key in the details so that Microsoft Support can reach out to you.

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Step 9 – Key in any information you would like any agent to picked up. For me, I would go straight to the point and copied out all the information such as I would like to move the services in Source A to Source B subscription. I would recommend people to be more concise as much as possible! This would save the agent time, your time (in terms of replying on clarifications) and this will drastically reduce the ticket time! (Make it a win-win situation!)

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Step 10 – Determine the severity and preferred mode of contact. This is really good as Microsoft do not want to disturb you by phone if you decided to communicate only via Email. This may not be the fastest option but Microsoft respect your choice!

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Lastly, submit the ticket and all is good! Sit back and wait for an agent to get in touch with you.

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Regards,
Milton Goh

Hola! It’s Q4’ now! Windows 10? MVP?

Time flies! We are now into 4th Quarter of the year and usually it means more work till end of the year where people starts to go on vacation especially during Christmas period. So yesterday was the 1st of October where there are a couple of highlights going on globally.

  1. Announcement of newly-minted and renewed Microsoft MVPs. – For this, it would be exciting if I am being awarded but I know I have not done enough yet to deserve that award. Nevertheless, I will continue trying, contributing to this huge community that I have received lots of goodies (information) from.
  2. Technical Preview of Windows 10 – This is interesting as Microsoft has welcome everyone to be part of the building process to help provide feedback to the desire OS that users want / need. If you are still unsure of the Technical Preview – find it here.

I didn’t have the energy to stay up all night waiting for the link to be active so early in the morning when I hop out of bed, I quickly refreshed the URL and started downloading the ISO. After that, the next thing I did was asking myself whether that piece of OS would be available on Microsoft Azure yet. To my surprise, it is! Then I took Windows 10 off on a spin on Microsoft Azure.

If you still do not have a Microsoft Azure account, I would encourage you to sign up here.

Let’s start the ball rolling…

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*Hooray!* See! Windows Server Technical Preview October 2014~

The next few screen shot will be familiar for some if you have played around with Microsoft Azure (Virtual Machine / IaaS) before.

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*Shucks* – “Fastest fingers first!” Obviously I lost it…

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OK, we are almost there… It is provisioning and should be ready in a couple of minutes. That’s something I really like about using Microsoft Azure. I could skip wasting time and it increases my productivity especially when I am trying to find out some small items like available features or configurations.

After spinning up the Windows 10 Virtual Machine in Microsoft Azure, below is some of the noticeable changes that I have found out after meddling with it for around 30 minutes.

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*Proof* – I am running Windows Server Technical Preview (aKa Windows 10) as the overall outlook is still very similar to Windows Server 2012 / R2 although the BGINFO on Microsoft Azure still tells me I am running Windows Server 2012 R2.

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1) Taskbar

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An additional icon beside “Server Manager” which I will explained about it later. Document folder icon also has a new icon image.

2) Start Menu (is back!)

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3) Multiple Desktop (somehow, this is what I have experience when I was using Mac OS in the past with my Mac Mini, MacBook Pro & iMac)

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This is really good if you are very organized person. Probably good for me when I decided that when I am writing PowerShell scripts, I should not be looking at my Social Media programs like Twitter. Smile with tongue out

Windows10_TechnicalPreview_10

Ability to add (don’t know whether it is unlimited or limited yet) more desktop.

4) More icons changes

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5) Additional Role (Merging the Multipoint Services)

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This is something not available in Windows Server 2012 R2 where I verified using one of my Virtual Machine.

Windows10_TechnicalPreview_MissingFeatures01

6) Missing Features

Notice that there is one feature that is missing starting from Windows 10. The Windows Identity Foundation 3.5.

This is a screen that I have in Windows Server 2012 R2 and can’t be found in Windows 10.

Windows10_TechnicalPreview_MissingFeatures02

Overall, I really like how Microsoft has decided to allow the general public to do the testing, provide the necessary feedback and always listening to customers feedback. I will continue meddling with this new OS in the coming weeks and how it fits into a typical enterprise.

Cheers.

Milton Goh

Is your organization still using legacy Windows Server?

As per the question in the title, is your organization still using legacy Windows Server? I would consider anything before Windows Server 2008 R2 as legacy, so if you fall into this category, you may want to consider watching this webinar to gain useful insights and information on how you can migrate from these legacy Windows Server to the newer version of Windows Server.

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I am really interested in this session because while working for some of my clients, they do have legacy applications that require it to be run on as old as Windows Server 2000. I really hope that I can gain more insights from this webinar so that I can persuade my clients to move to the latest operating systems so that their applications can be consolidated.

So when will this event be?

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Register here now!

After the event, we can definitely discuss anything we have derived from the session and after collating it with our real-world experience, we can any other information together.

Cheers.

Milton Goh

PowerShell Saturday #009 (Singapore) – Azure + PowerShell

In today PowerShell Saturday #009 in Singapore, I shared the following article about Microsoft Azure and PowerShell. In this presentation, I shared about how one should actually adopt PowerShell to help ease the amount of work that is needed to be spent on managing Microsoft Azure.

 

Thank you.

Regards,
Milton Goh

Windows Azure Web Site Backup / Restore Feature

Today, I had the chance to test drive one of the new Windows Azure features that is announced by Scott Guthrie on 20th Feb 2014 – Web Site Backup Restore.

The target I have chose is this blog that you are currently reading. I have this WordPress v3.8.1 updates pending on my dashboard for a longest while and I dare not make any upgrade as I am worried it will messed up the stuffs such as the Widgets that I am currently using and comfortable with. Therefore, with this new feature released, it boosted my confidence and prepare me for my this and future upgrades.

There are lots of advantage of having this feature that is built directly into Windows Azure which makes things so much easier! Let’s dive into my usage process…

  • Let’s login to the Windows Azure portal and see what’s newly added… As shown, you will see “BACKUPS” tab and it is still in the PREVIEW stage. As usual, the way how things works may change when it goes to General Availability (GA).

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  • So one of the requirement to make use of the Web Site Backup Restore feature is that the Web Site needs to be on Standard mode. So while mine is on Shared, I will have to make the change to take advantage of this feature.

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  • This part is rather weird, Windows Azure may have made a mistake. I was previously configured to use Shared mode and it detected that I am on Free mode instead. So why am I paying all these while? Sad smile

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  • After doing the switching, let the game begins. So there is an option for you to create Automated Backup just like any hosting company that you have on that backup your files in case you have overridden any of the files to make the whole web site invalid. I am not going to toggle between this option since this will be an one-off each time I wants to do a major upgrade for my site. It will serves as a good feature to make sure all files are backed up before making changes in the production environment.

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  • Next, just head all the way below and you will see two button of which one is “RESTORE NOW” and the other is “BACKUP NOW”. Very clear-cut explanation of what it does.

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  • Oops! It prompted me with an error because I did not select any container to store the backup job. So it is linked to the Windows Azure Storage Account.

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  • After making the selection, I clicked on “BACKUP NOW” again and there it goes… A beautiful message will appear at the top to tell you the backup job has started…

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  • It took just a little while to do the Backup of the Web Site probably because the size that my blog is using isn’t huge.

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  • So in Scott Guthrie article, it says that it will backup all the associated resources such as databases. However, since my MySQL that is used along with my WordPress is hosted with ClearDB so it is not linked with Windows Azure.

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  • When we are done with Back Up, we will need to see the Restore feature in terms of contingency. This is the simple feature that I feel that have been designed so well. It comes with two option:

1) Current Web Site

2) New Web Site

As you can see, it even suggest to you with a prefix “restore” to just another Windows Azure Web Site that is automatically loaded with the Free mode.

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I feel that this feature is good is because, many of the developers out there that in order to save time on development, they usually upload to the Production environment directly. Therefore, this gives us, the developers to backup and restore the site onto Windows Azure to create the Staging or Development environment.

Cheers.
Milton Goh

Unboxing the NetGear ProSafe FVS318G

It’s has been a while since I bought this device from Amazon and it has been shove on my table for awhile because I was really held up with some work. So on this day, first day of year 2014, I am opening it up and start to meddle with it and Windows Azure.

Let’s kick start with some visual images of what is in the box.

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Comments: To me, this box is really very decently designed. Just my 2 cents.

So what’s inside the box?

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By the way, I will not be posting how I can going to setup this VPN to Windows Azure because there are others folks like Matthew Hitchcock and Bhargav Shukla which have done a good job at describing their experience. Without them, I wouldn’t be hook out with this NetGear VPN. This means that I have way more to learn from them.

I will be blogging more on how I actually use this VPN device to hook up with my on-premises to extensively demonstrate the features between Windows Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Cheers. Happy New Year!

Milton Goh

Calling all MSDN Subscriber to Take A Spin with Windows Azure

If you are a MSDN subscriber and have yet to try Windows Azure, please do not hesitate to take advantage of what is included in your subscription! Benefits stated here.

It’s just a few simple steps and you will be all ready to test Windows Azure!

1) Login to the MSDN portal – Notice that you will see “Windows Azure” section as shown below.

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2) Click on the link “Activate Windows Azure” and you will be directed to the verification and sign-up page as shown.

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3) Select the country you are residing in (usually this will populate automatically) and key in your mobile number. Click on “Send text message”. This is to ensure all sign-up all legitimate users. After verification, you will see this.

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4) Click on “Purchase” and you will be re-directed to the Windows Azure page showing all your available subscription. As shown below, there is actually a limit on the spending being applied / enforce onto this subscription. So you don’t have to worry if you have exceeded and have to pay the excess.

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In my opinion, this subscription is really useful for people like me who is playing around with Windows Azure and testing out the various features and functions.

Kudos to the Windows Azure Team and of course Microsoft!

Regards,
Milton Goh

Using SQL Data Sync to Synchronize On-Premises Database to Windows Azure

Have you ever thought of scaling your Web Application so that it can extend the usage to external parties or have you ever hit in any situation where you have some subset of your data in your on-premises SQL Server that you require it for other system that are external facing?

Let’s take for example, if you have an intranet that is hosted within your own corporate network which store membership details that you all are keeping it for internal usage all along. Then on one fine day you all decide to explore the Cloud by putting your custom developed newsletter blasting system to the Cloud as you would prefer not to choked up the bandwidth in your corporate network.

Therefore, how in this world could we have the best of the both world? How can we maintain a set of information but can be used in multiple systems in multiple locations but still maintain the integrity and consistency without any duplication within the dataset itself?

SQL Data Sync Agent is here to save the woes of people who are facing such issue. Currently, the SQL Data Sync Agent is in the Preview stage and has not reached the General Availability stage therefore things may change but I anticipate that things wouldn’t be that far off as the current tool is really designed and developed to be simple and user friendly. More information on TechNet.

Let’s take the following as an example.

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I have this 3 tables in one of my Web Application that is hosted in my corporate data centre which is hosted within the network and no external interface to the internet. Right now, I need to surface the membership table to one of the newly created database in Windows Azure so that the other application that is hosted on Windows Azure will be able to access these information.

Creation of Windows Azure SQL Database

Let’s navigate to Windows Azure Management Portal then select SQL Databases via the left hand corner navigation bar. If this Azure account is newly created, then you probably wouldn’t have any database created. Click on Create a SQL Database to continue.

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Key in the necessary information to continue the setup of the SQL Database on Windows Azure. If you do not have any SQL Database instance setup before, you will likely not have any SQL Server setup. Therefore, go ahead and select “New SQL Database Server”.

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Continue to define the SQL database server settings by entering your preferred username and password. Please note that this username and password is very important because it is the username you will be using to log on to the SQL Server Management Portal on Windows Azure Management Portal. Do note that you will need to ensure that you check that checkbox if you want other of your Windows Azure Services to access this database. An example will be, if you decided to host your Web Application to host onto one of the Virtual Machine while utilizing the Database hosted on Windows Azure SQL Database rather than loading and managing your own SQL Server instance on Virtual Machine.

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Go ahead and click on the “Tick” to proceed to create your SQL Database. The creation process should take less than one minute and you will know it is done when the database status is flag as “Online”.

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Installation of SQL Data Sync Agent (Preview) and Configuration of Sync Agent

Go ahead and download the SQL Data Sync Agent if you have not done so and install on any of the computer within your corporate network which have access to the internal SQL Server.

In my example, I will just install the SQL Data Sync Agent onto the SQL Server itself but it should be the same even if the two program seats on separate client. After installation, launch Microsoft SQL Data Sync Agent Preview found in the start menu as shown.

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You will be welcome by the simple and neat interface. You will notice that most of the controls are being gray out. What you are left with is to enter the Agent Key so that Windows Azure can communicate with your client that host the SQL Data Sync program.

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Upon clicking on the Submit Agent Key Configuration, a popup will appear as shown below. However, on first try, I have no idea what to key in. There after, I caught this message that I have highlighted. The key that is require can be retrieved from the SQL Data Sync web portal.

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Navigate back to the Windows Azure Management Portal, navigate to the SQL Databases and look at the bottom. You will notice there are other navigational items available. Click on Add Sync which will show two more options available. Select New Sync Agent.

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Give a name to the Sync Agent. Notice at the top, it actually prompt you that you will need your local client agent to be installed.

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Click on the “Tick” to proceed and this Sync Agent will be created. Notice the “Status” is currently flag as Offline because we have not configure the local agent to communicate with the one at Windows Azure.

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Our ultimate purpose is to get the key so that we can input into the configuration popup window at the local agent. So we click on the arrow at the Sync Agent to go into the detail page. Notice that at the bottom, there is this option “Manage Key” that is available. Click on it.

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Instructions is available at the top. Just click on the “Generate” button to generate the access key and click on the “Copy to Clipboard” button just beside the Generate button.

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When you are done, navigate back to the client that you install the local sync agent. Input the access key into the popup window.

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Once the key is validated to be valid, the other controls will be enabled. Click on “Register” to register the SQL Database in your organization.

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Enter the SQL Server details along with the targeted database that you want the Sync to take upon. Click on “Test Connection” to ensure that the connection can be established. Once verified, click “Save”.

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Now, you will notice that the SQL Database is being added to the list.

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In order to do a verification, click on “Ping Sync Service” to determine if the connection back to the Sync Agent at Windows Azure is reachable. Next navigate to the Windows Azure Management Portal. Right now, you should see the Sync Agent status will switch to “Online”.

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Click the arrow beside the Sync Agent to view the details inside. You should see the database and the SQL Server hostname.

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Creation of Sync Group and Objects

Go back to the SQL Databases main menu and as usual click on “Add Sync” and select “New Sync Group” this time.

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Enter the details and select your desire region.

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Click the arrow to proceed and select the Hub Database and key in your desire credentials. Notice that there is this “Conflict Resolution”. What it actually does is in times of conflict, whose data should take the precedent. So it depends on which is your master database. If new information is mainly populate through the database server located within your organization, then select “Client Wins” else select “Hub Wins”.

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Click on the arrow to proceed. Now you will be prompt to select the referencing database. This time round, Windows Azure will need to know which database its needs to communicate with. In this case, it will be the database in the organization.

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Then select the Sync Direction on which how you want data to flow. Do you want the Windows Azure SQL Database to always read from the SQL Database in the Corporate Network or you may have changes that is always made on both end and you want synchronization between the two location?

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After you click on the “Tick”, it will go on to proceed the creation of the Sync Group. Then you will notice that the status will be shown as “Not Ready”. Fret not, it just means that you have not decide what to sync between the two SQL Database.

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Click on the Sync Group to view the details. You will notice the following. Select Sync Rules.

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You will be welcome with this page, by right you shouldn’t have any Sync Rules being added yet. Click on “Define Sync Rules”.

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Select one of the database. In this case, I select my SQL Server database that is located within the organization.

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You should see all the tables that you have that resemble the database back in the organization.

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Select the columns that you want to be Synchronized. For my case, I want the whole “Membership” table to be synchronize between the two data sources. Therefore, I check all the columns as shown in the table. After making the selection, click “Save” to commit your selection.

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Next, click on “Configure” on the top navigation and we will proceed with configuring the Automatic Synchronization of the data between the sources.

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Click on “ON” and define the Sync Frequency. Make sure to click on “Save” to commit the changes.

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Proceed to click on “Sync” to do a force synchronization between the two data sources so that we can see some results.

Head back to the SQL Database on Windows Azure and click into the Database as shown. Click on “Set up Windows Azure firewall rules for this IP address” so that you will be able to connect into the management portal to manage the database. One of the magic charm bar will appear at the bottom with your IP address as the detail, just click Yes to proceed.

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Click on “Design your SQL database” to launch the SQL Database Management Portal. You will be prompted with the login screen to provide your credentials.

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Upon successful login, you should see the tables in your Windows Azure SQL Database. See the “Membership” table that was synchronized over.

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Let’s do some test by running query against this database.

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There, I have all the data synchronized over! This tool is really very useful and in any case, I could easily synchronized data from my on-premises database and treat the Windows Azure SQL Database as a passive node.

Cheers.

Milton Goh