Office 2007 Retirement Is Coming!

Systems Engineer Chance WebsterChance Webster – [Systems Engineer]

On October 10, 2017, Microsoft will officially retire all editions of Office 2007.  What does this mean for you?  Microsoft will no longer offer updates or provide free or paid support for the Office 2007 family of products.  If you have not upgraded the Office suite for one or more of your PCs, this would be the perfect time to consider a more recent version of Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Office 2007 LogoOne reason to upgrade is that newer versions of Microsoft platforms such as Exchange and SharePoint will not interact with the Office 2007 platform.  Also, newer versions of Office do not interact properly or at all with older, unsupported platforms.  For example, Outlook 2016 does not work with Exchange 2007 – which is 3 versions lower in the Office family.  Likewise, Outlook 2007 does not connect to either Exchange 2016 or Exchange Online.  Both of these concerns could add more unplanned costs when planning for an on-premises Exchange or SharePoint upgrade project.

Microsoft Word 2007 IconAnother reason to upgrade is based on Microsoft’s policy change concerning Office 365 and Microsoft Office in the future.  The good news is this policy change does not fully take effect until October 13, 2020, so there is time to consider your upgrade options related to your on-premises infrastructure or any cloud initiatives.   For more detail, please see this policy change here: https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2017/04/20/office-365-proplus-updates/.

The following are alternatives to consider:

  1. Do nothing. This option is NOT recommended.  There are several exploitable vulnerabilities that rely on unpatched versions of Microsoft Office products.  Due to no additional patches being developed for Office 2007 after October 2017, continuing use of Office 2007 products would create a security risk for your organization.
  2. Purchase new Office licenses. This can be achieved via direct purchase through many resources, however this option provides only the current version of Office.  The Software Assurance option would need to be purchased via a Volume License agreement to provide you with future versions of Office at no charge.
  3. Purchase an Office 365 subscription. Office 365 suites that include Office licensing provide an array of benefits.  Not only would you get Office licensing for users licensed under a supported suite, you would also be able to take advantage of hosted platforms for Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business.  This can provide a significant cost savings for your organization and reduce the technical burden often added when these technologies are deployed.

For more information about how Keller Schroeder can assist your organization with migrating to Office 365, please contact your Select Account Manager.


What Is A Digital Workplace?

Applications Consultant Matt MulherinMatt Mulherin – [Applications Consultant]

Today’s personal technology boom provides instant information at out fingertips to assist with every facet of our lives.  If you have a question, you just “google” for the answer.  If you have a problem, there is an app for that.  With this easy and constant access to information in their personal lives, employees are looking for the same experience in their work life. Many employees have a physical workplace where they report to work every day, but now they are also working more and more away from the office, where they would like to find the same easy and constant access to the information and applications necessary to perform their work at any location at any time.

Powell 365 Digital Workplace DashboardAccording to CMS Wire, “The digital workplace is meant to be a virtual equivalent to the physical workplace, which requires strong planning and management due to its fundamental role in people’s productivity, engagement, and working health.”

A successful digital workplace should incorporate several key features:

  • Centralized and accessible information – employees should have information easily accessible in order to make well-informed, timely decisions
  • Easy collaboration with others – employees should be able to collaborate on projects, documents, presentations
  • Accessibility of business applications – the applications employees need and use frequently should be accessible from one centralized location

The digital workplace should be engaging and easy!  Ideally the digital workplace should bring the ease and availability of information to your employees’ work lives in a way similar to consumer-oriented technology.

Deloitte identifies the following advantages of embracing a digital workplace strategy:

  • Talent attraction: 64% of employees would opt for a lower paying job if they could work away from the office.
  • Employee productivity: organizations with strong online social networks are 7% more productive than those without.
  • Employee satisfaction: organizations that installed social media tools internally found a median of 20% increase in employee satisfaction.
  • Employee retention: when employee engagement increases, there is a corresponding increase in employee retention by up to 87%.
  • Communication tools: information workers prefer newer communication tools, particularly instant messaging, over more traditional ones like e-mail or team workspaces.

Powell 365 LogoYour organization’s digital workplace transformation strategy could begin with your intranet.  Intranets have been around for a long time, but with rapid changes in technology, organizations find themselves with outdated platforms and features.  Keller Schroeder recommends Powell 365, a digital workplace that sits on top of SharePoint Online and the Office 365 platform.  Powell 365 allows you to quickly implement an intranet with optimum user experience to develop communication and collaboration between your teams. It provides your employees a single point of access to all of your digital content that is accessible in the office and on your mobile devices.

Keller Schroeder is a partner with Powell 365.  Please contact us if you would like to learn more about digital workplaces or Powell 365.


Cisco Meraki : Easy to Deploy Cloud-Based & Infrastructure Solutions

Keller Schroeder IT Engineer Mike SanfordMike Sanford – [Wireless Consultant]

Do you need to be able to bring a remote office up quickly without an on-site visit?  Do you want one place to monitor wired and wireless connectivity?  Are you looking for a cloud-based solution that can provide wireless access points, switches, firewalls as well as video cameras?  If you can answer “Yes” to any of those questions, Cisco Meraki has a solution for you.

MCisco Meraki Logoeraki was founded in 2006, gaining interest as a cloud provider of wireless services.  In 2012, it was purchased by Cisco and has since branched out into the other areas of IT infrastructure mentioned above.  Their focus is providing technology that is easy to deploy and manage.  Keller Schroeder has successfully deployed most of these Meraki hardware solutions, with the exception of the video camera solution which was released in the last quarter of 2016.

Cisco Meraki DashboardWhen connected to an internet ready network, Meraki devices “phone home” and are immediately configurable from the web based Meraki Dashboard.  The Dashboard offers a single pane of glass to configure devices as well as monitor devices for up/down time and keep an eye on end user traffic.  The Dashboard provides the ability to adjust allowed bandwidth utilization and whitelist or blacklist web traffic, giving you the ability to maximize your infrastructure and internet performance.  Traffic for each piece of hardware, network and end user device is tracked and displayed in easy to view, drill-down graphs.  Information such as user, total amount and percentage of usage, applications and sites visited are available.  This information can then be used to quickly throttle bandwidth hogs, or to limit internet access by type of site or by specific site.

Meraki also offers an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution called Systems Manager.  With Systems Manager, applications and network policy can be deployed to mobile and desktop devices.  Once the easy on-boarding process is complete, a device can be monitored for location, security posture and software inventory.  The devices can also be protected by enforcing encryption policies, network access control and there is a remote enterprise wipe feature.

To learn more about our cloud solutions including Meraki, or to ask about how Keller Schroeder can perform a wireless assessment of your environment, give us a call at 812-474-6825 or contact your Keller Schroeder Select Account Manager.


Proactively Analyze Your VMware Environment with Runecast

Keller Schroeder IT Engineer Chris HaynesChris Haynes[Senior Systems Consultant]

Is your VMware environment secure?  Has your environment been configured to best practices?  Are there any known VMware or hardware bugs out right now that may affect the hardware and VMware version you are running on?  Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to chase all that down manually?  Well now you don’t have to.Runecast Logo

Introducing Runecast software. Runecast is a Linux appliance that runs as a virtual machine that proactively analyzes your VMware environment and compares it to current VMware KBs, configuration best practices, and security hardening guidelines, and provides recommended remediation steps for any variances it finds.

It is easy to install & configure and even more intuitive to use.  You’re up and running and scanning your VMware environment in minutes, and the web interface presents simple dashboards to show your current status that you can drill down into for more details…

Runecast Dashboard

In a nutshell, here’s the services that Runecast provides:

  • Security hardening checks, direct from VMware’s vSphere Security Hardening Guide
  • Industry standard configuration best practice checks/validation
  • Log collection and analysis against known issues in VMware KBs

With Runecast software, you can eliminate the manual work involved to perform security hardening and best practice configuration checks.  You can schedule automated checks, get notifications for non-compliance issues, and filter out compliance checks that don’t apply to your company’s policies.  You can easily generate compliance reports and pass security audits.

You can prevent services outages by discovering potential issues in advance and fixing them proactively. Your VMware configurations and logs are continually being analyzed against all VMware Knowledge Base (KB) articles, which Runecast downloads the latest updates on a regular basis. You will receive alerts for known issues and recommendation on how to fix them or mitigate any risks.

You can purchase a permanent version of the Runecast software to run onsite, or you can pay a one-time assessment fee to perform a month long analyze & fix cycle if preferred.  If you want to know more, check out the 30-day trial at https://www.runecast.biz and/or give your Keller Schroeder Account Executive a call at 812-474-6825 and ask for a demo and pricing details.


If These Devices Could Talk

Keller Schroeder Applications Consultant Eric MaurerEric Maurer – [Applications Consultant]

What if your devices could talk? The Internet of Things (IoT) can start to do this! What is the IoT? Putting it simply, an IoT “thing” is nothing more than a physical device connected to the internet. The device can be your phone, your thermostat, a car, or any number of remote monitoring sensors. Experts estimate that by 2020 there will be about 30 billion IoT devices. There are devices that only 15 years ago did not exist for collecting data, or if they did exist, they were so remote getting to the data was difficult.

Internet of Things CollageRecently Keller Schroeder employee-owners Eric Maurer and Ian Welsh participated in an IoT Hackathon sponsored by AT&T. This hackathon provided opportunity to learn about new devices and software from AT&T in the IoT landscape. Devices, becoming smaller than ever, are now capable of running for weeks using batteries or solar power and can transfer data captured by dozens of different sensors over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or LTE.

Their team quickly realized the difficult part of developing an IoT solution is no longer centered on hardware and software but comes from using industry knowledge to find the right problems for which IoT is the solution. They decided to use AT&T’s LTE enabled IoT starter kit to collect real-time GPS data from commercial vehicles to collect and process their location and mileage information automatically. Their idea was just one of many great ideas that came out of the hackathon. Some of the other projects were:

  • Using drones to take pictures of tomato fields to determine overall ripeness and calculate the perfect time for harvest with image processing algorithms and machine learning
  • A smart tool locker using Bluetooth and NFC sensors to allow users to check equipment in and out
  • A small device with humidity and PH sensors to monitor soil in home gardens

The latest generation of IoT devices now connect securely to the cloud using Microsoft’s Azure or AT&T’s M2X. These solutions allow you to secure your devices and aggregate data from any number of devices and sensors in one central location. They also provide dashboards, event notifications, alerts, and two-way communication between devices. Sifting through the large amounts of data one can collect can be daunting. Companies are making it easier and easier to collect, process, and make sense of this data using cloud-based software, such as Azure Stream Analytics.

What would you do with IoT data? Have ideas and want to explore them further? Contact your Keller Schroeder Select Account Manager or call us at 812-474-6825 today!


Veeam + Azure: Cost Effective & Flexible Cloud Backup

Matt Barton – [Senior Consultant]

Ok… 3 Questions, 30 Seconds, 300 Words…. about your backup solution.  This shouldn’t take long.

 


Question 1 :   Do you have an off-site backup? 

Yes?  Great!

No?  Why Not?  Using Veeam & Azure, quickly and easily create a cloud off-site backup, that is cost efficient & scalable based on your needs. Configure Veeam to backup the most critical data for DR, or provide long-term retention using cost-effective cloud storage. Azure charges are based on actual used capacity.  Unlike other cloud offerings or on-premises equipment, this solution provides a true consumption model, allowing you to shrink or grow the amount of data being backed up to more effectively manage costs.


Question 2 :  Does it meet the 3-2-1 rule?

The “Golden Rule” of backup.  The 3-2-1 rule states having three copies of your data – 2 on different media, and 1 copy offsite. We highly recommend Veeam integrated snapshots on Nimble Storage, copied to a Cisco UCS backup appliance, & then copied off-site to Azure.


Question 3 :  Are you able to backup Office 365 data?

You need to securely backup Office 365 email data back to your environment for a variety of reasons; to follow the 3-2-1 Rule of backup, to facilitate eDiscovery, and to meet internal policies and compliance requirements. The most important reason being the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing you will be able to restore your users’ data when needed!

With Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365, you can retrieve Office 365 Exchange Online mailbox items (email, calendar, and contacts) from a cloud-based instance of Office 365 and uniquely back up this mailbox data into the same format that Microsoft Exchange uses natively — an archive database based on Extensible Storage Engine (ESE), also known as the Jet Blue database.


Interested in hearing more or want to schedule a Veeam & Azure Demo?  Reach out to your Keller Schroeder Account Manager today!


Enterprise Storage Is Not A Game

Kris Linville – [Senior Systems Consultant]Basic RGB

Winter is coming… have you chosen which house you will ally with?  Challengers will rise and fall but only the one true king will sit upon the throne when the game is won.

Your current storage solution has done an adequate job at fulfilling your needs in the past using the same old traditional methodologies.  Still, you have learned that, all too often, quality of service will vary under the stressful load of a busy day and you realize that a little more struggle will be in order to get what you need when your storage must divide its attention between multiple courtiers.  Maybe you are ready to see how much your highly-virtualized, production server environment can prosper when a worthy solution is allowed to take its place in your data kingdom.

Pass the crown.  It’s time to elect a small but mighty array to rule the bits and bytes in your data center and Keller Schroeder with Nimble Storage can light the way.

nimble-flash-array

In 2015, Sr. Systems Consultant Chris Haynes explained the features of the CS-Series arrays and told you why Nimble Storage is favored by Keller Schroeder as the best next-gen hybrid storage array.  With its groundbreaking simplicity and advanced administrative features, Nimble Storage has been renowned, worldwide, as one of the fastest growing storage vendors in history and has rightfully received numerous industry awards in the process.

Since its first product shipment in 2010, Nimble Storage has attentively listened to its partners and customers to develop innovative solutions that fulfill the ever-growing enterprise data center storage needs.  It is that attention and innovation which has led to the release of the most predictive, most scalable, and most reliable all-flash storage array on the market today.

With the Nimble Storage AF-Series all-flash arrays, you will get all of the NimbleOS feature enhancements at no additional cost, Triple+ Parity RAID to survive 3 simultaneous drive failures, variable block sizes for application performance optimization, predictive analytics monitoring for your storage arrays and virtual machines through the InfoSight portal and VM Vision, and FIPS-certified encryption at rest and on-the-wire when natively replicated… just to highlight a few.

Hold the door!  The illustration below compares the performance and storage capacity based on data center footprint of the Nimble Storage AF-Series with other well-known all-flash offerings.  Obviously, the Nimble Storage AF-Series is no sheep.  This small package has a beast inside and it is not afraid to break through the large shadow cast by other solutions on the market.  How will you choose to arm your data center?

nimble-size-comparison

Other all-flash solutions may offer great performance and latency numbers, but do not scale well as storage demands grow.  Nimble Storage products offer simple and seamless scalability in enterprise storage solutions.  Keller Schroeder has seen, first-hand, the real-world results of the All Flash Array scalability and data reduction technologies that provide over 3x storage savings for highly virtualized environments.  When you need to grow, whether you are looking to scale up, scale deep, or scale out, you can rest easy knowing that performance is decoupled from capacity to allow for scaling only the necessary components.  This uniquely allows for independent and non-disruptive scaling operations that include upgrading storage controllers, adding external storage shelves, and clustering any combination of Adaptive Flash or All Flash arrays in up to four nodes per cluster, to provide guaranteed performance of 1.2 million IOPS at sub-millisecond latency in as much as 8.2PB of storagsmartstacke capacity.

Modern data centers are all about consolidation and integration which makes building specialized infrastructure silos feel like a step in the wrong direction.  There’s no longer a reason to limit your best performance to just a select set of workloads.  Nimble Storage has once again partnered with Cisco and VMware to develop reference architectures; combining Nimble Storage Arrays, Cisco Unified Computing Systems (UCS), and VMware vSphere; known as Cisco Validated Designs (CVD) for all types of production data center workloads.  The SmartStack Integrated Infrastructure increases performance and availability while driving down data center hardware cost and footprint.

Nimble Storage All Flash Array Key Feature Summary:

  • All NimbleOS Software Features Included
  • Consistent Storage Performance
  • Tailored Application Optimization
  • Predictive Analytics with InfoSight and VM Vision
  • Data Reduction with Deduplication and Compression
  • Unified Flash Fabric – any 4 CS-Series or AF-Series arrays
  • Scale-to-fit Architecture
  • Triple+ Parity RAID for Maximum Availability
  • FIPS-certified Encryption at Rest and On-the-wire
  • SmartStack Integrated Infrastructure CVDs

“That’s what I do… I’m fast and I store things.”

                                                                  -Nimble


Winter is coming.  Take up your watch.  Build a true history of great conversation by contacting your Keller Schroeder Account Manager and be the fire that burns against the cold.


How Does Work Flow in your Organization?

workflow-illustrationCarrie Rudolph – [Keller Schroeder Certified Nintex Workflow Professional]

How often do you hear individuals in your organization say, “I haven’t been able to work on that ‘important task’ yet, because of all of these other smaller things needing my attention each day.”?  How often do individuals in your organization answer questions on status with “It’s somewhere in the approval process but I don’t know whose desk it’s on.”?  These phrases are all too common.  When work doesn’t flow smoothly and efficiently throughout your organization it causes backlogs, distractions, and frustration, all of which impact your organization’s ability to function, react, and grow.

According to businessdictionary.com, a workflow is defined as a progression of steps (tasks, events, interactions) that comprise a work process, involve two or more persons, and create or add value to the organization’s activities.  Every department in every organization has workflows.  Some are simple and straightforward, others are more complicated with many people, tasks, and events.  Workflows made up of logical and repeatable steps present an opportunity for automation.

When many organizations begin to explore workflow automation, they focus on the larger, more cumbersome workflows thinking that streamlining these complex processes will yield the most savings of time and resources.  Starting with these larger processes however, many times results in failed attempts at automation or lackluster adoption and savings due to the complexity of these processes.  Instead, I challenge organizations to consider the numerous simpler processes that employees perform every day.

These work items are fundamental processes that are crucial to the operation of your organization, such as document approvals, expense reports, leave requests, and service requests. These are workflows that may distract employees from larger issues/tasks, and because they are performed so frequently and viewed as simple, they are prone to more mistakes, which can add up in rework and lost time.  These processes are perfect candidates for automation because they have a great chance for success, are less complex, and train users to think about workflow solutions.

Automating these solutions takes the burden of managing the processes off of your employees and results in more than ROI.  You can get more done with less effort, focus on what matters most, and expand the impact and scope of your organization. Workflow automation also provides a clear picture of current status and participants’ performance, and this additional data can lead to process improvement. The keys to success, when starting to introduce workflow automation in your organization, are to make an immediate impact by getting started quickly, easily reaching all participants, and connecting to content across your organization.

nintex-logoThe Nintex Workflow Platform is a suite that Keller Schroeder recommends to assist organizations with workflow automation.  Nintex enables organizations to create solutions in days and weeks, instead of months, so you quickly see the benefits from reduced steps.  It allows workflow participants to interact with tasks via mobile devices, emails, or Skype for Business.  The Nintex Platform also facilitates links across your work systems, cloud applications, or social channels to facilitate information sharing.

The Nintex Workflow Platform sits on top of Microsoft SharePoint and doesn’t require additional infrastructure.  Nintex workflows, forms, and connectors are designed using the drag, drop, and configure approach instead of coding, so it’s very easy to learn and use.  If work isn’t flowing within your organization, consider workflow automation as a means to ease the backlog and frustrations and allow your team to focus on what’s most important.

Keller Schroeder is a partner with Nintex and has two employee-owners who are certified Nintex Workflow Professionals.  Please contact us if you would like to learn more about workflow automation with the Nintex Workflow Platform.


It’s OK to Ignore the CEO, When it is NOT the CEO!

ImagineBrad Mathis  – [Senior Consultant – Information Security]

Imagine the following scenario.

You are going through your daily routine and you receive an urgent email from the CEO.  The email is urgent, appears to be time sensitive, and is requiring you to act immediately.  You are aware the CEO is currently out on vacation or away on business, and is therefore unreachable.  However, the email is direct and to the point.  “Get this Done!”  The email is asking for you, a member of the financial team, to process a payment or monetary transfer.  It may even inform you someone from another company will be reaching out to you with further instructions, such as account numbers and routing information. An abbreviated example of such an email may look something like this:

CEO Email
What if you also received an email ahead of this one from someone in finance saying “Keep an eye out for an email from the CEO asking about a funds transfer”, followed by an email from the alleged company the CEO mentioned in their original email?  Transferring large sums of money from one account to another is a normal part of your job.  Although this chain of events is a bit out of the ordinary, it also seems perfectly legitimate.  Would you process the transfer?  Would a co-worker?

Sadly, far too many organizations are falling victim to these type of crimes known as CEO Fraud and Business Email Compromise (BEC).  Some of the email senders’ email accounts are spoofed, meaning the criminal sender is making the recipient think the email is from the actual sender.  Even more concerning is when the actual senders’ email account credentials are compromised and the criminal is able to send emails directly from the account of a CEO, CFO, Attorney, and so on.  This may sound complicated, but it isn’t.  With the advancement of malware laced email attachments and infected links, it is far too easy to install malicious software on a victim’s workstation, thereby allowing the criminal to capture every keystroke the legitimate user types.  Even more concerning, cameras and microphones can be controlled by the criminals.

The FBI estimates the organizational amount lost to Business Email Compromise between October 2013 and February 2016 to be $2.3 Billion.  Since January 2015, the FBI has seen a 270 percent increase in identified victims and exposed loss! Keep in mind, this is only the amount of loss actually reported.  Many businesses remain quiet and never report their losses for fear of public reputation damage.

Know Be 4Luckily, the risk of becoming a victim to this type of crime, as well as other email and web based threats can be reduced.  A modern and evolving layered security infrastructure is extremely important.  It cannot and should not be overlooked.  However, the most effective and most overlooked method to reduce your risk of becoming a cybercrime victim is effective and measurable End User Security Awareness Education.

While we constantly stress the importance of Vulnerability and Patch Management, this does not just apply to your technology.  User vulnerability levels need to be assessed in order to gauge their likelihood of falling prey to a Phishing email and other criminal scams.  This activity is most effective when supplemented with required security awareness training.  This is where it sometimes gets tricky.  The simulated phishing campaigns and security awareness training requirements must apply to ALL employees, up to and including the President and CEO.

Identifying your employee vulnerability baseline is an important and effective step toward lowering your overall risk profile, as well as empowering your workforce to always be on the lookout for malicious and criminal activity that can threaten your business.

So, Yes… It is OK to ignore the CEO’s request when it cannot be verified it is truly the request of the CEO.  When the business is on the line, they will thank you for your due diligence.

How vulnerable are your users?  How likely are they to fall prey to becoming a victim?  How have you taken steps to get data to support your answers to those questions?  When performing these employee vulnerability baseline assessments, we have already seen as high as a 75% failure rate for the initial Phishing test.  Launching an effective awareness solution that allows you to measure risk and track improvements is a critical first step in lowering your employee vulnerability risk, making your organization less likely to become a victim of cybercrimes such as CEO Fraud, Business Email Compromise, and Ransomware.

Contact Keller Schroeder today to find out how we can help you implement solutions that effectively reduce your employee vulnerability risk through ongoing security awareness training and testing.


Microsoft Goes Cross Platform?

Microsoft LogoEric Maurer  – [Consultant – Applications Solutions Group]

Things have been changing recently within the Microsoft ecosystem.  You no longer have to decide to be a Microsoft shop or embrace anything but Microsoft. They are fulfilling their original promise for .NET to be a platform that can be written anywhere and run anywhere. Microsoft has now embraced open source, blurring the lines between the two camps.  At a recent user group meeting, I talked to users who were running Linux Bash on Windows 10, installing Microsoft SQL server on Linux, and developing iOS and Android applications using C#.  You can also now run Linux on Azure, and since the .NET Core has been open sourced, you can now run ASP.NET on Linux or Mac as well.

Being a mobile developer, I was ecstatic to learn of their newest acquisition and open source release: Xamarin.

What is Xamarin?xamarin-logo

No, Xamarin is not the latest drug being pushed on late night commercials. It is a software company that allows you to deliver native iOS, Android, and Windows apps using your existing .NET skills, teams, and code. Xamarin was founded over four years ago with a mission to make native mobile development fast and easy. They wanted to allow C# developers to share their code across platforms to reach billions of devices. Those four years have been highly successful for them, as they boast having over 1.3 million developers and 15,000 companies using their software to develop apps across the Apple, Google, and Microsoft ecosystems.

Rumors have been circulating for years about a Microsoft acquisition of Xamarin. First, they worked together to create tight integration with Visual Studio, and Microsoft undoubtedly helped develop the Mono framework now maintained by Xamarin, if only unofficially.  Next, they worked together to offer a limited Start Edition free with Visual Studio and discounts and training through Xamarin University for MSDN subscribers.  Yet they stayed two separate companies until February 24, 2016, when Microsoft announced it had signed an agreement to acquire Xamarin.

NATIVE, EVERYWHERE, and now OPEN SOURCE

xamarin-joins-microsoft

Why Xamarin?

Keller Schroeder has been using Xamarin for over three years and has employed it to develop apps for iOS, Android, and Window Phone. Xamarin enables us to take advantage of the productivity and power of .NET and to use C# to write to the full set of native APIs and mobile capabilities provided by each device platform. Depending on how you architect your solution, you can realistically obtain 80% or more code reuse between apps. Having one code base reduces the chance for errors and makes same day deployments much more feasible. It also allows for a faster ramp up for new developers and makes maintenance much easier, as changes often only need to be made in one place. Xamarin is also dedicated to providing same day updates with new iOS and Android releases so new features are available at the same time as they are to native developers.

Why Microsoft and Xamarin is Even Better

“Everything you need to run Xamarin apps on any OS, any device, is now open source,” Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft, declared at the Build conference. What does that mean to us?  Let’s start with the obvious reason: it is now free with Visual Studio!  Though it doesn’t take long to recoup your money, Xamarin wasn’t cheap and licensing was sometimes confusing. What I think is really more important is that Microsoft has already taken steps to tighten Xamarin integration with Visual Studio and Azure. Their goal is to allow Visual Studio to easily connect to your Mac and for your app to communicate seamlessly with Azure. They are also unveiling new Xamarin.Forms enhancements to allow for a shared UI and adding a Test Recorder in Visual Studio to make creating unit tests easier as well. Having Microsoft fully behind Xamarin is going to solidify its position as the best option for cross platform native apps well into the future.