Blog Archive

Modern Attachments in OWA

I’ve just been sent an email with a PowerPoint template attached.  All would be fine except this is the fourth version of the template file.  I’m lucky that I don’t need to worry about storage limits in my inbox but I still don’t like multiple versions flying about and duplicated search results.

We all know we should put the file in a shared location and send a link to so we don’t need to worry about different people having different versions.  But it’s never been easy.

Modern Attachments with Outlook Web App

If the file is on OneDrive for Business (we’re assuming you don’t put business files in OneDrive), I can easily attach them to an email and the sharing is done for me.  I don’t need to go into the ODfB folder and share.

Below I have a document stored on my ODfB but shared with no-one.

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

 

In Outlook Web App (OWA), I compose my email in the normal way and insert attachment.

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

OneDrive for Business shows me recent files.  This is a fairly new enhancement along with the ‘shared with me’ view.  I select the file I want to attach.

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

The all-important question; do I want to attach this file and endure the pain of resending it every time something changes.  Or do I want the simplicity of sharing the file via OneDrive?

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

Within the email, I can use the dropdown on each attachment to change the permissions from the default of edit.

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

And once I send the email, I can see that the share and permissions have been set for me automatically back in ODfB.  Nice.

 

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

An upcoming feature of ODfB is expirations on shared links.  That means I could share a file or folder for a week and the permissions will automatically revoke after that time.  How this will surface in the attachment process, I don’t know.

Currently, this feature is only available via OWA but it will be included in the rich Outlook client sometime in 2015 (no timeline) and in the mobile Outlook apps for iOS and Android before July 2015.

 

 

 


OneDrive for Business Roadmap

OneDrive for Business logoI thought we’d have the Swedish logo for this post.  We like a bit of international flavour.  Did you know that Excel FlashFill in Danish is Hurtigudfyld?

Back in the real world, we get a lot of questions around OneDrive for Business (ODfB), the perceived reliability of the synchronisation engine and feature requests such as being able to select individual folders for synchronisation as you can do with plain old OneDrive (and just to clarify, this is not something that ODfB can do at the moment).

Back in the Mists of Time (well, 8 years)

A little bit of background often helps people to understand the situation we’re in at the moment.  SharePoint 2001 and 2003 were the early versions of the collaborations and portal tools we know in Office 365 and on-premises today.  They were good at document management and collaboration but had limitations for people that frequently worked offline.  To fill that gap, Microsoft bought a product called Groove in 2005 which allowed sites to be used both offline and between internal and external users.  When I used to demo Groove I asked people what they’d do if they needed to transfer a 50Mb file to a customer in another country; too big to email so it would be a case of posting it or setting up an FTP site.  We all think Dropbox or OneDrive now but they simply didn’t exist back then.

Groove was renamed to SharePoint Workspace before being discontinued and replaced with ODfB.  ODfB doesn’t have all the functionality of SharePoint Workspace 2010 but it does allow for offline synchronisation and sharing with external users.  Don’t get me started on Windows Live Mesh; I loved that but it was in turn replaced by OneDrive.

The reason I’m reaching back into the dim mists of time is that ODfB continues to use the Groove synchronisation engine (Groove.exe) to keep your online and offline files up to date and this is all about to change.

Cloud ODfB vs On-premises ODfB

Before I go into the OneDrive roadmap, let’s also consider for one paragraph, the difference between ODfB in Office 365 and the on-premises SharePoint ODfB.  Although these are called the same the gap in functionality will widen as Microsoft have stated in their “cloud-first engineering model”.  The cloud version of ODfB is already more advanced with features such as shared-with-me, responsive pages, integration with Delve, quick command bars, context menus and drag/drop support.  While many of these changes should be included in the next on-premises release, many will not.  Specifically those related to unique cloud technologies such as Delve.  Also, because Microsoft are running the cloud ODfB, they are able to keep up with market demands for features such as unlimited storage, easy mobile access without puncturing your firewalls, external guest sharing, etc..  These are unique values to a cloud offering and on-premises deployments will never be able to compare.

Big Changes in the New ODfB

The first big change is already available in the mobile clients.  At present on the pc there are two sync applications; OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.  Confusing and it leads to terrible jokes like OneDrive is really TwoDrive.  Ha ha, ahem.  The mobile sync application is a unified app which lets users connect to both OneDrive and ODfB.  This will be coming for rich clients too.  The back-end services will not be merged however: OneDrive will remain consumer and ODfB will remain enterprise-led with service level agreements and so on.  Think Hotmail vs Exchange online; one is consumer and the other is an enterprise service but I can connect to both using a unified client.

The next generation sync client will be in preview sometime after July 2015 for the pc and Mac and should go on to general release in October-December.  There will also be a unified web client.  We’ve already blogged that the storage limit of 1TB is being increased to unlimited storage over this year and the 20,000 file limit is also removed for general release of the next generation sync app along with support for files larger than the current 2GB restriction although this is likely to remain limited at 10GB per file.

Additional features are being rolled out now and existing Office 365 tenants will start to see these soon.  Too many to mention in a single blog post but you can keep up to date via the Office 365 roadmap.  There are some great compliance features being surfaced in an Office 365 admin centre area called the compliance center (sic) so keep an eye out for that in your tenant.  These include:

Auditing and reporting – the ability to view what users are doing in ODfB within a certain date range
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and eDiscovery – notification and control if certain data is uploaded, e.g. files with credit card numbers.
Mobile Device Management (MDM) – tighter integration with Intune
Information Rights Management (IRM) – protection for ODfB files and libraries
Sync controls – being able to block certain pcs from being able to sync files offline
Data retention policies – for example, auto delete or archive files that haven’t been modified for 6 months
Encryption at rest – data store in ODfB will be encrypted
Compliance – ISO, EU Model and other compliances; a key differentiator between OneDrive and ODfB

The compliance center screen is shown below.

Office365 Compliance Centre

 

Microsoft wants customers to be confident about the importance of ODfB and the effort they’re putting into getting it right.  We all swear (a lot) at ODfB synchronisation right now and sometimes it’s embarrassing to discuss this with customers but the roadmap is exciting and the future looks bright.

If you’d like to learn about SharePoint and ODfB in more technical depth, have a look at our courses.  We use the best trainers so not only do you learn the course material but we can provide the most up-to-date information about the technologies.

 


When 1TB Just Isn’t Enough

Unlimited storage with OneDrive for BusinessSpare a thought for all those workers out there who still have storage limits.  A 200MB inbox for example.  For a while now, Office 365 customers have been able to enjoy unlimited Exchange Online Archiving and 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage.  But Microsoft likes to set limits that customer’s aren’t going to hit.  Starting in 2015, all Office 365 customers will enjoy unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost.  No specific timescales but every customer will be notified of their service changes.

The Office blog highlighted the change in October last year but we’re starting to see Office 365 consumer and commercial customers receive this upgrade.

One step at a time however, as the current limit on items within a OneDrive for Business library is 20,000, including files and folders.

[Update for May 2015 – the current limits of 20,000 files and 2GB per file will be removed in Q4 of 2015 when the next generation OneDrive synchronisation client is released.  However a single file limit of 10GB looks likely]


New Office 365 Datacentres

New Office 365 locationsThe issue of data sovereignty arises a lot with cloud computing so it’s good to stay up-to-date with plans for local datacentres.  Offering Office 365 services from local datacenters helps customers feel more confident about complying with regulations that require data to be kept in their own region.  Microsoft has a regionalised data centre strategy with Office 365 and the billing address of the customer, which the customer’s administrator inputs during the initial setup of the services, typically dictates the Office 365 region and the primary storage location for that customer’s data.  You can view these regions on the Microsoft Office 365 Data Maps page.  For example, customer’s in Asia Pacific will have their Office 365 hosted in datacentres in Hong Kong and Singapore, however some data may reside elsewhere such as Active Directory and Global Address Book data.

Microsoft announced they’ll be launching Office 365 services from datacenters in Japan (December 2014), Australia (March 2015) and India (late 2015) and these regions will replicate data across datacenters in a single country only.

Customers should be able to create new tenants inside these additional regions as soon as they’re online (for example Japan is available now).  Existing customers in the affected regions will have their data moved to the new Office 365 datacenters from September 2015 and will be given six weeks advance notice of their move date.

You can read more about these plans on TechNet and also about the Japan datacentre on the Office 365 blog.

No news about a UK datacentre as yet.


Easiest way to MCSA?

Perhaps you’re looking for a new job and you want to refresh your certification.  Perhaps you’re hiring new staff and want to skill them up quickly or meet targets to earn a Microsoft Partner Competency.  What’s the easiest way to earn a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) accreditation?

Easy is the wrong word here.  None of these exams are easy; they exist to test and prove your experience and knowledge in a topic.  MCSA is also the prerequisite to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert accreditations which really are the pinnacle of Microsoft certifications.

However the fastest route to earn an MCSA, assuming you’re not upgrading an earlier qualification,  is to work towards either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 MCSA or towards the Office 365 MCSA.  Each of these routes only require you to take two exams from scratch.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate Map

 

Your choice should clearly depend on your IT career path and the skills you’re going to need.  If you are open to all areas though, of those three MCSA options, we’d advise the Office 365 MCSA.  Firstly there is only one 5-day course whereas Windows MCSA involves two 5-day courses and thus more time out of the office and more cost.  Attending a course is not required to take an exam but it’s a great way to maximise your chances.  Secondly, the Office 365 MCSA can be used as the foundation to gain the MCSE qualification in Desktop Infrastructure, Server Infrastructure, Private Cloud, Messaging, Communications or SharePoint.  The Windows MCSA does not have an MCSE route.

Of course, we’d love to help you gain nay Microsoft qualification so please get in touch and see how we can help.

 


Dude, where’s my data?

Office 365 Logo

A play on the film title from “Dude, where’s my car?” in which, well actually, we can’t remember the plot but we do remember the title and something about a scene with tattoos.

Putting movies to one side, customers often want to know where their mailboxes reside in Office 365 and Exchange Online.  If my billing address is in Europe I can assume my data centres are located in Dublin and Amsterdam but can I verify that?  Also, the mailboxes for individual users and resources might be in either of those locations.  Here’s where a little PowerShell comes in handy.

There’s a useful getting started with Powershell resource on the Microsoft website.  You can also search the web for myriad explanations but be aware many of these will be out of date especially if you’re using Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1 includes PowerShell by default so on the Start screen, type PowerShell, right-click Windows PowerShell in the search results and select Run as Administrator.  I’ll explain why you need to run it as admin in a moment.

How to run Windows powerShell

 

So many memories of the old DOS window.  PowerShell doesn’t speak Office 365 by default so we have to teach it by installing the Windows PowerShell cmdlets for Office 365 management and deployment.  Your keyboard should now be bristling with all the power you have at your fingertips.

1 – Set the PowerShell execution policy.  The default setting for execution policy is restricted which would not allow PowerShell to run scripts at all; secure but not very useful.  RemoteSigned tells PowerShell it can run scripts on the local machine but any scripts downloaded from the Internet must be signed by a trusted publisher.  This is also why you need to run PowerShell as administrator; in order to change this setting.

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

2 – Set your Office 365 admin credentials.  A popup window will appear where you type in your Office 365 admin user and password.  This will also tell the PowerShell cmdlets which Office 365 tenant you want to connect to.

$cred = Get-Credential

3 – In order to perform administrative tasks on Office 365 you can connect to the online service using the credentials you supplied.

Connect-MsolService -cred $cred

4 – You can list all the Office 365 admin commands.  Note that Exchange, SharePoint and the other cloud services have their own set of commands.

Get-Command –Module msonline

5 – To connect to Exchange Online, type the following commands.  You don’t need to change anything here; again, the tenant to connect to is specified by the login ID in the credentials.

$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://ps.outlook.com/powershell -Credential $cred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection

Import-PSSession $Session

6 – Return your mailbox information to see where they’re located.  If the server name begins with db you’re in Dublin and if it’s am you’re in Amsterdam.  Happy travels!

Get-Mailbox


Lync 2013 vs Lync Basic

Logo for Microsoft Lync

The new Office 365 Business and Business Premium plans released in October do not include the full Lync client so what are users expected to use for instant messaging, presence and online meetings?

There are a number of possible Lync clients including the Lync Windows Store App (Modern UI), Lync Web App and mobile Lync clients for Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The most likely alternative for users will be Lync Basic which is a no-cost application to connect to Lync Online or Lync Server.  For users already on Office 365 Small Business Premium or Midsize Business plans who are upgrading to the new Business plans, the update process will uninstall the Access & Lync applications and users will be able to download Lync Basic from their software portal in Office 365.

Although the functionality of Lync Basic was recently updated to more closely match that of the full Office Lync client, there are some quite significant differences including the lack of spellchecker for instant messages (after a long time of asking Microsoft to add a spell checker to Lync, losing it now is disappointing), using OneNote for Lync meeting notes and the ability to record meetings.  Some features are not so relevant for SMB customers and there are also features which require on-premises Lync Server or SharePoint Server such as Skill Search and Persistent Chat; those features would not be available to Office 365 users even with the full Lync client.

If you’d like to understand the differences between Lync, Lync Basic and the other clients, you can view this TechNet page.  There’s also a dedicated page comparing functionality for the Lync mobile clients.


How to Access the Old Print Preview

Microsoft have to please over a billion users of Office so there will always be some elements that people aren’t so keen on. You can tell we’re being diplomatic here can’t you? I must admit I stayed with the Windows Classic start menu when I used Windows Vista back in the day.

I had a question from a user at Land Securities during an Office demonstration session. The person was working on a small device and the Word print preview in Office 2010 and 2013 only shows the document in half the window. He missed the old print preview dialogue box where he could view the document as full screen.

Office Print Preview Window

 

When features of Office are deprecated, some of them remain in the product but are moved into the background. This is one of those features. To access the old-style Print Preview window you need to customise the Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar.  Let’s use the Quick Access Toolbar for our example.  To add commands to the toolbar, click the arrow to the far right.  As the command in question is not in the common commands list, select More Commands….

Customise the Ofice Quick Access Toolbar

 

This will show the Customise Quick Access Toolbar page in the options window.  Click on the dropbox and select All Commands to display an alphabetical list of all the Word commands; a surprising number of them.

Office Ribbon Commands

 

Scroll down in the list until you see Print Preview Edit Mode.  Double-click the command to add it to your Quick Access Toolbar.

Add a command to the ribbon

 

And now you have the Office 2007 style Print Preview window at the touch of a button.

Command added to the Quick Access Toolbar

 

Whether it will still be there in the next version of Office is anyone’s guess of course, so caveat emptor or another suitable Latin phrase for be careful when using old Office commands.

Old style print preview

 


New Office 365 Plans for Small Business

Update August 2014 – We’re proud to be working with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars on the Microsoft Cloud platform.  In this recording we go through the new Office 365 Business plans.

In almost every cloud event we run, I mention how frequently cloud services change.  Think about Office; there’s Office 2013.  Before that came Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003 and so on.  A nice predictable release cadence of three years or so.  A similar pattern exists with server products and OSs.  The cloud has a much faster release cycle and from October 1st there will be new Office 365 plans for small business: Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium.  All three of these are aimed at the small and medium business (SMB) market and will replace the current lineup (Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business) by late 2015.

 

New office 365 Plans

 

This is a nice improvement on the current, fragmented SMB position, because you can now mix these three plans to your hearts content, up to 300 seats of each.  You cannot currently mix and match Small Business and Midsized Business plans.  The 300 seat limit is per plan, not per tenant, so you can have up to 900 seats across these three plans if necessary.

Office 365 new plans described

 

Before you get too excited, these plans also have clear omissions.

Office 365 business Plan vs ProPlus

Office 365 Business doesn’t include the Office apps and features that Midsize Business did; Access and Lync.  I think this is almost the wrong way around.  Access shouldn’t be chosen over SQL Server for enterprises and SMB love the power that Access can bring.  Lync is marvellous for all types of organisation and shouldn’t be limited to just enterprise.

My personal position remains that customers and partners should start with the Office 365 Enterprise plans and then work downwards if absolutely necessary, not the other way around:

  1. There’s more choice with the Enterprise family of services, not just plans E1, E3 and E4 but all of the standalones
  2. You can mix and match so office users can go for plan E3 for example whilst lighter workers may just require hosted email
  3. More control over the Office installation and updates via the admin centre
  4. More services to grow into when you’re ready, without having to consider migrating to a higher plan
  5. Lower cost entry point: Small Business Premium is £8.40 per user per month; Exchange Online is just £2.60 per user per month
  6. Lots more reasons but I forget them

Here’s the FAQ which covers a lot more detail.


Is Office 365 Subject to the Patriot Act?

Great Seal of the United States

 

David from Newcastle upon Tyne asks “is Office 365 subject to the Patriot Act?”

This is a very common question when dealing with cloud services, not just office 365.  In short, the USA Patriot Act makes lawful access to stored data easier in certain instances.  If the request is lawful and obligatory, Microsoft cannot simply refuse.  Nor can any other company.  And don’t forget, the UK has similar powers and made almost as many law enforcement disclosure requests as the US between July 2013 and December 2013 (4,213 requests from the UK against 5,652 from the US).

Customers can be assured that Microsoft follows clear principles in responding to any government legal demands for customer data (whether from the US government, UK or other bodies):

There must be a valid subpoena or legal equivalent before Microsoft will consider releasing a customer’s non-content data to law enforcement;
There must be a court order or warrant before Microsoft will consider releasing a customer’s content data;
In each instance, Microsoft carefully examines the requests received for a customer’s information to make sure they are in accord with the laws, rules and procedures that apply.

Because Microsoft is committed to transparency in regards to who has access to customers’ data, when and under what circumstances, they publish the details of the number of demands they receive each year in a Law Enforcement Requests Report which is updated twice a year.  They have just released a report on US government requests (as opposed to law enforcement requests) and between January 2013 and June 2013 there were less than 1,000 orders seeking disclosure of customer content.  Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel & Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs highlights that “while our customers number hundreds of millions… only a fraction of a percent of our users are affected by these orders.”

It’s also possible for customers on Microsoft’s cloud services to find out whether someone has accessed their data.

Due to the frequency of this question, the Office 365 Trust Centre is a useful source of information around privacy and transparency.