Thursday, April 17, 2014

SharePoint Online metadata basics

One of the problems with files stored on a local hard disk is that you are typically relying only the file name to describe the contents of the file. We all of course know that most businesses don’t have policies and procedures around how their files are name. They therefore end up with a ‘dog’s breakfast’ of gobblygook that makes sense to no one.

Studies show that most employees spend at least 30% of their week looking for information and having files in unintelligible locations with random names doesn’t make that job ANY easier! This is where moving such files into SharePoint can help.


As you see above, if I simply upload documents to a SharePoint Document Library they are just as ‘higgildy piggidly’ as they would be if they were stored on your local hard disk.


If I now press a column heading, in this case Name, you’ll find that the documents are sorted A-Z and if I press it again, Z-A. Nothing unusual about that, you can do that on your local hard drive.


If now however I select the File Type column heading I see the above which lists all the file extensions that appear in the list. If I select say the docx option what I get is:


I now see a filtered version of my files based on the file extension I selected (i.e. only those that match the filtered criteria). I can of course select more than one file extension if I want. You can tell that the list is filtered by the little filter icon net to the file type column heading.

To remove the filter just select that column heading again and select the option Clear Filter from Type.

You can of course perform this filtering on any column but even better you can add your own columns to describe the files. This is know as adding metadata.


To do this select the Library tab top left of the page to reveal the Ribbon Menu and from the right hand side of the Ribbon select Library Settings.


Scroll down this page until you locate the Columns heading. Under the list of existing columns select Create column.


Give the new column and name (here Customer), select the type of column it will be (here a choice) and add a description. Scroll down for more options.


In this case we’ll elect to Require that the column has information, which is not the normal default. This means people can’t add documents to this location WITHOUT also selecting which customer they apply to, which is great for enforcing compliance.

In the choice box you see 4 choices have been entered (Starbucks, Microsoft, HP and Other). These are the options that will be available for this field. You can always return and edit these if necessary later.

All the other fields are left as default and the OK button is selected at the bottom of the page to save the changes.


When you return to the Document Library you will see an extra column, Customers, to the right as shown above. Obviously, any existing files won’t have a value for this field since it is new, however if you edit an existing entry you will be required to enter one.


If you edit the properties of the first file you can see that there is now an additional field called Customer displayed. You will also notice that it has a star (*) next to it indicating it is a required field. You will also find a drop down selection box, which when selected will display all the options entered when the column has created.


Since it is a required field, if you attempt to leave it blank you’ll get a message like that above and you won’t be able to save any updates.


You can now go through and update the customer field for every item in the Document Library. The easy was to do this is to use the Quick Edit option from the Ribbon Menu which displays the entries like a spreadsheet so you can easily move between fields using the arrow keys and even copy and paste between cells.


When you return to the list you can now select the new column heading you created and you’ll again see a list of entries on which you can filter.


In this case, just selecting Microsoft will filter the list of items to only display those that have Microsoft in the Customer column as shown above.

It’s really that simply to add metadata to your SharePoint items. Don’t forget adding metadata works on just about everything in SharePoint, Document Libraries, Lists, Calendars, etc and is a great way to help you filter, sort and most importantly locate your data. Now isn’t that better than what you might be using with you local hard disk?

You can of course extend the concept of metadata way beyond the basics demonstrated here, however the most important thing is to think about, and define you metadata up front. What columns do you need? What type of information will they contain? How will you display the information? etc. 

Remember, SharePoint is an immensely powerful tool like most other Office applications. If you want to get the most from it you need to invest some time understanding what it does. Hopefully, this post will get you started on that path but watch out for more posts on making the most of SharePoint.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cloud Business Podcast Episode 15

So I’ve just completed another podcast over at Cloud Business Blueprint, this time with Mark Penney from SMB Cloud Advisor stepping in for a holidaying Nigel Moore.

You can find the episode at:

where we tackle the question about new entrants into your market and what you can do about it. We also cover the latest cloud news, business reflections and answer a question or two.

If you haven’t subscribed to the podcasts yet you can do so on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Have a listen and let us know what you think and look out for more episodes coming shortly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Partner Online Services Dashboard

One major complaint I hear from Microsoft Partners about Office 365 is that have no way to get an overview of all their online customers in one place. The reality is that there is, all they need to do is login to the Microsoft Partner site ( with their organizational details.


After login select Membership from menu that appears across the top. That should display a drop down menu and from here select Online Services Dashboard as shown above.


You should then see a number of different boxes like that shown above. In the Office 365 box in the Manage Customers section you will see how many Office 365 customers you have (screened here for privacy) for example.


If you then click on that box you will drill down further to what you see above that lists the total customers, any deployment opportunities and a list of customers and their subscriptions below. You can filter, sort and select much of the information displayed here.


If you go back a screen and scroll down you will find a Partner of Record box in the menu. Selecting that display the above screenshot. Here you can see how many customers you are partner of record for and how many have been switched from you (or lost). You’ll also get a list of these customers below this.

So if you are a Microsoft Partner and haven’t taken a look at the Online Services Dashboard then you should login and have a look around at all the great information Microsoft has provided right at your finger tips. I’ll bet it is exactly what you have been looking for!

Monday, April 14, 2014

SharePoint Online Check in/Check out

One of the abilities that SharePoint Online has is the ability to ‘check out’ a document. Why would you do that? By ‘checking out’ a file in SharePoint Online you are making the file read only for everyone except yourself (and administrators who can override this if necessary). This means you can continue to work on the document without worrying about others editing it.

So how do you check a document out in SharePoint Online? There are a couple of ways.


Select the three dots (ellipse) to the right of document name. Then select the ellipse again from the menu bar that appears along the bottom of the dialog box. A drop down menu will appear as shown above and from that you can select Check Out.


You can also select the item to ‘check out’ and then select the File tab at the top of the page. This will display the ribbon menu as shown above and from there you can select the Check Out option in the Open & Check Out section of the ribbon menu.


Once you check a file out all users will see a green arrow appear in the lower right of the files icon as shown above.

The person who ‘checked out’ the file can now make as many changes to the files as they want. They can do this either online or offline, updating as many times as they want. Everyone apart from the person who ‘checked out’ the file will be able to view the file as it was just prior to ‘check out’, they cannot however make any edits or updates themselves. The person who ‘checked out’ the file will see any changes or updates they have made to the file.


When the original person who ‘checked out’ the item is ready they can ‘check in’ the item by either selecting the option via the ellipses as shown above,


or via the ribbon menu as shown above.

You will also notice that there is the option to ‘Discard Check Out’. This option will basically revert the file back to its original state just prior to check out discarding any changes that have been made since the file was ‘checked out’.


Once the file has ‘checked in’, you will be prompted as to whether you wish to Retain Check in and whether you want to add any Comments as shown above. Normally you simply add any comments desired and press the OK button to 'check in’ the document.

After ‘check in’ is complete the file will appear as normal, the green arrow icon will disappear and all users will be able to see the updated file.

By default, with SharePoint Online ‘check in’ is optional however you can make it mandatory via the Library Settings.


You’ll need to have the appropriate rights to make this change. Select the Library tab from the top of the page to reveal the ribbon menu as shown above. From here select the Library Setting button on the right of the ribbon.


Select Versioning settings from under the General Settings section in the top right of the page.


Scroll down the page until you locate the Require Check Out section and set that to Yes and press the OK button to save the changes and update.

Check out with SharePoint Online is a great way to ensure that only one person is working on a file at one time. It can greatly help you simplify the way you go about creating and managing documents. You can also require all items to be ‘checked in’ via Library Settings if desired.

Remember, check in/out applies to all SharePoint Online plans as well as for OneDrive for Business (given that is also SharePoint).

Thursday, April 10, 2014


One of the things that I notice about the public in general (and IT resellers especially) is the the alarming amount of extra body weight many are carrying around. All the reading I have done on the subject tends to indicate that a major cause of this is due to the large amount of sugars in modern diets.

Don’t believe me? Stop and take a look at all the sugar you are consuming each day. You may think that you are doing a good thing but eating ‘lite’ and ‘fat-free’ food. The problem is that to make such food enticing the fat has been replaced with sugar and loads of it!

Why do I mention this? I see that there is a new documentary coming out very soon called Fed Up which focuses on the ‘sugar-issue’ and I would suggest that it is a must see for many. Here’s the trailer:

One of the things that you should appreciate as a small business operator is that if you can’t work you can’t earn a living. Thus, if your diet and lifestyle is making you unhealthy the sicker you are going to become, especially as you age.

If like me you are interested in trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it isn’t hard. However a very good starting point is the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.


I’d also recommend you getting something like a FitBit (which I have) and using that to track how active you are each day, how far you walk and your sleep patterns, which are all very important to your health. You can see my stats above since I got my FitBit recently for Christmas.

The first step in becoming more healthy, much like improving your business, is to start monitoring what is going on. I say start looking at your daily sugar intake and how active you are. I’d be surprised that if you reduced your sugar intake and increased your activity you wouldn’t become healthier.

Remember, you only have one life and it ticks away from you at every moment of every day, so make the most of it. If not for you then for the ones you love because you are an important part of their lives as well and you owe to them to look after yourself.

eDiscovery is part of OneDrive for Business stand alone plans

I have been looking at the OneDrive for Business Stand Alone plan recently to try and understand what it is all about. If you haven’t read my initial blog on this have a look at:

First look at the OneDrive for business stand alone plan

Upon reviewing what OneDrive for Business Stand Alone offered at:

I noted the fact that it includes eDiscovery as you can see below.


Now, the eDiscovery features is actually a part of SharePoint Online Plan 2 as you can see below:


The conclusion that I came to in my initial blog post on OneDrive for Business Stand Alone was that it was that it had the equivalent feature set of SharePoint Online Plan 1. Clearly, with the ability to have eDiscovery (which is an advanced SharePoint Online feature) that assumption is no longer correct it would seem.


So to test out the eDiscovery feature I logged into the OneDrive for Business Stand Alone Plan and went to the SharePoint admin center and created a new site collection.


When you create a new site collection you can select which template you wish that site based on. As you can see from the above screen shot, one of the options under the Enterprise tab is eDiscovery Center.


Once you have created the site and it has been provisioned you will see it appear in the list of site as shown above.


You can of course navigate to that site, as seen above, and start using the eDiscovery functionality of the OneDrive for Business Stand Alone plan.

This is interesting to me. Why? Because clearly OneDrive for Business Stand Alone is based on a SharePoint Plan 1 (as deduced in the previous blog post) but as you can see now it includes the advanced eDiscovery feature from SharePoint Online Plan 2. So that means what we effectively have here is another SharePoint Online plan here with a different feature set.

Those additional advanced features are great, don’t get me wrong, but they make understanding what each SharePoint Online plan offers far more confusing for people. For example, OneDrive for Business Stand Alone doesn’t include advanced features like form services but does include other advanced features like eDiscovery.

Having eDiscovery as part of OneDrive for Business Stand Alone is a huge bonus and real differentiator with other cloud storage products, however it also means that it is a lot more complicated than competing products. OneDrive for Business Stand Alone is clearly not aimed at end users as are other cloud storage products BUT is does means that people that use and implement OneDrive for Business Stand Alone are going to have to spend some time learning about the product (and specifically SharePoint Online) if they are going to get the most from it.

The great thing about OneDrive for Business Stand Alone is that has much more functionality and power than you expect. However, that could also be its disadvantage if all you are looking to do is save files to the cloud. I personally think the market is moving more to a product like OneDrive for Business Stand Alone for compliance reasons but we are not there yet for most smaller customers who want simplicity over just about everything else.