Monday, October 24, 2016

Key Office 365 Pro Plus dates

If you are still using Office 2013 from Office 365 you need to be aware of some upcoming key dates.

As I have previous detailed at:

Questions about Office 2016 via Office 365

Q. Am I required to upgrade from Office 2013 on my desktop to Office 2016 if my Office 2013 was installed from Office 365?

Yes, however you have 12 months to complete that transition. That means you must upgrade your Office 365 Office 2013 to Office 2016 by the 22nd of September 2016. After that date any existing Office 365 Office 2013 installation will reverted to “reduced functionality mode”, basically read only.

So the clock started ticking on September 22nd 2016. Now because different Office 365 plans received Office Pro Plus at different times, and because there are different update channels:

Office update branches renamed to channels

Now from what I see in the Microsoft KB article:


and I quote:

“Users who are running the 2013 version of Office 365 ProPlus after February 28, 2017 will have to upgrade to the latest version of Office 365 ProPlus to continue to receive support from Microsoft.”

I would therefore suggest that now is the time to start planning and testing the upgrade to Office 2016 if you are using Office 2013. This applies not only to stand alone desktops but also to installations on terminal servers.

This is all part of the new paradigm of regular updates that we see with most software. If you are on a subscription you need to keep up to date to receive all the benefits. I appreciate that the ‘old’ culture was to stay on the same release for a bazillion years BUT the new world order is constant updates (think mobile apps).  That’s why you pay the subscription, to have access to the latest features! So if you haven’t upgraded DON’T leave it until the last minute!

You have been warned.

Friday, October 21, 2016

October Webinar resources


Another successful monthly webinar is now complete. I’ve changed from the previous webinar software now to using Skype for Business and it change over was pretty smooth. There is still a few things that I’m trying to automate to achieve the same level of functionality as before. However, overall, things went much smoother than I thought.

The slides are now available for free download at:

If you are not a CIAOPS patron you want to view or download a full copy of the video from the session you can do so here:

you can also now get access to all webinars via:

for a nominal fee.

I’ll be posting information about the November which at this stage looks like being around the 17th of November. As yet I haven’t settled on a topic, so if you have a suggestion of what you’d like to see a deep dive on when it comes to Office 365 please don’t hesitate to contact me (

Monday, October 17, 2016

Old vs New Groups

In a recent article I wrote how Office 365 groups received their own Team Site now but from what I could see that Team Site couldn’t contain subsites.


Interestingly, if I create a totally new Office 365 Group, rather than look at an existing Group, I get the ability to create subsites!



As you might also observe, I can’t currently figure out a way to rename the site that created when you created a new Office 365 Group!


Also, the Site Settings for this new Office 365 Group are far more extensive that the pre-existing group I looked at in the previous post.

I suspect things are still changing behind the scenes and we’ll soon see a consistent interface. I probably don’t because I’m currently on Office 365 First Release.

Bottom line? stay tuned for more updates on Office 365 Groups.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Advice from a reforming hoarder


One the biggest challenges we face in this time of abundance is accumulating “stuff”. So many, myself included, have far more “stuff” that we need or can ever use. If you set your mind to it you’ll be surprised at how much stuff you can actually get rid of. Less stuff means less to worry about, less to store, etc, etc. The benefits are endless.

Our accumulation of “stuff” also bleeds across into our digital lives. Don’t believe me? How many digital photos have you got stored away somewhere that you have never looked at and are unlikely to every look at? One your computer? On your phone? In the cloud? I’ll bet plenty. Now think about some of your business processes in light of the technology you use.

One of things that I see with many businesses is that they never in fact ‘replace’ processes with new technology, they simply ‘add’ new technology to what they already have. Why? Of course it is human nature to desire remaining with the familiar, but doing so comes at a price. That price is 'accumulating more unnecessary ‘stuff’.

A good example I recently came across was the implementation of Yammer, an enterprise social network available via Office 365. Many businesses now have access to Yammer but they fail to really integrate it into their business. Why? Because they view it as an addition to their businesses processes rather than a way of actually replacing an older system they have.

What do I mean? Take the example of reporting something unsafe in the workplace. An older approach might have been to submit a report, attend a committee meeting or request help from another team. All of that takes time and is generally a very siloed process. Now imagine what may be possible if you replaced that whole process using a tool like Yammer.

In this case, someone finds an issue and posts a message, including photos, to a dedicated public Yammer group. The responsible business group can then view the information, request further clarification or details as well as solicit input from other parties, all in one location. Everything remain visible to all parties at all times. Best thing is because all of that information is public, it is searchable at any time in the future, providing ongoing business value.

Not fully adopting a new system leaves overhead that not only slows down the process but also makes it more complex for those involved. The simpler things are, the less mistakes are made and the fewer things break.

We have a tendency in this modern world to accumulate ‘stuff’. We do exactly the same with technology. There is a widespread failure to implement new technologies as replacements for old processes. We want the new but hold onto the old and typically end up with twice what we need to get the job done. That is inefficient. Technology has then become something that encumbers rather than enables.

Next time you implement or evaluate a new technology for your business, consider it in light of what it can replace. What processes can this new technology actually help you replace completely rather than just supplement? This can be challenging but when you start living in a world of less you soon find there is room for so much more.

Friday, October 14, 2016

My Office 365 Groups are now SharePoint sites

There are a lot of changes rolling out to SharePoint Online and one of the major ones is around Office 365 Groups.

Office 365 Groups used to be simply a shared mailbox and a shared OneDrive For Business (basically a single Document Library). Groups have now become more about identity management in Office 365 than a separate service.


If I now navigate to my OneDrive for Business I see a list of Office 365 Groups at the bottom of the menu on the left.


if I navigate to one of these you’ll see I end up in a Document Library as shown above. However, if you now look more closely, you’ll see that is in fact now a complete SharePoint site.


If I now navigate to the Home page you’ll see that I get the modern SharePoint interface with Quicklinks and Activity on the front page.


Here I can create more apps (like Document Libraries) for the site.


If I go to Site Contents, I see the familiar SharePoint overview of all the items that existing with a SharePoint Team Site.


Interestingly, when I go to Site Settings for the Team Site I basically only see two items as shown above.


You’ll also notice that the URL of this new location is:

http://<tenant name><group name>

This indicates that the Group is now a stand alone Site Collection. However, when I look inside my SharePoint Admin Center I don’t see this Site Collection listed.

A few observations here.


I can create new apps within the new Group Team Site but I can’t appear to create any subsites.


When I go to the Site Settings for the new Group Team Site you’ll see that the theme changes and I lose the Pages option from my menu on the left.


The Settings for a Document Library appears identical to what is available in a standard Team Site although there are less options.


The above shows all the options available from a standard Team Site Document Library as a comparison.

You can still share individual files like you can in standard Team Site but there isn’t anywhere to share or set permissions in the new Group site.



You’ll notice there is no full site “share” (upper) as there is in a standard Team Site (lower).

So in summary, Office 365 Groups have now had their data storage locations upgraded to a ‘basic’ SharePoint Team Site. This new Group site is it’s own Site Collection were permissions are managed by the Group rather than in the SharePoint site. This Group site also doesn’t have the full functionality of a standard Team Site.

The main question I have at this point is where the new Groups sites storage comes from? It seems that it doesn’t come from the standard SharePoint Team Site pool, as the site isn’t even listed there. Does that mean the storage is independent of that available for standard Team Sites? If so I wonder what the limit of storage is? I wonder if it is like OneDrive for Business and effectively unlimited for Enterprise plans? My guess? I’d say each Group site has a limit of 25TB. Is it possible that each Group could have 25TB of space available to it? Not sure.

From what I understand, Office 365 Groups have now become more a container of users that will be utilised across all the Office 365 services, from Yammer to Exchange and so on. Each Office 365 Group will get a cut down version of a full SharePoint Team Site, in an independent Site Collection. I also believe an Office 365 Group will get its own Yammer location.

So the change here is that you need to start thinking about an Office 365 Group as a location that holds a collection of users. These users have access to a number of Office 365 services (such as the basic Team Site) as part of being members of this Office 365 Group. This new Office 365 Group can also be given access to other Office 365 services, much like any security group.

It is clear from all the information I’ve been watching from Microsoft Ignite, that Office 365 Groups are still an intermediate step when it comes to collaboration, between an individual’s OneDrive for Business and a fully blown ‘standard’ SharePoint Team Site. That makes sense, as it keep things simple for users who just want to start collaborating. If you are a member of an Office 365 Group you get a basic independent location to share files, folders and information as well as share information.

Where the complexity arises is where is the best place for people to store stuff? Their OneDrive for Business? A Group site? A Team Site? Yammer? etc? They are spoilt for choice but does require somewhat of an understanding of what each location can and can’t do. Maybe that’s why some yearn for the good ol’ of simple an F: drive to store stuff in?

I need to go away and continue to work through the content from Microsoft Ignite, especially the deep dive sessions so I can determine exactly how all this fits together and what Microsoft’s plans are going forward. Now that I actually have these abilities in my tenant it will be easier and I’ll report back what I find. Until then, enjoy the new functionality office 365 Groups provides. Also remember, that many changes are still rolling out, and will continue to do so for some time yet!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The 600 pound social media gorilla has entered the room


Social media giant, Facebook, has just announced it’s new business social media platform called Workplace which you read about here:

introducing Workplace by Facebook

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a big thing and many are asking what impact this might have on Microsoft Yammer? Before I share my thoughts on that specific topic let make some other general observations first.

The reason this is a big deal is the fact that Facebook is major part of a massive amount of people’s personal day. Previous, Facebook had been aimed at the individual user but that has now changed. Sure, many people used Facebook for business but mostly they were using it to promote their business rather that using it as part of their business. Workplace changes this focus dramatically.

With Workplace, Facebook is providing businesses a dedicated tool for them to use to communicate socially inside their business. Yes, there are already other platforms that do this but Facebook’s huge consumer reach provides an unprecedented level of familiarity and penetration. This means adoption for Workplace will pretty much be a no-brainer for businesses that adopt it.

I reckon the biggest threat Workplace poses is for existing one off messaging platforms like Slack and Hipchat. Facebook may not be the best in town but it is by far the biggest and is positioned very nicely to squash these smaller players.

So where does that leave a product like Microsoft Yammer? There is no doubt that it will put pressure on Yammer but only if you see Yammer as a stand alone platform. Yammer is fast becoming simply another component of Office 365. Business collaboration is more than just messaging or sharing links and photos. It is about documents, calendars, lists, tasks, emails and more. This is where you need to look at Yammer as only part of the solution Office 365 provides for collaboration.

Microsoft Yammer inside Office 365 not only has greater collaboration features but also greater governance, reporting and security. This is something many businesses really want. So again, you need to look at Workplace vs Yammer in the wider context of Workplace vs Office 365. At that point you see how much more Office 365 offers any business.

The great thing is that Workplace is going to place even more legitimacy on social being acceptable within a business. It is going to be readily adopted by millennials who have grown up with Facebook and are now the dominant component of the workforce. It is going to mean decreasing dependence on email as a business communications medium as well as make more information public rather than siloed.

The flow on effect will in fact benefit Yammer and the overall Office 365 product I believe. Why? Because, even though Workplace may be great and many business may adopt it, it is still really only a single product designed for a single task. Whereas Office 365, that already includes a social network, provides a single identity and shared information access across a range of services. Integration is a key factor going forward with technology for businesses today. No matter how good a single product is, unless it integrates easily, then it’s value starts to fall away quickly.

Also if Workplace did “everything” then why did Facebook adopt Office 365 inside it’s own business?

Why Facebook is betting on Office 365 and the Microsoft Cloud

Workplace doesn’t do everything, that’s why.

Yes, Workplace provides a solution but it isn’t as broad or as deeply integrated as Office 365 is today and moving into the future. I can see some businesses choosing to use Yammer with Office 365 for superior integrated collaboration just as much as I can see others using Workplace and Office 365 together. I’d also be betting on close integration between the two products to provide superior access for those users when compared to others using stand alone third party services like Slack.

So I think announcement Workplace is sounding the changing of the guard in business. That is, away from email and towards social. I think it is going to have a major impact on the market and will disrupt many, especially existing smaller, single product providers. Workplace will certainly provide a challenge to Yammer, however when you consider the ongoing integration of Yammer deeper into the Office 365 suite, I actually believe it will potentially increase demand for a fully integrated product like Office 365.

We’ll see what the future brings but if nothing else, it once again means to me the game is shifting and those who don’t also shift as well are destined to lose

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Using Azure to test OneDrive for Business Sync


In a recent blog I detailed how you could automatically download all the content from the recent Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference. In that post I also said that the ultimate destination for that content, in my case, was going to be SharePoint Online.

There are number of different ways that you could get all these files into SharePoint Online but I thought that this would be a great opportunity to test the new Preview OneDrive for Business Sync client that now works with SharePoint Online document libraries. You can read more about this release here:

Getting started syncing SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client – preview

I will caution you before you go charging in and setting this up. This is still currently PREVIEW software! That means it is not yet complete. I will also caution you that it is not simply a process of installing a download. The release of the completed sync client is due in November 2016, which isn’t really that far away. So, unless your job is to play with software, I’d wait until the released product is available real soon.

Luckily, part of my job IS to play with software and let people know what it’s all about. So what I thought I’d do to test out this new OneDrive for Business sync client is to use it to upload all the material I captured from Microsoft Ignite.

Now there’s another aspect to way I approach these tasks these days and that is to use Azure as my primary tool. So, to actually download the Microsoft Ignite content, as detailed previously, I actually did this using an Azure virtual machine? Why? Firstly, it is nice to have a clean machine with plenty of disks space. I can also adjust the power and storage of the machine to suit my needs and only pay for what I need. I can also leave the machine running in the Microsoft data center and access it from anywhere. However, in this case, the major reason is simply better bandwidth.

The downloading process of the Ignite 2016 content ran about ten times faster in Azure versus downloading locally. This likewise also means that uploads to SharePoint Online will run ten or more time faster. Given that time is money, that’s why I prefer to use Azure even for mundane stuff like this.

Now the Ignite 2016 PowerPoint slides alone come to over 10GB of data. So once the I had downloaded all that to my Azure Azure VM, I installed the new OneDrive for Business sync client and sync’ed the existing destination Team Site Document Library. The sync tool then downloaded the existing contents to my Azure VM without issue (about 3GB of data). I then created a new directory in my local sync area and then dumped the 10GB+ of data into that location.


I watched as the sync client merrily start chewing away on all these new files. I check the status (as you can now do on the new client by simply click on the System Tray icon) and saw the files uploaded to the SharePoint Document Library.

Even though this was an azure VM, 10GB+ of data is still not going to happen instantaneously. I checked back with the process regularly. I did see the sync client crash once (remember, it’s still in preview) and restart but apart from that, in a short period of time all that data was now not only in a SharePoint Document Library but also synced to the Azure VM.


I then checked the properties of what I had stored locally in my sync folder and you see from the above that it was all there.

So there you have it. I successfully sync 12GB+ of data to a SharePoint Online Document Library using the new preview OneDrive for Business sync client. YEAH!

Even though you’ve seen this success, remember my earlier warning about this currently being demo software. It won’t be long before the completed production version is available to all and I’ll report on that when it happens. However, the big takeaway should be that new OneDrive for Business sync tool is looking pretty good and I am very confident about not only its reliability but also features upon release.

If you have been frustrated with previous versions of the sync tool, I’d suggest now is perhaps a good time to start looking at it again as I believe it is going to become a very powerful feature of the Office 365 suite that is going to challenge many existing incumbent third party software products that competes with the OneDrive for Business sync tool currently.

In summary, I am very confident that the new OneDrive for Business sync will be a major reason TO shift to Office 365.