Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Need to Know – Episode 24

Just released my latest podcast featuring Microsoft MVP Troy Hunt.

 

http://ciaops.podbean.com/2012/02/28/episode-24-troy-hunt/

 

In this episode we discuss all thing security and focus on practical ways that SMB’s can improve their protection.

 

Don’t forget all the previous episodes at http://ciaops.podbean.com.

 

If you are interested in being a guest on the Need to Know podcast don’t hesitate to contact me (director@ciaops.com).

Office 365 workshop – register now

Registrations are now open for the CIAOPS Building an Office 365 Practice workshop on the 18th of April. You can register for in person and streaming options at:

 

http://ciaops0412.eventbrite.com/

 

You can also use the code EARLYBIRD for a 25% discount on both options prior to the 18th of March.

 

Information on the event:

 

About

If you want to learn about the opportunities around "Cloud" computing, especially with Office 365 then this workshop is for you.

You will learn not only about the Microsoft Office 365 product indepth but also how to re-engineer your business for the "Cloud". You'll learn business strategies that will help drive you more business and have opportunities knocking on your door. This workshop will provide a balance between technical and business information. It is aimed at IT resellers those who are either considering offering "Cloud" computing or those who have just commenced the process.

The workshop includes all meals (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea), parking, Internet access, course notes and more. The workshop will be given by Microsoft Office 365 MVP Robert Crane who is the Principal of the CIAOPS.

At the end of this workshop you should have the confidence to know the Office 365 product indepth but also a range of business strategies that can be implemented immediately to not only benefit a "Cloud" practice but any business.

Hope you can attend.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I can’t wait

One of the biggest drawbacks with SharePoint Online with Office 365 was that you couldn’t view PDF’s in a browser. You had to download them to you local machine and then open them. This was a real pain but understandable given the desire for maximum security (PDF’s can launch javascript automatically which can do nasty things to your machine).

 

Finally, Microsoft has announced that it will be allowing PDF’s to be opened in a browser! From http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/blog/Pages/BlogPost.aspx?pID=1004

 

PDFs

Office 365 users wanted a better, more connected and governed experience when it came to working with PDF files within SharePoint Online document libraries. Thanks to your direct comments and active voices in the Community forums, PDF files will now open directly into Adobe Reader without requiring that it be downloaded first. The PDF remains connected and stored in your SharePoint Online document library as you view and edit the file. You can even check it out like other Office documents.

After the SharePoint Online environment has been updated, users must have the latest Adobe Reader version (10.1.2) installed:http://get.adobe.com/reader/

 

Now I can’t wait for the update.

Lync in Office 365 can now record

One of the few things that Lync for Office 365 didn’t have when compared to the old Live Meeting available under BPOS was the ability to record. The reason used to be set out in this KB article:

 

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2433212

 

which has changed to an article on troubleshooting Lync recordings, which means by basic power of deduction that Lync now supported meeting recordings! Double YEAH.

 

image_4_3D099A5B

 

When you now connect to a Lync meeting you’ll find the option to Start Recording as well as Manage recordings as shown above.

 

image_6_3D099A5B

 

If you go into the Recording manager you’ll see any previous Lync meetings as well as any that have been converted to .WMV. This is much easier that with Live meeting which required an add on program.

 

This makes it really easy to do a product demonstration across the web live and then record it and throw it up to YouTube for later broadcast. Do once, run many, very enticing I reckon for small to medium businesses (SMBs).

 

Lync is one of the gems of Office 365 for most SMBs because most have never had such technology available to them so cheaply. Apart from web casting think of all the email you can save by using Lync?

 

image_8_3D099A5B

 

If you login to the admin console in Office 365 for Lync you’ll see a whole swag of new options allowing administrators to control exactly what each user can and can’t do in Lync.

 

This again demonstrates to me the power and flexibility Office 365 provides. It demonstrates how quickly the product is being updated and improved and with a minimum of fuss. And guess what? When it is updated it works! This is not always the case when an on premises upgrade is done.

 

My advice? If you haven’t gotten into Lync then your should. if you haven’t looked at the power Office 365 can bring to your business for a few dollars a month then I’ll bet your competition is.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

CIAOPS Podcast – Episode 23

In this episode I'm joined by Arlin Sorenson from HTG to talk about the benefits of peer groups and how they can take your business to another level. Arlin and I discuss topics such as business strategy, leadership, life planning and legacy. If you are looking to improve your business then look no further than this episode.

 

HTG Peer groups - http://www.htgpeergroups.com/

 

You can find the episode at - http://ciaops.podbean.com/2012/02/14/episode-23-arlin-sorenson/

 

Don’t forget I’m always looking for guest to come on the podcast. If you are interested please contact me (director@ciaops.com).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Configuring Outlook options in Office 365

You can get you emails through many mechanisms in Office 365, from Outlook on the desktop all the way through an IPad. Generally the Exchange autodiscover record you configure in your DNS makes all this happen seamlessly. However what happens for those times when you REALLY need to know a physical server address or setting? There is an easy way to find out, here’s how.

 

1. Login to http://mail.office365.com with your user details.

 

2. In the top right pull down the Help option to display the following menu:

 

image_2_3515AD9B

 

3. Select About from the list.

 

4. You’ll be greeted with a screen of helpful information including stuff like:

 

image_4_3515AD9B

 

5. Configure application, device etc as required.

Before you contact Office 365 support

Wanted to do some admin on Office 365 and tried to go into the Lync administration and was confronted with the following screen:

 

image_2_0A799632

 

Oh no. ‘Warning Will Robinson, Warning’. I then started to rush to log a support call. Hang on, let me check something. <Deep Breath>

 

I then went to the Service Health screen and saw:

 

image_4_0A799632

 

specifically

 

image_6_0A799632

 

if I click on the red X I see the following message:

 

Microsoft is investigating possible issues with Administrative functions. A few tenant admins are experiencing issues with degraded functionality or inability to manage Lync.

 

Hey that’s my issue. So they do know about the issue.

 

Moral of this story? Check the Service Health console BEFORE you go running off to log a Support Issue as they may already working on the problem.

Office 365 identity options



One of the most confusing things for people (especially in the Small to Medium Business [SMB]) market are the identity options that are available in Office 365. The above graphic and accompanying blog post:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/lystavlen/archive/2012/02/09/knock-knock.aspx 

explain it pretty well I think.

Office 365 Lync troubleshooting

One of the real gems that I have found with Office 365 is Lync. I use it everyday and communicate with a range of people using it. I find it much better than Live Meeting and the only real downside I have found is that it currently doesn’t support the ability to record (see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2433212/). My understanding is that it is only a matter of time before it does.

 

One of best things about Lync is that is now available on a variety of platforms, including those running iOS. However, not all the features of Lync are currently available on all platforms. The best way to find out what does and doesn’t work is to have a look at the Mobile Client Comparison Tables at:

 

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh691004.aspx

 

So if you do have problems getting Lync to work have a look at the following articles:

 

Automatic sign-in, domain federation, and other features do not work as expected in Lync Online when you use a custom domain in Office 365 - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2566790

 

and

 

How to use and troubleshoot issues with Lync Mobile on Apple iPhone and iPad mobile - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2636320

 

Which are both great starting points.

 

If you want to federate with my Lync feel free to do so at admin@ciaops365.com but maybe send me an email (director@ciaops.com) so I know who you are first.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recipient Rate for Office 365 P plans goes up

Microsoft has announced that it is increasing the recipient rate limit with the Office 365 P1 plan to allow users to send email to up to 1,500 recipients per day. This is an increase from the previous limit of 500. Here’s the announcement:

 

http://community.office365.com/en-us/b/office_365_technical_blog/archive/2012/01/31/recipient-rate-limit-for-office-365-p1.aspx

 

You’ll also find information about Bulk Email and Daily recipient limits here:

 

http://help.outlook.com/en-us/140/Ff381292.aspx

 

Not unexpected and shows that Microsoft is listening to its customers and adjust things as required and with Office 365 they can do this very quickly.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SharePoint beyond the Basics course

So not long now until my next workshop. This one will focus on utilizing the advanced features of SharePoint. Here are the details:

 

To really make the most of SharePoint you need to take it beyond the basics. This means connecting data, creating and utilizing metadata, customizing the look and feel of sites, add web parts and implement workflows. This course will show you how to do all that plus work effectively with products like SharePoint Workspace and designer to take any SharePoint installation from default to a true productivity and communications hub.

The aim of this hands on course is to provide you with the technical ability to work with SharePoint at an intermediate to advanced level as well as understand the tools that are required to craft advanced SharePoint solutions.

 

Venue: North Ryde RSL Club, 33 Magdala Rd, North Ryde, NSW 2113

 

Date: Wednesday 22nd of February 2012, from 8.30am - 5.30pm

 

More details and registration at - http://ciaopsfeb12.eventbrite.com/

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Office 365 P Domains

One of the interesting things I find about Office 365 and the drive to get resellers and partners involved is the almost zero focus on the Small Business and Professional plan (P SKU). When you qualify as a Microsoft Cloud partner you get access to an Enterprise (E SKU) for testing and demonstration, which is great. However, the difference between the E plans and the P plan in my experience is vast. Now if you are an SMB reseller focused on installation up to 50 seats then the chances of you having to support P plans is pretty high. Unfortunately, as even I find myself, you can never quite sure of some of the ‘features’ (and importantly limitations) of these plans. This makes selling and supporting those plans difficult.

Now I have never really liked the P plans because I believe they are too limiting. Most customers may say they only care about price (which is a good thing about the P plans, they are cheap) but what typically happens is they later on down the track want the additional functionality offered by E plans (say, Form Services in SharePoint, Archiving in Exchange, or Office on their desktop). E plans have these options and more importantly can be scaled up or down to suit. Not so with the P plan. Once you are on a P plan you only get those features and nothing more. If you want to use the features of the E plan you have to migrate out of a P plan, delete it, and then migrate into an E plan. Painful stuff. This is why I advocate E plans everywhere, they simply provide more flexibility, which in my experience is the mainstay of what SMB customers need.

However, all that won’t prevent P plans being the main product sold to SMB’s. In fact reports are that 90% of Office 365 sales are made to SMB customers, and I’ll bet more than 50% of those sales are P plans. So no matter what happens P plans are here to stay and something most resellers and IT providers are going to know how to configure. Problem is they not been given access to a P SKU for their own use and that makes it hard to support when the differences are so marked.

A good example of this is configuring DNS. Now in the E plans you get to control your own DNS records as you would normally. However, in the P plan the ‘recommended’ method if to allow Office 365 to manage the DNS for you. This option to manage DNS is not available at all in the E plans.

The first step in the process for P plans is to create a TXT record in the DNS for the domain you wish to use with Office 365 P plans so that Office 365 can verify that you own that domain. This record is unique for each domain in Office 365. You login to your Office 365 portal as an admin and select Domains from under the Management section on the left.

image_2_140E10DE

You’ll then see a list of domains that this tenant of Office 365 uses (if any). Select the Add a domain option.

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You’ll then be asked to enter the domain you wish to use.

image_6_140E10DE

Simply enter the domain and press Next.

You’ll then be asked to verify your domain.

image_8_7F1C8E6A

You’ll see that you can pull down an option that will help you with setting up the required verification. In this case we’ll select General Instructions.

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Here you will find the TXT record (or MX if you choose) that you need to insert into the DNS records of your domain. Once you have done that you need to press the Verify button so Office 365 can check that the required record is there for that domain and that domain. It is important to remember that when you change the DNS to add the required record it may take 72 hours for that to become available across the Internet.

This wait for verification can be very frustrating and I would recommend http://www.whatsmydns.net.



You enter in the domain you wish to check and the site will give your a report of whether the details for that domain appear in DNS servers around the globe. If it does then there is good chance Office 365 will be able to verify it.

Once the domain is verified you are requested to transfer the Name Server records for the domain to Office 365.

image_18_7F1C8E6A

In this case it is asking for the Name Server to be changed to ns1.bdm.microsoftonline.com and ns2.bdm.microsoftonline.com. What Office 365 has done in the background is set up all the required Office 365 DNS records for you. Once the name server changes have filtered out to the Internet again you Office 365 should be operational.

If you return to your Domains area in Office 365 you’ll see that you can select a domain and then click Manage DNS. Again, this is only available with P Plans.

image_20_2D09E123

When you do so you’ll see a list of all the DNS records that existing in the Office 365 for that domain. They are basically all the records you’ll need to get Office 365 operational. If need be you can add DNS records but they can only be A or CNAME records, however that is for another blog post.

Now that is all well and good and to my knowledge at the time that was more or less the ‘only’ way that it could be done. For most resellers and IT providers that look after SMB customers they will want to manage the customers DNS records via their own DNS management tools. So their question was always ‘. How do we do this without using Office 365 DNS?’. My response was that it really couldn’t be done. However, as someone pointed out to me recently Microsoft has the following document that explains how to do set up DNS for P plans if you don’t want to use Office 365 DNS management.

http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-smallbusinesses/hh416759.aspx

In essence you go through that whole process but you merely duplicate the DNS records that Microsoft creates in the alternate DNS management tool and then point the Name Server records to the alternate DNS management tool and everything works fine.

So what is the downside to using an alternate DNS tool for the P Plans? According to the above document:

If you add your domain name to Office 365 without redirecting your name server records to Office 365, consider the following:
  • SharePoint Online: If you enable SharePoint Online to host your public website, the DNS records that are required to route traffic to SharePoint Online won’t be created automatically by Office 365. You have to manually create those DNS records at your DNS provider, as described in this article, because Office 365 isn’t hosting the DNS records for your domain.
  • Domains troubleshooting tool: Because you didn’t configure your name server records to point to Office 365 name servers, the Office 365 domains troubleshooting wizard will always report that your name server records are incorrect. You can disregard this warning because you have manually created the DNS records for each of your services.
  • DNS manager: Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses provides DNS management tools that you can use to add custom DNS records. However, if you create, or have already created, custom records by using this tool, because the name server records for your domain don’t point to Office 365, the custom records won’t work. You must create, or recreate, any custom records by using your current DNS hosting provider.
  • Future Office 365 updates: When we add new services to Office 365, we won’t be able to automatically add the DNS records that are required to enable the services to work on your domain. To use the services, you must manually add the DNS records at your DNS hosting provider.

Most IT reseller probably wouldn’t see this as a major downside as it gives them more control, however it is important to remember for P plans using an alternate DNS provider is not recommended.

To sum up then. You can host your DNS with an alternate provider on the P plans but it is not generally recommended and to my mind creates confusion as you have DNS records in Office 365 Domain Management as well as any alternate tool. Never good to have two sources of the same information. Knowing where the Name Server points in that case is VERY important.

My main point is that there ARE major differences between P and E plans and if you are selling and supporting them you really need to understand these differences. That is going to be especially hard in the case of the P plan because you don’t get a version you can play with as a Microsoft Cloud Partner by default. Given they are so cheap it is probably worthwhile going out and purchasing a copy for your own purposes. This something that I have had to do to get up to speed with the differences myself and I admit that I am still learning all of the nuances and will endeavour to detail them here for you as it goes along.

If you are selling Office 365 to SMB customers, P plans ARE very different from E plans in many, many ways. One of these is DNS which I have hopefully shed light on here.