Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sound of Azure

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Seen this?

https://www.soundofazure.com.au/home

Interesting way to sell cloud services!

Whatta you think? Clever or a waste of resources?

Azure Godzilla Virtual Machines

A while ago I wrote about how Azure was offering high performance  ‘D’ machines, now comes news of even better ‘G’ machines.

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As you can see from above table, it is no wonder they have been dubbed ‘Godzilla’ machines. 32 cores, 448 GB of RAM and 6,500GB of SSD storage! Staggering.

For a full update on these new options coming to an Azure tenant near you see the following blog post from Microsoft:

http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/10/20/azures-getting-bigger-faster-and-more-open/

OneDrive Windows Phone App updated

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Microsoft has updated the OneDrive app for Windows Phone now to include the ability to access both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business in a single place like they recently did with other platforms.

To configure this, firstly ensure you have the latest version of the OneDrive app from the Windows Store on your device. Then go to the list of apps and select OneDrive.

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If the app has been updated you should see Add OneDrive for Business as an option at the bottom as shown above. Select this.

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You’ll now be prompted to enter your Office 365 credentials and Sign in.

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You should see the account being added to your OneDrive app.

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When complete your OneDrive should appear in the list as shown above. Select Files (under this new item) to view your OneDrive for Business content.

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You should now see all your OneDrive for Business files in the app,

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just as you would see them in a browser.

Nice improvement that brings the Windows Phone app to par with apps on other platforms.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Azure datacenter locations

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If you want to know where Azure datacenters are located in the world take a look at this page:

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/regions/

If you want to know which services are available in those centres take a look at:

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/regions/#services

If you do a lot of Office 365 demos like I do, it makes sense to build a clean virtual workstation in a datacenter that is near the Office 365 datacenters. For me that is in Singapore which equates to Southeast Asia when running up an Azure virtual machine. That way you get the best experience possible between Office 365 and workstation, which is why this configuration is great for demos (apart from the fact that you can run them anywhere and on any machine that has Internet connectivity).

I’m sure there’ll be more regions soon, so stay tuned to those pages for all the details.

Brisbane workshop special surprise

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As I have mentioned previously here I am conducting a 2 day workshop in Brisbane on Office 365 (Friday 7th of November 2014) and Azure (Saturday 8th of November 2014). Places are still available for the workshop and you can get all the information about the event here:

http://blog.ciaops.com/2014/10/brisbane-office-365-and-azure-training.html

I am however happy to announce that as an added bonus for attendees of this workshop VMVault will be taking us through their NextDC B1 Datacentre. The tour lasts about an hour and you’ll get to see all the facilities of a modern data centre with expert tour guides on hand to answer all your questions.

This is a fantastic opportunity not to be missed and I thank Radek from VMVault for making this available to attendees.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next lock screen for Android by Microsoft Garage

Here’s something a bit different from Microsoft, a screen lock for Android phones. Who’d though eh? An indication of the fact that Microsoft is becoming more platform agnostic, which of course displeases pure Windows people (you can never please everyone right?). But hey, more software the better right? Certainly for Microsoft!

Problem is that I can’t get in here in Australia on my device. Hopefully down the track when they make it available outside the US where I believe it is limited to currently.

If you want it, see if you can download it from:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.next

and let me know what you think.

HERE maps for Android

In my experience the best nav app is Here from Nokia (yup, even better than Google Maps in my books). Going forward HERE isn’t part of the Nokia Microsoft bought, it is remaining a separate entity.

I use HERE maps on my Nokia Windows Phone 8.1 extensively (unsurprisingly) and was very pleased to discover that they are now offering HERE maps on Android devices for free! You can download it from this location:

http://here.com/beta/android/?lang=en-US

but don’t stop there, you can find plenty of additional apps (especially for Windows Phones) here:

http://here.com/download/?lang=en-US

So, if you are like me and you love all the HERE stuff then take a moment to ensure you have them all on your devices and sign up for a free HERE account to link them all together.

Disabling Windows Phone 8.1 screen wake up

One of things that I found enabled when I updated my Windows Phone to 8.1 was the screen ‘wake up’ feature. Basically, this allows you to double tap the screen and it will come to life.

Great idea, but for me it seemed that I was always turning the phone on accidentally. That is no good for optimising the power usage of the device, so after persevering with it for a while I decided that I would prefer to have it off and save the power. If I need the phone, it is easy enough to turn on with my ham-fists.

So here’s how to disable the ‘Wake up’ screen feature as it is buried a few layers down.

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From the initial screen navigate to Settings. In my case I have pinned that to the top right of my phone start screen.

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Scroll down the option Settings.

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Towards the bottom you will find Touch. Select this.

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Then set the Wake Up option at the top to Off.

With this set my phone is back to having me turn it on to use which is what I want because I want to maximise the power available to my phone throughout the day.

We have reached the bottom

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We all knew it was coming but this announcement from Microsoft:

Moving forward, all Office 365 customers will get unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost.

proves that we have finished the race to the bottom when it comes to storage.

What it means is that all Office 365 customers, home and business, will soon have unlimited storage capacity in their OneDrive. Here’s what the article says specifically about OneDrive for Business:

For OneDrive for Business customers, unlimited storage will be listed on the Office 365 roadmap in the coming days and we will begin updating the First Release customers in 2015, aligned with our promise to provide ample notification for significant service changes.

So we’ll have to wait a few months until we see it in Office 365 for Business but it will be worth the wait. My only question is whether the same unlimited storage will also apply for Team Sites as well as OneDrive for Business? Sure hope it does, but time will tell.

For providers who already don’t offer unlimited free storage there probably won’t be much option but to match this or risk being uncompetitive in the market.

Storage is only the first in a long time of resources that will ultimately end up being free thanks to the commoditisation of the cloud. Roll on I say.

You can read the full blog post from Microsoft here:

https://blog.onedrive.com/office-365-onedrive-unlimited-storage/

Image courtesy of audfriday13 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, October 27, 2014

Windows 10 Preview on Azure

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If you have an MSDN Azure subscription you’ll now find a Windows 10 technical Preview for Enterprise available in Azure. This allows you to test the new OS quickly and easily, which is what Azure is all about.

Remember, this virtual machine image may not be available on all Azure subscriptions.

Azure comes down under!

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As you can see in the above screen shot from Azure when you go to create a new Virtual Machine, the Australia datacenters are now online and available!

Woo Hoo!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Office 365 getting a new app launcher

The Office 365 navigation experience continues to evolve and simplify. Take a look at the above new features coming to a tenant near you soon.

If you want to be the first kid on the block to get these features ensure you have enabled the first release option in your Office 365 tenant as I detailed in an earlier blog post.

Enabling Office 365 first release

This new navigation experience is first going to make things much easier for users and also make Office 365 even more consistent with things like Windows on the desktop. Can’t wait to see it on my tenant!

Here’s the blog post from Microsoft:

http://blogs.office.com/2014/10/16/organize-office-365-new-app-launcher-2/

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Enabling profile picture editing in SharePoint Online

In a recent post I showed how you can update a users SharePoint Online profile as an administrator from the web console.

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A sticking point you may come across is shown above. When you go to edit the users picture it says:

Only user can change this photo

And the only option available is to remove the photo, you can’t upload a new one. This can be a pain if you are an administrator and want to set up people’s photos before hand.

Here’s the way to enable this

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Scroll through the profile until you locate the field:

Picture Exchange Sync State

change this field to 0 (or delete the value that is there) and then Save the profile.

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Now, when you return to the profile you should find the ability to upload a new photo for that user.

Changing a SharePoint Online users profile

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One of the first things I encourage all SharePoint Online users to is go in and edit their profile and update the information contained in there. They can do that by clicking on the user image in the top right and then selecting the About Me menu item that appears.

However, what happens if a business wants to enter this information ahead of time from one central location? Here’s how to do just that.

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Sign into the Office 365 web portal as an administrator.

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In the top right of the portal select Admin, then SharePoint from the menu that appears.

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In the SharePoint admin center select user profiles from the menu on the left.

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On the right hand side select Manage User Profiles from under the People section at the top of the page.

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Search for the user profile you wish to edit (here, Lewis Collins) by entering the search text in the Find profiles box and press the Find button.

The user should then be listed below.

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If you now click on the account name a menu will be displayed. Select the item Edit My Profile.

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You should now be able to go into every item for that user and make any changes required.

Remember to Save your changes when complete.

Melbourne Meetup

I’ll be in Melbourne at the end of next week speaking at a conference. That event is fully booked but if you are interested in catching up with me and other over dinner I’m arranging a get together at:

Date : Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Time : From 6:30 PM
Venue: Cafe Republic, 158-160 Toorak Rd, South Yarra VIC 3141

If you are interested in attending please let me know (director@ciaops.com) so we can ensure there is room at the venue.

I look forward to seeing everyone there next week.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Emailing OneDrive for Business files

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Office 365 now supports the ability to attach files directly from your OneDrive for Business via Outlook Web Access.

To do this simply navigate to your Office 365 web portal and select Outlook from the top navigation bar.

Compose a new email and select the Insert button at the top of the window. That will reveal the above menu. Select Attachments or OneDrive for files.

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You’ll then be taken to a screen like the above where you can select from a number of different sources. Under the OneDrive option for example select My Files. You should then see all the files you have in OneDrive for Business displayed. Select the file you wish to attach and then the Next option in the top left (above the OneDrive icon).

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You are then prompted as to whether you wish to send this file as an attachment (i.e. the whole file is added to the email) or you just want to send a link to the file. In essence this ‘shares’ that file from your OneDrive for Business rather than sending the whole file. That allows you to potentially revoke that sharing at any stage in the future.

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If you elect to attach the file you will see the attachment displayed as above with the actual file size displayed.

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If instead you elected to Share with OneDrive you will see the attachment but also the text Recipients can edit.

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When the recipient receives the file, if it was sent as an attachment they can view it as they normally could.

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However, if you elected to Share with OneDrive they will be taken to a link to view the file. If the shared file is an Office document they will see that document in Office Online as shown above.

This feature is something that has been missing from Office 365 for a while now and makes more sense as more people move all their information to the cloud. What would be nice now is some similar integration with Outlook on the desktop. Having the ability to attach or share from Outlook on a standard PC desktop would really accelerate cloud adoption in my option.

This feature is currently rolling out to all tenants. If you don’t have it yet you will soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Business Basics–2 of 5

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This is the second in a 5 part series of articles about improving your business. it is aimed at those people who run a small business but could just as well apply to anyone earning an income. In the article I'll focus on one or two main points around the theme but remember there is a lot more to explored in each topic.

The 5 topics that I will cover in these articles when it comes to business are:

1. Reason

2. Revenue

3. Resources

4. Risk

5. Reduction

These topics are drawn from the mentoring model I use with my students and is somewhat unique to other methods that are common place. This means you'll need to prepare yourself for concepts that are very different from 'industry standard' so I encourage you to keep an open mind on what I present here and at least test it against your current version of business reality. Please feel free to provide any feedback on what I present here either in a comment or to me directly. I welcome all feedback and opinions. All I ask is that you be respectful because if you don’t I reserve the right to remove or ignore such comments.

If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to read the first part in this series - Reason - to give you a better context of my thought process. Also don't forget that this is only part 2 of 5 in series and I'd encourage you to read them all and then let me know what you think.

Now part 2 - Revenue

Once people have the reason why they are in business the next question to ask is how they plan to generate revenue? The reason that you should focus on revenue is that revenue is about unlimited opportunity. If you focus on expenses and cost cutting there will always be a limit to can be done here, however there are no limits when it comes to revenue. You can generate revenue from multiple streams, multiple products, multiple locations, etc and there is always opportunity to generate more revenue, you simply need to put in the effort. So don’t let anyone tell you that there is not the opportunity to earn more revenue. There is, any the blocker is simply the work involved to achieve that. However, if you are already clear about your reasons in business then you are willing to do what it takes to generate the required revenue. It is no longer hard work, it is simply what you need to do to achieve your goals. That is why I say that you need to get your reasons in business right first.

When it comes to revenue there are really only two important questions that need to be answered. The first is:

Are you selling something people want to buy?

You can have the greatest product in the world (in your own mind) but if no one wants or needs it you really aren't going to sell a hell of a lot are you? Along with considering whether people would buy your product you also need to consider whether people will continue to purchase it. Have a look at desktop computers as an example. Yes, people still buy desktops however they are purchasing fewer and fewer in favour of things like tablets and mobiles. So the percentage of people who want to buy a product like a desktop computer is actually declining. To have strong revenue in a business you really should be looking for products and services that are in or will be in high demand rather than decline.

The second question, just as important as the first is:

Will people actually pay you for what you are selling?

Lots of people want a high performance supercar like a Lamborghini Aventador but few have the means or the willingness to pay the significant price tag for something like this. Let's again look at technology offerings here. One of the reasons that people regularly choose tablets and mobile devices is that they are generally cheaper than desktops. They are also typically available on a monthly instalment plan for a low per month cost. The fact that over time these costs may up to more than the cost of a desktop belies the fact that most desktops are a total upfront cost while a mobile device is the total cost spread over a few years which people are happy to pay. Part of the concept around payment is not only about the amount they are willing to pay but also how that payment will be transacted.

If the answer to the above two questions can be demonstrated in the affirmative the next consideration when it comes to revenue is how you plan to increase this because at the very least, the longer you are in business the more your expenses will increase and if you plan to expand your business you are going to need more revenue. It is therefore important to always be planning for revenue growth.

At its most basic:

Revenue = units sold x unit price

Given that formula, it seems pretty simple to work out how to increase revenue. Most people would say that you increase units sold or you increase unit price over time. Doing either of these will certainly increase revenue but it will only increase it linearly. What many overlook in this simple formula is the opportunity to increase revenues exponentially. The way that you do that is increase both units sold and unit price simultaneously. Remember, your aim in business is to maximize the revenue you can generate for your efforts (i.e. investment).

Doing so should be what you are aiming to achieve when it comes to revenue. This is really going to provide you with the growth engine your business deserves and allow you to achieve your goals. However, doing so is not simple or straightforward, it is hard work and requires a well-developed plan but it is certainly attainable. If you approach revenue with the aim of increasing both units sold and unit price and maybe only achieve an increase in one then you are no worse off than if you only focused on that now are you? If you want to really be successful in business look to accelerating your units sold and the unit price, simultaneously. That should always be your goal.

There has never been a better opportunity than there is today to increase the units sold. The reach of Internet provides a business with access to almost every person on the planet, instantaneously. If you want to grow your revenues you really need to be offering something via the Internet. As for increasing the unit price that is also easily accommodated in this Internet age. Platforms like Azure, WordPress, Amazon and the like allow you to quickly and easily build products and services. They allow you to create mobile apps, they allow you to create web services for any demographic and they do this all without the need for huge investments in infrastructure. Tools like Google Analytics, Ontraport, Infusionsoft and the like make it easy to understand what you market wants and will pay for. Metric collection and analysis has never been easier.

I hear the argument from many people that the only opportunity they see to remaining completive is for decreases in unit pricing. If you are in a commodity market I agree, but why do people buy high end luxury cars? Why doesn't everyone drive the cheapest car they can find? Why do makers like Aston Martin and Rolls Royce continue to prosper even in poor economic conditions? It is because they understand their market. They understand the emotion of their product and they build products people are willing to pay for. Don't fall into the trap that just because your peers are talking down the opportunities in the market there isn't revenue just waiting to be collected. Remember, money is the easiest thing to get more of in the world. You just have to put in the work, because for most, it simply doesn't magically appear.

So there you have it, the second item I'd suggest you consider when it comes to business, how you plan to generate ongoing revenue for the business. If you have no path to revenue growth then you really don't have a business and you test that revenue path by answering the two questions I proposed - Does the market want you sell? And secondly, are they prepared to pay for it? If you can annunciate those in the affirmative then the next target to aim for is to generate exponential revenue growth by selling more items and selling them at higher prices. Achieve that and revenue will never be an issue. However, it won’t simply drop in your lap, it requires a lot of time and effort but never the less should be your goal.

Once you have your reason and revenue sorted the next item to focus on is resources which I'll cover in the next blog post in this series. Remember, I'd love to hear what you think about my ideas here. Have it got it right? Have it got it wrong? Do you have you own twist on this that works for you? I'd love to hear, so feel free to comment or contact me directly (director@ciaops.com).

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is this the end of the world as we know it?

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For some maybe Winking smile

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sign up for a free Azure demo account

If you are a Microsoft reseller and subscribe to something like Action Pack you are probably entitled to some free Azure credits every month. If you are then you should visit:

http://manage.windowsazure.com

and login using the same credentials you use to login to the Microsoft Partner Portal. Doing so should activate you free partner Azure account and provide monthly credits.

You can of course also sign up for a free Azure demo account whether you are Microsoft reseller or not. This walk through will show you how to sing up for a stand alone Azure account and get a 30 day trial. You’ll need a valid credit card to register (which will only be charged if you start using the service beyond the free trial but you will need a valid credit card to create an account).

To sign up for a free trial account do the following:

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Visit www.azure.com and select the option to Try for free either in the centre or in the top right of the page.

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You’ll be taken to a page like you see above that lets you know you’ll currently receive over $200 worth of Azure credits to use for 30 days.

Select the Try it now button to continue.

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You’ll then need to sign in using a Microsoft account. if you don’t have one or want to create a separate account for this trial you can create on on this page. I have a previous blog post that steps you through the process of creating a Microsoft account here:

http://blog.ciaops.com/2013/01/creating-windows-live-id.html

Select the Sign in button to proceed. This Microsoft account will be the one that you use to login an manage Azure.

Now, it is possible to use an Office 365 account here and I’ll dive into that is a later post but in this example I just want to set up a stand alone trial so I am going to use a Microsoft account this is independent of ANY Office 365 login I have.

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You now taken to a page where you need to complete details about yourself. You’ll then be asked to complete a mobile phone verification.

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Basically, you need to provide a phone number that can be sent a SMS or called directly. You will receive a code that you place in the lower field and press the Verify code button.

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If code is correct you’ll get a green tick and be able to proceed.

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You’ll then need to put in your credit card details. Remember these will only be charged if you use the Azure services beyond the trial date or go over the free trial credits.

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You now need to agree to the Azure terms by placing a check in the box.

Press the Sign up button to proceed.

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All your information will be verified and if correct an new Azure trial account will be created for you.

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You should now see your subscription being created as shown above. Use the refresh link if needed to get the status.

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In a matter of moments the trial will be created and you should see the summary screen above indicating the Azure credits you have.

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In the top right of the window you will find the link Portal, select this to proceed.

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Complete the introductory Azure tour.

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You’ll then be taken to the Azure portal as you can see above. Now you can start playing with all the Azure goodness for 30 days or until your credits expire.

Enjoy!