Sunday, November 26, 2017

Bitcoin isn't the only game in town

It is easy, with all the hype around, to believe that digital currency is only about Bitcoin. That however, could not be further from the truth. There are in fact hundreds of other digital currencies that fail to get main stream media focus. This is understandable given the overwhelming status Bitcoin has in the market, as well as its first mover advantage. It would however be foolish to dismiss these alternate currencies (known collectively as alt coins), now or in the future.

Although Bitcoin was the first, it is by no means the last when it comes to working in the digital currency space. Just have a look at:

https://coinmarketcap.com/

SNAGHTML1eb3d3c8

1332 cryptocurrencies / 6975 markets

For a list of the most popular digital currencies and their market capitalisation. The second most common digital currency is something known as Ethereum and is in many ways very different from Bitcoin. Ethereum does not have a limited number of available coins like Bitcoin does and it is can be used in more ways than Bitcoin. Ethereum, for example, can be used to enact smart contracts on the blockchain.

To understand the basic differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum take a look at this video:

Imagine that instead of money you wanted to exchange ownership contracts on a parcel of property. The traditional method currently involved working with paper document and third parties for verification. Imagine if all of that could be replaced by a simple digital transfer of the property title, done on the public blockchain for free? All titles could then not only be easily transferred but also verified and maintained over the ages.

Think about a loyalty points system, like those offered by airlines. If you consider these as a type of currency, imagine how easily they could be implemented using the blockchain. After each trip, you'd automatically get additional frequent flyers 'currency' that would be recorded in the blockchain. You could then easy cash these in for rewards or use them for additional benefits. All transactions would be recorded on the blockchain and remove the need for a centralised ledger. Given that many reward programs extend the accumulation of points to other purchase, such as refuelling. Imagine immediately after paying for your fuel your rewards program is automatically credited with the appropriate amount of rewards points from the airline. No longer would you have to wait to month end to accumulate points. No longer would you have to wait till your printed rewards statement appears in the mail.

There are really so many applications for blockchain technology, currency is simply one of these. Because everything is software and typically open source, this means anyone can take the code and potentially create their own currency. At the moment, the majority of blockchain technologies are being used like currencies and typically for storing value but as acceptance increases expect to see more and more currencies appears, especially from major players.

If you wish to invest in digital currency you can do that via a wide variety of offerings. Each has different characteristics and support so you need to understand what you are investing in. There are also variations of original coins as well that implement the blockchain differently from their parent. Bitcoin itself has a number of variations (or forks) as they known. These include Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold and a rumoured Bitcoin Diamond. Each have slight technical variations in the way they implement the algorithm from the original Bitcoin.

Such variants still need the support of purchasers, merchants and miners to be successful. This is were things get interesting and to an extend why Bitcoin as the first mover has had the advantage. The reason Bitcoin cash was created for example was to reduce the transaction verification time and cost when compared to the original Bitcoin. Has it succeeded? It is certainly becoming more widely supported and many ardent supports believe it will take over the mantle of begin the 'true' Bitcoin.

Until then, there is going to be a lot of speculation and fluctuation in the price and that is what makes the future so exiting. What will be supported by the majority of users is yet to be determined and is probably a few years off but there is little doubt that digital currency built on the blockchain is here to stay and will fundamentally change many of our interactions. The future looks like it won’t simple be a place of single global currency as some would imagine. It will in fact be a place full of various 'currencies' each performing specific roles for specific demographics. Being digital means that working in this world will be far simpler than it is today and that is a good thing.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Scratch your own itch

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The length and breadth of cloud services like Azure and Office 365 continue to grow. This size can be very intimidating for those starting their journey with these tools. A very common question I get is, “where do I start?”.

Many people’s first attempt at learning these technologies is simply too general. Just wanting to “learn Office 365” for example has too many entry points. I would suggest that your best option is to bring a specific project or need to your learning process.

For me, this was the need to create a process for migrating SharePoint on premises to Office 365 which I detailed here:

I finally get Microsoft Azure

I’ve seen others do things like move their accounting system into Azure or a third party service running on Windows or Linux. What about using Microsoft Flow to automate a manual process in your business? Even if the project you want to tackle has nothing to actually do with something in your business, bringing a very specific challenge to cloud services that you need to solve will accelerate your learning.

Of course, this learning process is going to result in many failures and frustrations. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve had to redo something because I ‘stuffed up’ or the amount of time I have invested in solving something that in fact, turned out to have a very simple resolution. All of that is simply part of the learning process and something you’ll need to accept will happen.

As they say, in the process of learning there is never really any failures. It is all simply knowledge accumulation and if nothing else it shows you want not to do next time. Once you embrace this, wrong steps remain frustrating but actually give you a renewed energy to find the right solution.

However, it is too easy to become dishearten if you don’t have a specific goal you want to achieve. Having no or ill defined goals doesn’t provide the focus when you want to give up as it gets ‘tough’ in my experience. So, from the start, set out to solve something specific and I thing you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the result.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Deploying Microsoft 365

Here’s an overview of the administration options that are available for you in Microsoft 365 Business.

You’ll see how to add Microsoft 365 Business licenses as well as what each contains. You learn about the device and application policies that you can configure in Microsoft 365 Business as well as see the back end deployment inside Azure.

If you need to manage Microsoft 365 Business or are wonder how it all works in the back end then take a look at this tutorial.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Need to Know podcast–Episode 169

I'm joined by newly minted MVP Kirsty McGrath to talk about Office 365 adoption. We talk about the Office 365 product wheel Kirsty created and how it helps users understand the full breadth of what Office 365 has to offer. We also cover off the importance of implementing an adoption strategy and having a long term vision when it comes to getting the most from Office 365 in any business.

There is of course the usual cloud updates on Office 365 and Azure from Marc and myself as well as reflection on the recent Microsoft Summit in Sydney.

Take a listen and let us know what you think -feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:

https://ciaops.podbean.com/e/episode-169-kirsty-mcgrath/


Resources

@kirstymcgrath13

@marckean

@directorcia

Onpoint solutions

Kirsty McGarth on Linked in

Kirsty's Office 365 product wheel

Sydney Office 365 Business User Group

Azure new from Marc

Microsoft 365 Business now available worldwide

Write your best resume in Word with help from Linkedin

Microsoft Flow integration with OneDrive for Business

Planner Ignite review and roadmap

Compliance Manager Preview

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

Microsoft 365 Application Management for Windows 10 mappings

I wrote a previous article that showed the mapping from the Microsoft 365 Business Windows 10 Device Configuration settings to those in the Intune console in Azure. You can read that article here:

Microsoft 365 Windows 10 Device Management settings

What I am now going to cover is the Application Management for Windows 10 policy. That is the software and information that resides on Windows 10 devices.

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Start by navigating to the Admin center in your Microsoft 365 Business tenant.

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Locate the Device policies tile and select it.

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You may see a number of policies here but one should be named Application Management for Windows 10 as shown above. Select this.

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If the policy doesn’t exist you can create a new one. When you do you will see the above settings.

If you expand the display for each option you should see a list of all the options and their status as shown above.

The question now is, how do these map to settings in Intune?

To view the settings in Intune you’ll need to login to the Azure portal for that tenant and then navigate to the Intune option.

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The easiest way to find the Intune settings is to do a search in the top right and then select Intune from the results.

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You should see the Intune console displayed as shown above.

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From the menu, under the Manage section, select Mobile apps.

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From here select the App protection policies option under the Manage section. This should display a policy on the right that matches the one you have in the Microsoft 365 Business console (here Application Management for Windows 10). Select the policy name to continue.

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You will notice that when you create a new Application Management for Windows 10 policy that you have the option to set Encrypt work files to be on or off.

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However, after you set it to on and save the policy you can’t change it to off as shown above. Thus, once Encrypt work files is set to on, it stays and can’t be changed.

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This setting maps to the Windows Information protection mode in the Required settings of the Application Management policy in Intune as shown above.

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When Encrypt work files is set to on, the option in Intune is set to Block. This basically prevents Office 365 data from being used in non Office 365 applications on Windows 10. Thus, you can’t save an Office 365 file to a consume storage platform like Google Drive.

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When Encrypt work files is set to off, the option in Intune is also set to off as shown above. Thus, Office 365 files can be shared with any application.

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If the option to Prevent users from copying company data to personal files and force them to save work files to OneDrive for Business is set to on, then I can ‘t see how this is enforced by the policy as there doesn’t appear to be any settings for this like there is with iOS and Android policies. I’ll need to investigate this one further.

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The next setting is Manage how users access Office files on mobile devices.

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If the Require a PIN or fingerprint to access Office apps is set to on, the use Windows Hello for Business as a method of signing into Windows in the Access section of the Advanced Settings of the policy is also set to on as shown above.

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The Microsoft 365 Business policy options Reset PIN when login fails this many times and Require users to sign in again after Office apps have been idle for settings are located at the bottom of this same policy as shown above.

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The next option Recover data on Windows devices appears to map to the Data protection area of the Intune policy.

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I haven’t quite worked this setting out yet. I’m unsure whether you need to upload your certificate BEFORE you apply the policy to machines or you can do it at any time AFTER the policy has been applied. One would think that you need to do it BEFORE and retain the certificate to decrypt files later. However, I need to dig deeper here and do a follow up article.

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The Protect additional network and cloud locations in Microsoft 365 Business option maps to the following areas in Intune policy.

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The final option, Files used by these apps are protected

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map to

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the Protected Apps area of the policy as shown above.

Remember, there is a similar policy for both iOS and Android that I’ll cover soon. There are also a few things here I need to do more research on but you should now have a better idea of how the Microsoft 365 Business settings map to Intune.

Also, as I understand it, you can’t make changes to the policies in Intune, they all need to be done via the Microsoft 365 Business console.

So, when you create a Application management for Windows 10 policy in Microsoft 365 Business, these are the mapping that occur to Intune under the covers.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lest we forget

One hundred years ago today, in 1917, the Australian troops fighting on the Western Front had just emerged from the blood bath of Passchendale. These battles had cost over 38,000 Australian lives and achieved very little. In 1917 alone, Australian losses totalled around 55,000.

Since the 31st of July the British Forces in France (including the ANZACS) had suffered 448,615 casualties for only 130 square kilometres of ground, while only inflicting 217,700 German casualties. By the end of November 1917 the Boshevik revolution had played out and ultimately led to the withdrawal of Russia from the war allowing Germany to focus all eastern front armies at France. These would fall upon the British lines in March 1918 and wipe away most of the prior gains secured by the Allies. Times were grim.

In fact, early 1918 would stretch the Allied armies to breaking point as Germany attacked but ANZAC troops would once again distinguish themselves in a town called Villers Bretonneux. This small village in northern France has never forgotten what the Anzacs did in turning the German tide and neither should we.

We should not forget the sacrifice these, and all Australians who go into harms way, make to protect us. Some pay the ultimate price and never return. Others return but live with the horrors of war for the rest of their lives. Luckily, most of us will never have to experience this because someone else had the courage to do it for us.

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month we pause and remember them. We thank them for their sacrifice. Without them, we would not live in the lucky country.

Lest We Forget.

For more information on the Australian battlefields of World War One wish my webite www.anzacsinfrance.com

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thoughts on being a modern IT Professional

Here’s a presentation that I gave recently on being a “Modern IT Professional”.

The skills required to successfully manage IT have been shifting for a number of years now. Do you know what major expertise will be required to successfully support customer IT systems in the future? How do you go about not only acquiring these, but also maintaining them in the fast paced, ever changing, environment of tomorrow? This session will arm you with the technical and personal capabilities you'll need to master into the future to ensure you have a long, fruitful, successful and most importantly, profitable career.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

So you wanna buy Bitcoin?

A lot of people have become very interested in Bitcoin thanks to its recent run up in price. Many are also interested to dip their toe into this new world of the ‘Internet of money’. So how do you go about actually buying (and potentially selling Bitcoin)?

You are going to start out wanting to exchange your dollars for Bitcoin. This means you’ll need to take some money out of your own personal wallet and look for someone to sell you Bitcoin. You could wander the street looking for someone to sell you some Bitcoin but the chances of you finding someone are pretty slim. That means you’ll need to go to an exchange which brings buyers and sellers of commodities (in this case Bitcoin) together.

Of course all of this exchange stuff is now done electronically, so the first step is that you’ll need to sign up to a Bitcoin exchange.

There are lots of exchanges around the world that will allow you to purchase Bitcoin however my choice is:

http://btcmarkets.net

I like them because they are local here in Australia and are part of the Australian Digital Commerce Association. You can of course choose any exchange you wish but my advice would be to do some searches for reviews on the Bitcoin exchange before you sign up. Remember, that although Bitcoin exchanges are ‘like’ normal stock exchanges in the functions they perform, they are not as regulated and consumers are not as well protected. Don’t overlook what happened at the Mt Gox exchange a few years ago. So, as with anything Bitcoin, do your homework first.

The above video will show you the process of setting up and account and buying Bitcoin via BTC markets. The process will be very similar on whatever Bitcoin exchange you choose.

When you set up an account at an exchange you’ll need to:

1. Provide proof of you identity. This can be done via submitting a utility bill that contains your details which will then be reviewed by a real person.

2. Set a login and password. Make sure that both of these are strong and that you record these somewhere safe. It is also recommended that you enable two factor authentication on your login to increase its security. Two factor simply means you’ll need to enter your password and typically a randomly generated code from an app on your phone to gain access to your account. This means if your password is ever stolen access till won’t be granted unless the code generator is also available. Again, make sure you copy everything you do here to a safe location.

You’ll next need to transfer funds into you new Bitcoin exchange account so you can buy Bitcoin on the market. There are various way to do this but some form of electronic transfer from your bank account is probably the easiest and cheapest. Also keep an eye on the cost of these transfers as they can eat into you funds, especially if you are only starting out with a small investment (which is recommended).

So now you should have a Bitcoin exchange account as well as some funds in that account. Next step, is to actually purchase Bitcoin. To do this you basically place an order on the Exchange to buy Bitcoin. You can purchase Bitcoin up to the amount of funds you have in the exchange.

There are typically two ways to order on an exchange. ‘At Market’ means you will simply purchase Bitcoin at whatever the market is willing to sell it to you for. These trades are usually executed immediately and happen at the current trading price of Bitcoin. ‘At Limit’ means you set a price at which you are willing to buy Bitcoin. Until someone is found willing to sell you Bitcoin for this amount a trade will not execute.

Thus, think of an ‘at market’ purchase as an immediate buy order and ‘at limit’ as waiting for a set price. Most people will execute ‘at market’ so they can obtain Bitcoin as soon as possible.

All things going well, the exchange will match a Bitcoin seller with your request to buy Bitcoin and the trade will be made. There will also typically be a small transaction fee associated with this trade (a commission for the exchange to facilitate the process).

Now your exchange account will have the funds you deposited withdrawn (and sent to the Bitcoin seller) and you will receive an amount of Bitcoin in return (from the Bitcoin seller). Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of Bitcoin. Welcome to the Internet of Money.

Your Bitcoin funds reside inside a digital wallet at the exchange. This wallet is provided to you generally free of charge by the exchange. It is however best practice to transfer your Bitcoin from the exchange wallet to a wallet you control.

As with Bitcoin exchanges, the range of Bitcoin wallets is vast. Again, it is important to do your research here and find a digital wallet that suits you. My choice was:

http://exodus.io

and

https://airbitz.co/

The reason I chose two is that I wanted one wallet on my desktop (Exodus) and one on my mobile devices (Airbitz). Some wallets support both environments, some don’t. At the end of the day you can have as many wallets as you wish and transfer funds between them as you see fit.

I won’t cover setting up a digital wallet here because it is generally pretty straight forward. However, what I will say is make sure you document EVERYTHING about the setup of the wallet and understand how to BACKUP and RESTORE it because once your funds are in that personal wallet you are solely responsible for the safety of that wallet. Lose access to that wallet and you lose access to your funds. So, backup, backup and backup again.

The main reason I wanted my own wallet is so that I am in full control of my funds and also that exchange wallets are a honey pot for those trying to steal money. If an exchange has lots of customers, most of whom leave their money in exchange wallet, then that is a very juicy target for hackers. Again, lessons from history see Mt Gox.

Your personal digital wallet will have a string of digits like so:

1Q48VMiR152XNuDEkfV3khFdiYoBPGH4V4

that is the transfer address you use to move you funds from the exchange wallet to your personal wallet. Make sure you get that transfer address correct because once you transfer any funds, even incorrectly, they are GONE. Remember, because this is still new technology, there are not a lot of default safety nets here. The emphasis falls on YOU to check everything. In theory, this default protection is what you pay for when you use the traditional banking system but why should you pay for that if you can do it yourself?

After a few minutes you should see that your personal digital wallet has the funds you transferred form the exchange wallet. Be patient, the transfer can take 10 or so minutes to complete.

If you wish to buy more Bitcoin you add more funds to you exchange account, go to the market and purchase more. To sell Bitcoin, you transfer from your personal wallet back to the exchange and then sell on the market.

All of this is a little technical but it is certainly getting much easier. In summary then you need to:

1. Set up an account on a Bitcoin exchange

2. Transfer funds into your exchange account

3. Buy Bitcoin on the market at the exchange

4. Transfer the Bitcoin to your own personal digital wallet (recommended)

Hopefully, that will get you started in the world of cryptocurrency. make sure you do your research when it comes to both exchanges and wallets before you proceed. I’ll go into more depth on all of these topics soon so watch out for more articles from me on Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Monday, November 6, 2017

CIAOPS Need to Know Azure Webinar–November 2017

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We’ll cover the usual news and updates from everything Azure and then do a deep dive into Azure Virtual machines. Of course, you can bring along all your questions as well and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

You can register for free at:

November Azure Webinar Registrations

The details are:

CIAOPS Need to Know Azure Webinar – November 2017
Friday 1st of December 2017
2pm – 3pm Sydney Time

All sessions are recorded and posted to the CIAOPS Academy.

There of course will also be open Q and A so make sure you bring your questions for me and I’ll do my best to answer them.

The CIAOPS Need to Know Webinars are free to attend but if you want to receive the recording of the session you need to sign up as a CIAOPS patron which you can do here:

http://www.ciaopspatron.com

or purchase them individually at:

http://www.ciaopsacademy.com/

Also feel free at any stage to email me directly via director@ciaops.com with your webinar topic suggestions.

I’d also appreciate you sharing information about this webinar with anyone you feel may benefit from the session.

CIAOPS Need to Know Office 365 Webinar–November 2017

laptop-eyes-technology-computer

November is once again super busy but I’m still going to give my monthly webinar focused on Office 365. I am scheduling this month’s free Office 365 webinar on Friday the 1st of December from 11am – 12pm. There is lots of news to cover (especially from the upcoming Microsoft Summit in Sydney) and we’ll also be doing a deep dive into SharePoint best practices. Not a session to miss.

You can register for free at:

November Webinar Registrations

The details are:

CIAOPS Need to Know Webinar – November 2017
Friday 1st of December 2017
11am – 12am Sydney Time

All sessions are recorded and posted to the CIAOPS Academy.

There of course will also be open Q and A so make sure you bring your questions for me and I’ll do my best to answer them.

The CIAOPS Need to Know Webinars are free to attend but if you want to receive the recording of the session you need to sign up as a CIAOPS patron which you can do here:

http://www.ciaopspatron.com

or purchase them individually at:

http://www.ciaopsacademy.com/

Also feel free at any stage to email me directly via director@ciaops.com with your webinar topic suggestions.

I’d also appreciate you sharing information about this webinar with anyone you feel may benefit from the session.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Pitching Microsoft 365


Here is a recording of a presentation I recently gave that focused on how to successfully pitch Microsoft 365.

In short, you need to build on the benefits provided by Office 365, then standardise the business on Windows 10 and finally bring all devices under management using the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Microsoft 365 Windows 10 Device configuration mappings

Microsoft 365 Business allows you to configure Windows 10 devices that are connected. This management is typically done by Intune at the back end while Microsoft 365 Business provides a simplified interface over these settings. However, what settings in Microsoft 365 map to Intune?

The best place to start to understand this mapping is the following document from Microsoft:

How do protection features in Microsoft 365 Business map to Intune settings

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Start by navigating to the Admin center in your Microsoft 365 for Business tenant.

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Locate the Device policies tile and select it.

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You may see a number of policies here but one should be named Windows 10 device configuration as shown above. Select this.

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You should be taken to the Edit policy dialog as shown above.

Select the Edit hyperlink at the right of the Windows 10 protection line (the second option from the top).

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If you expand the display you should see a list of all the options and their status as shown above.

The question now is, how do these map to settings in Intune?

To view the settings in Intune you’ll need to login to the Azure portal for that tenant and then navigate to the Intune option.

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The easiest way to find the Intune settings is to do a search in the top right and then select Intune from the results.

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You should see the Intune console displayed as shown above.

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From the available options, select Device Configuration. From the blade that appears then select Policies. You should then see a policy that matches the one in the Microsoft 365 for Business console (here Windows 10 device configuration).

Select the policy name.

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From the new blade that appears select Properties.

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This should open another blade like shown above. The last option on this blade should be Settings. Select this.

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This will open a Device restrictions blade with lots of different settings as you can see above. This is where most the mapped settings from Microsoft 365 are.

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Working from the top, the Help protect PCs from web-based threats using Windows Defender Antivirus maps to Windows Defender Antivirus as shown.

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However, only 3 of the 28 options are set and they are:

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Next in Microsoft 365 Business is Help protect PCs from web-based threats in Microsoft Edge,

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This maps to SmartScreen for Microsoft Edge in Windows Defender Smart Screen.

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The next option is Turn off device screen when idle for:

clip_image001[17]which maps to Maximum minutes of inactivity until screen locks in Password.

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The option Allow users to download apps from Windows store maps to a Custom URI that I haven’t been able to locate in Intune.

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I’m still researching what that actually maps to. More soon.

Next is Allow users to access Cortana

clip_image001[21]maps to Cortana in General in Intune.

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Next, Allow users to receive Windows tips and advertisements from Microsoft.

clip_image001[23]which maps to Windows spotlight in Intune.

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Finally, Keep Windows 10 devices up to date automatically

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is actually configured from the Software updates option in Intune.

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From the main Intune blade select Software updates. From the blade that then appears select Windows 10 Update rings. Then form the new blade select Update policy for Windows 10 devices.

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Select the policy and then Properties from the blade that appears.

At the bottom of the Properties page select Settings. This should then show a blade like that shown above.

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If the Microsoft 365 Business setting is ON the Service Branch will be set to Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) like so:

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If the Microsoft 365 Business setting is OFF, the Service Branch will be set to Semi-Annual like so:

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You can review these update channels here:

Assign devices to servicing channels for Windows 10 updates

So making any changes in the Microsoft 365 Business console will be reflected in the Intune console. However, if you change these settings in Intune and then try and update them you seem to get an error like so

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I would have thought that I could change the settings in any console but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I currently can’t find any confirmation of this but I will publish anything I find. So for now the guidance is – only make changes in the Microsoft 365 Business Admin Center.

There are a number of other policies in Microsoft 365 Business that I’ll cover in upcoming posts.