The reason why the lights went out

A number of Microsoft services (Hotmail, MSN, Skydrive, Office 365) recently had an outage. Microsoft is now reporting that the issue was due to a failed DNS update. You can read the details here:


The first thing to note is that Microsoft has acknowledged and explained what the issue is. This will hopefully silence the critics claiming a “cover-up” of sorts. The second thing that it illustrates is that even on the Internet there are still critical points of failure (DNS being the case in point here).


The service being down was inconvenient, sure, but the reality is that problem was rectified fairly quickly. The major issue is the number of people impacted. That certainly makes the issue a higher profile but the reality is these things happen. Not often, but they do happen. We still suffer the occasional power outage, yet we have learned to live with that. Perhaps we need to understand that moving to the cloud will never mean 100% uptime and there will times (few and far between hopefully) that we won’t be able to access our information stored there.


Given that people should understand that, the question is what do they do to prepare for the situation. I can tell you that many people have a torch or candles for when the power goes off but what planning have they done for their IT systems? No matter where IT systems are, I’ve found most people never think they’ll have an issue. They get lulled into a false sense of security because the system is generally so reliable.


Let’s rule out technology and simply look at risk. Is there risk? If yes, how do you minimize it? Note, I said minimize not eliminate, because generally you can’t totally eliminate. If you don’t take steps to minimize risk in your business then you’ll suffer the consequences sooner or later. No matter where your technology is you need to, as the boy scouts say, “be prepared”.

CIAOPS SharePoint bootcamp comes to Melbourne

I am proud to announce that the next full day CIAOPS SharePoint bootcamp will be held in Melbourne, VIC. Here are the details:


Date: Thursday 27th of October 2011

Time: 8.30am – 5.30pm

Location: St Kilda Road Parkview Hotel, 562 St Kilda Rd Melbourne VIC 3004

Registration and details:


There will be a limit on the number of attendees and demand is expected to be high. Don’t forget that all attendees also get a 12 months subscription to my SharePoint Guide ( as well an external USB3 hard disk full of information, files and virtual machine images used during the course.


I look forward to seeing you there.

On stage at SMBNation Fall 2011



If you are planning on attending SMBNation Fall 2011 then I’ll see you there. I also hope that you’ll come to the sessions that I’m presenting on Office 365. They are:


GS12 – All Aboard Office 365 E3 (Sunday October 2, 10:20 –11:35)

Robert Crane and Harry Brelsford

Enjoy hands-on tactile takeaways from this combine 100-level and 300-level into Office 365 E3 version. In the first half, Harry will share the step-by-step for becoming a Cloud Essentials Partner and implementing Office 365 E3 in a production environment. Robert will tackle your toughest questions and present advanced topics such as Active Directory integration, federation services, and much more. A can’t miss session!




GS11 – Office 365+SBS 2011 Essentials… (Sunday October 2, 13:00 – 14:15)

Wayne Small and Robert Crane

The combination of SBS 2011 Essentials and Office 365 presents resellers with some unique challenges and opportunities in integrating both onsite and cloud solutions to meet the clients business requirements. Come hear how to integrate both of these for your clients business requirements and learn the tips and tricks from those in the field.


If you are attending and would like to catch up please drop me an email ( and we’ll make a time to chat.

Office Web Apps coming to Exchange Online

Office Web Apps provides you an online preview of documents created by Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This is available with SharePoint Online as part of Office 365. Exchange Online will soon be enabling Office Web Apps as well.


This is one of the major benefits of a cloud offering like Office 365, new features become available and are automatically rolled out.


I’m looking forward to bringing you details of how this works.

Office 365 trial issues

Someone sent me this information about issues when you install a trial version of Office 365 E3 SKU which includes Office Professional Plus (which is also a trial version during this period).


Seems to be that when the trial period expires the Office Professional Plus that came with the Office 365 trial SKU goes into “reduced functionality mode” because it doesn’t activate (being a trial license after all). You can use the osaui.exe tool if this happens to re-license the product (one the license is valid):


My general advice to people is that now Office 365 is available on a month by month basis that it really isn’t worth going on a trial, simply buy it. In short do your evaluation of Office 365 before you sign up as converting from a trial version to anything but that trial version can be a little painful sometimes.

A tale of two outages


Let me tell you something you already know and is bleedingly obvious anyway – Computers fails, IT systems go down. With this in mind I’d like to compare two recent examples.


Example 1.


Office 365 recent had an outage of a few hours (technically it was DNS not the Office 365 service but unavailable is as good as down). During that time let’s have a look at the impact. I certainly couldn’t receive any emails, I also couldn’t send any emails but I could still compose them and have them queued in my mailbox. I couldn’t have gotten to my SharePoint data and Lync would have also been offline.


So it was certainly preventing me from potentially doing some work but I could still access my calendar, contacts and previous emails.


Example 2.


The server on which this blog runs blew a power supply. So again system down but this time no access to any information on that box. Tools down time.


Wanna known the difference? In example 2 with my blog server, I had to pack up the machine. I had to drive it to repair shop. I had to wait until the power supply was changed. I had to drive the machine back. I had to connect it all back up and make sure it was working. I lost over 3 hours from start to finish getting the server back online.


In example 1, I kept an eye on Twitter to see when the system was back online for others and until then I went on with OTHER WORK.


So in which scenario was I more productive? For me personally it was example 1 as I could get on with other things because I knew someone (a.k.a. Microsoft) was working on the problem. I could still use some of my systems that had local copies (i.e Outlook) and could have with SharePoint if I had chosen to use SharePoint Workspace.


With example 2, nothing was going to get fixed until I fixed it.


Moral of the story? Computer systems go down, whether they are in the cloud or whether they are machines at the end of your fingers. It therefore follows that no matter where the computer are you use, you need to have some plans for when they fail (just like you need a plan to backup them up).


So Office 365 was unavailable. In this case I was more productive than when my own site server failed. I also content that would be a similar experience for most businesses.


Computers fail, deal with it. Develop a contingency plan to stay productive. What would I have done if the electricity failed? With Office 365 I would have worked off my laptop battery and wireless Internet connection until the battery ran out and then I would have relocated elsewhere to where the power was working. If I had all on site equipment I’d have no choice but to wait in the dark until the power came on.


It would be nice to see people actually discussing solutions to contingency problems rather than playing chicken little and blaming the sky falling on the evils of cloud computing. Come and see me when you are ready to have a BUSINESS conversation rather than a hysterical rant.


Computers fail, deal with it. A smart business would.

Optimizing Windows SharePoint v3 Search book

I’ve decided to re-release my “Windows SharePoint Master Class:Optimizing Search” e-book given that SharePoint Foundation 2010 is now available. Here’s the description:


This book is designed for those that want to take Windows SharePoint Services v 3.0 Search beyond the default. Did you know that Windows SharePoint Services v3.0 could index the contents of Adobe Acrobat documents and TIFF files? It normally can’t do either of these by default but the information inside this book will show you how to that and more. You’ll learn how to configure Search Server Express 2008 (free from Microsoft) to index information beyond SharePoint sites including Exchange Public folders, web sites and network shares. Implemented correctly Search Server Express can provide you the power of an internal search engine allowing you to make better and faster use of your digital information. If you want to make the most of Windows SharePoint Services then this book is for you.


I’ve made the price only $2.99 now so if you want a copy visit:


I plan to release an updated version focusing on SharePoint Foundation 2010 real soon.