Thursday, September 22, 2011

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”.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Office 365 Forum widget

Just came across this download from Microsoft:


and as the description says:


Office 365 Forum Assistant offers a convenient way for the forum users to read the forum recent threads and the latest blog articles, it also make it easy to create new threads and search in the forum.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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.

Friday, September 16, 2011

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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

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.

Office Pro Plus via Office 365

As you may be aware it is now possible to obtain a subscription license of Office Professional Plus with Office 365. You’ll need the Enterprise E3 license or better to be eligible to download a copy and install it locally. If you are eligible here are some things that may not know about the Office 365 Professional Plus license:


1. Microsoft Office Professional Plus for Office 365 is licensed on a “per-user” basis. Users must assign each Microsoft Office license to a single named user before using the software.


2. Each user that is assigned a license may then install and use one copy of Microsoft Office per device, on up to five devices.


3. Office Professional Plus for Office 365 may not be deployed on a server (read terminal server) or desktop and accessed remotely from another desktop. Customers may only use Office Professional Plus for Office 365 locally. Remote Use Rights are not available under Office Professional Plus for Office 365 licenses.


4. Although remote access and use generally is not permitted under Office Professional Plus for Office 365 license terms, customers may still permit such access for purposes of providing support services.


5. Office Professional Plus for Office 365 is licensed on a per-user/subscription basis through Microsoft Volume Licensing.


6. Downgrade rights are not available with Office Professional Plus for Office 365 licenses.


7. User has right to any new upgrades that become available for Office Professional Plus under this license.


All this is documented at :


The most interesting one amongst these is the inability to access Office 365 Professional Plus remotely on a desktop. This seems to imply (point 3) that you can’t have it running on your business workstation and then remote into that workstation and use Office. I suppose that Microsoft will say that allowing you to install the Office software on 5 devices (point 2) over comes that need. However, what does ‘purposes of providing support services’ (point 4) mean in this context?


It is interesting what you find when you read the licensing documentation eh? As with most licensing documentation, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.


A good business person is always on the look up for opportunities and lately I’ve notice one I believe that I’ll share with you.

I’ve seen a few studies recently that say a large amount of small businesses still don’t have a web site. This article cites study that says a staggering 46% of small businesses don’t have a web site. Impossible I used to think.

However, travelling the roads I can’t help noticing how many vehicles are adorned with email addresses that are provided by Internet Service Provider (ISP) or generic email provider (i.e. or Amazing, that in this day and age that businesses haven’t registered a domain and used that to point to their ISP or generic email account. Chances are if they haven’t even done that then they probably don’t have a web site.

You would have to think that if you offered them a package to set up their own domain, with email and simple web site, they’d be interested. If they could also use it to say display a calendar, develop, take orders, connect to a smart phone, etc they’d be even more interested.

Typically these businesses would be small and initially have no call for a server. That means that a cloud based solution like Office 365 would be very appealing, simply because it would give them access to enterprise applications for a small monthly fee. Even just providing an external facing web site via SharePoint Online would be highly appealing I would think because it is simply enough that they could make some changes themselves. Importantly, that would allow them to feel in control.

Even more importantly they could start out quite cheaply with an Office 365 Professional and Small Business plan (P Plan) that would give them what they needed for less than $10 a month (even though I think the Enterprise plans are better). That should be well within their budget.

So, I think that creating a ‘start up’ package around Office 365 that includes, domain registration, Office 365 setup and training for a fixed price would be very appealing would it not? All you would then need to do is email the people you see out on the road who don’t yet appear to have their own business domain. The easiest way to remember their email address is probably to use your smart phone to take a picture of their email address. I’d also be confidently say that you’d be well placed when this business grows to pick up additional work, not to mention the referrals on offer if you did a good job.

The moral here probably is to have a look around and challenge your beliefs, because in many cases they are probably not correct, especially when it comes to the average business and technology.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Windows InTune gets an update

According to:

is getting an update from October 17.


Windows InTune is Microsoft’s PC management and security solution that is run via the cloud and provided via a subscription for $11 per device per month. The new features of this update will include:

  • Software Distribution: With this release, administrators can deploy most Microsoft and third-party updates or applications to PCs nearly anywhere over the Internet.
  • Remote Tasks: IT can remotely perform the following tasks on Windows Intune managed PCs from the administration console: Full scan, Quick scan, Update Malware Definition and Restart.
  • Read-Only Access: IT pros and partners can give select administrators read-only access to the administration console so they can view PC information as needed, but not perform any configuration tasks.
  • Enhanced Reporting: Create hardware reports based on new hardware filters for common hardware characteristics. Additionally, you can now create and save report parameters to make it easy and efficient to run a report again in the future.
  • Considering that Windows InTune currently includes a Windows 7 Enterprise license the ability to now also do software distribution and remote tasks is beginning to make it a real competitor in the market.
  • The update will automatically roll out to Windows InTune users (another benefit of the cloud).


It is clear that Microsoft is keen to really start ramping this product up to match its current in house offerings yet make it available to everyone via a subscription.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Configuring Office 365 end user desktop

Here’s a video walk though I’ve just posted that covers setting up an end users desktop with Office 365.


Basically you need to login to the Office 365 portal as the end user, download and install the appropriate software. Once that is complete you run a configuration utility from the portal that configures everything for the end user. The only thing that is requires some manual configuration but as the video shows, this is pretty straight forward.

Using an iPad with Office 365

Here’s the first part of an article I’ve just done for BoxFreeIT.


One of Microsoft’s major selling points for its cloud productivity suite Office 365 is that you can work on your data anywhere you have internet access. But how well does Office 365 work on one of the biggest mobile devices – the Apple iPad?


The thing to remember with Microsoft Office 365 is that it will run better on Microsoft technologies, such as a PC running Internet Explorer. However, Microsoft claims the platform is compatible with technologies from other providers.


Office 365 is composed of three major components; Exchange for email, SharePoint for file management and collaboration, and Lync for communication. Let's take a look at each one of these components separately and how they function with an iPad.


Probably the easiest component of Office 365 to configure for an iPad is Exchange Online. Provided you don't have a cheaper “kiosk” licence you will be able to connect your Office 365 emails to your iPad in a matter of minutes. You simply need to go into the iPad's mail settings and add an Exchange email account using your Office 365 credentials.


Once configured you can send and receive emails with all the standard functionality Exchange emails enjoy on an iPad. It is also possible to work with your emails via a browser and Outlook Web App. However, this is where things start to become less fully featured.


Because an iPad uses Safari as a browser rather than Microsoft Internet Explorer the environment isn't as “feature rich”, as Microsoft would say. You can certainly log into your Office 365 portal and work with your emails but the experience is far more basic.


You can read the full article at:

Feature must be activated

Installing Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) onto a Windows Server 2008 R2 all went fine but when I attempted to create a Collaboration Portal site collection I was greet by the message:


The Office SharePoint Server Standard Web application features feature must be activated at the web application level before this feature can be activated.


After trying a few things I came across this:


which basically confirms the issue and attributes it to the MOSS setup configuring IIS on Windows Server 2008 R2 incorrectly.


The solution? Re-install MOSS, only this time manually configure IIS before running the MOSS installation OR simply re-apply MOSS Service Pack 2.


Once I reapplied the service pack I could create the Collaboration Portal site collection.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SBS Essentials review

Not a bad little review from Paul Thurrott over at the Winsupersite on SBS 2011 Essentials. I have to agree with him that SBS Essentials is effectively incomplete until the release of the Office 365 integration module. There was talk that it would be released at the Microsoft world wide partner conference in July but nothing materialized. Paul says in his article:


“Sadly, it won't ship until the end of the year”

which I certainly hope is not true but I do have some faith in the fact that Paul probably has better sources than I.


In that case I would have to say the waiting another 3 – 4 months for the Office 365 module for SBS Essentials is really going to throttle its take up in my opinion. The whole premise of this server was the fact that it would interface directly to the cloud and without that it is really a bit of a lame duck at this point. Sure I know that you can do the integration to Office 365 manually but without the dedicated module it kinda makes SBS essentials a car that is missing a wheel doesn’t it?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Office 365 Exchange Online Connected accounts

One of the really nice things that you can do with Office 365 Exchange Online is configure your Exchange Online mailbox to receive from your other external email accounts.


To do this first login into your Office 365 console via Then select Outlook. You should then see your mail box.


Go to the top right of the window and select Options (which is just under the user name).




From the menu that appears select See All Options. You should then see a screen like:




You should be on the Account option. To the right you’ll see the Connected Accounts button, select this.




Select the New button.




Enter an email address and password, then press the Next button.




After a few moments the account should show as being connected (if additional information is not required).




When you are returned to the Connected Accounts screen you should see your account listed. You’ll also note on the right the option to change the Default Reply Option.


Mail from the connected account will now start appearing in your Office 365 Exchange Online email box (as well as in the original external mailbox).

Email archiving in Office 365 – End User

In my previous post I showed how to enable archiving for an Office 365 Exchange Online user. Now, we’ll have a look at what the end user sees.




With archiving enabled when a user opens their desktop Outlook they will see an addition Archiving folder as shown above in Outlook 2010.




and the same when they login to Office Web Apps.


Users can now drag and drop whatever emails they wish into this archive, however creating an automatic archiving policy is more challenging.




In Outlook 2010 the normal way to manage archiving is to right mouse click on an Outlook folder and select Properties. However, when we now do this with Exchange Online archiving enabled we see a window like shown above. There is now no longer an option to archive locally, all we see is the default policy “Use Parent Folder Policy”.


The next problem is where can I set these policies? Turns out each user has to so this from Outlook Web App (there are other ways buts let’s just follow along with the user example for the time being).




Login as the user to Outlook Web Apps. In the top right corner select Options and then See All Options.




From here select Organise Email and then Retention Policy as shown above.


You can then select the Add button to add a retention policy to this mailbox.




When you do you’ll see a list of standard policies as shown above. All you can do here is select a policy and press the Add link. When you have finished press the Save button.


To change or add policies you’ll need to use Powershell which I’ll cover in a later post.




if you now revisit Outlook 2010 folder Properties, Policy you’ll see there is additional policy you just enabled to select from.


So in summary:


- Once email archiving is enabled a user can manually move items into that folder in Outlook on the desktop or Outlook Web App


- There are no specific archiving policy applied but it can only be enabled from Outlook Web App.


- To create or modify retention policies you are going to need to user Powershell.


What do you get with email archiving enabled? For any plan that includes Exchange Plan 1 the user gets a total of 25GB mailbox shared across the primary inbox and the archiving area. Otherwise the user gets 25GB for their primary mailbox and an “unlimited” archiving area.


  • A default quota of 100GB is set on the personal archive. In the unlikely event that the user exceeds this quota a call to Office 365 support will be required. Administrators cannot adjust this quota up or down.

Email archiving in Office 365

One of the major benefits of Office 365 Exchange Online is that (with certain plans) you receive an effectively unlimited email archive. In this post I’ll cover how to set it up on the back end and then in the next post what it looks like from the end user side.


Enabling archiving via the office 365 Admin console.


Login to as an office 365 administrator.




Ensure you are on the Admin page. Then select Manage under the Exchange Online heading.




Select the email box you wish to enable archiving for from the list of mailboxes. Then click Details.




You will notice in the list if any users already have archiving enabled (in this case Lewis Collins).


In the window that appears scroll down to the Mailbox Features and expand.




Click on Archive from the list and then select Enable.




You can set whatever name you wish for the archive. Normally it is recommended to leave the default name.


When complete press the Save button.




You will be returned to the list of mailboxes and you should see that user enabled for archiving.


When the client logs into their mailbox either in Outlook or Outlook Web App they will see a new archive folder.


I’ll cover more on the user end experience of Exchange Online Archiving in the next post.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Failed to create configuration database for MOSS

Working with a test Windows 2008 R2 server with SQL 2008 R2 installed, onto which I was trying to install Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS). Every time I tried I get the error:


“Failed to created the configuration database”


during the setup and configuration wizard.


However, when I looked in the SQL manager the configuration database was there.


Tried many, many things thinking it was a software compatibility issue with Windows Server 2008 R2 or SQL Server 2008 R2. Nope, not those those applications BUT I also had Office 2010 installed on the machine (since I was using it as a stand alone demo).


Problem turned out to be Office 2010, which I uninstalled and everything then worked fine.


Today’s lesson = MOSS and Office 2010 don’t work together on same machine.