New office 365 information

This week saw the release of Office 365 Home Premium. The initial information was revealed in a post from Steve Ballmer on the Official Microsoft Blog:

Office 365: The Next Bold Step

It is interesting that, as Paul Thurrott points out, Office 365 Home Premium doesn’t take advantage of any the enterprise grade applications like Exchange, SharePoint and Lync that traditional Office 365 does. That perhaps makes it a little confusing but I think that if you look at the bigger picture Microsoft is trying to align these offerings all under a single brand. There is nothing to stop office 365 Home Premium from migrating to full Office 365 enterprise services in the future. I therefore see this more as an opportunity for Microsoft to start aligning products and offerings for the full range of consumers under a single brand, in this case Office 365. This is very similar to Apple and it’s branding of the ‘Ipad’ without referring to version numbers. It isn’t an Ipad 4 it is just an Ipad.

Also contained in the blog post was the following information about the business versions of Office 365:

“These businesses will get to enjoy the new Office 365 service for businesses beginning Feb. 27.”

This means the new Office 365 plans around Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office 2013 will be available by month end, which is great news.

This news has however raised more questions that it answered. The first of these is around the change of plan offerings. There will now be a new Small Business and Professionals P2 plan that offers Microsoft Office 2013 on the desktop. There will also be a new M plan for ‘medium’ business. The existing P and E plans remain.

Probably the best information available on this at the moment is from Mary Joe Foley:

Microsoft Office 365: More new packages and prices coming in November

An interesting point with the above plans is that the P plans (Small Business) appear be limited to a maximum of 10 users. This raises an interesting migration question for existing P plans which have an maximum absolute limit currently of 50 users.

Probably the biggest questions not yet revealed are around migration for existing Office 365 users. It would seem that these people have to wait at least 60 days after the release of the new version. It would also appear that they will be contacted by Microsoft to schedule an upgrade of their service and indication are that US customers will be upgraded first, followed by Europe with Asia Pacific last. All migrations are scheduled to be completed by November 2013.

If you want more information about the upgrades from an existing Office 365 service you should check the following:

Office 365 Service Upgrade Center for Enterprise

Office 365 Service Upgrade Center for Small Business

So what can we expect here in Australia? According to the the Official Microsoft Partner blog (my emphasis added):

  • In Australia our Enterprise customers will be able to buy Office 365 on their Enterprise Agreements on the 28th February. 


  • For our small and medium business customers we are working with Telstra to have the service available on the same day

  • For existing Office 365 customers, we expect the upgrade to be available in the coming months.

The announcement also talks about the availability of Office 365 via Distribution on an Open License type.  In Australia Office 365 will not be available as an Open License type, we will continue to sell Office 365 exclusively via our Partner, Telstra for small and medium business and Enterprise customers can purchase directly from Microsoft under and Enterprise Agreement.  The two new product SKUs (M and P2 SKUs) will be available in Australia as a subscription from Telstra.  They are targeted to the small and medium business customer, therefore will not be available to enterprise customers under Enterprise Agreements.

So at the moment we need to wait till February 27th to see exactly what is revealed. We’ll probably have to wait a bit longer before all the answers to questions like migration are answered in more detail. For the time being the best bet is to stay tuned here and I’ll bring you the information as I find out.

Desktop to Cloud January recording

The recording from last night’s Desktop to Cloud meeting is now available on my YouTube channel.


It featured an excellent presentation from Mark O’Shea on Windows Intune as well as a brief look at Windows Azure. This was followed up by a panel discussion on the best mobile phone.


Remember we do these meeting on the last Wednesday of every month at the Stanton Library in North Sydney and we’d love you to come along. However, if you can’t do that you can always participate in the live Google hangout and ask questions directly there (connect with me on Google Plus or just search for Robert Crane and I’ll invite you to the hangout when it starts). Failing that you can always view the session live at my YouTube channel (


I hope you’ll join us for the next meeting and for information about Desktop to Cloud visit

Creating a Windows Live ID

In my last blog I spoke about how external sharing with SharePoint Online via Office 365 is a little convoluted for external users. In there I mentioned that my recommended method of creating a login for an external user for SharePoint Online was by creating a Windows Live ID tied to the users current email address BEFORE they attempt to access the shared document. Therefore, in this post I’ll run through the process of actually creating a Windows Live ID for you.


1. Visit




In the lower right of the screen select the Sign up now hyperlink.


2. Enter your details




Enter all the request information on the page.




At the option to enter the Microsoft account name enter the existing email address.


When complete press the Accept button at the bottom of the page.




You should then see a summary screen displayed with the information just entered.


3. Verify email address




In a matter of moments the email address you used for the Microsoft account should receive an email asking you to verify the account. To do this simply click on the Verify link in the email.




Doing so will take you back to where you will need to login with the Microsoft account (your email address) and the password you selected.




After doing so you should receive a confirmation that the account has been verified.


4. Use your Windows Live ID


Now the account has been verified it can be used with all sorts of Microsoft services but most importantly it can now be used to login as an external user to sharing requests for SharePoint Online. Best of all since the account is now the same as your email address you only really need to remember the password (and for that I suggest Lastpass).

External user sharing is confusing with new Office 365

If you are not aware, the next version of SharePoint Online from Office 365 allows much easier file sharing with external parties. As part of this sharing you can require the external user to require a login for the file. So is that handled? So let’s look at this purely from an external users point of view.




Initially the external user will receive an email like that shown above that invites them to open a shared file. They simply click on the filename link.




Since the option to require a login to access this file was selected during sharing they now see this screen that says they must sign in with a Hotmail or User ID. You will also notice that in the lower right there is an option to Sign up for a Hotmail account. We’ll come back to that in a moment.




Let’s say they do have a Hotmail account so they click the icon on the left. This is where they end up.




If I enter a Hotmail address in the User ID field Office 365 detects this and now prompts you to Sign in at via a link at the bottom of the page. Hmm…I did already tell you I had a Hotmail account no?




If instead of the left hand link the user selects the icon on the right hand side of the screen corresponding to a User id they end up at the same Office 365 login screen. If they have an Office 365 login (from another tenant) they can login and access the file but in our case the external user doesn’t have this.




Now if the user clicks the link at the bottom of the original page to sign up for Hotmail, guess where they end up? Yup, same Office 365 login screen. Can you see anywhere on here that tells a user how to register for a Hotmail account? Neither can I.




The only real option, if the external user hasn’t given up yet, is to select the Sign in with a Windows Live Id at the bottom of the page. That then takes them to a screen shown above where there is finally a link to sign up for Hotmail as shown above.




So if they now try and sign up the only option they receive for a Microsoft account name is or I can’t see many external users wanting to sign up for an additional email account can you?


Honestly, this is all too confusing for external users who probably just want to see a file. I also reckon that even signing up for a Hotmail account to access a protected file is not easy either. Why can’t the sign up for Hotmail link at the first page actually take you to location where you can actually sign up? Hmmm…all too hard for my liking.


My solution? If you really want to require a password for access to a shared file with an external user get them to create Microsoft Live ID first at:




As you can see above, at least when you do that you can specify the email address of the account. This means the external user can make it same as the email account they already have! It also means they don’t get an additional Hotmail or Live email box.


Once a Windows Live ID has been created in this way, linked to the external users original email address, they can use this to login to access the restricted shared file. Problem here is that you need to do that BEFORE they can access the file. More pain.


So for a pure external user, with no existing Hotmail, Office 365 or Live ID, sharing restricted files from SharePoint Online 2013 is going to require a lot of customer support. I certainly hope Microsoft improves this process over time. I really, really do. Office 365 is still in Preview, so fingers crossed.

First sessions for Desktop to Cloud day announced

I am happy to let you know of the first confirmed sessions for the upcoming Desktop to Cloud day on the 18th of May, 2013. These sessions are:


– Building an Internet site using Office 365 – Ishai Sagi

In this session, SharePoint MVP and SharePoint books Author Ishai Sagi will build an internet site using Office 365, from scratch. Come and see how you can build one for your clients – without the need of coding knowledge.


– Hybrid Solutions with Microsoft Online Services – Mark O’Shea

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when moving to the world of online services. While you may be constantly exposed to messages about moving to the cloud, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should remove all on premise servers in your goal to get the best possible cloud solutions. In this session you will see how you can leverage your existing infrastructure during migration to online services, and how it can provide long term benefits to your cloud capabilities.


– Going to the cloud with SkyDrive – Robert Crane

Just exactly how can Microsoft SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro in Office 365 help you business be more efficient? This session will help you to understand the differences between SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro as well as all of the features of each. Most importantly it will show you the tips and tricks you need with each product to really make the most of these services for your business.


As more sessions and speakers are confirmed I’ll post them here and on the Desktop to Cloud day page.


If you are interested in the event you can find more details, including registration at:


Super Earlybird entry is still available for only $22 for the whole event, so please take time to register now as places are expected to start filling fast as we approach the date.


Look out for more details of the event coming soon.

CIAOPS Guide good for 74-324 exam prep

Received some nice feedback from Jason Shim of IExpress who has just successfully passed the 74-324 Administering Office 365 for SMB:


I’ve spent only 1/2 day to review notes on CIAOPS’ Sharepoint and Office 365 guide in order to prepare for the exam.  Assistance in getting Microsoft Competency alone has paid off my annual subscription for Sharepoint and Office 365 guide.  Thanks Rob.


Congratulations Jason and thanks for the feedback. Information about the CIAOPS SharePoint and Office 365 Guide can be found at

SharePoint Online includes print to PDF



If haven’t already seen you’ll find SharePoint Online in the version of Office 365 due out shortly includes the option to convert documents to PDFs.


When you preview a supported document you’ll see the Office Web Apps preview as shown above. In the lower right of this window are a number of menu buttons. If you select the first one from the left (which looks like a page) a menu will be displayed. In this menu you’ll find the option Print to PDF.


Selecting that will give you a nice PDF of the document. Easy as.

The current funk

Over two years ago I wrote a post about a program that I had seen called OverDose that highlighted how things economically things were only going to get worse thanks to government stimulus packages.


I have now found the complete program on YouTube so you can watch for yourself and see what you think now two years down the track.