Thursday, January 31, 2013

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 <email address> 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).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

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.


If you are interested in understand why we are still in an economic ‘slow-down’ (to put it mildly) I would commend you to watch it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Office 365 public facing web site

Here is a great short video that demonstrates how easy it is to create really slick public facing web site in the upcoming version of Office 365.


Getting started with the Public website in Office 365


The final product is still live on the web and you can visit it at:


I think that the improvements to this aspect of Office 365 are going to bring big dividends for Microsoft. I believe a significant amount of businesses are going to take advantage of all the options and features that are available in the public facing web site with the upcoming version of Office 365 when it becomes available soon. Also, if I was an IT reseller looking for an opportunity with Office 365, I’d suggest you look closely at what services you can offer around the new features Office 365 bring to the table with the public facing web site at the very least.

Desktop to Cloud Day 2013

I have mentioned the regular Desktop to Cloud group that meets monthly in North Sydney but what you might not realize is that there is also Desktop to Cloud Day scheduled for Saturday the 18th of May 2013.


This day will contains 12 sessions in 2 tracks (Consumer and IT Professional) conducted at North Ryde RSL Club in Sydney. Entry entitles you to attend all the sessions, refreshments, parking and free WiFi. You can register for the event at:


and if you do so before the 18th of February 2013 you can take advantage of the super early bird discount and only have to pay $22 for everything.


To get an idea what the event is all about you can take a look at the round up from last year’s event at:


So far this year we have lined up


- Ishai Sagi, SharePoint MVP

- Roger Lawrence, Chief Technologist for Strategic Enterprise Services at Hewlett Packard

- Jeff Alexander, Microsoft Technology Evangelist

- Mark O'Shea, Windows Intune expert and MVP

- Dean Calvert, Small Business Server MVP

- Robert Crane, Office 365 MVP 


with more to be announced very soon.


To stay up to date with the event keep an eye on


where session details and updates will be posted.


However, if you are interested in this event I urge you to reserve your place now as we expect the event to start filling quickly.


For further information on Desktop to Cloud in general see:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Determining SharePoint Foundation 2010 Version

There are times when you need to find out what version of SharePoint Foundation you are currently running. The easiest way to do this is to look in SharePoint Central Administration via the following procedure:




On the SharePoint Foundation Server select Start | Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Products | SharePoint 2010 Central Administration.




When the SharePoint Central Administration appears select Manage Servers in Farm from under the System Settings in the top right.




In the middle of the page locate Configuration database version and compare the number you find here with:


You’ll then know whether you are running the latest version.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Administrator’s Guide to Windows Server 2012 Essentials

SBS MVP Boon Tee has just released a new book – An Administrator’s Guide to Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

The book takes a pictorial guide through the various components and functionality of the operating system and provides the user with a comprehensive overview of the different options available in configuring and maintaining the server. Readers with a very basic understanding of networking may find some of the concepts challenging, but not overwhelming. Ideally, the reader should have a decent understanding of computer operations, and be able to perform standard computer tasks without much reference to manuals. Advanced readers will find this book a useful reference guide.

Find more details and ordering info at -

Getting Started With PowerShell for Office 365


My latest eBook, Getting Started With PowerShell for Office 365 is now available from the CIAOPS Publications page as well as other providers. Here is the abstract:


This book is an introduction to the basic operation of PowerShell for Office 365. It covers material that is applicable for Enterprise Office 365 Plans and well as for the Small Business and Professionals P Plan. It is not however designed as an in depth PowerShell tutorial or training guide. It is mainly focused on getting you up and running with PowerShell in the Office 365 environment as well as providing some commonly used commands. If you are not yet familiar with PowerShell for Office 365 then this book is for you.


Only $2.38

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Free exam offer for 74-324 exam

Microsoft Australia have just announced a free exam offer for the 74-324: Administering Office 365 for Small Business on their blog:


Here’s the body:


Great opportunity!  The first 2,000 partners who take Exam 74-324: Administering Office 365 for Small Businesses will be able to take it for free at an Authorized Prometric Testing Centre (terms & conditions apply).  This meets one of the key requirements for the Small Business competency in the Microsoft Partner Network. Please act now, as the offer expires 6/30/13! ! Register for this exam using promo code MPNO365. (Note: code includes an upper-case “O” and not a zero.) Look for complete terms and conditions on the Training Spotlight blog, January 15th.

Desktop to Cloud User Group resumes


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You are invited to attend:

Desktop to Cloud User Group

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 from

Stanton Library, North Sydney, 6:15 PM - 8:15 PM

Learn what the 'cloud' really means for you and your business. At these events you'll find answers to questions like: What is the 'cloud'? What can it do for my business? In the sessions you'll hear from many experts and you'll also get the opportunity to network with them. These events are all about giving you the most current information about the latest in desktop, mobile and cloud technologies. Each event is designed to cater to all levels from beginners to IT Professional, business owner to the tech savvy. Beyond the sessions you'll be able to rub shoulders with industry experts and others businesses to learn how to make the cloud really work for you.


You can find updates about the group either at the Meetup site - as well as group blog at


In person

Parking: Ridge St carpark. Flat rate parking after 6pm, 2 minutes walk to library.
Train: 10 minutes walk from North Sydney station


The meeting will be streamed live via Google Hangouts as well as broadcast live on YouTube ( The event will also be available as a recording via the same YouTube channel once the event has completed. Using Google Hangouts you can also use what to ask questions and provide feedback to presenters.
To join the meeting live with Google Hangouts please add to you Google Plus account.



Use the hashtag #d2cloud to stay in touch with what's happening on the night and to ask questions and provide feedback.



Session 1: Windows InTune
Presenters: Mark O'Shea
Title: All the latest
Door prize:

Brief: Come and learn what is new with Windows Intune

Session 2: The best mobile
Presenters: Panel
Title: What is the best phone/plan on the market today?
Door prize:
Brief: Come and help us determine what is currently the best mobile phone on the market today. Is it Windows Phone? iPhone? Android? Nokia? HTC? Find out what other have to say about the device they use. If you are planning a buy a new mobile, don't miss this session

Stanton Library

234 Miller St

North Sydney, New South Wales 2060

Attend Event


Lync Attendee certificate error

Lync is great tool for conducting webinars. It is even better in that people who don’t have Lync can download and install the free Lync Attendee client to have the full experience. You can download the Lync Attendee software from:

Microsoft Lync 2010 Attendee - User Level Install -

For information about using the software see:

or get my book:

Getting Started with Lync Online

Now it is always best to check that everything works first with Lync and to do that you can use the following:

which is a bit ‘techie’ but is very comprehensive. Some other troubleshooting links for Lync in general are:

Of course you can still get issues and if you get this one:
‘There was a problem verifying the certificate from the server’ then this article may help:

There is even a Mr Fixit button that will do the hard work for you.

Anonymous comments now enabled on blog

I saw a comment from a blog reader on the soon to be decommissioned supportweb blog website that they didn’t like the registration options to comment on the new blog site (at blogger).


In light of that I have now enabled anonymous commenting on because I want to encourage people’s feedback but let me explain why it will initially be a bit of try it and see.


One of the major reasons for migrating my blog away from suppoprtweb was simply the amount of blog spam that it receives daily. You can see a small sampling below.




Checking and removing all that spam is a pain and a waste of time frankly. Thus, when I moved to Blogger I was afraid that the same issue would appear if I allowed anonymous comments, however it seems that Blogger has better spam protection so maybe having anonymous comments won’t generate too much spam after all.


So for the time being I have now allowed anonymous comments to encourage everyone to post feedback on my postings. However, I reserve the right, in the face of too much spam to turn it off again. I will however let you know if that occurs. Let’s hope not, so please feel free to comment away now.

Where did Microsoft Online Speedtest go?

For a long while you could go to:


to run a speed test from the Microsoft Online datacentres to your location. Doing so would produce some handy results like:








if you try and visit the site above it comes up as not found and I haven’t found any replacement as yet?? Strange.


For the time being I suggest that the best substitute is:


and select the Office 365 tab




as the best way to get an idea of the performance from the Office 365 data centres, although I’d prefer to see the old site back as it provides a lot more ‘techie’ info. I hope it is getting revamped in preparation for the upcoming release of the new Office 365.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

SharePoint Online training bootcamp

This is reminder that my upcoming SharePoint Online bootcamp will be held on Thursday the 21st of February 2013 in Sydney. Registrations can be found at:

Use the promotional code EARLYBIRD to receive a $25 discount (8%) off entry prior to the 21st of January, 2013.

Even if you are not planning to attend every confirmed referral will earn you 8%. Please let me know directly ( whom you have referred so I can confirm their booking and make arrangements for payment with you.

The aim of this course is to provide you with the technical and business skills to confidently install, support and maintain any SharePoint Online installation with a particular focus on SharePoint provided via Office 365. The course is aimed at technology professionals who have responsibility for SharePoint within their organizations or for their customers. It is also aimed at the technology reseller who is looking to sharpen their skills and grow their knowledge into a technology that allows them to differentiate themselves from their competition.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Checking and fixing SQL Database

In the previous post I showed how to recreate a Windows SharePoint Search Database that had become unusable. There is of course some troubleshooting you can do before recreating an SQL database. This is generally to check and repair the database using the SQL command DBCC CHECKDB like so.




For arguments sake, let’s say that the database WSS_SEARCH_SERVERF is corrupt. Firstly login to the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio Express and expand the Database folder so you can see each database.


The first step will be to put the database into single user mode so that only SQL can work on it exclusively while it is being repaired. Single user mode means that only a single program will be able to use the database. If another process is using the database now and we put the database into single user mode that process will typically grab the database and not allow us to work on it. Thus, you should stop anything else that is currently access the database so SQL Management can gain exclusive access.


Because this is a SharePoint Search database we know that the only thing that should be accessing this is the SharePoint Search Service.




Therefore go into the Windows Services console and locate the appropriate SharePoint Search Service. In this case it is Windows SharePoint Search Service since the source system is WSS v3. Right mouse click on the service and select Stop from the menu that appears. You may also want to actually Disable the service to prevent it from re-running itself. If you are checking a SharePoint Search Database then this would be recommended as SharePoint Search will reactive on a regular basis and grab the database.


After a few moments the SharePoint Search Service will show nothing in the Status column indicating it is not running.




Return to the SQL Management console, right mouse click on the database in question and select Properties from the menu that appears.


In the dialog that appears select Options on the left and then scroll down on the right until you locate the State section at the bottom. There you will see a line Restrict Access. Change this to SINGLE_USER and press the Ok button to continue.


You will be prompted about closing connections to this database. Press OK to proceed.




When you are returned to the main SQL Management console you should see a small person icon over the database and the name of the database should have (Single User) displayed after it.




If you now select the New Query button (just under the File menu in the top left of the screen), it will open a blank area on the right. Into here type:


dbcc checkdb (‘<databasename>’);


in this case:


dbcc checkdb (‘wss_search_serverf’);


then press the Execute button just above. This will simply examine the database for issues and report back the results.


The window below will show the output from this check process. Examine the log to determine the issues that may be evident.


Prior to actually completing a repair of the suspect database it is recommended that you have some form of backup.


To proceed with the rebuild and repair change the query to:


dbcc checkdb (‘<databasename>’, repair_rebuild);


in this case:


dbcc checkdb (‘wss_search_serverf’, repair_rebuild’);


You may need to run this command a few time to complete all the repairs. Check the output of the repair for the results.


Hopefully, the database has successfully been repaired and now you can put it back to MULTI_USER mode by reversing the process detailed earlier via Properties | Options | Restrict Access.




With the database now back in multi-user mode you should be able to start the dependent services and everything should now work as expected. Don’t forget to change the mode of any dependent services from disabled in the Windows Services management console if you disabled them earlier.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Recreate WSS Search database

In the rare even that the search database for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 becomes corrupt or unusable here is how to create a new one. The SharePoint search Database simply contains index information about the SharePoint site and can be recreated at any time.




If you go into the SQL Server Management Studio Express you should be able to identify the search database that you are having an issue with. In this case we can see that it is WSS_SEARCH_SERVERF.




Open the SharePoint Central Administration. Select the Operations tab and then select Services on Server from under the Topology and Services heading.




Locate the line Windows SharePoint Services Search and press the Stop hyperlink to the right.




You will then receive a message like shown above telling you that the index files will be deleted. Press OK to continue.




After a few moments you should see that the Status changes to Stopped. Now select the hyperlink Windows SharePoint Services Search on the left or the Start button on the right.




Complete the details for the Service Account. This is account that the SharePoint Search Service runs as. Best practice is to have a dedicated account with a password that doesn’t expire and NOT use the Local service. This account will automatically be given full read only rights to all SharePoint data. Scroll down.




Now select a Content Access Account. This account will be used to crawl (read) all the SharePoint data and index it. again, best practice is that it should be a dedicated account with a password that doesn’t expire and NOT the Local Service.


In the Search Database fields you will see the Database Server name and the Search database (here WSS_SEARCH_SERVERF).




Enter a new name for the SharePoint Search database (here WSS_NEW_SEARCH_DB) and leave the other settings as is.


Press the OK button to create the Search database and start the SharePoint Search Service.




You will have to wait a few minutes while the Search Service is configured and started.




You should see that the Windows SharePoint Services Search is now started.




If you refresh the databases view you should now see the new Search database you created that is now operating with SharePoint. You can detach and remove the old database to avoid confusion.




Depending on how much database you have on your site it might take a while to completely reindex the search results. You can of course always do a full crawl manually if you want. Beware that the first crawl (whether automatic or forced) will be a major crawl (since it is new empty search database) and will thus be a very intensive process that may impact the performance of the server.


The last thing you should do is run a search from the SharePoint site to ensure everything is now working as expected.

New Office 365 platforms side by side comparisons

If you want to know what the features of each of the upcoming Office 365 plans will include and how they compare to each other then the links below provide an extensive comparison for:


Office 365 platform


Exchange Online


SharePoint Online


Lync Online


There is a HUGE amount of information here about what’s coming with the new release of Office 365. If you wanna know, I suggest you start here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New features for SharePoint Online 2013

Been working through some information from the recent SharePoint Conference about what’s coming done the pipe for SharePoint with the new version of Office 365 due soon. While doing so I found the above slide and some interesting information to note:

1. All versions of SharePoint Online will include the App Catalog and Marketplace.

2. The Small Business (P) plan will now include Form Based Applications. That seems to indicate it will now include some sort of form services (i.e. InfoPath services).

3. E-Discovery and compliance are only going to be available with SharePoint Online Plan 2 (and the E3 and E4 plans).

4. Enterprise search is only going to be available with SharePoint Online Plan 2 (and the E3 and E4 plans).

5. Access Services will be available for P and all E plans. That is a change (even though it is not noted in this slide) as it only used to be available for P, SharePoint Online Plan 2, E3 and E4 plans.

6. All SharePoint plans except Kiosk plans get something called Work Management (which I am not about as yet, but it is new).

The other general thing I will note here is to compare the feature set between SharePoint Foundation 2013 (the traditional Small Business SKU) and the SharePoint Online plans, even the Small Business P plan. The difference is VERY significant and this only further reinforces my opinion that you really shouldn’t be considering SharePoint Foundation 2013 at all.

This is very exciting if all of this is come to fruition Combined with all the other new features I can see more and more businesses moving to SharePoint Online with Office 365 in 2013.

Some information on new Office 365

Many people are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new Office 365 which is due any time now. With a new version on the way there are of course plenty of questions about what the product contains, what the upgrade path and options are and so on. Here a few resources I’ve found that may answer some of these questions for you.

Office 365 Preview Service Descriptions -

Office 365 Service Upgrade center for enterprise -
Office 365 Service Upgrade Center for Small Business -
Interesting that these documents also say:
“We'll be rolling out the service upgrade over the course of 2013, and it is completely automated: there's nothing you need to do to prepare your Office 365 service for the upgrade. During the upgrade, email, instant messaging and sites will keep working, and you don't need to reconfigure computers and mobile devices after the upgrade.”
All we need now is a date when it will actually be available.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hey what about my Outlook?

So I thought that I’d install Office 2013 on a production machine in side by side mode. It WAS my understanding that you could install Office 2013 on a machine with Office 2010 and not replace ANY of the existing programs.


I completed the installed and did the following checks:




Two versions of Excel ? Check.




Two versions of Word ? Check.




Two versions of OneNote ? Check.




Two versions of Outlook ? FAIL.


That is disappointing as Outlook 2010 is REALLY one of the things that I wanted to retain. Now it is gone and I honestly can’t remember seeing a message or a warning informing me that it would be replaced. If I had seen a message I probably wouldn’t have continued with the installation.


Not a huge problem BUT still there is the lesson from today. Not replace actually means not replace everything EXCEPT Outlook in Office 2013.


You have been warned.