CIAOPS Podcast–Episode 54

In this episode I’m joined by MSP Jim Hunton who speaks about the challenges of IT Providers and managing passwords. Jim shares his experience and his findings as what he has found works best for his business and his customers.

You can listen to this podcast and subscribe to the series at:
http://ciaops.podbean.com/2013/06/18/episode-54-jim-hunton/
You can support this podcast via http://donation.ciaops.com and by visiting our new sponsor PROXPN. Visit proxpn.com/podcast and use the offer code CIAOPS for a 20% discount off your new account.
Don’t forget all the other previous podcasts at
http://ciaops.podbean.com
and appreciate a like over at
http://www.facebook.com/n2kpodcast.
Remember if you want to be a guest please contact me (director@ciaops.com).

Setting Office 365 password expiry from the console

With the latest version of Office 365 it is possible to alter the password expiry policy for the whole organization directly from the Administration console. To do this complete the following.

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Login to the Office 365 console as an administrator. Select service settings on the left hand side.

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Select passwords from the options across the top of the page.

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You can now enter a value for Days before passwords expire which can be from 14 to 730 and Days before a user is notified that their password will expire which can be from 1 to 30 days.

If you want to set a users password to never expire you will still need to use PowerShell and the details on achieving that can be found here:

Setting a Office 365 users password to never expire

And of course don’t forget to press the Save button after changing any values.

A different way to look at Outlook Web Access

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If you access your Exchange Online mailbox in Office 365 from a browser using http://mail.office365.com you’ll see something like the above default view. This happens because Outlook Web Access detects you are using a browser on a desktop and formats the display as such.

What you may not be aware of is that on other devices, say a tablet or a mobile, Outlook Web Access will format the screen differently automatically.

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If you want to see this on your desktop you can ‘fool’ Outlook Web Access by appending the following to the URL:

?layout=twide

thus, the complete URL in this case will become:

https://pod51041.outlook.com/owa/?layout=twide

When you do so you should see the above layout designed for a tablet. The menu items are further apart, there are nice big buttons at the bottom of the screen and so on.

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Now if you instead append:

?layout=tnarrow

you’ll see the above layout which is how it would appear on a mobile device.

So by just adding a few additions to the end of the Outlook Web Access URL you can see how it will appear on both a tablet or mobile without leaving the comfort of your desktop.

Office 2013 Touch/Mouse mode

Here’s something you may not have known about Office 2013.

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In the Quickstart menu at the very top of the screen you will see a down arrow that allows you to customize this menu. On that menu you’ll find an option Touch/Mouse mode.

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If you add that item to the Quickstart menu you’ll now see a new button appear that looks like a pointing finger. Pressing that reveals the two menu options shown above.

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If you select the Touch option the Office interface, including the Ribbon Menu is optimized for touch (i.e. the spacing between the buttons increases).

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If you then select Mouse the interface will return to the original spacing.

Thus, you can easily toggle between touch and mouse depending on how you are using the device. Really handy for hybrid devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro and is available in all Office 2013 applications.

Office 365 Service Descriptions shortcut

If you want to find out exactly what Office 365 plans include and don’t include you should always consult the Office 365 Services Descriptions. These are now posted as web pages rather than document which makes them much easier to refer. Only problems generally was finding the the link.
Turns out there is a easy short cut:
http://o365sd.com
will take you straight to the Services descriptions. Easy eh?

Yammer integration in Office 365

I think that Yammer integration for Office 365 is great news and even better is now you should be able to enable for your Enterprise tenants.
To do so, login to you Office 365 portal as an Admin.
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From the Admin menu option in the top right of the screen select SharePoint.
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From the SharePoint admin center select settings at the bottom of the menu on the left hand side.
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At the top of the page you will see the Enterprise Social Collaboration option. Simply select Use Yammer.com service and press OK at the bottom of the page.
Now at the moment you’ll need to have already set up an Yammer account but you can do that for free. Going forward, we’ll see deeper integration between Yammer and Office 365. For details on this see the following blog post:
http://blogs.office.com/b/sharepoint/archive/2013/03/19/yammer-and-sharepoint-enterprise-social-roadmap-update.aspx
For more information also see the following:
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-sharepoint-online-enterprise-help/pick-your-enterprise-social-network-yammer-or-newsfeed-HA104037368.aspx
where it notes:

Activate Yammer for your organization

If you’re interested in activating Yammer for your organization, take a look at your options:

  • If you’re a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement customer, you can activate Yammer Enterprise for free. Microsoft Enterprise Agreement customers with qualifying license purchases, such as Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E4 plans, are eligible to activate Yammer Enterprise for their users. Qualified customers will need to work with a Yammer Service representative to start the activation process and appoint a Verified Administrator and a Community Manager to manage their company’s Yammer network.
  • If you’re not a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement customer, your organization can sign up and use a Yammer basic network. Learn more about Yammer plans and pricing to help get you started.

Of course if you don’t want to use Yammer or want to switch back to the traditional Newsfeeds you can by just reversing the process.
I’ll do a future post about how important I believe social tools, like Yammer, are to the way competitive business will function going forward. I honestly believe that if you don’t embrace social inside your business NOW you will be left behind.
So, if you haven’t looked at what Yammer and does, now is the time because soon it will be deeply integrated into all aspects of Office 365.

Changing licenses in Office 365

My general advice when purchasing Office 365 is that EVERYONE should consider E plans first. Why? They are simply more flexible and accommodate growth. For example, if you went with a P or M plan you would only receive Exchange Online Plan 1, which has a current limit of 25GB for email. Now let’s say that you need to have 26GB or email, your only option if you are on a P or M plan is to migrate the data out, purchase an E3 plan and then migrate the data back. Messy eh? Not to mention the transfer time of 25GB out of the M plan mailbox, 25GB back up to an E3 mailbox and then another 25GB down to an Outlook OST file. 75GB in transfers in total along just to scale up a mailbox not to mention any other costs!

It would have been much easier if you initially went with an E2  (and received a 25GB mailbox like the M plan) and then simply upgraded to an E3 plan. Doing so within the E plan stack would mean that all you need to to after purchasing the new E3 license is to go into that user and check all the E3 options and uncheck all the E2 options like so:

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Once you have done that you simply press Save and the upgrade is complete. No migrating data, no data transfers, no interruptions, done, full stop. Once you have removed the E2 license you simply cancel it.

In many circumstances the other Office 365 plans work well but you must understand the limitations they provide, because in my experience most people bump up against them sooner or later. There are rumours that Microsoft will provide the ability to seamlessly upgrade from P to M and M to E plans BUT I stress here that to my knowledge that is NOT confirmed. I would therefore only be working the information on hand, which is, for the time being, each suite is stand alone.

So before you purchase ANY Office 365 plan I STRONGLY commend you to consider your growth needs and expectations. Even though the E plans are more expensive I honestly believe that are the best value given the flexibility they provide which no other plan can match.

SharePoint 2013 tasks are cool!

One of the things that I’m waiting on for clients here is the availability of Project Online. In the meantime I have been been playing with the inbuilt Tasks in SharePoint 2013, and I gotta say they are HUGE improvement. Here’s some reasons why.

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If you go into a Tasks area of SharePoint Online you’ll see something like that shown above by default. If we now add some tasks by clicking the new task hyperlink we’ll see:

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Once we add the basic information we press Save.

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You should now see a single task listed. But if you now select the ellipse (the three dots to the right of the task name) you get a flyout, as shown above, that gives more information about the task (like how many days till it is due).

Along the bottom you’ll also find a menu, which if you select Create Subtask, will:

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switch you into data sheet mode allowing to enter tasks like you would in a spreadsheet.

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as you complete the first additional task SharePoint will prompt you that it is automatically adding this task to the timeline above. You’ll need to do any others manually after the task has been created.

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Let’s say the we continue on and create a third task and then switch back to the All Tasks view like shown above. In doing so we find that Task 3 has been created as a subtask of Task 1. We want Task 3 to be at the same level as Task 1 (i.e. not a subtask).

No problems, simply select the task by selecting the left most column for that task, the ribbon menu will then appear. In the middle of the ribbon is the Outdent button. Selecting this will move Task 3 to the same level as Task 1. Brilliant!

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You’ll also notice that when there is task that is past its due date and not complete it automatically turns red as shown above for the Preparation task.

You’ll also notice that I have placed all the tasks on the time line at the top of the page, which you can do from the Ribbon Menu.

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If I now click on the overdue task (Preparation) on the timeline at the top you’ll see a flyout appear as shown. Again, note that the days due is red since it is overdue. You will also notice that the Ribbon Menu is displayed.

At the left of the Ribbon Menu you will find a number of formatting buttons (Bold, Italic, UnderLine, Fill, Font colour etc). You can use these to change the way the item on the time line appears like so:

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So here I have customized every task on the timeline expect the last one so you can see the difference.

You’ll notice that because Task 1 (in purple) over laps Task 2 (in green) the time line has two rows. If you select Task 1 (in purple) the Ribbon Menu appears and

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selecting the button Display as Callout that tasks moves to an item outside the timeline as shown above.

I can once again edit the formatting of this task to increase the font size and so on as before.

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Even better that than, I can now drag and drop that task anywhere on the screen if things are becoming cluttered. To demonstrate, in the above screen shot I have dragged the task to the lower right. When I do that the page automatically formats to make room. How cool is that?

So if you have lots and lots of tasks you can have some on the timeline and some as callouts which you can then position all over the page so you can easily see them all.

The takeaway here is that if you haven’t looked at what the new Tasks area can do in SharePoint 2013 I would. For most people this is going to work really, really well for project management. I am still, however, hanging out for Project Online because if this is what the generic tasks can do, just image what Project Online could do! I can’t wait.