Giving new Microsoft support offerings a chance

As I am only a small business my ‘traditional’ relationship with Microsoft is only as an ordinary reseller. This is probably the lowest level available to those dealing with Microsoft. Of course I have other more high level relationships (like being an MVP), however I like to ‘pretend’ to be an ordinary reseller now and then so I can understand what my SMB peers experience when dealing with Microsoft.
Since July 1 2013 Microsoft has been making changes to the way it deals with partners. One of these is the following:
from –
Note: Beginning July 1, 2013, email support will be phased out for all partners, and phone support will be limited to partners with competencies or Microsoft Action Pack subscriptions. Email support for all partners and phone support for partners without a competency or an Action Pack subscription will be replaced by an RSC agent–supported forum in the Partner Support Community.
So my original Office 365 tenant (still on Wave 14) was due to expire in 7 days. I wanted to keep this tenant if I could so I could go through the migration process to Wave 15 and document it. Previously, all partners had to do to resolve these issues was to call Microsoft Partner Support, speak and rep and get the trial extended. Easy as. Having called after July 1 I was greeted with the fact that I could no longer do this as a lowly reseller. I certainly felt unloved initially.
My only option appeared to be the partner forums for Microsoft cloud benefits which after a little searching around I found here:
I posted a message and I received a public message a day or so later saying:
Hello Robert,
Thank you for your question.
All internal-use subscriptions will be extended by July 15th, 2013 automatically. Subscriptions may go into a “In-Grace” period while awaiting for the extension. This is normal and will not interrupt the services.
Please note that I have sent you a private response to further assist you on this matter.
Best regards,
Partner Support Community
I also received a private message saying that the trail had been expended as I wanted.
I see many smaller partner bemoaning the changes that Microsoft is making and how they are ‘turning away’ from SMB resellers. Initially, I too felt the same thing when I made my call about getting the tenant extended. But you know what? Any relationship is a two way street and I realized that I also need to embrace the new way Microsoft handles things. Once I did I got an excellent results and am very happy.
As painful as change is it is something that is part of life. if Microsoft is changing its business then resellers and customers who want to maintain a relationship need to also change. In some ways this change can be for the better and I can now better appreciate why Microsoft has made the change to forum based support.
The end result? Don’t be too quick to judge change as being bad just because it is different from the way things were!

Using a site template with a new site collection in SharePoint Online

One of the really great things about SharePoint is that you can template a lot of the content and re-use it elsewhere. You can also create templates that include the contents of a site if you want.

Once you have a site template you can use it within an existing site collection to create a subsite based on this template, but what about if you want to create a completely new site collection (i.e. URL) in Office 365 SharePoint Online based on this template?

Here’s how.


You create the site template as you normally would be going into Site Settings for that site and then selecting Save site as a template.


When  complete the new site template will end up in the Solutions Gallery for that Site Collection. You’ll need to click on the hyperlink for the name of the site template you just created to download the template file to your workstation.


You then simply proceed as you would normally to create a new Site Collection, however when it comes time to select a template to base the new site collection select the Custom tab (on the extreme right), which should only have one option – .

Select this option and continue with the new site collection creation process.

In a few moments a new site collection will be created in Office 365. Now navigate to the new site collection URL.


Since the site doesn’t have a template yet you will be prompted to choose one. At the top you’ll see the standard SharePoint templates but below this you’ll see option to upload something to the Solution Gallery of the new site collection. You should select this.


You should see that the Solution Gallery is empty. You now need to upload the template you downloaded from the previous site that was saved on your workstation. To do this simply select the Upload Solution button in the top left and proceed to upload the template from your workstation.


Just before you close the dialog displayed after uploading the file completes you should select the Activate button on the right of the Ribbon Menu to make that template available. Failing to do this will mean that it can’t used.


You should now see a single activated solution in the gallery as shown above.


You’ll need to browse to the URL of your new site collection again but now if you select the Custom tab in the Template Selection area you should see the name of your custom site template as shown above. Select this and press the OK button to proceed with the creation process.


The time it takes to create the new root site in the new site collection depends on how large your custom template is but in a short period of time the new site collection based on your custom template will be created. All you need to do is set the security groups and you are good to go.

That’s how you create a completely new site collection from an existing site template.

Keep those SharePoint libraries under 5,000 items

Unfortunately, what many people seem to think SharePoint Online is only good for is as a dumping ground for files. I have seem many people who ‘don’t want a local server’ simply copy all their files up to SharePoint and dump them into a single document library, map a drive letter on the desktop and think things will function exactly like they did when they had a server.
This is a really bad idea for many, many reasons but the major reason is that currently SharePoint Online in Office 365 has 5,000 item view limit per library/list as the following knowledge base article outlines:
This means for lists with greater than 5,000 rendering it into the browser becomes very resource intensive. Lists can certainly be greater than 5,000 items but trying to view lists larger than this in one go causes problems.
That article also includes the following recommendation:
To work around this issue, split the items into multiple lists so that no list exceeds 5,000 items.
So simply mapping a drive to SharePoint Online and copying massive amounts of documents in the same folder structure is not a good idea, especially for large amounts of files.
Prior to uploading data you really should look at breaking the structure up into multiple document libraries. Apart from overcoming the 5,000 view item limit it also allows you to more easily provide different permissions and options on libraries. For example, imagine you created one HUGE document library but wanted to have versioning enabled on only a limited amount of documents? Unfortunately, document versioning in SharePoint applies to complete document libraries.
Unlike email, migrating data to SharePoint Online is never just ‘drag and drop’. Sure, SharePoint can be used to store lots of files in the cloud but remember it is Office 365 not Server 365. There are major differences and these MUST be taken into consideration when migrating data into SharePoint Online.
Just because you can have massive lists doesn’t mean you should!

Seems like migration between Office 365 plans is coming soon!

This blog post by Mary Joe Foley:
reports that Microsoft recently announced ‘Office 365 transition SKUs’:
Microsoft partners can now make available to customers Office 365 “transition SKUs” which will enable customers in different Office 365 customer tiers to more seamlessly upgrade to a different set of Office 365 offerings. Before today’s announcement, Office 365 midsize customers couldn’t move to an Office 365 Enterprise plan without having to migrate all their data out and back into a new tenant.
No further details as yet but this is certainly something that will make life a lot easier for customers (and resellers) because in my experience, although most customers want to start out on the cheapest plan as soon as they appreciate the benefits of Office 365 they want to scale up. Allow the option to do so between plans is going to make moving to the cloud a much more flexible option.

CIAOPS Virtual Technology Meeting – August

I am happy to announce that for the August meeting of the CIAOPS Virtual Technology we have managed to secure Microsoft Technical Evangelist Jeff Alexander to talk about Windows 8.1 (a.k.a. Windows Blue).

The meeting will feature a presentation by Jeff, questions and answers then time for general discussion by attendees. I am once again aiming to record the presentation by Jeff and make it available via my YouTube channel.

Remember, that all you need to do to attend is have access to a device connected to the Internet. You can register for the event at:

and the details are:

Wednesday 7th of August 2013

4:00pm – 5.30pm Sydney time

When you register you’ll receive information about gaining access to the meeting which will be conducted via Lync. If you want to test out your configuration beforehand to ensure everything is working feel free to contact me ( to arrange a check.

Remember, the presentation from the last meeting is available for viewing on YouTube:

I hope to “see” you at the upcoming meeting.

Context decisions

I have come to realise something of late. Every time you are faced with a tough choice you are at your context boundary. Think of the world in which you inhabit as a glass container. When you reach one of the sides you are at the context limit of that container.
So too it is with your mental state. Let’s look at this in a business context, although it applies just as readily elsewhere. When you are faced with something that you ‘can’t do’, is ‘too hard’ or is ‘too difficult’ you should recognize that you are at your context boundary. This is a good thing because it means that you are now only a short distance from expanding your context and growing to the next level.
The problem is that pushing through this context boundary is much more difficult than actually getting to it. That’s why so many people simply give up or back off when it gets ‘too hard’. Those that end up being successful are able to push through this context boundary and expand to the next level.
The simple thing I have come to realize is that when you hear yourself say it is ‘too hard’ you firstly know that you have reached your context boundary. The second thing to realize is that to grow and expand your context all it takes is a little more effort to move through that barrier.
As simplistic as it sounds I have found a lot of strength understanding and acknowledging these two points. It has allowed me to step back and say ‘you know what? If I can go just a little bit more I’ll be through this and onto bigger things’. That has certainly provided the energy to actually push through the barriers and achieve what I want to achieve.
Simple stuff I know but in most cases that is what makes all the difference for success.

Discover SharePoint

If you haven’t seen Microsoft is starting to build out a Discover SharePoint site at:
that includes some great content. At the moment it is mainly about the SharePoint but I can see they are going to extend it to specific case scenarios.

In the meantime there is plenty of great stuff there worth having a look at including these guides which you can download directly by clicking on their hyperlink.
Discover SharePoint
Store, Sync and Share your content
Keep Everyone on the same page
Stay on track and deliver on time
Find the right people
Find what you need
Make informed decisions
I’d encourage you to take a moment and have a look at what is developing over on Discover SharePoint site because I think you’ll fid it pretty helpful.

Office 365 Speedtest is back

A while back I wrote a post about how you could use the Office 365 Lync IP probe site as a replacement for ‘missing the action’ Microsoft Speedtest.

Now thanks to Office 365 MVP Benoit Hamet it has returned it seems!

Here are the URLs (apparently):

As Benoit notes, not all of the URL’s are functional, however if I go to for my region I see the following:


(after accepting to use Java as per usual with this stuff). When I put my Office 365 tenant address in I see it running through each of tabs doing tests:


After a few minutes the tests complete and provide some interesting results.

The results from this site and Lync IP probe are somewhat different. Lync IP Probe still seems to provide more detail but there are some interesting figures produced by the new Speedtest site.

My advice would be to still use both as required but I get the feeling that Microsoft will be developing this new Speedtest site to be the most encompassing so stayed tuned because I think you’ll see plenty of changes and improvements coming here. The only question is are they going to migrate it back to the original URL of