Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review of Office 365 Nation 2014

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Although I am still recovering from the jet lag, my vision has cleared enough now that I can pen my thoughts on Office 365 Nation 2014 recently held in Seattle.

The event was put together by Harry Brelsford and in another way is really SMB Nation 2014, however this time the theme has been ‘rebooted’ to focus on Office 365 and the cloud.

The first thing I must do is thank Harry for the opportunity to conduct four formal and one informal session. You can download the slides from the my formal presentations here:

T106 - Coming to grips with SharePoint

T107 - The Business of Yammer

T108 - Level up with PowerShell for Office 365

T109 - Lync the red headed step child

unfortunately, there are no slides for my informal Azure session as it was mostly demos and actually went for over two hours! Thanks to all who stayed late to listen to my thoughts.

The next thing I need to do is thank everyone who attended my sessions. The first two were quite late at night, which after a long day, I appreciate you coming along and being an enthusiastic and attentive audience. I also appreciate all the great feedback and questions received in all sessions. And I really appreciate that you laughed at my jokes, corny as they were!

One of the high points of the conference for me was the number of people coming up to me in the hallways letting me know that they read my blog and perhaps a particular post I wrote had helped them. Publishing a blog can be lonely at times, sure you get blog comments but it is so fulfilling for me as a content creator to actually have someone say that what I have created has actually helped them face to face. It makes the whole creation process worthwhile and gives me the energy to continue doing the blog regularly and improving the quality and depth of what it contains.

With over two thirds of attendees attending SMB Nation for the first time it was brought home to me how many are still struggling to find their feet in this new cloud world. Everyone in attendance appreciates the cloud is here and that Office 365 is a great option but they are struggling with how to integrate that into a successful and profitable business for themselves.

The biggest reason for this struggle in my option is that fact that most vendors are still pushing the ‘Managed Service Provider’ (MSP) mantra which I believe doesn’t make a great of sense in this cloud-first world for many. It can play a part, but these days it is only a small part in a cloud business. However it seems to me that too many people have become too locked into things only working in that MSP way and from where I sit, the world is now a very different place.

In saying that, I’d really like to see business models and ideas come to the forefront that challenge that traditional notion so much so that I think I’ll post a few articles on business very soon, so stay tuned for that.

In short, I believe the path to success in many ways requires a completely new way of thinking. You don’t have to totally abandon your existing business model but you do need to challenge it. You do need to start thinking outside the box and challenge the conventions to find what works best for your business. This is where most struggle I believe. They are trying to put the round peg of the way they have always done things into the square hole that is cloud services. So to provide more light on that I promise to do some follow up posts focused on business for people.

I think that this conference had a some very high quality speakers and none more so then Tom Moen from Microsoft. I am so glad I attended his sessions and got to meet the man. I learned a lot about technology and presentation techniques from him. That alone made my whole trip worthwhile.

Of course the real value in these conferences is the hallway networking, sitting down with peers over breakfast, a coffee, dinner or a drink. It was fantastic to catch up with old acquaintances and past SMB Nation attendees. However, it was also fantastic to make so many new connections and talk with others whom I had never met before about their business and the challenges of the cloud. This is also where I learnt a lot and I appreciate every one of those interactions.

So in summary, it was a long way to travel but a real benefit for myself. I thoroughly enjoying presenting my sessions and listening to some other outstanding ones. However, most of all I enjoyed the peer to peer networking and the opportunity to be at the kick off for many along a journey to successful cloud consulting.

My hope is that Harry’s event becomes the pivotal one for SMB cloud resellers as it was for SBS resellers all those years ago, because there really isn’t anything I have seen that speaks specifically to the SMB IT reseller in the cloud space now. These are the people that manage technology for the gigantic number of small businesses out there that power the economy. If SMB’s can grow then the economy as a whole grows and everyone benefits. For that to happen SMB IT resellers need to retool their skill portfolio and a focused conference like this provides no better way to achieve that. So if you haven’t jumped on board the Office 365 Nation train, then I’d recommend it is time you did.

Well done Harry. Well done SMB Nation team. Well done everyone who attended. I’m keen to come back next year and I hope I’ll get the nod to speak again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Some maintenance?


Logged into my Office 365 tenant and was greeted with the above message that I have never seen before.

We apologize for the inconvenience, but we've made OneDrive and Sites read-only while we do some maintenance.

Hopefully, this means that they are upgrading something in the back end to give me a whole more features.

I wonder what it could be?

Upgrading an Azure virtual machine

One of the real benefits of using virtualization is the fact that upgrading is generally much easier than with physical machines. a case in point.

In a previous post, I mentioned how Azure now makes available machines that use solid state drives (SSDs). This allows disk access to be much faster, therefore improving the overall performance of the machine.

These new SSD virtual machines are of course more expensive but for the demo and testing purposes I need them for, it makes sense. Now, if I had to perform this type of upgrade on a physical machine it would generally mean buying a new machine and doing a complete rebuild, which as you can appreciate is very time consuming.

Even if I had these machines virtualized on a host machine I ran myself it would mean buying and configuring a new host machine and copying the virtual machine images onto this. That would also take a long time given that virtual machine images can be gigabytes and gigabytes in size.

However, with Azure upgrading my virtual machines to take advantage of the latest features is a breeze. Here’s how.


I firstly login to the Azure management portal at:


I then locate the Virtual Machines menu option on the left and select it. I then locate the virtual machine I wish to upgrade and select it.


I then select the Configure menu option across the top, which shows me the screen above.

In there you can see that current Virtual Machine Size is A3 (4 cores, 7GB or RAM).


What I do is simply pull this option down and select a new machine that is utilizing SSDs, in this case D2 (2 cores, 7GB memory).

I then select the Save option at the bottom of the screen to update the changes for my machine.


Now if the virtual machine you are upgrading is running you are prompted that it may need to be rebooted to apply the changes. In most cases you want to make these changes with the machine off, which it is in this case, so press OK to apply the changes.


Azure now hums away updating the machine.


and a few moments later it is all done and my machine is now running with SSDs.


You can then return to the main Virtual Machine Console, select the machine and then the Start button at the bottom.


You machine will start spinning up and you can then use it without having to install any software or do further upgrades.

How easy was that? This is the way all hardware upgrades should be and the reason why you should be using virtualization and even more so why you should be using a service like Azure. It removes all the pain from the things that keep you from doing what you want to do when it comes to technology.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Azure offers SSD now

Got an email today from the Azure team saying that they are now offering Virtual Machines with Solid State Drives. The details of the email are below:



We’ve announced the general availability of a new series of Standard tier instances called the D-series for Virtual Machines and Cloud Services and its related pricing.

These instances have solid-state disk (SSD)-based local drives and faster processors relative to many of the A-series instances. The D-series instances can be used as VMs, as well as web or worker roles in Cloud Services, and are well suited for applications that demand faster CPU performance, local disk performance, or higher memories. Please note that the SSD drives in the D-series are non-persistent.


Following are the CPU, memory, and disk configurations of the D-series instances:










General Purpose




  Name   # of vCPUs   Memory (GB)   SSD HDD (GB)  

































Memory Intensive



































Through December 31, 2014, the prices for Standard D-Series Virtual Machines will be charged at US South Central rates for all regions. We are currently offering promotional pricing and any future price increases will be announced with 30 days' notice.

For more information, visit the Virtual Machines webpage. To get a comprehensive look at pricing, visit the Virtual Machines Pricing Details webpage.
Note: As an Azure customer, you are receiving this email because we are required to notify you of all pricing changes. This is the only communication that you will receive directly from Microsoft regarding these pricing changes.

Thank you,
Your Azure Team



I have spun up a new Azure Virtual Machine using one of the new “D” ,machines with SSD’s and they are noticeably quicker.

Of course theses new machines are more expensive that machines with normal hard disks but for faster demos they are perfect for what I need. You can also expect the price of these offerings to drop over time as SSD’s become cheaper and cheaper.

Azure is really going ahead in leaps and bounds from what I see.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Exchange Online mailbox search

Office 365 provides the ability in all plans to search across all mailboxes. What I’ll cover here is how to do this with the Small Business Plan as that is the most challenging given that Exchange Online console is not exposed by default. If you have an M or E plan simply follow on from when the Exchange Online console comes into view.


The above screen shot shows a user with a single email in their inbox we will search for. In this case we will be searching for the text “Rescuetime”.


Login into the Office 365 portal as a tenant administrator.

Here we have logged into a Small Business tenant which provides a simplified interface. To access the Exchange Online console from a Small Business tenant use the URL:



When the Exchange Online console appears select permissions from the left hand side.

By default no user is given the ability to search through all mailboxes, not even global administrators. So the first step in the process is therefore to allow this.


Once permissions is selected, select Discovery management to the right as shown above.


Now select the pen icon at the top to edit this security group.


At the bottom of the dialog that appears, in the Members section, press the + button to add a new member.


Select and add the Office 365 users you wish to give these discovery rights to.

Press Save to update the permissions.


You may need to log out of the web portal and log back in. You may also need to wait a few minutes until the rights have been updated.

Once you have select compliance management from the menu on the left.


Unless you see more than 4 icons at the top of the table you do not have the discovery rights.


Only when you do will you see all the icons as shown directly above will you have the rights to search across multiple content.

Press the + key to create a new search.


Give the new discovery search a name and description and select next to continue.


In most cases you are going to want to search all mailboxes, however it is possible to specify which ones you wish to search.

Press the next button when you have made your selection.


Now you can specific the filter criteria for your search. In this case we need to search for the keyword ‘Rescuetime’.

Press the finish button when complete.


The search will execute immediately. The time taken will depend on the information your are searching for and how much information it has to search.

Press the close button to continue.


You should now see the item just created listed.


If you scroll down the dialog on the right you will see a hyperlink Preview search results. Select this.


You will now see an Outlook Web Access style interface with all the matches located.


With the item selected you can also use the download button to save the results to a PST file for offline review.

You can of course return to this query at any point in the future, edit the query and save it to re-run the search. This makes it very handy if you need to search for things on a regular basis.

In summary, all plans have the ability to search across your users data (in this case email). Some plans also allow you to place searched information on hold so that it is retained even if deleted by the user. You will firstly need to grant the person doing the searching the rights as a member of the Discovery Management group. You then create a query based on your requirements which you can view online or export to a PST file for offline view.

You’ll find more detailed information about these discovery options at:

Office 365 eDiscovery FAQ

Basic Yammer Administration via Office 365

A while back posted some information up about getting Yammer via Office 365 working.

Enable Yammer integration in Office 365

A couple of Yammer gotchas

Yammer integration in Office 365


Once you have the integration in place and an admin user for Yammer, when you login to Yammer should be able to access the Yammer Success Center as seen above.


If for some reason you do not see the Yammer Success Center look to the bottom left of the page. Under Networks you should see Admin if you are a Yammer administrator.


When you select Admin you should see the above menu displayed. From this menu select Success Center.


You will notice that is quite different from the free version of Yammer. This is Yammer Enterprise, thanks to your Office 365 subscription.


You can work down the checklist in the middle of the page or the list of items in the top left.

I’ll spend more time in upcoming posts diving a bit deeper into these but for now ensure you can get to the Yammer Success Center and have a look around at the different options that are available to you as a Yammer Administrator.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Enable litigation hold for all Exchange Online mailboxes using PowerShell

If your Office 365 plan includes the option for litigation hold then it is generally best to turn it on for all mailboxes from day 1. The quickest and easiest method of doing that is via PowerShell.

Here’s the one line command you need to achieve that:

get-mailbox | set –litigationholdenabled $true

Of course, it won’t automatically enable any future mailboxes your create but all you need to do is run the same command again.

Adding multiple mailbox to a SharePoint eDiscovery centre

One of the great ‘enterprise’ features you receive with the higher end Office 365 plans is eDiscovery. This basically allows you to trawl through all the information you have in Office 365 looking for matches to your query.

One of the options available is to create an eDiscovery centre in SharePoint Online which I covered in a previous blog post here:

SharePoint Online eDiscovery

It is important not to overlook the fact that the SharePoint Online eDiscovery centre can be used across SharePoint Online and Exchange Online.


So if you create a new eDiscovery Set, you then need to define the Sources that the set will work across (i.e. search through). You do this by selecting the Add & Manage Sources hyperlink.


You’ll then see this take you to a dialog where you can select the individual mailboxes you wish to search along with any SharePoint locations.

But what happens if you want to search across multiple mailboxes? Do you have to enter them in individually?


In this case, because there are already email distribution groups established we can use these to select a group of users.

Here there is an existing email distribution group called Sales Team.


If you therefore enter the distribution email group into a mailbox location and select the Check Name icon to the right, you should see a green tick appear to the left indicating that it is valid.


When you save this source you should then see that all the mailboxes of the email distribution group have been added as Sources for eDiscovery.

Thus, if you want to include every email inbox simply create or use an email distribution group in Office 365 that includes all mailboxes.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Office 365 themes

As the classic Month Python film says:

“We’re all individuals”

and now Office 365 allows you to express this individuality in a number of ways.


Firstly as an Office 365 administrator login to the Office 365 web portal. Then in the top right select your company name.


Then select Custom theming from the menu on the left.

Now on the right you will see the options you can change.


You’ll see you get a fair amount of granular control.


You should also see that you can add a logo in the top left.


If a user now logs in they see that them, however they can change that if they want.


To do this they select the COG in the upper right and then Office 365 Settings from the menu that appears.


If they then select Theme from the menu choices on the left they will be presented with a number of pre-defined themes.

Simple select one to apply.


They will see that new theme replace the default one set by the administrator previously (don’t forget to press the Save button at the bottom of the page). This theme only applies for this user.

You can read more details about these theme updates and changes in this blog post:


Office 365 and Azure training in Brisbane

After plenty of recent interest in Azure and Office 365 I have decided to potentially offer 1 full days training on each in Brisbane on 7th and 8th of November in Brisbane.

In order for any training to take place I need financial commitments from at least 15 people for their attendance. Once the that number is reached the course will run but additional places in the course will increase.

So, if you are interested in attending training in Brisbane on the 7th and 8th of November on Office 365 and Azure, especially aimed at SMB then visit the following page:


and sign up. The initial cost is $250 ex GST per day (thus $550 ex GST for both). This includes all meals, notes, etc.

If the numbers reach the minimum of 15 people before the 7th of October, the courses will run but the entry price will increase to #375 ex GST per day.

If the numbers are not reached I will refund anyone who has signed up initially (less any processing cost occurred via the payment site).

At this stage, numbers are about 50% of the required 15 so if you are interested in Azure and Office 365 in sunny Brisbane come November, please express your interest now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Enabling Office 365 first release

You not be aware that Delve is now rolling out to office 365 early adopters and then to every one.

First what is Delve? I think this video covers everything nicely;

Now that you know what it is you want it for your Office 365 tenant right? So how can you get on the earlier adopters, known as First Release program? Easy.


Login into your Office 365 web portal as an administrator. In the Office 365 admin center expand the Service Settings option. Then select the Updates option.


Now on the right ensure that the First Release option is set to on. Sooner rather than later you’ll get all the latest stuff for Office 365 including Delve which I’ll be covering in future posts so stay tuned.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

OneDrive consumer max file size increased

Microsoft has announced that the consumer version of OneDrive now supports files up to 10GB (up from 2GB). There are also many other improvements outlined in this blog post:


The hopes is that we will see the same very soon for OneDrive for Business as well as improvements to the sync client as well.

Roll on OneDrive updates.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Installing Office 365 Pro Plus on an RDS Server–updated

**** Updated 1 October 2014 Please see:



Until 1 September 2014 the only way you were licenced to run Office from Office 365 on an RDS server was if you purchased it via Open licensing. Also, the only way that you could actually install it was making an additional purchase of Office Volume License Media and a Volume License key.

I detailed all of that in a previous blog post:


Post 1 September 2014 it is a brand new world.

Firstly, you no longer need to purchase additional Volume License media and keys to do the install on an RDS machine. You can use the Office Deployment toolkit.The way that you do that is well covered by fellow MVP Boon Tee here:


The lingering question was whether you still needed to purchase Office 365 via Open licensing to have this RDS facility.

In order to investigate this I returned to the links in my original blog post:


The primary source of truth is always the Office 365 Service Descriptions. if we now examine the Enterprise Value description at:


we see:



So a couple of things to note here:

1. RDS is not permitted for Small Business premium

2. RDS IS permitted for M, E3 and E4

3. There are no caveats or foot notes as there used to be


If you click the Desktop Viirtualization link you see the above. again no mention of only being available via Open or not.

So it now seemed as though M, E3 and E4 from anywhere were now licensed for RDS. However, I wanted to be sure this was the case because a lot of people have purchased via Syndication (read T-Suite and the Microsoft portal), so I finally went to the source for the answer – Jeremy Chapman from Microsoft and here’s what he said:

Q. What you are saying is yes to for RDS via any method (expect for Business Premium)

A. Yes. Shared Computer Activation was actually built for this scenario primarily. It is also intended to solve for/replace the temporary exception in the PUR permitting volume license customers to use Office Professional Plus 2013 . The latter is actually the document update I'm referring to, as PUR applies to VL customers only. The rest of the base is allowed to use Office 365 ProPlus in on premises RDS as of September 1.

So there you have it, if you have an Office 365 M, E3 or E4 SKU, no matter where you bought it from, you can use it on an RDS server and now directly via Office 365 without needing VL media and keys. Jeremy also tole me additional information on this will become available in October.

I’m sure if I have missed something someone at Microsoft will tell me and I’m happy to update this information so please let me know if I have made a mistake here.

However, that all said, can I say here WELL DONE Microsoft for the change in RDS requirements with Office 365. These recent changes are significant for the SMB market and really show to me that Microsoft is listening and improving the Office 365 product in line with what people are asking for. It may not happen fast enough for some, but kudos on Microsoft for making it happen.

So there you have it. Office (M, E3 and E4) from Office 365 on RDS now equals YES YOU CAN.