Enabling Office 365 Planner Trial

The information is thanks to fellow Microsoft MVP Darrell Webster and his original blog post on the topic here:


I’ve been busting to get a look at Office 365 Planner. I know it has now become available and that I need to have First Release enabled for my whole tenant turned. However, I still hadn’t seen it appear. Then along came Darrell’s blog post to the rescue.

The first step to enable Office 365 Planner Preview is to open a new browser using in-private or incognito mode. This will ensure that you don’t automatically log into an existing tenant because we want to all the Planner Preview to an existing Office 365 tenant.

In this new browser window navigate to:

Office 365 Planner Preview Trial


You should see the page above displayed. In the top right corner select the Sign In option to add Planner to an existing tenant.


You should be then taken to the familiar Office 365 login page as shown above. Login here as a global administrator.


You’ll then be asked to confirm adding Planner to this tenant. Select the Try now button to continue.

You’ll then be given a summary of the order. Select the Continue button.

This will then complete the process and take you to the Office 365 admin center.


It is unlikely that the planner tile will appear immediately in your Office 365 app launcher as shown above. It may take up to 24 hours for this to appear.


You’ll need to then go into the users you want to give access to Office 365 Planner and assign them a license as shown above.


Until the tile appears you can access Office 365 Planner directly using:


You might need to login as a valid Office 365 user that is licensed for Planner. If all is good you should see the above screen and you are now ready, like me finally, to start using Office 365 Planner.

Once again, thanks to Darrell Webster for taking the time to document this.

More information about Planner once I’ve had a play.

Azure SMB File Share–Performance and price

So, in the last post I demonstrated how to create an SMB file share on Azure and use it as a mapped drive replacement for users who wanted such an arrangement, typically to mimic and existing on premises file server. That however is only half of the business case for such a solution. To make an informed decision we need to consider both the Azure SMB File Share performance and pricing.

Performance first. For this I used a standard set of files, about 83 MB in total that included small (1MB) Office documents (PowerPoints, Word, Excel, etc). I also include a few larger videos files (>10MB) in this group of files as my benchmark. I then uploaded these files from the local drive of my workstations (I tried on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 to get a kinda “average”) using the same browser over the same connection (ADSL – download speed about 12 Mbps, Upload about 0.6 Mbps). During all the test the workstations were not doing anything and there was nothing else going to the Internet for the duration of the file transfer. Both the Office 365 destination tenant and Azure file share destination container were in the Australian data center region.


With that process as my baseline you can see the results that I got above when I transferred the same files to OneDrive Consumer, OneDrive for Business and the mapped Azure drive (using File Explorer).

Some general observations from this data are:

1. Uploads to OneDrive consumer were noticably slower. You get what you pay for clearly.

2. OneDrive for Business and Azure file share transfers are pretty much the same. This tell me that there not any loss in performance by electing to use Azure file shares over OneDrive for Business if you so choose.


As a comparision I copied the same data up to an Azure Windows 10 virtual machine running in the Australian region. The transfer of the data there using the RDP client took about the same amount of time as upload to OneDrive or Azure file shares but HOLY COW, look at the difference once the data is actually in an Azure virtual machine as the chart shows!




OneDrive Consumer



Azure Share



OneDrive Business



OneDrive consumer (VM)



OneDrive Business (VM)



Azure Share (VM)



Above are the raw figures for a comparision of just how much faster things are. In somes cases up to 200X.

Some general observations here:

1. Bandwidth MATTERS! The limiting factor for all my uploads to OneDrive and Azure file shares from my desktop is my connected bandwith up to the Internet.

2. If you are going to go through the pain of moving your data into the cloud, it is much better to access that data from a machine that is also in the cloud, preferably in the same datacenter.

3. If you want to migrate “totally” to the cloud not only should you consider your data but how that data is being access. If you move both your data and your desktops to the cloud you could potentially see a 200X performance improvement over accessing the data on a local desktop.

So in summary. Azure file share performance is no worse that using other methods of acessing files in the cloud but if you can also have virtuals desktops in the same data center, holy smokes is it quicker.

Now pricing. For this I used the standard Azure pricing calculator at:


and here are the results based 100GB of stored data being overwritten every month.


The first requirement when pricing an Azure solution is the cost of storage which you can see above comes to the princely sum of A$18.60 per month for 100GB.


You then need to allow for data transfers. Azure only charges for data out of Azure not in and you also get the first 5GB to any region free. So for 100GB of tarnsfers you’d pay A$16.70 per month.


As you can see above, the grand total would be A$35.29 per month for 100GB of georedundant data storage using an Azure file share.

So let’s say an on premises server costs A$3,500. That means I could use Azure file share storage for 100 months, which is 8 years and 4 months, for the same cost. To be safe, lets divide that by two (50% margin of safety being the good engineer I am) and discard the remainder. By my rough costing estimates, you can use Azure file share storage for 4 years before it exceeds the price of on premises equipment purchased today. So, using Azure file share storage is no worse than the cost of shelling out for equipment today using this anaylsis.

So there you have it. Pretty conclsuive in my my opinion, even if these are rough calculations. Azure file share storage is no worse in regards to price and performance when compared to other storage solutions. However, Azure file share storage has a great many other benefits I’ll go into soon when compared to any on premises equivalent (like say the cost of actually running up and installing an on premises file server versus setting up Azure file shares) but hopefully I’ve at least made people question why the hell the need a server on premises any more?

Creating an Azure SMB File Share

Even though many businesses want to move to the cloud they are not ready (in many cases actually not willing) to adopt a move to a collaboration environment like SharePoint Online. In fact, I commonly hear the request that people want things “exactly they way they are now” but with “everything” in the cloud. Basically, they don’t want to change.

This typically means they want a mapped drive (say Z:) which appears in thieir file explorer and when navigated to contains all their files, just like their current on-premises file server. Now, this can be quite a challenge if they are moving to Office 365 for email but don’t want to move to SharePoint Online for file storage. As I have said many times, OneDrive for Business is NOT a good option at all as a replacement file server and neither is trying to use the OneDrive for Business sync client to copy large amounts of files to each desktop.

This requirement to access files and folders in the “old” way has driven many to competing products like Dropbox or Box but these products also have issues due to their syncing nature. I have been therefore looking for a suitable solution to this dilemma and believe I have now found a something.

Enter Azure….

Azure now allows you to set up SMB file shares that can be directly mapped on any workstation. Here’s how to do that.


You’ll need to navigate to the new Azure portal as shown above as this is the only place you can configure these SMB shares.

Once you have the new Azure portal open select New, then Data + Storage from the blade that appears and then Storage account as shown.


Select the Create button at the bottom of the page to create a new repository for files.


You’ll then need to complete the details for the storage account by giving it a name (lowercase and numbers only), a resource group (generally create a new one) and then finally a location where that will be housed. I’d also suggest you ensure the option to Pin to the dashboard is selected.

Once complete, select the Create button at the bottom of the page.


You should now see a new tile appear on your Azure dashboard as shown above. It will take a few minutes for the new storage account to be deployed. When it is, simply select this icon to configure.


Once you have selected the storage account you will see all the details as shown above. You’ll need to come back to this area but for now select the Files icon in the middle lower section of the blade.


Once the blade hat now appears you should see that you have no file shares configured. Select the banner You don’t have any shares. Click here to create one as shown above.


Give the share a name and an amount of space (or quota) and save the configuration.


You should now see this share listed in the properties of the Files service as shown above. Select this to view the properties.


A new blade should open and a number of options are displayed as buttons across the top as shown above. Select the first button, Connect.


This will now display the command line you will need to use on a workstation to map a drive letter directly to this new storage location. the format of this command is:

net use [drive letter] \\[storage account name].file.core.windows.net\ddshare /u:[storage account name] [storage account access key]

You’ll see how to get the storage account access key shortly but for now copy the string so it can be used later and then close this blade.


You should again see the buttons along the top. Select the Directory button and create as many top level directories as you want.


Here, two folders have been created, folder1 and folder2. You can also see from the button across the top that you can also upload files directly here if you wish, however to continue close this blade.


This should take you back to the properties of the storage account as shown above. Select the All settings link in the middle right of the page. This will display a blade of settings to the right.


From this list of settings, copy the value in one of the Access keys fields, here Key1.


If you now combine the access key you just copied with the earlier mapping command and run that on a workstation, as shown above, you should find a drive has been successfully mapped.

If you want to retain the credentials in the workstation so that mapping can take place automtically on reboot use this command:

cmdkey /add:[storage account name].file.core.windows.net /user:[storage account name] /pass:[storage account access key]



If you now take a look at your file explore you should see a mapped drive as shown above.


When you drill into that share you should see the any directories created in the Azure portal as shown.

So there you have it. Pretty easy eh? And with a bit of additional work, the mapped drive will persist after any reboot. Now users can use files and folders as they always did without realising that the storage is now in the cloud with all the benefits of Azure.

I’ll do some benchmark testing of the transfer speed of these Azure SMB shares comapred to other cloud storage methods and report back, so stay tuned for that shortly.

So, if you still want to do files and folders the old way, I think Azure SMB file shares is a great solution, especially with Office 365 because if you also have Azure AD Connect installed it can also copy your users identity to Azure making it even easier to integrate this all together or use it in hybrid mode if needed (prior to any full cloud migration say). Really makes you wonder if there is much reason any more for a file server on premises!

Retaining your OneDrive bonuses

Recently I detailed how Microsoft had decided to scale back the amount of space it was providing for its OneDrive consumer products (NOT OneDrive for Business as many have incorrectly stated). My previous post on the topic is here:

OneDrive consumer space gets scaled back

Now if you are like me, over time you have accumulated a number of free bonuses with OneDrive consumer that have boosted your available space beyond the standard limits. If you are in that situation then I suggest yuou visit:



This will take you to the above page where you can click the button Keep your free storage to ensure you don’t lose any of the bonuses you have accumulated.

I’d suggest you do it sooner rather than later as well!

How to present Office 365

I’m working on a new course for my online training academy that will give people a framework for successfully presenting Office 365 to prospects, clients and colleagues.

Having presented this material in face to face classroom sessions I was really looking to incorporate the “whiteboard” experience on screen. What I therefore decided to try was using the Windows 10 OneNote app on my Surface 3 along with the Surface pen to see how well it would work while obviusly recording the whole thing.

My trial attempt is shown above and I think it worked pretty well. Obviously, there will need to be some polishing done before I release the final version of the course material, which will also contain more tutorials on how to present each individual service such as Delve.

Have a look and let me know what you think at the rough draft of on screen “whiteboarding”. Also, if you have played with OneNote and a pen then I suggest you do as OneNote is a great hand notetaking tool as hopefully the video illustrates. Of course if you want to find out when the course on Presenting Office 365 becomes available then stay tuned here or sign up for free at my online academy:


Moving OneNote notebooks to OneDrive

The problem is that SharePoint 2010 no longer has mainstream support. Thus, it is therefore time to move everything off that platform including OneNote notebooks. Now you could easily move it to Office 365 but what if you wanted to move your OneNote notebooks to the consumer onedrive.com instead? Here’s how you can do that.


In my case, I have a number of ‘nice to have’ notebooks hanging around on an old hosted SharePoint 2010 site. They are currently stored in their own Document Library called OneNote. One such notebook called SharePoint Bootcamp and when you drill into its current location you see the above structure.


Because the SharePoint 2010 hosting service I was using didn’t include Office Online it meant that they only way I could see the contents of my notebook was to open and sync it with OneNote on the desktop as you see above.

All versions of SharePoint provide a great repository for OneNote files and allow them to be opened by multiple people and multiple devices and have them all in sync. Truly brilliant and if I hadn’t chosen to move away from SharePoint 2010 they could happily stay in place, working as they always did.

Now, the recommended process to move a notebook is laid out here:

Move a OneNote notebook that you’ve shared with others

It basically suggests you create a new notebook in the destination and copy the original sections over. That was just too much work for me so my approach was simply to change the source location of the notebook and have it sync to there.


Now the challenge of moving a notebook to OneDrive consumer is that you need to go via an indirect method as you can’t simply use OneNote to complete the move.

The first step in my process was to login to my consumer OneDrive and create a new OneNote folder just to keep things tidy.


Next, I went in and created a new blank OneNote notebook here from the New menu at the top of the page as shown above.


After you have given your new notebook a name it will open in a browser like that shown above. Select the option in the middle at the top of the page, Open in OneNote.


This will then open the notebook using OneNote on the desktop. Right mouse click on the name of the notebook in the top left and from the menu that appears select Properties as shown above.


You should see the current location as being your OneDrive consumer. Select the Change Location button on the right.


This should open a Windows File Explorer dialog as shown above. If you select the path box at the top of the page you should see the full path. Copy the full path to the clipboard and close the dialog as you are not going to change the location of this temporary notebook.


Locate the notebook you wish to move in the desktop version of OneNote. Right mouse click on the name and select Properties from the menu that appears as before.

As you can see this notebook is located in hosted version of SharePoint. Select the Change Location button as before.


Once again, the Windows File Explorer will launch. Paste the file location you copied previously at the top of the page. Make sure you remove the trailing temporary notebook name and only leave the folder structure i.e. from




and press Enter.

Windows File Explorer should update the location as shown above. You should now see a folder for the temporary notebook you created. Simply press Enter to save the original notebook into this new location.


Once the notebook has moved and synced to the new location, if you look in OneDrive consumer you should see two notebooks as shown above. The original temporary one (which you can now delete) and the second one you relocated from the original location (here SharePoint Bootcamp).


The desktop version of OneNote will now sync the notebook to this new location in OneDrive consumer. This means you can return to the original SharePoint 2010 location and delete the source files.

The big benefits for me of moving notebooks into OneDrive consumer is that they are simple to sync on every device and that I can access them also directly from a web browser which I couldn’t before.

So in summary, you can simply move a OneNote notebook by changing its location via the notebook properties. Obtaining the location for OneDrive consumer can be a little tricky but as I have shown here it isn’t too difficult to find.

Office 365 Public Web Site


Now that the Office 365 SharePoint Online Public Web Site ability has been deprecated I’ve open sourced the documentation I created on it which I have placed on my docs.com site which I have embedded above and made available for download:


I also did a video tutorial on the subject which you can find here:

As some older Office 365 tenants still have the ability to work with the public web site for a limited time, hopefully this information might be of use.