Thursday, March 31, 2016

More admin control over software deployment in Office 365

Microsoft has added more control for administrators over what options are available to user via the Office 365 Portal.


Using the ‘classic’ Office 365 admin center interface you navigate open Service Settings from the menu on the left and then select User software from that list that appears below.


On the right you should then see all the options shown above.


Via the ‘new’ Office 365 Admin center select Settings (the COG) and then Services & add-ins from the menu that appears.


This should take you to the above page.


Scroll down through the list until you see Software download settings and select this (the items are arrange alphabetically).


This will open a new blade with the same settings as those in the ‘classic’ portal.


You’ll see that you can select which Office PC software users can install from the web portal.


You can also select which Office Mac software users can install from the web portal.

I would expect to see more options start appearing for administrators via the web portal, so make sure you check back regularly.

If administrators want to push out Office from Office 365 they will need to use the:

Office 2016 Deployment toolkit


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review–The Ultimate Microsoft Lumia 950XL Accessory Pack

Full disclosure – the review unit was supplied by Mobilezap. You can find this device and others at the Mobilezap category page at:

The Ultimate Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Accessory Pack

These days a new phone costs almost as much as PC, so it is important to firstly protect it and secondly to ensure you get full usage from it. The guys over at Mobilezap have provided me the Ultimate Accessory Pack for my new Lumia 950XL phone to review that should make ownership a whole lot better.

The first thing that I applied was the screen protector, of which you get two. Basically, these are a thin shields of plastic that sit on the screen to protect it from abrasions. It was easy to install and I must say that you can hardly even notice it once it is applied.

After protecting the screen, I put the phone in the clear FlexiShield case. It fits snuggly and doesn’t obscure any of the buttons. Hopefully now with protection on the front and back of the phone it’ll survive the normal bumps and scrapes most phones are subjected to in daily life.

Next, I set up the desk holder so the phone can rest comfortably in view on my desktop. The angle is easy to see, although it would have been nice to have one that was adjustable.

The car holder is really robust. Others that I have had over time felt really flimsy when taking the phone in and out of the mounting and tended to break after only a short time. This holder seems to be of a higher quality and ready for the hard work of being open and closed every time you mount your phone in the car. The USB power converter for the car is also great, supporting two USB connections that are plainly marked, which is really helpful in the confines of your car.

Another handy item in the pack is the addition charging cable which means I don’t have to keep ripping the one off my desk that came with the phone. I also like that the kit contains a microfiber cleaner to remove all those grotty finger marks I put on the phone. There ain’t nothing like a clean screen.

The only item I’m not quite sure I’ll be using regularly is the all in one stylus. However, it certainly works better than my fat fingers when it comes to stabbing commands into the phone. The redeeming feature of the stylus however is that it also doubles as a mini-stand, which is great for when I’m on the road.

I think a kit like this is mandatory when you buy a new phone, especially for me who uses it all over the place. It is really cheap insurance for the protection of the phone also as an enabler of the device where ever you travel. I’d certainly recommend this accessory pack to other Lumia 950XL users.

Thanks again to Mobilezap for getting me the accessory pack to review.

Mapping a drive to OneDrive for Business


When you visit OneDrive for Business these days you get a ‘simplified’ interface like that shown above. What you may not appreciate is that you can map a network drive to your OneDrive for Business. Doing so makes it easier for people who are familiar with using only drive letters as well as for bulk uploads. Here’s how to do that.


You’ll firstly need to temporarily revert back to the original, or ‘classic’, OneDrive for Business interface. You’ll find an option for that in the lower left of the screen.


Once you’ve selected that you should be a more ‘SharePoint-like” OneDrive for Business interface as shown above. Don’t worry, the next time you visit your OneDrive for Business site it will have reverted back to the new ‘simplified’ interface. The ‘classic’ interface is only valid for the current browsing session.


Even the interface here is somewhat simplified, so to display the Ribbon Menu you’ll need to select the COG in the top right of the screen to reveal a menu as shown above.

From this menu select the first option Ribbon. Doing so will enable the standard SharePoint Ribbon Menu at the top of the page.


Now you should see the additional tabs Browse, Files and Library displayed just above the search box as shown above.

Select Library to reveal the Ribbon Menu.


In the section Connect & Export, select the icon Open with Explorer.


You may be prompted with some security messages like the above. If so, select Allow to permit the connection.


In a moment or two you should see Windows Explorer open with the files from OneDrive listed as shown above.


If you look closely at the directory location you should find it in the format of:

where the users Office 365 login =


If you take a look down in the network area of Windows Explorer you will see the above mapping matching your office 365 tenant details.


You can now map a drive letter to OneDrive for Business. To do this right mouse click on Network and select Map network drive from the menu that appears.


In the Folder field enter the following, substituting your own configuration:


Then press the Finish button.


You will then see the mapped drive and if you select you’ll see the files within from your OneDrive for Business as shown above.

Now, if you reboot your machine without doing anything further the drive will not automatically be reconnected because re-authentication to Office 365 needs to occur. I’ll cover off how to set that up in a future post but for now have a look at this option using PowerShell:

OneDrive Mapper automatically map your OneDrive for Business upon login

As I have said before, the trend is away from static drive letters to plain storage to full collaboration environments. Yes, drive letters may be convenient for those who don;t want to change but I’d suggest they need to phased out because they are so limiting. But that is a topic for another blog post!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Azure for SMB training–Sydney

I’ll be running some training around moving Small Business Server (SBS) environments to Azure and Office 365 at Microsoft North Ryde, Sydney on the morning of Monday the 11th of April from 8.30am. You can register for this event and see more details at:

Register here – 11th April, Sydney

Based on the success of this event it will be held in other locations.

If you are in Sydney and interested in the topic then I hope you’ll support this event by registering and ATTENDING. Doing so will not only provide you with lots of practical information it will allow you to speak with Microsoft reps directly and let them know what type of training you’d like to see in the future (i.e. hands on labs). It will also help the local Microsoft people prove the ROI of the event so they can obtain the funding to run it elsewhere.

I hope to see you there on the day.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Go deep not wide

The business model that many small technology providers followed was simple. Buy stuff, add margin, sell stuff. Then when stuff broke, charge a fee to fix stuff.

That model had inherent flaws. Over time, the stuff tended to not break as much because it became more reliable. Also, the competition to sell stuff heated up and this drove the stuff to being a commodity. This meant that only those who sold the stuff (as it is effective all the same stuff) at the cheapest price got the sale. The cheaper they went, the more they had to sell. Soon the smaller IT business was muscled out of the selling stuff game by large box retailers who only survived by selling massive amounts of stuff.

So now with the nice fat margins on stuff gone and stuff becoming more reliable what was the opportunity that small technology business opted for? They diversified and started selling different stuff. Firstly it is was PC stuff, then it was server stuff, next it was phone system stuff and so on. The belief was that the way to sustainable profitability was by going wider and wider with offerings.

Going wider, unsurprisingly, stretches the business. Now they need to know more about all the stuff they sell. At some point this wide knowledge cannibalises existing knowledge. As the offering gets wider, the knowledge and experience across the range of product decreases and weakens. This decreases results in longer implementations, vulnerability to more skilled providers and generally makes the business operate in a far more frantic mode. In short, it’s a losing game.

If going wider is a losing game what’s a winning strategy? As with most ways to be successful, it is the completely opposite to what you’ll hear from most people. In this case, it is about going deeper. It means niching down. It means focusing on what you do well and doing it even better.

Now the defenders of the old ‘go wide’ model will point out that going deep means far less revenue. Of course it does, because you are selling less. Revenue is irrelevant, business is about PROFIT i.e. what’s left over AFTER you subtract, cost of goods and expenses and taxes. A focus on revenue is purely ego and plenty of businesses with lots of revenue have gone out of business because they generated little profit.

Going wide is also a lazy strategy to pursue. That’s because it adds no value, it simply adds expense. There will always be someone else out there who is willing to charge less margin to get the sale. Thus, it becomes a race to the bottom and long before that point it becomes unsustainable for the small reseller.

Going deep means adding value. It means adding unique value that others can’t add. Of course, you can’t typically take ‘value’ off the shelf, slap it on a product and sell it. You need to invest and develop value. This is what going deep is all about, investing your energies knowing your niche inside out and top to bottom. In the technology game this means you are going to have to dedicate constant resources to staying up to date due to the rate of change. It isn’t an option when you go deep, it is mandatory.

The way that you mitigate the risk of going deep rather than wide is to partner with other going deep on their own complementary niches. Let me give you an example. I don’t do high end CRM. I know there is huge potential there and I could easily make lots of revenue there but I know I don’t have the resources to go deep on the product, so I don’t. What I do is partner with others who have chosen to go deep on CRM. I refer them CRM leads and they refer me productivity leads. We have an agreement so that everyone profits, including the customer who gets a specialist in CRM rather than someone who ‘kinda’ knows the product.

Like the knowledge of going deep with your niche, finding, building and maintaining relationships with other product specialists takes time and energy as well as being something that always needs investment, but doing so allows you to focus and avoid spreading yourself too thin. In a competitive market, it is those who know their niche better than anyone else that win.

The traditional IT reseller model of going wide is dead for only but the largest providers who have volume on their side. This only leaves the option of going deep on a niche as the only strategy that stands any chance of success. Continuing along the old path or failing to make the change is a recipe for termination of the business sooner or later.

We live in a world with information at our finger tips but ask yourself how many people do you know who really have deep knowledge of something? Few have in my experience. Why? Because most allow themselves to be distracted by things that are not adding value. The sheer quality of choice has deceived them into thinking that they might miss something if they go deep and focus. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Just because you have more choice doesn’t mean it gives you more opportunity. Success is defined as the ability to focus on the options that provide the greatest return rather than the greatest distraction.

Simplification is key. Pick the best choice you have and focus on that. Niche down. Niche further. And again. Then finally niche until it hurts. That where you need to be. Now that your world is small become the true master of that domain. Go deep and become the go to person for that to the point whenever they think of that niche they should automatically think of your business. Being a generalist means you’ll be the first one forgotten. However, being a specialist means that you’ll always get the call.

As Mark Twain says:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”

Focus. Go deep. Cultivate relationships with others doing the same. If you do, your chances are much greater than the majority who will one day wonder how the world became so different and why they can’t pull up from the nose dive their technology business is in. However, don’t forget that its going to take hard work to make the change and continue success, but wouldn’t you prefer to put the effort into something that has a chance of success rather than being doomed to failure?

The choice is yours. Over to you.

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 100

Holy flying sharks Batman, the Need to Know Podcast has reached 100 regular episodes! Who would have ever thought back in 2010 when I kicked the podcast off, that I’d still be putting it out? Although the episodes haven’t been as regular as I would have liked over the years I thank everyone who has taken the time to listen and especially those people who have been guests. My guests have given both their time and knowledge to listens which I really appreciate.

So now it is onwards and upwards to the next 100 episodes. If you haven’t already, I’d really appreciate you leaving a review on iTunes or just dropping me a line ( and letting me know what you think and importantly if there is anything I can do to improve the podcast. Once again, thanks to everyone who has supported the podcast over its first 100 episodes and I’ll work hard to make sure the next 100 are even better.

As a follow on from our last episode on Azure storage, Marc and I now focus on the different storage options in Office 365 and how to take advantage of each. We consider best practices for data migrations as well as what experience has taught us when moving information to Office 365.

You can listen to this episode at:

or subscribe to this and all episodes in iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send me any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.


Marc Kean - @marckean

Robert Crane - @directorcia

Azure via CSP

Where to put data in Office 365

Microsoft Build Conference

Azure VMs Backup

Azure Resource Manager Virtual Networks

Office 365 Connectors

A while back I wrote about how Microsoft was bringing PowerApps to Office 365 to provide improved automation and connectivity with information outside Office 365. Microsoft has now extended those options further into Office 365 with the new Office 365 Connectors which it has announced here:

Announcing Office 365 Connectors

Here’s how to set up a connector for Twitter.


From the app launcher navigate to Outlook.


From the options on the left locate the Groups heading. Under that locate the Create option as shown above to create a new group and select.

You can add a connector to an existing group but in the list case I’m going to create a new dedicated group. This allows people to work with this specific information rather than mixing it in with other stuff. However, if you perhaps already have a marketing group, it makes sense to connect these to your favourite external service.


The Office 365 Group creation option now appears on the right. Give the new group an appropriate name (here ‘Twitter’), set the Privacy and finally whether messages from the Group will be sent to members inboxes. Beware of using this option if you expect a lot of information to flow from the external source.

When complete, select Create to continue.


Next, add the desired members to this group by typing their name.

When complete, select Add to continue.


The new group will now be displayed on the screen.


Across the menu at the top of the group select Connectors.


This will open a new Connectors window as shown above.


Scroll down the list until you locate the connector you wish to add. In this case, the Twitter connector is located. Select the Add button.


You’ll now be prompted to login to the external service. Select Sign In to continue.


Enter the details for the service and select Sign In to continue. This authorisation page may vary slightly depending on which external services you are connecting to.


The next configurations will vary depending on the external service you connect to. For Twitter, you can select Twitter accounts to follow (@office365) as well as hastags to follow (here #office365).


You then set the Notification options as well as the Frequency.

When complete, select Save.


You’ll then be returned to the Connectors page where you should see the connectors you just added at the top of the page.


If you select the My Accounts option at the top of the page you will see all the external connectors you have configured as shown above.

You can now close this window and return to the Office 365 Group.


You should now start to see the configured external information start to flow into the conversations for that group as shown above.

So, Office 365 Connectors are a way of bringing in information from external applications into an Office 365 Group. Once there, they can be shared with members of the group as well as being used a source of information to drive conversations. All of this information will also be available on Office 365 mobile apps.

Microsoft’s blog post also mentions that a similar ability to this will soon be brought directly to users inboxes and then to other Office 365 services.

Now combine these new Office 365 Connectors with Delve and you’ll see how rich an information source Office 365 will be, especially as Delve provides a single pane of glass across everything in Office 365, now including these external sources brought in via Office 365 connectors.

Delve should be the centre of your Office 365 universe

Office 365 Connectors is currently only available for those configured for First Release but will soon be standard across all tenants. More connectors to other external sources will also become available.

So go forth and connect I say!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ingram Cloud Elevate Bootcamp 4


I’m doing another session around SharePoint in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in mid-April for Ingram and encourage you to come along. You can register here:


Introduction to Sharepoint Online and Managed Services.

Creating your own repeatable IP is key to maximising profit for every MSP. SharePoint Online within the Office 365 tool box is the perfect platform to start building that. It also serves as great way to introduce your clients to world of possibilities you can help them achieve around automating many of their day to day tasks.

Be it a simple holiday calendar, receipt tracker or even just taking advantage of implementing many of the prebuilt apps, building a templated set of tools you can apply to all your clients allows for high margin implementation and support – plus leading the way to even more the further you get into your client’s business.

Maximize your profits with ConnectWise® CloudConsole™ by reducing time spent managing Office 365 user accounts and time savings from automating the billing process, saving you time counting users and updating agreements. Increase control by proactively monitoring Office 365 services so anytime there is a disruption or outage, you can be alerted to inform your clients.

Join us for the Cloud Elevate Bootcamp to understand how you can enable your customers to automate their business processes using Office 365 SharePoint with Robert Crane, Microsoft MVP. Plus , Jeff Tessier from Connectwise to understand how it can help you automate your Office 365 business.

Topics include:

Session 1:

Introduction to SharePoint Online & OneDrive for Business: Learn how to create and sell a SharePoint Online Intranet, create a site, deploying the site using a template and creating a sales/marketing process around that. This session will help you put in place the building blocks for introducing your clients to Office 365 SharePoint with basic document libraries and workflows and prebuilt apps.

Session 2:

Introduction to Connectwise Cloud Console: ConnectWise® CloudConsole™ is a management, monitoring, and billing tool for Microsoft® Office 365™, built to save you time and reduce the complexity of supporting your clients’ Office 365 licenses.

I hope to see you there.

Improvements in Office 365 Video

I’m a big fan of the productivity benefits that video can provide a business as evidenced by both my YouTube channel and my online training academy. I’m also a huge fan of Office 365 video and am excited by the new updates Microsoft have just announced here:

What’s new – Office 365 video

There are plenty of improvements and a big one for me is the improved upload experience. However, I’ll also point out the improved way with which an Office 365 video can be embedded into a Team Site.


You’ll now see a dedicated Office 365 Video button when you edit a page as shown above.


This will then allow you to select from what has been uploaded to Office 365 video quickly and easily.

Office 365 Video March 1

I also really like the improved statics you can now obtain on each video to help not only determine how popular it is but also how long people actually spend watching the content. That feedback really helps improve the quality of the video.

It really is amazing the depth of tools that Office 365 brings to any business. I think more people need to look at Office 365 Video and the benefits it can provide around on-boarding, training, etc. These improvements from Microsoft are even more reason to start using Office 365 in your business.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Where to put data in Office 365?


Office 365 has lots of choice when it comes to storing corporate information and that confuses many people. The first place to start to avoid confusion is to understand exactly where information can be placed inside Office 365 and whether that information is available to all users or just an individual by default.

Hopefully the above diagram makes things a little bit easier to understand and here’s a breakdown of what it’s all about

The large box that contains everything is Office 365.

The first box in the top left is Exchange Online. This can contain a user’s personal mailbox (which is private), shared mailboxes (which are public) and public folders (which are public). Into the Exchange box you normally store emails shared between the three smaller boxes within.

The second box on the top row in the middle is SharePoint. This contains OneDrive for Business (which is private), Team Sites (which is public) and Video (which is public). Into the SharePoint box you normally store files shared between the three smaller boxes within.

The box in the top right of the first row is Yammer into which goes conversations (or discussions) that are public.

The box on the left in the bottom row is Office 365 Groups which are composed of a public shared mailbox and a public shared OneDrive for Business. Thus, any information that goes into the Office 365 Groups box will be public. Into the Groups box you normally store files and emails that should to be stored together because they relate to a single topic.

The box on the right in the bottom row is Office 365 Planner which is comprised of public Groups and public Tasks. Thus, any information that goes into Planner will be public. Into Planner you normally store files, emails and tasks that need to be stored together (i.e projects) because they relate to a single topic.

As you can see by the colour scheme, green is shared information amongst the business while red is private information unique to an individual user.

Of course you don’t need to use every storage location in Office 365 that is available to you immediately and your usage locations may also change over time. Best practice is to start with information in Exchange, then expand into Office 365 Groups, then Planner, then SharePoint and finally Yammer. The important thing to remember is that Office 365 gives you lots of choice of where to save your information, it is up to you to work out what makes the most sense for your business.

Hopefully, that makes a little easier to understand when it comes to determining where to put different types of information. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or contacting me directly (

Azure AD Connect is NOT supported on SBS

Been getting a few questions about integrating existing SBS servers with Office 365. The bad news is:

Azure AD Connect cannot be installed on Small Business Server or Windows Server Essentials. The server must be using Windows Server standard or better.


Azure AD Connect is supported on a Domain Controller (DC) just not on SBS (it won’t actually install in my experience). This means that you’ll need to factor in a separate members server to install Azure AD Connect so you can synchronise the users to Office 365.

Make sure you consult that link for all the other requirements for Azure AD Connect as well!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Open vs Closed

One of the biggest battles that I continue to wage with myself is around altering my mindset. Previously, I will readily admit that I had a very closed mindset when it came to opportunities. Everything was more of a burden than an opportunity. This is partly genetic, partly environmental and partly life choices. Unfortunately, for many years I cultivated a closed mindset and this has certainly lead to missed opportunities that I rue in hindsight.

Even after becoming aware of this mental limitation I still struggle with looking at things with a truly open mindset, however I continue to work hard on that limitation. The biggest differentiator now is that I am fully aware of my ‘default’ mindset option and have disciplined myself to be more circumspect when it arises. This means stepping back and questioning my view of the situation and asking whether I am judging it fairly on its merits or simply reverting back to character without appropriate and pragmatic consideration.

With this new discipline of trying to move towards an open mindset I have become far more aware of how many people I come across that are like I was all that time ago. I can now see more clearly that the peers I was closely involved also had a very rigid closed mindset, which I believed reinforced my own. No doubt mine also reinforced others and continued the cycle of closed aspects.

Now however, I am amazed at the number of people I come across, especially in the IT game, that have a totally closed mind set and, like I used to be, are totally unaware of it. A great example are the new Cloud PBX and PSTN connectivity features that are coming to Skype for Business in Office 365. When I speak about these abilities and potential all I seem to hear is how they are not worth investigating until they are completely available.

This attitude is clearly one of a closed mind. One that fears change as well as the challenge that may be involved in learning something new. An open mindset would see the huge opportunity that it could provide and want to be at forefront of the change. It is truly amazing at how polarised these attitudes are when you can observe them from a distance.

Now I fully appreciate that not everything turns out as planned and there will always be set backs and challenges, yet to an open mindset these are always opportunities to learn and grow. They are simply steps on the path to success. Being of an open mindset doesn’t mean you ignore reality but it does means that you don’t let some minor excuse prevent you exploring the opportunities available.

As I said, I still struggle with truly having an open mindset as my default state. However, I am certainly now more aware of when my mind is closing down an opportunity simply by reflex. The more I look, the more opportunities I see and that has been a conscious journey that I have undertaken over the years. I therefore encourage you to stop and consider what your default mindset is configured for. If it isn’t already on the open side of the ledger maybe it’s time to consider what opportunity lies in a place where everything is not a burden!

Remember, your mindset is something that you alone cultivate and control. It influences everything you do. My advice? Work hard to open yourself up rather than living a life of being scared of what change may bring. That won’t be easy, but then, nothing that is worthwhile ever is now is it?

The first step in changing your mindset maybe to look at the people you spend the most time with. What is their mindset? Is their default influencing you? I know it was for me, that’s why I stepped outside my comfort zone and changed those I most associated with. I’ll guarantee, cultivating an open mindset will change your life for the better. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 99

Marc and I speak have a chat about Azure storage. We look at all the different ways that you can save data into Azure and discuss the best options for your needs. We look at things like SMB File shares, tables and blob storage as some tips and tricks on how to make the most of what Azure has to offer with storage and how to keep your costs down.

You can listen to this episode at:

or subscribe to this and all episodes in iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send me any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.


Creating Azure SMB File shares

Azure SMB file share price and performance

Azure storage

Azure storage documentation

Introduction to Azure storage

Azure storage team blog

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to fix the inability to sync Team Sites with Next Gen sync client

The unfortunate thing is not that Microsoft recently update Team Sites to 1TB of storage but it hasn’t as yet brought the ability to sync Team Sites to the Next Gen sync client.

You can find all the details on the Next Gen Sync client here:

Meet the OneDrive for Business Next Generation Sync Client

Getting Started wit the OneDrive for Business Generation Sync Client in Windows

Deploying the OneDrive for Business Next Generation Sync Client in an enterprise environment

This inability to sync Team Sites is causing a lot of frustration in the field and the inability to sync Team Sites has recently been announced in the roadmap map, but for many it can’t come soon enough.

If you want to do something more than simply shake with rage about this and other issues you are experiencing with the sync client I suggest you visit the OneDrive User Voice:

and vote up the items you want given priority. Also don’t be shy about leaving a comment as to the impact this is having for your business.

If you want the new sync client to support Team Sites then throw as much of your votes here:

Once you voted, pass the link onto others and get them to vote.

This is the most effective method of effecting change with the Next Gen sync client because just being frustrated doesn’t. You need to take action to effect change.

So if you want to fix the Next Gen Sync client, take action and encourage others to do the same. Vote,comment and then share this post.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I’m totally blown away with what’s coming with Skype for Business

If you have ANY interest in Office 365 and especially Skype you MUST watch the above keynote presentation from Microsoft. Only then are you going to get an idea of how huge Skype for Business is going to be in the very near future.

I then suggest you have a read of the following blog post:

Pay special attention to the section on Project Rigel.

After doing both of these things I defy you not be totally blown away with what Microsoft is doing with Office 365 and Skype for Business.


Here are some screen grabs of the single pane of glass Office 365 will bring to Skype for Business calls, over the Internet and the standard PSTN network.


You can drill into areas to measure load versus call quality, allowing you to optimise your performance.


You can also drill into any call and get information like that shown above as well as easily see the live stats (shown across the top of the page).


You can then drill into an individual user to get a dashboard of all their communications inside and outside the organisation as shown above.


And just to really blow your mind the above screen shows pretty much live transcriptions of Skype for Business meetings into a variety of foreign languages.

Believe me, take the time to watch the Microsoft keynote presentation. I guarantee it will blow your mind. It has also made me even more excited about what’s coming for Skype for Business and Office 365.

Roll on Office 365 Cloud PBX.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Migrating On Premises SharePoint to Office 365

A very common request I receive is about migrating an on-premises SharePoint installation (typically Companyweb on Small Business Server) to Office 365. I have done a few previous blog posts on the topic but I think it is time to revisit this topic and share the challenges and ways I have overcome these.

Start fresh

The initial starting point for any SharePoint migration should always be asking the question, is it quicker, easier and better to start from scratch? Most smaller on premises SharePoint installations don’t contain a lot of data and have generally been thrown together in a very ad hoc manner. In this case, it is probably best to consider the migration to Office 365 SharePoint Online as an opportunity for a ‘fresh beginning’.

Any SharePoint environment should be governed by a least a little planning and forethought, which I can assure you will pay huge dividends down the track. So, if you are starting again, take a moment to do some planning and understand exactly what you want from SharePoint Online using the experience you have gained from previous on premises installation.

Copying files

As the size and complexity of local installations of SharePoint grows so too does the reluctance to start again, which is totally understandable. However, it is important that in most cases you can’t simply ‘move’ SharePoint for reasons I’ll go into shortly. You can however ‘move’ file data by simply mapping a drive to the source and destination and copying / pasting between locations. the downside of using this method is that you are going to only bring the files across, not any of the associated properties such as previous versions, check ins, workflows, etc. However, if SharePoint has simply been used as a document dumping ground then just map a location using Windows Explorer for the source and destination, then drag and drop between them.

To get a better understanding of how to map a drive in SharePoint have a look at my video:

Uploading documents to SharePoint Online


More complex SharePoint sites also typically contain other things such as calendars, contact lists, announcements and so on. These can’t generally be copied directly across they need to be migrated.

If you are migrating between identical versions of SharePoint i.e. 2013 on premises to Office 365, then you can template the source elements, including the data contained within, and then import into the destination. A fairly arduous task if there are are lots of different elements but provided you have SharePoint 2013 on premises the process is pretty straight forward.

This video of mine will give you a basic idea of how to template a site:

Saving a SharePoint Online site as a template

Migrating between different versions of SharePoint

The challenge arises when you DON’T have SharePoint 2013 on premises. This is the case with Small Business Server (SBS) which has SharePoint Foundation 2010 (SBS 2011), Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (SBS 2008) and Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 ( SBS 2003). The rule with SharePoint is that you can’t take a template from one version and use it on another version. Thus, you can’t take a template of something from SharePoint Foundation 2010 and import it directly into Office 365, it needs to be migrated.

The first solution to this problem is to upgrade the on premises version of SharePoint to SharePoint 2013 so it matches that in Office 365. For SharePoint Foundation 2010 this means a single upgrade to SharePoint Foundation 2013, However for WSS v3 this means 2 migrations, the first to SharePoint Foundation 2010 and the second to SharePoint Foundation 2013 and then to Office 365. You can probably guess the story for the upgrade of WSS v2.0. It needs to be migrated to WSS v3, then 2010, then 2013 and then to Office 365.

SBS is also a special case (as it always is) in that you should NOT be upgrading it as it will break everything. Thus, doing an in place upgrade is not an option for SBS (and besides SharePoint 2013 no longer supports in place upgrades).

Typically this on premises migration is done using a database swing process which basically copies the old database to a new SharePoint server installation and then attaches it using a command line option. During this process the old database is upgraded to the new SharePoint version. if you want to learn more about this database attach method I suggest you consult my freely available comprehensive SharePoint Guides at:

SharePoint Foundation 2010 Guide

Windows SharePoint Services Guide

Thus, an upgrade from WSS v3 is going to mean two database swing migrations even before attempting to got to Office 365.

It is important to be aware that any SharePoint migration from an old version will never be prefect. Some features (if utilised in the old version) are not available in the never version. The main change is the fact that things look very different when you migrate SharePoint versions doing a database swing.

Third party tools

The better way to approach the migration process is to use a third party tool that will not only move the data but also upgrade the information on the fly. I have spoken previously about some options I have used:

Migrating from Companyweb to Office 365 SharePoint

but by far and away the best is Sharegate. It is very simply to use, yet extremely powerful to use. It truly makes migration from previous versions a breeze.

A good example, is that I recently used Sharegate to migrate from a 12 year old on premises WSS v2 installation to Office 365 with success. It wasn’t exactly straight forward but Sharegate made life so much easier than doing it any other way.

The challenge with Companyweb

There still remains a challenge with SBS systems because third party tools like Sharegate require direct access to the SharePoint site. This works fine if you are on premises running Sharegate from a workstation on the network but what if you want to do it remotely like I was? It’s simple. You can’t without major changes to SBS and your local firewall configuration because Companyweb is effectively hidden behind Remote Web Workplace (RWW), meaning there is no easily way to provide direct access.

The solution was going to be to copy the SharePoint site to a new stand alone server that was configured to be directly on the Internet and then use Sharegate. This is going to mean the need to run a copy of WSS v3 somewhere.

A while back I detailed how I used to do this using on premises virtual machines hosted on a laptop but I now had this set up in Azure:

I finally get Azure

What I have there is two things I need to complete this task. Firstly, I have a demo WSS v3 machine, fully patched and secondly I have a workstation on which I have Sharegate installed.

Thus, the next task to accomplish was getting the WSS v3 server in Azure up and running with the data from the on premises SBS instance. This meant getting a copy of the on premises SharePoint databases and attaching them to the WSS v3 installation in Azure. The trick was getting the on premises SharePoint database into Azure given that it was a few gigabytes.

The solution to this upload problem is relatively easy. What I did was create an Azure SMB file share per:

Creating an Azure SMB fileshare

and had the on premises SharePoint databases uploaded here by simply mapping a drive letter to Azure from a local workstation.

Once the database was in Azure I simply mapped that same SMB file sshare to my WSS v3 Azure virtual machine and copied the databases to the appropriate location on the virtual machine. I then attached these uploaded databases to WSS v3. Once complete, I then had a direct copy of the on premises SharePoint server but now directly accessible via the Internet.

I then fired up my Azure VM with a copy of Sharegate on it. I connected Sharegate to the source WSS v3 site, now in Azure, and the destination Office 365 SharePoint Online. I configured Sharegate appropriately and then stepped back to let it do its magic.

You may be asking, why didn’t you just run Sharegate on you local machine? Why do you need to use a virtual machine hosted in Azure to run the migration tool? Here’s why kids. I learnt during an early SharePoint migration that things ALWAYS take far longer than you expect. In my case I was on the client’s premises still doing the migration as the end of day approached. I couldn’t easily leave because that would mean stopping the migration and returning when they reopened, since I would need to power off my local workstation. I therefore figured out that if I did everything in an Azure virtual machine I could simply disconnect and leave the VM running and not interrupt the migration. I could then easily relocate elsewhere and reconnect to the still running migration session. Much more flexible I think you’ll agree, so that’s the way I do all migrations now. You gotta love Azure don’t you?

Once the Sharegate migration was complete, I checked the logs and the destination. I then let the client know that the migration was complete and they should check the result to ensure they were happy. Of course there still things that will need to be fixed because the source site did things not supported in SharePoint 2013 and used bad practices like direct URL links, but these are relatively minor problems and easily rectified. In one swoop, the site was upgraded from WSS v3 to SharePoint 2013 and moved to Office 365. The power of third party tool ins action. Thank you Sharegate.

Sharegate is a fantastic tool but the its only downside is the fact that it is rather expensive. This puts it out of the reach of most small businesses and resellers, especially if they only need to do a single migration. I have put a case to Sharegate that they look at a cheaper offer for SMB. Hopefully they’ll be open to that but in my opinion, Sharegate is the premier tool for SharePoint migrations, bar none.

Migrating on premises SharePoint to Office 365 is a challenge and there are many ways of approaching it (SBS even more so). To do a complete content migration in one swoop you’ll need a third party tool, and I have said, my recommendation is Sharegate. However, if you don’t have the skill set to do this or find Sharegate a bit beyond your budget then you really need to contact me ( so I can help you. Hopefully, as you can tell from this post, I do this sort of thing a lot and have the tools and set up to streamline the process and therefore make it far more cost effective for those smaller and one off migrations. So don’t be afraid to contact me directly ( for advice and assistance for your on premises to Office 365 SharePoint migration. I’m here to help.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I ask for your support

I have been wondering about the best way that I can ask for support from people who receive benefit from all the stuff I create for free like this blog, my YouTube channel, the Need to Know podcast and more. Of course there are my publications as well as my online courses but they may not appeal to everyone.

What I have therefore created is a patron page at:

on which you’ll find the following support levels (per month)

$2 per month- pledge two dollars a month as a way of saying "I want to support you and help you focus on creating more content". Backers at this level get the rights to say to friends "I supported CIAOPS and what they do."

$10 per month - Pledge ten dollars a month and you'll receive access to my restricted Facebook support group that will answer your questions on Office 365, Azure and other Microsoft cloud technologies. You'll get 25% discount off any one of my online courses per month. You'll get access to the monthly recorded support webinar. You'll get 50% discount off any one of my existing paid publications.

$50 per month - Pledge fifty dollars a month and you'll receive access to my restricted Facebook support group that will answer your questions on Office 365, Azure and other Microsoft Cloud technologies. You'll get 50% discount off an one of my online courses per month. You'll receive an invite to attend live my monthly support webinar that will answer questions and demonstrate Microsoft cloud technologies as well as receive access to the recording. You'll also receive free access to all my existing paid publications and any new paid publications I create.

$100 per month - Pledge one hundred dollars a month and you'll receive access to my restricted Facebook support group that will answer your questions on Office 365, Azure and other Microsoft Cloud technologies. You'll get 80% discount off an one of my online courses per month. You'll receive an invite to attend live my monthly support webinar that will answer questions and demonstrate Microsoft cloud technologies as well as receive access to the recording. You'll also receive free access to all my existing paid publications and any new paid publications I create. You will also receive a monthly one on one remote consulting session for training or problem solving.

My aim is to hopefully get enough regular monthly income so I can focus a good part of my time on creating more and deeper content for people. I am really keen to take a lot of the stuff that I do to the next level but to do so I need some funding to allow me to pay the bills while I focus on creating content.

So, if you like the stuff that I do then I’d really appreciate your patronage at any level. Every little bit helps.

Thank you.