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.

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

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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.

Where to put data in Office 365?

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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 (director@ciaops.com).

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.

per:

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/active-directory-aadconnect-prerequisites/

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!

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?

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:

http://ciaops.podbean.com/e/episode-99-azure-storage/

or subscribe to this and all episodes in iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/ciaops-need-to-know-podcasts/id406891445?mt=2

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ciaops/need-to-know-podcast?refid=stpr

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

Resources

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

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:

https://onedrive.uservoice.com/

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:

https://onedrive.uservoice.com/forums/262982-onedrive/suggestions/10026033-new-sync-client-must-support-team-sites

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.

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

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

http://bcove.me/9qvqbhlw

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:

https://blogs.office.com/2016/03/09/expanding-the-reach-of-skype-for-business-meetings-and-voice-services-in-office-365/

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.

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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.

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

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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).

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

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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.

http://bcove.me/9qvqbhlw

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

Templating

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 (director@ciaops.com) 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 (director@ciaops.com) for advice and assistance for your on premises to Office 365 SharePoint migration. I’m here to help.

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