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SharePoint or Office 365 – OneDrive for Business fits All

OneDrive

SkyDrive or OneDrive, SharePoint, Yammer, lync - where to start? what to install for users? Which to use when? Many of us go through these questions when facing customers or when looking to provide the best service to our internal users. So much information is flowing around the web but its always tough to assimilate in one place and get a holistic view of all these services. So I thought, why not create a series on Office 365 explaining each of these services in depth helping our technical and business users to make informed decision.

As first part of this series I wrote about how moving to Office 365 can help you utilize various channels and services. And today I am going to dive deeper into the benefits, limitations, features of OneDrive for Business (ODFB) and many things you didn’t know even existed.                                                

What is OneDrive for Business

A cloud service which provides personal library intended for storing and organizing your work documents.

Where can I get it?

It comes part of SharePoint 2013 on premise or if you are on Office 365 you can buy subscription plan. Remember even though it comes part of on prem SP 2013 the service still runs on Microsoft cloud. Check the table below for latest pricing and comparable features of OneDrive personal and OneDrive for Business.

Space & Features
OneDrive
OneDrive for Business
Initial Space7GB Free25GB for $2.50 user/month
Additionalup to 10GB Free (by activating camera roll backup and inviting friends)$0.20 per GB
+50GB$25 annually$0.20 per GB
+100GB$50 annually$0.20 per GB
+200GB$100 annually$0.20 per GB
Desktop Syncing, Mobile Access, create/edit office docs in browser, integration with office desktop, automatic versioning and history of documentsAvailableAvailable
Auditing & Reporting, advanced administrationNoAvailable
MFA (multi factor authentication)NoAvailable
SSO/ADFS/Dir SyncNoAvailable
Standard ComplianceNoAvailable

Tell me more about OneDrive for Business and how can I integrate it within my business?

Last week Microsoft announced a standalone version of ODFB. This actually makes it a very strong contender for piloting new businesses with the standalone version and later upgrading to comprehensive plans. here are some interesting facts you probably did not know:yipee

  • One not so publicly available fact is that you can ONLY upgrade standalone version to Office 365 E Family plan.
  • Microsoft announced OneDrive for Business Sync for Mac client will be coming by end of 2014. Review it here: Mac Client
  • Multi factor Authentication (MFA) - Multi-factor authentication increases the security of user logins for cloud services above and beyond just a password. With Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365, users are required to acknowledge a phone call, text message, or an app notification on their smartphone after correctly entering their password. Only after this second authentication factor has been satisfied can a user sign in. Which means if you are on one of the Office 365 plans and using ODFB you automatically can make use of MFA.
  • How to integrate SharePoint 2010 or 2013 on premise with ODFB? – OneDrive for Business redirection can be accomplished with SharePoint 2010 – while SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 adds a native configuration option in Central Administration, in 2010 you can use Trusted My Site Host locations to redirect users personal site (OneDrive for Business) to Office 365.
  • What happens to user data when a provisioned user account is removed (e.g. sabbatical)  but then re provisioned at a later date- Data stays cached and is not remove, although the period for which it stays is unconfirmed.
  • A user can have OneDrive for Business and OneDrive personal side by side w/o any issues of sharing as they both are separate consumer offerings
  • Security and Compliance - Microsoft’s focus on security spans hardware, software, the physical security of their datacenters, policies and controls, and verification by independent auditors. They break it down it in two categories a) Customer Controls b) built in security. Built-in security represents all the measures that Microsoft takes on behalf of all Office 365 customers to protect your information and run a highly available service. Customer controls are features that enable you to customize Office 365 to meet the specific needs of your organization. You can get details about both types of security features from the Security whitepaper in the Office 365 Trust Center which outlines Microsoft’s practices, compliance criteria, and more. The one concern I keep hearing from my clients is whether the document stored in OneDrive be safe and not allowed to be downloaded to personal devices. That’s a very valid concern and solution to that is Microsoft Rights Management in Office 365. This policy is attached to the document/data, so it applies no matter where your information lives, downloaded or emailed-it travels with the document. Rights Management lets you assign policies to email, SharePoint Online libraries, individual Office documents, and more. It’s available as part of Office 365 E3 & E4 plans but could be added to E1 and A2. Office team has more  information about this topic here
  • Desktop Syncing - You can sync ODFB or SharePoint site libraries to your computer and then access your library files in File Explorer instead of in a web browser even OFFLINE. All updates sync to OneDrive for Business or site libraries whenever you’re online. Because I personally have had some syncing problems (keep this link handy sync) due to which I will caution you to fully resolve any syncing issues or risk exposing your confidential content.  Take an example of a user who encounters issues with the sync client and later departs the organization leaving your administrator to figure out how to get his data out of the cloud. Now once you have sync issues it might be tough to recover leading to your sensitive data being exposed.
  • Can you pre provision OneDrive for Business spaces for users? – Yes. Take an example where you are migrating from earlier versions of SharePoint MySites or other storage/collaboration platform and you do not want to wait for a user to click on the generated ODFB link (imagine waiting on 1000′s of users….ha!) to initiate the provisioning, in that case you can use CSOM or Office Apps to pre provision. Microsoft community is helping us get there, check these links : CSOM & AMS
  • Item and Sync Limits – There has been a lot of confusion especially due to SharePoint library limits being different from ODFB. OneDrive for Business allows 20,000 item sync whereas SP library allows 5,000 item sync, that means if you go over that limit your library breaks.  If you go over 5,000 items in all folders you will lose some administrative capabilities such as setting permissions, creating indexed columns, and configuring the document library. You can
    however, have more than 5,000 items if done correctly (nested sub folders) and you don’t need to modify any settings after you pass that threshold.  There
    is a view threshold for “viewing” – but, for syncing it’s 20,000. A possible solution is to turn on metadata based navigation, and configure the most important columns as either key filters or hierarchies. That has the effect of making it really easy to create selective queries over large lists, and has built in fallback behavior for times when the user accidently selects too large a data set. Microsoft has extensive documentation on designing large lists here.
  • Migrate Data from Google Drive – No out of the box support but tons of third party vendors, one notable is Metavis
  • Sharing – The documents and folders you store in OneDrive for Business are private until you decide to share them. When you share documents and folders, you can decide whether to let people edit them, or just view them. You can send onetime doc requests to external users from ODFB today. Check here & here to learn how to.
  • Start yammer conversation from within OneDrive for Business document – Click “Post” in the document callout and communicate with your peers right from within the context of that document, and improve the discoverability of deliverables. Here is a great post by Christophe Fiessinger on the office blog

yammer-onedrive1

  • Nice blog about redirection of OneDrive for Business to O365 – TechNet Article
  • Everyone gets 25GB for everything – primarily files, but could be for sub sites and lists within the personal site. You are not able to set it below 25GB, and can up it in increments (50GB, 100GB, 250GB, 500GB, and 1024GB); review this latest blog about new scale for storage: Tenant Storage . Remember the my root site in the SPO admin center does not relate to individual users’ personal aforementioned quota. You can adjust the root site’s quota like any other site collection in SPO admin center, but it is not entirely necessary beyond the design elements common to everyone’s personal site (like the About Me page).
  • One recent announcement from Microsoft was around OWA and OneDrive integration- Outlook Web App now includes full integration with OneDrive for Business, allowing you to easily share files stored in the cloud as attachments in your email. There are two ways you can share a file with Outlook Web App and OneDrive for
    Business: 1. When you send an attachment from your computer or device you can now automatically upload the file to your OneDrive cloud drive and send it as a link and 2. You can also easily attach a file directly from your OneDrive cloud drive when sending an email in Outlook Web App. Both these methods makes it possible to change permissions on the document from within the email irrespective of permissions set in SharePoint library or OneDrive for Business folder. Screenshots below will give you some idea of how powerful this is and it ties directly with the Information Rights we discussed earlier. read evolution of email for more details

owaattach1

 owaattach2

owaattach3

But just like any other product, ODFB also have limitations. The good news is that Microsoft has most on their roadmap for this year. oh no

  • Share Folder – Google drive allows you to share folder while OneDrive for Business does not- although you can use “Shared for everyone” folder to drag drop your files. This actually is a killer for many when it comes to adoption – users don’t want to have to share each document one at a time.
  • Not possible to sync an individual document inside a folder
  • Yammer Group docs do NOT show up in your OneDrive for Business ‘shared with me’ folder – This one is very near on the roadmap
  • Synchronization of SharePoint team site content is limited to WIN32 client

Hopefully you were able to see the horsepower and value OneDrive for Business adds to your business in form of sharing & collaboration while maintaining the parameters of security and compliance. At the end of the day we all need to realize that the real value of these products lies in utilizing technology, process, and people to build a community where collaboration can thrive.

SharePoint Hybrid Architectures Introduction

Hybrid SharePoint environments combine deployments of SharePoint on premise with SharePoint Online. There are many different flavors of hybrid scenarios. In this post I will walk you through some of the terminology and explain the different options.

The goal of any hybridization is to leverage the strengths of both parts, while minimizing the components’ weaknesses.  Hybrid SharePoint environments enable organizations to realize a higher degree of flexibility than forcing a choice between either an on-premises or cloud model.  Organizations can start to achieve the benefits associated with the use of cloud computing coupled with the customization, flexibility, and tight data governance of an on-premises system; while delivering a consistent experience to users.

IC713121Although cloud solutions are most certainly recommended, the cloud simply does not work for every organization and every scenario. There are going to be workloads that are not perfect fits for the cloud. In those instances, it’s totally ok to leave those workloads on premise. Here are some scenarios where hybrid solutions are useful:

  • Rapid provisioning of new workloads on Office 365 while maintaining existing on-premises workloads
  • Organizations wishing to migrate workloads from an existing on-premises environment to the cloud over time in a phased approach
  • Organizations wanting to supplement their cloud environment with additional features or customizations which are currently only possible on-premises
  • Compliance or data sovereignty reasons which might stipulate certain data be hosted in a particular location

SharePoint Online offers many features which can aid an organization in deploying a robust hybrid environment. Most hybrid environments today will utilize SharePoint 2013 on premise. All of the information you will find on TechNet will be specific to the 2013 version. For purposes of this post, that’s where we’ll focus, however we do have customers utilizing hybrid environments with SharePoint 2010 and 2007.

A hybrid SharePoint environment can enable enterprise users to:

  • Search for content in both SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online at once
  • Interact with on-premises business data from SharePoint Online
  • Access corporate SAP systems from SharePoint Online
  • Seamlessly access files and data in both SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online

Additionally, a hybrid SharePoint environment can provide greater flexibility in your content management strategy by allowing you to keep sensitive data on-premises while migrating other content to the cloud.

Microsoft supports 3 types of Hybrid topologies for SharePoint:

Hybrid Topology
Supported Functionality
One-way outboundSharePoint Server 2013 Search services can query the SharePoint Online search index and return federated results to SharePoint Server 2013 Search.
One-way inboundSharePoint Online Search services can query the SharePoint Server 2013 search index and return federated results to SharePoint Online Search.
Two-wayBoth SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online Search services can query the search index in the other environment and return federated results.

A one-way inbound hybrid topology enables SharePoint Online to request data from a SharePoint Server 2013 web application. In order for inbound data connections to occur, a web application in the SharePoint Server 2013 must be published to the Internet with an internet-routable URL. This requires the deployment of a reverse proxy device that is configured to securely accept the inbound connection and relay the request to SharePoint Server 2013.

Conversely, a one-way outbound hybrid topology only supports trusted connections from SharePoint Server 2013 to a SharePoint Online web application. Because web applications in SharePoint Online are already configured with an internet-routable URL, SharePoint Server 2013 can connect directly through an existing corporate firewall or forward proxy like any other request to an Internet server.

One-way outbound: An outbound authentication topology lets the on-premises SharePoint Server 2013 farm make authenticated connections to SharePoint Online. Connections to SharePoint Online that originate from SharePoint Server 2013 are referred to as outbound connections.

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One-way inbound: An inbound authentication topology lets SharePoint Online make authenticated connections to the on-premises SharePoint Server 2013 farm. Connections to SharePoint Server 2013 that originate from SharePoint Online are referred to as inbound connections.

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Two-way: A two-way authentication topology lets SharePoint Online make authenticated connections to the on-premises SharePoint Server 2013 farm, and lets the on-premises SharePoint Server 2013 farm make authenticated connections to SharePoint Online.

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Each available hybrid solution requires a specific hybrid topology. Your choice of which hybrid topology to use is based on a combination of what you need to do, the solution you need, your on-premises SharePoint architecture, and the desired user experience. For example, if you want users of your on-premises SharePoint Server 2013 farm to see both local and SharePoint Online results, you might only need a one-way outbound hybrid topology. If you want users to see both sets of search results regardless of the location of the search portal, you will need a two-way topology.

Before you make a decision, collect and consider the information that will frame your business requirements, such as:

  • Do your users need to be able to search, find, and use on-premises content and data while they’re in the field or at a branch office?
  • Do your remote users need to securely access data from existing on-premises business systems?
  • Is it more cost effective to deploy a hybrid environment, or move your SharePoint content and applications to the cloud entirely?
  • Are there legal or regulatory considerations that could affect your decision on where to store business data?
  • Does your SharePoint Server 2013 farm contain custom code that cannot be easily migrated to SharePoint Online?

As is true for the rollout of any major technology solution, the successful deployment of a hybrid environment is largely dependent on the thoroughness of the design and planning process. You should carefully consider and clearly define your requirements and business goals, and review the constraints of your existing SharePoint environment. Also, take time to consider the technical requirements of deploying and managing the different hybrid topologies. Informed by this information, you can decide which SharePoint hybrid solution or solutions are appropriate for you, and which topology is required to support them.

For more information, contact Perficient and one our certified cloud specialists can help you deploy a SharePoint Hybrid environment. Also, visit TechNet for more details on the above information. Stay tuned to this blog for more information, I’ll be writing more in depth blogs on Hybrid Architectures.

Yammer Interface – April 2014

The Yammer team continually measures user interaction on their web site. Analysis of this data and suggestions for improvement lead to minor updates to the user interface over time. You can read more about their process here. Through their A/B testing and rapid deployment process thanks to their cloud infrastructure, enhancements essentially appear overnight instead of through service packs. This week, Yammer released an updated user interface. Here is a quick recap of some of the changes as features have moved.

YammerFunctional Changes

  • The More link contained a number of menu items for bookmarking, topics and conversation management like View, Hide and Delete. This menu is no longer at the bottom of the post next to the Like, Reply and Share links. It has moved to the upper left corner of the post area and is displayed as an ellipse (…). Since the More menu is in a new location and people have asked about how they do some these tasks, let’s also take a little time to run through the items in this menu.
    • Follow In Inbox – this allows you to receive Inbox notifications when the thread is updated. This is useful when you are interested in following the discussion, but have not participated or not been @ mentioned.
    • View Conversation – loads the conversation in the current page. It does not expand all of the replies in the thread, which I think would be a great feature if you are loading a single thread into a page.
    • Hide Conversation – removes the conversation from your view. It will reappear if you are @ mentioned by another person or directly reply to the conversation. How do you reply to a conversation hidden from your view you may ask? The conversation would still be available via search as it is only hidden from the timeline view.
    • Add Topics – to help categorize a thread, you can add topics without having to directly making a reply.
    • Bookmark – use this to flag threads you want to find again quickly. Bookmarked threads can then be found on your profile page under the More tab. Click the More tab and select Bookmarks for a display of the ones you have created. Also, once the thread is bookmarked, an Unbookmark item is available in this menu, which will remove it from the bookmark list.
    • Email me – sends you an email with the contents of the thread.
    • Delete – if you have permission, you can delete the post. To have permission you need to be a group admin where the post is located, a Yammer admin (network or verified), or the person who created the post.

    One last note on the More menu item. The information above is only for the More menu item located in the first post of a thread. There is still a More menu item in each of the replies. This reply specific More menu contains Email Me and Delete only.

Visual changes

  • The background of the page is now a light gray instead of white.
  • Each conversation sits in its own box instead of being separated by the horizontal line. This is similar to the presentation in the Windows 8 Yammer application.
  • The gray shaded box for the replies is replaced with a simple horizontal line.
  • Topics no longer appear in ‘tag’ like image. They appear as text with a small tag icon.
  • The new messages button that appears when a post is made but not yet displayed on the page is bigger. Since the background is now all gray, it is a simple blue outline box.

Here is a screenshot of the new look Yammer page.

Overall, I like the new look. I also think the location of the functionality is more in line with how additional, but seldom used contextual items are displayed in Yammer and the rest Office platform.

Happy Yammering!

Posted in Yammer

The most important announcement from Build

Screen-Shot-2014-04-02-at-1.01.26-PM-640x314

Now that the 2014 Microsoft Build conference  is over, we can look back and analyze the announcements made at this event. Sure, there was plenty of cool stuff announced: Windows Phone 8.1 with all of it’s amazing features (Cortana is looking to dominate the personal assistant market), Windows 8.1 update 1 which is bringing  many improvements to traditional desktop users, new Azure pricing levels, open sourcing of .NET compiler and more. But I think the most important announcement of all was the new Windows pricing.

Fort the first time ever, Windows (all flavors of it, including Windows Phone) will be available to OEMs for free, as long as the size of the device screen is less than 9 inches. This announcement is definitely a seismic shift in the way Microsoft conducts business. For many years, Windows was a  cash cow for Microsoft and now Microsoft is letting this cow run free (at least for smaller devices). So, why Microsoft is doing this?

In the past couple of years Microsoft proclaimed itself to be a “devices and services” company which represents a major shift from Microsoft’s past as a software development corporation. That direction is definitely getting even more support from Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. As a device and services company Microsoft should be driving more revenue from devices (Surface series, coming Nokia phones) and services (Azure, Bing, Office 360, Sharepoint Online).

By making Windows available for free for smaller devices Microsoft is enabling OEMs to directly compete with Google’s offerings (Android and ChromeOS) which Google also give away for free.

Another announcement which goes hand-in-hand with free Windows is the introduction of a “universal Windows apps”, allowing developer to build applications which will run on Windows, Windows Phone and even the XBox. Combined with less expensive Windows devices these universal apps should contribute to the expansion of a Windows ecosystem, increasing demand for Microsoft services and boosting Microsoft revenue.

Pervasive Data in Microsoft’s Cloud OS

As early as the beginning of this year, Microsoft began positioning their “Cloud OS” concept, based on the pillars of Windows Server and Microsoft (formerly Windows) Azure.  This perspective on the spectrum of Microsoft’s offerings casts Cloud OS as a giant next generation operating system, with all the scope and scalability that cloud computing offers.

Pervasive Data in Microsoft's Cloud OSComplementary to Windows Server and Microsoft Azure, additional supporting technologies provide services like identity management (Active Directory and Azure AD), built-in virtualization capability (Hyper-V), and consolidated management capability (System Center).  Basically, it’s a bundle of products that can be mostly seamlessly joined to provide a completely cloud-based computing environment.  Microsoft technologies are increasingly being tailored to help flesh out the Cloud OS story, and they demonstrate Microsoft’s pivot towards the “platforms and services” line.

But another critical part of the Cloud OS story is data, and that’s where SQL Server comes in.  SQL Server 2014 — running on-premises in your datacenter, in the cloud on Azure VMs, or on both — is your modern organization’s data backbone.  As part of the Cloud OS story, SQL Server 2014 is a bridge between on-premise and (Azure) cloud-based data assets.  Advanced integration with Microsoft Azure allows SQL Server to support next-generation Hybrid architectures for backups, DR, Replication and data storage/delivery.

Schedule automatic offsite backups.  Pin a frequently used Data Mart in-memory for maximum query performance.  Leverage your Big Data assets against SQL Server data with an Azure HDInsight cluster.  Refresh Power BI content from a Data Warehouse hosted on an Azure VM.  All from within the cost-effective environment of the Cloud.

So what does the Cloud OS story mean to users?  It means that what we’re seeing now in terms of shared experiences across our tablets, smartphones, and TVs is just the beginning.  As the era of Big Data continues to dawn, we will all be floating on a sea of data.  And the cloud is where that sea will reside.

The Cloud OS as a whole ultimately empowers consumers and users with computing capability over sea of data — wherever they are, wherever they want it.   In terms of data, this moves toward the larger goal of giving business the ability to identify, gather, and use data from an endless variety of internal and external sources to unlock business insights, and turn that information into action.

That’s the idea of pervasive data.  And in Microsoft’s Cloud OS story, it’s empowered by self-service BI from Office365 and SharePoint Online, using SQL Server and Azure technologies under the covers but all accessed through an interface as familiar and comfortable as Excel.    And it’s coming soon to a device near you…

XP end of life, migrate in a few simple steps

Now that Windows XP end of life is here, if you are one of those companies still hanging on, there’s likely a bit of panic on what exactly to do. Well there is good news, bad news, and then some more good news. If you are in an industry that has heavy governing compliance, like healthcare, you need to be a little more concerned because you are now in violation of regulations.

If you are not under the microscope of government compliance, then you need not fear. There isn’t going to be any major concern if you don’t jump immediately, but you probably want to begin planning, and make the move within the next year.

XP End of Life. Migrate in a Few Simple StepsIf you are one of those heavily regulated companies with big brother looking over your shoulder, than guess what? Time to get the show on the road. Since you don’t have a lot of time, here’s some good advice to get the job done smoothly and quickly without a lot of headache:

  1. System Center Configuration Manager 2012 – With this Microsoft tool, you will be able to perform Zero Touch installations for your whole organization fairly quickly. The key to leveraging this tool to its fullest is getting your SCCM infrastructure scaled properly and your applications packaged quickly. This product can also manage devices if a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) ends up being the path taken.
  2. Go with Windows 7 – With Windows 7, you’ll still have a similar look and feel to XP, which end users are used to. Going to an entirely new platform like Windows 8 requires more time and will likely also require a lot more training and transitioning with end users. Sticking with something familiar will reduce the shock to the end user base.
  3. Out with the old & in with the new – If it has been awhile since you have introduced new desktops and laptops, this would be a good time to bite the bullet and have it done. Most manufactures offer programs to preload your company images and apps, leaving only the task of migrating the user data. Also, this might be a good time to go with a BYOD solution, where you virtualize the apps and stream to the device the users choose. SCCM can manage this out of the box.
  4. KIS (keep it simple ) – Companies nowadays have allowed complexity to run riot. Unfortunately, I have seen an exorbitant amount of time and money spent because of bureaucracy, rather than the actual time doing the work. If you are one of those companies that fell into the trap of losing the balance between security and flexibility due to an absence of checks and balances, well… I feel your pain. This has become a disease that has infected the IT world and has become the cause of so much complexity and profit loss for very little benefit. It’s hard to fathom (and I will save this for another blog). Get the right project team, with individuals that are high enough up the corporate ladder to make decisions across multiple departments. In other words, your CIO might need to be little more involved in this one. Also, go with the new methods, approaches and technology platforms. The need for massive testing labs and creating a bare metal image for every department is over. All your testing and image development can be done through a few simple virtual instances, secured and managed by SCCM 2012 security.
  5. The right team – One of the biggest mistakes I’ve recently experienced was simply having the wrong people managing the project. Windows desktops are best managed by Microsoft Windows professionals, not by the guy who used to manage the development department that can only think Agile. Agile and Microsoft infrastructure don’t mix well, and you will only add complexity and prolong a fairly straight forward task that needs to be completed.

If you are looking for a consulting team, find one with System Center 2012 experience. This will make the job so much more pleasant and easy to carry out.

That said, I know I’m leaving out a lot of information, but I think I have touched on the most important things to consider if you need to get your company migrated quickly. The most important thing to remember is, go after the Goliath first, as once that is out of the way, everything else will likely run smooth. If you ignore the Goliath, well… good luck.

End of Windows XP Support What Now Windows 7 or 8

After a twelve-year run, the end of life for Windows XP is finally here. So what does this mean for those on XP still? Well in a nutshell support and updates will no longer be available, many machines will be unprotected, out of compliance and will open the door for vulnerabilities.

The big question going forward is do I make the big jump to Windows 8, and get the latest operating system or do I go with the small leap to Windows 7. Typically this comes down to company culture, strict business needs or are the architecture and deployment tools in place to make this all happen.

Jumping to a new Operating System is never easy or painless, there are many things to take into consideration hardware, application compatibility, deployment methods, training etc. Thankfully Microsoft has tools available to help aid in the process, ACT (Application Compatibility Tool Kit) MAP (Microsoft Assessment and Planning) SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) to name a few.

This is  all great, here I am stuck on Windows XP an Operating System that is no longer supported, what should I  do move to Windows 7 or go to Windows 8?

Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – What’s the Best Plan?

Didn’t you always wonder which plan to pick in the O365 family? So many different SKU’s providing distinct features, storage capabilities, tools, etc. I know while talking to customers one of the initial and biggest question has been around which plan is perfect for them and can they downgrade or upgrade from there. Looks like Microsoft heard and responded; very recently they released a great new resource that will help you recommend and sell the right Office 365 plan to your customers.

The Office 365 Plan Selector Tool is an Excel based tool, which recommends the appropriate core Office 365 Plan, based on the answers to a few questions around your customer’s technology and productivity needs. In addition to the recommended plan, it also provides upsell and scale back plan options, if the customer needs more or less features than in the recommended plan. I highly recommend checking out the video before you download and play with it.

Demo Video: Office 365 Selector Tool Demo

Download Link: Selector Tool

Would be interested in hearing your feedback on how do you plan to use this tool and how does it solve your current and future Office 365 engagements.

Webinar: Yammer External Networks – Engaging Customers & Partners

These days, there’s much talk about Yammer, and for good reason. Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012, and since that time, it has become the company’s direction for enterprise social, now integrating with SharePoint Online.

While Yammer has clearly distinguished itself as Yammer_logo-featurean enterprise social network within organizations, its potential for engaging those outside company walls has yet to be realized, as most have not extended its features to engage customers, partners and/or vendors.

If you weren’t able to make it to the SharePoint Conference this year, or were there but unable to attend Rich Wood’s popular Yammer session, join us next week, on Wednesday, April 16 at 3 p.m. CT, as he again discusses Yammer External Networks: Engaging Customers and Partners.

During the complimentary webinar, Rich will explain how Yammer is redefining the traditional external network, and will show attendees how to set up, configure and govern a Yammer-powered external network. You’ll get to see just how intuitive and mobile-friendly Yammer is, and how it is accessible across all platforms. He’ll also talk about how Yammer is easy to adopt and governance-ready, and will show you how to make the most of the platform’s intuitive user experience.

You can also hear what Rich is saying on Twitter @richOthewood.

To register for the webinar, click here.
Yammer External Networks: Engaging Customers and Partners
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
3:00 p.m. CDT

Compelling Case for Office 365

Everyone has an opinion on “Cloud’ and its effect on the business, for some it’s scary in terms of data security and for some it’s revenue generation and cost savings. There are a number of reasons why cloud computing is so widely used among businesses today. Some of them include

Reduction of costs – lower hardware costs from more effective use of physical resources
Universal access – allow remotely located employees to access applications and work via the internet
Up to date software – ability to get upgraded software and patches seamlessly
Scalability & Flexibility – allows users to switch applications easily and rapidly, using the one that suits their needs best. Allows a business to use, access and pay only for what they use, with a fast implementation time

Though we can go on and on with the benefits, it’s also important to know there are circumstances which does not make cloud a best fit for an organization. But isn’t that the case for any technology or software? So for the purposes of this post I will focus on the most talked cloud service from Microsoft, Office 365. It’s been promoted as SaaS but there are scenarios which I think it fits better in the PaaS bucket, but we’ll leave that for a later discussion.

Now I have been in consulting for as long as I can remember which has given me the chance to work across various industries, technologies, and tools but most recently I have been enthralled by Microsoft’s latest cloud offering Office 365 and I wanted to cover some compelling reasons for organizations or individuals to move to O365 and what makes office a preferred choice for over 1 billion people

  • Pricing – The greatest advantage  here being the multiple SKU’s being offered providing an opportunity to do a test drive. I know of organizations who have started their cloud journey  by simply enrolling for OneDrive for Business (previously SkyDrive) or Yammer (enterprise social networking tool), or some standalone SharePoint. Can you imagine standing up social networking and collaboration in your organization (small to medium to large enterprise) for as little as zero? Plans are extremely favorable starting from $5 user/month to $22 user/month. For latest pricing and plan details check out Office 365 Business Plans
  • Availability – “Your complete office in the cloud” is how we think of Microsoft Office 365. The worldwide uptime number for Office 365 for the last four quarters beginning July 2012  and ending June 2013 has been 99.98%, 99.97%, 99.94% and 99.97% respectively and financially backed by SLA of 99.9%. Check  Office 365 Trust Center for uptime numbers disclosed every quarter.
  • Ease of Use – Same old office applications we have been using for last two decades now online. Whatever device you’re working on, Office 365 gives you access to everything you need—your documents, email, calendars, contacts, and team sites all come with you. A mobile or geographically distributed workforce accessing email, documents and spreadsheets online or offline, and collaborating with colleagues either offline or in real time sounds like lot of work but O365 makes it a snap by taking out all that headache of maintenance and constant upgrades out of your hand.
  • Funding – Now many don’t know this but since Microsoft truly believes in the value this provides to organizations they are offering (for a limited time only) funding for qualifying deployments for 150 seats and above. This will help you accelerate your adoption by investing in Office 365 Fast Track methodology. Check Fast track Funding for more details
  • Cost – This is one of my favorite ones for businesses who require a quick public facing site or are  bringing up extranets for collaborating with their partners or vendors, they can get all of that for no charge (for up to 10,000 users based on the subscription plan)
  • Application Suite

So that I don’t bore with too much details I’ll keep it short for the well-known platforms/services already being widely used like SharePoint,  Lync, Exchange etc.

  • Yammer – social network entirely focused on business. I think this one alone is one of the most riveting of the lot. The way people are hooked onto Facebook they are going to find tremendous power to this tool. Microsoft has been taking big strides in this area by deprecating SharePoint 2013 newsfeed and replacing (Go Yammer! Is the slogan) it with Yammer ($1.2B acquisition made in mid of 2012). There are some upcoming features announced recently which includes a much tighter Yammer integration with Outlook Online and O365 sites.
    • If you are anything like me this one is an “Aw” factor of O365. Codename “Oslo” it is a proactive personalized search and discovery using office graph. A strong algorithmic approach for surfacing tailored feed is truly a mark of next generation technology.

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  • Group Experience and Inline Social – A cross-Office 365 concept that will unify people, profiles, conversations, email, calendars, and files across the entire set of Office 365 applications. Creating a group anywhere in Office 365 will automatically provision a corresponding inbox, social feed, calendar, and document library that group members can use to get the job done.

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How do you like weaving your social activity into apps you use daily like Word, PowerPoint etc. Adding conversations to documents in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. View conversations side by side. That means whether you are working from within Outlook, or Yammer, or a document you get a similar experience.

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Pick your conversations from where you left from within any of these places!

*To dive deeper I highly recommend you look at the Office Blog

  • One Drive – Divided in personal and business SKU’s. OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) is personal online storage for a your employees.  It’s the place where people can store, sync, and share their work files across multiple devices with ease and security. You can then collaborate with others in real time right from within Office and edit documents from virtually anywhere via a web browser in real time using Office Online. And yes starting April 1st,2014 you will have this as a standalone service. I have seen many organizations using  OneDrive as the primary use case to get a foot in the cloud and once  accepted well within groups and teams reach out for more meat available on  O365. Check out the OneDrive blog for more details
  • Office Applications – The  general suite of office applications we are so used to in our daily lives so much that we take it for granted. it’ll be almost impossible to work on  presentations, financial modelling, or lot of other stuff without the  availability of these applications.
  • SharePoint – Collaboration platform which existed since the early 2001. One of the biggest players  for Microsoft in the enterprise world. Also comes in standalone plans  “SharePoint Online”
  • Lync – Instant messaging and  video conferencing technology widely used in enterprises
  • Exchange – Access to email, calendar, and contacts across all devices while protecting your mailboxes  with anti-malware and anti-spam filters
  • Other benefits -
    • Outsource infrastructure so  you can focus on core business.
    • Electronic signature  – Microsoft and DocuSign entered in a strategic partnership providing you eSignature apps across Office 365
    • Cloud based Business Intelligence: Power BI – Register on premise data source with Data  Management gateway and with some configuration you can gain insights from  data, working within Excel to analyze and visualize the data in a  self-service way even on mobile devices.

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  • Analysis with Google Apps – I  encourage you to take a look at this article Office 365 vs. Google Apps compares O365 and Google Apps.

Microsoft recently made a firm and vocal commitment to another SharePoint on premise release and I think lot of folks started reading between the lines – does that mean end to on premise support? no more version upgrades? But as we all understand on premise isn’t going anywhere soon since there are businesses with tight governance restrictions and compliance issues. But at the same time we also know that the weather in SharePoint land is certainly getting “cloudy”.  We at Perficient have a great deal of experience deploying, managing, and migrating to Office 365 helping our customers take the road to success and we are particularly very excited to the see the future and being able to influence Microsoft roadmap for cloud.

Leave your feedback or comments on how you currently use these features and how is it helping your organization. Are these reasons enough for you to stir things up at your next executive meeting? What maturity level is your organization at? Do you feel Office 365 meets your needs?