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O365 & Azure: PIH’s New Tools in the Fight for Global Health

Partners in Health’s mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in healthcare. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health (PIH) strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need and to serve as an antidote to despair.

PIH draws on the resources of the world’s leading medical and academic institutions to expand access to high-quality care for poor and marginalized patients throughout the world. The root of their mission is both medical and moral, based on solidarity rather than charity alone.

Chris Sweeney / Partners In Health

Chris Sweeney / Partners In Health

Perficient is assisting PIH with their migration to Microsoft’s Office 365 (O365) solution. O365 will allow users to access their email from anywhere in the world on any computer or mobile device with access to the Internet. OneDrive for O365 will enhance collaboration between all PIH users, both domestically and internationally. The platform will provide PIH with a reliable and secure communication toolbox, including storage and collaboration tools. Deployment of O365 across PIH sites in Africa, Haiti, Russia, and the U.S. will enable PIH’s mission to provide a preferential option for the poor in healthcare  and will be an important tool to enhance communication as they respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The current Ebola outbreak is a global challenge and will require collaboration from many players. PIH, which has said it is “radically invitational” and is seeking partners to help respond, recently explained in a blog post that it is

working alongside two outstanding grassroots organizations—Last Mile Health in Liberia and Wellbody Alliance in Sierra Leone. These longtime PIH partners are already working to train health workers, identify sick patients, and deliver quality care. As the epidemic advances, these groups need support to provide comprehensive prevention, care, and treatment.”

Why will Office 365 have an impact?

Enabling a global collaboration and communication platform will allow PIH to share information seamlessly with colleagues, partners and all involved in the fight against disease in developing countries while helping to further PIH’s ability to deliver community based care.  Cloud based storage means that documents can be accessed at any time from any device in any setting, including those where bandwidth is limited.

Identity Management using Microsoft AzureAzure Diagram

Perficient has architected PIH’s cloud identity management by deploying several components in Azure including the following:

• O365 Directory Synchronization Server: to synchronize PIH user information with O365
• End User and O365 Management Server: to provide remote technical leads around the world with the capability to manage end users in their respective countries
• Domain Controllers: to provide geographic resiliency for Active Directory

The use of Azure will take PIH out of the server management business and allow them to focus on delivering healthcare.

Global Rollout of Office 365

Perficient and PIH have completed a rollout of Office 365 Exchange Online to the PIH domestic users and are in the process of initiating an international pilot with Haiti and Rwanda. In future blog posts we’ll showcase the impact Office 365 is having on PIH’s capability to collaborate globally and the positive effects this is providing to PIH’s most remote locations.

The CIO’s Guide to Understanding Microsoft Cloud Services

Over the last few years, the software market has changed shape. According to Joanne Correia, research vice president at Gartner, the cloud is the main driver behind that change.

Given this, over the same time period, azureit makes sense to see Microsoft moving its core business functions to the cloud (and the other major software vendors doing the same). While this is hardly a revelation, if you haven’t yet taken a hard look at the cloud, and what it has to offer your business – now is probably a good time.

Perficient recently published a new white paper, “The CIO’s Guide to Understanding Microsoft Cloud Services,” for executives who are examining Microsoft’s cloud service offerings (Azure, Office 365, Project Online, TFS Online, Dynamics CRM Online) as a way to contain and scale back exploding IT costs and become more nimble.

The guide begins by reviewing some common terms and concepts before diving into deeper cloud-related concepts. It goes on to discuss the changing datacenter and then evaluates both Azure and Office 365, in terms of capabilities as well as security, privacy and compliance. Finally, the guide includes steps to get you started with Microsoft cloud services.

To learn more about Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and see how your organization can benefit from Azure and Office 365, download the new guide from our Microsoft cloud experts.

IBM and Microsoft Announce Cloud Partnership

Yesterday, IBM and Microsoft announced a cloud partnership that will bolster both company’s cloud offerings. We have a larger write up on the details and my initial take on it over in the Portal and Social Blog. From what we can tell, both IBM and Microsoft are excited about the opportunity. While many view them as competitors, in reality, the overlap wasn’t as large as other companies. The ability to share capabilities where there are gaps and the ability to fill holes in each others cloud offering makes sense. Here’s an overview:

  • Microsoft Azure will be able to host
    • WebSphere Middleware like MQ and WebSphere Liberty (lightweight and mobile friendly java app server)
    • DB2
    • Everything will be certified and supported by IBM. This includes support for images within Hyper-V
  • IBM will be able to host
    • Windows Server
    • SQL Server

Here’s a bit on my take as well:

While the IBM and Microsoft news is new, the partnership approach among legacy software vendors is not new. (See Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft news)  The article correctly states the pressure being put upon both Microsoft and IBM by the likes of Amazon and Google. Yes, Microsoft has poured billions into a strong Office 365 SaaS offering and in Azure. Yes, Azure is worth more than a billion dollars to Microsoft right now. IBM bought Softlayer which is known for being an easy to use and manage IaaS / PaaS play. IBM is also in the process of putting every piece of software they own on Softlayer.  If there’s a cloud play  at IBM, it’s going on Softlayer.

However, both Microsoft and IBM have a problem. What do you do when a client says they have Java apps on Linux or some .net apps on C#? What do you do when SQL Server or DB2 is involved? Well, you could order up another cloud service that supports either of those options or you partner with your sometimes nemesis to put together a more comprehensive offering. Obviously, Microsoft and IBM have chosen the latter.

Head on over to the post for a little more detail.

Power BI Primer – 4 part series

In previous posts we’ve discussed how to introduce advanced analytics into your BI platform and along the way we introduced several new technologies. These technologies range from self-service query tools to cloud-based visualizations. Even though the previous scenario was based on the Healthcare industry, the concepts and technologies can be applied across all industries.

But how do you get started exploring these new technologies? Use this 4 part series as your guide:

Video 1 – Introduction to Power BI

Video 2 – Administration and Permissions in Power BI

Video 3 – Data Exploration and Visualization in Power BI

Video 4 – Data Management Gateway for Power BI

Also, don’t forget to register below for our upcoming webinar on implementing hybrid architectures in your organization!

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Introducing the Yammer Share Button

We’ve all seen the social media buttons on websites or blogs that are used to share content to another site. If you are unfamiliar, check out the buttons to the right of this blog post.

Today, Microsoft has introduced this functionality for Yammer! Read the full announcement here.

ShareIconMarquee_FINALbYou can now share useful web content directly with your network. All you need to do is embed some simple code into your website to enable the sharing. It does not require any advanced skills or developer application registration with Yammer, so you will be able to get up to speed very quickly.

Check out the full details on the Yammer Developer site.

Office 365 – How to Stay Informed of Changes

As a consultant in our Office 365 practice, part of my role includes keeping up with the constant changes and features being added to the service by Microsoft.

When I worked with on-premises versions of Exchange and Lync, it was fairly easy to keep on top of things. You knew when changes came as they arrived in the form of an update that you or your client had to install. Office 365 - How to Stay Informed of  ChangesOutside of major service packs, you generally just had bug fixes with the occasional minor feature added in between. While the update release cadence has increased in recent years, each version of Exchange still receives only a couple of major service packs before the next version is released.

Office 365 is often referred to as “evergreen” meaning that it’s always the latest and greatest; it feels at times that there are changes occurring weekly. Trying to consume all the information about changes across the various workloads can be like drinking from a fire hose and you can quickly start to feel overwhelmed. Below are some sources that I use to stay aware of these changes and methods I use to sort through the information.
Read the rest of this post »

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Posted in Office 365

Microsoft-Salesforce Integrations as Cloud Giants Shake Hands

Microsoft and Salesforce has made significant progress to their strategic partnership announced in May. They unveiled new joint solutions—including Salesforce1 for Windows, Salesforce for Office, and Power BI for Office 365 and Excel integrations with Salesforce—at Dreamforce 2014. salesforce1microsoft1

The companies disclosed that in early 2015, they will release a Salesforce1 app for Windows Phone. Alongside, OneDrive will be linked to the Salesforce solutions. In addition, Office will also be incorporated with the Salesforce suite. Through the alliance, Microsoft will gain an opportunity to provide its user-friendly products to Salesforce users. Salesforce, on the other hand, will be able to sell its SaaS product in the more conservative enterprise channels, currently controlled by Microsoft.

The companies plan to integrate Salesforce into Office, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business on the Android and iOS platforms in the first half of 2015. Also, in the first half of 2015, the companies plan to ship a Salesforce app for Outlook. The second half of 2015 will also see a Salesforce1 app for Windows Phone along with a Salesforce app for Excel. Power BI for Office 365 and Excel integrations with Salesforce. With these new integrations, customers will be able to bi-directionally load data to Salesforce and Excel to build reports, visualize information and discover new insights.  Power BI integration with Salesforce is anticipated for the first half of 2015. A Salesforce app for Excel is anticipated for the second half of 2015.

Some key things to note for existing features (live and preview): Read the rest of this post »

Upcoming Webinar: Planning for a Lync 2013 on a Global Scale

At Perficient, we communicate via Lync 2013. As an end user, I can’t say enough about the ability to use it from anywhere I have internet access to take calls, instant message colleagues, customers and partners, and to hold meetings with content sharing and video. Webinar_1Using Lync 2013 is a simple, easy process for me, whether from my computer or my phone, but I know that’s due in part to our implementation team spending the necessary time planning the solution design and preparing to implement.

When it comes to planning for a global Lync deployment, there is a lot more to take into consideration to get your core Lync Server 2013 infrastructure ready to support voice, video and content sharing capabilities. It’s important that you understand the impacts Lync Server 2013 can have on the global IT infrastructure’s network, security, telephony and virtualization.

To understand how to get “Lync Ready,” join Perficient’s Microsoft Certified Masters Jason Sloan and Keenan Crockett on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 1 p.m. CT for a webinar, How to Plan for a Lync Deployment on a Global Scale. They’ll cover topics like high-level server and pool design and placement, importance of the edge servers, the hardware vs. virtualized debate, and ultimately a high-level understanding of the impact Lync has on your network. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – Understanding Archiving in Lync Online

Understanding the archiving feature in Lync Online can be a bit confusing. Unlike an on-premises installation of Lync Server 2013, there is no option for storing archived data in SQL and thus the only option is integration with Microsoft Exchange.

Office 365 - Understanding Archiving in Lync OnlineWhile having only one option might sound like this should be easier to understand, a Lync Online user’s mailbox can fall into a number of categories depending on whether the mailbox is located on-premises or in Exchange Online. If the mailbox is located in the cloud, the mailbox licensing and archiving settings become relevant to its ability to retain Lync Online archive data.

Complicating the situation is that several articles and even Lync Online policies refer to “Conversation History” as “Archiving” when in fact they are completely separate concepts. With this article, I hope to clear up some of this confusion. Read the rest of this post »

Yammer’s Keyboard Shortcuts

Did you know that you can use Yammer pretty much without even touching your mouse? Yammer, first and foremost, is focused on bettering the user experience and making it more friendly to more people. That’s why there are several keyboard shortcuts to help you delete messages, like posts, and even switch between pages, all without taking your hands off of your keyboard.  To see a list of all Yammer’s shortcuts, simply hold shift and press the question mark button on any Yammer page. As pictured below, a list of all of Yammer’s keyboard shortcuts shows up.

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Posted in Yammer