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Released – Official name for Oslo and New Office 365 SMB Plans

Oslo Renamed to Delve

Announced earlier this year as Codename Oslo, today Microsoft published the official name as Delve. Delve, the first experience powered by the intelligence fabric we call the Office Graph, will be available to Office 365 customers later this year.

Released - Official Name for Oslo and New Office 365 SMB PlansNew SMB Plans

Microsoft will release as of October 1st, 2014 three new Office 365 plans tailored to meet the needs of small and midsized businesses (SMBs), ranging from 1 to approximately 250 employees. The new plans are:

  • Office 365 Business – The full Office applications – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher, with 1TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage to access, edit and share your documents across your Windows PC, Mac, iPad, Windows tablet and smartphone.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials - The core cloud services for running your business – business class email and calendaring, Office Online, online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing and much more.
  • Office 365 Business Premium – Get everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans.

This new lineup will replace our current plans for SMBs over time – Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business (more on that here).

 

 

 

 

Virtualizing SharePoint 2013 Workloads

Most new SharePoint 2013 implementations these days run on virtual machines, and the question on whether to virtualize SQL servers has been long put to rest. Indeed, with the new Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V VM specs of up to 64 vCPUs, 1 TB RAM and 64 TB data, it is  hard to make a case for physical hardware.

Both Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware have published recommendations for working with virtualized SharePoint farms. The list of recommendations is long (and somewhat tedious), so this cheat-sheet aims to summarize the most important ones and provide real-world advice for SharePoint and virtualization architects.

  • When virtualizing SharePoint 2013, Microsoft recommends minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 CPU cores per VM. Start low (4) and scale up  as needed. With multiprocessor virtual machines, the physical host needs to ensure enough physical CPU cores are available before scheduling threads execution of that particular VM. Therefore, in theory the higher the number of vCPUs, the longer potential wait times for that VM. In every version starting 4.0, VMware has made improvements to the CPU scheduling algorithm to reduce the wait time for multiprocessor VMs using relaxed co-scheduling. Still, it’s wise to consult documentation on your particular version and see what are the specific limitations and recommendations.

 

  • Ensure true high availability by using affinity rules.  Your SharePoint admin should tell you which VM hosts which role, and you will need to keep VMs with same role on separate physical hosts.  For example, all VMs that host the web role should not end up on the same physical host, so your typical mid-size 2 tier farm should look something like this:

VMAffinity

  • When powering down the farm, start with the web layer, and work your way down to the database layer. When powering up, go in the opposite direction

 

  • Do not over oversubscribe or thin-provision PROD machines, do oversubscribe and thin-provision DEV and TEST workloads

 

  • NUMA (non-uniform memory access) partition boundaries: The high-level recommendation from both Microsoft and VMware is not to cross NUMA boundaries. Different chip manufacturers have different definitions of NUMA, but the majority opinion seems to be that NUMA node equals physical CPU socket, and not CPU core. For example, for a physical host with 8 quad-code CPUs and 256 GB of RAM, a NUMA partition is 32 GB. Ensure that individual SharePoint VMs will fit into a single partition i.e. will not be assigned more than 32 GB or RAM each.

 

  • Do not use dynamic memory: Certain SharePoint components like search and distributed cache use memory-cached objects extensively and are unable to dynamically resize their cache when the available memory changes. Therefore, dynamic memory mechanisms like minimum/maximum RAM, shares, ballooning driver etc. will not work well with SharePoint 2013. Again, your SharePoint admin should provide detailed design and advise which VM hosts which particular service.

 

  • Do not save VM state at shutdown or use snapshots in PROD: SharePoint is transactional application and saving VM state can lead to inconsistent topology after the VM comes back up or is reverted to a previous snapshot.

 

  • Disable time synchronization between the host and the VM: Same as previous point. All transaction events are time stamped, and latency during time synchronization can cause inconsistent topology. SharePoint VMs will use the domain synchronization mechanism to keep local clocks in sync.

 

  • Do not configure “always start machine automatically”: There may be cases where SharePoint VM is shut down for a reason, and starting it automatically after physical host reboot can cause problems.

 

  • TCP Chimney offload: Please refer to this VMware post on reasons why this setting may need to be disabled. This is not a setting unique to SharePoint and unless it is the standard practice for all web VMs or is part of the image, it should not be configured.

 

  • When configuring disaster recovery, virtualization has been a godsend for quite some time. Using VM replication to a secondary site is by far the simplest SharePoint DR scenario to configure and maintain.

 

  • Other settings that are not SharePoint-specific : things like storage host multi-pathing, storage partition alignment, physical NIC teaming, configuring shared storage for vMotion etc. hold true for all VMware implementations

 

 

Columnstore Indexes: When Should You Use Them?

When I speak to clients about In-Memory features in SQL Server, I find that Columnstore indexes just haven’t gained much traction as a marquee feature. The functionality itself is quite useful in the BI/DW realm as far as potentially boosting query performance by 1.5 to 10 times. But I think it gets overlooked because the use-case just isn’t very obviously derived from the typical description of it. The explanations I have read/heard/seen of Columnstore and how it works get tedious very quickly.

Columnstore Indexes: When Should You Use Them?So I don’t want to cover details of how Columnstore works in this post. I just want to clarify when it might be useful. Then, if it sounds like it fits your situation, you can dive into some links and have all the tedium you want.

So here are, to me, the most pertinent Columnstore facts to be aware of:

  • It stores data in a columnar data format, heavily compressed, and in-memory — so it’s FAST.
  • It is very focused on large result sets that need to be aggregated or grouped. If you are doing full table scans in your queries, you might be interested.
  • It requires partitioning. If you have a large Fact table that is a candidate for partitioning, this again is potentially right up your alley.
  • Columnstore is not ideal for frequently updated tables. You will end up having to drop and re-create the index before/after data update operations. So a rapid incremental refresh environment is not an ideal fit.  UPDATE: I am reminded by a very helpful colleague that SQL Server 2014 removes this limitation and allows table updates/deletes/etc.  (Thanks Andrew!)
  • Because it is an In-Memory feature, your capability and performance is dependent upon hardware and SQL Server memory configuration.

If you have large fact tables and query performance issues, and if SSAS is either not an option or itself has performance issues, columnstore is an option to investigate. Columnstore indexes have been shown to be faster than an Analysis Services cube in some instances!   From my perspective, a couple of use case scenarios immediately come to mind:

  • Creation of specific fact structures for highly responsive reports/dashboards — especially in situations where Analysis Services is not an option, or is also not performing adequately
  • Improving cube processing performance (although the drop/rebuild time for the columnstore index will then likely take place during ETL — so net performance gain would have to be tested)

For further info, this article seems to be the granddaddy of all columnstore articles. It contains a massive and detailed FAQ, and includes the formula for determining memory capacity.   More focused instructions and examples of creating and using a columnstore can be found here, on Microsoft’s TechNet site. Cheers!

How to Speed up a Slow People Picker in SharePoint

Manjeet Singh, Lead Technical Consultant at Perficient, recently wrote a blog post about issues relating to a slow People Picker in SharePoint.

Have you experienced problems with People Picker taking too long to find a user? Almost a minute or may be more. Does your SharePoint Environment functions with multiple domains?
One of the reasons for sluggish behavior of people picker is the People Picker property called “SearchActiveDirectoryDomains” which usually scopes the entire AD with its sub trees and trusted AD’s while searching for the users account.

In his post, Manjeet details the step-by-step process to fix this issue. You can read the entire blog post here.

Office Graph and Oslo in Office 365 – Finally Here?

If this is the first time you heard about “Oslo” then here is a quick introduction for you:

Oslo is a new way to search and discover content across O365 based on personalized insights. These new insights are derived from each users’ behavior, their relationships to content, topics and one another. The idea is to tailor and surface the most relevant content for you at any given time from your network. What’s considered relevant is based on you, who you work with, and what topics your colleagues are working on. This helps you stay better connected and informed on topics that matter most to you. In addition, the new experience provides an engaging and natural way to search for content across any source from within a single view.

It’s probably the single most powerful end user feature we have seen in office 365 or in any collaboration platform for that matter.


What do we know latest about the progress of Oslo – Is it here?

Oslo is now tagged with status “Started” on Yammer release schedule: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule/

 

Indications of Coming Soon

First One:

While working through search web parts, I found something interesting the other day in my Office 365 Tenant. Disclaimer: This may or may not be part of your tenant yet based on rollout schedule.

newresultsource

Interesting artifact is the new result source: “Local SharePoint Graph”. This result source shows as part of Query Builder when working through search web parts. Now we do know that Office Graph may get its own index, so we probably can assume that this new result source is mapped to that Graph Index.

 

Second One:

I navigated to SharePoint Online user profile page and noticed a field towards the bottom called ‘OfficeGraphEnabled’ with a check box, which is in line with our understanding of how Oslo works. It connects people, content, and conversations which is highly personalized and based on user behavior.

 

Very excited to see glimpses of this new feature, tells me that we may very well see this sooner than anticipated.

Yammer 101 Series – Topics

What do you do when you have a great idea you want to share with your company network? And you want to make sure it is not buried in the company newsfeed that everyone seems to be posting to? And you need to make sure the post is extremely easy to retrieve later on?

The answer is to create a Yammer Topic.

What are Yammer Topics?
Topics are used to organize information and posts on Yammer. Without organizing information, it is nearly impossible to determine its usefulness in an endless streaming feed of information.
Imagine you are in a museum of fine art looking for a certain painting by a painter you admire. Art is typically organized by artist name and style. You can quickly determine where you will find all related work by first reviewing a catalog of artists. Instead of walking aimlessly through the museum, you can quickly find all works by this particular artist and narrow the list to specific painting by the topic of style.

Taxonomy vs. Folksonomy
Enterprise social networks have changed the focus from a formal taxonomy categorization process to that of a less formal process referred to as Folksonomy. Corporations in the past often trained knowledge management professionals to create topics based on what the organization leadership felt were the most appropriate categories for the organization of corporate information.

Organization flattening has empowered employees to build their own knowledge repositories based on popular topics of interest through folksonomies.

What is the primary benefit of using Topics?
Finding information. Period. Topics can provide immeasurable value when sifting through an endless stream of information.
Topics can be entered in the search box of any yammer group to find any related Conversations, Topic tags (to remove duplication) and Files in the network.

SearchResults

Tip: Click on the Topic tag directly from a post to view a feed of all the messages tagged with that topic.
Read the rest of this post »

Microsoft’s Bet On The Next Big Thing – Quantum Computing

In a world dominated by bigger, faster, stronger; scientists are always looking for ways to improve on current technology. Moore’s law states that processor speeds double every 2 years (often quoted as 18 months based on Intel’s assertions). But how long can that last? Will we reach a physical limit of our technology? Yes, and we will reach it sooner than you think. According to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, that growth is expected to slow to every 3 years starting in 2014. Enter quantum computing!

What is quantum computing?Quantum_Computer

Traditional semiconductor computing is based on a bit that can be either a 1 or a 0, representing a single value in a computation. But quantum computing is based on qubits, which simultaneously represent both zero and one values. If they are placed in an “entangled” state — physically separated but acting as though they are connected — with many other qubits, they can represent a vast number of values simultaneously.

Quantum computing has been around since 1982, when first introduced by the physicist Richard Feynam. Mostly forgotten by the corporate world, only the NSA and DOD were interested in quantum computing. However in 2006, Microsoft created the Station Q research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara to study quantum computing. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 Roadmap Communications

Overview: Last week Microsoft hosted a Roadmap Communications discussion forum to align with the new Office 365 for business public roadmap. Panel involved experts from Microsoft and Office 365 MVP’s. I am sharing the summary  here for everyone’s benefit.

roadmapcom

Specific topics:

·         Roadmap at a glance

·         General Questions & Functionality

·         First Release

·         Yammer

ROADMAP AT A GLANCE

Q: How and where are the road maps communicated? 

A: You can find the latest roadmap information in our new Office 365 public roadmap. http://www.office.com/roadmap

Q: How is the new roadmap site and the Admin Portal Message Center going to work together?

A: The roadmap provides a view into features that we intend to delivered whereas the Message Center will provide a notification when the feature rollout will start.

Q: Will the roadmap show “everything”, “Most things” or “some “highlighted things”?

A: The roadmap will aim to show feature updates and enhancement to the service. Not all updates will be in the roadmap some due to PR sensitivity (small group) and some because they are incremental without impact (security patching). This process like any feature of the service will improve over time.

Q: Is there a Yammer roadmap page that shows all the upcoming releases, expected timeframes and things that are under consideration?

A: Here is the Yammer Release Schedule: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule/

Q: On Yammer, we see the new Yammer features appear on the Customer Network. Will new features also appear first in the Office 365 Technical Network? 

A: Yes, they will also appear in this network.

Q: When will Office for Mac be updated? When will OneDrive for Business be available for Mac and/or Android?

A: Watch the roadmap for future releases.

Q: How will this new Roadmap Communications process interact with A/B testing or new features that are occasionally rolled out without notice to Yammer & Office365 admins? Can we expect advance notice of such changes, or is the onus on us to proactively keep up to date?

A: It is our intention to announce new features via the public roadmap, but to be clear, there are some updates that will not be announced. We are constantly making small improvements to the service including security and bug fixes that will not be announced. There are also updates that are sensitive for PR reasons (like the Office on IPad release) that we will not provide advanced warning for.

Q2: Will security changes will not be announced?

A2: We will announce updates to security controls and compliance capabilities to the service. As for changes to the services, datacenters etc., we are continually monitoring and managing security patching and updating the service to maintain the integrity of the service. Those changes are happening on a continuous basis and are not part of our roadmap disclosure process.

Q: There have been a couple of mentions of feature requests and notes that this YamJam isn’t the forum… But what is the proper forum for providing feature requests and feedback? Is the officespdev User Voice the right place? Is there one for business & IT? Is there an activelymonitored inbound channel for Yammer/Office 365 business/IT feature requests?

A: We don’t think there is one today. The developer User Voice space is probably not the right place. We’ll look into it and come back to the technical community.

Q: Will there be a separate roadmap for Office 365 Government Community Cloud and Office 365 Dedicated/ITAR customers?

A: As outlined in the “Improving visibility” post, the roadmap currently does not incorporate Government Community Cloud or Officed 365 Dedicated/ITAR plans. http://blogs.office.com/2014/06/19/improving-visibility-to-service-updates

Q: How often is the Release Schedule updated? Can a “last updated” be added at the page level, if not the accordion/feature level?

A: For the Office 365 roadmap, we are always looking at ways to make the information more useful for customers, and we appreciate the feature suggestion. We think to make this useful it would need to be at the feature level. We are evaluating our current systems to see how much overhead we would add to track this additional piece of data.

GENERAL Qs & FUNCTIONALITY

Q: Would it be possible to get a User Voice site that is setup to correspond to the Roadmap? Then people could vote on the items that are most important to them…

A: Great idea. We don’t currently have plans but we are always looking at ways to improve the customer input into the development process.

 Q: Is it possible to have a link to a corresponding blog post, technet article, etc… which has a description of the feature being implemented within the roadmap instead of just a small blurb about it?

A: Great suggestion, we’ll work with content publishing to get this implemented.

Q: So are there any Yammer Groups focused on OneDrive for Business? 

A: Yes, there’s a OneDrive for Business group that has all the content from a YamJam plus more recent discussions. Find it here:https://www.yammer.com/itpronetwork/#/threads/inGroup?type=in_group&feedId=4208139 

Q: Should my attention as the Yammer champion in my organization be focused on this network or the YCN?

A: If you’re a Yammer champion, you’ll likely want to spend time in the YCN to share successes and learn how to improve business processes. However, if you have any technical questions or want to talk roadmap, then this is your network. We will have more info soon explaining “which network to use and when”. There are dedicated teams running the 3 Preferred O365 networks (YCN, O365 Technical Network, O365 Partner Network) and we be making another announcement soon that clearly defines the difference between the networks and where you should go for info. 

Q: Currently the Office 365 for Admin app is broken for Windows Phone. Are there any plans to enhance the app? Maybe include a newsfeed for Roadmap and other portal notifications? 

A: An update that fixes the app should be arriving in the coming weeks. Thanks for you suggestion. We don’t have any plans to share yet but when we do, we will communicate out on the blog and message center.

Q: For OneDrive for Business, can we have logs for auditing the file uploads and downloads? As an Admin, I would like to track what documents my associates are uploading and where they are downloading?

A: Have you looked at the auditing features available as part of SharePoint Enterprise? Depending which license you have, but this might be useful. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-help/configure-audit-settings-for-a-site-collection-HA102866204.aspx  

 

FIRST RELEASE

Q: There was talk of the #firstrelease program allowing Office 365 admins to release the new features to a defined group of users. 

Will this be possible? Or are features released to everyone in the organization?

A: First Release applies to the entire tenant – it doesn’t provide any capability to designate a set of users for piloting new features.

Q: Will there be an option to “roll back” after opting in for the First Release update?

A: Yes, you can turn off First Release after turning it on and you will lose the updates that haven’t yet been applied to Standard Release customers.

Q: Will there be a way to get a similar experience as the Yammer Customer Network in Office 365? A network where we could experience the new features first?

A: Yes, in the First Release program. We encourage folks that can to enable First Release in their tenants to see the latest releases first.http://blogs.office.com/2014/06/19/improving-visibility-to-service-updates

 Q: Any plans to join the o365 first release users into a yammer first release set of users? 

A: Not at this stage, but that is an interesting idea! 

 Q: Where / How do I find security related fixes and enhancements to Yammer? For example, I plan to submit an enhancement request today about a requirement from our Information Security group: “Yammer allows users to upload dangerous files e.g. .exe”. It would be helpful to know where security-related enhancements or fixes are in a roadmap, or so I can see if my enhancement request “makes the cut”.

A: Let’s please engage in this network in the “Enterprise Social Service Updates” group. Have you seen our recent compliance announcements?https://about.yammer.com/yammer-blog/yammer-receives-iso-27001-certification-offers-dpa/

You can also find this information this network in the “Enterprise Social Service Updates” group in this network.

Q: Is there anything you can share yet about a possible instant messaging integration between Yammer and Lync?

A: Not at this stage beside what we said last March: http://aka.ms/esspc “In the future, we’ll integrate Yammer with Lync and Skype to enable a full spectrum of social interactions, from asynchronous posts to audio and video.” Once we have Unified Identity (slated for later this Summer) that opens the door for many things like Lync integration to happen.

 Q: Will there be opportunities for customers & partners to communicate needs or even help co-create improvements to features & functions? In the spirit of rapid iteration and failing early, it would be good to be able to give feedback early and often.

A: That is a great idea. We have been working quite a bit to get more customer input into the product development cycle. We don’t have any plans today but we will look into it in the future.

 Q: Could we get subscriptions, notifications, or something to tell us a change is coming without the need to go to the site? Even an update in a Yammer group that we could subscribe to would work, but ideally an email, or an RSS feed would be best!

A: Great feedback! We are looking at ways to make the public roadmap even better. We are in the process of finalizing an API for Message center that will let you get those communications which include some new feature announcements as well as other communications.

A2: Consider joining a group in the network called Change Alerts. The idea is members post the changes they have observed or notifications they see in the message center, or by any other method. https://www.yammer.com/itpronetwork/groups/changealerts

YAMMER

Q: Yammer will be integrated into Office 365 … but which user profile should I focus on populating now”?

A: Active Directory will always be your source of truth! Keep the most relevant info in the AD, and let the user add work experience, social sites in the collaborative / network platform you use (aka SharePoint / Yammer). The vision is to have a unique Office 365 profile at some stage, so that will solve the potential profile discrepancies between tools we see today.

 Q2: The ‘unique Office 365 profile’ sounds good – can you give an estimated timescale?

We are still at the vision level with no timescale.

It is going to be incremental starting with a unified login experience (see this earlier announcement:http://blogs.office.com/2014/02/18/simplified-login-to-yammer-from-office-365/), then a unified navigation experience coming this summer (Office 365 navigation bar in Yammer: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule/) and more to come!

Q: How do you edit a post in Yammer for iOS? Am unable to edit a reply I just posted.

A: No, there isn’t a way to edit posts on any device (mobile included). Check out this thread for more discussion on this subject:https://www.yammer.com/yammerycn/#/inbox/show?threadId=361143370

 Q: Where is the release cycle for Yammer and Office 365 Midsize plans? Rumor had it Spring 2014 but have not seen any updated timeframes.

A: All Office 365 plans are on a continuous release cycle. All of the multi-tenant plans are always up to date including the enterprise, mid-market, small business options.

Q2: That I understand, but where Yammer is the social tool for E plans, it is not live for M plans so that it can replace the newsfeed – or am I mistaken?

A2: Coming soon!

Q: As a Yammer admin, how should I manage A/B tests that are per user as opposed to per network?

A: Good discussion in the YCN about how other folks handle the change management aspect! Check it out:https://www.yammer.com/yammerycn/#/inbox/show?threadId=400168566

Q: Will there be any improvements to the monitoring features? Like notifications for new groups created for admins? Or only allowing specific users to create groups?

A: Monitoring and limiting usage to a set of people is a dangerous path with a social network. Even with good intentions you can quickly deter engagement.

Q: The roadmap doesn’t talk about Yammer Dsync with password-sync option like the Office 365 WAAD DirSync. This is the major roadblock for our users (to remember passwords when logging directly or through mobile). The roadmap talks about seamless transparent login to Yammer from the Office 365 portal and that too is in development. When will Yammer utilize the same identity?

A: It will take time to have DirSsync across O365 & Yammer. In the meantime, we are on track to support Office 365 credential support in Yammer this summer!

Q2: Isn’t this already available? Our users are able to transparently get on to Yammer from the top suite bar in Office 365. What do you mean by O365 credentials? I thought they are the same as our on-premise Active Directory?

A2: No, what we first delivered was the ability to go from O365 to Yammer, and this summer we’ll deliver the reverse: being able to login into Yammer with your O365 credentials & surface the O365 suite navigation. Watch this SPC session for explanation and demo:http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/SharePoint-Conference/2014/SPC282

Q: Will the (Yammer) Groups feature that will be made availabe in Outlook Web Access, also move into the Outlook client. Any timeframe on this?

A: Keep an eye on this page to see the latest updates for Yammer: https://about.yammer.com/success/engage/grow-your-network/release-schedule. Also, take a look at this blog: http://blogs.office.com/2014/03/31/the-evolution-of-email/

Q: I love the way Yammer and now O365 communicate their updates but do not like the level of detail that is provided (i.e. UI Enhancements with a screenshot but no real dates or how it will be rolled out, impact of the change, etc.) Will there be more details coming in the product release schedule website?

A: Continuous development makes it difficult to set a concrete release date. Like any feature of the service how we release and communicate is improving over time. The public roadmap is a big leap forward in what we believe is the right direction. We will use the Office 365 roadmap for the overview and link to more details about features once those details are available. Often when something is still in development we’re working on gathering all of the details.

Q: When is Yammer Enterprise available to education plans (A2). Was announced back in March and still no update?

A: We said “spring” last March: http://aka.ms/esspc. Stay tuned for an update! 

 

 

 

Source: IT Pro Nework

Office 365 – SharePoint Online Admin Overview

One of the best benefits to Office 365 is the continuous updates and improvements to the platform. We no longer need a sever release, service pack, or hotfix. We get new releases when Microsoft is ready to make them live in the cloud. Recently, we’ve gotten Document Conversations and Office for iPad; and we will be seeing Office Graph and Olso some time this calendar year. Microsoft recently rolled out a new Office 365 For Business Roadmap, where you can keep an eye on upcoming service releases.

SharePoint Central Administration Featuresadmin3

Every SharePoint Administrator is used to operating in Central Admin, the Office 365 SharePoint Admin experience provides some of that same functionality -

  • Site Collections – full up management of all site collections, quotas, permissions, and recycle bin.
  • User Profiles – manage user properties, manage user profiles, setup MySites, etc.
  • BCS – manage BDC models and external content types, manage connections
  • Term Store – our ever familiar Term Store Management Tool
  • Records Management – formally known as Send To locations
  • Search – manage schema, result sources, query rules, search center settings, etc.
  • Secure Store – create new target applications
  • Apps – app catalog, purchase apps, manage licenses, etc.

In addition to these normal administration features of SharePoint, we have a number of features that only apply to the Office 365 SharePoint Online environment.

Top Navigation Bar User Experience

One of the recent additions to the service, these options provide the ability to show/hide the OneDrive for Business, Yammer/Newsfeed, and Sites links from the Office 365 Suite Bar. This is a great new feature for those customers who are not yet ready to roll out the full suite of cloud services. This is a great instance of Microsoft listening to its customers. Moving to the cloud can be complicated, and sometimes its necessary to roll features out incrementally. This new Admin feature enables that. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 Feature Rollout and First Release Program

FrustatedDid you always feel Office 365 has been going through rapid updates and you as a customer or partner are left with no insight? Until now Microsoft has been rolling out features without regard to the tenant profile. There is generally no process for partners to get updates before or after customers. I personally know of multiple instances where it’s been a nightmare for organizations to keep track of and stay informed of all the changes, left alone the communication to their end users.

Microsoft has taken the first step by coming out with a new feature called “First Release” Program.  This will allow anyone (customer or partner) to be in the front of the line for a small subset of significant updates. The program is scoped to Exchange and SharePoint features and I hope they expand to more capabilities. Each tenant can choose to be in the First Release group or in standard release to determine when they get the select list of releases. If you’re responsible for a number of different organizations tenants, you may persuade them to keep First Release turned off, so that you get early warning and experience. Then you’ll be able to support them more knowledgeably.

Note: Yammer is NOT part of this program

With Office 365, you get product updates – like new email features, more site storage, and new collaboration features – as they become available. You can decide when to receive the updates by opting in to the First Release program or remaining on the Standard Release program.

First Release

FirstRelease

With this option, you and your users receive a select set of significant service updates as early as one week after the official announcement. Choose this option if you and your

employees are comfortable with regular updates to the Office 365 service.

Standard Release

StandardRelease

With this default option, you and your users receive a select set of significant service updates 3 weeks or more after the official announcement. For at least 3 weeks, you have time to learn about the updates and prepare your employees.

How to take benefit of this new feature?

1. Go to your Tenant portal

2. Go to Admin > Service settings > Updates.

3. Turn First Release on or off.

One another widespread frustration we usually experience is when users in an organization on the same tenant see different updates on the UI.  This is due to the fact that it is an ongoing upgrade and is not completed yet. The users in one Office 365 organization are located on different server farms and the update is performed not by Office 365 organization; the new patches are deployed on the server farms. This is the reason why not all users in a company can see the new feature (for e.g. toolbar). While the upgrade is ongoing it is normal that some colleagues of yours still don’t have the feature available. An update might take up to 2 months and after this time passed all users in your organization should see already the feature available.