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Microsoft Azure Named Leader in Public Cloud Storage Services

microsoft-azure-logoExciting news as Gartner research recently published their Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Storage Services and recognized Microsoft Azure as a leader for the second year in a row based on completeness of their vision and ability to execute.

The amount of digital data produced each year is growing exponentially. According to IDC, by 2020 total digital data will be close to 40 Zetabytes (40,000,000PBs) and majority of it will be stored in the cloud.

In 2012, Microsoft Azure was storing 4 Trillion objects. In January 2015 the number of objects stored in Microsoft Azure reached 10 Trillion. That’s an enormous amount of files! According to Microsoft, 75% of those files are less than 10 MB in size. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – Is the “Archive Mailbox” Still Relevant?

The practice of email “archiving” probably goes back as far as email itself. Over the years, the reason for archiving emails has changed and as the corresponding technologies have evolved, it brings into question whether this practice even needs to continue.

Before enabling functionality that moves email data from it’s original location, it’s worth discussing if it is even necessary. To do so, we should ask the following questions:

Why do we archive?
Does this help or hurt our end-user experience?
Does this benefit our legal requirements?

The article below provides some history around the practice of email archiving and why it may no longer be relevant.
Read the rest of this post »

Definite Scenarios to Consider Yammer (Workplace Social Media)

Are you unaware of what Yammer is? Are you unsure of why you should consider it? Here’s some insightful guidance:

What is Yammer?
“Yammer is a social network that’s entirely focused on your business (Brad Chacos, PC World).“ It is an easy to use platform for dynamic communication at all levels and facets of an organization. It exist to give everyone within the organization a relevant voice. Yammer is a collaboration tool that couples nicely with other Microsoft solutions and takes advantage of the various ways we communicate. Here are some plausible use cases:

yamRemote Employees (at home)
Technologies that enable people to work anywhere at any time are steadily becoming cheaper and easier to implement. The virtual workplace is becoming ever more common.

Many organizations struggle within a virtual environment not form the IT side, but rather from interpersonal and social struggles. Socializing within the workplace is how we identify who may be best to handle a special sort of task. Yammer can make this process faster. Imagine being able to ask everyone a question without waiting for a weekly meeting, playing phone tag, touring around the office in a disruptive way, and without sending distribution emails.

Before moving a segment of your business to work remotely, consider adding Yammer to your scope. Remote employees also include employees with a high travel rate.

Retail: A real world example
In this scenario Yammer was used for bottom-up communications. With certain information the Westfield team was able to make important real-time changes.

Business Development
The sales team is often the most mobile, energized, and social department. Yammer is a great place to share big wins, leads, and drive sales competition. Private or public groups can be created and later deleted. Within these groups, members can share files, ideas, presentations, or whatever their creativity desires. These groups have also been used to tighten B2B relationships. Furthermore it is a place to get information out without using a distribution group email.

ROI on Yammer may be challenging to quantify, but it is a tool worth considering. Like many business tools, you can mold Yammer to fit the unique needs of your organization.

Azure: Did You Know? Upgrade Domains and Fault Domains

Microsoft AzureHave you ever wondered how Microsoft provides an SLA of 99.95% for Azure? 99.95% is quite high, it means that the Azure service is available the entire year with only 4 hrs and 23 minutes of downtime. How does Microsoft guarantee this level of service?

Fault Domains

A fault domain is a physical point of failure. Think of a computer (or a rack of servers) that is physically plugged in to a power outlet in one location. If a power outage happens, that computer goes offline. If a flood happens at the datacenter, the computer goes offline. If a missile hits the building, the computer goes offline. You get the picture. Read the rest of this post »

Exchange Online – After the Migration… Now What?

On June 24th, Microsoft hosted a “Beyond Build and Ignite” event at our local MTC office. The event was well-attended by clients looking for additional information on top of the hours of video content available from the last month’s Ignite event.

In addition to Perficient being one of the sponsors of this event, I was given the opportunity to present as part of the “Cloud Productivity” track. Keeping with the “beyond” theme, my session was titled “Exchange Online: After the Migration… Now What?”.

The idea around this session was that Exchange Online offers a number of features that aren’t always deployed right out of the gate. In many cases, it makes perfect sense to wait on the enablement of these features until the mail migration is completed and implement them as part of a “phase 2″. You likely already own these “phase 2″ features and I’ve identified them in the presentation slide deck below.
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Morphing into a digital business with Microsoft’s help


Perficient is all about helping customers with their Digital Transformation initiatives, and there’s a lot of curiosity around the topic. While most people think of digital marketing and customer experience first and foremost, just as Nigel Fenwick, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research mentioned during a webinar last week, business efficiency and optimization is really about creating value for the customer. Digital Transformation is about finding new ways to work smarter, move faster and be more effective as both an individual and a company – and that’s what Microsoft is known for.

So, with the goal being digital maturity, how exactly do you get there? As Nigel eluded to, an excellent digital customer experience is only half of the equation – digital operational excellence is the yin to your customer experience’s yang. About a year ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation,” and I think that’s true of a the vast majority of industries today. Customers have more options than ever, and they know what they want and how to get what they need quickly.

You’ve probably invested in Microsoft platforms and products that will help you on your digital transformation journey. But do you really know how these digital technologies can change the way business is done? Digital businesses are innovating with data, adapting business through intelligent operations, becoming more agile and responsive with smart machines, using machine learning and advanced analytics to stay ahead of customer needs and market changes, and providing an engaging customer experience with digital technology.

Join us for a webinar tomorrow, “Reimagine Your Business in a Digital-First World with Microsoft,” where Rich Wood will describe how Microsoft technology can be used to create a holistic digital transformation across the enterprise, and embrace the four megatrends to increase productivity, improve customer service, expand market share, and ultimately, increase revenue. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – When to Consider a Third-Party Identity Provider

Office 365 offers several different identity options. Well known are the options to use “cloud identities” or directory synchronization from your on-premises Active Directory. For authentication, Microsoft offers the option to use “password hash sync” or Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) along with your on-premises Active Directory.

There is, however, another option when it comes to identity. There are several third-party identity providers (IdPs) that are validated for use with Office 365.

When does it make sense to use a third-party IdP?

What should you look for when considering one?
Read the rest of this post »

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Skype for Business – Reverse Proxy 101


First let’s start off with what a Reverse proxy is and then cover how it fits in with with Skype for Business Server.

The Reverse proxy is a device that receives requests from clients on and then forwards the request on to another resource, in this case a Skype for Business Front End server. This is done in such a seamless manner that the Reverse Proxy is transparent to the client. Ideally, the Reverse Proxy device/appliance is placed between your internal Skype for Business Front End server/s and the public internet – the recommended placement would be in a DMZ network.

So why does Skype for Business (Skype4B) need a Reverse Proxy?

Skype4B relies on the Reverse Proxy to publish its Web Services to the public Internet.

Here are some of the Skype4B Web Service functions:

  • Skype for Business Mobility client
  • Simple URL’s
    • LyncDiscover – client sign-in and discovery
    • Meet – Connect to meetings
    • Dialin – Dial-In Conference settings information
    • Schedule – Schedule Meetings
  • Skype for Business Web App client
  • Expand Distribution Groups
  • Address Book download

Let’s take a quick look at the IIS settings of a Front End Server in my lab; you will see that there are two different IIS sites (Image below). One web site for Internal and one for External. Read the rest of this post »

Azure: Did You Know? Block vs Page Blobs

storage1Azure storage service supports two types of blobs (blob, or BLOB, stand for Binary Large OBject, i.e. an unstructured binary data): block and page blobs. Blob type is selected when blob is created and then it can’t be changed. Although both blob types allow for storage of large binary objects in Azure, they are optimized for different storage scenarios.

Read the rest of this post »

Introduction to Azure Search

Azure-Search-logo-bigPull out your cell phone, go to any app, and chances are that app has a search box. The same is true of most websites. Our ability to find information in a cloud-first, mobile-first world is driven by search capabilities.

Azure Search is a search-as-a-service solution that allows developers to incorporate great search experiences in applications without managing infrastructure or needing to become search experts.

Because of Google, Yahoo, and Bing; users are accustomed to a minimum level of quality with their search experience. If your application does not provide that base level of functionality, your users might get frustrated and leave, then your application could be headed for failure. Read the rest of this post »