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Office 365 – The Importance of Remote Domains in Exchange Hybrid

When configuring an Exchange Hybrid environment, the Hybrid Configuration Wizard (HCW) handles the majority of the heavy lifting. Despite the automation of the HCW, my colleagues and I have noticed there are some settings related to “Remote Domains” that don’t always end up properly configured.

The Hybrid Configuration Wizard (HCW) has evolved since its initial release in SP2 for Exchange 2010; with each update to Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013, it’s possible that the logic used by the HCW has been updated. So while it’s difficult to say what specific settings were configured by the HCW at the time your organization ran it, I’ve noticed that at least the current version of the Exchange 2013 HCW does not seem to properly configure “Remote Domains”.

If left misconfigured, you may find that features such as “Out of Office” and “Voting Buttons” do not function as expected in an Exchange Hybrid environment.
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Office 365 – SharePoint Online Public Sites – Changes Coming!

Office 365Are you a small or medium sized business using the Office 365 SharePoint Online Public Websites feature? If so, there are some important changes coming to the service.

Starting in January 2015, Microsoft is making changes to the SharePoint Online Public Website feature. Customers who currently use this feature will continue to have access to the feature for a minimum of two years following the changeover date. New customers who subscribe to Office 365 after the changeover date won’t have access to this feature. Moving forward, Office 365 customers will have access to third-party offerings that will enable them to easily integrate their public presence with their Office 365 service. Additional details about these solutions will be made available in January 2015.

Why is Microsoft making this change?

As part of the evolution of the Office 365 service, we periodically evaluate the capabilities of the service to make sure that we’re delivering the utmost value to customers. Today, we’re making a difficult decision to discontinue the SharePoint Online Public Website feature. This lets us then focus on future investments while broadening our partnership with industry leaders.

What does this mean for existing customers of Office 365 plans?

Office 365 customers who currently use the SharePoint Online Public Website feature will continue to have access to the feature for a minimum of two years following the change. Moving forward, customers will have the option to subscribe to third-party solutions for public website functionality. Customers should plan to move to one of these third-party solution within the next two years. Read the rest of this post »

Azure Mobile Services – Offline Sync Now Available

Before I get into the details of the announcement on Offline Sync, let me take a moment for a quick introduction to Azure Mobile Services, as I don’t believe we have blogged on Mobile Services yet.  microsoft-azure-logo_11368901

With Azure Mobile Services, it’s easy to rapidly build engaging cross-platform and native apps for iOS, Android, Windows or Mac, store app data in the cloud or on-premises, authenticate users, send push notifications, as well as add your custom backend logic in C# or Node.js.

With Azure Mobile Services, you can easily authenticate your users with Active Directory, securely connect to on-premises resources like SAP, Oracle, SQL Server, and SharePoint, and leverage cross-platform frameworks like Xamarin and PhoneGap to build enterprise-grade apps.

Azure enables you to build mobile apps that can consume data from your own data center. With Hybrid Connections it is easy to access your data securely from your on-premises data centers, anywhere in the world.

Notification Hubs is a massively scalable mobile push notification engine capable of sending millions of push notifications to iOS, Android, Windows, or Nokia X devices within seconds. You can easily hook Notification Hubs into any existing app backend, whether that backend is hosted on-premises or in Azure. Read the rest of this post »

Sitecore 8 is Here!

Sitecore has just announced the official release of Sitecore Experience Platform 8 and it’s one of the most ambitious releases to date.

Many of us who were at Sitecore Symposium 2014 this past September were able to catch glimpses of the new features and the new look of Sitecore 8. Needless to say, everyone was impressed by the sorely needed facelift and a bevy of features for not only content managers but a strong focus on the needs of marketers.

You’ll notice that Sitecore has tweaked the name of the product – there are no longer disparate Sitecore CMS and Sitecore DMS products but rather the two have been fully integrated into what Sitecore calls an “Experience Platform”. “Experience” has been the main word that Sitecore has been conveying with the new release of the platform and the updates in the product revolve all around the experience of the user, whether that be a content manager, a marketer, or most importantly, the customer.

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Video How-To’s in Office 365

Video Portal was announced back in November with initial push to “first release” customers and a global deployment available by early 2015. This portal powered by Azure Media Services provides adaptive streaming optimized for video playback for the device it’s being viewed on. Leveraging Office Graph, simple drag and drop interface, discover ability across enterprise search and Delve, integration with yammer conversations, and sharing capabilities on mobile makes this an intuitive and engaging knowledge management add in.

Below is a summary of Video Q&A with Microsoft team, MVPs, and community members:

Why does Office 365 Video need Flash installed?

Microsoft is working to add HTML5 video playback support in a future update. This will remove the current Flash dependency. For the initial release, we prioritized security of the videos’ playback stream. We are working with Azure Media Services on new player and detection tech that can get the right player (native, HTML5, or flash) and the right stream from Azure media services, so that we offer both adaptive streaming and security on latest mobile devices and browsers. For native iPhone app, we are using Azure Media Service SDK to support HLS. Browser playback doesn’t work currently for mobile devices because of flash. Read the rest of this post »

Dream Team 2014: Connecting Salesforce and SharePoint

By now, it’s old news that Salesforce is connecting to files stored in Microsoft’s SharePoint Online service, the portals-and-collaboration piece of Office 365.  The official announcement may have been made this morning, but it hit the channel months ago and was unveiled with much fanfare when  it was previewed at Dreamforce 2014 this fall.  Since then, our Perficient team has been doing a lot of thinking about this integration, how and when to use it, and what it means.

Configuring Files Connect to Use Documents From SharePoint

One of the values of having award-winning national practices for both the Salesforce and Microsoft platforms is the chance to work with talented colleagues across technology stacks.  The result was this case study by Bob Graham, which gives a great overview of how we used Files Connect from Salesforce to access documents stored in SharePoint Online.  After collaborating with peers in our Salesforce team, Bob took the time to write this helpful piece up.  In it, he walks you through the steps he took to plan, connect, and ultimately leverage files stored in SharePoint within the Salesforce user experience.  It really is as easy as it looks.

The Greater Implications

“Okay, Perficient,” you might say now, “that’s how you make it work– but what does it mean?”  The obvious answer is the surprising amount of collaboration being shown between the direct actors engaged here– Microsoft and Salesforce– and that’s covered well over at TechCrunch.  It’s fascinating that of all the cloud-based file systems Salesforce could have partnered with for this, the first one in the line was actually Microsoft.

In a macro sense, it’s perfectly rational– the world is growing smaller and more connected, and the days of the one-vendor ecosystem are long dead.  Sure, Microsoft has a competing CRM platform (Dynamics) and Salesforce has its own portal solution (Communities), but as much as anything, this announcement is an acknowledgement that neither company is the market leader in those secondary spaces.  This is two giants connecting like to like– the dominant platforms for CRM and file-sharing, respectively– and making it easier for customers to choose best-of-breed cloud solutions over monolithic enterprise architectures focused on vendor rationalization.

That’s kind of a big deal, wouldn’t you say?

Office 365 – 300 Days of Mainstream Support Left for Outlook 2010

Let’s pause for a minute and mark October 13, 2015 on our calendars; this is the final day of mainstream support for Outlook 2010.

This is especially relevant to Exchange Online users as the system requirements for Office 365 state that it is designed to work with “any version of Microsoft Office in mainstream support”. While Microsoft does not actively block you from connecting to Office 365 with legacy versions or client applications, the text around older versions includes phrases like “does not recommend”, “limited support” and “quality of user experience will diminish over time”.

The “evergreen” nature of Office 365 means that the “server-side” of the service architecture is always being updated and improved; in some cases, these new features are only available to users running the most current client applications.

Knowing that we have 300 days to plan and execute the upgrade of our Outlook 2010 installations, below are some options that are available to us.
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Getting Started with Power BI, pt. 3

Last week, I posted part two of our Power BI Primer series discussing administration of Power BI Sites and user permissions.  Today, we’re bringing you Part Three.

If you are an Office365 customer, then you have almost certainly heard about (if not seen) Power BI.

The cloud-based analytics and collaboration platform from Microsoft has some pretty amazing features, and really extends the Microsoft BI platform not only into the cloud but into a more self-service oriented mode.   However, one of the challenges to getting up and running on Power BI has been, well, knowing how to get up and running!

And that’s where we come in.

Perficient has created a 4-part video series that provides step-by-step instructions for getting your Power BI instance working for you.  From getting your Power BI Site set up, to administering it, and connecting your Power BI workbooks to on-premises data sources — this series has got you covered!

So let’s take a look at Part 3:  Power BI Data Exploration and Visualization

This video jumps into the fun part: exploring and working with data, and building visualizations.  We will dive into pulling data from a primary source into Power Pivot, and also into making reports with Power View

Next time we’ll wrap up this series by talking about bringing things full circle and connecting to an on-premises data source from your O365 Power BI Site.  Cheers!

Azure ML on the forefront of Advanced Analytics

My colleague Sean Roy just put up a great post about Gartner’s predictions for Advanced Analytics in 2015:

This is of obvious interest to us in the Microsoft universe, as we perennially end up being in the  “happy” part of Gartner’s magic quadrant, and since Microsoft’s ongoing data and analytics story is called out here.  I will assume you can click through and read the post, so I’m not going to repost content.   But I do want to spin off of that mention and make a note of exactly what Azure Machine Learning is, and where it fits into the overall landscape of the Microsoft Data Platform.

Azure ML is a cloud-based Predictive Analytics offering, currently in preview.  It is fully managed from the get-go (meaning no downloads or installs), integrates simply with a basic drag-and-drop interface, and contains algorithms developed by Microsoft for Bing and Xbox  — although it also supports coding with R (the statistics programming language).   Essentially, Azure Machine Learning allows you to create advanced predictive models directly from a browser, and to make them operational with a few clicks.

Once you have established your model, you can collect basically unlimited data in Azure Storage, and easily connect to that data using Azure’s data services such as HDInsight (cloud-based Hadoop), Azure SQL Database (a PaaS model version of SQL Server) , and Azure Virtual Machines running SQL Server 2012/2014.

And then, from the user perspective, any of this data is available for consumption via Power BI both on the desktop and as part of Office 365.  Users can connect to any of those sources directly from Excel, allowing them to use a friendly interface that has been enhanced with some powerful data tools.

This is where we see the vision of the Microsoft Data Platform coming together on the cloud side, with a combination of PaaS and IaaS offerings linking up to provide infrastructure-free Advanced Analytics (including elements of Big Data and Predictive Analytics).   So, while it has been difficult to see it develop in-process, the Microsoft Data Platform becomes more compelling by the day.


Windows Server 2003 End of Support Looms – A Webinar Recap

It’s no secret – Microsoft support for Windows Server 2003 ends on July 14, 2015. Clock

Last week, Perficient, AppZero and Cisco teamed up for a webinar, Planning & Preparing for Windows Server 2003 End of Life. During the session, the speakers discussed the options and paths available when moving off Windows Server 2003, including the transition to a cloud model, benefits of Windows Server 2012, virtualization on Cisco UCS, and what exactly AppZero can do for your migrations.

First, Steve Andrews, a senior solutions architect at Perficient, explained exactly what end of support/end of life means: no updates, no compliance, no protection. But, the good news is, for those still on Windows Server 2003, there is the opportunity to transform your datacenter by transitioning to a hybrid cloud model, which Steve reviewed. He then showed attendees how to get started:

  1. Discover & Assess: Catalog and categorize apps and workloads
  2. Target: Identify destinations
  3. Migrate: Make the move

You have a variety of target options, from replacing the server hardware or virtualizing with Hyper-V to a new server, to relocating to a cloud service such as Azure IaaS or decommissioning if no longer in use. Read the rest of this post »