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Lync Server 2013 Contributes to Perficient’s FlexJobs Award

Just recently, Perficient was named as a top 100 company for a remote job by FlexJobs. (Read About It) Being I work from home (as most people do in my field), I definitely felt Perficient was well deserving of this award. Although the FlexJobs criteria didn’t ask “what kind of tools do Perficient employees use to help in being remote?”, we all know what the single most common answer would be if asked; Lync Server 2013. So here is a break down of what I have to make myself productive being remote;

1.) A home office
2.) A company issued laptop
3.) Outlook connected to Office 365 Exchange Online
4.) SharePoint (On-Premises)
5.) Lync Server 2013 with Enterprise Voice. I use it extensively on my iPhone and obviously my PC.
6.) Yammer (on occasion)
7.) VPN – But only kind of. VPN is only used to do my timesheets as that system is not publically accessible…on purpose I believe.

Yes, I get it, you are probably reading all of those and thinking “why did you lend so much credence to Lync in the first paragraph, you still need all those other tools as well?”. That’s simple answer; The other technologies and the concept they represent have been around forever, so that really hasn’t changed. What ties it all together is Lync Server 2013, which in my opinion creates “Unified Communications.”
I’ve been using content management systems and email for quite some time prior to Lync going “mainstream”. Although those tools could be used while working remotely before Lync, they lacked the personal feel that Lync offers. With only those “pre-Lync” tools, I couldn’t rapidly connect with someone over IM/Voice/Video at the very moment I needed to. I required being with someone in person, which didn’t scale at all. Take for example; what if I needed talk to co-worker Jim in Chicago unscheduled. Then I needed to talk to customer Frank in Miami unscheduled 15 minutes after that? I can’t hop a flight to Chicago then to Miami in 15 minutes…I need a tool that allows me to see and communicate with these individuals immediately. That is the gap that the Unified Communications leader, Lync Server 2013, has filled.

So readers could be reading this and thinking, “Jason is bias, of course he’ll give this opinion.” Au contraire mon frere , I reached out to individuals, one of whom I don’t even know who work at Perficient.

Allison wrote this quote very professionally, so keep in mind this was a completely un-coached quote. She just joined Perficient through acquisition and her company prior didn’t have Lync.

How does Lync empower your day to day duties?
I typically get frustrated with technology, but I must say I really do like Lync.

Lync has actually saved me time and made it super easy to meet and collaborate with people remotely. Prior to the acquisition I used a conference call number, but that was only voice. If I needed to share a document or presentation I would have to schedule a GoToMeeting. That would take about 5 minutes to set up. For messaging I used a separate tool – Google Hangouts. With Lync everything is together in one tool. I can quickly schedule a meeting that includes a “Join Lync Meeting” link to join the call on my computer and an optional phone number for people that need to or prefer to call in via phone. Once in the meeting I also have the ability to share my screen, instant message people in the meeting, and record the call. I especially like the one click “New Lync Meeting” to schedule a meeting in my Outlook calendar. Only takes a second. So fast and easy.

Lync allows me to communicate securely from any location, be it office, home or the local coffee shop. It combines voice and video calls, meetings, screen sharing, and instant messaging into one, easy-to-use tool. This makes collaboration and sharing super easy.”
- Allison Gugala – Marketing Manager, Perficient

Second quote:
What would be the most challenging part of your job WITHOUT Lync?
Communication – tracking people down, scheduling meetings, answering questions, making a quick call – it’s all so much easier with Lync”
- Angie Lingk – BDE, Perficient

Now, to be fair, I also asked this question with an answer I didn’t expect;

How has the Lync Mobile “1-click” meeting join feature improved the Lync experience?
So, this is the one thing I have an issue with. It’s basically useless to me unless I am on Wi-Fi. When I’m traveling, specifically driving, I am never on Wi-Fi.”
- Angie Lingk

The “issue” Angie experienced happened to be a non-issue after all, it was simply the lack of user training. Once I explained to her how to setup the client, the Lync mobile client has become irreplaceable.
The client can indeed be configured to use with 1-click over normal cellular, which is incredibly invaluable to remote workers who don’t have good data signals. As much as the big cell carriers brag, they simply can’t get data coverage into all areas of the United States.
Stayed tuned for a subsequent blog detailing the simple Lync mobile client configuration to make your life easier while being remote.

So there you have it, Lync Server 2013 allows Perficient to be considered a top place to work fore remote workers. Without the proper tools to enable our users, Perficient would simply be unable to advertise jobs as being remote positions.

Top 10 Things to Know About Yammer External Messaging-Flexternal

Yammer is rolling out an exciting new feature which will provide the ability to add external collaborators to new conversations, existing conversations,External-Messaging2 and private messages within the Office 365 network. This will be first released for beta testing (for verified and registered admins).

The Office 365 community hosted an open discussion around this new feature led by Microsoft team. Folks on the discussion shared real time scenarios where this could prove real helpful.

  1.  We have a new person joining our team. The manager announced it internally and the excitement and kudos poured in. But the person that we were hiring wasn’t on the thread. Everyone was sort of preemptively congratulating this person even though this person wasn’t on boarded yet. Once this feature turned up, we included the new hire on the thread, and this person was able to see all the congratulatory messages and even make their first post about how excited they are to join the team.
  2. We’re working with an external person on a project. One where it doesn’t necessarily make sense to spin up an external network. Doing so would just be overkill. We want to exchange files, have conversations, etc. The external person isn’t necessarily full time on the project and we only need their input infrequently.

Here is a list of top 10 quick tips you need to know about this idea – Flexternal

  1. People who you add to the conversation will be able to contribute and add others. However, they will not be able to add you to the conversations in their network. Only you can add others at this time.
  2. People can NOT be invited to Public or Private Group as a whole but just to a thread. They can be invited to public conversations, but only to single instances. So they have to be invited to every conversation you want them to see.
  3. If you remove an external participant from a thread, they no longer see the message in Yammer, but still can find the message within their email inbox. How much of that conversation is revealed in email? For instance if there were four posts on a thread, will all four responses show in the email or just part of the conversation up until they were removed?
    Every comment from the conversation is sent individually via email. So one email will only include one comment of the conversation–not the entire thread. Let’s say you were added at the beginning of the conversation. You’ll get four separate emails. If you were added by comment three you will only receive comments three and four. Once a user is removed they will no longer receive email notifications. You also cannot view content in email. You need to sign into Yammer to view files or notes.
  4. What happens if the invited external does not already have a company Yammer network? For example, an individual contractor/consultant.
    That external user can either chose to respond via email, or signup and join their Yammer network. Obviously they wouldn’t be able to join your network.
  5. What happens if I invite an external user to a conversation at the “wrong” email address. Will they have to create a new Yammer profile or would they be able to pull the conversation into their existing inbox?
    Right now that person would be able to reply to you by email. There isn’t currently the functionality to pull the conversation into an existing inbox though.
  6. Will the network admin be able to easily identify/contact the admins of the foreign network posting to their users? The most obvious reason will be around spam and abuse.
    Microsoft is working on including ‘report as spam’ button with this feature. That button will automatically provide this feedback to them and to the network admins.
  7. Will the email address of those posting into my network be clearly available in the data exports?
    Yes - the mail addresses are available. People who will be posting into your network are the ones that are explicitly invited to conversations by other people in your network. Therefore it is similar to someone in your network cc’ing an external user in their email that is also addressed to others in the company.
  8. How will external messaging recipients be clearly identified in email interaction with a thread?
    If you are responding by email, you’ll see the same external participant icon that you see on the web (the globe icon). When responding by email you’ll also get a warning at the bottom of the email that there are external participants in the thread.
  9. It’s not possible to disable this feature at a network level at this time. This means NO administrative override.  However, Yammer External Messaging will clearly show the external party that has been added.
  10. Currently it will not allow users to communicate with Gmail/AOL/Yahoo types of email address. You have to use a corporate email address.

Microsoft giving away Power BI — for FREE?!?

As crazy as it may sound, Microsoft has decided to give away Power BI  for free.

Why?  That’s easy: they want Tableau’s market.

Well, maybe that’s not the entire answer.  After all, Microsoft played nicely with Tableau for years, largely viewing them as a partner.  But frankly, they were leaving a fairly large market opportunity untouched.  So Power BI is a whole is definitely a move in that direction.  But, if they’re giving it away, that can’t be the entire answer.

I think this move ties in with other recent Microsoft data bets — e.g. the acquisitions of Equivio and Revolution Analytics, the internal development of Cosmos and SQL-IP, the creation of Polybase for APS, the positioning of HDInsight and Azures cloud-based data services, etc.

Basically, Microsoft is doubling down on their Data Platform.  They are investing heavily in what Satya Nadella sees as a more and more data-driven world.   Given the history of Microsoft with creating ecosystems linking related (and sometimes unrelated) products, it will be interesting to see how these various products come together.

In the meantime, for the low, low price of a simple business email, it’s definitely worth checking out the new Power BI preview…

 

 

 

 

 

Office 365 – How to Configure UPN Filtering in AADSync

Azure Active Directory Sync Services (AADSync) was made “generally available” in September 2014. While the old DirSync tool is still available (and actually still linked to in the portal), AADSync should be what you’re looking to deploy at this point. As we make this transition, there is a learning curve in trying to understand how to accomplish certain tasks in AADSync that you may have previously done in DirSync.

One of the configuration settings I often implement with DirSync is the creation of a filter to only synchronize attributes with a properly formatted UPN.

Below is how this filter can be implemented using the AADSync PowerShell module.
Read the rest of this post »

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7 Reasons You Should Be Fired Up For Windows 10!

win10We first heard last fall about Windows 10, Microsoft’s new operating system version. Today, we heard a whole lot more and personally, I’m thrilled!

The new vision for Windows is an operating system designed to deliver a singular, cohesive experience across a myriad of device types. Traditionally, Windows has been built for the PC. So, this is the first time that the operating system has been designed for a cloud and mobile-first world.

Windows 10 will run across an incredibly broad set of devices – from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise datacenters worldwide. Some of these devices have 4 inch screens – some have 80 inch screens – and some don’t have screens at all. Some of these devices you hold in your hand, others are ten feet away. Some of these devices you primarily use touch/pen, others mouse/keyboard, others controller/gesture – and some devices can switch between input types.

And across this breadth of devices, Microsoft is delivering one application platform for developers. Whether you’re building a game or a line of business application, there will be one way to write a universal app that targets the entire family. There will be one store, one way for applications to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices. Awesome!

After we heard more in today’s announcement, here are my 7 reasons why you should be fired up too! Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – Watch Your “Recoverable Items Quota”!

Many of the limits within Exchange Online are values that your users are unlikely to exceed. Despite this, we occasionally see situations where a limit is exceeded in ways you might not expect.

As perhaps best illustrated by the fabled “640K ought to be enough for anybody” quote (falsely?) attributed to Bill Gates, the requirements of users changes over time. Fortunately, Office 365 has maintained pace in most cases by raising various limits.

I recently worked with a client that exceeded the default 30 GB “RecoverableItemsQuota” value set on their mailbox. As a result, meeting invites sent to the user were being returned as undeliverable to the senders.

What is the “RecoverableItemsQuota”?

How can you tell if you’re at risk of exceeding the limit?

Is 30 GB a limit we can expect to exceed?

How can we increase the limit in Exchange Online?
Read the rest of this post »

Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute is free through June 30, 2015

The most common way for enterprises to connect their datacenters or home offices to resources in Microsoft Azure is over VPN. Although Microsoft has made connecting to Azure quick and easy, VPNs, in general, do have their drawbacks. Because they traverse the public internet, availability and performance are difficult to control. Latency can also be an issue for those applications and connections which depend on low latency communications.expressroute

Fortunately, Microsoft realizes many companies require better connections to their Azure resources, and they offer ExpressRoute as a solution. ExpressRoute provides private connections between Azure datacenters and a company’s on-premises datacenter. These connections don’t traverse the public internet so the result is higher security, lower latency, better reliability and faster speeds.

If you are thinking of extending your existing datacenter to Azure, or if you want to take advantage of the storage, backup, and recovery benefits of the Azure cloud, now is a great time to give it a try. Up until June 30, 2015, the Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute 10 Mbps Network Service Provider (NSP) offering is free of charge. Just to sweeten the pot, some Microsoft NSP partners are offering related promotions during this period.

If you want to explore the many benefits of a fast, reliable and secure private connection to the Azure cloud, you can find more information about the ExpressRoute promotion here.

For more on Azure and Microsoft’s cloud offering, take a look at our latest white paper.

Office 365 – New Features Appear on the Office 365 Roadmap

Trying to stay on top all the changes in Office 365 can be a daunting task. In a previous article, “How to Stay Informed of Changes“, I described some of the methods that I use to try and stay informed.

One of those methods, the “Office 365 Roadmap“, seems to have been updated recently with a handful of new features planned. Ideally there would be an RSS feed or an update log for the page, it’s a bit of a treasure hunt when reviewing the roadmap.

Below are a few exciting new features that look to have recently appeared on the Office 365 Roadmap.
Read the rest of this post »

Introducing Azure Key Vault

azurekeyvault_overviewOn Wednesday, I published a new post – 10 Best Microsoft Azure Features for 2015. I wanted to include a feature I have heard about for some time now, Azure Key Vault, but I couldn’t find any public information to reference. Because of our NDA with Microsoft, I must have reference able public info before I can blog about it. Turns out, Microsoft released it to preview on Wednesday, so I was publishing at the same time they were, kind of funny.

Do you want to build an Azure application that uses keys for signing and encryption? Do you want these keys and secrets to be protected, without having to write the code yourself? Do you want customers to own and manage their keys in your SaaS application? Do you want to ensure that your applications comply with FIPS 140-2 Level 2 HSMs and Common Criteria EAL4+ standards for secure key management? Enter Azure Key Vault! Read the rest of this post »

10 Best Microsoft Azure Features For 2015

microsoft-azure-logo_11368901Welcome to 2015, I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season! As we gear up for Q1, I wanted to share some great new features (services) available today in Microsoft Azure. I had a hard time narrowing my list to only 10, there are a ton of new and great features for Azure. If you’re not using Azure today, keep reading, I can almost guarantee your business would benefit from at least one of the below.

1. Azure Search

We all know how important search is to any web based application. Users are used to Web search engines, sophisticated ecommerce websites and social apps that offer great relevance, search suggestions as you type, faceted navigation, highlighting and more, all with near-instantaneous response times. So, this feature is something we have been waiting on for quite some time in Azure, and now its finally in public preview! Microsoft Azure Search is a new service that allows you to embed search functionality into custom applications. It provides the search engine and storage for your data, which you access and manage using a REST API. Here are some of the key features – Read the rest of this post »