Microsoft Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Mail Enabled Lists


Microsoft Sharepoint does so many things that there are 100’s of features used by only a subset of companies, but there are a number of features that are pretty key to the majority of Sharepoint organizations. To me, one of these is:

Mail Enabled Lists

Basically, this allows you to send emails to a list within Sharepoint and have it catalogue the mail and also store any attachments to that mail; I think that’s pretty cool!

This feature wasn’t available in BPOS and I discovered today it won’t be available in the soon to be released Office 365 either. I couldn’t really understand why as, on the face of it, mail enabled lists appear to be quite an easy feature to enable. I asked one of the Microsoft TSP’s today and also did a little Bing based research and have come up with something of an answer.

The official answer from Microsoft Corp. is:

“They are currently disabled due to performance, scalability, policy enforcement, data requirements and legal compliance issues that can affect Enterprise customers”

Looking into it further, I came across a post on Joel Oleson’s MSDN based blog on the subject of Mail Enabled lists which throws some more light onto the subject. He says:

“MS IT has been very cautious about their support for email enabled lists and specifically only supporting it on few isolated environments”

which I found very surprising. Luckily he goes on to answer my question – Why?

“Email enabled lists create contact objects in AD, it takes careful coordination to create these contact objects and ensure the proper write access to a specific OU. Imagine 500,000 lists all with the ability to be email enabled”

BPOS/Office 365 is a multi tenant setup, meaning there could be millions of lists in the cloud based Active Directory, many of which could have 1000’s of updates a day. That is quickly a huge overhead for the servers and infrastructure to cope with, potentially leading to a negative impact on the service Microsoft offer to their customers.

Hopefully in the future, Microsoft will enable this feature…perhaps with a maximum limit per company for number of lists/number of daily updates etc. However there is no word floating around the halls of any such move for the foreseeable future…

What are your thoughts – are mail enabled lists important to you? Would it stop you from moving to the cloud? Let me know in the comments Smile

Microsoft Office 365: Updates


Microsoft’s UK HQ was my base of operations today as I took part in the first Office 365 “Ignite” training, anywhere in the world. It was a very well put together day with great content delivered by great presenters, I picked up quite a few tidbits of information I’d like to share with you all. Be warned, this won’t be a particularly cohesive post, more a list of interesting things I learned today! Smile

  • Mail Enabled lists are still not available in Office 365. Here’s a post on why this might be the case:

Read Microsoft Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Mail Enabled Lists

  • Directory Sync aka DirSync is a 32bit tool only, so only supported on Server 2003 or 2008 NOT 2008 R2
  • If your Active Directory (AD) is over 50,000 objects you will need a full SQL instance as part of DirSync, SQL Express will not be up to the job
  • On average, syncing a 15,000 object AD will take about 3 hours and then further delta change syncs will take approx. 12 minutes. <—This of course depends on a number of factors.
  • If you choose to run ADFS 2.0 to enable single sign on between your on premise and cloud environments, you will need to deploy ADFS servers onsite and you will need to have a good amount of redundancy. Why? If your ADFS server is unavailable, users will be completely unable to access the Cloud Services!
  • The version of Office you get with the E4 plan of Office 365 can be installed on up to 5 machines at the same time.
  • One of the reasons that Office 2003 is not supported is because Outlook 2003 doesn’t expose the Archive mailbox through folder list, which  means the Archiving piece in Exchange 2010 Online won’t work.
  • There are 2 versions of Exchange available, Plan 1 & 2, that have exactly the same features other than mailbox size; Plan 1 gives 25GB while Plan 2 gives unlimited. This becomes important if you’re going to utilise Archiving and or Voicemail. With Plan 1, the 25GB is shared across the active inbox and the archive which will restrict the actual mailbox size. Secondly, a lot of voicemails can quickly eat up a number of GBs of storage…
  • Business Connectivity Services (BCS) isn’t part of Sharepoint Online at the moment, but it will be coming further down the line. That will allow On Premise Line of Business (LOB) applications to be searchable by Sharepoint Online.
  • An organization now gets 10GB of storage when they sign up to Sharepoint Online
  • If you want to have rich co-existence between your on-premise and online environments, you will need to have an Exchange 2010 server on site. This is required for certain roles such as hub transport.
  • Lync client for Mac should be available by July.

Told you it would just be a list Winking smile

 

Microsoft Exchange Online & Blackberry


Microsoft BPOS, the online versions of Exchange, Sharepoint et al has offered a Hosted Blackberry service for around 12 months now and it’s been pretty popular. The vast majority of organizations that use Exchange also use RIM’s Blackberry’s so offering them a way to push that off to the cloud certainly made the adoption of Exchange Online an even easier deal to sell. It was a pretty cost effective solution too, at £6/$10 per user per month.

As BPOS is soon transitioning to Office 365, with new versions of the MS software available in the cloud, there is also a change happening to the Blackberry service…well actually two changes.

1) The service will move over to be hosted, managed & supported by RIM.

2) The monthly cost is changing to £0/$0

That’s right, the service is going to become a free value add from Microsoft and not only that, it will be better than the current offering! From an email Microsoft sent to customers and partners this morning:

“administrators will be able to create and manage more device policies, change device passwords and settings, and search across large numbers of BlackBerry users at one time.”

The monthly cost is also changing for current customers right now, enabling them to take advantage of the zero cost straight away. This is a significant cost saving for companies, as an example – an organization with 150 Blackberry users would look like this:

£6 x 12 months x 150 users = £10,800 per annum

This move from Microsoft instantly saves almost £11,000 a year in the example above, and 150 BB users isn’t a particularly large installation either. Companies could/should use that money to invest in other areas of infrastructure…they could add Sharepoint Online for those users and still have nearly a 50% saving!

Current Customers

Current Blackberry Online subscriptions are being terminated on June 30, 2011 so if you’re currently using the Blackberry Online Service, there are steps that must be taken to ensure continuous service.

  1. Log in to Microsoft Online: Go to the Microsoft Online Customer Portal and log into your Microsoft Online account.
  2. Locate the Hosted BlackBerry service offer: Click Manage Subscription, choose an active BPOS or Exchange Online subscription*, select Buy Hosted BlackBerry from the Actions dropdown, and click Go.
    * This can be the same BPOS or Exchange Online subscription with which Hosted Blackberry was last purchased.
  3. Checkout: In the Shopping Cart, enter your total required number of Hosted BlackBerry seats** and accept the Hosted Blackberry Service Terms of Use (checkbox). Click Update, then click Checkout. The new $0/user/month pricing for all of your current seats for the Hosted BlackBerry service takes effect at new agreement signature. All users under the old terms of use are now covered by the new terms of use regardless of the user count entered.
    ** At a minimum, customers should enter the number of Hosted BlackBerry licenses in use today across all existing Hosted BlackBerry subscriptions. This number is visible in the Hosted BlackBerry Administration Console which is a part of the Microsoft Online Administration Portal.
  4. Cancel the old subscription(s): To cancel your previous subscriptions and avoid being billed for the Hosted BlackBerry service as of your next billing cycle, you must cancel any previously existing subscriptions through a Service Request, either by phone or through the service request form in your Microsoft Online Administration Console (MOAC). Service use will continue uninterrupted after cancelling the old subscriptions.

Bad News

The good news is that organizations can save £1000’s per year but there is some bad news. Unfortunately, RIM aren’t going to have the new platform ready for the General Availability (GA) of Microsoft Office 365; it will be “beginning in late 2011” according to Microsoft.

We’ve been told that companies on Office 365 will be unable to use Hosted Blackberry until the RIM platform is complete, so perhaps some 6 months after Office 365 becomes available. I am yet to get 100% clarification on this point but it appears this means that existing BPOS & Hosted Blackberry users must choose:

Stay on the BPOS platform with Hosted Blackberry for a further 6 months

or

Move to the new Office 365 platform and lose Hosted Blackberry for around 6 months

Not an ideal situation for anyone so I am looking to get more clarification around this ASAP and will update here. My hope is that although they are terminating subscriptions, Microsoft will keep their platform running for existing customers until such time that RIM get their act together…

Windows InTune V2


Windows Intune was released to General Availability (GA) today on March 23rd 2011 but already the next version is being worked on, at least according to Twitter.

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I haven’t seen anyone else mention this but Maarten is a SCOM MVP and the hashtags indicate this came directly from today’s MMS2011 keynote speech, so I think it’s safe to believe it Smile Plus it is in no way unusual for Microsoft to be working on the next version of a product before they’ve even released the first edition…

If Windows Intune V2 does include Software Distribution, that will be pretty amazing. That will enable IT departments/Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) to deploy new software to users from a remote location via the web. Although it will of course be limited by internet bandwidth between the 2 points, this will make so many things so much easier for so many people! That could well be the point that sees InTune take hold in larger organizations…

Microsoft MDOP features and licensing changes


The Microsoft Management Summit has brought more great changes, this time involving MDOP.

The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack is a great set of additional tools aimed at making desktop management easier,faster and more dynamic – for more info, see this post:

http://richfrombechtle.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/microsoft-mdop/

MDOP 2011 will see both new products, feature enhancements and a change to the way the product is licensed.

Products:

Microsoft recently announced the “Microsoft Bitlocker Administration & Monitoring” tool aka MBAM (codename Malta), which makes the management of Bitlocker devices much easier across an organization; a big one being self-service recovery of keys…I’m sure many IT dept’s will be happy to lose that job!

This will be included in MDOP 2011 and the beta is available on Microsoft Connect here:

https://connect.microsoft.com/site1115/Downloads

Features:

DaRT – Diagnostics & Recovery Toolkit – is getting a new version with at least one new feature; the ability to do an offline remote boot, rather than needing to visit the physical machine. Again, another great time saver for some IT teams!

If you’re interested in this, the beta nomination form can be found here:

https://connect.microsoft.com/site1200/Survey/NominationSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=12358&ProgramID=6840

Licensing Availability:

Previously the only way to purchase MDOP was as an addition to having Windows 7 with Software Assurance (SA) but now it is also available to companies who have either the Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licence or Windows InTune.

Thanks to Bridget Botelho for her article over at:

http://searchenterprisedesktop.techtarget.com/news/2240033610/Microsoft-sweetens-MDOP-deal-and-releases-Intune

Microsoft make changes to Core CAL Licensing


Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2011 is bringing announcement of a number of things such as new versions of System Center products, deeper integration between Microsoft products and, also Licensing.

Most Microsoft server products require a CAL (Client Access Licence) for each User/Device accessing the server software. To help reduce cost and licensing complexity, Microsoft offer 2 bundles that contain a number of these CALs: dsd

Core CAL

Enterprise CAL

The different products contained within have been, for some time:

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but not any more!

Core CAL will now include:

Lync Std CAL

Forefront Endpoint Protection

Notice that it is only “Forefront Endpoint Protection” that is being added to the Core CAL, if organizations require the other parts of the suite, they will still need to look at the Enterprise CAL.

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Core CAL for the future

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That is what the updated Core CAL will look like and these changes are going to take effect from the August 2011 price file. This will also see a slight increase in the price of the Core CAL, due to it’s increased product range.

Why do this?

The way people and companies use technology is changing, particularly there is a rapid increase in the use of Instant Messaging & Presence within organisations. Gartner say:

“By 2013, 95% of workers in Global 100 organizations will use the IM client as their primary interface for computer-based, real-time communications”

Microsoft are making it easier and more cost effective for organizations of ALL sizes to embrace these new technologies and reap the benefits they bring.

These changes are now reflected on the Microsoft site here:

http://www.microsoft.com/calsuites/en/us/products/default.aspx

Lync Online & VoIP


Microsoft are readying Office 365, the new version of their Online Services offering, to be released within the next 3-4 months and one of the new features over it’s previous iteration, BPOS, is the inclusion of VoIP (Voice over IP) Audio.

However, due to certain licensing restrictions, it isn’t currently available in all countries that can use the Office 365 service. Below is a table showing the current standing for VOIP availability across the range of countries who have the beta.

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I assume this is down to specific country laws as to what services you can provide before you’re classed as a Telecommunications Provider…surely an area MS don’t want to get into!

I have to say I’m surprised it will be available in the UK Smile

Angry Birds: Letter from the Front Lines


I have just seen this on Twitter and it’s quite brilliant. Letters from the Angry Birds, written to their loved ones back home detailing the horrors of war.

imageimageimage

 

These are taken from the site:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2011/3/2riebschlager.html

and seen on Twitter via @nickbilton from the NY Times.

Microsoft Windows Intune


Microsoft have recently announced that Windows Intune will be available on March 23rd 2011. This is their new product aimed at simplifying PC management for SMB organisations.

What is it and what does it do?

Windows Intune is a cloud based, central management system aimed at SMB’s of up to 250 machines (or so).

“Windows Intune simplifies how businesses manage and secure PCs using Windows cloud services and Windows 7—so your computers and users can operate at peak performance, from virtually anywhere.”

Intune covers many of the areas that IT Managers find difficult and time consuming such as:

  • Managing Updates
  • Pro-active monitoring
  • Malware Protection
  • Asset Tracking (Hardware & Software)
  • Remote Assistance
  • Setting Security Policies

 

As much as it is a Web based management console, it is also more than that…and this piece, despite being pretty huge, doesn’t seem to be getting mentioned that much:

It includes Windows 7 with Software Assurance.

For $11 a month (or whatever your currency equivalent will be) you get a hugely impressive central management console, Windows 7 Enterprise (so features such as Bitlocker), new version rights for Windows 8 and beyond and the ability to add on MDOP and give yourself a truly dynamic IT Infrastructure.

You can read my more in-depth original post here:

http://richfrombechtle.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/windows-intune/

Can I get a trial?

You certainly can, head over to:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsintune/reminder.aspx

register, and get notified when trials are available.