Archive for category Cloud

Sharepoint adoption

Taxonomy is a word that is used quite frequently when describing the classification and management of information within Sharepoint. Sharepoint is the information management component of Office 365, and as great as it is there can be some hurdles to getting users to adopt it. In a perfect world Sharepoint would replace the file share and any other document based processes within your business. Chris Riley blogged recently on Taxonomy and how important it is to any Sharepoint deployment, cloud or on premise.

Taxonomy Planning in SharePoint 2010 – End User – NothingButSharePoint.com.

The biggest limitation with Sharepoint is that there are NO limitations… Time and time again Sharepoint deployments fail due to lack of planning. You can plan your Sharepoint deployment so that your users aren’t put off. Keeping it simple and easy to understand while at the same time enforcing a level of governance to ensure the data stored is searchable and relevant.

Going from a file share to Sharepoint takes some getting used to and with a good amount a planning it should make logical sense to the user from the get-go. One of the tools we have found to be useful that allow users to work from a familiar environment is Harmon.ie . This tool is a plug in for Outlook and is accessible from the main Outlook pane or any new calendar or mail item. It allows a user to interact with their Sharepoint sites and document libraries right from within Outlook, no need to change to a different app or grapple with the browser experience. Navigation is handled similar to traditional folder structures and its that familiar navigation that adds to its ease of use.

Harmon.ie is free up to 250 seats however there is an “Enterprise” version available for USD$129/user/year. There is also an iPad and iPhone client available for free, this client allows navigation of your Sharepoint sites and at a glance view the documents and their meta data. With the current lack of Office for iOS the premium version of the iOS client will take a user to the Web App interface for quick editing of documents. My iPad uses a version of Quick Office (a 3rd party Office style editor) and Harmon.ie recognizes this and allows you to edit documents in this app seamlessly.

The important thing from an administrative point of view is to architect the structure of the information within Sharepoint ahead of time. The moment users are able to access the site they will revert to old habits if strict governance isn’t present. Office 365 has to be the cheapest content management solution on the market and with some good planning it can be the best experience for an end-user as well.

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Cisco Unity voicemail now compatible with Office 365… (sort of)

One of the more “novel” features of Exchange Server 2010 was the “speech to text” functionality of the Unified Messaging Server. This required an additional server deployed within your Exchange environment and depending on the number of users, quite a high spec’ed piece of kit. This was largely due to the fact that it dealt with transcribing audio from voice mails into text that could in turn be viewed as an email. When I say novel, I mean no dis-respect to the team that developed this feature, it’s just that most people are used to voice mail as a feature you usually listen to… old habits die-hard I guess.

With Office 365 the speech to text capability is part of the Exchange Online Plan 2 or the E3 and E4 Office 365 suite. There are also requirements for the interface that transfers the audio from the PBX into the cloud (Exchange Online UM service). This can be delivered by a compatible IP PBX or an IP Media Gateway, some configuration is required, however if you have a current voicemail solution with an IP PBX this shouldn’t be that difficult to configure. For more information see here: http://community.office365.com/en-us/w/exchange/569.aspx

Cisco IP Phone

The one “island” in the Office 365 UM story has been the Cisco Unity solution… until now. Cisco has released a rather detailed step by step guide on how to configure your Unity service to allow it to perform the following:

  1. Deliver Voicemail to the inbox of a user
  2. Allow a user to have their email etc read out over the phone.

There is a glaring omission, the “novel” feature of speech to text, it would appear that this feature was too difficult to include in this release. I wonder if we will see it at all. However it is at least a step towards unity between Office 365 and the Cisco VoIP solution that has a large percentage of the corporate market. In my time at Microsoft I saw a large number of customers with sunk costs in Cisco voice solutions that just didn’t want to budge, and as such Exchange Online was off-limits, this announcement may see those customers review that position.

For the detailed step by step guide on configuring Cisco Unity for use with Office 365 go here:

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/voice_ip_comm/connection/8x/unified_messaging/guide/85xcucumg025.html#wp1189441

First posted by Ryan here: http://wp.me/p2g7KP-4w

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Get connected… with Kordia

Cloud computing is initially seen as a way of reducing cost to a business. This is achieved, of course, by moving all “back office” services such as email servers, collaboration servers and communications servers into a shared platform. When we talk about Microsoft Office 365 in New Zealand, those services are hosted in a data center managed by Microsoft in Singapore (there is a “geo-redundant” data center in Hong Kong). That isn’t going to change, the “addressable market” is the important factor behind offering these services at such a low price. There just aren’t enough people in New Zealand for Microsoft to even consider building a data center here. Microsoft are very transparent as to where your data resides and how to get connected to it. Microsoft even go to the extent of making the IP addresses of their data center public information. They can be found here: http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/Office365-enterprises/hh373144.aspx

In a previous post I talked about the isolation New Zealand faces when it comes to being connected to the internet. I’ve had customers who have decided to adopt cloud computing without considering their internet connection. This usually proved disastrous, seeing connectivity fail completely in some instances. It all comes down to the due care that the ISP (Internet Service Provides) gives to routing traffic once it leaves our shores. Despite efforts from the government to enhance the connectivity to the internet via the UFB (Ultra Fast Broadband) initiative, this is only going to affect traffic within the country, its what happens once the data leave New Zealand that is important, particularly when it comes to adopting cloud services.

Until recently there have only been “loose” relationships held by our telcos with overseas ISP’s. For instance Telstra clear have an agreement with the global consortium Reach Global Services to route international traffic for their customers, this is known as a peering agreement. This agreement sees various routes used depending on the time of day, or even the nature of the data being sent. In my time working with BPOS and then Office 365 customers I haven’t found an ISP that offered a tailored link to the Microsoft data centers in Singapore.

Then along came Kordia

Kordia recently announced their intention to provide customers with a tailored connection to the internet, offering prioritized connectivity to the Microsoft Office 365 data centers in Singapore. This was to address the less than average connection provided by other telcos and assist IT companies deliver the best experience to their customers with an Office 365 solution. This was made possible by leveraging Kordia’s existing infrastructure in Sydney and the acquisition of a dedicated link to Singapore from the Sydney site. Where other telco’s may route your traffic via the USA to Singapore, Kordia offer the most direct route seeing ping times (latency) drop from the average 400ms to 150ms, making sharepoint online silky smooth. For the press release : http://www.kordia.co.nz/_blog/What%27s_new/post/link_to_Microsoft/

With any cloud solution the most critical thing to consider ahead of your deployment has to be your connection to the internet. For the best solution on the market today your first port of call has to be Kordia. Microsoft Online Services have been sold in New Zealand since April 2009 and to date there has been no telco other than Kordia offering an optimized connection to the data center in Singapore. Kordia also offer a certified SIP trunk for Microsoft Lync server (the only certified provider in New Zealand), this suited to an on-premise deployment only at this stage…. but we can hope this will integrate with Lync online at some stage in the future…. imagine, click to call land-lines from within Office 365 / Lync!

Simple maths really… Office 365 = Kordia

If you want to know more about the Kordia offerings please feel free to contact me nick@itprofessional.co.nz for more information.

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Office 365 password expiry notifications in Outlook

This update will resolve a little bug bear of mine when it comes to password expiry notification in Office 365 (or lack of). You are able to set the passwords for your users/organization to never expire using the powershell cmdlets provided for the management of Office 365. As documented here:

http://community.office365.com/en-us/w/administration/how-to-configure-user-passwords-to-never-expire-in-office-365.aspx

To disable the password expiry for your whole organization use the command:

Get-MSOLUser | Set-MsolUser -PasswordNeverExpires $true

This update for Outlook when it is released later this year will allow businesses to maintain the 90 day password expiry/complexity requirement as best practice. For more details on the scheduled August rollup update for Outlook see this article.

Office 365 password expiry notifications in Outlook.

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Understanding Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) Authentication

Great post from Ryan about troubleshooting ADFS authentication. This article also serves as a great explanation of ADFS and the steps taken when it authenticates a user.

Understanding Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) Authentication.

 

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