Posts Tagged small business

CRM Online and Sharepoint Online

Last year (2011) Microsoft released a cloud version of their CRM Software, CRM Online. This was fantastic news to those of us out there who had faced the cost barrier of deploying CRM software. Really at the time the only competitor of any standing was and even though Salesforce bought CRM to the cloud, it too was expensive.

The great thing about Microsoft CRM is that you get the sweet sweet integration through outlook and the other products in the Office stack. The great benefit now with Microsoft CRM Online is that Office 365 – Sharepoint Online now supports full integration as well allowing document management of your CRM created customers/contacts to be held within your Sharepoint online site.

And thats where I found a “but”. If you have managed to be an early adopter of Office 365 and at some stage in the past selected the Small Business “P” plan of the offering then your CRM => Sharepoint Online integration will come to a grinding halt. There is no support for the CRM list solution within the P Plan of Office 365. The other piece missing from the Sharepoint Online experience in Office 365 P Plans is the lack of a secure connection (SSL).  The simple steps for installing CRM components in Sharepoint online can be found here if you did the smart thing an purchased the Enterprise offering or “E” plan. This has also been talked about before in more detail by a fellow WordPress blogger here.

The only way out of this somewhat disappointing situation was to migrate this customer from their P Plan to one of the available E plans. This meant I needed to setup an entirely new tenant or customer within Office 365 as there is no ability to move from the small business offering to the enterprise offering of Office 365. Moreover Microsoft doesn’t provide any “wizards” to assist you with this. My recommendation for any customer thinking about moving to Office 365 would be to choose from the enterprise range of products.

A few things to plan ahead of the move.

1) First of all setup a new Office 365 tenant.

2) Ensure you have easy access to the DNS settings for the domain you plan on moving

3) Plan for the migration. This means informing users of the changes and the cut-over date.

I plan to move this customer over a weekend. I am able to setup everything within the new tenant of Office 365 ahead of time but due to the reliance on the DNS records I will only cut over after business hours on a Friday night. Microsoft suggests that 24 hours may be required to “release” the domain record from the old “P” Plan tenant. You will NOT be able to add users to the new tenant until this has been released.

I thought I would share some of the “tricks” that helped me with this move.

1) Powershell is fantastic! – I managed connect to the old P plan tenant of Office 365 and export the users details to a csv file using a simple command. This saved me time and allowed me to import the users into the new tenant in a matter of seconds, be aware that the domain must be transferred BEFORE you import users. Also pay attention to the difference in cmdlets out there for BPOS and Office365, you can download the Office 365 cmdlets here or through the admin console.

2) Connect to Sharepoint Online using explorer in order to migrate documents to the new libraries. This method will avoid using bandwidth as the documents will be copied in the cloud rather than coming down to your PC. It also allows you to drag and drop documents, a task that you may want to assign to someone more familiar to the document structure used by the business.

3) Think about migrating user emails. I used the migration tool within Office 365 using the Exchange 2010 setting, this worked sweet as I had the auto discover settings still pointing to the old tenant.

I will update this blog post after the migration has completed and let you know of any “hiccups” on the way.


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Cloud concern?

Recently the press in New Zealand and around the globe have been all over a man called Kim Dotcom and his case relating to the “Mega conspiracy” and the Megaupload site. The press the world over love the fact that Megaupload was widely regarded as the place to store your illegally downloaded movies and music.

More recently I watched a discussion on TVNZ Breakfast between Petra Baghurst (presenter) and the editor of Computerworld magazine (journalist) about the Megaupload case and more generally the topic of cloud computing. I watched in disbelief as the editor of Computerworld, Sarah Putt, managed to give what I consider a poor explanation of cloud computing and its associated risks. When I considered people with little or no knowledge of cloud computing would be watching I became concerned that the Megaupload fiasco would have a negative impact on cloud computing uptake within businesses in NZ.

Having built and then sold cloud computing solutions now for over 10 years I thought I would spell out the reasons why Megaupload and its issues couldn’t be further from the truth behind cloud computing.

When Sarah talked about the FBI in the USA deleting the user data from the Megaupload website she failed to talk about a couple of key aspects which would put someones mind at ease. Instead she made a statement which left the impression that everyone’s data could be deleted at any stage by the FBI or any government agency without notice from ANY cloud service. This simply isn’t true.

Lets get one thing straight, cloud computing is a BIG bet for most technology companies and we aren’t talking small companies either. Microsoft, Google, Amazon are some of the leaders in the cloud computing push with many others following. The big companies all have big legal teams, these teams have been working with governments for years to better understand the regulatory requirements when it comes to hosting customer data and understanding complications that arise when its hosted offshore. In short, if there was ANY risk that any of the big players would end up having their customer data deleted by the FBI overnight, they simply wouldn’t have attempted to provide the service in the first place. Furthermore these service providers all spell out in plain english the regulatory requirements for their customers:

I liken it to an owner of a Gallardo holding Lamborghini responsible when they break the speed limit. When was the last time you posted a speeding ticket to the manufacturer of your car?

Understanding your legal requirements as a consumer of cloud services is the first thing you should do before deciding to move.

The other very important thing I was amazed Sarah Putt missed was the fact that in most cloud scenarios a user is able to gain access to their data when they aren’t connected to the internet. Google may currently fall short in this area, however when using the likes of Office365 in conjunction with Sharepoint workspace, a user has an offline cache of their data from which they are able to make a local backup at any time. There are many more cloud services that provide an offline cache such as Dropbox etc. And lets not forget the fact that Outlook provides the ability to work offline, giving users access to their email, contacts and calendars when they aren’t connected to the internet/email service. This serves as piece of mind rather than a requirement of a cloud service and I use the term “dis-mount strategy” to talk about the ability to recall your company data from the cloud should your situation change. Another great product that allows seamless “dis-mount” from the cloud is Exchange 2010. Exchange 2010 has been architected to co-exist with Office 365, allowing customers to maintain a local Exchange server for email while utilizing the cloud for additional email capacity.

At the end of the day as with any business decision due-diligence needs to be undertaken before using a cloud service and this includes what to do in the event that you need to recall your data from the cloud. In most cases the risks will be mitigated especially when choosing to use a product from a reputable brand with a strong market presence and a good roadmap for future releases.

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