Fun and Games (and $2220 to be won) at Microsoft Ignite


qtmon1

Anyone who has attended large technology conferences that include a vendor exhibition know the routine. Cramped booths, disinterested staff sneaking looks at their smartphones instead of engaging with conference attendees, and giveaways that range from the banal (the ubiquitous t-shirt emblazoned with the vendor logo) to the frankly weird (anything electronic that features flashing lights).

It’s easy to complain about how vendors attempt to be noticed at exhibitions but it’s a lot harder to come up with new ways of engaging with potential customers, especially if you want to do something different that’s a bit of fun. Sybari, the company that revolutionized anti-virus scanning for Exchange at the end of the 1990s, had the right attitude when they launched a series of impressive stands with great giveaways at TechEd events. I remember a Harley-Davidson motorcycle being given away one year and a Mini car on another occasion. Sybari were never less than interesting. That is, until they were acquired by Microsoft.

Which brings me to the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta next week. Ignite has a very large exhibition because vendors know that this is a once-in-the-year opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a huge number of potential customers and partners. The space for stands has been bought, stand designs commissioned, and vendors are honing demos, messages, and giveaways for next week. The Ignite exhibition area will be a bear garden of noise, signs of all shapes and sizes, and people.

Apart from Microsoft, it’s going to be hard for any other vendor to stand out and attract attention at Ignite. This is the challenge that faced the marketing team at QUADROtech, where I serve as an external director. A discussion over a couple of drinks brought an idea of leveraging the current Pokémon Go fad. Not that I know much about Pokémon, apart from the observation that having the app active on a smartphone makes people bump into others as they stroll the streets of Dublin. Even so, the idea of searching for and “capturing” special people to score points is one that can be applied in many different circumstances.

QUADROtech is offering conference attendees the chance of winning $2,220 by participating in a game to capture “QTmons”. Instead of being a “virtual creature”, A QTmon (pronounced “cutie-mon”) is a personality in the Office 365 world –  perhaps an MVP or a Microsoft engineer – who is at the conference. Each QTmon is assigned a points value. A full list of the QTmons is available online.

After registering with QUADROtech at booth #1948 (hint – registration is only possible when the Ignite exhibit hall is open, register as soon as the hall opens on Monday to get maximum game time), players score points by “capturing” a QTmon by taking a picture of the QTmon (and themselves) on their smartphone and tweeting the resulting photo. To score, the tweet has to contain the number of the QTmon and the special #QTmon hashtag. Something like:

“I captured #QTmon #50 at #MSIgnite.”

A QTmon is captured (image credit: Michel de Rooij)

A QTmon is captured (image credit: Michel de Rooij)

QUADROtech is providing players with t-shirts and extra points can be scored if the QTmon signs the shirt and the signature is visible in the tweeted photo (hint – use something like a black Sharpie for the signature). Extra points are also scored by taking pictures of QTmons at special events, such as the Scheduled Maintenance party on Monday night. An online leaderboard will help players track their progress.

The game is intended to provide some lighthearted fun during a serious conference – but the serious matter of $2,220 in hard cash is there to be won and I imagine that QTmons will be pursued with vigor during the week. Remember to be polite when you ask a QTmon for a signature and a photo!

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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A new sponsor for Office 365 for IT Pros


The Office 365 for IT Pros book has a new sponsor! The author team is delighted to announce that QUADROtech has agreed to support the project for the next year. An update to the book has been issued containing a new chapter authored by QUADROtech along with a set of regular updates to chapters. See the change log for details. PDF and EPUB formats of the updated books are available at ExchangeServerPro.com now. An update for Amazon Kindle is making its way through the Amazon publication process and will be available shortly

All of the author team have day jobs. Mine is as an advisor to companies, Paul runs the ExchangeServerPro.com site and writes books like the recently released Exam Ref 70-345 for deploying Exchange 2016, and Michael is a busy consultant in Belgium. Without sponsorship, it would be impossible to dedicate the time and energy required to keep the Office 365 for IT Pros project pushing ahead. We would lose the ability to keep the book as up-to-date as possible and we would not have the time to poke into the corners of Office 365 to understand what really happens.

As part of their sponsorship, QUADROtech is making some free copies of the book available to people who sign up on their site.

We’re very grateful to the support that Binary Tree provided over the last year. Without their help we would not have been able to issue the third edition. At least, not in the content-rich form that it is. We look forward to working with Binary Tree in the future.

Now that sponsorship is in place, we look forward to being able to improve the content in the third edition even more and to prepare for the publication of the fourth edition, probably in early 2017.

Thanks for all of your support.

Tony, Paul, and Michael

Posted in Cloud, Delve, Delve Analytics, Email, Exchange, Exchange Online, Office 365, Office 365 Groups | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Reasons not to move from on-premises Exchange to Office 365


As many readers will be aware, Microsoft’s Ignite conference starts in Atlanta on September 26, 2016. I am speaking at a number of sessions. Possibly my favorite is the opportunity to debate Greg Taylor from the Microsoft Exchange development group on the topic “The Top Ten reasons not to move your Exchange on-premises mailboxes to Exchange Online“. The debate will be chaired by Steve Conn, who might have quite a task on his hands as those who have seen Greg in action in the past understand how excited he can become. I’ll be the calm, logical one with the scintillating comments. Or not. We’ll just have to see.

In any case, we need to understand the reasons why people might choose to leave their mailboxes on-premises so that we can debate the rationale and reasoning. I’ve put together a list of the most common reasons I know of and would appreciate your help in recording others, if they exist. Please reply to this topic with your reason and we’ll add it to the mix.

I doubt that we will get to debate more than 10 topics during the 75-minute session… But you never know!

Thanks for your help

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Backup and recovery

  1. Microsoft uses Native Data Protection and doesn’t take backups of Exchange Online data. I like to have the security of backups, just in case an administrator or a user does something stupid – or we are hit by a ransomware attack and have to restore some mailboxes.

Stability and robustness

  1. Our Exchange 2013 infrastructure delivers better availability to our business than we believe is possible from Office 365, especially with all the horror stories we hear about multi-hour outages for essential components like AAD and EOP. The SLA results as reported by Microsoft are accurate for the entire service but don’t reflect the experience of individual tenants.
  2. Our server infrastructure is modern, we’re up to date with Windows Server, and we think we have a highly cost-effective platform for the next five years.
  3. Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016 are feature-rich email servers already and Microsoft is doing a good job in transferring some excellent technology from the cloud, like Managed Availability, simplified DAGs, and automatic DAG activation. We don’t need anything else.
  4. Our Exchange admins are the best in the business and have our Windows servers humming beautifully. Why would we plunge into the unknown world of Office 365 and all its component parts?
  5. When a problem happens inside Office 365, it seems like no one knows what is really happening and you have to fall back on Twitter and Facebook to gain some insight into how widespread the problem is and when it might be resolved. That’s an unacceptable state of affairs for our business. In other words, monitoring and reporting for Office 365 to understand the current state of affairs on a minute-by-minute basis is poor when compared to what we can do inside an on-premises environment.
  6. We’ve heard that the Office 365 support is pretty poor at times and you have to wait before you can get to speak to someone who isn’t reading off a script and might actually be able to help. That’s a big concern when you consider moving from a tightly managed and well-supported on-premises environment.

Security

  1. We want to use our own keys with Exchange and AAD RMS and Exchange Online doesn’t support BYOK. In other words, I don’t trust Microsoft to protect the privacy and security of my organization’s email and documents, if we let them own the encryption keys.
  2. The fact that the Office Graph records every interaction between Office 365 users is downright scary in a “big brother” kind of way. There’s no way that my users want or need to know the kind of information that Delve Analytics reports.

Cost

  1. My Microsoft sales person is selling Office 365 because they are compensated on that basis. They’re not interested in listening to our desire to remain on-premises and that makes us believe that the move to the cloud is great for Microsoft and probably less good for us.
  2. We don’t trust the costs cited by Microsoft for Office 365. You start off with a low monthly cost but then need to spend more to get the functionality that you really need, like AAD Premium or a high-end plan. We also think that you have to spend a lot of time managing licenses to make sure that you’re not overpaying for unused licenses.
  3. There’s no guarantee that Microsoft won’t increase the costs of all the bits we need to buy to create our Office 365 environment at a higher rate than inflation to achieve their goal of a $20 billion annual revenue run rate for commercial cloud products by mid-2018.
  4. Exchange is the fulcrum of an ecosystem we have constructed to serve business needs. To move to Office 365, we’d need to do a heap of redevelopment to make sure that Exchange Online delivers everything that we need. That work costs money.

Users

  1. Giving users a standard 50 GB mailbox quota only encourages them to keep stuff that they should delete immediately. If we want to give 50 GB quotas, we can, especially now that storage costs are so low and Exchange 2016 does such a good job of supporting JBOD.
  2. We have users in some pretty remote places where Internet access is not great. The cloud’s not for us.
  3. Office 365 requires customers to keep software components at a far more recent level than we are accustomed to on-premises. It seems that we would be constantly updating Exchange 2016 to maintain support for a hybrid connection or Outlook to make sure that clients can connect to Exchange Online. That seems like a whole heap of effort for not a lot of return.
  4. The rate of change inside Office 365 is too rapid and challenging for our business users to cope with. No one wants to see a new client interface every three months. We like the stability and robustness we can assure through our own deployment.

Functionality

  1. Public folders are all the collaboration tools that any reasonable person could want. It will take us forever to move the data out of public folders and to realign business processes around new types of collaboration tools. That’s a real hidden cost of migration both in terms of getting the work done and the business disruption. We just can’t take that cost on now.
  2. There seems to be a lot of SharePoint wrapped up in Office 365. Who wants to go near that stuff?

Out of the box thinking

  1. I do want to move to the cloud and am thinking about migrating from Exchange to Outlook.com.
  2. We believe that Microsoft will fulfil their commitment to support Exchange 2016 until 2025. Why would we ever move until they stop supporting on-premises software?
  3. If we migrated to the cloud, Ross Smith IV and Greg Taylor would hate us very much and that would be no fun.
Posted in Cloud, Email, Exchange, Exchange Online, Office 365 | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

IT/DEV Connections 2016 – Enterprise Collaboration Track


As has been the case for a number of years now, I helped to select the sessions for the IT/DEV Connections conference, which takes place at the ARIA Hotel in Las Vegas on October 10-13. Given the content that will be covered, it might seem strange to run a conference so close to the Microsoft Ignite event. However, it’s easier to understand when you consider that:

  • Microsoft moved the date and location for Ignite from May in Chicago to September in Atlanta and forced Connections to adjust its mid-September date. The logistics and costs involved make it not an easy task to move large conferences and moving both resulted in the current dates.
  • Naturally, Ignite will be dominated by Microsoft news and updates about products and other marketing announcements. A great deal of product information will be presented also, but “in the best possible taste”. Don’t expect much critical analysis of the flaws of Microsoft products during Ignite sessions! On the other hand, IT/DEV Connections prides itself on the independent and knowledgeable perspective of its speakers. We certainly like Microsoft technology, but we want to expect the ifs, buts, and maybes of the technology as well so that people are fully-equipped to deploy. That’s why IT/DEV Connections is sometimes called the “Anti Kool-Aid” conference. I have never even seen Kool-Aid (to my knowledge) so this analogy fails on me, but there you are…
  • The flood of announcements and news from Ignite need some time to digest and make sense of in terms of what they mean for using different technologies. We hope to be able to help in that respect at IT/DEV Connections.
  • Ignite is on the East Coast; IT/DEV Connections is on the West. The ARIA is actually a very good conference hotel that is relatively well insulated from the madness of Las Vegas, if you want that to be the case. On the other hand, it’s also in the middle of the strip…

In any case, below you can find the full set of Enterprise Collaboration sessions planned for IT/DEV Connections. Some well known faces are on the schedule, including Mr. ExchangeServerPro (Paul Cunningham), Chris McNulty, J. Peter Bruzzese, Jeff Guillet (Expta), Benjamin Naulin, Michael Van Horenbeeck (Van Hybrid), Paul Robichaux, and Scot Hillier. The sessions cover everything from managing Exchange and SharePoint on-premises servers to Skype for Business. This year we made a deliberate decision to create a big set of sessions that address the question of how to effectively manage many aspects of Office 365.

I’m looking forward to the Wednesday “Bamboozle the Exchange Experts” session, which will feature the Exchange Server CXP (Customer Experience team),including such well-known speakers as Greg Taylor and Ross Smith IV. Please come along with the most obscure and horrible question you can think up between now and then.

We also have a number of new speakers this year. I wish them well. It’s hard to get up in front of an audience and explain your thoughts on technology (and hopefully make sense).

Join us in Vegas!

Tuesday Sessions

Tuesday, October 11, 8:00am-9:00am
Best Practices for Deploying and Managing On-Premises Exchange Server Paul Cunningham
Cloudbreaking – Business Intelligence Engineering for SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 Chris McNulty
Office Graph API & Delve, Unleash the Power Fabian Williams
Avoiding the Icarus effect: Office 365 Risk Mitigation J. Peter Bruzzese
Tuesday, October 11th, 9:15am-10:30am
Exchange Performance Disaster Recovery and Migration Troubleshooting Andrew Higginbotham
Migration (Exchange) to Office 365 Jaap Wesselius
Autodiscover is the Hero of the Exchange Motherland Jeff Guillet
Upgrade to SharePoint 2016 Matthew McDermott
Tuesday, October 11th, 11:00am-12:15pm
Automate Exchange deployment with PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) Ingo Gegenwarth
Configuring a proper SMTP relay for Exchange on-premises and Exchange Online Jeff Guillet
Solving modern day business problems using Power Apps Fabian Williams
Architecting SharePoint 2016 Liam Cleary
Configuring SharePoint Hybrid Search Matthew McDermott
Tuesday, October 11th, 1:15pm-2:30pm
Delve Analytics and the rise of machine learning inside Office 365 Tony Redmond
Building Solutions with the Office Graph Liam Cleary
Message hygiene with Exchange Jaap Wesselius
Deep Dive into Cloud Hybrid Search Jeff Fried
Tuesday, October 11th, 3:00pm-4:15pm
Troubleshooting Exchange Server: Clients, Transport and Security Paul Cunningham
Figuring out this new collaboration with OneDrive, Groups and Team Sites Benjamin Niaulin
The Magnificent Seven: The do’s and don’t about Office 365 Migration J. Peter Bruzesse
Scripting Tasks in SharePoint Online with PowerShell and the REST APIs Alan Byrne

Wednesday Sessions

Wednesday, October 12th, 9:15am-10:30am
Exchange Virtualization Mistakes to Avoid Andrew Higginbotham
A day in the life of an Office 365 consultant Michael Van Horenbeeck
How to Leverage Office 365 Groups in the Enterprise Justin Harris
Data Loss Protection in SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online Liam Cleary
Wednesday, October 12th, 11:00am-12:15pm
Monitoring Office 365: What Works and What Doesn’t Paul Robichaux
Demystify OneDrive for Business – The Good and the Bad Benjamin Niaulin
SharePoint In the Clouds – Migrating to Azure and Office 365 Chris McNulty
Office 365 Migration and Administration for Small Businesses Andrew Higginbotham
Wednesday, October 12th, 1:15pm-2:30pm
Bamboozle the Exchange Experts Tony Redmond
Office 365 Governance and Information Architecture Martina Grom
Building Applications for Office 365 and SharePoint with Angular 2, TypeScript, and ASP.NET Core 1.0 Scot Hillier
Office 365 Connectors Toni Pohl
Wednesday, October 12th, 3:00pm-4:15pm
Managing five million Office 365 accounts using PowerShell and some other APIs Alan Byrne
Troubleshooting Exchange client connectivity Ingo Geganwarth
Office in the Outback – Using Office 365 as a Service for Field Mobility Applications Veli-Matti Vanamo
PowerApps, Flow and Logic Apps – what’s in and behind? Toni Pohl

 Thursday Sessions

Thursday, October 13th, 8:30am-9:45am
While You Weren’t Looking: going beyond Office 365 Paul Robichaux
How I design global voice solutions with Skype for Business Stale Hansen
Solving real-world problems with Azure Active Directory Premium Justin Harris
Business Value of Office 365 Adoption Martina Grom
Style Your Web Apps and Office & SharePoint Add-ins with the Office UI Fabric Andrew Connell
Thursday, October 13th, 10:15am-11:30am
Succeeding with Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast Stale Hansen
How Office 365 impacts merger and acquisition activities Joe Palarchio
Securing your Office 365 deployment with acronyms: how to leverage EDP, EMS, RMS and AAD! Michael Van Horenbeeck
Learning Angular2 to Building Office Add-ins Andrew Connell
Development for SharePoint Online using JavaScript Injection and Remote Provisioning Ted Pattison
Thursday, October 13th, 12:30pm-1:45pm
How Office 365 will give your security team heartburn and the relief you can provide them Joe Palarcho
Developers Introduction to the Power BI Platform Ted Pattison
Lessons from the Field: Applying Records Management in the Cloud Veli-Matti Vanamo
Experience from the field – How to use a Team Site effectively for Collaboration Benjamin Niaulin
Thursday, October 13th, 2:15pm-3:30pm
Office 365: Deployment and Management – Ask the MVPs Tony Redmond
Office 365: Programming and APIs – Ask the MVPs Scot Hiller

See here for more information on IT/DEV Connections.

 

Posted in Cloud, Delve, Delve Analytics, Email, Exchange, Exchange Online, Office 365, Office 365 Groups, SharePoint Online, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HTTP error 400 accessing Office 365


BadRequestPortal

HTTP Error 400. Can’t access the Office 365 Portal

I recently hit a problem when attempting to access the Office 365 Portal with Chrome. Any attempt resulted in a HTTP Error 400 as shown above. The problem was confined to a single PC and a single browser on that PC as both IE and Edge were happy to connect to Office 365.

The wonders of Internet search quickly located some help and suggested that the issue was due to a corrupted cookie associated with the request.

PortalCookies

Cookies used by portal.office.com

As obvious from the screen shot, connections to portal.office.com use a lot of cookies. There’s no way to say which of the 22 cookies might be corrupt, so the easiest and quickest fix is to delete the cookies and force the next connection to recreate whatever is needed. Do this by selecting the X opposite the set of cookies and then click Done.

Ten seconds later a connection was made and the problem resolved. Isn’t it great when things fall into place so easily!

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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The curse of badly written blogs


As a frequent blogger, I take great interest in other blogs, especially those who offer coverage of topics that interest me, such as Exchange and Office 365, or even military history, if it comes to that. Recently, it seems that many of the blogs that cover Exchange (in particular) are not as strong as they were once.

The situation is worse with blogs that proclaim themselves to be “guru” or “expert”, a self-awarded status that is not merited or earned on the basis of the content offered.

Some of the published content is OK, if only it was not obscured by poor writing and opaque grammar. When I started to write articles and books about technology, my editors hammered home the lesson that I should always make sure that the reader knows what object is the actor in a situation. Scattering “it” into a sentence and expecting the reader to understand what “it” means in the presented context requires the mind of a lawyer.

Another horrible habit that is all too prevalent is the termination of a sentence without explaining a statement. Here’s an example of an opening sentence from a blog post that I selected at random:

Exchange 2016 and 2013 are processor hungry so it is very important to size the processors correctly.”

Two issues exist here. First, we have the leading statement that Exchange 2016 and Exchange 2013 are both processor hungry without any evidence being offered that this assertion is correct. Are these versions more demanding of processor power than Exchange 2010 is? If so, a citing of some reliable evidence provided by a competent party would be appropriate. In other words, it’s not good enough to make a statement and assume that the reader understands what “processor hungry” means without providing some way for the reader to understand why this condition exists. In addition, what processor does this statement refer to? I assume it’s a server CPU, but even that is somewhat nebulous given the current state of CPU technology when cores might be a more important issue to focus upon.

The next problem is the statement “it is very important to size the processors correctly.” First, no explanation is offered as to why such importance is attached to this activity. Will the world stop if we fail to size processors correctly? Or will the Exchange servers slow down a little, or a lot, or fail to operate at all? The writer would have done much better had some additional context been provided. For instance: “to ensure optimal performance, it’s important that any server running Exchange is correctly configured with properly-sized processor capacity.” OK, we use more words, but I suggest that the meaning is obvious.

I also hate failure to copy edit, especially because I often fall into this trap myself in an effort to get something out the door in time. However, it doesn’t take a lot of time to read text over to look for obvious flaws, such as the first letter of “Exchange” not being capitalized to tell us that the word refers to the server product rather than an interchange of some sort. Copy editing also identifies impenetrable sentences that are often a dump from the author’s mind. The text makes perfect sense to the writer but requires several readings before someone else can understand what’s going on. Take this example from the same article:

“This was my lab so we didn’t get any issue as load is minimum but try it in your production and let us know and give 5 starts to Marc if it helps.”

After several readings, I conclude that the meaning is:

The example shown above was run in my lab environment. No issue was encountered because of the minimum load placed on servers in that environment. You can try running the script in your production environment to see what results you obtain. Let us know how you get on and please do recognize the script author if you find that his work helps.”

Of course, the advice to run a script in a production environment is not the course of action that any experienced administrator would take. You should always test a script downloaded from the Internet in a sandbox environment to make sure that it cannot do anything harmful before you let it anywhere near production servers. The sentence cited above is a classic example of a throwaway remark that is badly thought through and badly formatted that could lead to someone doing something that they regret, all because they read some advice contained in a blog.

Please don’t stop writing blogs. It’s great to share your experience and knowledge with others. But please remember that your work will be so much better if you are clear, concise, and accurate. You’ll benefit by writing better and your readers will absolutely benefit from your work. It’s a win-win situation.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna

Posted in Exchange, Writing | 2 Comments

Updated version of the Outlook Groups apps available


Microsoft has released updated versions of the Outlook Groups apps. The apps don’t have anything much to do with Outlook but are named as such as to create an association with the brand. In reality, these apps are all about Office 365 Groups and allowing users mobile access to threaded conversations and documents stored in group document libraries. Access is currently unavailable to group calendars, but event notifications for group meetings do arrive in the app.

I’ve been playing around with the version available for Windows 10 Mobile on my Lumia 950 XL. The new Files interface (below) is attractive and looks very much like the Delve app.

OFiles

Files in an Office 365 group document library

Here’s what the opening screen looks like after you sign into Office 365, Favorite groups are shown first followed by groups that the user has joined. If you press and hold a group name, the option to Pin the group to the home screen is revealed, which is a nice way to create a short-cut to a particular group.  The Discover option uses data held in the Microsoft Graph to determine what other groups the user is most likely to want to join based on common interests and membership.

O365app

Listing of Office 365 Groups

Overall, I like the new interface very much. And because it is new, we’ve had to update the information about the Outlook Groups app in Chapter 9 of “Office 365 for IT Pros”. The updated content is in the June 18 version of the eBook. Our change log details all of the changes made to Office 365 for IT Pros. Copies of the book are available on ExchangeServerPro.com (PDF and EPUB versions) and Amazon (Kindle).

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna

Posted in Cloud, Email, Office 365, Office 365 Groups, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment