The New Year brought the normal mix of events that needed to be covered in my Exchange Unwashed Blog on WindowsITPro.com. Here’s what happened during the month.
Microsoft fails to communicate over Exchange Online IMAP4 outage (Jan 28): I wonder has any Microsoft executive ever read the text used to report Office 365 incidents to customers? If they had, I suspect that they’d struggle with the lack of clarity, the strangled text, and the repetition that afflicts so many reports. It is a mystery why a company that spends so much time and energy in outbound communication should let communications lapse when dealing with customers in often stressful situations, which is what tends to happen when functionality doesn’t work for some reason. I’ve heard a lot from Microsoft executives over the years that they are going to do a better job reporting what’s happening with Office 365. It would be nice if that happened sometime soon.
No advanced training available, so what should experienced Exchange administrators do? (Jan 26): We all make personal decisions about how to progress our careers. Sometimes it’s a decision to switch jobs to look for a more challenging or lucrative position. Sometimes it’s a question of figuring out what we really want to do. And sometimes it’s simply a question of what training we need to ensure that we have the right skills for now and in the future. Given the focus on cloud that exists today and the relative lack of training that exists for Exchange, on-premises administrators have some decisions to make. I was asked what to do by a reader. Here’s what I said.
New OneDrive for Business sync client much better but not perfect (Jan 21): Having a way to be able to update files offline in the confidence that any changes will be uploaded to the server as soon as possible is a pretty big requirement for effective working in the cloud era, so it’s a little strange that Microsoft has allowed the OneDrive for Business synchronization client to be so buggy for so long. A new modern, improved, but most importantly reliable sync client is now available for OneDrive for Business. It’s based on the consumer version and the good news is that it works pretty well. That is to say, I haven’t noticed any glitches yet. But it doesn’t handle all sites that need to be synchronized and some work is necessary to get the new code into the hands of users. Perfection hasn’t yet been attained.
Online protection the only way to go (Jan 19): Spam, viruses, phishing attacks, attachments containing malware and other little threats are the kind of thing that anti-malware solutions are designed to detect and block. The problem is that attack surfaces and threat vectors are not static. New ways of penetrating email systems are found all the time and are usually blocked in a matter of hours, but unless you keep up with developments, the chances are that your email servers will be compromised. Online services that disinfect inbound email streams seem like the right way forward because they evolve and protect faster. Great if you can use an online service, not so good if you’re restricted to on-premises software.
Why public folder compliance gets no respect (Jan 14): Compliance was never considered when public folders first appeared in Exchange 4.0 way back in 1996. At least, we knew that the word existed and some famous examples existed where some organizations made their email available to the public. However, email was secret and anything posted to an Exchange server database was hidden away from all but its author and recipients (unless you had an admin who liked poking around in user mailboxes, but that’s another story). Twenty years later, compliance is a sine que non for email systems and public folders have to be compliant. So they are, but only a little bit. Just enough to make people happy and that’s a nice thing.
The woes of Exchange mailbox auditing (Jan 12): Mailbox auditing is one of those features that administrators usually don’t know much about unless a need arises that forces some rapid knowledge acquisition. Like, for instance, when the CEO wakes up and finds that some messages have disappeared. Of course, an executive could never have deleted something in error, so the problem must be with the software or someone who has access to the mailbox. Auditing can help determine what happens, but only when it works. And sometimes mailbox auditing is not so good at reporting the audit items it logs. Inconsistency in auditing is never a good thing, don’t you think?
How small glitches can cause big problems for complex cloud infrastructures (Jan 7): December wasn’t a fun month for Office 365 tenants in Western Europe because two incidents occurred at peak time in the mornings of December 3 and 18. The incidents were not linked except that both depict in pretty empathic terms just how dependent a service like Office 365 is on other moving parts within Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure. This time a faulty network component caused some packet drops within Azure Storage and stopped administrators being able to connect to the Office 365 portal. They could have had a coffee and relaxed, but you know administrators… they worry about these things…
No fear for Microsoft or Google as Amazon launches WorkMail (Jan 5): January 4 brought the news that Amazon had attained general availability status for their WorkMail managed calendaring and email solution. The price point is keen at $4/user per month for a 50 GB mailbox, but the sheer weight of presence that Microsoft and Google exert in the enterprise email market for cloud services means that Amazon has a huge hill to climb here. We’ll see what happens over the next year or so, but I can’t see many on-premises Exchange customers running to embrace Amazon’s solution.
Predicting the world of Exchange in 2016 (Jan 5): Making predictions about technology is a fool’s errand in many ways, especially when you attempt to figure out what a company like Microsoft might do with products like on-premises and cloud Exchange over the next twelve months. But it’s fun too, so here goes with a short list of what I think will happen during 2016. One thing is for sure – technology will change and we’ll all moan about it.
During January, I published two major articles in addition to the regular blog posts. These are:
Office 365 Planner and Office 365 Groups combine to deliver lightweight task management (Jan 27): Microsoft has made Office 365 Planner, its new lightweight planning application for teams, available to Office 365 First Release tenants. There’s lots to like about Office 365 Planner, but some flaws make it less appealing than it might otherwise be. But Microsoft has time to fix some of the shortcomings before Office 365 Planner attains general availability status and, like all cloud software, it’s likely to be updated many times over the years ahead. I’ve been playing with Planner for the last couple of weeks to check out its integration with Office 365 Groups and how tasks, buckets, and plans come together to make planning smoother.
Talking with Javier Soltero, the outsider Microsoft tapped to reinvent Outlook across platforms (Jan 6): Javier Soltero joined Microsoft after Acompli, the mobile email start-up he led, was acquired in November 2014. Since then he has overseen the rebranding of the Acompli apps for iOS and Android as Outlook and then took responsibility for the development of all of the Outlook family. Now a Corporate VP, Javier is acutely aware of the importance of Outlook within the Office portfolio and the need for continued innovation for the mobile apps. He’s launched an extensive review of the features and functionality delivered by the different variants with the mission of making email better.
Nine posts and two articles is a respectable amount of work for one month. I hope you enjoyed it. Stay in touch with me via Twitter @12Knocksinna to make sure that you don’t miss any news.