Category: O365


Single Sign On – OneLogin

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Adoption Drivers

With a goal of becoming a billion dollar in revenue company by 2017, DISYS continues to grow rapidly and expand globally. After implementing several cloud-based enterprise applications such as SalesForce, Office 365 and BMC Remedyforce, the company was looking for an identity management solution that was scalable and could accommodate the addition of new systems.

“There was one that SalesForce offered, and some other pretty crude upload/download methods that were not automatic,” said Hachwi, the IT infrastructure manager responsible for desktop, network and voice services, as well as systems architecture. Hachwi’s team looked to Netflix for guidance. “We’re trying to really mirror how Netflix enterprise IT operates and push new applications and infrastructure to the cloud,” said Hachwi. “We don’t want to maintain a large internal infrastructure with a large team just to manage hardware. DISYS is continuing to grow, and we need to get the infrastructure in place to support that growth quickly. IT can’t waste time and valuable resources procuring, configuring and maintaining hardware and network infrastructure. ”

BYOD Policy for Dispersed Workforce a Must

With 650 employees and roughly 4,000 consultants working at client sites, it was important to provide access to corporate applications via the web. Additionally, as DISYS expands internationally, supporting consultants will require secure, reliable access to the corporate network and all necessary business applications, regardless of the user’s location or access device.

Having consultants spread out geographically presents a unique challenge, since deploying and managing laptops to all of them would be way too costly and time-consuming, let alone present a huge security risk. “Our focus should be maintaining our systems, the data, and access to the data, while our consultants manage the hardware,” said Hachwi.

Keeping Infrastructure Simple

DISYS already had a datacenter in place, with plenty of expansion capability and compute and storage resources. “We had the datacenter because we run PeopleSoft, and we want to keep that in-house,” said Hachwi. “But as we added more applications into the mix to resell as services to our clients, we wanted to keep the infrastructure simple and easy to scale quickly.”

Maintaining the infrastructure to support additional applications such as Office 365 and others would have been too big of a burden. “We would have had to spin up two or three more servers, maintain firewall rules, manage updates, and support everything internally.” said Hachwi.

Rapid, Secure Access, Without Rework

It was important to have access to the apps, because Hachwi’s team needed to show their clients they were using them and demonstrate best practices. “It’s our responsibility to provide access to the apps in a timely manner,” he said.

Although Hachwi’s team considered deploying Okta, the platform didn’t offer the integration capabilities that they found with OneLogin.

Why OneLogin?


OneLogin provides the fastest path to identity management in the cloud with an on-demand solution consisting of single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, directory integration, user provisioning and a catalog with thousands of pre-integrated applications. !

Fast, Painless Deployment

Deploying OneLogin was quick and painless. “All the directory integration was already done,” said Hachwi. “I think it took us 30 minutes total. Using AD-FS would have had a much larger impact, and it would have affected our disaster recovery setup strategy, as well. We would have to set up and maintain those servers, as well as back them up. OneLogin eliminated all that hassle and made it really easy.” !

Rapid Integration with Web Apps

OneLogin provides access control by connecting to Active Directory or LDAP servers directly; no firewall changes are necessary. Up-front integration work already built-in to the platform provides near instant connectivity to business-critical cloud applications, without rework. Users enjoy one-click access to all web apps from a browser or mobile device. Additionally, strong authentication policies such as PKI certificates, OneLogin’s free Mobile OTP or third-party authentication vendors ensure secure access. !

“OneLogin fits really well into our infrastructure, with easy setup and configuration, and the ability to customize rules and user roles,” said Hachwi. “It makes application deployment simple and streamlined for our team to manage and gives our dispersed employees and contractors secure application access at the click of a mouse.”


Fast toolset integration helps DISYS stay on top of its projects. “When you start growing so quickly, things can start breaking, and you have to keep up,” he said. “OneLogin helps us because we don’t have to spend time and effort on application deployment.”

Hachwi said the Office 365 roll out is the best example. “Using ADFS integration would have taken us a minimum of a week getting everybody set up and tested, and then the maintenance to keep it going would have really taxed my team. OneLogin boiled all that down to 30 minutes. It can’t get any simpler than that.”

As Hachwi’s team adds new toolsets, OneLogin will be the enabling technology moving forward. For example, the team was able to get BMC RemedyForce up and running on top of SalesForce in just days, because the integration was already in place.

“Our goal is to enable our users and to deploy solutions as quick as possible,” he said. “When we consider adding another tool, we look at the integration into OneLogin as part of the decision process.”

DISYS Uses OneLogin to Give 4000+ Employees and Consultants Secure Access to Office 365 and other Web Apps on Any Device

DISYS Uses OneLogin to Give 4000+ Employees and Consultants Secure Access to Office 365 and other Web Apps on Any Device

Collin Hachwi, IT infrastructure manager at Digital Intelligence Systems (DISYS), supports the company’s team of more than 650 employees and 4,000 independent consultants around the globe—many of whom are remote workers who use their own desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones to conduct business. DISYS, a global managed staffing and services company, utilizes cloud-based enterprise applications such as SalesForce to streamline many of its business processes, but when it came time to add new applications into the mix, Hachwi knew the company needed to consider a strong identity management solution that was scalable to accommodate the addition of new applications and users. “Using ADFS integration would have taken us a minimum of a week getting everybody set up and tested, and then the maintenance to keep it going would have really taxed my team. OneLogin boiled all that down to 30 minutes. It can’t get any simpler than that.”

Collin Hachwi

IT Infrastructure Manager

Microsoft to open UK datacentre

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The new UK-based datacentre is said to be opening from late 2016, though it sounds like the MoD will begin using it sooner than that.

O365 and Azuze UK data centre coming 2016

At his keynote speech at the Future Decoded event in London yesterday, CEO Satya Nadella stated that  customers in the UK would at last be able to store data within the country, allaying fears (even I not actual legal impediments) around governance and data protection.

In addition to Microsoft Azure and Office 365, the UK datacentre will support Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online sometime afterwards. Microsoft will also offer Azure ExpressRoute to provide customers with the option of a private connection to the cloud.
“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more,” says Nadella. “By expanding our datacentre regions in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland we aim to give local businesses and organisations of all sizes the transformative technology they need to seize new global growth.”

He added that the new local Microsoft cloud regions will enable data residency for customers in the UK, allowing data to be replicated within the UK for backup and recovery, reduced network distance and lower latency.

Nov 11, 2015

Why companies are switching from Google Apps to Office 365

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Microsoft’s increasingly strong Office 365 performance is coming partly at the expense of Google Apps. Motorola’s recent decision to move from an elderly version of Office to Google’s cloud service bucks the more common trend of companies who have been using Google Apps switching to Office 365.

It’s not just Microsoft saying that Office 365 is growing (COO Kevin Turner claims that four out of five Fortune 500 companies use the service). Last year, cloud security company Bitglass said traffic analysis gave Google twice the market share of Office 365 among its customers, with 16.3 percent of the market; that went up to 22.8 percent this year as more companies switched to cloud services. However, over the same year, Office 365 grew far faster, from 7.7 percent to 25.2 percent. Google has a slight advantage with small businesses (22.8 percent to Microsoft’s 21.4 percent) but in large, regulated businesses (over 1,000 employees), Microsoft’s 30 percent share is twice that of Google and growing fast.

Office 365 is even more popular with the 21 million customers of Skyhigh Network’s cloud security services, where 87.3 percent are using Office 365 services, with each organization uploading an average 1.37 terabytes of data to the service each month.


There are some geographical differences in the popularity of Office 365 and Google Apps in Okta’s customer base, with APAC currently a Google stronghold.

That fits what identity management company Okta is seeing. Office 365 is the most commonly deployed application among its customers (beating even Salesforce) and adoption is growing faster than any other cloud applications. It’s also the cloud service customers use the most, probably because that usage includes all the email users send and receive.

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon does note that the picture is a little different in different parts of the world and across different industries. Google Apps is stronger in APAC, although that may change as Microsoft builds out new data centers in the region (that’s already making a difference in Australia and Japan). The only industry segments where Google Apps has more share than Office 365 are in technology; media, Internet and software companies. The smaller the company, the more share Google Apps has among Okta’s customers; but even in the smallest companies Office 365 is still in the lead.

“There are different dynamics that matter based on the company size,” McKinnon points out. “Large companies need manageability, security, reliability. You wouldn’t see this acceleration of Office 365 in large companies without Microsoft doing a lot of work [in those areas].”


Google Apps is more popular with smaller businesses in Okta’s figures.

[Related: How Office 365 balances IT control with user satisfaction]

The majority of new Office 365 customers are moving from on-premises, but even companies that have already adopted Google Apps for Business are switching to Office. Microsoft claimed they won back 440 customers in 2013, including big names like Burger King and Campbell’s, and the trend is continuing. Some of that may be the halo effect of the Office 365 growth making companies that picked Google Apps question whether they made the right decision. But often, it’s because of dissatisfaction with Google Apps itself.

The simplicity of Gmail and Google Docs clearly appeals to some users, but as one of the most widely used applications in the world, the Office software is familiar to many. “When you put these products into companies, the user interface really matters,” McKinnon says. “For email, the user interface really matters. Google Apps is dramatically different from Office and that’s pretty jarring for people who’ve been using Outlook for a long time. It’s like it beamed in from outer space; you have to use a browser, the way it does conversations and threading with labels versus folders, it’s pretty jarring.”


Cloud security identity and security services find that Office 365 is gaining popularity with their customers; this shows the growth in Office 365 adoption among Okta’s users.

And it’s hard to use Outlook with Google, many customers report. “Some companies, they go to Google and they think they are going to make it work with Outlook; what they find out when they start using the calendar is that it just doesn’t work as well with the Google Apps backend as it does when you’re using Office 365. The user interface is so important that it pulls them back in. Even if you like the Google backend better, you have thousands of users saying ‘what happened to my folders?’”

Buying Office 365 for Office

That’s what Glenn Jimerson, currently CTO of fintech startup Loanatik found with an earlier startup. “I’ve deployed Google Apps in three different startup and I personally like it for many reasons, including the price; it’s great bang for the buck.” But while young founders and employees, especially Mac users, were happy with Google Apps for the basic document tasks they were doing, other, older workers found they weren’t as productive without Office. “I got a lot of backlash; they weren’t happy that it wasn’t Outlook. They were saying ‘I really want PowerPoint to do my presentations.’”

The tipping point was a new CEO who insisted on working in Outlook. When Jimerson looked at the options, Office 365 made more financial sense than just buying the Office software. “We would pay Google Apps $5 a month and then we’d have to buy the Office suite for each computer. If you’re pushing somebody who’s used to an Office environment into a Google cloud, they’re going to feel this vacuum because they no longer have the programs they’re familiar with. It represents a huge investment in time that people aren’t going to be receptive to. And you have Microsoft saying ‘for just $3 a month more you could have all these great programs you’re used to. Now they’ve got the pricing so you get more than you get on Google, what Microsoft is offering is fantastic, and for $3 more it’s a premium worth paying. Microsoft is still the king of hill for a reason.”

The cloud aspect of Google Apps hadn’t proved important to the startup (and it wasn’t why they switched to Office 365). “Everybody was fine with the idea of the cloud but it wasn’t the primary reason; the cloud was nice to have but they didn’t necessarily see it as a productivity boost.” In fact, more employees were concerned about working offline. “What happens if there’s no Internet, if I’m in a plane with no Wi-Fi, can I still work? Their first reaction is ‘I want Office for that’.”

His current company has used Office 365 from the start (“I brought up Google apps but nobody was willing to be that cheap about $3 a user,” he notes) and OneDrive is one of the most popular features “People like it; it’s taken over from sneakernet and emailing back and forth. If they need to work together, people just toss it up on OneDrive”.

Outlook and Excel features come up again and again as advantages for the companies who had made the move away from Google Apps. Erik Jewett of Skykick, who provides a service partners use to migrate customers to Office 365, hears that particularly from power users. “In Excel, there are rich capabilities that aren’t matched by Google apps.” In Outlook, calendar sharing is important, as is delegation. “Administrative assistants can manage their manager’s calendar; they don’t have that type of delegation with Google apps.”

Nick Espinosa, the CIO at IT consultancy BSSSi2, has helped several businesses move from Google Apps to Office 365. “Quite frankly, Google is completely outclassed by Office 365 in this arena and despite the price difference corporations who made the switch to Google Apps to save money usually end up coming back within a year. The primary driver of this appears to be Outlook integration over everything else, followed by the inability to do some advanced things that Microsoft Office excels at.”

[Related: Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: A comparison of cloud tools]

For larger companies, this goes beyond the familiarity of Outlook into advanced features. “You can integrate Skype into Outlook, you can integrate OneDrive for Business into Outlook. It becomes essentially like a command center, and there is nothing Google gives you that does that.”

“The reason people have been moving to Google is cost,” Espinosa says. “Most companies we’ve seen that have decided to move to Google, it was primarily for cost savings. The say ‘we get email, we have all these things and it’s significantly less expensive than having to buy a copy of Office for everyone and hook up a mail server. But a lot of people don’t find the usability and collaboration nearly as effective as Office 365.”

Enterprise advantage

Not all companies who switch to Office 365 are using it as a cheap licencing deal for the Office applications. They also value Microsoft’s enterprise know-how.

“As a CIO, the goal is to run a balance between keeping all the employees happy and keeping the IT staff from pulling out their hair trying to centrally administer everything,” Espinosa says. “Most IT staff are very familiar with Microsoft infrastructure already. The Office 365 platform is essentially built on Active Directory (AD) and that’s integrated into most networks. Anyone that has had an Exchange server knows how to create routing, groups, calendars, collaboration…”

For many customers, Office 365 also copes better with the scale and complexity of a multinational enterprise than Google Apps. The global scale of Office 365 is an advantage to customers in government, education and regulated businesses care about where their data is and who can access it; Dr Mary Davis, the CIO of Macquarie University in Australia explains the reason for their recent switch from Google Apps to Office 365 “following a decision made by Google to move our stored data from Europe to the United States.” Microsoft’s data centers in Victoria and New South Wales fit their security and privacy concerns better, Davis says, and they’re getting faster access because the services are closer to them. She also notes that the majority of other Australian universities use Office 365 or Exchange and “many plan to ultimately move to Office 365,” which makes collaboration easier.

Google Apps didn’t cope well with scale at one large business Espinosa helped to migrate to Office 365, where they had been using Google Hangouts for online meetings. “Someone created a hangout for their meeting and they were hosting the meeting, and then another person tried to create a hangout with the same name – and they ended up being merged into the meeting. That doesn’t happen in Skype for Business.”

In that case, the mix-up was only confusing, but if confidential information was being discussed, it could have caused serious problems. “You should be able to create containers that are properly structured and secured,” says Espinosa, putting the difference down to Microsoft’s years of experience with enterprise systems. “There’s just a lot of detail in Office 365 that Google is just learning.”

Okta’s McKinnon says that goes beyond features to the whole way Google deals with businesses. “When they built Google Apps it was for consumers; the email had advertising in it. To be successful in enterprise takes a very different culture. You have to market it differently, you have to have a sales distribution organization, a support organization, different legal contracts for customers that you’re able to customize. It’s not that Google’s not capable of doing that, but it’s a different culture.”

Google’s approach to support can be frustrating, agrees Jewett. “Microsoft has been able to provide higher level of support, certainly for enterprise customers who are able to pay for dedicated customer account managers, and we hear that as a top reason to switch from customers.”

“The cut-off is if you’re if under 1,500 users they won’t talk to you,” Espinosa complains. “Google should have a paid support line. We can get Microsoft 24 hours a day; in an emergency, they will get back to us in an hour. In an emergency, they’re there with us from midnight to 3 a.m., if we need them.”

The Google dead end

Reaching partners like Espinosa that many businesses turn to for IT help is critical, especially for small and medium businesses. “That’s an area where Google has been cutting back on partners,” says Jewett. “I definitely hear partners saying they used to sell Google and Microsoft has done a very effective job of flipping them from being large Google resellers to large Microsoft resellers. “

The success of Office 365 is even attracting partners who have previously specialized in Google Apps. Maarten van Dijk, owner of Dutch consultancy Digitalent, moved his company from Google Apps to Office 365 this summer, partly because of the number of consulting requests and job opportunities they were getting from customers that involved Office 365. But as an early adopter of Google apps – van Dijk had been using the service for ten years – he was also disappointed with the lack of new features. “It just didn’t improve much in the last few years; I felt their development was on a dead end.”

The 1TB of storage in Office 365 was appealing. The storage in Google Apps was much smaller and the company found buying more was unnecessarily complicated. And the migration has made van Dijk interested in other Microsoft cloud services that work with Office 365; he’s also considering moving their on premise virtual machines to Azure and investigating syncing their Active Directory with Azure AD.

Espinosa sees that hybrid option as a definite advantage for Microsoft. “You can add Office 365 into your local solution. You can have AD, security, everything on premise and move elements like email to Office 365.” Google offers some AD integration, he notes; “you can filter and block across a domain, you can even push Windows group policy to Chrome. But Microsoft absolutely has the advantage for running AD and replicating that into the cloud.”

Van Dijk isn’t the only customer switching away from Google Apps because of the lack of development. Google showed early promise but they didn’t invest while Microsoft improved and that’s disappointed the early adopters, suggests McKinnon. “When we started seven years ago, Google Apps was pretty nascent but it was pretty good. I would have predicted that Google would have run away with email and collaboration, but over the last two or three years, Microsoft has essentially caught up and passed Google Apps.”

Skyick’s Jewett hears the same thing from customers. “Google started off as the leader; they were the first to have completely web-based productivity tools. It was a very effective way for Google to get the perception that they were being more innovative. And many people made a strong bet on Google having a strong future plan.”

That spurred Microsoft to catch up, and Google hasn’t kept up, says Jewett. “Microsoft started from behind but they made the large investments [required]. It’s more than just vaporware; they have built out greater capabilities where Google has been standing still. Microsoft has gone from behind to being the leader. They have a roadmap of new features and products continuing to come out in productivity.”

“It was early adopters who moved to Google; when they made that decision Google was the clear leader and now they see Google hasn’t invested to build on the expectation that was set. Given the sophistication of Google as a company, we’ve found it surprising that they haven’t built out more enterprise capabilities around Google Apps – and customers are noticing.”

Jewett notes that even a year ago Skykick had frequent requests to provide a migration service to Google Apps; “we don’t really hear that any more.”

Email, file sharing and unified communications may be enough of a commodity to move to the cloud (rather than keeping in-house infrastructure and expertise), but businesses don’t see them as legacy systems that don’t need to improve. They’re looking for innovation in these areas, and they’re betting on Microsoft rather than Google to deliver that.

“What Microsoft has over its competitors is a comprehensive understanding of what matters to business,” says Espinosa. “Microsoft is much better positioned than Google to be the dominant force in providing cloud for business, and it has overtaken Google because businesses have realized they should never switched from Microsoft in the first place.”


This article was written by Mary Branscombe from CIO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Microsoft empowers business transformation

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“Businesses are hungry to seize new opportunities using technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft. “Only when businesses create a culture that empowers everyone to have access to data and insight that drive action will they be positioned to truly transform.”

Nadella demonstrated products and services built by Microsoft to empower industries, organizations and individuals to drive insight and action from their data.

“Microsoft Azure IoT services combined with Windows 10 IoT for devices and Power BI is fueling a degree of collaboration, visibility and insight from data unheard of in the oil and gas industry — from the oil field and operations center all the way to the boardroom,” said Gary Pearsons, vice president and general manager, Customer Support and Maintenance at Rockwell Automation.

There were several components of today’s announcements:

Tools for industries

  • Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. Microsoft Azure IoT Suite is an integrated offering that takes advantage of all the relevant Azure capabilities, simplified billing and easy provisioning to help businesses connect, manage and analyze all of their “things.” Available in preview later this year, this new offering will provide businesses with finished applications targeting common Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios — such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance — to simplify deployment and provide the ability to scale their solution to millions of “things” over time. Azure Stream Analytics will be generally available next month as part of Azure IoT or as a standalone service. Currently in preview, Azure Stream Analytics helps customers process massive amounts of real-time, incoming data from “things” and services so customers can predict trends and automate service and responses.
  • Windows 10 for Internet of Things. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will provide versions of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices, under the Windows 10 IoT moniker. Windows 10 IoT will offer one Windows platform with universal applications and driver models that will span a wide range of devices, from low-footprint controllers such as IoT gateways to powerful devices such as ATMs and industrial robotics. Windows 10 IoT will also bring enterprise-grade security from the device to the cloud and native connectivity for machine-to-machine and machine-to-cloud scenarios with Azure IoT services.

Tools for organizations

  • Power BI is a service, now available in the U.S. and more than 140 markets around the world, that helps customers take the pulse of their business via live market operational dashboards, explore data through interactive visual reports, and easily share new insights with colleagues and customers. New Power BI connectors, dashboards and reports for some of the industry’s most popular data sources — including Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Zuora, Acumatica and Twilio — will be available soon.
  • The Spring ’15 release for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, expected by the end of the second quarter of 2015, will deliver significant performance enhancements, deepen interoperability with Office 365, and with new knowledge management enhancements, improve efficiency and collaboration between workers and businesses. The release also introduces Microsoft Social Engagement, the latest update to Microsoft’s social monitoring tool designed to enable people to monitor and engage in the context of their Dynamics CRM and/or Office application. The intelligence gained from this new solution will enable businesses to be better informed about what customers are saying across all social channels.

Tools for individuals

  • Office Delve, now globally available, uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to help people discover relevant documents, conversations and connections from across Office 365. In addition, Exchange Online and Yammer content is now accessible via the Delve experience.
  • The company announced the IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016, a key milestone for the next version of Office on the Windows desktop. Office 2016 is expected to be generally available in the second half of this year. Microsoft encourages IT pros and developers from its enterprise customers to join the preview to prepare, begin testing and help shape the future of the product.
  • Skype for Business (previously Microsoft Lync) technical preview starts Monday, and the new Skype for Business client, server and service within Office 365 will be available starting in April. Skype for Business delivers an enterprise-ready voice and video collaboration experience based on the familiar Skype user interface, including the ability for Skype for Business customers to connect with anyone in the Skype network.

Customers and partners also highlighted the benefits of these products and solutions and demonstrated how they are taking the next steps to use systems of intelligence to transform their businesses.

Office 365 E5 enterprise plan – December 1

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Microsoft’s high-end Office 365 E5 SKU for enterprise users — which company officials are expecting to grow significantly Microsoft’s subscription business — will be available starting December 1, 2015

The Office 365 E5 plan, which Microsoft announced in July, will be available to customers starting December 1.


The E5 SKU is listed on the Volume Licensing price list preview which Microsoft published on November 1. The Office 365 E5 SKU will be replacing the current E4 version.

The Office 365 E5 SKU will include Skype for Business (Lync) with support for features including Cloud PBX and Meeting Broadcast; new analytics features, like Power BI Pro and Delve Organizational Analytics; and new advanced security features, such as eDiscovery, Customer Lockbox, Data Loss Protection and Safe Attachments.

“With E5, we have expanded our market opportunity for Office 365 by more than $50 billion. This new E5 SKU and the launch of Office 2016 will drive one of the biggest new businesses for us,” claimed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during Microsoft’s July earnings call.

Microsoft isn’t yet releasing the per-user price of Office 365 E5, a spokesperson told me when I asked. The plan is for Microsoft to make that price available on December 1.

Office 365 E4 sells for $22 per user per month, or $264 per user, per year. E4 includes Skype for Business with Enterprise Voice and unified messaging; the full suite of locally downloadable Office apps; and Power BI for Office 365 (which is being superseded by Power BI pro).

One of my contacts with licensing expertise speculated that E5 could go for $20 to $40 per user per year more than Office 365 E4.

According to information Microsoft officials shared in July, E4 will be retired when E5 becomes available.

Net new customers will be able to purchase E5 or any combination of E1 and E3 with available upgrades to obtain Cloud PBX and PSTN capabilities. Existing E4 customers will have step up options to either E5 or E3 plus Cloud PBX. Customers who wish to maintain their licensing position, will be able to renew into E3 and Skype for Business Plus client-access license (CAL).

Existing Office 365 customers will be able to upgrade to E5 via step-up SKUs that charge the difference between what the customer currently has and E5 as the step-up price to E5. Add-on SKUs will also be available with customers who are maintaining on-premises licenses with Software Assurance.

In July, Microsoft announced previews of three new Skype for Business services that will be part of Office 365 E5: Skype Meeting Broadcast; PSTN Conferencing and Calling; and Cloud PBX. In October, Microsoft broadened availability of all three previews.

Skype Meeting Broadcast enables users to broadcast of a Skype for Business meeting on the Internet to up to 10,000 people, who can attend in a browser.The Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling service provides users with the ability to make and receive traditional phone calls in their Skype for Business client, and to manage these calls using hold, resume, forward and transfer.

Microsoft officials said Cloud PBX will be generally available worldwide before the end of this year. PSTN Calling and PSTN Conferencing will be available in the pre-release markets where they’re being tested before the end of this year.

Microsoft has more than 60 million active monthly users of Office 365 commercial(meaning business) users as of October 2015, officials said. Last quarter, that number was 50 million, according to Microsoft.

MS Word 2016 real-time co-authoring

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Now that Office 2016 is officially here, we are giving a special nod to one of our coolest features within the suite—real-time co-authoring. The Word team is honored to debut this new capability in Office 2016 for Windows.

We work and live in a world where collaboration can’t always happen in person and sharing ideas and information can’t always wait. In fact, a lot of real-time collaboration went into delivering this very blog post—weaving comments and content together between engineering and marketing teams located in different buildings. At times, multiple people were in the document making changes at the same time.

Real-time co-authoring in Word 2016 allows for this and, in fact, has been available since 2013, when we introduced real-time collaboration in Office Online. But with Office 2016, we take real-time collaboration to the next level by offering it within the client, delivering a ton of flexibility. In the client, users don’t need to go back and forth between experiences, collaborating outside of the client and then integrating those changes and conversations back to finalize their documents—allowing them to take advantage of the full feature set Office has to offer while they collaborate. Real-time co-authoring delivers instant engagement within the application, making it more like an in-person work session. Collaborators can align and finalize details of a document more efficiently and quickly in Office for Windows or Office Online.

Start using real-time co-authoring

To get started using real-time co-authoring, save your Word 2016 document to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online. Next, click the Share button, located in the upper right of the window.

word co authoring 1

The Share pane is displayed, allowing you to invite your colleagues or friends to the document.

word co authoring 2

When you click the Share button, your colleague or friend receives an invitation email with a link to the document. They have the option to edit or view in Word 2016 or Word Online (if they don’t have Word 2016 installed). If you are in the document at the same time as others, you will see a flag representing each person and where they are located.

word co authoring 3

Set up real-time co-authoring

If this is not your first time using real-time co-authoring in Word 2016 for the desktop, you will need to first enable automatic sharing of changes. When your colleague or friend first joins the document, you’ll see a notification in the upper-right corner of the screen that lets you turn this feature on—just press Yes and your user account is enabled to share automatically. You can revert back to not sharing at any time by going to the Share pane or the General tab in options.

Watch this video to see a demonstration of real-time co-authoring in Word 2016 for the desktop:

Real-time co-authoring was born out of our need to provide users a more cohesive experience when it comes to collaboration across the desktop, online and mobile scenarios. Even though real-time co-authoring is debuting on Word 2016 for the desktop, you can expect to see this feature come to life in other Office apps like Excel and PowerPoint in the near future.

MS OneNote and Office Mix integrate with all major Learning Management Systems

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Today, OneNote and Office Mix team up to talk about the work we are doing to integrate with all major Learning Management Systems (LMS) and the benefits this brings educators.

We have three key announcements:

  • OneNote and Office Mix are both officially certified to the IMS Global Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard.
  • OneNote Class Notebook LTI is now in General Availability release.
  • OneNote now automatically adds all students enrolled in the LMS course to the course’s OneNote Class Notebook.

LMS integration with LTI

In June, both Office Mix and OneNote Class Notebook announced LTI support. This means that both apps are easily integrated with all major LMS—including Canvas, Engrade, Blackboard, Haiku, Moodle, Brightspace, EDUonGo, edX, EdCast and Schoology.

OneNote Class Notebook allows teachers to launch the OneNote Class Notebook app from their LMS course page, walk through the notebook creation process, and add the created notebook to their course—all without leaving their learning environment. We’ve seen OneNote Class Notebooks created with many LMS systems, including Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Haiku and Moodle. Our customers have also been excited about the new integration.

Here’s what a customer who has been using Canvas with OneNote Class Notebooks had to say:

“OneNote Class Notebooks are one of the few tools that have had a substantial impact on the way we teach. One of the others was Canvas. To have these working seamlessly together is outstanding. It is an order of magnitude easier to build a OneNote Class Notebook through Canvas than it was a year ago. We have teachers spinning up a canvas course and building notebooks for clubs, advisory, athletic teams and a variety of scenarios we didn’t anticipate.”
 —Jonathan Briggs, director of technology at the Eastside Preparatory School.

Office Mix adds functionality to PowerPoint that enables educators and students to record audio or video of themselves presenting, ink on their slides as they present them, insert quizzes, polls, online videos and more. Office Mix also enables users to do full screen capture and record anything on their PCs. Via the LTI connection, educators can embed interactive mixes created by themselves or by the community within their LMS as content or assignments. Office Mix seamlessly authenticates students, and their grades are automatically passed back to the LMS grade book.

IMS certification

We are also delighted to announce that both apps are officially IMS Global Certified. OneNote Class Notebook is compliant to version 1.0 of the standard, and Office Mix complies to version 1.1. Microsoft is a member of IMS Global Learning Consortium and we are committed to supporting open standards and interoperability.

OneNote Class Notebook LTI now in General Availability release

The OneNote team would also like to share that the OneNote Class Notebook LTI app is now in General Availability release. All of our existing Preview customers will be able to continue using OneNote Class Notebook LTI as normal. All app configurations will remain in place, and course notebooks will be linked as before.

Enrolled students are automatically added to the OneNote Class Notebook

Along with our general release, OneNote is now able to provide a new feature that will save teachers valuable time and effort. LMS integration allows students who are enrolled in a course to add themselves to the OneNote Class Notebook simply by clicking the LTI link. Teachers no longer have to type the names of all of their students during notebook creation. By simply leaving the default option to “Automatically add my students when they access this notebook from the LMS link,” they can be confident that all enrolled students (and only enrolled students) are able to access the notebook. As well as saving time and hassle, this gives teachers much more flexibility—if a student is added to the LMS course roster later in the semester, the teacher does not have to add them separately to the notebook too.

“Our teachers were hoping to be able to create Class Notebooks without typing in student names and keep the Notebooks tightly integrated with our LMS. By combining the power of Class Notebooks with the robust LMS features they are accustomed to using, our students are given one access point for all of their work. This is exactly the integration we have been hoping to achieve!”
—Rebecca Keene, One-to-One program specialist for the Kent school district

To learn more about OneNote Class Notebook and Office Mix LTI, please visit and

—The OneNote and Office Mix teams

Students benefitting from individual secure, cloud-based document storage

CRM, Home Page, O365


When OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ West Kirby Grammar School wanted to upgrade and integrate its ageing systems to better support the faculty and high achieving student body, it turned to Microsoft. Using Office 365, Skype for Business unified communications, Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012 and powerful Window 8.1 tablets, the teaching and learning experience has been transformed with truly anywhere working. The school can confidently look to the future supported by a secure, cutting-edge platform that delivers unparalleled experience and the scope to develop and grow in line with the school’s success.

As one of the top 50 performing schools in the UK, West Kirby Grammar School has a highly driven body of 150 staff and 1,200 students to equip and empower each day. What sets the school apart is it’s passion for discovering and nurturing the unique talents of each individual child. That doesn’t start and stop with what the students learn, it embraces how they learn and how the school can help them gain confidence and independence. Liam Hayes, IT strategy leader, has been taking the school on a 3-year journey to integrate and modernise its systems and technologies to prepare the school for the next generation of technology and students.

Challenge – Disparate systems, restricted capability

West Kirby Grammar School’s IT environment had grown over the years into a patchwork platform made up of unconnected systems from different IT companies, and a basic PABX telephone system. The software had dated features and offered no real personalised or group working capability. Inflexibility made everyday systems management ever more complex and a large amount of time each day was spent dealing with malfunctioning tools, access and security issues. In such a high-achieving educational environment, IT was failing to support the teaching and learning environment. Liam began to develop a radical blueprint for a modern IT platform unlike any used by other local schools. “I wanted us to have the tools that enabled the teaching body to deliver their classes without restriction and to give the students what they needed to maximise their potential with every opportunity to develop and express themselves freely,” says Liam.

Solution – Cutting edge technology with efficient reliability

Liam chose a new environment based on modern Microsoft technologies. “Microsoft is unrivalled in the education space because it understands schools’ needs, and offers the richest products and most cost-efficient licensing models. There are no other vendors that come close,” he explains.

Liam selected Microsoft Gold partner, Nviron, to help take his vision to the next stage, ultimately implementing a solution which embraces the very latest IT applications, servers, connectivity, networking and a complete cloud-based communications and telephony system.

Today, West Kirby Grammar School works seamlessly and creatively with Microsoft Office 2013 and other productivity apps provided through Office 365, a cloud-based ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ powered by SharePoint, personal document storage for all students, staff and teachers in OneDrive for Business, intuitive Windows 8.1 virtual desktops and an integrated telephony, video conferencing and instant messaging solution enabled by Skype for Business. Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition and SQL Server 2012 provide a flexible and scalable underlying server environment.

For the first time, teachers and students alike have access to the same set of incredible tools, services and capabilities unleashing powerful new ways for them to interact, access materials, submit coursework, give two-way feedback and share ideas. The technology has also opened up enriching new opportunities for communication outside of the school environment by equipping students to build relationships with peers in partner schools all over the world.

The classroom environment has been transformed; old PCs and laptops have been replaced with amazing interactive TV screens, modern desktop computers and the very latest Windows 8.1 mobile devices. Wireless connectivity across the school site empowers teachers and students to work creatively from any location, removing the physical barriers of the classroom.

“The potential we have from this technology is very exciting,” says Liam. “Nviron has given us a completely integrated technology and telephony solution that outshines other schools. The students face no barriers to learning and we are giving them the most dynamic environment possible to do that. Investing at this scale, I had to be sure that I was making the right choice and that it would last for at least 10 years. The new platform has prepared the school and everyone in it for the new technology age and our long term mutual partnership with Nviron will support us along the way.”

Benefits & Value for West Kirby Grammar School

Teaching and learning without boundaries

• Powerful Windows 8.1 tablet, with OneDrive for Business integration, bring creative teaching plans to life; students are using SmartSearch to quickly find information across the PC, apps and online and Microsoft Office applications to create and share content individually or in teams

• SharePoint underpins an extensive ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ used by staff and students to post documents, videos, blogs, learning materials and coursework, as well as provide valuable two-way feedback on classes

• Students benefit from individual secure, cloud-based document storage environments in OneDrive for Business from which they can store and access work, as well as manage teacher access for fast coursework submission

• ‘Single sign-on’ through Active Directory Federated Services, coupled with wireless connectivity across the school site, ensures users enjoy fast access to all applications and tools from any device without having to enter login information multiple times

• Windows 8.1 devices are breathing new life into practical subjects, enabling the students to research topics, create videos and ‘show and tell’ content outside of the classroom to support teaching topics

• Modern Office 2013 applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel are used extensively by teachers and students alike for preparation and delivery of all class work

• Teachers no longer need to be onsite to work efficiently; cloud-based email and communications tools like Skype for Business enable them to work effectively from other locations in term-time and holidays

“We can engage students in ways that weren’t possible before – we’re no longer limited to the four walls of the classroom. Lessons are more dynamic and interactive.”

Unparalleled communication

• Office 365, SharePoint and Skype for Business provide everyone with integrated tools to interact and communicate in exciting new ways

• Skype for Business has transformed communication between students and teachers giving them the ability to send instant messages, speak and have video conferences at any time from school-owned or personal devices; this is directly impacting student engagement, support and results

• The new communications platform supports the students to have real-time two-way conversations with other students from partner schools in India and China for the first time, using video conferencing and screen sharing to interact, immerse themselves in the other cultures and broaden their learning experiences.

“Skype for Business is the jewel in our crown, giving us Voice, IM and desktop sharing. We can interact with each other and other schools on opposite sides of the globe as easily as if they were down the road. That makes the world a much smaller place for our students.”

Greater cost and resource efficiency

• New virtual desktops delivered by Hyper V and Windows Server 2012 have reduced the number of physical PC’s required, saving vital budget and energy costs

• Telephony services provided by Skype for Business have replaced the ageing, costly PABX device, dramatically reducing call costs and historic maintenance time

• By consolidating disparate systems and software vendors into one modern platform, West Kirby Grammar School benefit from a single predictable annual IT cost which can be more effectively planned and budgeted

• Microsoft’s advantageous licensing for schools has enabled West Kirby Grammar school to benefit from a range of tools that would have been otherwise cost-prohibitive. They have saved over £10,000 alone on the costs of provisioning Office 2013 to 1200 students and 150 members of staff.

“We’re without doubt more efficient in many ways and the new environment allows us to really maximise benefit by giving us cutting edge tools at a dramatically reduced cost.”

Simplified, reliable systems

• Upgrading Windows Server 2003 to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 gives West Kirby Grammar School a reliable and flexible server template to roll out new desktops on demand and deliver a seamless, integrated IT service

• Microsoft Server 2012 HyperV delivers hi-performance applications like AUTOCAD to study groups via virtual desktops, providing vital topic-specific capability without causing strain on other parts of the infrastructure

• Simple management interfaces in Windows Server 2012 and Office 365, coupled with remote access capabilities, makes everyday management tasks quick and effortless to complete from any location; giving the IT team time back to focus on development of services

• SQL Server 2012 extends the server environment, integrating legacy line of business applications like SIMS (School Information Management System) for greater teacher efficiency and productivity

• Windows Server 2012 and Office 365 provide the school with the reassurance of cloud-based data security, reducing the need for onsite manual back-up and providing an extra layer of business continuity protection should a disaster happen

“The service we’re providing is noticeably more reliable – our ideal is to have IT forgotten about and that’s happening more and more. We’ve no worry about systems going down, losing data or having a security breach. All the historic niggles have gone away.”

Future growth assured

• West Kirby Grammar School now enjoys a reliable, integrated and cost-efficient platform to develop and grow in the future, in line with the schools own development

• Scalability is unlimited; new users can be provisioned quickly through Office 365 user-based services and HyperV virtual server creation supports fast addition of virtual desktops

• By investing in Microsoft technologies with a future-proof road-map, Liam has the reassurance that he can continue to consolidate systems, add new functionality and further embrace the power of the cloud as technology continues to evolve over the coming years

• Demonstrating investment in technology and empowerment of students is a vital ingredient for maintaining the school’s OFTSED ‘Outstanding’ status, as well as attracting new pupils and additional funding

“Looking ahead, our focus will be on continuity, mobility and adaptability. We have an IT toolset and platform that has a future, a platform that we can build on and develop. The school is a more diverse and dynamic place as a result.”

Liam’s Favourite Features: Mobility Efficiency Collaboration

“Saving to OneDrive from Office is a brilliant feature which makes working on the go and team collaboration so simple. Proofing and Synonyms from a ‘right click’ within Word and PowerPoint is a very handy tool. Video conferencing, desktop sharing and ‘whiteboarding’ in Skype for Business brings team work into the 21st century.

“We have an IT toolset and platform that has a future, a platform that we can build on and develop. The school is a more diverse and dynamic place as a result.”

Liam Hayes, IT Strategy Lead, West Kirby Grammar School

For more information, visit:

ExpressRoute for Office 365

CRM, Home Page, O365, Projects, Strategy

Announcing general availability of ExpressRoute for Office 365

Today we’re pleased to announce that Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 is now generally available from these network operators:

  • British Telecom
  • Equinix
  • Tata Communications
  • TeleCity Group
  • Verizon

You can read about how Microsoft is using ExpressRoute for Office 365 in the Microsoft IT whitepaper, “Optimizing network performance for Microsoft Office 365.”

Connecting your network to Office 365 using Azure ExpressRoute

Depending on your network configuration, here’s how you can work with network operators offering ExpressRoute for Office 365 to establish a connection between your network and Office 365:

  • If your organization already uses Azure ExpressRoute, your network operator can simply turn on the connectivity for you. Since use of Office 365 generates additional network traffic, you should discuss the requirements for additional bandwidth with your network operator.
  • Organizations using IP VPN technology for a WAN provided by a network operator can ask the network operator to add Office 365 as a node on your WAN. Once Office 365 connectivity is added, Office 365 services appear as if they are on your WAN—like an offsite datacenter.
  • ExpressRoute can also support large or point-to-point network connections. If you have a large broad network, then you may already have a network connection in a co-location facility where Azure ExpressRoute is available. You should work with your network provider to identify the best way to connect to Azure ExpressRoute.


Frequently asked questions

Q. Where in the world is ExpressRoute for Office 365 available?

A. Your users can connect from anywhere in the world that your network operator provides access. Each network operator connects to the Microsoft network at specific locations. They can provide networking from the user location to the Microsoft network connection. You should discuss the options with your network operator. The locations where they will connect to Microsoft’s network are listed here.

Q. How do organizations purchase ExpressRoute for Office 365?

A. Organizations interested in purchasing ExpressRoute for Office 365 should have an Azure subscription and should discuss details of the connectivity with an Azure ExpressRoute partner.

Q. Are there any Office 365 services that Azure ExpressRoute cannot provide a connection to?

A. Today connectivity is available for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business Online, Azure Active Directory, Office 365 Video, Power BI, Delve and Project Online. Services that ExpressRoute does not provide connectivity to include download of Office 365 ProPlus installation files, Yammer, Domain Name Service and Content Delivery Network servers.

Q. Is QoS supported on Azure ExpressRoute?

A. Yes. QoS is supported for Skype for Business Online over Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365.

Q. Does Microsoft provide tools to test for network performance issues?

A. Yes. We have the Office Client Performance Analyzer (OCPA), which was recently updated to add a number of new performance test metrics. Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 may be a solution to network performance problems experienced by users. OCPA can be downloaded from the Office 365 admin console here.

For customers with Premier support contracts, Microsoft has a service offering for Office 365 Network Performance Assessment. Please contact your Technical Account Manager for details.

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How SAML is used for Single Sign-On (SSO)

Home Page, O365, Strategy

SAMLWithin SAML, there are profiles that define how assertions, protocols and bindings are combined to satisfy a particular use case. Think of a SAML profile as a template, each profile uses different combination of bindings, protocols and assertions. One of the most used SAML profiles is the Web Browser SSO Profile.

The SAML Web SSO Profile provides the ability for users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials entered once. This is the foundation of federation and also of single sign-on (SSO). Using SAML, users can seamlessly access multiple applications, allowing them to conduct business faster and more efficiently.

You may not have realized this, but you use SAML SSO every day. Whether it’s logging into your bank online, using a mobile application, or pretty much anywhere you are signing into a website and accessing the information therein. For the purposes of explaining how SSO works, let’s use online banking as our use case. When a bank customer logs in to their bank account via the bank’s website they may need to access a variety of applications from their checking and savings accounts to their credit card balance. Each of their accounts types (savings, checking, credit, brokerage, business) are often provided by different back-end applications. These applications need to be able to communicate with each other using a common authentication scheme to provide a seamless user experience that enables one login to provide access to all the parts of the online banking web portal. SAML provides the means to accomplish this.

White Paper

How to Implement Enterprise SAML SSO

Let’s look closer at the sequence of steps to generate a SAML token, and then use it to gain access to an application or resource. The figure below shows the basic steps necessary for SSO using SAML.


  1. User authenticates to identity provider using a single-factor, or multi-factor authentication.
  2. The Identity Provider issues a SAML token to the User with assertions about the User’s identity. In Mobile devices, and web browsers, the SAML is often issued as embedded BASE64 within the HTML response.
  3. The User’s browser is redirected from the Identity Provider to the location of the Service Provider. The User’s browser then issues a request to the Service Provider with the SAML token embedded. The Service Provider then inspects the SAML token and its contents to determine validity based on the trust relationship with the Identity Provider. The Service Provider then provides access to the various online banking applications based on the SAML assertion statements included in the token.

SAML SSO provides a seamless experience for the user to access multiple applications without the user or client technology requiring any changes to support the SAML exchange.

To learn more about SAML SSO, download our latest white paper: How to Implement Enterprise SAML SSO

By | Date posted: October 10, 2014

SAML — what is it ?

Home Page, O365, Strategy

SAMLSecurity Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an XML-based framework used to authorize, authenticate and communicate attributes and privileges of a user. It provides numerous benefits to enterprises, organizations and governments. However, SAML has been widely adopted for three primary reasons: SAML is standardized, secure, and provides an excellent user experience.

Three Benefits of Using SAML

1. Standardized

The SAML standardized format is designed to interoperate with any system independent of implementation. This enables a more open approach to architecture and identity federation without the interoperability issues associated with vendor-specific approaches.

White Paper: Introduction to SAML

Learn how SAML is used by enterprise organizations for SSO

2. Security

In the modern era of computing, security is of the utmost importance when it comes to enterprise applications. SAML is used to provide a single point of authentication at a secure identity provider, meaning that user credentials never leave the firewall boundary, and then SAML is used to assert the identity to others. This means that applications do not need to store or synchronize identities, which in turn ensures that there are fewer places for identities to be breached or stolen. SAML also provides a strong layer of security by leveraging Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to protect the asserted identities against attempted attacks.

3. User Experience

Arguably, one of SAML’s greatest benefits is the user experience it provides. SAML provides the ability for users to securely access multiple applications with a single set of credentials entered once. This is the foundation of federation and also of single sign-on (SSO). Using SAML, users can seamlessly access multiple applications, allowing them to conduct business faster and more efficiently.

SAML uses assertions to enable an Identity Provider to securely communicate attributes and privileges of a user to a Service Provider. Assertions carry detailed information about the user, including: what application rights they have, if they are allowed to access multiple applications, how long they may access the application and much more. To learn more about SAML assertions and how they work, download the Introduction to SAML white paper.


By | Date posted: September 2, 2014

Outlook 2013 wont send after Windows 10 upgrade – Fix

Home Page, O365

Click on the search icon, search on ‘CMD’ when you find the application (Command Prompt) run as administrator (i.e. right click it and click run as administrator).

You will then see a rectangular black window appear with folder> then type in sfc/scannow and sit back and wait (takes a while to run). You should see a progress ‘%age’ text. It can take 30-45mins.

When finished type in exit. Then close outlook, restart Outlook and problem solve.


Be careful if you have a lot of emails in the outbox as they will send immediately, so if you have sent them another way , on  a phone perhaps, be sure to delete them before you restart outlook.

Why Power BI is the future of Excel

Home Page, O365, Strategy

Excel isn’t going away, but it’s going to stop accumulating extra tools like barnacles. Instead Power BI Desktop will become the self-service analytics hub.



In recent years, some of the most significant improvements to Microsoft Excel haven’t been part of the familiar spreadsheet software directly. Instead, the new analysis and visualization tools that turn Excel into a hugely business intelligence (BI) platform arrived as add-ons –available only if you have a separately installed Office ProPlus license (or an Office 365 E3 tenant) — that live on their tabs in the Excel ribbon, but launch separate apps.

Excel formulas and pivot tables might arguably be the most popular programming language in the world and these new tools – Power Query, Power Pivot, Power Map and Power View – are even more powerful. You can connect to, clean, deduplicate and transform almost any data; explore and filter millions of rows of data; build KPIs; and create visualizations.

Even though you use Excel to build the data model that you’re going to analyze, the tools you do that analysis with aren’t part of the Excel interface. Even worse, they all have their own interfaces – which look almost, but not quite like Excel – in separate windows. You can end up connecting to data and cleaning it in Power Query, analyzing it in Power Pivot and then visualizing it in Power Map and Power View as three or four disconnected steps.

Powerful also means complex — very complex compared to self-service analytics solutions like Tableau. Some relatively simple things (like drawing lines on a map) can get complicated with Excel power tools. And when you’ve finished using up to four different tools on top of Excel, what you get needs a complex mix of SharePoint, Silverlight, Excel and HTML5 to share with other users.

Compare that to Microsoft’s Power BI service, which is both powerful and easy to use – with new features being added every week – and those complex Excel tools make even less sense. That’s why Power BI, the cloud service, has a desktop companion app, Power BI Desktop (recently renamed from Power BI Designer), that’s taking over from the complex Excel extras.

Visualizing the future of analysis

“Business analysts have wanted the self-service BI capability that allows them to not have to stand in line to get their work done, to not have to go get someone else to do measures for them in Cognos or Analysis Services,” says James Phillips, the general manager of data experiences at Microsoft. “I want something that allows me to get my work done without being a BI professional.”

Phillips has overseen the transition of Power BI from a SharePoint feature to a service that he expects to have a billion users. The service only came out of preview in July 2015, and it was already being used by 500,000 users at 45,000 companies in 185 countries (even though it’s only officially available in 145 of those).

Excel has been a business intelligence service for a long time and hasn’t been losing users directly to tools like Tableau because, Phillips claims, all those Tableau users still use Excel as well. “They’re not replacements for each other. I’ve never met a business analyst who doesn’t use Excel.” But they’ve turned to those other tools as well, because they want to get value out of their data in a different way than they can in Excel.

Instead of trying to cram those options into Excel, or bolting them onto the side, Microsoft is now supporting a much broader set of analysis tools – from the Power BI service, to its purchase of Revolution Analytics and its investment in R, to the way the Excel tools have become their own program.

“Instead of saying ‘it slices, it dices, it does julienne fries, you don’t need anything else,’ we’re keeping Excel good at what it’s good at,” Philips says. “Excel offers unbelievably powerful ad hoc analysis. It’s great for analyzing any kind of data. It’s effectively a programming environment for data. Really, it’s beautiful! But the interactive designer, where you can slice and dice and do visualizations for your reports, is Power BI Desktop.”

Like the rest of Power BI, that’s on an aggressively fast schedule. “We’re shipping every month,” says Phillips. “That pace of innovation I expect to actually accelerate. We’re on a massively fast track to mature this thing.”

In August, for example, Power BI Desktop got an option for importing Power Query queries, Power Pivot models and Power View worksheets…and there will be more import and export options to Excel in the future (you can already get data from a wide range of databases, file formats and Azure services, now including HDInsight Spark and Azure SQL Data Warehouse).

That’s in addition to all the ways you can bring data into the Power BI service itself, which can connect to both cloud services and on-premises data (which you don’t have to move into the cloud to analyze). The free version of Power BI works with cloud services and gives you a limited amount of storage; the subscription version adds connections to your own data, as well as more storage.

That combination is what makes Power BI so appealing. It can already pull data from a wide range of cloud services, including MailChimp, Zendesk, Salesforce, QuickBooks, Twilio, GitHub, Uservoice and even Google Analytics. Sage and Adobe Analytics are coming soon, and there’s a long list of others on the way. “We’ve gotten a cadence where we’re releasing at least one content pack every single week,” says Phillips. “We’re really on a rocket ship road. If we only ship one a week, with the commitments we already have, we could sustain another year of weekly content packs.”

Organizations can create their own content packs for getting data from their on-premise systems and the cloud services they use. What the content packs do is give Power BI the data model of the services it gets data from, so it can automatically build dashboards and charts to expose useful data, and so you can use the natural language Q&A feature. That lets you type in a question like “what are the best selling products in each territory in spring” and get a map showing that data without typing a single line of code.

Power BI Desktop is for when you want to go beyond the built-in visualizations, and Microsoft’s vision is for it to be much more than a companion to Excel.

Opening up visualization

Phillips says he hopes that Microsoft’s regular updates to Power BI Desktop won’t be the only way it gets more features. Microsoft has released both the desktop software and the visualization stack that powers it as open source on GitHub. “That’s all the Power BI visualization stack and all the native visuals,” he says.

“Very soon, we are going to offer the ability to make custom visualizations. You will be able to go crazy with visualizations. People talk about other vendors having a lot of visualizations; we’re completely unshackling the notion that your BI provider should tell you how to use visualizations.”

Microsoft is hoping that other data analytics services will pick up Power BI Desktop; that would give users some degree of interoperability between different services, Phillips suggests, and it would also mean more developers working on improving the software. Israeli BI vendor Pyramid Analytics is already adopting it.

“Arming a business analyst with visual reports should not cost an arm and a leg,” claims Phillips. “It should be free to start modelling data and visualizing it.”

Courtesy Mary Branscombe – CIO Sep 3, 2015 5:51 AM PT

Cut the Cord: How Print From Anywhere Is Changing The Way We Work

Home Page, O365, Strategy

 Print drivers. Remember those? Just the words are enough to send a shiver up the spine of nearly any office worker who survived the early days of office printing.

Sure, it wasn’t exactly a stone and chisel, but once upon a time, office printing wasn’t very easy or convenient, either. How many times did you find yourself in a position where printing your project was even more difficult or complicated than writing it? Or find that a simple, “print and sign” task was harder than closing the deal to begin with?

With Xerox Mobile Print, those days are over. Workers have been released from their printer cord tether, free to work – and print – from anywhere. Xerox Mobile Print combines convenience, options and security (three of our favorite words) to make it possible for you to print easily and securely from anywhere – and you don’t even have to rely exclusively on Xerox printers. It’s also fully Cloud integrated, allowing you to print from email, Office, Adobe Acrobat…pretty much anywhere you can think of, clearly and with ease.

Print from Anywhere


From mobile devices and laptops to your desktop computer, Xerox Mobile Print makes it easy to print from wherever you are, on whatever device you’re using. Collate, staple, print in bold, glorious color, directly from the device you’re working on. No more emailing files to yourself or asking to sit at someone else’s computer “just for a minute”.

Get out of the print queue and back to what really matters with Mobile Printing from Xerox. Because your print job shouldn’t be your whole job.

Ready to cut the cord?

Learn more at

By |Aug 20, 2015

Could this be the Perfect Office365 implementation

Home Page, O365

Microsoft Case study


Fostering organisation uses Microsoft technology to keep vulnerable children protected

Without modern technology, UK Fostering was struggling to work on the move, easily share information securely and support the many carers who help keep some of the UK’s vulnerable children protected. Now with up-to-date cloud services and powerful devices from Microsoft they face no barriers. The team work effectively from any location, armed with information and tools to be immediately responsive so valuable time savings can be spent supporting the carers who make such a difference. Continue reading “Could this be the Perfect Office365 implementation”

New features and functionality to Office 365


Microsoft have been bringing lots of new features and functionality to Office 365 over the past year, building upon existing functionality and even creating brand new applications as part of their offering. It’s an exciting time to be using Microsoft technologies with the amount of investment and enhancements that are being continually rolled out.
We’ve already covered a few of these new offerings, which you can click on below to find out further information:
Office Mix – a powerful PowerPoint add-in allowing more interactive presentations and analytics
Sway – a new web-based visual presentation app that takes care of the design for you
Delve and Office Graph – the new search functionality to help you find your documents easily

Now, we want to have a look at Office 365 Video.

What is it?

Office 365 Video is another one of Microsoft’s recent offerings, which provides a secure portal for businesses users to post, share and find video content. Video content is rising in popularity and become more common in organisations. Office 365 Video essentially acts like an internal YouTube – but aimed at businesses rather than consumers thanks to its security and integration with Office 365.

‘Office 365 Video is a secure, company-wide destination for video upload, sharing and discovery, and smooth playback across devices – all powered by Windows Azure Media Services.’

Features: Office 365 Video is still relatively new and it isn’t the most complex and feature-rich video platform yet, however as it’s included in Office 365 E plans then it’s an extremely attractive choice for businesses already using Office 365. Also, it’s worth noting that Microsoft already have plans to add functionality and new features in the roadmap, so it is likely to continually improve and evolve – which is important to look for in software.Office-365-Video-Features
Here are some of the current features available now:
Permission levels – Administration can set permission levels for viewing and uploading content and for viewing and creating channels to ensure on those with the correct security settings can perform these actions.
Create channels – Create different channels to organise video content – all of which can have different permissions attached to them to keep content secure.Embed video – You can embed any video that’s stored on Office 365 Video onto any SharePoint portal or website via simple code embedding.
Native iOS app – Microsoft recently released
Responsive videos – When accessing Office 365 Video all videos are shown responsively so users have optimal viewing no matter what device they’re using.
Anywhere access – As Office 365 Video lives in the cloud, users can login an access these videos wherever they are and whenever they wish – so long as they have an internet connection.Personal Video recommendations  – When watching videos users will be recommended similar videos based on their viewing all thanks to Office Graph, which also powers Delve.
Integrated search –Office 365 Video is integrated with the Office 365 family, so when using Delve to search for documents, Delve will also bring up any videos stored in office 365 Video so you can use one search function to find any type of content.
Simple sharing – Sharing videos is easy either by sharing via email, posting to Yammer or embedding onto another site – and if the video is sent to the wrong person they can only access it if their permission levels are valid.

Pricing: Office 365 Video is included within Office 365 E1, E2, E3 and E4 plans (and the matching A plans for Education). It’s important to note that Office 365 Video is not part of the Office 365 Business SKUs and it is not available as a stand-alone product. Only Office 365 users on E plans will be able to benefit from Office 365 Video and there have been no comments from Microsoft about the potential to extend this application.

Conclusion: Office 365 Video is just another great reason to migrate to Office 365! The sheer amount of applications that Office 365 now offers in one package gives businesses an extremely complex and robust solution. While Office 365 Video is still in the early stages after being released, Microsoft will be expanding upon its initial features. If you want to manage a selection of videos, then it is a great solution. If your business has an exhaustive video library then it may be worth waiting for a first major update – however we know migration is no easy process, so it may be worth looking into this alternative, especially if removes ongoing video platform costs from 3rd party software.

SharePoint Online customisation – or not !

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Are You Are Planning A Move To SharePoint Online, If So, Have You Considered Your Customization Strategy?
With the release of SharePoint online the way in which you customize your SharePoint implementation has changed. With the back-end being in the Microsoft cloud, the need for back end coding has now diminished. Microsoft are actually doing this to make your implementations more secure, as if there is no customised back end code the chance of your environment breaking Is greatly reduced and your eventual migration path is much easier.
Despite what many think Microsoft don’t want everyone to conform to the SharePoint that comes out of the box and recommend trying the three below methods for customization:
– Browser based customisation (Using the site settings page)
  • Choose different themes
  • Apply custom CSS files
  • Customize the navigation
– Codeless Solutions (use design manager to leverage your expertise in HTML, CSS and JavaScript)
  • Easily design HTML master pages and page layout’s in your HTML editor
  • Convert HTML to an ASP.NET master page
  • Use InfoPath designer to customize list, workflow and library forms.
– Consider Custom Code Solutions (Develop apps for SharePoint that feature App Parts)
  • Create custom site pages
  • Create custom web parts
I have just scratched the surface of this, Microsoft have provided a lot more information –

OneDrive – Limiting file sync to domain joined PC’s

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OneDrive for Business enables users to synchronize their files for offline use across their PCs or Macs. One of the most common requests from IT admins is to have the ability to block sync on unmanaged PCs. Now you can enable file sync to work only on domain-joined PCs (and you can even specify which of your domains you want to allow to sync), thereby blocking file sync on personally owned or unmanaged PCs. Note that using this setting means that you will disable file sync on all Macs as they cannot be domain-joined and managed like PCs.

This new control uses PowerShell to limit file sync to a list of permitted domains and, if your organization uses multiple domains, you can select the individual domains from which you allow sync requests.

The PowerShell cmdlet and syntax you use is:

The “DomainGuids” value represents the domain you are allowing. You can find more details on TechNet, including how to determine your domain GUIDs. We also demonstrate this on the show.

Auditing all actions taken against OneDrive for Business files

New auditing controls rolling into the Office 365 compliance center allow you to audit all actions taken against files stored in OneDrive for Business. If you want to monitor activities like which PCs or Macs attempted to sync with OneDrive or who viewed and shared files, the auditing controls provide that visibility. You can learn more in this recent Office Blogs post, and we demonstrate some of the auditing capabilities on the show.

Managing mobile devices connecting to OneDrive for Business data

As more people move to OneDrive for Business to store and access their files, email-based mobile device management (MDM) policies may not suffice to protect data. Now using MDM in Office 365, you can ensure that devices connecting to your OneDrive for Business data are managed. After you’ve set up MDM policies, a device will need to enroll in MDM for Office 365 when it tries to connect to your data using OneDrive for Business or Office Mobile apps. This ensures that the device meets security requirements, enforces PIN log-in and other chosen configurations on the device. You can find out more about MDM for Office 365 and see it in action on the show.

Setting storage quotas in OneDrive for Business

Even though the prospect of having 1 TB of data in the cloud is attractive for many people, several organizations have requested the ability to set smaller quota limits. It could be to limit the amount of data stored, for information protection reasons, or simply to ensure that what people store in OneDrive for Business can sync (and fit) on their PC’s hard drive.

In this case, PowerShell is again used to determine the storage quota. Here’s an example:

We demonstrate this feature on the show, and you’ll find more information for the Set-SPOSite cmdlet on TechNet.

Preventing unintentional sharing to “Everyone” or “All Users” in OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business is designed to ensure that only those with viewing or editing permissions can view or edit a file. Many organizations want sharing with people to be a very specific and targeted action. For example, they want their users to determine the specific people they need to share a file with and explicitly invite them through the sharing dialog. We’ve also offered the “Shared with Everyone” folder, which means files placed in this folder automatically grant users permissions and are publically discoverable through Delve. We had a lot of feedback from customers that this folder was an all-too-simple way to avoid specifically nominating people who should get access to a file. Based on this feedback, for all new tenants and users, the “Shared with everyone” folder will no longer be created by default; however, IT admins have the ability to override this setting.

If this is something you’ve been waiting for to protect information, you’ll also be happy to know that there are controls to remove “Everyone,” “All Users” and “Everyone except external users” from the people picker in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online. Again, you would use PowerShell to disable these entries from the people picker with the following settings:

More information about the Set-SPOTenant cmdlet is on TechNet and we highlight this as well as the resulting user experience on the show.

More to come in OneDrive for Business

These new controls, all based on your feedback, provide more capabilities to protect corporate information in OneDrive for Business. In the coming months, we’ll deliver a whole range of new user experiences including our new sync client (featuring selective sync), new web client refresh and offline file support for mobile devices. We’ll also bring in new controls for IT admins to manage the scope or span of sharing outside the organization as well as other controls that provide additional ways to protect key business files. So keep checking back; be sure to try out the new management controls today and let us know what you think.

–Reuben Krippner

Your Office in the Cloud

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Office 365

brings together the power of the familiar Office applications with business class email (powered by Exchange Online), document sharing (powered by SharePoint Online), and instant messaging and video conferencing (powered by Skype for Business Online).

Everything works seamlessly together to give you the best productivity experience across your devices – from PCs to smartphones to tablets. Because it is a cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft, you always get the latest technology without the need to upgrade your servers and it comes with virus/malware protection, automatic backup, and 99.9% uptime guarantee with a financially-backed service level agreement.


Latest version of Office desktop applications licensed as a subscription
Per user licensing across 5 devices including PC, Mac, iPad/iPhone and Android Tablet
Stream any Office application on a PC while away from your devices
Deploy Office on desktops quickly and effortlessly with click-to-run technology

Exchange Online

Hosted business class email and shared calendar
50 GB of storage space per user
Robust anti-spam and anti-malware
Set and manage mobile access and policies

SharePoint Online

Document sharing and management in the cloud
Share documents with customers or partners with controlled access
Save to the cloud and sync with your devices for offline access using OneDrive for Business
Shared team emails and documents with Site Mailboxes

Skype for business Online

IM, presence, voice, and HD video conferencing
Real-time note taking and document sharing
Conduct Lync meetings with customers and partners
Connect with Skype contacts using presence, IM, and voice


Set up a group in seconds for any team, project or interest
Reach across the company to find the experts you need
Share Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, images and videos
Stay on top of relevant conversations, files and projects happening across the company

Snacking Dining Cooking

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Imagine if you could access the latest Microsoft desktop suite, while taking advantage of trusted communication and collaboration products to enhance efficiency and reduce cost. Imagine if it was available for a per user per month price, meaning you could pay for what you need, when you need it.

With Microsoft Office 365, that possibility becomes a reality. The Office 365 offer helps you take full advantage of the latest technology, whatever the size of your business. What is more, with our ongoing support, you can secure maximum business benefit from your investment.


With Microsoft Office 365, you can:

Collaborate: Office 365 enables colleagues and business partners to work effectively together, sharing documents and information with ease. This enhances efficiency, and facilitates productive team working.

Work remotely: Because it is hosted on the Cloud, Office 365 enables your staff to work efficiently, wherever they are located on any device; Phones Tablets PC’s. Snacking Dining Cooking

Use the best IT products: Office 365 incorporates the latest version of Microsoft Office and always will, as well as other indispensable tools like SharePoint , Exchange and Skype . That means you never have to worry about your technology being out of date, you will always be on the latest versions for free.

Pay as you go: Why pay upfront for technology you may not always need? With Microsoft subscriptions per user per month pricing, you’ll only pay for the technology you use. If you need to expand, or contract, you can do so with ease – simply add or remove users, and they’re ready to get working.

Microsoft Office 365 includes the following products:

  • Microsoft Office: The world’s premier desktop suite – updated continuously forever
  • Email Online: Organise email, calendar and contacts on the Cloud, with all the constant protection of Microsoft’s latest anti-virus and anti-spam solutions.
  • SharePoint Online : Connect with colleagues and business partners, share documents, and work smart – and, with my help, maximise the business benefits of this innovative product.
  • Skype for Business: Keep in touch, with Cloud-based instant messaging, video conferences, screen sharing and online meetings.
  • Yammer: Just collaborate in a social way with your staff and customers

Next Steps:

Contact me to discuss your requirements. E: M:07900 180490