Microsoft Office 365: SharePoint Online New Features


Microsoft are committed to adding new features into their Cloud offerings and over the last week and a bit have been upgrading SharePoint Online to include some great new things:

BCS (Business Connectivity Services) – This enables companies to connect to external systems from within SharePoint. For more info, check this TechNet page – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/ee518675

Windows Phone 7 “Mango” Support – Enables newly upgraded Windows Phone users to access Sharepoint Online lists and document libraries.

Increased Browser Support – Now officially supports both IE9 & Google Chrome browsers

Recycle Bin Self Service – Self service ability to recover sites from a collection’s recycle bin

External Sharing Live ID support – Office 365 admins can now invite external users to a site collection and they sign in with their Windows Live ID

Of those, the addition of BCS is far and away the biggest and should make Sharepoint Online suddenly a viable option for a whole new set of organisations.

Microsoft Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Mail Enabled Lists


Microsoft Sharepoint does so many things that there are 100’s of features used by only a subset of companies, but there are a number of features that are pretty key to the majority of Sharepoint organizations. To me, one of these is:

Mail Enabled Lists

Basically, this allows you to send emails to a list within Sharepoint and have it catalogue the mail and also store any attachments to that mail; I think that’s pretty cool!

This feature wasn’t available in BPOS and I discovered today it won’t be available in the soon to be released Office 365 either. I couldn’t really understand why as, on the face of it, mail enabled lists appear to be quite an easy feature to enable. I asked one of the Microsoft TSP’s today and also did a little Bing based research and have come up with something of an answer.

The official answer from Microsoft Corp. is:

“They are currently disabled due to performance, scalability, policy enforcement, data requirements and legal compliance issues that can affect Enterprise customers”

Looking into it further, I came across a post on Joel Oleson’s MSDN based blog on the subject of Mail Enabled lists which throws some more light onto the subject. He says:

“MS IT has been very cautious about their support for email enabled lists and specifically only supporting it on few isolated environments”

which I found very surprising. Luckily he goes on to answer my question – Why?

“Email enabled lists create contact objects in AD, it takes careful coordination to create these contact objects and ensure the proper write access to a specific OU. Imagine 500,000 lists all with the ability to be email enabled”

BPOS/Office 365 is a multi tenant setup, meaning there could be millions of lists in the cloud based Active Directory, many of which could have 1000’s of updates a day. That is quickly a huge overhead for the servers and infrastructure to cope with, potentially leading to a negative impact on the service Microsoft offer to their customers.

Hopefully in the future, Microsoft will enable this feature…perhaps with a maximum limit per company for number of lists/number of daily updates etc. However there is no word floating around the halls of any such move for the foreseeable future…

What are your thoughts – are mail enabled lists important to you? Would it stop you from moving to the cloud? Let me know in the comments Smile

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 and VMWare Error


I installed Sharepoint 2010 on a Virtual Server last week, set up some new site collections and then when I came to use it, got a very strange error:

”The trial period for Sharepoint Foundation has expired”

Strange because this wasn’t a trial and because it wasn’t Sharepoint Foundation…it was full server 2010!

I did a little searching round the web and saw something on the Microsoft forum that suggested it might be related to Windows Web Server. I checked and yes, our System Admin had built the VM with Windows Web Server…but than itself was weird…why did he do that?

I went downstairs and asked him…he didn’t make a web server, it was Windows Server Std 2008 R2 but by the time it got to me, it had magically morphed into a Web server…WTF?

The media being used was from MSDN and contained Std, Ent & Web in one image and you choose which one you want during the installation. The Sys Admin built a Svr Std machine, converted it to a VMWare template, deployed it again and gave it to me…and there was the problem. We tried again and this time, COPIED it to a template (rather than converting) and hey presto, it all worked perfectly. The VM was a Svr Std box and, after re-installing it, Sharepoint 2010 was up & running straight away Smile

I don’t know if this is a known problem and perhaps it seems really obvious to some, but it had me stumped for a while so I thought I’d share it on here…just in case.

Microsoft BPOS: More new features


Microsoft BPOS has, yet again, been something of a star of the Worldwide Partner Conference and a bunch of new features have been confirmed/announced. They are:

Exchange Online:

  • Voice mail with Unified Messaging
  • Integrated archiving
  • Retention policies and legal hold
  • Transport rules
  • Multi-mailbox search
  • Conversation View
  • MailTips
  • Enhanced Web-based administration
  • Role-Based Access Control
  • Remote PowerShell
  • Free/busy between cloud and on-premises
  • Cross-premises management
  • Native migration tools

     

    Sharepoint Online:

     

  • Portal site templates
  • Extranet access
  • Anonymous Access
  • Multi-Lingual UI
  • Office 2010 integration
  • Tagging, Rating, Tag Cloud
  • Activity Feed, Social Networking, Note Board
  • Improved Wikis & Blogs
  • Content publishing
  • Navigation controls
  • Cross site-collection search
  • Phonetic search
  • People search
  • Visio Services
  • Excel Services
  • Sandboxed Solutions
  • Improved workflows
  • Improved SharePoint Designer 2010
  • Access Services
  • Better controls of FQDNs

     

    Office Communications Online:

     

  • P2P A/V across firewall
  • File transfer across firewall
  • Presence with pictures
  • Federation
  • IM with Windows Live

     

    Platform Updates:

     

  • Free/Busy co-existence
  • Single Sign On
  • Identity federation
  • Redesigned admin interface
  • More administration and access control

    There are some really awesome additions here, which will make BPOS hugely more attractive and credible to users in the mid-market segment. Some of the game changes are, in my opinion,:

    Exchange Online:

    • Transport Rules
    • Legal Hold
    • Unified Messaging
    • Remote Powershell

    Sharepoint Online:

    Extranet & Anonymous Access

    Cross Site Collection Search

    Visio, Access & Excel Services

    Office Communications Online:

    Federation.

     

    These new features bring Microsoft’s Online Services so much closer to feature parity with their existing on-premise brethren which is what I, and most people, have been waiting/asking/pleading/clamouring for. The number of times I’ve had a customer opportunity collapse due to BPOS missing a standard and relatively basic feature isn’t funny!

    This is a very positive move from Microsoft which will make the world of Online Services a much better place for Microsoft, it’s partners and our customers 🙂

  • BPOS 2010 aka Wave 14


    BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft’s Online Services offering has been somewhat successful over the last year or so, but it is about to become a much more robust platform. Over the next few months the “Wave 14” rollout will begin, with an aim to being completed by the end of 2010.

    The biggest update is that the products will match the versions that are available to purchase “on-site”. That is, BPOS will offer Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 with near feature parity; removing one of the biggest hurdles to BPOS adoption…at least in my experience.

    However, there are a number of other additions and improvements coming…

    Identity and authentication has been an issue for many people, as this whole area is quite clunky & “un-modern”. As Program Manager Dan Kershaw says:

    “the password policy isn’t configurable, you can’t use the same credentials used inside the company for single sign-on with BPOS so admins have to maintain separate credentials, there’s no two-factor authentication and no role-based administration”.

    The fact that Microsoft recognise these limitations is great as that means they’re also working on fixes. The update will bring:

    • Password Policy controls
    • Five admin roles
    • Federated ID’s w/ 2 factor authentication for single sign-on
    • New Admin Console
    • Service connector for managing Pcs & apps.

     

    Powershell is definitely the way forward for 21st century system admins and, while it can be used for certain things with the current iteration of BPOS, more is coming soon.

    I covered off some of the new features of Sharepoint Online 2010 in this post but now there is more information on what’s coming for Office Communications Online (OCO) over the next year.

    Currently OCO gives IM and presence, along with peer to peer video, only within the customer’s domain. One of it’s biggest limitations is the inability to “federate” with on-premise OCS servers…this slightly puzzling block will be removed with Wave 14.

    It’s said there will be “full integration” with Exchange & Sharepoint, both on-site and online.

    This will lead to:

    • using the calendars on Exchange/Sharepoint to determine someone’s IM availability
    • voicemail in Exchange Online
    • IM functionality in OWA 2010.

    One of the biggest questions people have is whether Office Comms Online will have VOIP/Voice capabilities.

    "it might be more than a year later," says Ziv Fass, Senior Product Manager in the OCS team "but it won’t be years".

    From a reseller AND a customer point of view, the updated versions of Microsoft’s Online Services will be a real benefit to us all.

    Office 2010 New Feature Videos


    One of the main things I did in preparation for BETT 2010 was create a bunch of videos showing some of the new features in Office 2010. I can talk about them ‘til the cows come home, but it’s always better to see things where possible. The videos were very well received and Office 2010 got a LOT of positive feedback…June should be an exciting time 🙂

    Anyway, I thought I’d put the videos up on here too and hopefully you’ll find them just as interesting & useful as our stand visitors did last week…enjoy!

    Background Removal:

    This is a great feature in Word 2010, making in nice and easy to remove all or part of a picture’s background.

     

    Broadcast PowerPoint:

    This feature lets you “broadcast” your presentation over the net by giving you a link to share with whoever you need to…allowing people to see your .pptx as long as they have an internet connection:

    Insert Web Video:

    Inserting videos from sites such as YouTube has always been a bit of a pain in Powerpoint…but no more! Powerpoint 2010 makes it super easy…teachers loved this at BETT.

    Edit video inside Powerpoint:

    Inserting videos into Powerpoint has been available for ages, but any editing you needed to do-even basic stuff-has required a 3rd party product. Again, Powerpoint 2010 makes it easier by enabling you to edit the video without leaving the program. Here I’m trimming a bit of Shooting Stars 🙂

    Powerpoint Video Effects:

    More built in video editing here with shadows, borders, reflections and more being easily applied within Powerpoint 2010.

    Create a Video:

    You’ve made a presentation and now you need to make it available as a video file, rather than a slideshow. I believe most people use Windows Movie Maker to do this currently but, with 2010, it’s again all done inside Powerpoint.

    Save to Skydrive/Sharepoint:

    This is a great new feature. It lets you save to your Live Skydrive (25GB free storage!) directly from the Office applications…no more save to folder then upload to Skydrive…it’s all one nice, smooth action 🙂 I don’t do it in the video but you can see there is also exactly the same thing to save to Sharepoint, which should really help drive adoption of Sharepoint in schools. From various discussions I’ve had, many people see Sharepoint as an extra step so:

    Create Document > Save to Folder > Upload to Sharepoint

    and this leads to many people just not bothering as it’s more work and they perhaps don’t see the point of it. Having the ability to save directly to their MOSS site will cut that out and make it just as easy as it’s always been 🙂

    Word Navigation Pane:

    This is quite a small new feature, but I love it! The navigation pane picks up all the  headings, sub-headings etc and enables you to use them to navigate documents; making large documents much less painful!

    Sharepoint 2010 Beta Install Failure


    I’ve been rebuilding our demo Sharepoint Server today and came across an issue which caused installation to fail. If you install Sharepoint 2010 on a Domain Controller, it will fail; luckily, the internet came to my rescue!

    A Bing brought up this post by Sharepoint Joel which has 10 troubleshooting tips for this application…and shoot trouble they did! The one I needed was number 8:

    If you are using SharePoint on DC, the following Windows PowerShell command would need to be run to enable Sandboxed Solutions.
    $acl = Get-Acl HKLM:\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\ComputerName
    $person = [System.Security.Principal.NTAccount]"Users"
    $access = [System.Security.AccessControl.RegistryRights]::FullControl
    $inheritance = [System.Security.AccessControl.InheritanceFlags]"ContainerInherit, ObjectInherit"
    $propagation = [System.Security.AccessControl.PropagationFlags]::None
    $type = [System.Security.AccessControl.AccessControlType]::Allow
    $rule = New-Object System.Security.AccessControl.RegistryAccessRule($person, $access, $inheritance, $propagation, $type)
    $acl.AddAccessRule($rule)
    Set-Acl HKLM:\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\ComputerName $acl

    I ran that and BOOM, Sharepoint Config worked first time 🙂

    If you’re experiencing issues with your install and/or want to see common pitfalls before you start the process, definitely check out his entire post here:

    Sharepoint Joel 10 Tips

    Sharepoint 2010 “Failed to Register Services”


    I’ve been doing some playing around with Sharepoint 2010 and ran across a problem last night, after uninstalling Office Web Apps. I re-ran the Product Configuration Wizard as advised and it failed on step 6, leaving me unable to access the sites or central admin 😦

    I had a look in the event logs and saw that it had “failed to register services” so a quick Bing took me to blog of Antonio Vargas which said:

    To resolve this problem you need to go to the Registry Editor and delete SPSearchService entry.

    Steps:

    1. Go to the Start Menu and then click Run.
    2. Write regedit on Run box.
    3. Navigate to the SharePoint registry entries on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Shared Tools\Web ServerExtensions\14.0\WSS\Services.
    4. Delete SPSearchService entry.
    5. Run the SharePoint Configuration wizard again.

    I tried it and it worked a treat 🙂 Thanks Antonio and I hope this helps others out there too.

    A word of warning: Having followed the above steps, I now seem to be without search capabilities inside Sharepoint now 😦

    Office Web Apps on Sharepoint 2010


    I’ve recently started building the demo server for our stand at the BETT show 2010 and it’s been a fantastic experience! Installing server 2008 R2 was a breeze and Sharepoint 2010 went on with just one (easily fixable) issue related to a missing hotfix. Once I’d got those up and running, I decided to get Office Web Apps installed…that too, was pretty easy…although I had the help of a great Technet article and a blog over on MSDN to guide me.

    First of all, the technet article to installation is:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee695758(office.14).aspx#bkmk_install_standalone

    As you can see, I was putting it on a standalone server – for ease of demonstration if nothing else 🙂

    The initial steps are few and simple but nothing appeared to be working. However, if you scroll a little down the page, you’ll see a bunch of

    Powershell

    scripts like this one:

    $machinesToActivate = @(“contosoapp1”,”contosoapp2”)
    $serviceInstanceNames = @(“Word Viewing Service”, “PowerPoint Service”,
    “Excel Calculation Services”)
    foreach ($machine in $machinesToActivate) {
    foreach ($serviceInstance in $serviceInstanceNames){
         $serviceID = $(Get-SPServiceInstance | where
             {$_.TypeName -match $serviceInstance} | where
             {$_.Server -match "SPServer Name="+$machine}).ID
         Start-SPServiceInstance -Identity $serviceID
    }
            }

    image

    As the note above shows, these Powershell scripts are only required in certain instances…and of course, I had that instance 🙂 Luckily, just copying the scripts from Technet and pasting into the Powershell window worked perfectly…which was good!

    At this point I could see that everything was where it should be and services seemed to be running etc, so I headed over to the demo site I’d set up to test it. Unfortunately I kept getting an error message…so back to Bing, where I found this extremely helpful post:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/officewebapps/archive/2009/11/18/9924525.aspx

    I had a read through and quickly saw the problem. It was simple and obvious but had confounded me for about 45 minutes (don’t say it!)…it was:

    “Activate “Office Web Apps,” listed under SharePoint’s Site Collection Features, on each site collection for which Office Web Apps should be available.”

    So that was the missing step…activating it inside Sharepoint…D’oh! Homer Simpson

    Sharepoint 2010 Installation fix


    Today I finally got a chance to install the beta of Sharepoint 2010 and, in short, it’s amazing! However that is for another, bigger post, this is just to tell you about a small problem I came across…and the fix for it 😉

    The installation of Sharepoint went quickly and with no problems, which pleased me immensely as I’d had some major fails with 2007 a while back! The next step is running the configuration wizard and that’s where I hit a snag “Failed to create sample data”. I instantly thought this was going to be a huge issue that’d take loads of time and involve much fiddling and messing about…but thankfully I was wrong 🙂 A quick Bing search took me to the blog of Gilham Consulting and a post there pointed me to Jie Li’s blog over on MSDN, which features a quick and easy fix for this problem!

    Simply head over to MS Connect, download this Hotfix and job is a good ‘un 🙂

    https://connect.microsoft.com/VisualStudio/Downloads/DownloadDetails.aspx?DownloadID=23806&wa=wsignin1.0

    It worked perfectly…ran the wizard again after applying the hotfix and everything was up and running.

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