Microsoft Teams gets External Access


Microsoft Teams – their answer to Slack – has been well received by many organisations in the 6 months since its release, but one thing that keeps popping up is the inability to work with external users.

Well today, September 11 2017, that changes. Microsoft have announced the rollout of guest access. This means companies can now have external partners/consultants/customers etc. to be part of a team, participate in chats, view files and more.

Guest

From a technical perspective, this is managed via Azure AD B2B Collaboration, giving the ability to detect suspicious activity, apply conditional access policies and multi-factor authentication.

This feature should really help drive the adoption of Microsoft Teams, both within organisations currently using it internally and also to a host of new customers too.

The Microsoft blogpost is here.

Citrix XenDesktop Essentials coming to Microsoft CSP


Citrix XenDesktop Essentials enables organisations to host Windows 10 virtual machines in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

The licensing change was announced by Microsoft towards the end of 2015 and XenDesktop is, at the moment, the only solution that makes this technically possible (although I believe VMware now have a certified product too).

Citrix XenDesktop is purchased via the Azure Marketplace – and is only available to customers with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. As this licensing program has a minimum entry of point of 500 users/devices, this means SMB organisations are unable to take advantage of hosted desktop offerings.

However, Citrix have now announced that XenDesktop Essentials will soon be available via the Microsoft CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) program too. This licensing model has no minimum entry requirements, is very flexible and aimed at SMBs looking to embrace Microsoft Cloud technologies – such as Office 365 & Azure- particularly via partner services. For businesses, and partners offering these services, this upcoming change should make the move to Azure hosted VDI (if that’s what people want) – that much easier.

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I wonder if this heralds any further changes to availability of Azure Marketplace offerings?

Things I DIDN’T see at Microsoft Inspire 2017


There were LOADS of announcements and updates at Microsoft Inspire but equally, there were some things that weren’t mentioned very much, or even at all. This is a run down of the things I noticed by their absence and I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you DID hear about some of these things, then please let me know!

Azure Stack

Much talked about for the last couple of years has been Azure Stack. The next iteration of Hybrid Cloud, it allows organisations to run Microsoft Azure services within their own datacentre. In the weeks leading up to MS Inspire 2017, information around the licensing models and costs was released online. I was VERY excited (which to be fair isn’t that unusual) but I also saw a fair amount of interest from partners and end users, across Twitter and LinkedIn.

I thought we’d be seeing plenty of talk about Azure Stack in the Inspire keynotes but, unless I missed something, it wasn’t mentioned at all. There were a few sessions being run by the Azure Stack hardware vendors such as Dell EMC and one licensing related session, but that was it.

Workplace Analytics

A little before Inspire, Microsoft started to release information about Workplace Analytics, which uses Office 365 data to help:

business leaders understand collaboration patterns across organizations that influence productivity and employee engagement

Workplace Analytics

With its aim of making collaboration more fruitful and efficient, and to help with hiring staff and building teams, it seems like it could be a key product for many organisations. I expected to see talk of this in one of the keynote sessions but again, it didn’t appear to get a mention. I also didn’t see any sessions talking about Workplace Analytics.

Perhaps it was felt that the the product didn’t fully fit with the messaging around the four solution areas of:

  • Modern Workplace
  • Business Applications
  • Applications & Infrastructure
  • Data & Artificial Intelligence

Whatever the reason, I was surprised not to hear more about it.

Windows 10 Mobile

This one didn’t surprise me to be honest. While it’s clear that Microsoft are still very much working towards the “Cloud First, Mobile First” mantra – it’s also become clear that a mobile phone OS isn’t high up on the list…if it’s on the list at all!

There were lot of sessions aimed at the mobile world. Sessions on building apps with Xamarin, managing mobile devices with EMS and how BlockChain can integrate with the mobile world were all on show…but nothing specifically on the Windows mobile OS.

Conclusion

Microsoft have so many products and threads to their business, and Inspire is a relatively short amount of time in which to get important messages across, that – of course – not everything can be covered in huge detail. However, these 3 stuck out as quite conspicuous by their absence.

Were there products or topics that you thought were under represented? What are your thoughts on the above?

New apps added to Office 365 Business Premium


Microsoft are adding a range of new apps to Office 365 Business Premium – and by extension – to the newly announced Microsoft 365 Business (more on this in another post). These are:

Microsoft Connections

This Mailchimp-esque tool is designed to help organisations create email marketing campaigns with a host of templates for different scenarios.

Connections.jpg

It also features many of the key metrics needed to track the success of an email campaign, such as:

  • Open rate
  • Clicks
  • Sign ups
  • Unsubscribes

and more. Connections will be available via the web and also Android & iOS apps.

Microsoft Listings

This tool helps business manage their business information across a range of key sites including Facebook, Google and Bing.

Listings

Updating once in Microsoft listings will push the changes out to the various platforms and the web dashboard will also give a single place to see page views and reviews.

Microsoft Invoicing

Another tool aimed at making business easier for smaller organisations, this tool helps create and track invoices and also connects with PayPal and QuickBooks for added functionality. Invoicing can be accessed via the web and Android & iOS apps.

Invoicing

Microsoft Business Center

This is a web based, unified dashboard for the newly added apps – giving organisations one place to see their outstanding invoices, the success of their email campaigns, their online standing and more.

Business Centre

Availability

These are currently rolling out in Preview to users in US, Canada & UK, starting with those set to “First Release”.

MileIQ

Microsoft purchased MileIQ in 2015, and a now adding it into Office 365 Business Premium. The iOS/Android app is used for mileage logging, when using a personal car for business purposes, and making it easier to claim back the expenses.

Microsoft’s aim

These new additions are aimed at making things easier for smaller businesses and, as Microsoft say, to make Office 365 Business Premium “more valuable for your small business”. Microsoft are looking to move this far beyond “hosted email” and for organisations to see Office 365 as an integral tool across multiple parts of their business – helping them win new business and reduce costs at the same time.

Adding new features and increased value is a key aspect of success for vendors in the new, SAAS world as every year, customers have the option to choose to leave. As a manufacturer, if your product isn’t giving your customers what they want, it is now often easier for them to move to a competitor than ever before.

Further Reading

https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2017/07/10/new-business-apps-in-office-365-business-premium-help-you-run-and-grow-your-small-business/

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/business

Microsoft 365


What

First we had Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS) and then we had Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE)…now we have Microsoft 365.

As with the previous iterations, Microsoft 365 is a single SKU that combines:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Office 365
  • Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)

but Microsoft 365 does bring a change: there are now 2 versions – Enterprise & Business.

Enterprise

Aimed, not surprisingly, at larger organisations, Microsoft 365 Enterprise comes in 2 flavours: E3 and E5 – where each includes the components of the same level.

Business

This is a combination of:

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Office 365 Business Premium
  • Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)

and features some new tools such as Microsoft AutoPilot and the ability to automatically deploy Office apps to Windows 10 PCs.

 

Office 365 to gain MDM features


Microsoft’s TechEd Europe 2014 (from the wonderful Barcelona) has seen a number of announcements but one of the major ones is that Microsoft will be introducing MDM (Mobile Device Management) features into Office 365. These features will include:

  • Device PIN lock
  • Jailbreak detection
  • Selective wipe (remove corporate data but leave personal data untouched)

MS also say that:

MDM for Office 365 is built directly into the productivity apps your employees know and love, so you can apply policies to help secure company data without sacrificing experience and productivity.

These are the most common features that businesses tend to look for so this both makes Office 365 even more compelling as well as helping make it easier for organizations to get started on their mobile device management journey.

OneDrive up the storage


OneDrive – Microsoft’s personal Cloud storage offering – has, with Office 365, offered 1TB of storage PER USER… but not anymore. Microsoft have increased that to…UNLIMITED!

This really helps with Microsoft’s attempts to position OneDrive as a top contender for Cloud storage among businesses of all sizes.

Read more here:

https://blog.onedrive.com/office-365-onedrive-unlimited-storage/

Office for iPad


 

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BOOM – it’s here…Word, Excel & PowerPoint FOR THE IPAD!

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Office for iPad uses a “Freemium” model. It is free to download the app, free to view and present with – to create and/or edit, you will need an Office 365 subscription.

The differences between free & paid are:

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Q: What Office 365 subscription plans include Office for iPad?

A:

  • Office 365 Home
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium
  • Office 365 Midsize Business
  • Office 365 E3 and E4 (Enterprise and Government)
  • Office 365 Education A3 and A4
  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Office 365 University

The new Office 365 Personal will also qualify when it becomes available later this spring.

PSTN dialling coming to Lync Online


This is a big one. It’s been announced at this year’s Lync Conference that Lync Online will soon have the ability to make and receive calls to/from the PSTN network.

PSTN is the Public Switched Telephone Network – the “normal” phones rather than VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones. This update will enable Lync Online users to make/receive calls directly to the regular phone network – will open things up to a huge number of users and companies.

I can’t see much more info than this at the moment – Twitter lit up with the news that this had been announced but that seems to be the extent of it! As I hear more, I’ll post again!

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