Monthly Archives November 2011

Microsoft yesterday announced service updates to its cloud service. Changes are below.

Global Expansion – 22 New Countries

The Office 365 service has now been expanded to another 22 countries

Global Expansion – Russia and Korea

This update allows Office 365 administrators to deactivate and reactivate dirsync to switch between managing their users’ master source of information on-premises or in the cloud.

Admin Self-Serve Password Reset

Administrators can now reset their own password provided they have supplied a mobile number and an alternative email address.

Source of Authority Transfers

This update allows Office 365 administrators to deactivate and reactivate dirsync to switch between managing their users’ master source of information on-premises or in the cloud

Lync Client for Mac

Lync for Mac is now available to anyone with an active subscription to Office 365 and can be downloaded from the Office 365 Portal.

Mac Unified Downloads Page

A unified downloads page is now available to give Mac users a single location to download Office for Mac desktop setup configuration software and Lync for Mac 2011.

Official Mac OS X Lion Support

Office 365 now officially supports Mac OS X Lion.

Improvements to “Add a Domain”

We have improved the ‘Add a Domain’ user experience by clarifying the domain re-delegation process and providing in-context links to relevant Help articles.

Client Access Control Improvements

We have made improvements to client access controls provides Office 365 administrators with the ability to block external access to Office 365 based on the IP address of the external client.

Directory Synchronization tool 64-bit support

The 64-bit version of the directory synchronization tool is now available for our enterprise customers. The 64-bit version now uses Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) 2010 as the underlying synchronization engine.

DIY Troubleshooting support tool

This is a comprehensive, self-help solution that helps customers solve questions or issues they may have with the Office 365 suite of services. The Office 365 DIY Troubleshooting Support Tool is free and available in the “Troubleshooting” section of http://community.office365.com.

SharePoint Online access for external users via a Windows Live ID

Windows LiveID support adds external sharing capabilities in SharePoint Online enabling companies to invite external users in to view, share, and collaborate on their sites. The feature is turned off by default, but a company’s SharePoint Online Administrator can enable external sharing for the whole company. Then each individual site collection owners can decide if they wish to share externally.

SharePoint Online addition of Business Connectivity Services (BCS) via WCF endpoint

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint Online enables customers to connect to external data sources. SharePoint will support external lists and data columns, the Business Data Catalogue (BDC) service for WCF connectors and the Secure Store Service partitioned at the customer SharePoint Online Administration Center.

SharePoint Online improved ability to recover SharePoint site collections

Enterprise customers now have the ability to restore full sub sites. As a result, they no longer need to contact Office 365 support to request restoration.

SharePoint Online support for IE 9 and Chrome

SharePoint Online now officially supports Internet Explorer 9 and Chrome. Although I am yet to notice any difference.

Recently we have been researching how Windows PowerShell could help with the some of the more advanced administration tasks of SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 365. Our most recent discovery of Windows PoweShell is an online Command Builder, which enables users with limited knowledge of Windows PowerShell the ability to create commands to perform certain functions. The command builder, shown below, lets users select the product they have, either SharePoint Server 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010 or Office 365. There is then the option to filter all the commands based on what you wish to do.

It is through exploring this command builder that we have seen the difference of what Windows PowerShell can do for SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 365. The difference in functionality is greater than what I expected. With Office 365 you appear to only get basic functionality such as ‘Get’, ‘Set’, ‘Add’, ‘Remove’ and ‘Update’ etc. In comparison SharePoint Server 2010 offers much more. As shown in the image above there are functions to revoke and grant permissions, publish and un-publish content, and also options to install and uninstall.

Here is an example of a command that was built in the command builder and sent to clipboard:

“Set-SPUser -Identity “Robert Everatt” -Group “Administrator Extraordinaire” -MobileNumber “666” -IsSiteCollectionAdmin”

Quick Update

Yesterday, the official Microsoft Australia Twitter confirmed that Microsoft Lync will be coming to smartphones’ in the next four weeks, however Microsoft have yet to make an official announcement.  The tweet does mention Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows phone 7, but does not mention Symbian, which had previously been reported as a supported platform.

When I was hired, I was told that we would mainly be looking at migration into Office 365. Five months’ in we were told that instead, we will be looking closer at SharePoint Server 2010, and I couldn’t be happier.

We have now been using 365 for over 5 months’, to begin with it was terrible, service interruptions for days at a time, style sheets wouldn’t load properly, and we got an error for almost every other page click. In time, Office 365 began to be more stable, and it began to work great for what we were doing, until we wanted to see how far we could go with it. Turns out, it can’t really go as far as we wanted it to, despite being built for enterprises. In my opinion, Office 365 is just a shadow of SharePoint Server 2010, despite the fact that SharePoint Online is modelled from 2010.

One of the biggest losses on SharePoint Online is the use of Windows PowerShell, PowerShell is a powerful command line administrative tool that can remove repetitive tasks using scripts. These scripts can also be activated by workflows, allowing complex administrative tasks to be completed quick and easy, even by a user without the appropriate permissions’.

SharePoint Online also lacks a great many other features that come with SharePoint 2010, we have gone through these in a previous post.

As well as these missing features’, I’m finding that the service provided by Office 365 is deteriorating, the website has gradually become slower and slower, errors’ are becoming more common, and Microsoft don’t admit to any service interruptions on the health check page. The support staff don’t appear to know anything about problem solving, we’ve had to deal with them on multiple occasions for problems that have occurred in the past, these service requests can last weeks at a time, the task is often swapped between service staff who then ask the same question the previous person did.

All in all, Microsoft Office 365 is a very frustrating platform to work with, and despite Microsoft’s 99% up time guarantee, is very unstable. I cannot imagine any business, let alone a university, using Microsoft Office 365 as a long term solution. Unfortunately, until we get a copy of SharePoint Server 2010 installed on a university server, we’re stuck with Office 365.

RE

So today Rob and I discovered that it is possible to work with Windows Powershell in the Office 365 environment, using the Microsoft Online Services module. We decided to follow the instructions and install the necessary components. Following some basic commands we were able to perform some basic administration on users, such as, changing display names, contact numbers and names.

However after some more research into the matter, Rob discovered that the data being changed by these commands was the data held in the main Office 365 user profiles, and not in the SharePoint user profiles. This is why we were not able to access the custom user properties that we had created to handle the extra functionality of the annual leave process. However, this should be possible when using SharePoint Server 2010 instead of SharePoint Online with Office 365.