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.

SharePoint workflows’ aren’t as complex as I would like them. without Visual Studio, the options that you are given are quite limited, and not very flexible when you want to do something a little more complicated. The action that I wished to carry out was to edit a users properties from the workflow, however the workflow can only read user properties, and not write to them.

After searching the internet for an answer, I saw someone talking about Windows PowerShell scripts.

PowerShell in SharePoint 2010 is an administrative tool that carries out its work in a command line. This allows the administrator to carry out commands’ and is great for repetitive process’. One of the features that intrigues me the most is the ability to easily create PowerShell scripts, they can also be initiated by workflows which makes the task of editing User properties very simple, if the PowerShell can grab data from the workflow then the Powershell uses this to find the relative data and edit it accordingly.

Unfortunately I still don’t know much about this as it is only usable on SharePoint 2010, which we do not yet have. More info when I get it.

RE

Whilst investigating another problem we were experiencing on the SharePoint site, we stumbled upon some User Profile and Properties options. We had previous been looking at storing additional fields against a user to hold information such as leave entitlement and leave remaining. The properties of the user can be edited and custom fields can be created. The image below shows the administration centre where these additions can be made.

Manage_Users

We were able to add the two additional fields that we require at this stage in testing and development. We were also able to read the values of the two fields and have them returned to the user in an email using a workflow. However we quickly discovered that it appears to not be possible to write data back to the fields. In this instance this would allow us to keep track of the number of days leave a user has remaining.