Posts tagged Office 365

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.

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

For the last week now, Michael and I have been struggling with a very persistent workflow issue. An approval workflow that we have created, works fine when it’s started by an administrator, however when it started by a regular user, then the approval process won’t work. The workflow is activated with the permissions’ of the user that started it, not the permissions of the approver or the author. It isn’t currently an issue for the work we’re doing, but it will need to be fixed for use in a real world environment. Googling the problem didn’t seem to help, there were too many vague “fixes”, that required complicated multiple workflows that never seemed to work. There didn’t seam to be a solution to this problem anywhere on the internet. However, I then remembered that someone gave me a large SharePoint 2010 book as a “congratulations for getting the job”, so I decided to see if I could find a solution in there. The solution showed itself almost immediately.

The answer is: High-Privilege Workflows. I found this solution to be extremely easy carry out, and it solved our workflow problems 100%. A high-privilege workflow runs with the permissions’ of the person who created the workflow. While editing the workflow, you simply click in the area just below the first step, go to the “insert” section of the ribbon bar and click “Impersonation Step”. This adds a new step into the workflow that carries out the actions within it using the permissions of the workflow author.

I find it embarrassing that the solution was so simple, however I thought I might write a post about it,  incase any others users were coming across the same issues.

 

workflow

RE

Work on the holiday approval workflow has continued over this last week. We have been adding more and more actions into it, just to see what we can accomplish. We described our workflow to Dave in out monthly review meeting, and he metnioned other features that should be implemented.

Previously, the workflow calculated how many day’s the user’s holiday is, taking into account half days, and input this into a calendar. To make this workflow more intelligent, and useful, I set up a list that would contain the name and department of each member of staff, with a number of how many days of holiday they have left. Before editing the workflow, I created a custom data view of the list, showing only the members of the Online Services team. This feature was requested by Dave as he wanted to see how many holiday days each member of his team had, and creating a list for this data appeared to be one of the only ways to implement it. This method isn’t entirely desirable, as each time a member is added to the Sharepoint site, they also need to be added into the “Holidays Remaining” list. Another issue that has been raised is that, the “Days remaining” field will need resetting every year, and as of yet we do not yet know a way of resetting every feild at once with a single workflow.

We then incorporated the workflow with the list, getting it to subtract the holiday from the “Days remaining” field. We have found with this particular workflow could easily spiral out of control, there will always be something else to add to improve it and get it to do more. This will most likely be the same for a lot workflows, you just have to find a good stopping point.

RE

It’s been a few weeks since our last blog post. In those few weeks Michael and I have been looking heavily into workflows, as that is probably one of the most important features of SharePoint 2010 for us, and has the possibility to benefit the University greatly, if used correctly.

Following on from creating a reusable workflow to deal with the annual leave request process, which was successful, we wanted to move forward. This involved associating the workflow to a list. After completing this you may have seen in a previous post, that we were running into a lot of issues since the change. We contacted Microsoft concerning this around a month ago, and although the problem no longer appears to be present, the Microsoft support team did next to nothing about it except repeat the same questions. The workflow situation seamed to resolve itself and we are now able to fully utilise workflows.

Now that the workflow is working we were able to re-create the paper based holiday system. We created a simple form that would ask the user when the holiday starts and ends and, if this was a single day, whether it was a half day. Once submitted the workflow was set to start automatically. This would send the initiator a confirmation email with a summary of their request. Next the initiators manager would be found and the request would then be sent to this person. In the instance where a manager can not be found, the request will be emailed to a nominated person, so that the task can be re-assigned to the appropriate person. The next step occurs once the manager has approved or rejected the request. The next stage will send out an email to the initiator detailing whether the request has been approved or not. If it has not been approved the request will also be deleted from the list. If the request is approved, the details are transferred into the corporate calendar.

We are now looking to test what else workflows could manage for us.

RE & MB