A few hours ago a deadline was about to pass. I had promised someone I would send them the final draft of a file before they got into their office this morning. I also knew that I would not be available to re-send it if there was a problem because of a previous commitment. I wrote the e-mail and pressed send. Immediately the following window appeared:Wow… how often have you done that? ‘Hey I am sending you this file’ and then you forget to attach it? Sometimes you catch yourself and sometimes you only realize it when the return e-mail of ‘what file?’ comes through. Fortunately Outlook 2013 saved me in this case – I was tired and likely would not have realized it, and my colleague would have had nothing to work on this morning. Thanks Outlook!
I have been using Microsoft Office 2013 since it was in early beta mode, and I still find features on a daily basis that I love. Of course, some of them I have been using all along, like Action Items.
Microsoft Outlook analyzes your e-mails and lets you know if it has found things, like Action Items. So when I received the following e-mail:
At the top of the e-mail the following option now appears:
Because there is an address in the e-mail (I think it is LinkedIn’s main offices) the Bing Maps option appears; however it is the Action Items that I like… Outlook’s intelligent analysis determined that the e-mail was asking me to do something, so when you click on Action Items you see the following:
Nice… you can now see at a glance what is being asked of you in the e-mail. But that is not the end of it…
Fred wants to meet me for coffee Thursday morning. You will notice that the application bar has the option of Suggested Meetings.
So the good news is it found the meeting. It did get the time wrong, and I am not quite sure how that happened, but it does make sure you keep on your toes. You can click on Schedule Meeting and it will create the calendar object, including inviting Fred. How cool is that?
Try it out… it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good!
Many small and midsize businesses today are considering the use of cloud-based software applications for the ease, accessibility, and cost benefits they can offer. At the same time, many still need an on-site platform for a range of needs from hosting applications, to print sharing, to storing sensitive financial data.
As our valued partner of Office 365, we would love to tell you more about how both of these products have enabled many partners to provide valuable and cost-effective solutions to their customers. We will also have Sharon Bennett, a Microsoft Small Business Specialist and Microsoft Certified Trainer join to speak about deploying Windows Server 2012 with Office 365 and how you can help grow your business with these products.
Learn key resources to enable your organization to deliver these solutions and a special offer available to get you selling today!
Join the one hour webinar on September 16th, 2013 from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM (EST)!
Hey Mitch, why is it that every time I install Microsoft office 2013 for my customers I have to log in with a Microsoft Account (Formerly Live ID)? Why can’t I just use a product key like I used to? I always use my own Microsoft Account, and I am now the registered user for hundreds of installations of Office 2013!
I have been confronted by partners, customers, and end users with variants of this question for months, and I always tell them the same thing… there is NO requirement to log onto a Microsoft Account when installing Microsoft Office 2013. Unfortunately people don’t read the fine print!
Microsoft Office 2013 was designed to work with the cloud – Office 365 is of course the answer, and gives you so much more than just the client software. In fact, with Office 365 Microsoft is moving to a subscription-based service, rather than an up-front purchase model. Especially in the enterprise but also in smaller businesses and the home it is easier on the pocketbook to pay monthly than up front.
Not all of you agree… Okay, that is fine; if you do not want to work with Office 365, and would rather buy the FPP and not integrate with any of the on-line services (including licensing and activation!) then it is simple… in the Activate Office screen under the big NEXT button there is a little option to ‘Enter a product key instead.’ I admit it, the font size makes it easy to miss, but it is indeed there (note the highlighted section in the screen capture).
Now here’s the fun part… at least from a Deployment standpoint. There is a better way of installing Microsoft Office that does not require you to type in a product key every time: create a .MSP file with the Microsoft Office Customization Tool. It is only available with the Pro versions of Microsoft Office, and even at that only with media attached to a volume license. However if you have that, your life will be much easier:
- Attach the media to your PC (either by inserting the DVD or by mounting the .ISO file).
- Open a Command Prompt.
- Navigate to the root directory of the media (as pictured it is D:\)
- type setup /admin
This will open the Microsoft Office Customization Tool.
- You will be prompted to select the product that you want to customize (in this case Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013 (64-bit)), or to open an existing customization file. Click OK.
While this tool gives you a lot of options that you can configure (and I encourage you to explore!) I will focus on two specific options.
Installation location and organization name
I like the fact that the OCT allows me to enter my organization name (as well as the default installation path). If I am installing Office on a small number of computers then it really doesn’t bother me to type in the organization name, but if I have to install it on dozens (or thousands) then this really helps me out.
Licensing and user interface
If I am going to the trouble (okay, it’s not that much trouble) of customization, then I might as well do it right. Let’s click in the Navigation Pane to Licensing and user interface.
If you have a Key Management Server (KMS) in your organization then you should let it manage your licenses, but most smaller organizations won’t have this, so we are going to select the radio button Enter another product key to enter our Multiple Activation Key (MAK). In the appropriate box you can enter your key, which will be 25-characters. You will also have to check the box ‘I accept the terms in the License Agreement’ if you don’t want your end users having to do it.
Speaking of end users, the same screen lets you change the Display level of the installation… so they can see it happening, or not. I like to set the level to None, but send a Completion notice so they will be advised when the installation is complete.
**NOTE: The product key used herein is obviously not a legitimate one. The OCT does verify that your Product Key is valid, else it will not let you navigate from this screen.
Navigate to where you plan to save it and enter a file name, and press Save. You are almost ready!
Now that you have created your .MSP file, all you have to do is place it in the updates directory of your installation media. If you are using an .ISO file then you can simply mount the file and copy it in. If you are deploying from a USB key or network share then you can simply copy the file. If you are still deploying from CDs then I am afraid you are going to have to create a new disc… and suffer the ridicule of people who think that CDs are so last decade :)
Microsoft goes to great efforts with every new product release to make it easier on end users and IT Pros alike to deploy and use their technologies. While the cloud connection is great (and some of us love being able to activate our applications by entering our Microsoft or Organizational Account!) it is not the only game in town, and so the old ways are still available to you. You just may have to dig a little deeper, look a little harder… or ask someone like me! :)
Microsoft has released today the Office Suite for iOS… which means that iPhone and users can now start using the same tools on their devices that they do on their PCs… and best of all, it is absolutely free to Office 365 subscribers!
Check out the official release article at http://blogs.office.com/b/office-news/archive/2013/06/14/office-mobile-for-the-iphone-is-now-available-for-office-365-subscribers.aspx.
Now for the bad news… it is only available for US subscribers. Yes, my fellow Canadians, if you are using iPhones you are going to have to wait… it will be available in several markets and languages soon, but unless you are a US user you should still look to your cell phone provider to upgrade you to a Windows Phone 8 device :)
Last year I was asked to participate in the Canadian launch tour for Microsoft Office 365. At first I was hesitant, but I am really glad that I did. I got to meet and speak to a lot of interesting people across the country who do not usually come out to my sessions on Windows Server, Virtualization, and System Center 2012.
After my presentation and demos in Toronto my friend and local (well… Guelph) SMB-guru Sharon Bennett came to speak to me in the Microsoft booth, and told me that she was surprised by a lot of the features I was able to demonstrate with the new software and SAAS (Software As A Service) offerings from Microsoft. We had a good discussion during which she confided that she had been a loyal GMail user for years, but based on my demos she was going to try out Office 365.
Like most of you, I get a lot of ‘interesting’ titles in my Inbox, although my spam filter does a great job of keeping most of them out of sight. So when I saw one this morning with the title ‘50 Shades of Grey’ I was surprised. When I saw that Sharon’s name was attached to it I decided to investigate… and sure enough, it was a legitimate article from my favorite SMB Blogger :)
E-Mail Affairs: My Version of ‘”50 Shades of Grey” is a very interesting read about a relationship that many of us have – this almost sordid affair with our e-mail provider; how we are expected to be fiercely loyal, but how when we veer from that path it can be exciting and such. As with real-life affairs it can even lead to an eventual break-up.
I am always happy to read Sharon’s writings, and hope one day to be able to attend one of her sessions. If you are interested in SMB IT from a fresh and fun perspective I suggest you give her a read!
Office arrives in the cloud on Feb. 27th!
Virtual Launch Event for the new Office 365 for business.
Date Wednesday, February 27th 8 am PDT and 5 pm PDT
- Learn how the new Office 365 can help people do their best work in a world of devices and services
- Hear customers talk about how Office 365 is transforming the way they deliver productivity tools across their organization
- See how Office 365 delivers new experiences combining the power of social with collaboration, email and unified communications
- Join in a live Q&A with Microsoft executives and product experts
In the past I have had a few contests that have had pretty good response – I have given away some decent prizes, and I know a lot of people have really enjoyed it.
Now, in honour of this blog’s 100,000th hit (Achieved October 30!) I am launching a new contest in conjunction with the Microsoft Office team… it’s so big, I have to create a new e-mail account to regulate the traffic!
I have spoken about Office 365 before, and have been a faithful user since it launched (and BPOS before that). I have shown it to hundred if not thousands of people, and it is not a tough sell to show them that it is simply the best productivity solution available, combining the power of Microsoft Office Pro Plus with the cloud-based Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Lync, all for a low monthly fee which means no upfront costs and no ongoing support costs!
Office 365 ProPlus is the new Office delivered fast to all your Windows devices – including Windows RT! Office 365 ProPlus includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync. You will be able to preview Office 365 ProPlus applications and manage up to 25 users with a preview account… at no cost, for up to 30 days.
When your preview is up you can either discontinue using it or, if you liked it, convert your preview subscription to a full subscription quite easily!
Office 365 Pro Plus has some great features, including:
- Fast streaming installation on up to 5 computers per user
- Runs side-by-side with your existing Office programs
- Integrates with in-house email and collaboration solutions
- Your settings stay with you when you move to a different computer
- Flexible deployment – use the cloud or your own infrastructure
Register for the Guided Evaluation
Register to access technical product resources—such as forums, solution accelerators, whitepapers, and webcasts—at the Office 365 ProPlus Preview Resource Page.
- Review Office 365 ProPlus Preview system requirements
- Register for evaluation
- Sign up for an Office 365 ProPlus Preview account and install evaluation software for a limited-time trial
- Provision up to 25 evaluators within your organization using the Office 365 ProPlus administration interface
- Direct your evaluators to log in to their new Office 365 ProPlus Preview accounts
- Receive three (3) emails with resources to guide you and notification of the next release
- Use blogs and forums to share tips
Now here’s the contest:
- Click on this link and download the bits!
- Wait for the confirmation e-mail that you will receive when the download is complete.
- Forward that confirmation e-mail to Office365@garvis.ca .
- Install it and use it!!! That’s it… you are entered to win one of two great prize packages from Microsoft and Jabra!
A Microsoft XBox Kinect bundle, including a Kinect device plus THREE hot XBox Kinect games!
A Jabra SPEAK 410 Lync / speakerphone / speaker!
**Odds of winning depend on the number of entries. The only restriction to winners is that they cannot be full time employees of SWMI Consulting Group (sorry Theresa!).
You have a small business. You have been running Windows Small Business Server 2003 for six years, and you know that it is time to retire it. The question is, what should replace it?
Before you make any definitive decisions, why not review what you need your server to do:
- File Server
- Mail Server
- Internet Portal
- Centralized Management
For the past several years you have paid a consultant to manage the server and your client PCs, and have primarily called him in for break-fix issues. Maybe you were industrious and decided to learn the basics of IT so you could do a lot of the maintenance yourself. You might even be a small-business IT consultant who has been managing and maintaining SBS environments for your clients.
You have heard so much about the cloud that you are in a bit of a fog… you know that people are talking about cloud-services, but haven’t quite figured out how they can work for you… to save you money, to earn you money.
Replacing the Server
For most small businesses I still recommend a centralized server; Active Directory is still the best mechanism you will find for centralized user management, and Group Policy allows you to lock down your environment.
With that being said, many of the functionalities offered in Microsoft Small Business Server are now available as part of two cloud-services offerings from Microsoft. Microsoft Office 365 offers all of the functionality listed above (File Server, Mail Server, Internet Portal) and much more. It is actually all of the following products in the cloud:
- Microsoft Exchange Server
- Microsoft SharePoint Server
- Microsoft Lync Server
- Microsoft Office Web Access
Office 365 allows you to have the functionality of all of these tools… without having to purchase or maintain them. It also means that you will always have the latest versions of all of these… without having to upgrade. ‘Your servers’ will be maintained by the Microsoft IT team, without your having to pay them hundreds of dollars per hour. If any of your services go down (and admittedly they do occasionally) you can rest assured that before you even discover the outage the people who know the products best will already be well on their way to fixing the issues.
Managing the Desktop
Between the operating system and the applications, there is a lot of work that goes into the proper maintenance of your PCs. That includes anti-malware, patch management, policies, and more. Additionally being able to generate and view reports is a huge benefit – as I always say If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it!
So Before we get into application side of things, let’s discuss the benefits of the second cloud-services offering, Windows InTune. InTune installs as a simple agent on your Windows PC, and the list of benefits is amazing:
- Upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise
- Windows InTune Endpoint Protection (centralized anti-malware solution)
- Centralized Patch Management
- Policy Deployment
- Application Deployment
- Device Reporting
- License Management
When you subscribe to Windows InTune (per-PC subscription) you get the right to upgrade your legacy Windows client (Professional/Business/Enterprise SKUs) to Windows 7 Enterprise. Right there you have the basis for the common operating system required to simplify management.
Windows 7 Enterprise Edition includes two features that Business Edition does not:
- Multiple language support; and
- BitLocker drive encryption technology
With the preponderance of mobile computing these days, as well as organizations doing business around the world, there is no question that Windows 7 Enterprise is an easier feature-by-feature sell than the lower-priced options, but that lower price seems to be a deciding factor so often. With the Use Rights in Windows InTune you don’t have to settle.
Once the Windows InTune agent is deployed on a PC it will start populating the individual computer’s information to the InTune system, and you will be able to get a better idea of what you have. On the Devices screen you will be able to see:
|Computer Name||Total Disk Space||CPU Speed|
|Chassis Type||Used Disk Space||Last User to Log On|
|Manufacturer & Model||Free Disk Space||Serial Number|
|Operating System||Physical Memory||Last Hardware Status|
Included in the Windows InTune installation is the Windows Intune Endpoint Protection engine, which will protect your PCs from malware. It uses the built-in patch management system to keep the definitions up to date, and offers real-time protection, as well as centralized reporting and e-mail alerts to the Help Desk / Support Team / IT Guy when a computer is infected.
InTune 2.0 added the ability to centrally deploy applications to client PCs. InTune 3.0 adds an extra to this – the ability for end-users to install published applications on-demand. The new Company Portal allows users to help themselves on-line, before eventually ‘escalating the call’ to you.
Users can also deploy their own client from the portal, assuming they have the proper credentials. This allows them to download a client using their corporate credentials, rather than you having to send them the file (along with the ACCOUNTCERT file) which would allow anyone (in theory) to install on any device that would automatically be managed by… you.
By far the most common application suite found on desktops in the workplace is Microsoft Office. The most common complaint I hear about Office is the cost (followed by the difficult to understand SKUs). Of course, with Office in the name it is no wonder that it is part of Office 365.
Of course there are several different SKUs to Office 365, and each one has different offerings. The small business SKU (P1) costs $6/month, and does not include the installable suite. However it does include Office Web Apps, which means you can create and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and of course use OneNote… all within your web browser. This is great if you work on multiple systems, or if you are ever remote and need to work on a document. The convenience loses its thrill when you realize you cannot work if you don’t have an Internet connection.
The E1, E2, and E3 SKUs do come with the client software, so if that is a requirement then those SKUs (which cost quite a bit more) are probably better for you.
Why you should consider maintaining a server on-site
Our mail server is gone… so are our SharePoint and File Servers. Why then would I still recommend a small server in a small business environment? There are several reasons.
- Active Directory. As I mentioned earlier in the article, AD is a great way to centralize security and credentials. Additionally there are plenty of hooks from Active Directory into Office 365 (which can be covered in a later article).
- Deployment Server. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 is the perfect companion to your new Windows 7 Enterprise licenses. In under an hour you can create a deployment point that will deploy Windows and all of your applications (including the Lync Client and the Windows InTune agent) in fifteen minutes (or less). It is by far the easiest way to deploy Windows to your desktops, laptops, and even tablets!
- Hyper-V. Although many of our applications will be installed directly onto the laptop, many companies still have server-based applications that require an application server. Hyper-V is the best way to create those servers on-site, for a plethora of reasons that have been outlined ad nauseum previously at www.garvis.ca, and countless other sites. Of course, your virtualized application servers can run any version of the Windows Server operating system, but they can also run any supported client OS, as well as several iterations of Linux (supported and enlightened) and any other x86-based OS (neither supported nor enlightened).
- Group Policy. Although Windows InTune v3 has much better policy support than its predecessors, there is no denying that Group Policy is the best way to granularly control, configure, and secure your client and server environments. Whether you want to enforce secure passwords, BitLocker, or simply set a centralized screen saver and desktop wallpaper, the best way to do it is by creating a GPO in Active Directory.
As you see the combination of cloud-based services from Microsoft and an on-line Windows Server are the best way to manage your entire SMB IT infrastructure, but even if you are not going to maintain an on-premise server the cloud-based services can manage most of the needs of most SMBs.
By the way, there is one more advantage to these solutions… you will always have the latest and greatest. Right now the Windows InTune subscription comes with use rights for Windows 7 Enterprise. When Windows 8 is released, you will automatically have access to that platform. Office 365 comes with Office 2010… but when the next version is released you will have that version right away too!
I have been asked by Microsoft Canada to post this to the site. Please feel free to comment, and let me know when you do get stared with Office 365, InTune, or Azure! -Mitch
You’ve likely heard about how Office 365 and Windows Intune are great applications to get you started with Cloud Computing. Many of you emailed me asking for more info on what Cloud Computing is, including the distinction between "Public Cloud" and "Private Cloud". I want to address these questions and help you get started. Let’s begin with a brief set of definitions and some places to find more info; however, an excellent place where you can always learn more about Cloud Computing is the Microsoft Virtual Academy.
Public Cloud computing means that the infrastructure to run and manage the applications users are taking advantage of is run by someone else and not you. In other words, you do not buy the hardware or software to run your email or other services being used in your organization – that is done by someone else. Users simply connect to these services from their computers and you pay a monthly subscription fee for each user that is taking advantage of the service. Examples of Public Cloud services include Office 365, Windows Intune, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Hotmail, and others.
Private Cloud computing generally means that the hardware and software to run services used by your organization is run on your premises, with the ability for business groups to self-provision the services they need based on rules established by the IT department. Generally, Private Cloud implementations today are found in larger organizations but they are also viable for small and medium-sized businesses since they generally allow an automation of services and reduction in IT workloads when properly implemented. Having the right management tools, like System Center 2012, to implement and operate Private Cloud is important in order to be successful.
So – how do you get started? The first step is to determine what makes the most sense to your organization. The nice thing is that you do not need to pick Public or Private Cloud – you can use elements of both where it makes sense for your business – the choice is yours. When you are ready to try and purchase Public Cloud technologies, the Microsoft Volume Licensing web site is a good place to find links to each of the online services. In particular, if you are interested in a trial for each service, you can visit the following pages: Office 365, CRM Online, Windows Intune, and Windows Azure.
For Private Cloud technologies, start with some of the courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy and then download and install the Microsoft Private Cloud technologies including Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center 2012 in your own environment and take it for a spin. Also, keep up to date with the Canadian IT Pro blog to learn about events Microsoft is delivering such as the IT Virtualization Boot Camps and more to get you started with these technologies hands on.
Finally, I want to ask for your help to allow the team at Microsoft to continue to provide you what you need. Twice a year through something we call "The Global Relationship Study" – they reach out and contact you to see how they’re doing and what Microsoft could do better. If you get an email from "Microsoft Feedback" with the subject line "Help Microsoft Focus on Customers and Partners" between March 5th and April 13th, please take a little time to tell them what you think.
I have been using Microsoft Office365 to manage my e-mail since the beta program, and last month purchased the full program for SWMI Consulting Group. Office365 includes, among so much more, the mail service in a cloud (Exchange 2010). I have had few complaints – someone else manages it for me, and I can focus on my business.
This afternoon my e-mail went down for a couple of hours. It is easy to detect if you are looking – the indicator at the bottom of the Microsoft Outlook client changed from Connected to Microsoft Exchange to Disconnected. I tried to connect to the Outlook Web Access site, but got a 503 Error.
At the same time I noticed several of my friends and colleagues on Twitter complaining of the same sort of outage, and not sure what to do. Fortunately I have been down this road before, and knew just what to do.
I logged onto the Office365 Portal Page (https://portal.microsoftonline.com) and clicked on Admin along the top. Along the left there is a Support link for Service Health. The Service Health screen gives the current status of all of the services, and the one-week history. The screen had a lot of green checkmarks, but under E-Mail and calendar access under Today was a red flag (seen below).
The red flag was a hyperlink, so when I clicked on it there was a three minute old notice that there was an open incident, that the status was Investigating, and the details said: ‘We are investigating a service issue and will provide updated information when it becomes available.’
I kept my eyes on this screen, and watched the progress. Over the course of the next couple of hours or so I was able to get my e-mail and my calendar. It was fortunate, because people had told me to expect e-mails – and there were several outgoing e-mails waiting to be sent out. Because of these communications I knew what was going on, and that it was being dealt with. I continued along with my day.
Last week Microsoft officially launched its cloud-based infrastructure offering, Office 365. As a virtual insider I have been using this solution for the past six months for my IT consulting firm, and frankly had forgotten that it was a beta offering. That is because while the packaging may be new, all of the applications – both client- and server-side – are mature products that released to manufacturing long since.
I am not surprised by the number of negative reviews; the different offerings and price points are complicated to understand, owing to the sheer number of them. For the do-it-yourself guy who is not very technical it may be difficult setting up the DNS records properly. Some of the features available in the rich client versions are not available in the on-line applications.
While I may disagree with some of the criticism I want to be clear that I share your pain; this morning I finally opened the e-mail that essentially said that ‘The Office 365 beta program is over; we hope you have enjoyed using it… now it’s time to start paying for it!’ I was disappointed that there was no link in the e-mail that would lead me to where I could do that.
When I did log into my management site (portal.microsoftonline.com) I was greeted with a simple, discrete line up top reminding me that I had 42 days remaining in my free trial subscription. I was pleased by this because it takes the pressure off somewhat… until I click ‘Buy now’ and am told immediately that I need the E3 level subscription for my company.
Fortunately a closer read let me know that I had other options… I have already purchased the Office Professional clients for my computers, so that would save me a ton of money. So now I had to look at my other options:
These are the bundles available… but there are so many components, what if I only want to pick and choose the ones I want?
What… there’s more? Wow, keep scrolling!
Ok at least I am near the end… all I have to do is expand Additional Services and I’ll know everything…
All of a sudden this is looking daunting and expensive… maybe I should just buy a license of Windows Small Business Server 2011 to run my infra… wait a minute! I had one of those ‘smack my forehead’ moments. Doesn’t Microsoft usually put together special packaging and pricing for small businesses? Certainly the six of us who use our corporate e-mail (and SharePoint, and and and) would qualify as an SMB… let’s see if I can find that anywhere on the page…
Okay, let’s click here and see what turns up…
Now wait a minute… $6/month per user? There has to be a catch… scrolling down I see this plan offers me all of the services I need (and still many that I don’t)… I am still looking for a catch!
I haven’t found one… If you have the Office client (which I do) or are willing to use on-line apps (which have most but not all of the functionality, and have the pesky disadvantage of not being available on airplanes) then smaller organizations are in luck. $72 per user/year is not a lot considering the time I would have to spend installing, configuring, and maintaining my own Exchange and SharePoint servers.
So what about the confusing options for Enterprise? There are absolutely a lot of choices. There are people who will always say that Microsoft can’t get anything right, and the people who poo poo these editions and tiers are the same people who would complain that if they had fewer choices they would be restricted in their options.
For smaller businesses it is a no brainer, and for larger organizations they will have to sit down and plan what options they need. Does Office 365 need more thought than competitive options? Sure… but it also offers more choice.