Month: August 2011

Preparing for your Office 365 Migration

So you’ve decided to start using Office 365 in your organisation. What’s next?

You shouldn’t use it straight away, but rather do a proper planning, including a migration planning. Whether you have nearly no existing systems, or you plan to replace a whole lot of internal Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync infrastructure, there are a few things that have to be done as part of the migration. Below are my Top 5 things to do:

Photo by bugeaters

1. Identify
Identify your existing systems that need to be considered for the migration. Do you have any systems that provide functionality similar to the one provided by the different Office 365 features that you want to either move to Office 365 or want to coexist (for example a hybrid Exchange environment)? Do you use Active Directory and want to provide users with a single sign-on possibility with their existing accounts?
Once that’s done, identify the content and data that should be migrated over to Office 365. Do you have documents in file shares that you rather want to see in SharePoint Online? Do you have existing mailboxes that need to be imported to Exchange Online?

As a result of this exercise, you should have a comprehensive list of systems and data that will either by moved to Office 365, replaced by Office 365, or coexist with Office 365.

2. Clean Up image
The next step is to clean up the data on the systems that will be part of the migration. For example, remove any unnecessary accounts in Active Directory that are no longer needed. The same applies for Exchange, SharePoint, file shares, etc. Go through these systems, and remove any unnecessary items. There is no need to upload documents to SharePoint Online that are being archived only, using a local storage may be a much better solution here.

While you may wonder why this exercise is necessary, there are many long term benefits: first, you will have the chance to clean up your existing environment and remove anything that is no longer needed. Second, You reduce the amount of possible issues that you may encounter later onwards, for example caused by too many AD accounts. And third, you reduce the amount of time it will take to do the actual migration!

3. Communicate
Inform all involved participants, including the end users, about what you are planning to do, when you are going to do it, and once the time has come that you are doing it! It is of uttermost importance that everyone involved knows about the move to Office 365, including the reasons and benefits for doing so.

4. Train
Don’t just look at the technology, but also remember the people: prepare some training for all affected users. For example, show them where they can find their documents in the future (no longer on G:, but directly in SharePoint Online), how they can communicate and collaborate with each other through Lync and SharePoint, and what additional new features there are that may not have been used yet.

Photo by lunchtimemama

5. Test
Lastly, don’t forget to do a trial migration. Verify that everything that you want to migrate can be migrated and that no errors occur. Start with small amounts of data first, and do a test run with a few users only. Do their mailboxes migrate without any issues? Do they find it difficult to use the new system and need new training?
As a result of this, you will find out which problems may exist, and can then go back to one of the earlier steps and fix them.

RSS Feed Web Part for Office 365

Update: SharePoint Online RSS Viewer now supports external feeds


[warning_box]Note: This version of the Web Part only supports external feeds. SharePoint Online RSS feeds do not work with it.

A newer version of the web part is available at Updated Release: RSS Feed Web Part for Office 365[/warning_box]

As it is commonly known, only Sandboxed Solutions are allowed on Office 365. A consequence of this is that some of the SharePoint functionality that one would like to use is not available. For example, any external connections to other sites aren’t supported, which also means that the RSS Viewer Web Part and the XML Viewer Web Part are not available at the moment ( as they would try to get data (RSS Feed, e.g.) from an external site.

As I wanted to integrate a RSS feed on my site, I was looking at other options of having this functionality, including programming my own web part. Naturally, reproducing the functionality of the RSS Viewer Web Part wouldn’t help, as any outgoing connections on the server side are not allowed (one simply can’t grab the feed from an external site). I was considering using some jQuery, however,  as it runs on the client side (in the browser), and we are thus not restricted here in terms of accessing external feeds. I found a nice plugin named zRSSFeed that provides exactly what I wanted, and as I wanted to create a solution that is easy to reuse and configurable, I started to develop my first own Web Part.

I created a new solution in Visual Studio, added a Web Part, added the required zRSSFeed and jQuery files, and included them in my Web Part. Together with some minor modifications to the zRSSFeed code and some custom properties from the Web Part, I now have a RSS Feed Web Part that works in Office 365! The download links (.wsp Solution for deployment, as well as the source code) are at the bottom of this post.



How to use the Web Part:

The first step is to upload and activate the solution file to your Office 365 site collection. Go to your target Site Collection’s settings, and select Solutions under Galleries:

Click on Upload Solution

Browse for the solution file on your hard drive, and confirm.

Afterwards, click on Activate

The Web Part is now available in the Web Part Gallery. When you edit a page and add a Web Part, you can find it under the category Custom:


Image(19)The Web Part offers the following customisation options:

  • RSS Feed Url – this is of course required to display something. Enter the target feed here
  • Custom CSS Link – if you want to apply your own CSS styles, add a link to a .css file here that contains the appropriate styles
  • User Solution’s jQuery – sometimes you already have jQuery loaded on your site. If you want to avoid any conflicts, you can uncheck this option (checked by default) in order to not use the jQuery source provided with this solution
  • Number of items to display – how many items should be shown in the Web Part



If you need to know the layout of the output for your styling purposes (tags, classes), here’s the default set by zRSSFeed:

<div id="test" class="rssFeed">
  <div class="rssHeader"><
    <a>... (heading) ...</a>
  <div class="rssBody"></div>
      <li class="rssRow odd">
        <h4><a>... (title) ...</a></h4>
        <div>... (date) ...</div>
        <p>... (description) ...</p>
        <div class="rssMedia">
          <div>Media files</div>
            <li><a>... (media link) ...</a></li>
      <li class="rssRow even">...</li>



You cannot apply different style sheets to multiple Web Parts on a page. The style sheet that is loaded last will be used for all Web Parts (normal behaviour for CSS, what happens is that the same style is defined multiple times, the last definition ‘overwrites’ the previous ones). This also means that if you add two Office 365 RSS Feed Web Parts onto the same page, and provide a custom CSS link for the first Web Part, the default style sheet for the second Web Part will ‘overwrite’ any definitions that you made in your own CSS file.



[warning_box]Note: This version of the Web Part only supports external feeds. SharePoint Online RSS feeds do not work with it.

A newer version of the web part is available at Updated RSS Feed Web Part for Office 365[/warning_box]

Please feel free to modify the source code according to your own needs. If you’ve got an interesting change, you can also leave a comment here or send me an email.

Review of "Microsoft® Office 365: Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime" by Katherine Murray

Update:I noticed today (10 August 2011) that the Kindle version is currently no longer available. So I possibly may have read not the final version

Update 2:Microsoft has relased the book for free on this page

altA few days ago, I saw that "Microsoft® Office 365: Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime" by Katherine Murray was available on the Kindle store. Interestingly, the printed version of the book is currently listed to be published on September 6, 2011.

As the price of $9.99 is quite cheap, I bought it immediately, and read it during 2 lunch breaks, some tram rides, and some spare time at home. And when I say ‘read’, I actually mean ‘browsed through it to see if there’s anything that I don’t know yet’. I didn’t read much, I was actually mostly clicking the "forward button" on my Kindle, so the time it took to read this 300+ pages book was much shorter than expected.

The book is divided into 3 parts with several chapters each:

  1. "Finding Your Place in the Cloud" gives a brief overview of Office 365 and shows you how to set up your own account
  2. "Teamwork in the Cloud" is all about using SharePoint Online
  3. "Connecting in Real Time " covers Exchange (email), Lync (Instant Messaging, Audio/Video calls), and the public website

Each chapter in the 3 parts provides information on how to do certain things in Office 365, usually providing some screenshots as well. However, it doesn’t go deeper than the online documentation, and the content is rather shallow. For someone who wants to get started with Office 365 and is looking for information on how to do things, this book may be a good place to begin with, as it provides information in a structure way. But as soon as someone wants to find out a bit more about certain functionalities, the online community or the documentation are much better choices. It is also worth mentioning that the book does only barely cover the "what" and "why": what does Office 365 offer for organisations and why should they use it. While some examples are given, I think it would have been worth talking a bit more about these aspects, and provide more examples at the beginning of the book.

I am not sure if the version I have is the final version, as the book comes to a rather sudden end, and some of the sections at the end seem to be quite short and lack the rather verbose writing of the other chapters. I also noticed a few things in the book that were incorrect, such as outdated information (the 4 Enterprise plans E1-E4 weren’t mentioned in detail, rather only 2 "plans" that seem to be E1 and E4) or missing elements (there was one image missing on a page). Furthermore, the link given at the beginning of the book that should point to the errata website is not working at the moment. If this is indeed the case that there is currently a “non-final version” available on the Kindle store, I hope that the final edition of this book will cover at least some of the shortcomings.