Month: October 2011

Service Update to Office 365 will be rolled out starting October 20

I received an email from Microsoft last night, informing me (as a Office 365 customer) that the recently announced service update to Office 365 will be rolled out starting October 20 and continuing throughout the end of November,

Customers will barely notice the upgrade, Microsoft says that there will be two 30 minutes (max) periods during which SharePoint Online will be read-only. Before this happens, you will receive a notification some 24-48 hours beforehand.

As for additional features, please have a look at the table below:



Business Connectivity Services (BCS) <WCF Connector> *Enterprise plans only

Enables connecting to external systems via web service based endpoints

External Sharing: Windows LiveID support

Allows Office 365 tenant administrators to invite external users to a site collection. They sign in with a Windows Live ID-based user name and password.

Windows Phone 7 "Mango" (official support and http:// connectivity)

Windows Phone 7.5, codenamed “Mango,” now enables both small business and enterprise Office 365 customers to access SharePoint Online lists and document libraries from their Windows Phone.

Recycle Bin: deleted site self-recovery

Self-service ability to recover sites from a site collection’s recycle bin

Browser support: Internet Explorer 9

Adds official support for the Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser

Browser support: Chrome

Adds official support for the Chrome browser

As previously announced, we will be able to connect to external WCF connections with BCS. Another nice thing that many have been anticipating is the possibility to invite users from all kinds of domains (such as and not just from specific Microsoft email addresses (such as to share a teamsite with them.

Review of Effective Time Management – Using Microsoft Outlook to Organize Your Work and Personal Life

catIn their book Effective Time Management – Using Microsoft Outlook to Organize Your Work and Personal Life, the authors Lothar Seiwert and Holger Woeltje provide a practical guide to using Outlook (as well as OneNote) to create a time-management system. Simply said, they teach you how to become more structured and organised when using Outlook to manage email, tasks, and appointments.

What I really like about this book is that it covers Office 2003, Office 2007, and Office 2010! While Office 2010 is already around for some time, a lot of companies and people still use Office 2007 and even Office 2003. So, even if you have one of the older versions, don’t worry, this book gives you detailed instructions on how to do things, such as setting up views in all 3 versions of Outlook.

As for the content, I have to say that I didn’t benefit much from it, as I already used most of the advise contained in this book. However, if so far you’re using only ‘standard’ Outlook, meaning you don’t let Outlook filter emails for you, you don’t create different views for your tasks to get a better overview of what is the most important thing to do, or you don’t categorise your appointments to get a better overview of your week, this may be just the right book for you. You will get to learn how to approach each of the facets of Outlook (email, tasks, appointments) and get the most out of them to become more productive, both with techniques (“choose the most important thing that you would do if you could choose only one from your tasks, assign it #1. Then, continue with the others”) and ‘implementation info’ (for example how to customise views so that you get a better overview of your tasks).

Overall, it’s a very solid book with useful advise, but nothing really new for people who already looked at time-management methods and use them.

Review of Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Deploying Cloud-Based Solutions

catPhil Wicklund’s (@philwicklund) book Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Deploying Cloud-Based Solutions came out just last month, and due to my interest in Office 365 I had to purchase it more or less immediately (as usual, ebook so that I can read it on my Kindle; also, I get it immediately and don’t have to wait for it, being in Singapore you sometimes need to order from the US). It has been one of the books I’ve been reading during the past 2 weeks, and it’s now time to share my opinion of it.

The book is divided into three parts: the first part talks about what ‘the cloud’ is and how SharePoint fits into it (basically, SharePoint Online as part of Office 365), and provides some information about its capabilities. Phil also dedicates a chapter to planning for SharePoint Online, including the Information Architecture, security, customisations, and training. In my opinion, extremely important in every SharePoint related activity.

The second part of the book, titled Deploying SharePoint in the Public Cloud, goes a bit more into detail how to start using and managing SharePoint Online. The most interesting chapter here is Chapter 6: Migrating to SharePoint Online, in which Phil lists several approaches of how you can move your content from its existing location (with a major focus on on-premises SharePoint) to SharePoint Online.

Lastly, the third part of the book talks about SharePoint in the Private Cloud. How can you set up SharePoint in your company inside your own Private Cloud, including all the relevant automation. Topics here include virtualisation with Hyper-V, a very good discussion about multitenancy in SharePoint, and how to configure tenant-aware service applications and site applications. While I initially thought that this part of the book is the least interesting to me, it gave me a much better idea of how Microsoft has (possibly) set up and configured Office 365, and why some functionality is not available at the moment (e.g. FAST Search).

What I missed a bit in the book was a better analysis of when and why it makes sense to use cloud technology. While there is a section in the first part of the book that covers this topic, I felt that it was a bit too short, and more information could have been provided. Another thing that confused me occasionally in the first and second part of the book was that there was not always a clear differentiation between SharePoint Online Standard (which you get as part of the ‘regular’ Office 365) and SharePoint Online Dedicated (which you have to contact MS for). While most of the time Phil notes what is available in or applicable to each of these two and what isn’t, I found myself thinking sometimes “this isn’t possible in Office 365”, only to realise that Phil was referring to the Dedicated version.

Overall, however, I would say that it’s a quite good book for anyone interested in learning more about cloud-based SharePoint, providing very useful information for any medium or large sized organisation.

Review of Microsoft Project 2010 Inside Out

catI’ve had the ebook of Microsoft Project 2010 Inside Out by Teresa Stover, Bonnie Biafore, and Andreea Marinescu on my laptop and my Kindle for quite some time now, but only now I can finally write a review about it.

Consisting of more than 1200 pages, this book basically contains everything you need to know about using Project 2010 to manage projects. Not only does it cover the fundamentals, but it also guides you through how to develop a project plan (Part 2), track the progress of your project (Part 3), and get reports about it (Part 4). Additionally, it covers more advanced topics such as how to manage multiple projects (Part 5), how to integrate Project 2010 with other Microsoft products (Part 6, talking about the Office suite and SharePoint), how to manage projects across your company (Part 7), and finally how to customise Project 2010 to suit your needs (Part 8). Each of these parts consists of several chapters, focusing on different topics related to the corresponding part.

In each chapter, you learn more about the relevant details, and you also get to know some helpful tips. On nearly every page you can find helpful screenshots that support the text well, making it easier to read (the topic becomes less dry!) and understand.

The book serves very well as a lookup resource if you quickly want to check how to do something in Project 2010. In my opinion, it can be considered as one of the standard books that everyone who’s using Project 2010 regularly should possess. For beginners to Project 2010, it may contain too much information for a start, Bonnie Biafore’s book Successful Project Management: Applying Best Practices and Real-World Techniques with Microsoft Project may be the better choice here.

Small Business vs Enterprise plan in Office 365–which one to choose? Get help from a free decision making flowchart

As it is not possible to switch from a Small Business plan (P1) to an Enterprise plan (E1-E4) and vice versa, it is of uttermost importance to make the right decision right from the start. Nothing worse than starting with a P1 plan and realising after 3 months that you need features that are only available in an Enterprise plan.

For this reason, I created a simple flowchart that can help you in making that decision. While I generally tend to suggest to start with an E1 plan and only in rare exceptions use the P1 plan, you may find here some information that will justify your decision to start with any of the E plans.

Please note the following: I do not differentiate between the different E plans and their contents, deciding which one to use here is probably worth another similar flowchart. Also, I do not say that the information in the flowchart is complete, these are simply the items that I think are usually most important. Lastly, as mentioned above, remember that you cannot switch from a P plan to an E plan, thus if you are unsure and you think you might need any of the Enterprise plan features in the future, you should really consider starting with one of the E plans (coming at a higher cost, of course; P1 is US$6, E1 is US$10).

Below the flowchart here you can find the download links for the original Visio document as well as the PDF version:

Office 365 - Plan Decision Flowchart

Download Flowchart:
Office 365 – Plan Decision Flowchart.vsd (72) (for Microsoft Visio)
Office 365 - Plan Decision Flowchart.pdf (103)

Monitoring Activities, Storage, Resources, and Service Health in SharePoint Online (Office 365)

Please Note: the following information is valid for Enterprise accounts only with the exception of Service Health, which is available for all.

Whether you’re a small 5 man office, or a large organisation with tens of thousands employees worldwide, if you’re using Office 365 it’s important for you to know what is going on in your SharePoint Online environment. You need to know how much storage you’re currently using, for compliance reasons or similar you may want to know who edited which file, and generally also you may want to know how stable Office 365 has been recently and if there have been any outages.

In this article, I will cover all of this.

Monitoring Activities
To find out who did what and when, for example who checked out a file, who delete a list item, and similar, SharePoint provides auditing. You can set auditing individually for various events, however by default none of them are activated. So, the first step is to open your team site (or any other Site Collection), and go to its Site Settings

In there, under Site Collection Administration, go to Site collection audit settings

You will see the following screen

As you can see, you can set several options here. Choose the ones you want to have audited (such as Deleting or restoring items and Editing users and permissions) and click on OK. The settings are now applied, and whenever one of the events that you select gets triggered, it is recorded in the audit log,

To run a report on the audit logs, once again you need to go to the site settings, and this time select Audit log reports. You are then presented with a range of options:

After selecting one of them, you need to define where the generate report file (an Excel spreadsheet) should be stored.

If all went well, you’ll see the following dialog

Click on Click here to view the report to open the file

Here’s a preview of what you get to see inside a report:

There are two sheets, one that shows you an overview of the data, and one that shows you all the data itself.


Monitoring Storage and Resources
The next thing you want to check out is how much storage you’re using, which can be done for each of your site collections. In the admin portal, click on Manage under SharePoint Online

After that, click on Manage site collections

You now get to see the overview of all your site collections. In the upper right corner you can see how many available resources (used for custom solutions) and storage you still have available. In the table itself, you can see for each site collection the total storage assigned to it, as well as the total resources made available for it.

Select a site collection by clicking the checkbox in front of it, and then click Properties in the Ribbon. A dialog will pop up that shows you more details, such as how much storage the site collection is using (I have 39MB here, available are 1000MB), and how many resources are used and available (0 and 300 respectively here in my case).


Monitoring Service Health
The last thing to have a look at is which services of Office 365 experienced issues or outages recently. Click on Service Health in the Admin Portal, and you will see a table showing different services and their status during the past few days.

If there was an interruption, or generally if additional information is available, you can click on the corresponding icon to see more details:

If you want to know if any maintenance is planned for the next few weeks, click on Planned Maintenance to see the list: