Monday, December 16, 2013

Cogmotive Reports

Basic value proposition - significantly extends Office 365 reporting capabilities by providing a rich set of detailed reports that cover areas such as Exchange (mailboxes/recipients, distribution groups, mail flow), Lync, Mobile Devices, Licensing, and Security (future areas might include SharePoint, CRM, and other Microsoft Online Services). The solution also includes scheduling capabilities to have reports generated and distributed via email on a regular basis.

The breadth and visual appeal of Cogmotive Reports goes well beyond what's offered via Office 365 at this time:

Office 365:

Cogmotive:

Cogmotive is a Cloud-based solution that can be setup within minutes, so that you can start reaping the benefits right away. Here's a sample list:
  • Track migration progress
  • Measure service usage
  • Identify and reassign unused licences
  • Get help with meeting security and compliance goals
  • Go beyond simple reporting by looking at trends

Visit https://www.cogmotive.com/ to learn more, to view live demo, or to sign up for a free 14 days trial.


Looking for a more complete Office 365 Managed Services Support solution that includes Cogmotive Reports? - Contact Planet Technologies or visit http://o365support.com and let a premier Microsoft and Cogmotive partner take care of all of your Office 365 support needs. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

UAG and Windows Update

It is not uncommon to run into problems when trying to use Windows Update on the UAG server. This is mostly due to the fact that UAG server runs on a harden configuration, protected by TMG.

In most cases running the following command from the elevated command prompt will resolve the issue:
netsh winhttp set proxy localhost:8080
It is always a good idea to check on the configuration before changing it, so you may want to try run this first and make a note of the output:
netsh winhttp show proxy
The following link contains some additional information - http://bit.ly/JoUoLW on the aforementioned, and this one has very detailed information on troubleshooting Windows Update on TMG - http://bit.ly/1fs3Xo7

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Exoprise CloudReady Monitor for Office 365

Basic value proposition - supplements Office 365 dashboard capabilities by providing near real-time performance and point-of-access monitoring (includes alerting capabilities via email or SMS when custom defined thresholds are exceeded).

Office 365 Health Dashboard:

Exoprise Sensor Dashboard (sample):
Crowdsourcing feature is pretty interesting - Exoprise service collects (anonymously) performance data across the entire community of users (all sensors that report back to the system), trends, and lets you compare your stats against calculated crowd averages. This may highlight performance problems that are common across the entire O365 Service or something that is not O365 related at all (e.g. local ISP issue). Seems like a very useful feature.

The way performance data is collected - small (<12MB) agent in installed on a workstation (or server, or VM) at the customer's site. The agent performs synthetic transactions (like sending and receiving email, etc.) and measures response times, etc. Thus the agent will need to be configured with a valid O365 account/license (not a big deal, but potentially a small additional expense for the customer) + need to make sure the account's password is set to not expire and least privilege is configured (to avoid any inadvertent information leaks, though the agent itself is only supposed to collect performance data).

The way the service is priced is by sensor, currently the following sensors are available or planned:
  • Exchange Online
  • AD
  • ADFS
  • Azure (beta)
  • SharePoint Online (planned)
The sensor monitors one service (from the list above) at one location (agent installed). For example, if customer has 2 locations (1 main, 1 satellite) and wants to monitor Exchange Online from both, but AD and ADFS only from the main one - 4 sensors would need to be licensed.

For more information visit http://www.exoprise.com/

Friday, November 15, 2013

UAG and Windows 8.1 or IE11

Update (05/15/2014): since the release of another service pack the following information could be depreciated. Read more about UAG 2010 SP4 here  

It seems like every time there's an operating system or browser update something UAG related goes wrong, considering this is an important infrastructure component that supports remote access services this is not cool! And, unfortunately, last series of upgrades - from Windows 8 to 8.1 and from Internet Explorer 10 to 11 - weren't an exception. There were a number of issues that weren't apparent at first, for example - a connectivity issue with UAG displaying Mobile Portal access or an RDP issue when published links would disappear from the portal.

Luckily, there are workarounds for most of these issues. The final resolution should lie with UAG 2010 SP4 that was rumored to be released in Q4 (but really should have been released before Win 8.1 or IE11 if you ask me).

Things like the aforementioned connectivity issue can be resolved by simply adding UAG to the compatibility view list as outlined here - http://bit.ly/17NFGlx. I would not bother with the emulation settings, results are very inconsistent and you have to change them every time you access UAG.

So, this leads me to a more fundamental, although officially unsupported, workaround. If you had published RDP links unexpectedly disappear, this one is for you. I must say I did not come up with it myself, I just followed the breadcrumbs:
  • After some research I found the following discussion containing a lot of good information and links - http://bit.ly/1gSff8b
  • Including a link to the following workaround, which involves modifying web.config file on the UAG server - http://bit.ly/13iMXxn
  • Which looked promising, but contained a number of inconsistencies that were corrected here - http://bit.ly/1aYjxIR
  • The last article not only explains how to properly apply the workaround, but also quite correctly points to the official TechNet article on how to modify the DetectionExpression - http://bit.ly/1e8IDmX 

This is not as complicated as it may sound, just don't forget to make backups of web.config files before modifying them, in case you need to roll back; and use a good text editor, something like Notepad++, to avoid problems with Unicode/formatting.

Until UAG 2010 SP4 :)       

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Update on Office 365 Getting Started and Training Resources

I had a post on this subject before (see Office 365 Information & Resources), so this is more of a refresher and an update (cloud services is a dynamic field). So, here we go.


Often getting familiar with new technologies may seem intimidating at first, but with the right training resources at your disposal the learning curve can be smoothed out considerably. The following site has excellent Office 2013 and Office 365 end-user video and text training resources and they are well organized by the subject and type:


http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj871004.aspx



If you have an internal training site and would rather host all training content there, a downloadable Office 365 video training series called "Get to know Office 365" is available for download; it contains quick, introductory videos:


http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-suite-help/get-to-know-office-365-RZ103709937.aspx



Additional training resources (downloadable and online) are available here: 



http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/support/training-FX101782702.aspx


Also, consider signing up for the Microsoft IT Academy (an affordable training option); this will get you access to Microsoft training courses and digital MS Press books:


https://itacademy.microsoftelearning.com/

Monday, September 23, 2013

Windows Intune Resources

I have blogged before about the benefits of Windows Intune, which at the moment stands in the shadows of other Microsoft cloud services - such as Office 365, CRM Online, and Azure - but clearly deserves serious attention and is currently coming into the spotlight. What gives Windows Intune this fresh momentum? - Microsoft's new-found focus on devices and services, unified architecture, integration with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), and strong Mobile Device Management (MDM) support.

So, I decided to put together a quick collection of resources to assist anyone trying to learn more about the service - from the very basics to more advanced topics.

Quick (~10min) videos to get you up to speed on service basics:


    Comprehensive learning (nothing quick about these ones, the videos are on average ~1hr long):


    Finally, if you prefer to read about things:


    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    5 Key Characteristics of the Cloud

    Was getting some cloud news, including this little pearl by Joe Weinman's "5 Key Characteristics of the Cloud":
    And I highly recommend watching through the entire presentation at http://bit.ly/1faOUjn

    Anyway, I just decided to do my own, quick, little, building blocks inspired picture:

    That's all :-)

    Friday, August 30, 2013

    Exchange Online - Mo' Better Cloud Email

    On the heels of SkyDrive Pro storage allowance increase we now have Exchange Online mailbox sizes doubling:

    It is great to see a steady increase in value within Office 365, Microsoft's premier suite of cloud services! 

    Thursday, August 29, 2013

    Script XenServer Backups

    After upgrading to Citrix XenServer 6.1 Advanced Edition a while ago, I have been enjoying great features, such as "High-Availability" and "VM Protection Policies". I especially liked VM protection with automated snapshots and exports that took practically no time to set up and worked fairly well for a number of small to midsize environments we have partitioned our virtual infrastructure into. Well, my enjoyment proved to be short-lived, XenServer 6.2 came along delivering scalability improvements and also introducing many changes, click here for more information.

    I found many of those changes (like XenServer being fully open source; inclusion of software maintenance; simple, single edition packaging; socket based perpetual and annual licensing; etc.) interesting and welcomed them with open arms. All but one:
    This spelled the end of my automated protection days (once again, read more about it here). Luckily, I was still able to draw on my by-now-virtually-nonexistent Linux skills (yes, with a lot of help from plentiful online resources) to replace automation magic with scripting and scheduling.

    In case someone else finds this helpful and to give credit where it's due, here's a collection of resources:

    • Great post that provides step-by-step instructions and script samples for pretty much everything you are going to need to get started - http://www.charleslabri.com/back-up-xenserver-6-to-network-share-with-fancy-scripting-and-lots-of-fun-and-no-downtime/
    • Email notifications required a quick modification of the "/etc/ssmtp/revaliases" file (a line similar to root:username@xyz.com:smtp.xyz.com); more details here
    • To get things scheduled right refer to one of many resources that describe cron, for example this one
    • To delete old backup files a quick refresher on the find command might be needed, check out the following reference or this two part article - part 1, part 2
    • Finally, if you run Windows based VMs and want to use VSS (seems to work well under W2K8 not so much under W2012), you may want to look into running "C:\Program Files\Citrix\XenTools\install-XenProvider.cmd" to install VSS provider
    That's it. I have used information above to schedule jobs that take VM snapshots, export them to NFS-based shares, and keep a set number of them. So far, everything works pretty well.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    SkyDrive Pro - Mo' Better Cloud Storage!

    Great news all around! In a nutshell:
    • Storage increase from 7GB to 25GB (per user)
    • Easy and inexpensive upgrade to 50GB or 100GB
    • "Shared with Me" view for better navigation
    • Increased file upload size - to 2GB
    • Longer recycle bin retention - 90 days
    • Version history enabled by default - last 10 versions
    For more details see - http://bit.ly/1dM4UHF

    http://technocrat.kagan.cc/2013/05/skydrive-pro-standalone-client.html   

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Office 365 Subscription Switch Wizard

    Listening to customers' feedback is clearly a key to success and so is giving customers more options, flexibility, and control. It looks like Microsoft is on the right track here with the Office 365 Subscription Switch Wizard:

    • Read more about what's available now and what's coming later this year - here
    • Or check out these FAQs - here 

    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    Drumbeat - Sales and Technical Resources for Office 365


    Drumbeat - provides information as well as technical and sales resources for Office 365. From partnering with Microsoft, to building up your sales and technical readiness, to adopting proven methodologies for successful deployment - you will find lots of good information and many helpful links there. Here's a quick sample of topics covered:
    • The Customer Decision Framework is Microsoft's selling methodology designed to help partners sell Office 365 to their customers.
    • Office 365 FastTrack is Microsoft's new, 3-step pilot and deployment methodology designed so customers experience service value early in the sales cycle with a smooth path to advance from a pilot to deployment.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    DirSync now with Password Sync

    Update (12/21/2013): take a note that Password Sync feature of DirSync is not compatible with Active Directory that has been configured for FIPS:





    More information at - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn246918.aspx. The following provides additional information on the details of FIPS implementation:


    Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD) Synchronization Tool (DirSync) that supports password synchronization is now available:



    Monday, June 3, 2013

    New Ignite Webcast - Using Message Trace in Office 365

    Check out one of the latest Ignite Webcasts that covers using the new message trace functionality in Office 365 based on Exchange 2013. Learn how to use message trace functionality to troubleshoot SMTP mail flow. You can view the webcast recording here, and you can download the Webcast Presentation here.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    SkyDrive Pro standalone client

    SkyDrive Pro standalone client is now available. If you are not familiar with it, check out - http://bit.ly/RXuyMP. For an official release notes refer to - http://bit.ly/18fCVwz. Finally, download client software here - http://bit.ly/Zdxqho. Happy syncing! 

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Microsoft SIR, volume 14

    Volume 14 of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR) released - hundreds of pages of new security intelligence is now available, download it here - http://www.microsoft.com/sir

    Thursday, April 25, 2013

    Windows Intune

    With Microsoft cloud services such as Office 365, CRM Online, and Windows Azure stealing most of the spotlight lately Windows Intune has almost gone unnoticed, though it is a pretty cool service in its own right. Imagine being able to secure and manage computers and mobile devices - track assets, generate software and hardware inventory, set policies, deploy software, configure security settings and endpoint protection, provide remote assistance - all without needing any infrastructure and at a cost of only $6 per user a month (each user can have up to 5 managed devices assigned), add a little more - $11 per user a month and you get Windows Software Assurance benefits (like free upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise). If this sounds great, Windows Intune might be a perfect solution for you!

    Small and mid-size businesses can manage their IT environment entirely through the cloud, while larger enterprises may choose to extend their existing on-premises solution by integrating Windows Intune with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).   

    Explore, try, or buy Windows Intune here

    There's a wealth of technical knowledge on Windows Intune here.   

    Once you start using Windows Intune you may want to bookmark the following URLs:
    Still not sure if Windows Intune presents a good fit for your business, or don't know how to approach the provisioning and deployment of the service? Not to worry, you are not alone - engage one of the Microsoft Partners, it's an extremely diverse community. Naturally, I recommend Planet Technologies!

    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Project Online


    To go beyond project management functionality built into SharePoint Online (project sites, tasks,  etc.) one might look into Project Online and Project Pro for Office 365 (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/project/). These solutions can take your Project and Project Portfolio Management to the next level. For more information refer to:
    • Project Online (online PM, no desktop software license) | ~$33/user/month | http://bit.ly/WiZ4bC
    • Project Pro for Office 365 (subscription based Project 2013 Professional license, no online services) | ~$25/user/month | http://bit.ly/VNypB5
    • Project Online with Project Pro for Office 365 (both – online PM and subscription based Project 2013 license) | $58/user/month | http://bit.ly/XlrcZW
    Here’s an online article that goes over some of the features and benefits - http://tek.io/XXGMc7

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

    UAG 2010, Service Pack 3


    Unified Access Gateway (UAG) 2010 Service Pack 3 (SP3) is finally upon us! Yes, this is a much anticipated update which brings support for Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Windows 8, IE10, etc.
    • Download the Service Pack here
    • Review release notes here
    • Read Ben Ari's (UAG/RAS/Security expert and author of a number of books) blog post here 

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    UAG, TMG, and other G's

    This Forefront business has been quite a conundrum for a while: 

    • Old news first - TMG is being discontinued, you can read more about it here
    • UAG marches on, at least for now. And hopefully will soon catch up with a slew of already released products - like Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Windows 8, IE10, etc. - by actually supporting them. That stuff is coming in SP3 (Q1 2013)
    • And while you are waiting for the SP3 to arrive, here's a quick post on how to fix one of the issues commonly associated with the SP2 upgrade - "The URL contains an invalid parameter" error

    Lync'ing Skype and Goodbye Messenger!


    After wondering for a while about a mishmash of communications services from Microsoft - some self-grown some acquired, some business and some consumer oriented - the world finally makes sense again! :) 

    • Skype upgrade approaching for Messenger customers | http://bit.ly/XnReYP
    • This summer, Microsoft will connect Lync 2013 and Skype in a move that the company hopes will disrupt and "humanize" enterprise communications market | http://bit.ly/Yy2pPP
    • Future of Communications: Rehumanizing the Experience from the Living Room to the Boardroom | http://bit.ly/YkAtNt
    • Watch Derek Burney's & Tony Bates' keynote @ Lync Conference 2013 | http://www.lyncconf.com/