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5 Top Mistakes Companies Make with Office 365

Image result for cloud migrationSo, you’re planning to implement Office 365 (or maybe you already have implemented one or more features). Good call! If you’re a large business it makes sense to move to the cloud versus more capital expense in data centres and servers. Or if you’re a smaller business the benefits of a cloud suite greatly outweigh the inefficiencies of free email and file sharing systems.

But moving to the cloud isn’t necessarily going to solve all your productivity and security problems without some work on your end. We’ve helped hundreds of companies move to Office 365 and have seen most companies succeed, but we’ve also seen companies struggle to see a return on their investment. The companies that struggle tend to make one or more of these mistakes:


1. Office 365 is more than just email.

When moving to the cloud, it makes sense to start with email. It is an easy workload to use and fairly simple to migrate with the right project approach. However, this is where most people stop with their migration plan. If your goal is just to ‘move email’, then mission accomplished. But most companies we work with have other goals, like allowing their employees to work anywhere and on any device or helping teams be more productive.

Along these same lines, it is possible to go too far too fast. We see this frequently with applications like SharePoint. SharePoint can do a lot of cool stuff. Sometimes, when customers see all the capabilities, they want it all and they want it now. Unless you have unlimited budget and unlimited time, this is a bad approach.

We typically recommend starting with email but have a plan before you begin on what phase 2 will look like. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider asking your team what they struggle with the most, then use that as your phase 2 plan. (We’ve found the most common answer is that teams struggle with being able to find the right information.) Build up excitement and awareness for phase 2 before phase 1 even gets off the ground.


2. The 80/20 rule applies to Office 365.

Just like the traditional on-premises Office products that had lots of features that no one used (be honest, how many of you knew about QuickParts?), Office 365 has tons of really useful features to help make your team more productive.

Those features are only useful if your team understands when and how to use them. Consider a training champion who is aware of new features in Office 365 (the best place to look is the Office 365 Message Center in the admin portal). Activate a Yammer group to share challenges and best practices for getting work done, not for using a product.

I am amazed at the number of people who just ‘accept’ that it’s normal to have to boot up your laptop, log in to the laptop, connect to VPN, connect to the file share, make an edit to a file, then email the file to everyone on the team. There is a better way – but if you’ve never been coached on how to do it, your team will continue to work the way they always have worked.


3. Security isn’t taken seriously.

Most people assume, incorrectly, that Microsoft owns all the responsibility around Office 365 security. This is a dangerous assumption. As shown in the graph below, you have responsibilities for your cloud services:

Microsoft Cloud Security Customer Responsibility.png

At the very least, implement Multi-Factor authentication for your global admins. Check your Office 365 Secure Score regularly (we recommend twice a year, with the beginning and end of daylight savings time being your reminders).

If you are in an industry that has highly sensitive information (think finance, medical, legal), then strongly consider implementing Azure Information Protection and Rights Management.


4. A lack of ownership is the death rattle.

Somewhat tied to #1 above, once most organizations ‘migrate’ to Office 365, they stop forward motion. Meaning, they move a workload (or all workloads) to Office 365 and then just stop. This is most common with small and midsized firms who may have worked with Microsoft’s Onboarding Center (sometimes referred to as the FastTrack Benefit) or an immature Microsoft Cloud Partner.

To be successful, you must nominate an internal champion or work with a partner who has a customer success manager assigned to your account. The things that we suggest that the champion (or customer success manager) be responsible for include:

  • New feature awareness and evangelism across the company
  • New hire on-boarding training
  • Semi-regular ‘refresher’ training for employees (we recommend twice a year)
  • Best practices identification and socialization of those practices with the organization
  • Regular license reviews

Without someone championing Office 365 and ensuring you’re maximizing your investment, you’re likely going to waste money.


5. Most people aren’t willing to change their business processes.

Change is hard. I remember when I had to move from Quattro Pro to Excel (Yes, I am showing my age). It seems that in the past decade more and more people aren’t willing to really take a deep look at their business processes to make sure they are aligned for the next ten years.

We see this every day when we are working with customers. A common example looks like this.

Customer: “We want to move our file share to the cloud.”

Us: “Got it. Most customer have a file/folder structure that they have used for years. While well intentioned, it is probably difficult for people to either find files or know where they should save files. Does that sound right?”

Customer: “Yes. In fact, sometimes people drag and drop folders inside of folders and we think we have lost files!”

Us: “Ok, then the best option is to rethink how your teams work together and put together a good file sharing strategy which may require us to rethink the current file/folder structure and change how people work together.”

Customer: “That sounds very disruptive. Let’s just pick things up and move them the way they are.”

We have this conversation (or a very similar one) on a weekly basis with customers. If your team isn’t willing to look at current business processes and think about new ways to solve challenges, then you will continue to work the way you have always worked (and get the same results you have always received).

Some easy ways to get around this are:

  • Start small. No one likes change, but they especially don’t like a lot of change at once. Ease into this, get some quick wins, and your team will be more willing to change over time.
  • Explain the ‘why’ of the change. Most people can get behind change if they understand why change is happening. Explain how it will benefit them personally and help them get more work done every day.
  • Work with a partner who understands your business and the nuances that are associated with it. The way a real estate development company uses Office 365 may be very different than the way a tax accountant uses Office 365.
  • Create training cheat sheets. If you are going to change a process, make it easy for users to understand how to get their work done with the new process. In our experience, this is the number one way to get buy-in. A simple, one pager that shows the new business process flow can be kept at a user’s desk and they can refer to it quickly.

There are many great reasons to make the move to Office 365. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that moving to the cloud won’t involve some work on your end, even if you’re working with a partner. If you put in the necessary work, and avoid the pitfalls above, then your chances for success are high.


How to Create and Remember Super-Secure Passwords

Image result for password managementPasswords are the front line of defence in protecting the data on your computer. They keep your kids from hijacking your Twitter account, and keep cybercriminals from gaining access to your bank accounts.

The problem is that because we need so many passwords today, many of us take the easy way out. We use the same password for everything, or use very simple, easy-to-remember passwords. And that’s where we can get into trouble.

The risks of weak or multiple-use passwords

“Let’s say you fall for a phishing attack on Facebook,” explained Boston-based digital-security expert Beth Jones. “They can see your email address and try that same password there.

“If you have sensitive information in your email, such as bank statements or credit-card statements, then the attacker can try that password to access bank accounts or credit-card accounts as well,” Jones said.

“They would have several key pieces of [personal] information … so in theory they could try the ‘forgot username’ on other accounts, such as Twitter, or online games,” Jones said. “You can see how this snowballs quickly.”

Not only should you have a unique password for each site you log into online, but, as Gunter Ollmann, chief security officer at the Atlanta-based computer-security firm Vectra Networks, pointed out, you should also avoid recycling old passwords.

“Criminals — and unethical webmasters — often try to use the passwords that have been taken from one site and use them against other sites, especially if your email address is also known to them,” Ollman explained.

“Each website or application you use should have a different password, and ideally you should not use a predictable algorithm for generating them,” he said. “For example, a bad practice is to use a password that contains the particular website’s name or address in it.”

How to create perfect passwords

So what makes a good, strong password?

“Password strength is measured by two characteristics — length and complexity,” said Josh Shaul, vice president of product management at Chicago-based security firm Trustwave and author of Practical Oracle Security: Your Unauthorized Guide to Relational Database Security. “In general, the longer the password, the more difficult it is to guess and the stronger it is.”

Password complexity, he added, means avoiding passwords that can be easily guessed.

“The easiest passwords to remember are simple words, places, dates or easy-to-type text strings,” Shaul said. “Favorite sports teams, cities, names, birthdays and even strings like ‘12345’ or ‘qwerty’ are very commonly used. These are all weak passwords.”

Most experts agree on the basics of creating strong passwords. Here are some tips from the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center:

  • A password should contain at least 12 characters. (When we first wrote this story in 2011, the recommendation was eight characters, but password-cracking computers have become faster.)
  • The password should have at least three of the four following types of characters — upper-case letters (ABC), lower-case letters (abc), numerals (123), and punctuation marks or other special characters (!#$%&*_=+? ).
  • If you’re using only one capital letter or special character, don’t make it the first or last character in the password. That’s just too obvious.
  • Avoid common names, slang words or any words in the dictionary. Computers can run through entire dictionaries in a few minutes.
  • Don’t include any part of your name or any part of your email addresses.
  • Choose an especially strong password for websites that hold especially sensitive personal information — for example, social networks, online email or banks and online retailers that store your credit-card information.
  • Don’t ever refer to anything that can be learned from your social networking profiles or an Internet search. In other words, don’t make it your favorite band or movie, your pet’s name, your nickname, your phone number or, especially, your birth date.

Here’s a good way to create a strong password. Pick a phrase you’ll remember. Take the first letter of each word and run them together into a “word.” Capitalize some letters and substitute numerals where it would make sense to – but don’t make the substitutions too regular or obvious.

For example, the phrase “I hate to work late” could become “iH82wkl8.”

Or tweak that formula and don’t abbreviate all the words. “This little piggy went to market” might become “tlpWENT2m.”

Not sure, even after following those tips, whether your password is strong enough? Go to one of the manywebsites that will check it for you.

Can’t think of a good password? There are also websites thatgeneratethem.

Should you write them down?

So if we need a unique, strong password for nearly everything we do online — check multiple email accounts, use Facebook and Twitter, make comments on CNN, buy something from Amazon — how can we remember them all? Is it okay to write them down somewhere?

Several years ago, the conventional wisdom was to never write down passwords — but that was when most of us only had a few to remember. Some experts have since changed their minds.

“With today’s threat landscape being dominated by password-stealing malware, physically writing down your passwords is becoming more acceptable,” Ollman said.

“The probability of someone breaking into your house and stealing your written-down passwords is considerably more remote than the 1-in-3 to 1-in-4 probability that your computer will fall to a criminal’s malware,” he said.

Jones sticks to the old advice — don’t write them down.

“This is really not a great idea, particularly for work,” Jones said. “Physical security is just as important as online security.

“Anyone walking by could see the sticky note next to your machine and then break into your accounts (especially if you use the same password for everything),” she added. “The risk is even greater if, as a user, you log into more than one location and have your password written at all those locations.”

Web browsers often ask if they can remember your password for you. Is that safer than writing down your password?

“For some passwords, it may be okay to let the browser remember your password on your personal laptop or home PC,” said Chris Burchett, an executive director at Dell.

“In general, if the information on the website that requires your password is what you consider to be public, then it may be okay to let the browser remember the password,” Burchett said. “But be careful. Never let the browser remember passwords to banking websites or other sites where private personal identity information is used or available.”

“Also be careful when using a public-kiosk computer like the ones at the airport. Never let browsers on computers you don’t own store passwords,” Burchett added. “In fact, it would be best not to log into any website requiring a password from a computer you don’t own.”

Password-management software

Instead, the experts suggest using third-party password-management software, which stores all your passwords in one place and protects them with one very strong master password — the only one you’ll have to remember.

“Managing passwords is a challenge because there are so many online accounts requiring passwords these days,” Burchett said. “Using a password manager to securely generate, store, rotate and supply passwords on demand may be worth considering as long as you remember to make the master password strong enough.”

MORE: 10 Desktop Password Managers

There are dozens of password managers, both free and inexpensive (none cost more than $30). Some of the better-known ones include Web Confidential, LastPass, KeePass and its Mac/Linux sibling KeePassX. Some run on PCs, others on smartphones, while some are browser plug-ins.

Now that you’ve read all this, do yourself a favor this weekend. Go through all your online accounts and use these tips to create strong, unique passwords for each one, and then use a password manager to remember them all.


What is SharePoint?

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint can’t be described in one sentence. It is a company (enterprise) collaboration tool that allows organizations to store, share and collaborate on different types of content. The primary feature of SharePoint is an ability to create multiple sites with different levels of security to correspond to different business needs of an organization. Without going into technical details, the key takeaway here is that SharePoint is not associated with individual user, but rather, the whole company (organization).

While individual SharePoint Sites could be owned by just 1 user (Site Owner), physically they are part of an organization Intranet framework/footprint and access to the site can easily be altered via Security groups and permissions by SharePoint Administrator.

Moreover, unlike OneDrive for Business, SharePoint allows to store other types of content, not just files and folders. Examples of other types of content could be tasks, calendar events, contacts, etc. In addition, SharePoint is really a broad platform/eco-system, which allows you to build comprehensive Intranets, interface to other systems and automate your business processes. So in reality – you can’t really compare OneDrive for Business to SharePoint – they are in totally different leagues. It would be like comparing a bicycle to a rocket ship.

Example of SharePoint Department Site




Source: SharePoint Maven

What is OneDrive for Business?

What is OneDrive for Business?

onedrive-sync-logo.pngIn short, OneDrive for Business is a personal file sharing/storage solution. Think of it as Microsoft’s version of DropBox. To be fair, they do vary in some functionality, but conceptually, they are kind of the same thing. The key takeaway here is that it is a personal drive of a user. In other words, if you were to purchase OneDrive for Business, you have to associate it with the named user/owner in your organization. Whoever owns OneDrive for Business – has the ability to upload, delete and yes, share individual files and folders with other users.

However, at the end of the day – the thing to remember is that the owner of OneDrive for Business is the boss and has keys to the vault. Should this user leave the organization or not be available – you will have a big matzo ball to deal with. As an Administrator, you can still access that user’s files – that’s not a problem. However, you might now have important company documents residing in a unfamiliar folder structure – good luck figuring out what needs to stay or be migrated and what is the latest version.


Example of OneDrive for Business account

OneDrive for Business

Source: SharePoint Maven

It’s official: Older versions of IE are now at risk

Microsoft this week made good on a 2014 promise and withheld security updates from users of older versions of the company’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser.

All Windows users still running IE7 or IE8, and those running IE9 on any other edition of Windows but Vista, as well as those using IE10 on anything but Windows Server 2012, did not receive the patches Microsoft distributed Tuesday to systems equipped with the newer IE11 or Edge browsers.

As is its practice, Microsoft issued a single, cumulative update for IE on Feb. 9. The update, labeled MS16-009, included fixes for 13 vulnerabilities.

While Microsoft did not spell out which fixes were not given to older copies of IE, it isn’t difficult to pinpoint those unsent.

Of the 13 vulnerabilities patched by MS16-009, nine affected every version of IE that is still supported, including IE9 on Windows Vista and IE10 on Windows Server 2012. Because different versions of Microsoft’s browser share large amounts of code — that was one of the primary reasons the Redmond, Wash. company has dead-ended IE and started over with Edge — it’s almost certain that the nine vulnerabilities also exist in IE7 and IE8, and in IE9 and IE10 on Windows editions ineligible for patching.

In other words, more than two-thirds of the vulnerabilities patched by Microsoft on Tuesday probably exist in the retired IE versions.

The danger with known, but unpatched vulnerabilities is significant: Cyber criminals regularly parse updates and compare “before” and “after” code to determine what was changed. They then use that information to investigate further in an attempt to reverse-engineer the patch to find the underlying vulnerability. Once the bug has been identified, they craft an exploit to successfully hack unpatched software, knowing that not everyone updates immediately.

In this case, the vulnerability found in, say, IE9 on Vista — which was patched this week — may give them insight into the location of the bug in the older IE8. From there, they can create an exploit for the unpatched browser.

Cyber criminals will have motivation to do this work, at least temporarily, because a large number of IE users worldwide are still running the now-retired versions. According to data from analytics vendor Net Applications, about a third of those running IE last month used a version that has stopped receiving security updates.

Microsoft declared the early retirement of IE7 and IE8, and partial retirement of IE9 and IE10, in August 2014, when it told customers they must upgrade to the latest browser available for their OS by Jan. 12, 2016. For most users, the latest version is IE11.

The Office 365 Upgrade: New Outlook Web App

Many of our Office 365 customers will have got notification of the past month of upgrade to there Office 365 account, I personally like the new interface and think it will make the end user experience even more simple to use. The article  from Paul Thurrott below describes this well


From an end-user perspective, the upgrade to the new Office 365 should go pretty seamlessly, with no email disruptions. Those who access Office 365 services from client applications on their PCs and phones can simply go about their daily business. But those who access these services from the web are in for a treat. Among the changes: A vastly improved Outlook Web App.

Outlook Web App (OWA) provides web-based access to your organization’s hosted Exchange services, including email, contacts, calendar, and tasks. This is the interface I use, and the differences between the current version and that in the new Office 365 are pretty dramatic.

Upfront you’ll notice a huge visual change. The previous and familiar version of OWA works well enough and roughly resembles a scaled back version of the Outlook client application for Windows. It has a few basic theme choices but is otherwise pretty bare-boned from a customization standpoint. I use this thing every single day. It’s tired.


Old Outlook Web App

In the new Office 365, OWA is dramatically simplified, more closely resembling Outlook 2013 than previous versions. That means less UI “chrome,” and a look that is controversial in some circles. I happen to like it, and while it doesn’t offer the same “touch mode” functionality as Outlook 2013, it’s equally at home in a traditional PC’s web browser as it is with Metro IE on a Surface device or other tablet.


New Outlook Web App

Better still, the new OWA is actually far more customizable than the old version. And if you like having the folder list visible and want to use an old-school theme, you can do that too. But I like that Outlook (email), Calendar, and People (contacts) are always available from the top-level menu, as are some new SharePoint locations as we’ll discuss tomorrow. If you live in the web UI, as I do, this is both friendlier and more efficient.

Yesterday, I mentioned how the new Office 365 sign-in experience scales to different size devices, including smart phones. OWA, not so much. (In fact, on the Windows Phone handsets and Nexus 7 tablet I tested this on, I received a decidedly old-school OWA interface from several years ago.) But that’s by design: The expectation is that users with these types of devices will use rich native apps to interact with Office 365 services. And as any Windows Phone user can tell you, the Outlook Mobile experience on that platform is particularly good, with native Mail, Calendar, and People apps.

Speaking of which, Microsoft is getting more consistent with how it names things. In the old OWA, you used a Contacts component to interact with your contacts. But the new version uses the People moniker, in keeping with all of Microsoft’s modern contacts solutions in Outlook 2013,, Windows 8/RT, and Windows Phone.

If you do use native apps in Windows or elsewhere, you won’t notice a huge difference after the upgrade. But if you spend a lot of time in the web interface, as I do, the changes to OWA are going to be immediately obvious. And, I think, infinitely better.

Credit: Paul Thurrott

Microsoft Office 365 best cloud app of 2011

Microsoft Office 365 is the best cloud app of 2011, according to CRN. Listing the 15 best products of 2011, the magazine said that Office 365 was ‘the real deal, and it blows away Google Apps.’

So, what’s so great about Office 365? CRN cites price as one of the primary draws, with subscriptions starting at $6 per month per user, which is actually a dollar more than the monthly pricing for Google Apps for Business. Office 365 also came out ahead because of its ease of use, since it’s possible to roll out full functionality across large enterprises in a matter of minutes.

Office 365 offers more than just a version of Office in the cloud, including Exchange Online for e-mail, SharePoint Online for document collaboration and sharing, and Lync Online for communications.

Since its launch earlier this year, Microsoft says that Office 365 has been growing eight times faster than expected. Despite some issues with downtime, overall the reaction to the product has been positive, and it is a true competitor to Google Docs. The biggest benefactors of their competition are, of course, their customers. You can bet that Microsoft and Google will both be working hard to entice users with new features and more stability as the cloud becomes more and more important to their business.


Microsoft & HP team up on public and private cloud services

HP and Microsoft have announced a new four-year partnership to deliver public, private and hybrid enterprise cloud solutions built around Office 365 and its on-premise equivalents. Microsoft solutions will be offered via HP’s cloud data centres. Brandt Faatz, vice president of Workplace Services at HP Enterprise Services, stated: ‘This alliance with HP not only broadens Microsoft’s geographic reach, it gives customers maximum flexibility to choose a cloud computing solution that meets their organisation’s specialised messaging and collaboration needs’.

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