Sunday, March 31, 2013

Office ProPlus Telemetry


I have been expanding my wings a little and working more with customers around Office. For me, the fusion between Office, SharePoint, Lync and Exchange has never been so strong. Users can transition between all of these applications doing everything from the simple personal project to communicating and sharing information on a large scale.

Office itself has a ton of new features with the release of Office 2013 that are truly exciting. A few of those are side-by-side installation support, click-to-run, Office on Demand, support for 5 installs per machine and more.

The one I want to focus on today though is a new feature called Office Telemetry. This is a feature is available with Office 365 purchase of Office ProPlus -

Now you may ask what is Office Telemetry; sounds really cool but “what is it”? That is what I said and I dug little bit into it and I was pleasantly surprised. This is a new capability that helps organizations monitor usage of Office 2013, 2010, 2007, and 2003. This tool will help organizations really understand how Office documents and solutions are being used across the organization. Utilizing information collected by this tool, organizations can really look at Office strategy and determine the best path forward.

The Challenge

One of the biggest challenges organizations have when considering a move to the next release of Office is understanding how it currently deployed and even more importantly how is it used. In many cases I have seen enterprises sitting on Office a few versions behind and not leveraging the latest software. The Office Telemetry solution was created specifically to help customers get a handle of Office utilization.

Microsoft has provided several tools in the past to support such activities. They worked very well and provide an immense amount of information. So much so that organizations had to spend a significant amount of time analyzing the data. Every organization wants to ensure that there is little disruption to the workforce when there is a change to Office. Office is a predominate tool that enterprise business workers use on a daily basis; disrupt them and you disrupt the business. Organizations considering a move forward with Office need to know about all the document types, how are they being used, what sort of add-ins need to be supported, etc. Without this information organizations slip into a situation where they get far behind on Office deployment and cannot recognize the value.

Office Telemetry

Microsoft looked at this challenge that organizations have been faced with and wanted to add a solution to the new Office that would really help organizations strategize where they are with Office now and in the future. The Office Telemetry solution is really just a piece of this objective to help organizations realize the power of Office quickly. Things such as:

  • Side-by-side installation – Ability to run more than one copy of Office at a time.
  • Click-to-run – Ability to quickly download and install off on a machine in a few minutes versus having to do a heavy install.
  • Support for 5 installs per machine – A change of licensing with Office ProPlus in Office 365 allowing a user to install Office on multiple machines given the proliferation of devices.
  • Office on Demand – Ability to just run Office on demand, on the spot without utilizing a user install. It will quickly install Office using the Click-to-run and then uninstall Office just as quickly when the user is done.

All of these solutions provides true flexibility in how organizations can leverage Office. It recognizes that users are need the ability to job around on multiple machines and stay productive.

One of the first things an IT organization will need to do is work with the “business” to determine how Office is used today. This tool could be run before talking with them or used while talking with them. Either way information gathered by this tool will help facilitate discussions on how is Office utilized. It is recommended to run the Telemetry solution against 20% of the workforce ensuring there is a distribution across all lines of business.

Once you have gathered information, you should be able to gain some really good insights into:

  • You should be able to see if all lines of business have been represented in your reporting.
  • You should be able to see what are the most common documents and solutions that require further investigation.
  • You will be able to see trends on how documents are used. This could drive the organization centralize documents in SharePoint, utilize features such as co-authoring, identify areas you want to classify documents as taxonomy in SharePoint, etc.
  • You will be able to identify Office solutions that may not have high utilization however once talking to the business you may find out they are used during very strategic business operations. You can then make plans on how to support them.
  • You will be able to see characteristics what types of documents are used the most and from where.
  • You will be able to see what Office add-ins are used.

With this information, an IT organization can really work with “the business” and determine the most important Office solutions that need to be focused on as part of the move forward. Now you will be in a position to test Office 2013 with solutions that are important to the business and then strategize a plan forward utilizing many of the new Office deployment features I mentioned above.


The Office Telemetry Dashboard is a new solution that you will use to help you do this analysis. Below is a screenshot of this tool. As you can see the Dashboard is using the Business Intelligence features of Excel. It is connected to a SQL Server database that has collected all this Office utilization data.


In the detailed views of the Telemetry Dashboard lots of things can be discovered. For instance:

  • You can see the number of users who use the solution with the ability to click any number to see who uses the solution.
  • You can see rate at which Office may have critical issues. As well you have the ability to see the actual number of critical errors and view the actual users who are encountering those issues.
  • You can see information about how much time it is taking for solutions to load.
  • You have the ability to see which applications are being utilized and if it is an add-in associated.


The Office Telemetry solution is made up of a few components:

  • Office 2013, Telemetry logging is built into the product itself so nothing needs to be installed on those machines to collect data.
  • For Office 2010, 2007 and 2003 a Telemetry Agent must be installed to collect the data.
  • Shared folders must be set up to collect data submitted by the Telemetry Agent.
  • The Telemetry Processor must be installed on a Windows Server which gather all the data submitted by the Telemetry Agents.
  • SQL Server is utilized by the Telemetry Processor to store information that is collected.
  • Excel is finally used to provide the Dashboard.

I really like this diagram because it shows how this gathered and made available for review in the Dashboard.



One question that comes up a logging is ensuring that there is privacy. This solution is gathering very detailed information. A few features have been built in to help with this.

  • Obfuscation - document names, titles and paths can be protected.
  • Exclude – Application and solutions types can be excluded.
  • Set Threshold – Only show files that are used by more than X users.

Add In Management

One more thing is that you will hear a lot about with the new Office Telemetry solution is added features and capabilities to help understand how add-ins are used. Additionally there are features part of this solution that will help you “manage” add-ins.

For instance you have the ability to now with group policy you can always enable, always disable (block), or make configurable by the user add-ins. With data collected in the dashboard you will know which add-ins are being used across the enterprise. Additionally the dashboard has the ability to assist you by generating these group policies. Very cool.

Compatibility Mode

Another nice feature I ran across is a solution called Compatibility Mode in Office 2013. This will ensure that if a document is edited by Office 2013, it will ensure to disable features of Office so that a document can continue to work in older versions of Office. You can create group policies around this to help your transition.

Moving Forward

Moving forward the Office Telemetry solution is built into Office 2013. As your organization moves forward, know that you can continue to tap into Office Telemetry to re-evaluate where you stand and manage your Office deployment and support strategy.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

SharePoint Online BI and Connecting to On-Premise Data

Refreshing Data with PowerPivot and Excel Services

I came across this really good whitepaper on how to refresh data in PowerPivot in Excel Services in SharePoint Online. The most important part is “in SharePoint Online”.

If you know much about SharePoint Online Business Intelligence, may know we provide Business Intelligences features in SharePoint Online with limitations. The most important being something like Excel Services cannot make a live connection to a database. If the data resides in the Excel spreadsheet itself no problem Excel Services works great with that data. The challenge has always been how to get the data refreshed into the spreadsheet if the data needs to be pulled from a line of business databases?

The solution described in the spreadsheet takes advantage of several new capabilities of SharePoint Online. It takes advantage of the new SharePoint Online PowerShell commands, the Sync capability of SkyDrive Pro and the new PowerPivot solution now supported in SharePoint Online. The script is very simple. All you do is schedule it, it will check out the Excel workbook, refresh the data, check it in, and then sync the file right back into SharePoint Online. Nice!

Before this new release of SharePoint Online, organizations would have to manually do this action. If an organization got crafty they could use web services to accomplish the same thing but it would be a cumbersome solution to manage and maintain.

This new solution is just so easy and straight forward.

Refreshing Excel workbooks with embedded PowerPivot models from SharePoint Online (white paper) -

SQL Reporting Services

If you have read the new SharePoint Online Service Description on Insights ( you will have noticed several new capabilities. One of these new capabilities is SQL Reporting Services reporting web parts are now supported. SSRS reports running out of a document library in the cloud can utilize data in a SharePoint lists. You could use a similar solution using the new SharePoint Online Client Side Object model to refresh data in a SharePoint list that the SSRS report would use. The only limitation to consider is the amount of data you are moving into the cloud. I am not suggesting that a SharePoint List cannot handle the data however we all know that SharePoint Lists are not meant to replace something like a SQL Server database. I would recommend that you do as much processing and aggregation of the data before sending up into SharePoint lists. It may even make sense to de-normalize the data a little.

Still you should be able to create some really nice reports that can be centrally managed and access through SharePoint Online.

Visio Services

Visio Services has always been available in SharePoint Online. I have in the past successfully used it to connect to data in SharePoint lists and then create both reports and dashboards. As usual the limitation was how to get the data on-premise.

The way I see it, you have two approaches for getting Visio Services in SharePoint Online to work with a database on-premise.

First, you can do what I just described above where you use the Client Side Object Model to get data into SharePoint Online lists.

Second is leverage BCS! This is new. If you have read what is new with Visio Services ( you will see that SharePoint Online supports BCS. Additionally if you have SharePoint 2013 on-premise, it is now possible to implement a SharePoint Hybrid solution ( In this case you can have live on-premise data securely connected to SharePoint Online which Visio Services can build reports off of.


As you are seeing with the introduction of SharePoint Online PowerShell, Client Object Model, SharePoint Hybrid, SSRS, PowerView and SkyDrive Pro along with new improvements to BCS, Excel Services and Visio Services we now have some better options for BI in SharePoint Online. I see the gap starting to close and hope with time, more gaps to be closed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lync Online and Skype Futures Announced

This is definitely a few days old but wanted to bring people attention to this. There is a planned where Lync and Skype can connect to each other for presence, IM and voice in the summer of 2013. This will be available for Lync Online and Lync on-premise. This is pretty exciting.

This move is somewhat associated to move of Windows Live Messenger to Skype ( For Lync Online today, Windows Live Messenger can be connected to, so since it is moving over to Skype it is only natural that Lync Online will be able to connect to Skype. Plus with the expansion of voice support is really nice. The reason why I really like this is I have a lot of customers who want to be able to communicate with people outside of their organization. There are subject matter experts, external consultants, professional contacts, etc. that organizations want to have constant communication with. This will allow them to stay in constant communication with each other.

Please do not confuse that with Lync Federation which more of an organization to organization relationship.

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Lync Online Hybrid Scenarios

Lync Hybrid is something that comes up a lot with customers Office 365 customers. With Lync in particular there are many different types of hybrids that can be supported which provides our enterprise customers many options and a lot of flexibility. Now with the new version of Lync Online and Lync 2013, we even have more flexibility.

In this blog I am going to discuss what options you have available and provide you some good resources.

Lync Hybrid
Lync Hybrid is a solution architecture that allows an organization to have Lync 2013 on-premise run in Hybrid with Lync Online. Lync Hybrid is a scenario that was supported in the old cloud Lync Online service but there were limitations. The big limitation was that Lync users on-premise had to be on a different domain than the users who were on Lync Online. This limitation is now removed with Lync 2013. This is no longer an issue and it is now possible to have Lync users on-premise and on Lync Online share the same domain.
Here are some important facts:
  • A user must either be provisioned on Lync on-premise or Lync Online. A user cannot be provisioned to use services in both places.
  • You must have ADFS Federation and have Lync 2013 installed on-premise.
  • This only works with the new Lync Online service (i.e. if your tenant has not been upgraded to Lync 2013 in the cloud, you will need to wait for that to complete).
  • It is possible to have Lync Online run in hybrid with OCS R2 or Lync 2010 deployed on-premise. For OCS R2 you will need a Lync 2013 Edge Server deployed on-premise. If you have Lync 2010 farm on-premise, your Lync 2010 Edge Server must have the latest cumulative updates but it would be recommended to have a Lync 2013 Edge Server on-premise.
  • Good logistical note is that Lync client policies will have to be managed in Lync on-premise and Lync Online separately.
For planning information, please review the following for additional important details -

Additionally, here is a configuration guide - There are basically to basic steps. First you will configure federation from on-premise Lync to Lync Online. Second there are a set of commands that you will use to move users from on-premise Lync to Lync Online.

When you move users from on-premise to the cloud, remember that if the user has more than 250 pinned contacts they will not all be moved up and meetings scheduled in the future with Lync must be rescheduled.

Lync Hybrid with Other Services
This has been something that has been supported for some time. It is possible to have several permutations of how you can have ( For instance:
  • Lync Online can work with Exchange on-premise and SharePoint on-premise.
  • Lync on-premise can work with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.
There is a really good table ( that outlines all the permutations of features and capabilities that are enabled based on the combination that you select with Lync, Exchange and SharePoint regardless of where they are deployed.

Additionally it is possible to have Lync On-Premise that is being used for Enterprise Voice (PBX) to be integrated with the Exchange Online Unified Messaging capability (i.e. be able to listen to your voice mail through Outlook / OWA in Exchange Online). Please review this - Side Note, it is also possible to have Exchange Online Unified Messaging work with other non-Lync PBX solutions.

Finally sometimes people even consider Lync Federation a form of hybrid. Lync Federation is more about having your Lync Online service connect to other organizations. For more information, please review this -

As you can see there is an immense amount of flexibility organizations have with their deployment of Lync and Office 365. This allows organizations to meet complex requirements and transition to the cloud on their terms.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SharePoint Online Hybrid BCS and Search

With the new release of SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013 we have some new SharePoint scenarios that can be supported. I have always told customer the definition of hybrid sometimes murky. Why because SharePoint can be implemented in so many ways. In many cases ADFS provides a unified user experience providing the user experience they need. Doing application integration using APIs, remote libraries, etc. provides all that is needed. The new SharePoint Apps model is going to really introduce a lot of new ways to create customer hybrid solutions.
Some other new hybrid scenarios that are going to be supported with the new SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013. Specifically there is the ability to configure BCS and Search to support some real hybrid solutions. This is really exciting.
Please review the following whitepapers that are located here:
Hybrid BCS
With the Hybrid BCS, organizations are going to have some real flexibility in you can expose data from the enterprise to SharePoint Online. In the prior version of SharePoint Online based on 2010 technologies, we were limited to working with web services. There is nothing wrong with that, but we would have to create some web services, make it available to SharePoint Online, and then use it. Here are some facts:
  • This supports the ability to view, edit and delete data.
  • All data sources must be published using OData.
  • Using this solution, no data needs to be published out in an unsecure way, require any new ports to be opened, etc. The on-premise SharePoint 2013 server will basically connect, using a reverse proxy, and will publish out an end point which SharePoint Online can connect to.
  • ADFS with Federated identities is required.
  • There are a few configuration steps that you will need to go through outlined in the document. Additionally there is some configurations that you will need to make on the SharePoint Online administration screens.
Doing this will allow you to bring your line of business data into SharePoint Online. Users can access that data through External lists, External columns, developers can use it through code, workflow can use it to help make decisions through using the external lists, Visio Services has a new feature that allows it to user external lists, etc. I am frankly just happy to see this level of integration and facilitation versus what we had to do in the past to expose data to SharePoint Online.

For more details read here -

Hybrid Search
Even more exciting is our new support for setting up Hybrid Search for SharePoint Online. SharePoint 2013 must be installed on-premise and you must again be using federated IDs with the SharePoint Online. I would say this is one of the primary use cases for facilitating a hybrid deployment. Why because we want to allow users to be able to initiate and search for data regardless of where it resides.

Remember that the new SharePoint Online in the cloud does utilize the FAST search technology. However just because that capability is delivered in the cloud, it does not provide the ability to index on-premise locations. We rely on SharePoint 2013 on-premise to basically do a federated search. This means that SharePoint Online Search does not directly index on-premise content; it relies on those on-premise servers.

There are two approaches for configuring Hybrid Search:
  • One-way Hybrid – In this scenario you have the ability to perform a search from your on-premise SharePoint 2013 environment to SharePoint Online. This way users will have the ability retrieve content from the SharePoint Online anytime they do a search from on-premise. This is nice if you have a search portal set up on-premise that is indexing your entire enterprise and SharePoint Online is just another content source to index. All those intranets, team sites, My Sites, etc. in SharePoint Online are accessible.
  • Two-way Hybrid – In this scenario you will be configuring both your SharePoint 2013 on-premise environment and your SharePoint Online environment to perform search of each other. This is really powerful to allow the end user to find content across the enterprise regardless of where the user is.
For more information read here -

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New SharePoint Online PowerShell

One of the big things I was looking forward to with the new release of SharePoint Online was the support for PowerShell for SharePoint. Up to this point there was only one command available.

The following are two great resources for you to learn a little bit about the PowerShell commands that are available to you.

With these, you can create automation around:

  • Upgrading sites
  • Managing internal and external users
  • Management of Site Collections
  • And a few other misc ones

Obviously if you were looking for PowerShell commands to run above the Site Collection level that is not supported as Office 365 does not provide access to Central Admin.

If you want to get some deeper automation, it is possible to utilize Client Side Object Model to do some automation.

New Office 365 Service Descriptions


Most folks probably by now that the Office 365 Service Descriptions have changed over to the new ones out of TechNet -

This is because we are out of Preview and when you create a new tenant on Office 365 you will be doing it on Office 2013 technologies. This is tremendously exciting because there has been so much new functionality and capability that has been released.

There are a lot of good Microsoft resources that explain “What’s New”. What I am going to capture here in this blog are new items that you should be aware of when it comes to reviewing the Service Descriptions. Frankly I have had the old ones memorized, so here are my notes of new stuff.

Office 365 Platform

  • Software requirements are listed right there. Read them.
  • Known issues are available.
  • Subscription options describe all the suites.
  • User account management is the new Identity Service description. This there is a link there to the Single Sign-on roadmap. Very important to read that through and through.
  • Interesting – we do say that we support up to 600 registered domains per tenant.
  • There is some new information about how to restore a user that has been deleted up to 30 days.
  • In Service Health there is some new information describing the statuses of the service.
  • Reports is a new area. We have now moved many of the reports into a central place which is really nice. Reports such as mailbox login activity, Exchange Online Protection (EOP), transport rules and DLP reports are in one place. You have the ability to download the reports in Excel. There are still additional reports that are run out of their respective service areas. For SharePoint auditing, eDiscovery, search usage, etc. reports are accessible in SharePoint itself. For Exchange Online there are reports such as auditing, track messages, trace messages, etc. are available in the Exchanged administration area.
  • There is a new table for Mobile Devices which provides more information about level of support to all mobile platforms.
  • The old Support service descriptions are here.
  • There is a new Networking section that leads you to some good links on Ports and Bandwidth requirements. These link actually take you to the Office 365 Deployment Guide which I say always say is required reading.
  • There are some new tables in here describing our compliance.
  • There is a new link about Blackberry support. This only describes the BBCS service. The new RIM BES for Office 365 server is not listed here.

Exchange Online

  • There is a link to the What’s New -
  • There is a revamped section on planning and deployment. Still recommend reading the Office 365 Deployment Guide There is a reference to a new Exchange 2013 Hybrid documents here -
  • The section on Message Policy, Recovery and Compliance has been updated with numerous new features for In-Place Hold, In-Place eDiscovery and DLP.
  • The section on Anti-Spam and Anti-Malware Protection has been updated to focus on Exchange Online Protection (EOP). FOPE was its predecessor. There is more information there and you will see much of the stuff you used to have to go to the FOPE administrative center has been brought into O365 admin center. For instance reports and working with the quarantine.
  • There is a new section on Mail Flow which is a good read, especially if you are considering hybrid.
  • There is a new section called Recipients which is has a ton of information on limits, mailbox rules, delegation, resource / shared mailboxes, etc. There is a new feature called Inactive Mailboxes buried in there which talks about keeping mailboxes around for people who had data on hold before they left the organization.
  • There is a new section called Reporting Features and Troubleshooting Tools which brings together a bunch of good information. Again these reports are now available through the admin center and the exchange control panel. There is even a new feature to do custom reporting where reports can be called through REST services by on-premise solutions.
  • There is a new section called Sharing and Collaboration. There is good information on sharing calendars using the Microsoft Federation Gateway, new Site Mailboxes and new support for Public Folders.
  • Sections on clients and unified messaging did not change…
  • The section High Availability and Business Continuity existing content on mailbox and item recovery just re-organized here.
  • Same with the interoperability section that is just reorganized content. While the new section on third-party solutions talks about what customization you can and cannot do. This is always an important section to understand.

SharePoint Online

  • The SharePoint Online service description is broken out in the way most SharePoint folks know SharePoint: Developer, IT Professional, Sites, Content, Social, Search, BI and Add-ons.
  • On the root page of the Service Description is a complete breakout of every feature of SharePoint and a list of what is available on-prem versus in the cloud. Really good new break out.
  • There is a good link to a new article on What’s New - This is a great article for even the SharePoint expert to read to get you up to date with the new features of SharePoint Online. I am not going to net this out for you – please read it.
  • There is a new article that is linked off the service description on boundaries and limits. All the same type of data just located in a different place.
  • The new Developer section provides more details to the old service description about what is in versus what is out.
  • The new IT Professional section provides better insight on what is supported and what is not supported from a management perspective. This really gets into what you are used to having access to in SharePoint Central Admin and what is available in the cloud.
  • Content section does a detail break out one ECM and WCM.
  • Insights (BI) section as a bunch of new features discussed in here for PowerView, PowerPivoty and SSRS.
  • Search section has been updated. There is new content on supporting hybrid search.
  • Sites section covers portal information. Has information about browser support and a ton of other stuff.
  • Social section – again discusses all the capabilities.
  • Add-ons – This is a new section that discusses the app catalog, Azure for hosted apps, and Duet Online.

Office Web Apps

This is a replacement to the old service description. It is really good information in here that shows you exactly what is available in Office Web Apps versus the Office client.

Office 365 ProPlus

This is a new Service Description that really goes into how Office can be purchased through Office 365. The Office Applications section is really stuff you already know, however the section called Enterprise Value is the real interesting section. This section talks about purchasing Office as part of a subscription service, click to run, deployment, activation, VDI considerations, policy management, side by side installation, etc.

Project Online

Yes Project Online has now in Office 365. This allows for the purchase of the Project client as well as receiving Project Server through the cloud. There is good information that shows you the difference of getting Project server in the cloud, at end of the day, it is all there. Project Online today is not part of the suite and is an additional purchase which can be added to your tenant.

Lync Online

  • Again at the top of the Lync Online service description is the What’s New -
  • On the root page of the Lync Service Description there is a really good table that shows what available on-premise with Lync 2013 is and what is available in the cloud.
  • In the Clients section there is a good break out of the clients. Including a new link to a client comparison table - Additionally there is a new section on Conferencing Devices with a discussion on “Lync-certified conference room devices”. That is new.
  • Much of the sections on IM, Presence, desktop sharing, meetings, etc is repeat content from old service descriptions.
  • There is a new section on compliance. Specifically the Archiving feature is now connected to Exchange Online and is controlled by the user’s Exchange mailbox In-Place Hold attribute. This is huge and does not require the Lync client to control this.