Tony’s Office 365 Snippets – August 4

Tony Redmond

by Tony Redmond on 8/4/2016

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Conferences, Exchange Online, external access, journal rules, journaling, Microsoft Ignite, MVP, office 365 groups, Office 365 Video, transport rules, Unity Connect

It’s the time of year when PowerPoint skills are sharpened to build the decks for the conference season. For me, that starts with Microsoft Ignite in Atlanta next month. I’m using the new Office 365 Groups guest user access feature to collaborate with people belonging to other tenants and that’s working well. Some journaling facts came to light – or were overlooked before. And my life is complete because I can now tag people in Office 365 video.

August is the peak vacation month here in Europe when the lure of the beach or the pool overcomes the desire to do anything with a keyboard. News about Office 365 is scarce on the ground, but I continue to slave away with PowerPoint because the conference season is just around the corner and it is time to prepare for sessions that I will deliver at Microsoft Ignite (Atlanta, September), IT/DEV Connections (Las Vegas, October), the UK Unified Communications Day (Birmingham, October), and Unity Connect (Haarlem, November). All in all, quite a glamorous life of travel. Until, that is, you wake up to the need to create some content that might actually interest people.

Preparing to Ignite

In between pool sessions, I have been working on a major session for Ignite, the Ultimate field guide to Office 365 Groups, where I will share the stage with the redoubtable Benjamin Niaulin of Share-Gate and Amit Gupta of Microsoft. Benjamin promises to explain all about the deepening relationship between Office 365 Groups and SharePoint Team sites while Amit provides the Microsoft perspective and acts as referee between Benjamin and myself. It should be an interesting session. Poor Amit!

In any case, because the speakers come from three different companies and use three different Office 365 tenants, we are using an Office 365 Group set up for external access to support co-authoring of the presentation deck and the notes that support the content. External access for guest users is still under development (Microsoft said in the Office 365 network that they hope to deploy it to First Release tenants in September) and let’s say that the experience has been “interesting”. When the kinks are worked out and everything functions as expected, I think people will be pretty happy.

I have two further sessions at Ignite. The first is called Debate the top 10 reasons not to move your Exchange on-premises mailboxes to Exchange Online. That mouthful hides the promise of an argument between myself and Greg Taylor moderated by Steve Conn. Apparently, my role is to come up with all the reasons why people want to keep their mailboxes on nice, solid, there-in-the-computer-room Exchange servers, while Greg will be explaining why this is just silly and the cloud is the nicest place for mailbox bytes to be stored. Greg sometimes has a charming turn of phrase, such as the time when he used the rear orifice of an elephant to explain how Exchange protocols work, so I think this session will be a blast.

Finally, Meet twin sons of different mothers - Exchange Engineers and Exchange MVPs is a panel session involving Andrew Higginbotham, Jeff Guillet (Expta), and Steve Goodman and a bunch of Exchange engineers. I’m not quite sure whether the session name insults us in some way but we shall find out in due course. It’s an opportunity to take questions, tell stories, and figure out just how Exchange managed to last 20 years from its introduction as Exchange 4.0 in 1996.

I’m afraid that I can’t tell you the actual dates and times for these sessions because Microsoft hasn’t published that information yet.

Limited Journaling

Journaling has been around Exchange for a very long time and persists as a feature of Exchange Online, even if Microsoft won’t allow you to nominate an Exchange Online mailbox as a journal recipient. In most cases, journaling is used to direct copies of messages to an external archiving system. A more careful reader of Microsoft’s page on the topic noticed that “In Office 365, the maximum number of journal rules you can create is 10.” No such limitation exists for on-premises Exchange servers.

Why does Microsoft limit journal rules for Office 365? My guess is that it’s for the same reason that they limit the total number of transport rules to 300 and prevent Exchange Online mailboxes from being used as a journal recipient. It’s all about restricting the ability of tenants to consume more than their fair share of resources in a massive multi-tenant environment. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on how many rules you want to use.

The deprecated sandbox

Summer is a wonderful time to implement decisions that just might not meet with general approval. On July 29, Microsoft took the chance to remind people that they had deprecated code-based sandbox solutions for SharePoint Online. There’s good reason for the move as Microsoft wants people to use the add-in model instead. Happiness and light all round as long as you recognize that your tenant might actually be using the sandbox approach. If you’re unsure, you can use the script referenced in this article to figure out whether any action is necessary. Or just go to sleep for the summer, which seems like a good plan to me right now.

Video tagging

Late on August 3, Microsoft announced that they had enabled the ability to add metadata about people connected to videos that are stored in Office 365 Video. The person who originally uploaded the video along with the date and time of upload is now displayed when a video is accessed. By itself, this isn’t very interesting. However, you can also tag people who are connected to the video in some way by adding their name to the metadata maintained in SharePoint Online (Figure 1). Microsoft suggests that this list can be used to highlight people that are on the video, provide contact information for the content discussed in the video, or show the real owner of the video if it was originally uploaded by someone else.

Figure 1: Adding people to the list related to a video

This is not tagging a la Facebook because no face or other recognition is involved. Instead, a channel owner or editor can add people to the list with the idea being that you can then use Delve to search for videos associated with someone. Curiously, you can only add Office 365 accounts to the people list for a video as the selection picker doesn’t accommodate mail contacts or names from a user’s Outlook nicknames. On the one hand, this is logical because people are most likely to use Delve to search for videos relating to others within the company. On the other, it stops you being able to note videos related to external people. How will I be able to tag my copy of Satya Nadella’s latest conference keynote?

Group conversions

Some time ago, Microsoft released a set of scripts to help Office 365 tenants convert email distribution groups to Office 365 Groups. In a fit of enthusiasm last year, I wrote a script (available in the TechNet Gallery) to do the same job. Of course, my script is much better., even if it doesn’t use the recently upgraded ability of the New-UnifiedGroup cmdlet to take a suitable distribution group as an input and create a new Office 365 Group.

The word “suitable” is important here because not all distribution groups can be converted – or should be converted. For instance, conversion cannot be performed for distribution groups that contain nested groups or those that have mail contacts in their membership. It’s also the case that a plain old simple distribution group is the right choice in circumstances where group members don’t need to share documents.

In any case, Microsoft has now added an option to the Groups section of the Exchange Administration Center (EAC) that will convert a selected distribution group in a single click (or so the marketing spiel goes). As you’d expect, the option calls the New-UnifiedGroup cmdlet to perform the conversion. If successful, the old distribution group is removed and you have a brand new Office 365 Group in its place.

Figure 2: The option to convert a distribution group to an Office 365 Group

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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Topic: Administration and Infrastructure

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