Tony’s Office 365 Snippets – September 1

Observations about announced expansion coming to SharePoint Online team sites and Office 365 Groups, Ignite and the 20th anniversary of Exchange Server

Tony Redmond

by Tony Redmond on 9/1/2016

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Exchange Server, Microsoft Ignite, office 365 groups, OOF, SharePoint Online, team sites

SharePoint Online received a boost this week with news of increased limits and a welcome integration between Office 365 Groups and team sites. Meanwhile, the countdown to Ignite continues and I know where I’ll be, including at a 20th anniversary party for Exchange Server. Memories going back over that period prompt all sorts of questions, including why an Out of Office notice is referred to as “OOF”. Truly, some of my thoughts are just odd.

An expansion in SharePoint

Microsoft posted some welcome news yesterday when they announced that the maximum size of a SharePoint Online site collection has been raised from 1 TB to 25 TB. This won’t affect most Office 365 tenants because they either don’t have enough data to meet the new maximum or they don’t have sufficient quota as the storage base per tenant remains 1 TB plus 0.5 GB per subscribed user. However, the new maximum will be great for those tenants who have lots to store (like those who make heavy use of Office 365 Video) or many users (and therefore a high storage base).

Groups and Sites

Also announced at the same time was the long-flagged news that Office 365 Groups and SharePoint Online team sites are becoming much closer. Every Office 365 Group will get a SharePoint team site, including those who have already been created. Each time a team site is created, a new group is created to host the membership of the site, which seems to make a lot of sense. There’s no word yet as to whether tenants will have any ability to control how the Groups/Sites arrangement works through PowerShell or settings in the SharePoint Online Admin Center.

Groups have had SharePoint document libraries since their introduction in November 2014. Initially access to the document libraries was disguised as an extension to OneDrive for Business, but recently group document libraries have gained the functionality available to “regular” document libraries. Adding a team site to the mix allows Groups to use features available to sites, such as creating lists in addition to libraries, customizing pages to add links to important content, and the prospect of creating extensions using Microsoft Flow and PowerApps, both of which make my development colleagues pretty excited.

All in all, the development marks a tremendous expansion in the usefulness of Groups. Apart from anything else, it clears up some of the confusion that has swirled around the Office 365 collaboration space where Office 365 Groups and SharePoint team sites both seemed to compete for the same audience. The Yammer community might be wondering what’s happening to make their world better though as none of the long-promised connectivity between Yammer and Office 365 has yet come to light.

Don’t expect to see the new code immediately. Announcements in the Office Blog have a nasty habit of being several months in advance of when functionality actually appears before users, especially if a tenant does not use First Release. The roll-out is apparently in motion to begin delivery to First Release tenants next week. We shall see.

Navigating Ignite

The countdown to the sold-out Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference in Atlanta later this month has well and truly started with over 1,100 different types of events (keynote, 75-minute in-depth, theater, customer showcases, and so on) now listed in the session catalog. Unlike Ignite 2015, when Microsoft used a weird form of audience management that attempted to match demand with room sizes and failed abysmally in oh so many ways, common sense has broken out and the conference team has assigned rooms in advance. The online session builder will help registered attendees navigate through what’s available while a map might help figure out where session rooms are located in the 3.9 million square foot Georgia World Congress Center. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure… or so they say.

In case you’d like to join in the fun, my speaking assignments at Ignite are:

  1. Debate the top 10 reasons not to move your Exchange on-premises mailboxes to Exchange Online (with Greg Taylor, Microsoft), Room B216-B217, Tuesday, September 27, 9AM-10:15AM. Warning! Greg’s participation guarantees that those of a gentle disposition should not attend this session.
  2. Meet twin sons of different mothers - Exchange Engineers and Exchange MVPs (with MVPs Jeff Guillet and Andrew Higginbotham), Room C112, Tuesday, September 27, 12:30pm-1:45pm. I’m not quite sure how the title came to be decided upon but we shall see…
  3. Explore the ultimate field guide to Microsoft Office 365 Groups (with Amit Gupta of Microsoft and MVP Benjamin Niaulin), Room B304-B305, Wednesday, September 28, 10:45am-12 noon. Three different viewpoints and three different sets of stories about Office 365 Groups. What could possibly go wrong? At least Benjamin should be able to explain how Groups can exploit team sites, which is all good.

Exchange’s 20th anniversary

A conference without good parties is not a good conference, or so goes the mantra of many hardened attendees, I hear rumors that Microsoft will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Exchange Server with a bash on Wednesday, September 28. The great and the good of the messaging world (and some miscreants) will gather to raise a glass to what has been an interesting journey from the single-database (limited to 16 GB) Exchange 4.0 in 1996 to the software that now powers Exchange Online and supports well north of a hundred million mailboxes.


Ken Ewert is one of the old-time (but young at heart) Exchange engineers whom I hope to see in Atlanta. He reminded me about a post from 2004 titled Why is OOF an OOF and not an OOO? This refers to the shorthand for the Out of Office notice set by users to inform others when they are absent from the office and won’t be able to respond to email quickly. The answer is that the shortened version should be OOO, for out-of-office, but it is OOF, for out of facility. Apparently, OOF was a command used in the Microsoft Xenix-based email system that predated Exchange that carried on inside Microsoft when Exchange was introduced and entered popular use thereafter. (See this post about Microsoft’s use of Xenix, a UNIX variant and note the reference to “Gill Gates”).

Two other examples of how Microsoft influenced the world of email are the popularization of “reply all” as the default response to a message and the inclusion of the text of previous messages in replies (otherwise known as top-posting, as explained in this note on netiquette).

I admit that my memory is a tad hazy on this point because of the elapsed time since the first version of Outlook appeared in 1997, but I consider Outlook to be the major culprit and one of the contributing factors why so many people have made fools of themselves by mistakenly using reply-all over the years (like this famous example from inside Microsoft) and why so much duplicated content in message threads lurks in mailbox databases and email archives today. I know I’ve been caught, just like I’ve been caught sending email to the wrong people because of the way that Outlook caches up to 1,000 nicknames in its autocomplete list.

When I learn to use software one of these days, I shall be dangerous…

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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