Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Office 365 Daily Live Demos and Chats

With the release of the new Office 365 today, Microsoft is offering daily live demos & chats for interested customers.

For additional details and chat times visit Microsoft's event page.
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Office 365 Virtual Launch Events

Join us at our Virtual Launch Event on Wednesday, Feb. 27, as we celebrate the availability of a major new release coming to Office 365 for businesses.

If you are exploring cloud offerings, you do not want to miss this event. You'll hear from Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, and John Case, Microsoft corporate vice president, about Microsoft's vision for productivity, enterprise social and the cloud.

We'll demo new features in enterprise social and show how we've transformed the full Office experience you know into an always up-to-date service. Finally, you'll hear real world stories from our customers about their move to the cloud. We'll also answer questions via live chat as we go.

We hope you'll join us there. Register now!
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Microsoft Cloud Storage Infographic

I tend to concentrate on Office 365 at QuiteCloudy, but there's a lot more to "cloud" than Office 365.  One of the many other exciting products in the space is Microsoft Azure.  Maybe I'll talk in more depth about Azure in future blog articles.

I was provided a great infographic about Azure from one of our Microsoft reps today and thought I would pass it on.  See the original article at enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Microsoft Partner Program and Office 365 Certifications

* Updated: See my update post on this topic here. *

Recently, at the Microsoft Office 365 Ignite for Partners event in Redmond, I had the good fortune to attend a session with the Microsoft Learning team behind the exams IT Pros take for certifications.  I was excited to see how they would revamp the Office 365 exams to include the new wave 15 and Office 2013 content.  I was less than thrilled by the changes they announced though.

What I found out was... the new exams and certifications would roll up Office 365 in to the core exams for the various Office 365 component products.

I'm not a fan.  The component product exams are designed for a much broader audience than Office 365.  The old Office 365 exams, 70-321 and 70-323, counted toward the MCP and MCTS certs - enabling IT Pros to certify as MCITP for Office 365.  The certification demonstrated specific qualifications around Office 365.  The tests were hard, but that was okay.  If you make a test too easy, people who don't know their stuff will take it and appear qualified where they are not.  The test probably should have been tweaked some and had some questionable items fixed however.

For more on 70-321 and 70-323, see my post last July on Office 365 Certification, Study Guide, and the Small Business Competency.

Now, Office 365 qualifications have been rolled in to the component exams for Exchange, SharePoint and Lync.  Microsoft considers "cloud" just one integrated facet of these products' software+services strategy.  The problem here is that in the cloud computing IT world of the future, the broader Exchange, SharePoint and Lync on-premises certifications include much that is not relevant to the cloud.  And "cloud" IT Pros are being forced to learn on-premises technologies they will never use in order to certify they are experts in, well, "cloud".

For instance consider Exchange 2013's 70-341 (Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013) exam.  The exam covers transport, the mailbox role, client access and Exchange infrastructure.  Some of transport is relevant to Office 365, in client access much of the mailbox role is not, CAS is important but DAGs are not, a good chunk of infrastructure is just not required at all.  On the whole I would say that 25-50% of the exam is relevant to Office 365 migrations and ongoing administration.  The remainder is only important if you have a legacy infrastructure to design and support.  You still have to add 70-342 as well to be certified in anything that looks like a current Office 365 certification.  The closest you can get now is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Messaging.

You could say that including cloud in the Exchange exam makes for a more comprehensive certification and more well-rounded IT Pros.  My opinion, however, is that there should be Office 365-specific exams that call out the portions of Exchange that are relevant.  Shouldn't Microsoft have a "cloud-specific" certification?

So, what is the purpose of certification anyway?  Companies use certifications to understand the qualifications of candidates for employment.  If I have an Office 365 deployment (SMB, midmarket, or enterprise) with little on-premises infrastructure... maybe a simple hybrid Exchange configuration to support legacy applications and devices... I don't need to know about Database Availability Groups (DAGs) and how to support multi-site transport scenarios.  I need to know PowerShell, basic Exchange administration and about how to manage Office 365 through the web portal.  The 74-324 test Administering Office 365 for Small Businesses covers those topics but doesn't count toward any certification... so how does an employer know you are "certified on Office 365"?

Some companies want to know if a candidate is qualified to perform Office 365 migrations.  That requires the skills in 74-324 but also more Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Active Directory experience.  Right now, the only way to demonstrate that expertise is to take several certifications covering a much broader than necessary technical field.  You may need 25% of the SharePoint tests, 60% of Exchange, and 15% of Lync to perform migrations.  Testing on the rest is a waste of time.

In addition, Microsoft now requires competencies for the Silver and Gold partner programs.  To get your Office 365 Deployment Partner designation your company needs the Silver Messaging competency plus the Exchange 2013 70-341 and 70-342 (Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013) tests.  Office 365 migration experts won't ever need much of what's in those tests.  Why require it?  It's a burden on Partners and a waste of time.

I won't go further in to competencies and cloud programs in depth in this article.  Suffice it to say that I don't believe the requirements make a lot of sense.  Why would a partner that concentrates on Office 365 migrations certify employees in technologies required only for large enterprise on-premises infrastructure deployments?  I think the exam and learning people need to get together with the partner group and revisit what is required for Office 365 and design appropriate tests and curriculum to support just Office 365.

This means that Office 365 exams should be cross-product and function related.  There should be an Office 365 Administration course that covers cloud-relevant content for Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync.  There should be another exam on Office 365 Migration that covers Exchange hybrid, Active Directory (DirSync), identity (ADFS), mailbox migrations and SharePoint content migration.  Those tests would be truly useful to organizations and IT Pros that wanted to prove specific expertise in Office 365.

What are your thoughts on Office 365 certs versus integrated cloud in the separate product exams?  Give your opinions in the comments below.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cloud Visions - Who Needs a Network Anyway?

Do we really need a network at work?  I asked myself that question again recently and the answer is much closer to "no" than it used to be. With the proliferation of cloud services it is becoming ever easier to be productive from anywhere.

In a future blog post, perhaps I will dive in to how each of these items works in the cloud.  For now, though I want to offer you a vision of how life could be working from the cloud... imagine with me...

English: A black-over-transparency representat...Moving to the cloud could be as easy as clicking a button.  Right now when you purchase a new computer at work you join it to your Active Directory domain, load software on it, configure your desktop settings, connect to some file shares on the server and then work in local productivity or client / server applications.

In the future, you could join your computer to the cloud!  Imagine you are a new employee that was just given a new laptop with Windows 9 (this is the future, right?) on it at a new job.  You start your computer and then select an option on the Windows start screen to "Join Cloud."  You type in your personal (non business) username and password.  Single sign-on technologies would connect your personal username with your work username after typing in your business credentials as well.  Your system admin would have already selected what personal non-business preferences would be allowed to transfer and those would be synchronized to your laptop from the cloud.  The business applications and settings assigned to you would populate icons on your task bar or menu as well as they synchronize to your computer from the Windows Intune cloud service.

Once your computer has been provisioned for the cloud and all of the services set up (seamlessly and without your assistance) you would open the SharePoint icon to begin your work for the day.  You would view the previous day or week of activity of people on your team, review the most recent all-hands address from the CEO, fill out online HR documents to sign up for your benefits, digitally sign your electronic deposit salary form and choose the best health insurance and IRA plans.

Image representing Windows Live SkyDrive as de...
You begin by placing a PowerPoint for your call this afternoon in your SkyDrive for later use then start working on a report for your manager.  From your team's SharePoint Team Site you go to the reports library, add a new document set and templates for two Microsoft Word documents are created after you choose a name for them.  You click on the first document and choose to open it in your computer's locally-installed copy of Microsoft Word 2015 (remember... this is the future).  You customize your Word settings to set the default document font and change around your ribbon settings.  You finish editing the document and it is then automatically saved back to SharePoint.  You begin working on the second document in a similar manner, but you get a call from a customer.

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...
A screen pops on your screen, showing you a picture of the person calling, pulled from their Facebook or Linkedin account.  You take the call on your headset using the Lync Online voice-to-phone service, close your Word document, unfinished, and then transfer the call to your mobile phone as you walk out the door to lunch.  You transfer the call to your car's audio system and complete it hands free.  Late because of the unexpected call, you hurry to lunch.  As you finish eating and return to your car, you attend a webinar hosted in Lync from your phone but displaying wirelessly on your car's touchscreen display.  A notification displays on the car's display that the webinar is about to begin.  You click "Connect to Conference",  announce yourself and are admitted.  You see the slides being presented, video of the presenter talking and then participate in the conference yourself using the camera in your car while sharing the PowerPoint presentation that you stored in your SkyDrive this morning simply by choosing it from the app on your phone.

Instead of returning to the office you decide to work from home in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, you left your laptop at work though and you don't have Word 2015 installed at home.  After logging in to your home computer you connect to SharePoint, visit your team's site, find the document you didn't finish, click to open it and choose to edit it in Word.  Since you don't have Word installed you are prompted to wait while Word streams to your home computer.  After 20 or 30 seconds, Word opens and your document appears, ready for editing, along with your customized ribbon settings and default font!  You finish your document and close Word at which point SharePoint automatically notifies your boss that the report is ready to approve and send on to a customer.

Tired after a full day of very productive work you grab a beer and watch a remastered 3d holographic version of I Love Lucy in your home theater with your robot, Hal.

English: The famous red eye of HAL 9000So... how much of this is real and how much is fantasy?  Aside from that last bit with the beer, robot and 3d I Love Lucy, the technology for all of this exists today.  Some of it needs a bit more polishing and the parts where you "Join Cloud" and take a video call in your car are my idea... and possible... but haven't been built yet.  All in all, though, you can work pretty much "in the cloud" right now... using Microsoft technologies you're already familiar with.  And you can pay for all of this as you use it, buying only what you need and when you need it on a monthly subscription.

The Cloud is Here.  Love it.

Here's a list of several technologies I mention above and some others as well.  For each I show the old way and the cloud way.  Please feel free to add your own comments about how the cloud will change how we work.

Feature / ProductThe Old WayIn the Cloud
AntispamMessaging Gateway ProtectionHosted E-mail Security Services Acting as Secondary Delivery Points (Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange)
AntivirusServer and Client ApplicationsEndpoint Protection with Malware and Spyware Protection,
Back up and Disaster RecoveryTapes, Optical Media, Hard Drives, Backup AppsHybrid and Tiered Storage with Cloud Archives
Device ManagementGroup Policy & System Center Configuration ManagerWindows Intune
Identify ManagementActive DirectoryAzure Active Directory
Document CollaborationE-mail and Server File SharesSharePoint Online and Lync Online
Electronic CommunicationExchange E-mail ServerOffice 365 Exchange Online
File SharingWindows Server NTFS File SharesSharePoint Online & SkyDrive Pro
Instant Messging and PresenceICQ, MSN / AOL / Yahoo Messengers, Google TalkLync Online with Public Federation
Meetings and ConferencingPhysical Conference Rooms & WebExLync Online Video and Audio Conferences with an Integrated Conference Bridge
Mobile CommunicationWork Pager or Cell PhoneBring Your Own Device, mobile VoIP client (like Lync w/Jajah)
Placing Phone CallsPhone Systems, Copper Cables, Wired HandsetsVoIP Phone Systems and Computers with Headsets and VoIP Clients (like Lync w/Jajah)
Document ManagementFile Cabinets, File Sharing, Scanner ApplicationsSharePoint Online
Office Applications (word processing, spreadsheets, accounting or ERP)Local or client/server Installation via EXE or MSI FilesStreaming Office On Demand, Click To Run, Web Clients, RDP to Hosted Apps
Printing & FaxingPaper & Snail Mail or Printed FaxesPDF, Scanning and Electronic Delivery
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