Pexip’s puts Infinity into Microsoft’s Azure cloud

Pexip’s upcoming release will make another major technology leap, continuing to tear down the barriers that have historically plagued the communications industry.

The upcoming version of Pexip Infinity adds support for deployment to Microsoft Azure cloud.

It is a well known fact that “The Cloud” impacts organizations and businesses. “The Cloud” impacts how we work, how we interact with customers, and how we perform financially.

The shift and transformation to the cloud helps all organizations operationalize their use of IT infrastructure. From the technology to the finances, features and functions become easier to turn on and off on demand while driving up usage and scale easily and affordably. Cloud computing is a convenient tool and asset for many, and it continues to transform businesses every day.

As a direct result of customer requests, Pexip Infinity 12 introduces support for Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. As one of the three large native cloud platforms (Amazon Web Services — which is already supported by Pexip Infinity — and Google Cloud make up the two others), Azure provides organizations the ability to align cloud hosted compute under the same umbrella as other IT workflows. Many organizations are adopting Azure at scale today, and Pexip is the first vendor to bring scalable and interoperable video, audio, and web conferencing into this environment.

The promise of The Cloud

Enterprises want flexibility. They want flexibility in how they consume services and products, and they want flexibility in how they can scale up or down according to requirements. The cloud simplifies decision-making, reducing the need to plan long in advance for large hardware or infrastructure investments. The resources are available and can be leveraged in a moment’s notice.

And, according to a recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, Cloud Computing Increases Business Agility, the holy grail for many enterprises. No wonder leaders want to explore their options of how to deploy, manage and consume IT.

Pexip Infinity on the Azure Cloud

From version 12, Pexip Infinity can be deployed on the Microsoft Azure cloud service. Azure provides an infinitely scalable computing capacity and eliminates the need to make upfront hardware investments, so customers can deploy Pexip Infinity faster, and with less effort.

With Pexip Infinity on Microsoft Azure, customers can launch as many or as few virtual servers as needed, and use those virtual servers to host a Pexip Infinity Management Node and as many Conferencing Nodes as necessary to support their conferencing capacity requirements.

In a similar fashion to other Infinity cloud-hosted compute models, Infinity on Azure cloud can be combined with on-premises deployments for a seamless hybrid model.

Also read: To Cloud or not to Cloud – Pexip Infinity in Hybrid deployments

Cloud bursting elasticity — the ability to automatically* use cloud resources when necessary and turn them off when they are not required — provides Pexip customers with a unique ability to leverage the best that cloud hosting has to offer without incurring the heavy costs associated with always-on services.

Customers have the flexibility to scale up to handle changes in requirements or spikes in conferencing requirements as needed. Azure’s APIs and the Pexip Infinity management API can be leveraged to monitor usage and bring up or tear down Conferencing Nodes as required to meet conferencing demand.

How do I manage Pexip Infinity on Azure cloud?

Once set up, there is no difference to how you manage Pexip Infinity on Azure. The user experience is just the same, whether you choose an on-premises solution, an Azure cloud solution, or a combination of on-premises and cloud.

How do I get Pexip on Azure cloud?

Pexip will publish disk images for the Pexip Infinity Management Node and Conferencing Nodes. These images may be used to launch instances of each node type as required.

The fundamentals of Visual Communications

There are a few basic principles ensure that visual communications deployments are what they supposed to be.  In the past, these video conferencing roll-outs were relatively simple.  They were mostly confined to meeting rooms, with only a few desktop end points reserved for executives, and they usually connected colleagues either to one another at the office or, occasionally, to home users. Today that’s all changing and the key catalysts are Unified Communications (UC) and Activity Based Working (ABW).

There’s a rapid shift towards video everywhere.  Networks are expanding to include 4G and high speed internet connections, and employees are starting to use WiFi.  Meeting environments are transitioning from rigid old meeting rooms, to video available on laptops, tablets and smartphones.  The people we connect with are no longer just colleagues but now clients and suppliers as well as connections to home and mobile workers.  The landscape is completely different from what it was.

Scalability

This ‘explosion’ in video demand and usage is forcing many businesses to think more carefully about managing the user experience, which will drive wider adoption of visual communications solutions and, in turn, ensure better return on investment.  The best approach is to consider the fundamentals of successful visual communications and move forward from there.

The key is to recognise and accept that the number of video calls will increase rapidly over the next few years, as more smart devices become video-enabled, and demand to use them skyrockets. Eventually, you may have as many as three or four devices per person, plus your usual meeting rooms, all demanding access to video facilities.  Scalability is therefore all about whether your infrastructure and support processes can grow as fast as the increasing demand.  Will you continue to provide a good user experience regardless of how rapidly the solution scales?  One solution to management scalability the “as-a-service” model turning the whole solution from capital intensive to a consumption based OpEx model.

As demand increases, the service scales accordingly, and does so faster and more smoothly than businesses can do so internally.  Another possible option is outsourcing the infrastructure itself.  Platforms like Microsoft Skype for Business Online can now be used with legacy video endpoints for example to provide an elegant, cost effective solutions.  If the business needs to scale the number of end points, the supporting infrastructure grows accordingly with no additional capex, no need to wait for change controls, and no arduous procurement processes.

Business buyers are beginning to see that visual communications services involve more than purchasing a software licence or a piece of hardware.  It’s about the whole solutions (end point, the infrastructure, management, installation, Audio/Visual accessories and support) so that the outcome is quality and uniform across the organisation.

Uniformity

The key challenge for business today is achieving the same standard and quality of visual communications across all of their office locations.  Often, the experience is fair at its headquarters or major offices, which usually have high-touch support on hand. But it’s not the case with remote sites or home offices.  As a result, the utilisation of visual communications at headquarters sites is often much higher than at remote offices, and the user experience is equally better.

Uniformity requires the fundamentals to be in place, such as having a single directory, making sure the correct architectural controls are implemented, and then delivering the service consistently wherever the user’s may be.   This is often easier said than done for a business whose key focus is not communications technology.  A visual communications service provider like Generation-e that’s able to deliver such services can do so at a fraction of the cost that the business can provide internally and without the risk of employing, training and retaining personnel to do so.

Adoption & Change Management

Much has been said about the importance of user adoption and change management in the success of visual communications. Again, the uniformity of the user experience across locations contributes to both ease-of-use and increased usage.  It’s important to keep your most “luddite” users in mind − those who show an inherent reticence for using unfamiliar technology.  A concierge service may be an option to help these users, enabling them to enter a meeting room and simply meet but training and familiarisation is really the best approach.  If employed, the concierge meets and greets the participants to ensure that the call is set correctly. The concierge then leaves the meeting, but keeps monitoring the call, and can re-join if necessary.

It’s always worth considering a formal usage and adoption programme so that you people get the best out of the technology. This helps sustain users’ awareness of the benefits of the solution, as well as assisting the business to understand what their users want and need from the solutions.

Video end-points will increase rapidly over the next few years, as more smart devices become video-enabled and as workers become more distributed.

What users want today may be very different from what they expect in future.  It’s important to maintain the improvement of the visual communications strategy on an ongoing basis.  The balance between what’s ‘cool’ and new versus what’s practical and truly useful.  Previously it would have been questioned that there was real value in connecting to socially driven networks such as Skype.  Today, with the massive adoption of such platforms, it is mandatory so we can communicate with our customers.  

 

Any visual communications strategy you develop should tightly integrate into the businesses broader unified communications strategy.  Look out for ‘walled gardens’ solutions, in which you’re only able to call within their infrastructure or you may have no choice but to use that provider’s services which are often expensive or the provider may quite simply not support that call.  The net result is that visual communications often remains a poorly adopted technology. Consider partnering with a managed service for provider like Generation-e that can provide advanced services and utilises an open-standard architecture which can integrate into your overall unified communications approach.

Microsoft deprecates older Active Directory sync tools

Microsoft gave notice on its older Active Directory synchronization tools, giving IT pros almost a year to move to its newer Azure Active Directory Connect tool.

Today, Microsoft announced a “deprecation schedule” for Windows Active Directory Sync (DirSync) and Azure Active Directory Synchronization Services (Azure AD Sync). The announcement appeared to be somewhat retroactive, though.

Microsoft will no longer develop those products after April 13, 2016. It won’t support them after April 13, 2017, per the announcement.

Dead Products
In the recent past, Microsoft had said that DirSync and Azure AD Sync would be deprecated, but it hadn’t specified an exact date. The “deprecated” term means that the products continue to work, but Microsoft stops developing them. It’s Microsoft’s way of signaling a dead product.

Monty Python’s “

” comedy sketch maybe provides an apt metaphor for what this actually means for IT pros.

Going forward, Azure AD Connect is Microsoft’s favored sync tool. It has the most capabilities of all of Microsoft’s synchronization tools so far, according to Microsoft’s recently updated Azure article, “Hybrid identity directory integration tools comparison,” linked here (Microsoft tends to move this document around, so search for the title if the link fails). Even Microsoft Identity Manager 2016 currently lacks some capabilities that are enabled by the free Azure AD Connect tool.

Azure AD Connect is a wizard-like tool aimed at simplifying directory synchronization tasks. It used to be that only some sync tasks could be performed by using the older tools, but Microsoft seems to have quietly removed those restrictions.

Migration Options
IT pros using the two older tools have two options to move to Azure AD Connect, according to this Azure article. They can perform an in-place upgrade to Azure AD Connect under certain circumstances. Alternatively, they can perform a parallel deployment (also known as a “swing migration”), which involves using a new server running Azure AD Connect.

Microsoft also has a tool known as the Azure AD Connector for Forefront Identity Manager and Microsoft Identity Manager. Microsoft’s article linked above indicates that this tool is at “feature freeze.” It’s not formally deprecated, Microsoft claims, but “no new functionality is added and it receives no bug fixes,” which sounds very much like a deprecated product. In other words, it has ceased to be. Microsoft wants you off it.

DirSyn users and users of the Azure AD Connector for Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) won’t have the option to perform an in-place upgrade to Azure AD Connect, according to this Azure article:

An in-place upgrade will work for moving from Azure AD Sync or Azure AD Connect. It will not work for DirSync or for a solution with FIM + Azure AD Connector.

Moreover, Microsoft only recommends an in-place upgrade when organizations have “less than about 100,000 objects” on a single server. The reason for that restriction is that it will take a lot of time to perform the upgrade under that circumstance. With more than 50,000 objects, it will take “more than 3 hours to do the upgrade,” Microsoft explained, in this Azure article.

Consequently, some organizations will need to go through the swing migration process to move to Azure AD Connect. The swing migration process involves using two servers to perform the upgrade.

Despite all of the complexity involved in the retooling with Azure AD Connect, Microsoft has claimed that IT pros prefer using Microsoft’s free tools over third-party software tools to sync up with Azure AD. Earlier this month, Microsoft indicated that it had 100,000 customers syncing their on-premises directories with Azure AD. Alex Simons, director of program management for the Microsoft Identity Division, said that the tools use breakdown was as follows:

45k are using Azure AD Connect, 46K are using DirSync, 7.5K are using Azure AD Sync and just over 500 are using Microsoft Identity Manager or FIM. The remaining 1% are using other solutions.

Back in January, Simons had described the use of Azure AD sync tools in terms of percentages. He said at that time that Azure AD Connect was used by 17 percent of tenants. In contrast, DirSync was used by 50 percent, while Azure AD Sync had a 9 percent use rate. Based on those figures, it seems that Azure AD Connect’s popularity has rapidly grown in just a few months’ time. It’s the preferred tool for multiple forest environments, which the older tools can’t handle.

This article first appeared in Redmond Mag.

Retail shopping is in midst of a tech revolution

The woman next to you on the streetcar has a killer handbag. Snap a picture on your phone, and an app reveals its designer and where it’s sold.

You pass a shoe store on a Saturday stroll, and your phone flashes a push notification that the leather boots you’ve put off buying are 40 per cent off.

You walk into a department store with one task: find a toaster oven. Open an app that guides you to the aisle and offers discounts on items en route.

This is not the future of shopping. It is the new reality.

These shopper marketing tools developed by Toronto companies are just a few of the strategies being deployed by retailers to segment monolithic customer bases into target demographics, even individuals.

Shopper marketing blends big data collection — tracking consumers’ locations, and browsing and purchase histories — with psychology, to influence shoppers while they are in stores, at the point of purchase. Bricks-and-mortar retailers are harnessing consumer insights to offer convenient, customized experiences to lure shoppers from their couches and into the malls.

Data-rich smartphones have simplified the art of consumer intelligence for physical retailers, putting within reach a dream they have long chased: a world where they know what you want before you do.

To some extent, retailers can already predict our behaviour, says Neil Stern, a senior partner at retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle.

About 80 per cent of grocery lists are repetitive, he says. Mobile technology has made tracking habitual behaviour — those everyday decisions we make so repeatedly they’re automatic — more precise and efficient than ever.

Some tools, such as Slyce, the app that can turn a photo into a purchase, require consumers to actively download the program. Others, such as iSign, automatically relay location-based offers, which users can opt to accept or reject.

Hudson’s Bay uses Apple’s iBeacon sensors to deliver offers to customers based on their in-store location and shopping history, while Loblaw’s PC Plus loyalty program taps into consumers’ past purchases to send them tailored deals.

And this is just the beginning of advanced customer profiling, Stern says. “It could progress to the point where it is almost as individual as a person, where yours would be almost like a fingerprint.”

While the technology does raise privacy concerns, Stern says the biggest barrier to widespread adoption is consumers themselves — changing shopping patterns is difficult and slow.

For most shoppers, there’s still a line between customization and creepiness. But it’s getting blurrier.

Consumers, especially this generation of digital natives, have grown accustomed to being tracked, said Allison Johnson, faculty director at Western University’s Ivey Behavioral Research lab.

In the field of consumer psychology, this is called habituation — repeated exposure desensitizes us until we feel comfortable with being targeted.

Studies show personalized marketing generally increases consumer satisfaction, Johnson says. The fact that it can feel creepy? That, she says, just shows how good the data is at nailing us down. And yes, she adds, people really are that predictable.

When campaigns go terribly wrong, companies do risk losing customers. But backlash is incredibly rare compared to the number of people for whom the technology is useful, she says.

Target famously crossed the line in its study of purchase behavior, which aimed to determine when women were pregnant based on a combination of items they bought. Some women found the campaign intrusive, and one father reportedly found out his teen daughter was pregnant based on the targeted advertising.

Johnson believes an eagerness to capitalize on analytics overshadowed social intelligence, leading to consumers discovering how much the company knew.

Stern says retailers should use Disney World’s Magic Band as an example of how to play up the consumer experience and de-emphasize data collection’s “creep factor.”

The company touts the wristband as a way to make payment at its parks easier, help users get through lines quicker and unlock “special surprises, personalized just for you.”

The device is so omniscient that it can identify the whereabouts of a Hispanic family whose daughter loves Elsa from Frozen, and then have Elsa find her and greet her in Spanish, Stern says.

Striking that balance between customization and creepiness is one of the biggest challenges for the retail clients of Aislelabs, a Toronto-based big data analytics firm.

Co-founder Nilesh Bansal says the technology gives established retailers a better footing to compete with advancements made in e-commerce — the key is to explain as much as possible to consumers and give them an option to opt out.

“With this technology, they know that you walked into the store, and this is your third visit this year, and typically you browse in a particular part of the store, so they know a little more about you to offer you personalized content.”

The technology is still in its infancy, but is developing rapidly, he says.

A decade from now, the way consumers interact within the mall will be more efficient and convenient, he says — they’ll browse products on their phones, touch and try on the options, then make payments through their mobile wallets.

A look at Toronto’s shopper-marketing tools

Toronto is home to many shopper marketing platform companies of all different sizes that are at the forefront of a technological revolution in retail. Here’s a look at some of them:

Slyce

The visual search technology, also known as the “Shazam for stuff,” is integrated into retailer’s apps. It allows users to take pictures of items and find the product or something closely matching from the retailer’s line.

Users can then either purchase the item through their smartphone or are directed to the nearest retailer. The technology can also deliver deals and other content to those snapping images.

Retailers collect a host of data whenever a user inputs an image.

Slyce’s first customer 11 months ago was Niemen Marcus. It has since signed deals with Home Depot, JC Penney, Toys R Us and Urban Outfitters, among others.

iSign

The Richmond Hill-based proximity-oriented messaging platform pushes ads through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Consumers can choose or refuse to view them. The tech reports the results, along with the make and model of mobile devices, to the retailers.

iSign can target users inside or outside of stores, concerts, airports and sporting events with offers and other content. The company says it doesn’t collect any personal information such as names or phone numbers and doesn’t require a download from the user.

The service is especially popular with younger shoppers, particularly when it comes to fast food offers. Business partners include Telus, IBM, Verizon and Baylor University.

Unata

The Toronto-based start-up allows physical retailers to tailor experiences for customers by integrating purchasing, loyalty, flyers and promotions into one app.

Focused largely on grocers, it links emails, mobile, web and bricks and mortar shopping to give shoppers an omni-channel shopping experience.

Unata received $1.2 million in funding this year and says it plans to use the money to expand in the U.S. markets. Clients include Longo’s and Grocery Gateway and Lowes.

Linkett

The Toronto- and Waterloo-based start-up has developed an in-store mobile marketing system that doesn’t require users to download an app.

Instead, they use screens in stores that activate when a customer approaches. They offer personalized content such as a video or coupon, and ask them to sign into its Wi-Fi to receive it.

If they do, a browser opens and they’ll receive the content.

The company says they’ve been particularly successful in increasing sales of so-called impulse buys.

The system has been installed in GTA locations including Staples and Oxford Properties. About half of its business is in the U.S., where it boasts Big Red Liquors among its top clients.

This article excerpt, by Business Reporter Sunny Freeman, originally appeared here: http://www.thestar.com/busines…

SharePoint Meets Office 365

Microsoft has put the finishing touches on SharePoint Server 2016, which shares more common features and integration with Office 365.

Since it went into beta last year, Microsoft has emphasized “hybrid” SharePoint Server 2016 deployments in which on-premises-based server farms are able to tap Office 365 cloud-based services. That hybrid message has been an important one for Microsoft server customers to hear. The Microsoft “cloud-first” focus, along with some SharePoint-associated product deprecation announcements, perhaps caused some organizations to wonder about the company’s SharePoint Server commitments.

Not surprisingly, the majority of SharePoint deployments still have on-premises components. A recent survey by Rencore, a maker of SharePoint code analysis software for developers, of 1,000 SharePoint professionals worldwide found 49 percent used SharePoint Server on-premises. Just 24 percent indicated they used SharePoint Online and 25 percent reported using “hybrid” configurations, or a mixture of SharePoint Server and Microsoft cloud services, according to the survey. “People weren’t jumping on the cloud bandwagon, so what Microsoft has done is given us onramps to the cloud in the form of hybrid workloads,” said SharePoint MVP Matthew McDermott, founder and principal consultant with Aptilon Inc., in an interview during November’s SharePoint Live! conference in Orlando, Fla. (Like Redmond magazine, the conference is produced by 1105 Media Inc. See the complete interview here.)

Hybrid Search
The so-called “hybrid search” feature in SharePoint Server 2016 is getting the most attention. “The hybrid story for search is really exciting,” McDermott said. “Up until now with SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010, the hybrid story was disjointed. The team re-architected the Office 365 crawling and indexing process to support this, which is an amazing feat. And then what we now can do is connect our on-premises crawler to our Office 365 tenant. The crawling is done on-premises so we can introduce file shares, SharePoint content and BCS [Business Connectivity Services] content into our Office 365 index, where all of the content from Office 365 is already indexed.

“So now we have one set of results that is relevancy ranked. The relevancy ranking is consistent across the result set. If I’m searching from Office 365, I have secure access to the content. I can see files from on-premises file shares in the cloud. I can get previews for my on-premises environment if I have that connection set up.”

The hybrid search capability works across multiple SharePoint farms, McDermott noted, and it can reduce the number of servers needed for SharePoint search. The cloud-based index that’s used for hybrid search is enabled by the SharePoint Search Server Application, which connects with the Azure Active Directory service.

Jeff Fried, chief technology officer at BA Insight, said Microsoft has gotten the message that organizations will continue to run SharePoint on-premises, and that hybrid is going to stay. The use of the Cloud Search Service Application will address the current problems that are seen with the SharePoint Server 2013 hybrid search experience, said Fried, who gave a presentation on this new feature at SharePoint Live!.

Microsoft has built Cloud Search Service Application natively into SharePoint Server 2016, but it also will be available for SharePoint Server 2013, and the search crawling capability will extend across SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2007 workloads. To use the new SharePoint hybrid search capability will require an Office 365 subscription, SharePoint Server on-premises, the synchronization of user identities to the Azure Active Directory service (using Azure AD Sync), the use of file shares and BCS connectors.

Federated Search
The current hybrid search capability that’s used with SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 services is described as a “federated hybrid search” approach. With this approach, a search query will return results from Microsoft datacenters and also from the on-premises servers of the customer, but there will be “no affinity between the two data sets,” according to a description by Bill Baer, a senior product marketing manager for the Microsoft SharePoint Product Group.

The new Microsoft hybrid search capability with the Cloud Search Service Application will centralize the search index in the cloud. Instead of having separate search indices, with one index residing in Microsoft datacenters and one index located in a customer’s on-premises infrastructure, the improved hybrid search capability will use Microsoft Cloud for the index. Other Office 365 services can then tap this same cloud-based index, such as the Microsoft Delve service, which surfaces information about people and activities within an organization. Anything put into the Microsoft Cloud-based index will show up in the Office Graph, which is the search technology underlying the Delve service, Fried noted. Microsoft DLP and e-discovery technologies also will work with the new hybrid search, the company said during a presentation at least year’s Ignite conference in Chicago.

Hybrid Caveats
The need for reverse-proxy servers or a VPN to access on-premises-based server content remotely is the weakest part of the new SharePoint hybrid search experience, according to Fried. He explained that if an organization wants to provide remote access to documents and lists residing inside the organization’s firewall (for so-called “inbound searches”), then it will likely need a reverse-proxy capability, as well as identity solutions. Single sign-on identity capability can be used to ease the access experience for end users, for instance.

In short, organizations will need a synchronized directory such as Active Directory running with some sort of directory synchronization for the new hybrid search capability, Fried noted. He added that Azure Active Directory is associated with every Office 365 tenant, so many organizations likely already have access to this directory synchronization capability. The setup process has improved. The Microsoft DirSync directory synchronization was replaced by Azure AD Sync, so it now takes an hour to set up directory synchronization, instead of days, according to Fried. He added that the Azure AD Sync capability is well-documented by Microsoft, but it’s still hard to test it. He suggested provisioning another tenant to go through that process.

Key considerations for implementing the new hybrid search capability include security and regulatory concerns. Some countries have data export restrictions, which is the No. 1 reason not to put content in the cloud, Fried said.

While the search index resides in Microsoft datacenters, Microsoft claims overall security for the new hybrid search capability. “The content metadata is encrypted when it’s transferred to the search index in Office 365, so the on-premises content remains secure,” Baer has claimed.

There are some features in SharePoint Online that are missing, which constitute reasons to keep some things on-premises, according to Fried. Examples include the translation service and cross-site publishing, he noted. On the other hand, Microsoft likely won’t bring some of its “cloud-first” capa­bilities to its on-premises-based server products. Those essentially are “cloud-only” capabilities, according to Fried. For instance, the Microsoft Yammer enterprise social networking service is only delivered via the Microsoft Cloud. Other examples include the Delve and Power BI solutions. Fried said that Power BI “could perfectly well go on-premises, but Microsoft doesn’t want to do that because it wants these things in the cloud.” Organizations can respond by either migrating everything to the cloud at their own pace or they can coexist via a hybrid model, which are two different strategies, Fried said.

System Requirements
Hardware requirements for SharePoint Server 2016 won’t be different from the preceding product, SharePoint Server 2013. On the software requirements side, organizations will need Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows Server 2016 in place. They’ll also need SQL Server 2014 SP1 or SQL Server 2016.

These details were described by Vlad Catrinescu, a Microsoft MVP, during a January Crow Canyon Systems Inc. webinar. Catrinescu recommended going with SQL Server 2016, if that’s an option. Upgrading from SharePoint Server 2013 to SharePoint Server 2016 is really fast, Catrinescu said. However, if an organization is using SharePoint Server 2010, then there’s no direct upgrade path to SharePoint Server 2016. It will be necessary to upgrade to SharePoint Server 2013 first before making that hop.

Some Limits Removed
SharePoint Server 2016 is removing some limits seen with Microsoft’s earlier releases. For instance, there was a list item limit of no more than 5,000 items for SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2013. SharePoint Server 2016 now permits more than 5,000 items in a list, with some caveats. Catrinescu said that the maximum he has seen is 120,000 items in the same list view and he said it works, but it’s not fast. The problem isn’t with SharePoint, he explained, but with SQL Server, which can lock if you query a list with more than 5,000 rows in a table.

Microsoft also increased file sizes used with SharePoint Server 2016. The maximum file size previously was 2GB, but now it’s 10GB (which is the recommended limit) or greater. Catrinescu said he’s tried a file that’s 15GB in size and it works. While the file size expansion is a good thing, Catrinescu cautioned IT pros that they should still keep an eye on the growth of their content database sizes.

Site collections per database got a boost with SharePoint Server 2016. The old limit was 5,000 site collections. The new server expands that limit to 100,000 site collections.

Other Benefits
Microsoft is promising that SharePoint Server 2016 will have a greatly improved patching experience for IT pros. This so-called “zero downtime patching” claim for SharePoint Server 2016 is “not a myth,” Catrinescu said. It works, but organizations will need to use the MinRole topology with high availability to have that capability. He explained that to patch SharePoint Server, there are two required steps. The update needs to be installed first and then the PSConfig program needs to be run. With SharePoint Server 2016, the schema update process doesn’t cause server downtime, but MinRole with high availability will be needed to get that benefit.

Another new feature is the ability to create durable links, where URL links don’t break when files get moved. That’s an issue today with SharePoint Server 2010. However, Catrinescu noted that to use the durable links feature with SharePoint Server 2016, organizations likely will need to install Office Online Server. The Office Online Server also brings benefits for business intelligence and search capabilities, he added.

Microsoft has enabled a Fast Site Collection Creation feature for SharePoint Server 2016. It copies a template at the database level to speed up the site collection process.

Microsoft has integrated Project Server, which now functions as a service application in SharePoint Server 2016. This feature eliminates having to oversee two separate patching activities.

SharePoint Server 2016 also is bringing the ability to use SMTP ports other than the default one (Port 25). Other ports now can be used to send e-mails.

The new DLP capability that arrives with SharePoint Server 2016 can be used to find sensitive info before it gets leaked in e-mails. It’ll flag things like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and bank account numbers, protecting against disclosure, and also advising the end user about the issue. It works with the Microsoft E-Discovery Center, which has a query capability to find sensitive documents.

The Future of SharePoint?
The release of SharePoint Server 2016 has many experts wondering if Microsoft’s emphasis on creating hybrid environments with Office 365 spells a long-term plan to phase out the on-premises version. Organizations will always need to run some components in their datacenters, given security and regulatory compliance requirements, it’s argued. With SharePoint Server 2016, Microsoft seems to be addressing that hybrid need, but how might Microsoft’s emphasis on Office 365 services affect the product’s future? The server could eventually fade into the background, according to Christian Buckley, a longtime SharePoint and Office 365 Microsoft MVP.

“On the current product trajectory I can easily envision that SharePoint within Office 365 will fade into the background, and while it will play a critical infrastructural role, out-of-the-box (OOTB) solutions and ‘experiences’ will displace the way we know and use SharePoint today,” wrote Buckley, who is CMO of Beezy Inc., a provider of tools for both SharePoint and Office 365. Buckley, a onetime architect of the original SharePoint team, recently shared his predictions in a Redmondmag.com article. “I would not be surprised to see the brand become synonymous with on-premises only,” he suspects. “I believe it may take another version or two before it comes to fruition.”

This article first appeared in Redmond Magazine and can be found at Redmond Magazine 

5 Reasons To Switch To Microsoft Office 365

In business, keeping up with technology is of the utmost importance, both to keep pace with competitors in the industry, as well as to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Microsoft’s new Office 365 suite is a state of the art enterprise IT environment and is totally changing the way most businesses work. If you haven’t already migrated your business to Office 365, take a look at this list of 5 important reasons why you should.

A System That Grows With Your Business

One of the beautiful facts of Microsoft’s Office 365 is that is a system based off of “you pay for what you get”. Smaller business are able to employ only the features and aspects that would be beneficial to their operation, but as the business grows, are able to implement additional services and data storage as needed.

The OneDrive for Business, which is the storage side of the suite, provides businesses with a colossal amount of storage space at an affordable cost. This means the worry and expense of having to purchase new hard drives for additional storage space are no more.

No Server and Maintenance Worries

Microsoft Office 365 is available on the cloud but is also flexible enough to integrate into a business’s on-premise solutions should it be required to do so. The cloud offers so many advantages, with the most significant being in terms of cost effectiveness, and the savings in regards to maintenance costs associated with local servers. Instead, data gets stored in the Office 365 Trust Center, meaning all sensitive information is safe and secure in the hands of Microsoft.

The Flexibility to Work Anywhere, Anytime

Because Microsoft Office 365 is cloud- based, it means colleagues no longer have to be gathered in the same office, or chained to their desks in order to be productive, especially as a group. With the Office suite, it is possible to work from any device, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, from any location, and security is never an issue because it is all backed by Microsoft’s comprehensive security measures.

A Unified User Interface For a Collaborative Workflow

Microsoft has many great business tool apps, many of which are free and available on the Windows store. This is a great feature of the Office 365 suite, as users are able to select the tools that benefit them, and add them to the Office 365 home screen so they can be easily accessed in one convenient place.

Because the focus of Microsoft Office 365 is on making workflows more collaborative and streamlined, the entire Office productivity suite is available to users online, which allows colleagues and coworkers to easily make edits, leave comments, and improve documents in real time, from anywhere, without having to download the document.

A Simple Migration

Although the idea of migration may be overwhelming and confusing to some, making the move to Office 365 is an easy one. The transition is simple, regardless of the storage tools currently in use. The true beauty of Microsoft Office 365 is that thanks to the constant updates and improvements made by Microsoft, there will never be the need to migrate your data again.

Although transitioning everything to Microsoft Office 365, and implementing it amongst users may be a considerable amount of work, the switch is well worth it to be able to move operations over to a highly collaborative and efficient solution for your business.

This article excerpt originally appeared here: https://www.amnet.net/5-reason…


Modern Collaboration with Office 365

Since its introduction in 2001, Microsoft SharePoint evolved into the de-facto standard for collaboration and content sharing from small businesses to the largest enterprise and government customers. SharePoint provides a web based productivity environment where users can organize and share files, forms, web content, and structured data such as calendars, contacts, and small databases with internal or external users securely with minimal support from IT. CIOs and business leaders embraced the concept of the empowered information worker and invested billions annually in hardware, licensing, third party tools, and professional services. Microsoft SharePoint was the productivity hub within Microsoft Office, providing users with portals, search, collaboration, business process automation, business intelligence, web content management, and personal document storage, enterprise and social networking capabilities. With so many features rolled into a single product, SharePoint’s rapid adoption sometimes caused confusion or sprawl without proper information architecture, governance and controls. Following the release of SharePoint 2013, Microsoft declared a shift in strategy away from a three-year SharePoint release cycle toward continuous product improvements in a new cloud-first model within Office 365. Over the past year, many of the core capabilities of traditional (i.e., on-premises) SharePoint have evolved into their own brand user experiences within Office 365. Since its inception, SharePoint has focused on collaboration, so today we’ll highlight the modern collaboration experience within Office 365.

Work Anywhere on Any Device

Traditional assumptions about how and where we work are changing. Smart phones, tablets, and pervasive high-speed wireless have shaped the expectations of both Gen Y and Millennials who expect to be connected and communicating all the time. Teams consistently interact with more people across geographies at a faster pace while more team members work remotely and bring their own devices to work. The modern information worker expects to snap a picture from a smart phone and securely share exactly as they would their photos from a weekend adventure. “Everything that we are building is going to be built for this mobile world where the mobility of the experience across devices matters, where social collaboration and co-creation is core to what we do.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Ignite 2015 Office 365 is hosted in the Microsoft cloud enabling users to access the service from any internet connected device without being attached to a corporate network. New apps for iOS and Android enable persistent login and support for notifications and device consistent experiences.

Personal Files—OneDrive for Business

Office 365 includes 1TB of free personal storage with “lightweight” file syncing and sharing for every user in your organization via OneDrive for business. In addition to having your data backup, all content is automatically indexed for full text search,and can be shared with others inside your organization. An organization can choose to enable external sharing invitations to easily facilitate file collaboration with customers or business partners. The OneDrive application for iOS and Android enables users to browse, search, view, edit, and share both personal files and files shared by one’s coworkers. OneDrive lets users leave the laptop in the bag and get work done from any device.

Dynamic Teams Working Together

Office 365 Groups In the new world of work, we collaborate with more people. Teams can form quickly to take on a task and evolve over time as new members join. Great file sharing is certainly a prerequisite for team collaboration yet without context, users can miss the narrative, slowing down the team. Office 365 Groups bring together a number of different services from across the platform to improve the productivity of teams. Groups provide a simplified experience overlaying capabilities of a distribution list, a security group, an Exchange shared mailbox and Calendar, a One Drive library, and a OneNote shared Notebook. Office 365 Groups are self-service by default enabling any user to create a group and add members in seconds. As an example, I can create and add team members to a group (Project A) for a project team. Because it’s a security group, I can share files from my personal OneDrive or a SharePoint site with “Project A.” Because it’s a distribution list, I can email a note or calendar invite to our project sponsor and CC “Project A” to keep the team informed. As new people join the project over time, they can see the full conversation history stored within the group and come up to speed faster. New social gestures such as @mentions or liking comments have been added recently. From the Outlook Groups app on my iPhone or Android device, I can access the group’s conversations, shared files or OneNote notebook. At our project kickoff meeting I’ll use OneNote on my phone to capture a picture of the whiteboard and integrate it into the notes being captured from a PC using real-time co-authoring. The Outlook Groups app notifies me when a member of my team modifies a file or adds a new thread to the group’s conversations keeping me informed about my project while on the go.

SharePoint Team Sites

With the introduction of OneDrive and Office 365 Groups it’s important to understand that SharePoint Team Sites continue to play an important role. Team Sites support web content authoring, multiple document libraries, multiple calendars, custom lists or databases, workflows, metadata, custom navigation, access apps, subsites and a number of other features key to advanced content management or collaboration scenarios. SharePoint Team Sites have the most flexibility and will continue to be worth the additional training, governance, and information architecture to maximize their value for appropriate scenarios.

Bringing it all together with Delve

 As new Office 365 services are introduced and new places to store data are created, finding information fast is actually getting easier due to Delve. Delve is an Office 365 service that uses machine learning to analyze interactions inside Office 365 to determine who you are “Working With” and what content is “Trending Around You”. For example, Delve will surface a file that was presented to you at a meeting a week ago or a document that a teammate edited last night. In a virtuous loop, Delve enables you to find “People through Content” and “Content through People.” If I were searching for information about a new product my company is developing, I can use Delve to find the people associated with that product and the other content those individuals create. Delve respects all permissions and will only show you content that you have right to see, but you will be amazed when you see the collective knowledge of your organization as presented to you by Delve. By 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce will be Generation Y and Z members—grown up in a connected, collaborative, and mobile environment. New mobile-first, cloud-first experiences from Office 365 leverage once disparate services from Active Directory, Exchange, and SharePoint to connect teams and increase productivity in ways never before possible. Ubiquitous mobile access in concert with a modern collaboration toolset in Office 365 can enable content creation, discovery, and consumption across devices, geographies, and companies at an unprecedented pace. Through a continuous delivery model, Office 365 delivers new value and innovation each month. Given the sheer effort of keeping up with the volume of innovation coming from Microsoft, having skilled and experienced partners is a higher priority than ever. Microsoft partners and local user groups can help you stay connected to the latest and transform your organization.

This article excerpt, by Microsoft leader David Feldman, originally appeared here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse…

‘Skype for Business’ Features Improved Voice & Video Calls

Microsoft has recently introduced Skype for Business for the Android platform.
According to the Office Blog, the newly improved Skype is mainly created for those who are on the go and have little time to spare when meeting with clients. Some of the most notable updates include the Quick Join feature, where a user has to simply click one button to be immediately included in a meeting. All you have to do after clicking Quick Join is select which meeting you wish to attend and start from there. The feature includes quick access to recent conversations as well as full-screen videos that have larger control buttons for easy access.

Skype for Business also include better contact management. Here, the user will be able to swiftly locate a contact by just typing the name, email or just the phone number of the person. Adding or removing of contact has also been made easier. Along with a better contact management are additional authentication and security options. The Skype for Business for Android has been integrated with modern authentication that uses other Office clients. User’s credentials, on the other hand, are not stored on the device platform.

The “Skype for Business” for Android is now available on the Google Play Store, which means that it has already gone through extensive updates and is ready to be used globally.

According to NeuroGadget, this latest update from Microsoft has been highly assimilated to the Office 365 and other improved features include voice and video calls as well as providing an excellent meeting experience. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also confirmed that the Skype for Business System is connected to the Azure Cloud. The computing system will be responsible in managing the services and applications of global services; in return, Microsoft will do the hosting.

Skype for Business is one of the most practical and organized ways of holding a meeting, not to mention the various ways it can save recent conversations as well as producing real-time videos for each participant. In the modern day and for people who are always on-the-go, Skype delivers an unprecedented service that is accessible to any user wherever they are.

The virtual gathering also provide document sharing, making Skype for Business an even more effective medium for meetings and client calls.

This article excerpt, by Latin Post author Mel Abad, originally appeared here: http://www.latinpost.com/articles/102782/20151217/skype-business-features-improved-voice-video-calls-more-details-here.htm

Seven Benefits of Video Conferencing for the Millennial Workforce

Countless studies have shown that the large majority of communication is nonverbal. A famous UCLA study measures it at 93%. In business, particularly, being able to ensure you have the attention of your team, or being able to gauge the mood of a client, is key to the decision-making and negotiation processes.

Video conferencing effectively puts everyone in the same room at the same time with the accountability of having to be present and aware of everything being said. This is something Millennials are keenly aware of. Millennials currently account for the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce. Companies will soon realize that they prefer to work on their own time at a location of their choosing. This means that employers need to make adjustments that allow for this generation to feel comfortable working at any level and will need to provide access to communication technologies that allow for this new trend of remote work. Access to video conferencing becomes a significant factor, as the inclination to collaborate is another innate characteristic that most Millennials share.

When a company successfully recruits a promising young employee, it is important to retain that Millennial talent and ensure that he or she is delivering productivity and ROI. It takes over six months for a new hire to become fully productive, and a big part of the learning curve is communication. Millennials have high expectations of a modern workplace, and the benefits of video conferencing can help meet those expectations, including:

  • Introductions to co-workers around the globe – Companies can provide new hires with video conferencing software and a contact list, giving them immediate connections to internal networks.
  • Providing access to managers and mentors – Managers can schedule video conferences of peers, mentors, and others with the same job function in the company in order to provide overviews of projects and tasks to new hires.
  • Training – It is very natural for Millennials to use video conferencing for training; it is something they will expect as opposed to binder training. If training is presented in short, interactive snippets and is available in context with a longer video presentation, this will help new hires perform.
  • Work/life balance – Millennials see flexible working as an important employee benefit. Organizations that allow employees an occasional work-from-home day using video conferencing for meetings and other contact will be able to retain smart people who may enjoy being trusted to work unsupervised. Millennials prefer to work on their own time at a location of their choosing. Access to video conferencing becomes a significant factor as the desire to collaborate is an inherent characteristic that most Millennials share.
  • Immediate feedback – Millennials need immediate feedback. Instead of waiting to find out from a manager how their video presentation was perceived, they can get feedback from multiple-choice polling, managed comments, and Q&A sessions, all while the document is fresh in everyone’s mind.
  • Use of personal devices – Young workers are used to using their personal devices on a regular basis and will be more comfortable and productive if allowed to use them for video conferences and other collaboration in the workplace as well.
  • Reduced travel – Millennials like to enjoy free time with family and friends. Traveling for business can take them away from this, and video conferencing can reduce their time on the road.

In less than a decade, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. Value-added resellers that take the time to explain to their clients why it is worthwhile to treat Millennial talent with respect will be able to show more reasons why video conferencing and other collaboration tools are important to invest in. With the addition of these technologies, Millennials are more likely to stick with a company since they have the tools to be productive. Companies that start off on the right foot with technologies that Millennials like, such as video conferencing, may find that their new starter today may even be with the company down the road.

This article excerpt originally appeared here: http://www.ingrammicroadvisor….

Current Trends in Business Communication

Anyone who has owned or worked for a business knows that the continual advancement of technology goes hand in hand with the advancement of business communication. In the last ten years alone, the tremendous technological advancements that have taken place in communication have changed they way we do business so drastically that we view the communication trends of pre-2000 as ‘vintage’. So in a conversation about current trends, be aware that in a few days they will be old trends.

Cloud computing is the latest trend to hit business communication. The most simple way to describe cloud computing is by comparing it to an electricity grid. A ‘cloud’ of shared servers provides resources such as software and data to a host of other computers – all on demand. In reality cloud computing is the natural evolution of the web-based world of communication. It takes the management of the technological infrastructure out of the hands of the IT professionals, who can now focus on their areas of expertise such as development. The use of cloud computing from a business communication standpoint brings in the discussion of finance. Small to medium size businesses no longer have need to purchase, set up and maintain their own server. Capital expenditure budgets are reduced, possibly entailing a conversion of those dollars to the operations expenditure side of the ledger. Another huge benefit to cloud computing in business is how it lowers the barriers of entry into the market. New businesses can simply supply themselves with the appropriate equipment to manufacture their product, a computer and an internet connection, and be ready to communicate to their customers.

The book reader is one of the latest trends to appear on the business communication horizon, but it is not clear if purveyors of commerce have fully appreciated its potential. The book reader has the ability to scan printed material, recognize the characters and using text-to-speech software, play it on the user’s computer or mobile audio player. In other words, you could listen to this article on your iPod. Most business people receive their email on their phone and check, now large volume documents, contracts, training manuals and other printed matter could be downloaded to any device. The affect on business communication is potentially quite significant, but the software is not widely tested or used as yet.

Social media networking has officially crossed over from only being used socially to an important and viable method of customer relationship management (CRM). Using tools like Facebook, blogs, public forums and wiki sites, business can better know how to attract and keep their customers. CRM begins with acquiring new customers through contact management, sales and customer satisfaction. Enhancing CRM occurs through excellent business communication and the use of customer service tools such as product experts and ease of purchasing. Retaining customers occurs through loyalty and reward. CRM software or databases can notify the business owner of long term clients and create the ability to recognize them through promotional measures.

Streamlining every phase of business communication will always be a trend in business. Making it easier for your client to send and receive materials or communication from you is increasingly important. Many companies are choosing to create interactive websites whereby the client can attain a report, invoice or product information whenever they feel the need. This creates a whole new level of service quality, as well as opening up the field of business communication. No longer does the client have to wait for 9 am Monday morning.

PowerPoint presentations have been around for over a decade, but they are still a valuable audiovisual tool in business communication. Dynamic presentations aimed at teaching the client about the product or service are full of impact and have a much clearer result than a one-dimensional oral presentation. Even telephones are being used in a more purposeful way in business communication, and not always for talking. Email, text messaging and internet are readily available and highly useful tools for any business person. Plus book readers (as previously mentioned) will soon allow business related documents to be read on a cell phone.

Technology will continue to advance and new communication devices will emerge. The trick to successful business communication is in keeping up with trends and learning how they can make your business better.

This article excerpt originally appeared here: http://iwantoread.com/index.ph…/