Office 365 Group Management and Auto-Expiration Public Preview

If you’ve been working with Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, you probably remember a utility that was made available as a part of SharePoint Server 2003 to automatically delete old site collections that hadn’t been worked with in a while. This was an incredibly helpful utility for system administrators that were watching their SharePoint systems grow virally with the use of Self Service Site Collection creation.

If you’re not familiar with Self Service Site Collection Creation, it’s probably because it was removed from the SharePoint Products and Technologies and then brought back. Self Service Site Collection creation was incredibly beneficial to when users needed to get something up and running as quickly as possible but typically meant that users were creating site collections that may or may not have necessarily fit within the taxonomy of sites that were being implemented by their organization. What does that mean? Well, in some instances duplicative sites and site collections that were owned by different individuals that perhaps weren’t knowledgeable of one another were created, nor did they always find out that the other site / site collection existed since SharePoint Search follows the permissions model and trims out things that you don’t have access to see.

With Office 365’s SharePoint Online, site collection followed a similar life cycle where only certain individuals (SharePoint Service Administraotrs) had the ability to create them. This helped to limit the sprawl of site collections and knowledge but in some instances caused end users to use other Rogue IT services as they found the process for creating a new site to be cumbersome.

Enter in Office 365 Groups and the ability for end users to quickly stand up a collaboration group without the need of an approval from an IT Manager or someone concerned with site taxonomy.  This effectively allows end users to provision a document library, a OneNote notebook, a calendar and a running history of messages that have been sent to the group. Sure it’s possible for the overarching administrator to turn this capability off (Groups) but the question then becomes, “Do you want to limit what your users can do with this Software as a Service platform and limit their ability to collaborate?” That’s a question that I know I comes up regularly – primarily when it comes to governance.

Back with SharePoint Server 2003 the added ability to have a script run and determine when a site collection was last modified which gave them the ability to then send an email to the site collection owner asking them if they were still using the site. Alternatively it was possible to just have the script watch and if it didn’t see a change over a certain period the site collection would be deleted.  Pretty handy – this actually was introduced with Office 365 in OneDrive for Business service for when a user’s license was removed for Office 365 (14 days later their OneDrive for Business went away). Fortunately Microsoft has worked on the tooling for the OneDrive for Business capability to allow a little more flexibility as to how this now works.

In similar fashion the Microsoft Office 365 Groups has a capability announced recently to allow for a similar function of a “soft delete” with a 30 day window to get an Office 365 Group back. The messages that this will send seem to be a bit friendlier based on the blog post from the Enterprise Mobility and Security Blog‘s article “Azure AD Automated Expiration for Office 365 Groups in Public Preview“.

Personally I see this as a great capability but also realize that there will be some gotchas. Specifically in that when a Group is created, an Exchange Distribution list is created. This is helpful since you’re able to have message traffic sent to this address. However if you think about the use case where a Group is deleted and the users fail to realize that the e-mail address that they received notifications on now no longer exists, there may be problems for end users.

Additionally it should be noted per the configuration documentation that an Azure AD Premium license is required to implement Office 365 Group Expiration – if you don’t have these they’re available at a per user cost and have several benefits in addition to this.

All in all, definitely an exciting feature and functionality but wondering how things will work for organizations where end users are truly business users that don’t quite understand all the components of an Office 365 Group or what the information lifecycle truly is…

Reston SharePoint User Group – August 2017

Every so often, I take a few nanoseconds and reflect on the activities within the community. Like everything in life, things ebb and flow. In the case of the SharePoint and Office Server and Services community though, it continues to thrive. This past weekend the Women in SharePoint Group within the DC area hosted a terrific set of sessions. The other SharePoint and Office 365 user groups in the area continue to grow in their respective communities, supporting their members and helping to continue to encourage growth in knowledge and practice.

This week at the Reston SharePoint User Group, we had the privilege of Matt Wade of H3 Solutions presenting on Microsoft’s Groups capability and how it relates to end users and the solutions that they are looking to build on top of the Office 365 platform.

Matt brings the topic down to earth and rather than getting muddied in the provisioning that takes place behind the scenes for Groups to work appropriately, he hones in on the end user and their interactions with Groups and their benefits to the users.

All in all, a decent turnout for the presentation and great engagement with the group. Thanks to Matt for presenting and also for the attendees for engaging and continuing to thrive! I look forward to having the honor of working with Microsoft and the local Community to continue to help users find benefit from tools that they’re provided with.

If you’re not engaged with one of the local area user groups in the DC area, check out Reston SPUG, they meet the first Monday of the month typically (holidays sometimes push the group to meet the second Monday).

Azure QuickStart Templates

If you’re like me you prefer to automate things as much as possible. In some instances that means using desired state configuration, in other instances it’s launching a series of PowerShell scripts. This saves time and helps to ensure a configuration that’s repeatable and easy to kick off without a ton of work – yes there are parameters that occasionally you have to set (e.g., passwords, IP addresses, etc.).

Enter into the mix that this helps to an extent. Then you start looking at Azure and the Resource Management templates and you realize that you can automate a good chunk of these operations… of course this means that you go out and quickly learn JSON so that you’re able to create your own.

Newsflash – there are quick start templates that Microsoft already has out there for you to use. That’s right, community driven and for the most part Microsoft supported. Where do you find them you might ask? Well if you use a search engine of your choice (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go) you’ll probably find them rather quickly, but for your convenience they’re also here – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/templates/

The templates can be launched directly from the template pages into an Azure subscription or if you find that you want to use these as a starting point, you can open the GitHub repo that’s associated with the templates, fork it and modify it to your hearts desire.

Bottom line? Don’t ignore these resources. You’ll occasionally run into a bug when a template references an older version of an Azure disk image, but to get around that just identify the issue and put in a pull request for the group that maintains that particular QuickStart template to update it.

Provisioning an Office 365 Tenant

During most Office 365 IT Pro sessions related to getting started with Office 365, a tenant is needed for demonstration purposes.  This usually only lasts about 5 minutes of the overarching presentation, but I’ve found it helpful for when an individual needs to see exactly how it’s completed.

As such, I’ve started a new series of sorts on the topic of IT Pro related topics and basic walk throughs.  For provisioning an Office 365 E3 / E5 tenant, there’s a quick walkthrough available here:

https://danusher.com/how-do-i-cloud/how-to-create-an-e3-e5-trial-tenant/

If you’ve got questions, don’t hesitate to add a comment or send a note via Twitter (@binarybrewery) and I’ll do my best to update or offer information.

ARM Template Reference Now Available

If you’ve been tracking Microsoft’s Azure cloud offering over the past few years you’ve probably noticed that there have been a few (hundred) changes during that time period. And by hundred, I mean multiple hundreds. . .

One of those changes was to transition from the Azure Service Management interfaces to the Azure Resource Management template model. This methodology has made the development of complete environments through Infrastructure as Code significantly more manageable through resource groups using templates that can be spun up and torn down on demand.

Recently Microsoft released their Azure Resource Manager template reference which guides you from nothing to environment in a pretty rapid fashion. If you’re familiar with Infrastructure as Code using JSON notation then this will be incredibly familiar to you and you may even find yourself liking it.

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/azure-resource-manager-template-reference-now-available/

Global Azure Bootcamp 2017

Interested in learning more about Microsoft Azure? Looking for a starting point and you’ve already read all the documentation over at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/? Have a Saturday afternoon free in the latter part of April? Check out the Global Azure Bootcamp community event taking place on 22 April 2017 around the world. There are locations everywhere as the world simultaneously learns about Azure, details here:

https://global.azurebootcamp.net/locations/

Each event is unique, the speakers and organizers put together the content and determine what the talks will be as well as what their focus will be. Come learn about Azure and the ability to host nearly anything on it.

If you’re new to Azure, you’re bound to learn a ton about the platform by attending one of these events.

Renaming your LiveID

If you’ve found yourself running into a problem of having an Organization ID and a EASID (LiveID with an e-mail address) with the same name – you may find yourself frustrated when working with Microsoft Services, whether that’s MSDN, Office.com or something else that has a Microsoft login.

Further, you might find yourself wondering, “what’s a Work ID versus a Microsoft Account”? Admittedly I find a lot of individuals slightly confused about this. But – Microsoft realized this and that they needed to make a change.

Nevertheless, there’s a fix for that – https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/11545/microsoft-account-rename-your-personal-account

So if you’re tired of dealing with your username and figuring out which you need to choose, you can always change your user account to something else. There are some caveats to that though… you may not want to rename your Microsoft account if you fall into either of these situations

  • You use a Windows phone running Windows 8.
  • You are part of our Xbox Developer community.
    • You could lose access to some developer tools.

But for everyone else out there, give it a whirl and try it out if you want clear delineation.