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…

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.

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.

Brewery FM – Episode 7 – Delving About Delve… Again

MemeGenerator BreweryFMThis week has been a little hectic between work, life and community, but somehow Scott Hoag and I were still able to get together for an hour and record another session of Brewery.fm.

In this weeks episode, we call out Tim Ferro again – mostly because he asked us for some thoughts on an announcement from the Office 365 team on Azure ExpressRoute. Further, we discussed the intricacies of Azure’s RBAC features that were released a few months back (and how PowerShell is still the better way to implement RBAC if you need it with Azure) as well as a whole lot of other interesting topics.

If you’re not subscribed to the Podcast yet, point your favourite podcast software (whether that be iTunes, Podcast Lounge, DownCast, PocketCasts or OverCast over at our feed:

Brewery.fm Pub feed

Once you’ve done that, if you’re curious about something we mentioned, perhaps you should check out the show notes that Scott pulls together and publishes at http://www.brewery.fm each week with the specific episodes. If you want to get to a specific episode quickly, just use the link shortener pattern of http://pub.brewery.fm/breweryXXX where XXX refers to the episode number. This week would be http://pub.brewery.fm/brewery007.

As always, if you’ve got feedback for the show, ping us on Twitter at @breweryfm, leave a post on FaceBook or send us an e-mail at info@brewery.fm.

Oh and we double dog dare you to give us a rating on iTunes… come on you know you wanna 🙂

Needless to say, lots of exciting news in this episode! Quick download it now!

Supported Video Codes for Office 365

Office 365 recently launched their Video Portal that leverages the power of Azure Media Services as documented on the Office Blogs entry by Mark Kashman on the entry titled Introducing Office 365 Video. It’s definitely a step up compared to using something like the Digital Asset Management library that debuted in SharePoint Server on-premises many years ago.

So as you begin your movement to utilizing the Video Portal, hopefully you don’t hit any snags…

Wait, what do you mean SWF isn’t supported?

If you’ve been building videos for Adobe Flash player using SWF format or FLV, then you’re probably going to have to take a few minutes and breath. The easiest thing to do is go and download a copy of Handbrake for your Windows or Mac computing device and begin the conversion to MP4. Handbrake is available here – http://www.handbrake.fr

What are the supported file types for use on the Video Portal?

It’s actually a bit more flexible than you probably think – it’s more than just WMA and WMV file types. It would seem that Microsoft’s Office 365 group went at length to make it meet the most widely used formats…

These include:

Office 365 Video supports the following video codes:

  • H.264 (Baseline, Main, and High Profiles)
  • MPEG-1 (Including MPEG-PS)
  • MPEG-2 (Simple and Main Profile)
  • MPEG-4 v2 (Simple Visual Profile and Advanced Simple Profile)
  • VC-1 (Simple, Main, and Advanced Profiles)
  • Windows Media Video (Simple, Main, and High Profiles)
  • DV (DVC, DVHD, DVSD, DVSL)
  • Grass Valley HQ/HQX

The full list of video and audio types is available for viewing here – Video formats that work in Office 365 Video

What’s this thing you refer to called Media Services?

It’s the cloud. drops the mic and walks away

If you’re curious to learn more about Azure Media Services, there’s more information available here on the Azure Media Services page on the Azure marketing documentation portal. Mind you that Azure Media Services is highly scalable and has been used for events like the Olympics to provide for streaming media needs.

So what are your first thoughts on the Office 365 Video Portal? How are you using it in your organization today?

Rights Management Services Migration Guide

If you’re working in the cloud, then you’ve probably had a client or two request that you enable Rights Management Services. This is a fairly common task and in a Microsoft Azure cloud scenario or Office 365 scenario fairly simple to enable.

If however you’re working a hybrid configuration or with an organization that’s moving all of their core collaboration services into Office 365 and want to leverage the RMS configuration they’d already setup on-premises to make use of Azure RMS, things get a little more complicated.

Microsoft has put together an Azure Rights Management Services Migration Guidance available through the Microsoft Download Center here – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=45505.

The online of this document actually seems to be a little more readable available here Migrating from AD RMS to Azure Rights Management.

Migration scripts that are included in the download from the download center are also available from the online article in Step 5 that point to the Azure Rights Management Administration Tool.