Avoid distribution list “reply all” embarrassment with the NoReplyAll Add-in for Outlook

This keeps coming up now and again, so I thought I’d give it a bump. Microsoft Research provides a free Add-in for Outlook that can save your company from the silly email storms generated by folks hitting ‘reply all’ on a company-wide email – check out the details on this MSOnlineHelpdesk.com post in the Tips & Tricks category:

Are you still running Windows Server 2003? The End is Near(er)!

Back in November 2014, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an alert about the end of support for Windows Server 2003. It’s now the end of March of 2015, and the end-of-support date will be here in less than 4 months. Starting on July 15, 2015, Windows Server 2003 will no longer receive security updates, fixes, or technical assistance from Microsoft. To borrow a phrase: the end is near!

The sky, however, is not falling.

Migration from your on-premises server to a different system is not terribly complicated, generally-speaking (the devil’s in the details, of course). And you have options – sort of. You can get a new server and move your stuff, or you can choose to migrate to a cloud-based offering, such as Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. Considering that here at inWorks LLC we believe that you should not be running a server unless you’re in the datacenter business, I suggest that you take the following path:

Take your email to Exchange Online with Office 365. With ridiculously low per-user prices, virtually unlimited disk space, and enterprise-grade features you simply cannot find a better messaging & collaboration system. Some may suggest Exchange hosted by other providers, Google, or Amazon (which recently added its own mail service), and unless you have very specific, compelling reasons for choosing those routes, don’t. Exchange Online will give you the best email, calendaring, contact management system you can buy in terms of usability, functionality, compatibility, extensibility, and some other *ilities I’m probably forgetting.

Take your files to SharePoint Online with Office 365. Some folks are apprehensive about SharePoint Online. It does represent a departure from the typical local server-based file access, with its familiar mapped drives and network shares. It also represents a major step forward for your business, in terms of managing documents and data – and it doesn’t have to be scary, or painful.

With a little bit of advanced planning and proper execution and tools, the transition can be painless, and using SharePoint – liberating. Plus, this is the one opportunity you’ll have to really clean house with your documents!

Even if you don’t take the time to explore SharePoint’s moderately advanced capabilities you will still end up ahead – with things like automatic document versioning, recycle bin, search indexing to make stuff easy to find, top-notch security, simple external sharing, easy access on all devices from anywhere, and so on. I haven’t even talked about building apps on top of SharePoint Online – apps that may not require any code at all! I won’t this time, either, just to keep things brief.

Move business apps to the cloud.
Microsoft Azure provides a datacenter in the sky that’s at your beck and call – pay just for what you use, with no upfront costs and no capital expenditures. Don’t need it anymore? Shut it down and the bill stops.

Anything you want to do that can’t be done with Office 365, can be done in Azure. Virtual machines, websites, storage, custom scripts, databases, et cetera – are now in your business IT tool belt, and with the recent addition of RemoteApp to the already deep and wide set of services that Azure provides, you can deliver even legacy applications from the cloud directly to the desktop, tablet, or phone. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is really cool.

Sign up for MSOnlineHelpdesk.com. This service grew out of our experience helping other businesses that made the cloud switch. It’s optimized for cloud customers and uses a similar, utility-based cloud model for all your needs, whether cloud or not.

With a monthly subscription you get what essentially amounts to Technology Insurance for your business – in return for a monthly “premium” you get someone who’ll pick up the email when you send in a support request, get back to you right away, answer your question without charge if it doesn’t take long, and get you help at lower support rates if it’s something gnarly. We’ll also handle hardware, software, and licensing procurement, set up backup if you need it, manage remote access to your systems, and provide antivirus software along with central device inventory & management, plus security for your mobile devices.

Don’t believe me? Have questions? Would like to discuss migration planning or ongoing support? Want to talk haiku form? Drop me a line!

Office 2016 Preview (for Business) is available to download

Microsoft’s been busy lately! Skype for Business preview was announced today, as was Office 2016 Preview (for Business). This install is targeted at IT admins with an active Office 365 ProPlus subscription (Project and Visio are also available as part of the preview).

One thing to note that, as the site says, Office 2016 will not co-exist with Office 2013, so once installed it upgrades your existing installation. You will lose InfoPath 2013, since that product is being discontinued, and install notes that you may also lose SharePoint Designer 2013 – which can be reinstalled afterwards. In my install experience, SPD was not removed, so that’s good – the install script must have already been updated after documentation was released :).

Lync has been updated to be Skype for Business – with the new look (although I might have enabled that earlier today when I set the EnableSkypeUI switch to true in my Lync Online tenant, so I’m not sure if the new Skype for Business look comes thanks to Office 2016 Preview, or if it’s both the Preview and my Lync Online PowerShell experiment).

The download process was painless, and the install equally so. The download itself is small – about 3MB – and contains some documentation (known issues, what’s new, etc.) as well as a batch + XML file that kicks off a click-to-run installation for your selected language. At the moment you have to choose the language manually (do not run setup.exe, documentation states), run the batch file, and wait for the install to complete. If you have open Office programs, the install will shut them down for you.

Top to bottom, I upgraded to Office 2016 Preview in about 7 minutes. All my settings have been preserved, although it appears that I will have to re-enter my passwords for all connected services.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Office 2016 Preview Program on the Microsoft Connect site – you will need to fill out a nomination survey first, and if you meet the criteria, you’ll be set to try it out!

Microsoft updates Office 365 Admin App

Today Microsoft released an updated version of the office 365 Admin app for mobile devices. Lawrence Chiu, senior product marketing manager on the Office 365 team writes:

Administer Office 365 on the go with the updated Office 365 admin app, which now enables you to complete common admin tasks when you are away from your computer. This could be resetting your CEO’s password, adding a new hire or deleting a user who suddenly has left the company. In addition, to help you stay in better touch with us, we added the Message Center—a central location for Office 365 service communications.

The app provides Office 365 health status tile on the home screen, and gives easy access to messages about Office 365 – which is awesome because I always have trouble keeping up with the stream of announcements.

Two features I’d like to see that aren’t (yet) there:

  • The ability to switch between tenants to make administration easier for those of us who manage multiple accounts – without having to sign out and sign in as different administrators!
  • For Windows Phone – a live tile that provides service health and message updates

I’m also a bit surprised it’s not a universal app, so it’s not available for Windows 8.1 (and Windows 10). It also doesn’t look as though the tiles on the home screen are as dynamic as they could be – even after catching up on all the messages, the display still says there are 6 ‘latest’ to review.

Despite these minor shortcomings, it’s a useful tool, so head on over to the Office blog to get details, and get it from your app store: the app is available now for Windows Phone 8.1 and Android 4.0 or later, and coming soon to iOS 8.

Microsoft Office for Mac Preview is available

Got a Mac and want to try out the just-released preview of the new version of Microsoft Office 2016? Kick off the download (2.47GB) and read about the new Office while you wait!

Ditching Small Business Server? Use USMT to convert to local accounts

The User State Migration Tool is quite useful when managing user profiles & accounts on your PCs during an operating system migration or upgrade – especially if you have lots of devices to work with. Documented features show you how to switch user profiles between domains – useful when consolidating your Active Directory domains, for example. What about cases when you’re ditching your local infrastructure in favor of all things cloud?

Microsoft’s documentation doesn’t say anything about converting from a domain account to a local account – and yet it’s possible. Here’s how you do it.

First collect your “user state”. To speed up the process, you can use the /hardlink and /nocompress options like so:

Scanstate.exe %temp%\store /i:miguser.xml /i:migapp.xml /hardlink /nocompress /l:%temp%\store\save.log /progress:%temp%\store\save_progress.log /o /ue:*\* /ui:DOMAIN\username

Let’s break down the statement above.

  • %temp%\store specifies that the collected user state should go to the temporary folder, in the store subfolder
  • /i:miguser.xml /i:migapp.xml provide configuration files to move files and settings
  • /hardlink specifies that the source files shouldn’t actually be moved. We can do this because we’re not actually switching PCs for the user, so there’s no need to move profile data. Instead, scanstate simply builds a catalog of files to include when reloading the data into the new profile
  • /l: and /progress: switches specify where to save log and progress log files
  • /ue:*\* tells scanstate to exclude all user profiles from the process. Why? Because we’re going to explicitly call for the profile we’re interested in next
  • /ui:DOMAIN\username is explicitly telling the migration tool to copy ONLY the DOMAIN\username profile. You can use multiple /ui switches if you want to.
  • /o tells the tool to overwrite whatever’s in that store directory. We don’t need to use it, but if you had a failed run, this will ensure a clean slate. Don’t do this on a shared store :).

Once this operation completes, you can create the new local profile by running the following command:

loadstate.exe %temp%\store /i:miguser.xml /i:migapp.xml /hardlink /nocompress /l:%temp%\store\load.log /progress:%temp%\store\load_progress.log /ue:*\* /ui:DOMAIN\username /lac:NewPassword /lae /mu:DOMAIN\username:%computername%\username

Let’s break this one down too (skipping switches that are the same):

  • /lac:NewPassword – specifies that loadstate should create a new Local Account with the password of NewPassword. If you don’t specify NewPassword, the new local account will be created without a password
  • /lae – specifies that the new local account should be enabled. If you don’t use this switch, it’ll be created, but disabled
  • /mu:DOMAIN\username:%computername%\username – this is the magical conversion dust. It’ll switch the account from being a domain account in the DOMAIN domain, to a local account belonging to the %computername% computer. If you’re running this as part of a script, you can just leave %computername% to automatically substitute the actual PC name at run-time.

When this operation completes, your new user profile will be created, data migrated, and now you’re ready to remove this PC from the domain. Note that Outlook email settings aren’t migrated this way, so you’ll need to reconnect Outlook to (presumably) Office 365. Also, default migration files don’t include things like Google Chrome bookmarks, so you’d need to manage that transition separately.

Going into the details for USMT is beyond the scope of this post, but if you’d like a guided tour, check out the Curah! collection that puts it all in one place.

Got questions? Looking to migrate from the soon-to-expire Small Business Server? Give me a call – 1-484-558-0404 or create a support request with MSOnlineHelpdesk.com!