What have you been up to? MS Tech Community, Office 365 Ninjas, TechNet Wiki

Though I haven't written a new post in a while, I have been busy with various projects, here are some of the things I have been up to.  I'll be talking about the Microsoft Tech Community, Office 365 Ninjas and the TechNet Wiki.

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Enterprise Mobility Nuggets – 18th October

In this new series I discuss the latest in Enterprise Mobility and the news you can't afford to miss.  

The Microsoft Ignite conference was epic, so many announcements, demos, roadmaps. I wish I could have been there, maybe next year.  Windows Server 2016 and Azure Information Protection reached general availability. The new Microsoft Tech Community is going from strength to strength. 

Microsoft Ignite

Microsoft held their huge conference in Atlanta September 26-30.  It had everything, something for everyone really. Office 365, Infrastructure, IoT, Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility and a lot more.

Most of the sessions are now available on-demand.  Head straight to the Microsoft Ignite YouTube channel. On the official web site, you can explore sessions by topic or product. Here are the top three watched presentations as of writing.

If you are after the PowerPoint slides from the Microsoft Ignite sessions, I'll tell you where you can find them later.

Innovation Keynote with Satya Nadella

MVP HubTalk Stephen Owen - Intro to PowerShell

Reinvent IT infrastructure for business agility

The Innovation Keynote with Satya Nadella was really interesting.  I really like what Satya is doing with Microsoft.  While I wont say its unrecognizable from even a few years back, Microsoft have really embraced change and innovating, whatever the underlying platform is.  iOS, Linux, Docker, Raspberry Pi, Microsoft are doing great things with these systems.

​My top moments form Microsoft Ignite 

Here is my somewhat random top moments from Microsoft Ignite.  It's hardly complete but captures some of the moments that stood out for me.  It was more an opportunity to use the 'journal' feature in Docs.com on my account.  I quickly hit the 10 Twitter embed limit incidentally.

Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 was released at Microsoft Ignite.  To begin with only the trial media was available.  Now you can download the full Windows Server 2016 ISO's from MSDN and the Volume Licensing Service Center.

Windows Server 2016 is a gamer-changer.  Inspired by Microsoft Azure, it brings the best of the next gen features - Windows Server containers, Docker support, just enough OS, just enough administration, software defined storage & networking and lots more.

I have already talked about Nano Server in a separate post.  It ​eliminates all of the graphical interface, leaving a lean and agile platform. With an install footprint of around 500 MB from what I gather, means it's more secure, needing less patches,with less reboots.   

Here is a collection of Windows Server 2016 resources I have put together on Docs.com:

Azure Information Protection​

​Azure Information Protection is now available.  Based on Microsoft's purchase of Secure Islands and fused with Azure Rights Management, this new offering comes in two plans.  You can compare Azure Information Protection Premium P1 vs the P2 plan here.

The mean differences between the two plans are:

​Azure Information Protection Premium P2 will add advanced capabilities like automatic classification of data, on top of the manual classification, labeling and everything else included in P1.

If you have previously signed up to the the Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) bundle, you now have the Azure Information Protection Premium P1 plan.  Since EMS itself is now split across two plans, you can upgrade to Enterprise Mobility + Security E5. This comes with Azure Information Protection Premium P2 amongst other things.

Azure Information Protection adds easy to use labeling which applies a classification. The classification can enforce various controls including protection via Azure RMS.

Really good documentation is available on Microsoft's new docs.microsoft.com platform.

Microsoft Tech Community

The Microsoft Tech Community is coming along nicely.  After closing the popular Yammer based Office 365 Network there were some concerns.  Microsoft expanded the scope to include other services like Azure and the Microsoft Tech Community was born. 

I post on the Microsoft Tech Community, when I come across something good and if I can help with any questions or requests for feedback.  If you haven't joined yet, it is really is worth it. Here is the getting started guide.

If you are after any Microsoft Ignite PowerPoint slides, you can fine them in a dedicated space in the Microsoft Tech Community.

There are groups related to Enterprise Mobility.  You will find them burred under the Azure heading. This includes Microsoft IntuneAzure Information Protection and System Center Configuration Manager. Microsoft has more work to to get these up and running, as most have little engagement.

In other Enterprise Mobility news

Here is some other assorted news, as you can see I am being quite liberal with what I consider to be Enterprise Mobility:

​Update 1609 for Configuration Manager Technical Preview was released. It includes Windows 10 Upgrade Analytics, Office 365 Client Management Dashboard and can Deploy Office 365 apps to clients amongst other things.

​Secure Productive Enterprise was released on the 1st October. This offering includes Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS).

​The Intune device limit was increased from managing 5 devices to 15 devices. This is a big deal, it was a common complaint that 5 was simply not enough. There is a great new resource for admins deploying or maintaining Office 365 ProPlus. The Preferred Practices guide for Office 365 ProPlus deployment is highly recommended.

​One of the big stories from Microsoft Ignite was that Docker Engine is being included with all Windows Server 2016 deployments. Docker answered the top 5 questions from Microsoft Ignite. If you are still getting your head around containers and such, it’s a must read.

That's the first installment of this new series, please check me out on Twitter if you get a chance @CianAllner.​ Thanks for reading.

Office 365 ProPlus Channels – Office 365 Change Management

Learn how to manage Office 365 ProPlus, with tips, guidance and best practices. Office 365 ProPlus Channels offer a multitude of options to keep Office 2016 updated with the latest features.

I’ll show you how these Office 365 ProPlus channels work, what to look out for and hopefully get you on the right track.  This is an ongoing series on Office 365 Change Management.

If you haven't already checked out my first Office 365 Change Management post, it's worth reading. I cover all the different resources you will need to stay informed and ahead of the rapid releases in Office 365.

What are Office 365 ProPlus Channels?

Microsoft is aware that the pace of change in Office 365 presents some difficulties for organisations. If every month a new version of Office 2016 has new features, how are users meant to cope?

How about application compatibility, how do you know if a new release won’t break one of your critical business applications?

To mitigate these sorts of issues, Microsoft has separated security updates as well as bug fixes from feature updates. This makes it possible to control when users receive new features while still keeping Office fully patched with security updates.

How does Microsoft do this? Office 365 ProPlus Channels! With Office 2016 channels, administrators can choose how rapidly users receive new features and an opportunity to test new releases several months in advance.

Office 365 ProPlus Channels Compared

There are five channels which vary predominately based on how frequently each release receives new features.

Update channel

Channel Name

Feature updates

Security updates

Non-security updates

Current Channel

Current

Monthly

Monthly

Monthly

Deferred Channel

Deferred

Every four months

Monthly

Every four months

FR for Deferred Channel

FirstReleaseDeferred

Every four months

Monthly

Monthly

FR for Current Channel - Office Insider Slow

FirstReleaseCurrent

Monthly

Monthly

Monthly

FR for Current Channel - Office Insider Fast

InsiderFast

Frequently

Frequently

Frequently

So how do you make use of Office 365 ProPlus channels in your organisation? If you have lots of applications that integrate with Office, including add-ins, or macros, you probably want to minimise the amount of application testing. If you use the Current Channel, this means testing your applications every month to make sure new or changed Office features haven’t broken your apps.

What would make sense is to use the Deferred Channel. Now you only have to test your applications a few times a year. This is because the Deferred Channel only includes new features every four months. What’s even better, you can test applications, prepare users for new features in advance by using the First Release for Deferred Channel.

The First Release for Deferred Channel, starts four months before it’s declared the next Deferred Channel. It’s your opportunity to start testing early with pilot users and application compatibility testers. Giving them a chance to try out new features with the upcoming Deferred Channel. During this time any issues that are spotted can hopefully be resolved or flagged appropriately.

Office 365 ProPlus Channels Case study 

Let’s uses fictitious dates to illustrate the lifespan of a Deferred Channel. A First Release for Deferred Channel is released in October, every month it receives security updates and non-security updates but not any new features.

After four months in February, this becomes the Deferred Channel, no new features are added but it receives monthly security updates and non-security updates.

Office 365 ProPlus Channels

At the end of four months, you jump to the next Deferred Channel or in this case carry on with the original Deferred Channel. By September this channel is no longer supported and must be upgraded to a newer Deferred Channel.

A Deferred Channel release is supported for eight months but that's twelve months in total, as it starts as First Release for Deferred Channel.There are always two Deferred Channel releases available and supported

This article from Microsoft goes into a lot more detail: 

Getting early access to new Office 2016 features

As you may have noticed I didn’t cover every channel yet. What if you want access to new Office 365 ProPlus features at the earliest opportunity? You can certainly use the Current Channel, that's one option

You may, for example, designate several users in the organisation with the Current Channel, so they can test new features. The current channel must be updated every month to remain supported.

What if you want new Office 2016 features even sooner? There is the two First Release for Current ChannelsOffice Insider Slow and Office Insider Fast.

The Fast level provides even earlier builds of Office, more frequently. In fact, these builds are what Microsoft employees have access to internally. Office Insider Fast is best for Insiders who want to use the earliest preview builds to identify issues, provide feedback to help make Office great, and who don’t mind a bit of risk using unsupported builds.

How to get the Office Insider Slow and Fast Channels

With Selective First Release enabled, designated users can grab Office themselves and they will receive the Office Insider Slow channel. 

Office 365 ProPlus Channels

To get access to Office Insider Fast takes more work in an enterprise setting.  The full details are here:

​How Office 365 commercial customers can get early access to new Office 2016 features

​This involves uninstalling any version of Office 365 ProPlus that's already installed and using the Office Deployment Tool (ODT) with a configuration like this:  

Office 365 ProPlus Channels

You can confirm which version is installed from the Product Information section:

Office Insider Slow

Office 365 ProPlus Channels

Office Insider Fast

Office 365 ProPlus Channels

Year and Month Versioning Scheme

​Now if you thought Office 365 ProPlus channels are a bit complicated there is yet another factor to track. In June, Microsoft announced improved versioning for the Deferred Channel:

We’re improving our updates naming to help distinguish multiple Office updates. To help distinguish between major updates and their subsequent builds, we are implementing a versioning scheme that will help simplify how we refer to all Office updates.

So ultimately this is a good thing, a better way track versions:

Each Office update will be represented by a year and month. For example, version 1605 corresponds to the May 2016 update. To distinguish builds within each version we will add a build number, for example: version 1605 (Build 6758.1000). This versioning scheme is similar to what you see with Windows 10 and the System Center Configuration Manager and should provide an easier way to distinguish the different builds.

How to keep up-to-date with Office 365 ProPlus Versions

The following page is where you stay up-to-date with channels, versions and builds:

Version and build numbers of update channel releases for Office 365 clients

As an example of how to use this page, let's look at version 1605.  This version started as a Current Channel release in June.  Then soon afterwards it became a First Release for Deferred Channel release. Finally, this version will become the next Deferred Channel on October 11, 2016. The version spans channels and multiple builds. 

Office 365 ProPlus Channels

The other page to track is:

​Office 365 client update channel releases

Office 365 ProPlus Closing Thoughts

I have covered a lot of ground, so to finish up ​lets have an action plan:

  • Use the Deferred Channel for the bulk of your users
  • Have pilot users and application testers on the First Release for Deferred Channel
  • Consider power users, early adopters, IT staff etc. for the Current Channel or First Release for Current Channel
  • Coordinate with vendors and other external organizations that support your line-of-business applications, add-ins, or macros
  • Map out these applications, how they integrate with Microsoft Office and a standardised testing approach

Here are a few other ideas as well to improve your Office 365 ProPlus Change Management: 

  • Updates are mandatory and can't be ignored, you can only defer updates for so long before Office becomes unsupported
  • Provide guidance to staff on new features, features may go unnoticed or undervalued otherwise
  • Pester ISV’s and make sure they are prepared for the faster release cadence
  • Systems Center Configuration Manager natively supports updating Office 365 ProPlus and is recommended

I hope this post was of use, stay tuned for further Office 365 articles. Check me out on Twitter @CianAllner or for non-stop Office 365 coverage @Office365Ninjas. Thanks for reading.

How to master Office 365 Change Management Part 1

In this post, you will learn how to master Office 365 change management.  Be better prepared for new features and changes in Office 365, with the resources I'll show you how.

Office 365 change management can be difficult at times.  You probably want to be the authority on Office 365 and be able to advise peers and stakeholders.  The last thing you want is new features suddenly appearing, without being ready.

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How Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) transforms business

Learn how Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security protects organisations in the mobile-first, cloud-first world.

What was called Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) is an incredibly popular offering, highly rated with nothing quite like it in the marketplace.  EMS has evolved with a name change and an expanded offering, keep reading for all the details. 

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Goodbye Azure RemoteApp, Hello Citrix XenApp Express

Microsoft is discontinuing Azure RemoteApp and replacing it with a Citrix solution. This changes the Desktops as a Service landscape, read on to find out all the details.

What is Azure RemoteApp? RemoteApp allows you to deploy Windows applications in the Azure cloud and access them from a range of devices. Originally known as "Mohoro", Azure RemoteApp was released in December 2014.

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Putting technology to work – My Story

Putting technology to work to stay productive and ahead, these are the services I use that give me an edge.  In other words, here are some really cool services I think you might want to check out!

As much as I love technology, there has to be a purpose, a reason to use a particular technology. Here I share the services that I personally use that help me stay informed, increase my audience or are just plain cool.

Featuring WordPress, Docker, Statusbrew, Inoreader and more.

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Windows 7 and 8.1 moving to Monthly Rollups model

Microsoft is releasing monthly rollups for Windows 7 and 8.1.  This changes how updates are applied and should be a big improvement.  Read on for further details.

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Monthly Rollups

Microsoft announced major changes on how Windows 7 and 8.1 will be patched with software updates. This will bring them in line with Windows 10, now with cumulative monthly rollups. Rather than individual updates, all the recent updates will be packaged in a single update.

Microsoft explains this should simplify updating, make it more cohesive and improve reliability:

The new rollup model gives you fewer updates to manage, greater predictability, and higher quality updates.

Now with monthly rollups, all security and reliability updates will be released in a single update. So rather than lots of individual updates, there will be just a single update needed to patch a Windows 7.1/8.1 system with all the latest updates.  Monthly rollups will be cumulative, superseding the previous month’s rollup.  

Monthly Rollups - Better than Windows 7 SP2?

Back in May Microsoft released a one of "convenience rollup", as announced here - Simplifying updates for Windows 7 and 8.1. This included all Windows 7 SP1 updates up through April 2016 and at the time this was the closest many thought we would get to Windows 7 SP2.

Monthly Rollups simply Windows SP1 updates

With the new monthly rollups, this is set to improve further.  Over time Microsoft will add older patches to monthly rollups.  This will make it possible eventually to fully patch Windows 7 SP1 and 8.1 RTM just with the latest monthly rollup.

Our goal is eventually to include all of the patches we have shipped in the past since the last baseline, so that the Monthly Rollup becomes fully cumulative and you need only to install the latest single rollup to be up to date.

These changes start in October 2016. There are other details worth checking out in the official announcement, including:

  • Security-only update - a leaner security-only update containing only that month's security patches will also available 
  • Individual patches will no longer be available
  • Rollups with multiple patches in a single update also applies to Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2

Further simplifying servicing models for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

Monthly Rollups - Common update servicing model

It's great to see Microsoft invest in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 taking whats worked well with Windows 10.  If you have recently tried to patch a Windows 7 box, it just takes ages, so this is really welcome.  Let's face it Windows 7 will be around for quite some time yet! 

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