OneDrive Files on Demand: the new OneDrive experience

One of the things I’m looking forward to in the new Windows 10 Creators Fall update is the new OneDrive sync-client, which enables the files on demand functionality. In fact, I’m looking forward to it that much, I decided to enroll my device in the Windows 10 Insiders Fast Ring, so I could take the new client to a test drive right now.

So, here it is! Right after finishing the upgrade and logging in, I’m greeted by the welcome screen of the new sync client.

The three icons in the welcome screen explain nicely how files on demand works: you can choose to have the file in the cloud only (without syncing it to the device), to have the file available in the cloud ánd on the device, where the client decides what files are actually being synced, or to have the file always being synced to the device, whether or not it is being used.

So, how does this work out in practice?

This is the view of my OneDrive folder. Please note I did some editing to protect the privacy of some of my clients 😉 The view in Windows Explorer for the OneDrive folder is the same as I’m used to. The only thing that changed, is the icon next to the folder, indicating the status of the folder.

Navigating in to the folder, we see the same icons. In this case, some files have been marked to use only in the cloud, or to always keep on the device. This can be done by right clicking on the file and selecting the appropriate option in the context menu.

So, where is the use in this? For starters, it allows you to sync only specific files to your device, which makes sure you don’t run in to problems with the capacity of your disks. In my case, the Surface Pro 4 I ran this test on has a 256GB SSD-disk in it, where Office 365 gives me 1TB of personal storage in OneDrive. That won’t fit 😉 Second of all, when you choose to keep a file only in the cloud, the file is still visible in your normal explorer view. You can select it, upload it from a browser context menu, do everything you would normaly do with it. When you actually ‘open’ the file, it’s pulled in from the cloud to be used. This greatly enhances the user experience!

So, can you see how much space this saves you? Of course you can 😉 At first, I checked it with just one file. Note the difference between the ‘size’ and ‘size on disk’ info.


After some manual checking on which files I don’t need to be available offline, I managed to really save some space on my device.

Of course, your mileage may vary depending on what sort of files you store in your OneDrive and what you need to be available offline, but the OneDrive team managed to greatly enhance the experience! Coming soon to Windows 10 computers near you 😉

Exchange Cached mode in RDS/VDI

Today I found myself, again, working with a customer that complained of poor performance in Outlook in combination with Office 365 (Exchange Online) on an environment using RDS. The main complaint is Outlook is slow when switching between folders, opening shared mailbox or using different calendars.

The reason for these issues is simple: when moving from Exchange on-prem to the cloud, the network latency between the clients and the Exchange-server increases and every glitch in the network becomes noticeable. When using ‘fat clients’, you can make sure Outlook is running in ‘cached mode’, so you work from your local .ost-file that syncs with the Exchange servers, thus eliminating most network issues. In RDS (or VDI, for that matter) setups, this isn’t always an option. So how to fix these issues?

First of all, you need to make sure you environment is set up in the best possible way. This TechNet blog can help you optimize and troubleshoot your Office 365 network connectivity. Especially the DNS-settings mentioned in the blogpost can be a culprit. Make sure you use DNS servers in the same geographical location as you RDS/VDI servers, so you get redirected to the right Exhange Online servers in the Azure network. More good pointers on optimizing network performance can be found here.

If all this is okay, you can use cached mode on your RDS/VDI environment. Default, the .ost file generated when using cached mode will be placed in the appdata\local directory, which causes it to not be included in roaming profiles or folder redirection. This way, when you log on to your RDS farm and are being redirected to a new server, your local cache will need to be rebuild. You can avoid this by redirecting the .ost file to a network share using a group policy. Please be aware, that previously this wasn’t a supported environment. However, with modern Outlook clients (specifically Outlook 2010 and above) this is supported. You can find detailed information here, but to summarize: if you use a high-speed, low latency network connection between your Outlook client and the file server, are using Server 2008 R2 or higher for your RDS/VDI and make sure there is ‘single file access’ to the ost-files (in other words: only one process (or user session) will access the ost-file at the same time), you are good to go.

Be aware that redirecting the .ost file does have some impact on search functionality in Outlook. The search is based on indexing by the Windows Search Service, which runs on the client computer. This means that when you are redirected to a different server, search may not be (completely) available within Outlook due the ost-file being re-indexed. Also, you need to plan you deployment and make sure you have enough disk space and disk I/O to serve the OST-files.

As you can see, these performance issues probably need to be fixed within the Outlook client. Until that happens, using cached mode can be a alternative to improve performance, although it does have some side-effects.

Of course, investing in an ExpressRoute connection, and realizing a low-latency connection to Office 365, could also solve (at least some of) these issues. However, if you would like to use ExpressRoute to connect to Office 365 you would need the premium plan which isn’t cheep.

For me, running cached mode in RDS/VDI with a limit of 6 months to cache offline seems to work OK, but you’ll have to learn how to live with the drawbacks.

Azure AD Group Based Licensing

When working with larger Office 365 and / or EM+S deployments, one of the pains for me has always been the automation of license assignment. You can provision users in Azure AD (and thus in Office 365) automatically using Azure AD Connect, and you could even add some magic with some PowerShell scripts to assign a license to these users based on OU or group-membership in your on-prem AD. The removal of these licenses takes even more scripting, where you would need to compare you on-prem group membership with the active licenses and remove licenses when needed.

About two weeks ago, Microsoft announced something to fill this gap: Azure AD Group based licensing. Currently, this feature is available in public preview. While in preview, you’ll need a paid Azure AD subscription to use the feature, like the one included in EM+S. Just a plain Office 365 tenant won’t be sufficient. When the feature hits GA, this prerequisite will be lifted.

Using the feature is as simpel as it sounds. From the (new) Azure Portal, you navigate to the Azure AD resource and click the ‘licensing’ tab. From there, you can navigate to all the licenses that are available in your environment.

By clicking through to one of the available licenses, you get the option to assign this license to a group.

All Microsoft Online services that require user-based licensing are supported and are displayed in this pane.

When selecting the ‘groups’ option, you can select the group to assign this license to. and search for the group you would like to use. This group can live solely in Azure AD, or can be a security group synced from you on-prem AD.

 

You can specify which parts of the license you would like to assign, you can create a pretty fine-grained solution using various groups to enable or disable specific features.

All in all, this is a pretty neat solution to provide some ease in managing user licenses for Microsoft Online services.

There is some good documentation on this feature on the Microsoft website. Of course, as is a feature that’s currently in public preview, there are some known issues and limitation, which are also pretty well documented.

For me, I can’t wait to get this feature implemented at some of the larger tenants I manage, to ease the administrative tasks of on- and offboarding users.

365Tools is in the Powershell gallery

After my previous post about my ‘open-msolconnection’ function, I decided that it would be nice if I grouped all my commonly used PowerShell scripts for managing Office 365 in a single module, so I could publish it to the PowerShell gallery… So here it is!

As of today, the 365Tools module is available from the Powershell Gallery. Of course, I’ve also created a GitHub repo for maintaining the whole thing.

Currently, the module just includes the open-msolconnection function and a function I use for reporting on mailbox sizes, licensing status, etc.

You can install the module directly from the gallery by using one simple line of code:

After that, you can see the commands that are made available through the function:

Enjoy 🙂 If you have any issues or questions regarding the module, please leave a reply to this blogpost.

Connect to O365 Powershell with one command

For a few years, I’ve been using a simple script to connect to Office 365 using Powershell. In stead of typing all the commands needed to connect to both Azure AD and Exchange Online, I use a small piece of code placed in my Powershell profile to do all this for me. I simply type open-msolconnection from my Powershell prompt, specify my username and password and that’s it.

I’ve received some questions about this little function, so I decided to share it on GitHub. You can find it here. Enjoy!

Checking out Staffhub in Office 365

Mid January, Microsoft announced the general availability of a new member of the Office 365 family: Microsoft Staffhub.

Staffhub is aimed primarily at deskless workers, like those in retail stores, hotels, restaurants, or service-related industries. These people typically don’t have their own desk or office, or even a computer, which makes it hard to keep up with information that might be important for their day-to-day work. Just think about printed workschedules, cluttered bulletin boards with information or the many phone calls or text messages to cover or trade a work shift. Enter StaffHub!

The primary function for StaffHub is to provide managers with an easy way to update, create and manage shift schedules for their team. What used to be a pretty labor-intensive process has become a pretty streamlined one. For employees, all they need is the StaffHub mobile app to access their shift information, including the possibility to easily swap shifts with their co-workers.

As you can see, the interface for the manager is quite simple. It’s an easy way to create, update and manage shifts.

From the mobile app, available on both Android and iOS (yeah, where’s the UWP app Microsoft?), the team can easily view their shifts and request to swap a shift with a colleague.

The app’s home screen provides a summary of upcoming shifts, as well as any important notes for the workday. Employees can also see who else is scheduled for the day, which is useful if they want to know who they’ll be working with or if they want to swap shifts.

When schedule conflicts come up, Microsoft StaffHub makes it easy to swap a shift or offer a shift to someone else. Requests are always routed to the manager for approval, and updates and notifications are automatically sent to the team.

Apart from creating and viewing work shifts, sharing information is another important part of StaffHub. Managers can quickly provide their team with important information, such as policy documents, news bulletins or videos.

For the team, this information is available directly from the mobile app.

Managers also have a fast and reliable way to send quick messages to team members. For example, to let an employee know “there is a spill on the floor” or “the VIP guest is arriving in 20 minutes,” simply tap the employee’s name and type a message. Employees can also send messages directly to each other or to the entire workgroup.

With all this functionality, StaffHub can be a great way to keep you deskless team up to date with current work schedules and information, from their own smartphone. No need for duct-tape to hang your announcements on the canteen wall!

On introduction, Microsoft announced that StaffHub can be integrated with existing systems. To start off with, you can connect StaffHub with Kronos, a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Initially, this integration will enable managers to import individual and team schedule information from Kronos’s Workforce Central platform directly into Microsoft StaffHub. This functionality will initially be in private preview to a small group of Office 365 and Kronos customers. Other connections are expected to arrive in the future.

Want to try it out? StaffHub is enabled directly for Office 365 customers with a K1, E1, E3 or E5 plan.

Team managers can sign in at staffhub.ms, and employees can download the app on iOS or Android.

Want more info? Check out the introduction video from Microsoft Mechanics no YouTube.

Completing individual moverequests from a migrationbatch

While working on a hybrid migration from Exchange 2010 to Office 365, I found myself in a place where I had a migration batch of approximately 350 mailboxes that was ready to complete, but I only wanted to complete around five of them so my costumer could do some further testing. This was something that was decided later on in the migration traject, so the migration batch was already set up and had synced.

Now, when you use PowerShell, you can complete the entire migration batch with the complete-migrationbatch cmdlet. But there’s no such thing for completing individual mailboxes. With some workarounds though, you can complete individual moverequests from within a migration batch.

First, get the moverequest you’re completing:

You’ll see the status is ‘synced’, so the mailbox is ready to complete. To do this, we change some properties for the individual moverequest:

In this example, I set the ‘completeafter’ propertiy to 5 minutes. You can also provide a date/time string to already schedule the completion for a few days from now.

After this is set, we need to resume the migrationbatch so it will complete:

After a while, you can do another get-moverequest and see the status will be ‘completed’.