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April, 2012

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  • Setting up a Custom domain on Office365

    273695_577765544_94420_n_reasonably_small[1]Andy Hodges is a SharePoint Solutions Consultant at Mando Group, a leading digital agency specialising in creating enterprise web sites and RIAs. Andy works with SharePoint to create engaging Intranets, Extranet and Internet sites. Andy can be found on twitter @AndyRHodges

    Cloud technologies have been around for a number of years and are increasing in maturity, which is filtering down to organisations, as not just a viable option when building a new application, but the best option. Working for a digital agency we build a lot of critical online systems using the SharePoint platform. Most of these systems are externally facing to the public and the biggest need to be hosted on large server farms. A lot of the work we do is design led, it is important to be able to have control over the presentation of the HTML and CSS in a SharePoint Solution.

    I started to look into SharePoint Online which is part of the Office365 suite to see if the external facing aspects of SharePoint Online have the potential to be used for hosting SharePoint internet sites. As you may know SharePoint Online has the ability to host an externally facing website on your own domain. There is also a comprehensive interface that enables business to quickly setup their own website. Unfortunately this interface doesn’t provide the control over the HTML and CSS that we require for some of our customers, but there are ways around this. Before I look at the ways around this I wanted to test getting one of my own domains setup in Office365, in this article I will explain how I did it.

    Step One – Confirm your domain ownership with Office365

    I am not yet moving my whole site to SharePoint Online so I setup up a subdomain http://cloud.sharepointrescue.com. Setting up a subdomain requires a bit of knowledge around DNS records, but if you have access to you domain admin account you should be able to do this fairly easily.

    To be able to use a “Vanity” or custom domain with SharePoint Online you must first add the domain into Office365 using the admin portal. After logging into Office365 as an Admin user, select “Domains” from the left menu and add a new domain and click check domain.

    Now you need to verify the domain. To do this you need to add a CNAME record to you DNS, which is auto generated for you.

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    Once you have added the record you can try and verify the domain.

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    This part took a relatively short time to wait for the record to propagate, probably about 10 minutes in my case. If successful this will add the domain to Office365.

    Step Two – Change the intent of the domain to SharePoint Online

    Right, this is a part I got stuck on briefly, if you thought you could use the same domain for Lync Online, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online you would be wrong, like I was. If you want to use the domain for SharePoint Online, un-tick Lync Online and Exchange Online, then tick SharePoint Online.

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    Step Three – Change the domain of the SharePoint Internet Site to your new domain

    At this point we need to jump into SharePoint Online so click the SharePoint Online Manage option. If you haven’t already create a Site collection, select your site and click on the Website Domains option on the ribbon when it appears. The domain that you have added to Office 365 will be in the dropdown, select this and click ok.

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    Step Four – Amend the DNS of your domain to point at SharePoint Online

    Now the difficult bit, for your domain to resolve to SharePoint Online you will need to change the DNS once again to point at SharePoint Online. Again in the site collections part of SharePoint Online, select the site you have just renamed and click the DNS Information button on the ribbon.

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    This gives you the target for the CNAME record that you now need to add to your DNS. The Alias or Host name should be the (root), which it doesn’t tell you in the help. I also did two other things here that are not mentioned in the help, firstly I deleted the previous CNAME records that had been created to get the domain verified with Office365 and secondly I deleted the A record for my domain. Whether you need to do the second step is debatable, but it worked, so I am leaving it as it is. This took a good day to propagate so it is difficult to know if you have it right the first time, be patient.

    Great you now have a SharePoint Internet facing site on your own domain in the cloud! Here is mine http://cloud.sharepointrescue.com. You will notice that the standard Adventure Works master page has been applied. This is not something that I will cover now, but there is a way to enhance the external facing website by allowing custom master pages and CSS. I will be writing a follow up on this topic.

  • Friday Fun – Microsoft WSYP (We Share Your Pain) Project

    Those of you who have been around the TechNet world for some time might remember this old-school Microsoft video, created by the IT Pro team many years ago. It resurfaced internally a couple of weeks back and we thought it would be fun to share for old times sake and a bit of Friday afternoon light relief!

    Whilst purely tongue in cheek, how many of you are secretly disappointed that this project was never made a reality?!

  • Book of the Fortnight – Windows Internals Part 1, 6th Edition

    This week’s book of the fortnight is Windows Internals Part 1, and thanks to our friends at Microsoft Press TechNet Readers can get it with a special 40% discount! For more information, check out the Microsoft Press Shop’s TechNet Book page, or order an electronic copy using the code ‘Technetuk’ at the checkout.

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    Windows® Internals, Part 1, 6th edition

    Delve inside Windows architecture and internals and see how core components work behind the scenes. Led by three renowned internals experts, this classic guide is fully updated for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Understanding how the operating system works “under the covers” facilitates understanding the performance behaviour of the system and makes troubleshooting system problems much easier when things go wrong. After reading this book, you should have a better understanding of how Windows works and why it behaves as it does.

    TechNet Offer – 40% discount:

    Buy a print copy with free UK p&p for just £18.59.

    You can also buy this as an eBook  - enter code TechnetUK in the basket.

  • Video: How Retail Manager Solutions changed their business with Windows Azure

    Steve Plank, one of our team’s cloud gurus, recently posted this video with Retail Manager Solutions CEO Jim Chapman on his blog. In it Jim talks about how adopting Windows Azure, Microsoft’s Public Cloud platform, has transformed Retail Manager Solutions’ ability to provide industry leading services to some of the world’s biggest retailers.

    It doesn’t go into the technical nuts and bolts of why you might want to explore Azure, but Jim does discuss a whole host of business considerations that were big driving factors in his company’s adoption and could well convince the decision makers in your business to do the same. It’s a great video and definitely worth sparing a quick 5 minutes, take a look below!

  • TechEd Insights: Memories of TechEd by Jonathan Noble

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    Jonathan Noble works in the Infrastructure Systems Group at Newcastle University. He is a co-founder of the NEBytes user group (nebytes.net), blogs at jonoble.com and is @jonoble on Twitter.

     

     

    My first TechEd was in Amsterdam in 2004. It was the first event I'd attended that was anything like that size and I loved it!

    There was warm-up entertainment at the keynote provided by Drum Cafe (www.drumcafe.com) and there was a drum waiting on each seat of the auditorium. Having thousands of people drumming more or less in time is quite an experience. We were shown a video of drums being made in Africa and it said how much the people were benefiting from the purchase of all these instruments, which gave a feeling that people were benefiting from us enjoying ourselves. The drums smelled like the animals from whom their skin had come - kind of obvious, but you don't expect to come out of a tech conference keynote with your hands smelling like you've been to a petting zoo.

    1.Drums

    At registration, everyone had received a large vinyl bright orange messenger bag. It was quite a fun bag, and the colour was certainly appropriate for the Netherlands, but I've never seen anyone using one any time since that week (if you attend enough tech events, you see a few bags that you recognise from previous conferences). We were staying near the station and used Amsterdam's decent tram system to get around (line 4 to the RAI) every morning and evening the trams were packed by people with bright-orange bags. We stood out like sore thumbs - the locals who were on their regular commute must have loved us; especially at the end of the first day, when we all had smelly, bulky drums clipped to the bags too!

    2.Bag

    Oddly, one of the things that struck me was the logistics of lunch. Getting so many people in and out of a huge hall to sit down for a hot meal in a relatively short period was very impressive and reminiscent of a military operation.

    3.Lunch

    On the subject of impressive scale, the IT infrastructure for a TechEd conference is epic, if you consider that a few days earlier there was nothing. On a couple of occasions I've attended a session about how the CommNet was put together - I'm not sure if they still run those sessions, but if you get a chance to attend one, I recommend it.

    4.CommNet

    To be honest, I can't remember much of the technical content from that first TechEd (although the party was epic!). I would say that it's as much about meeting and interacting with peers as it is the sessions. The content could change your life though. I distinctly remember a session at ITforum05 in Barcelona called "Monad: Next Generation Command Shell", delivered by a cordial American chap in a funky tie. At the time I didn't fully get it, but I did realise that it would have a huge impact on my future. "Monad" became PowerShell; its creator, Jeffrey Snover became a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect of Windows Server 2012 (still wearing funky ties); and I became a PowerShell MVP!

    I'm so glad that TechEd EMEA is returning to Amsterdam. It is a great city to visit - if you've never been and you're making the trip this summer, try to add a day or two on to your conference schedule and see the sights; yes, including the Red Light District - just remember not to put your wallet in an easily accessible pocket, and don't try to take photos of those particular sights!

    For more historical TechEd content from Jonathan, check out the posts from his blog pre-TechEd 2008 - some of the first-timer tips are still relevant, while others may leave you pining for the halcyon days before the credit-crunch!

    If you would like to find out more about TechEd Europe 2012 then pop over to the website and check out the blog.

  • The week that was 23rd – 30th April

    It’s Monday, and that means we have a summary of what we’ve been discussing in the past week ready to start this one. Worth noting if you look at the Microsoft Virtual Academy competition below that today is the final day you can enter to win a weekend with a Ferrari, so no time to lose!

    Time is also running out to register to find out how Camwood and Browsium could save you money on solving App Compat issues and migrating from legacy Internet Explorer, we’ll be in London with them on Thursday and hope to see you there. The clock’s also ticking if you fancy our book of the fortnight, but if it’s not your thing don’t worry, plenty more where that came from in next week’s TechNet Flash!

    Have a great week everyone.

  • 5 days left to join Microsoft Virtual Academy and win a Ferrari weekend!

    If you read The Register, it’s likely you will have seen that we’ve joined forces with them for a month to bring you a great competition. If you head over to www.microsoftvirtualacademy.co.uk and  sign in or register if you haven’t already, you can enter the code MVAUKREG to be in with a chance of winning a Ferrari for the weekend or a shiny new Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone!

    Not only that, but you’ll also have access to all the great free learning resources in the Microsoft Virtual Academy. They’ll help you to get bang up to date with the latest cloud, virtualisation and client technologies among a whole host of other great CV-boosting courses. Who says you can’t get something for nothing!

    Check it out now at www.microsoftvirtualacademy.co.uk, and remember the prize draw closes on 30th April, so there’s no time to waste.

  • Final Compatibility Event – Camwood & Browsium in London, May 3rd

    On the 3rd May we’ll be running our final App Compat Session at Cote St Paul’s, London. Register now to join us for a great morning of sessions with Microsoft Gold Partner Camwood and Browsium, who you may recognise from our recent blog about the £50m savings HMRC are making on their IE6 Upgrade!

    We’ll take you through a range of subjects, including what you can do to tackle some of your problems with free Microsoft tools, how Camwood can help you to assess your estate and how Browsium can help you to overcome your problems and save some money at the same time. Not only that, we’ll also be opening the floor for Q&A with the experts and indulging in a bit of free lunch!

    See below for more details and make sure you register here now to secure your place.

    Date: Thursday 3rd May 2012
    Time: 9.30am – 12.45pm
    Venue: Cote St Paul’s, London

    Agenda:
    9.30am – 9.45am – Arrivals and Registration
    9.45am – 9.50am – Welcome and Introduction
    9.50am – 10.20am – Microsoft – The benefits of migrating to a modern browser
    10.20am – 10.30am – Coffee
    10.30am – 11.00am – Camwood – How to prepare for an IE migration and identify problem web applications
    11.00am – 11.30am – Browsium – How to remediate these applications, while minimizing cost and complexity
    11.15am – 12:00pm – Q&A Panel
    12:00pm – 12.45pm – Light lunch and networking

  • Business Intelligence for the Private Cloud part 1

    If you have looked at any of the new components of System Center 2012 you may have noticed that everyone seems to have a bunch of reports, some of them have data marts or data warehouses and some of them have analytics in the form of analysis services cubes.  Apart from the confusion over when to use what, why has so much effort been put into this?

    In order to answer that let’s consider what information we need from System Center. I use the term information here deliberately as you may be aware that System Center chucks out tons of data, e.g. virtual machine X is running SQL Server, this update failed, that server has restarted, etc.etc. A good example of this how a badly setup Operations Manager will swamp the IT team with all the messages it throws out.

    Rather than all this noise what we need is answers such as:

    • What tasks are assigned to me?
    • Is everything that needs to be running actually working OK?
    • How can I predict demand and so be more proactive?

    This isn’t an exhaustive list rather these questions characterise the way you might interact with the information coming out of System Center, and help frame an understanding of how business intelligence fits into the picture.

    What task are assigned to me ?

    This is operational reporting also referred to as consumption reporting because in the process of acting on the report the data in it becomes obsolete.  In this case If I action a task assigned to me from a report. it’s then closed and won’t appear on the report if I run it again.  This is the simplest type of report  and is usually directly sourced form the operational database (hence the other name).  In System Center 2012 these reports are usually built in to things like management packs in Operations Manager and Service Manager.

    Is everything that needs to be running actually working OK?

    This often expressed as a dashboard and is often found running on a large screen in a large helpdesk or operations room. In order to answer this type of question you might need data from more than one source and a deeper understanding of the source data is needed, for example to understand what systems need to be monitored and what the components of those systems are. In the BI world we might use a dashboard for this kind of analysis which might be interactive rather than static, enabling the end user to drill into a problem area to see more detail. Dashboards typically get their data from a data warehouse which is nothing more than a specialised database where the design (schema) is optimised for reporting rather than input. System Center does include some dashboarding capability but this a set of components and tools rather than a finished solution as dashboards are very individual to an organisation so there’s no right answer than can be implemented in a product. For example your System Center dashboard would probably compare actual performance against service levels, across time across business units. However the SLAs in your business will vary considerably e.g. “server uptime bust be greater than 99.999% between 8am- 6pm on working days”  or “client login time on our corporate internet site must be less than 500ms “ so you’ll have to do some work to get those to show up.

    How can I be more proactive?

    In order to answer this kind of question a data warehouse is also needed because the answer might depend on what’s happened before where operational systems e.g. Operations Manager are routinely purged of older data to maintain performance.  However writing endless reports and running them to get an answer as vague as this would take too long what is need is an interactive way to navigate through the data to understand the trends and discover patterns that might not immediately be apparent. This is the realm of OLAP and data mining both of which are built into SQL Server standard edition, (which you get with System Center 2012), and there’s an option to use this as part of Virtual Machine Manager 2012 for this kind of reason. 

    Hopefully that’s got you thinking, but if not let me leave you with a though and a question

    • The question: With so much reporting and analysis in Systems Center how can I make sense of it?
    • The thought: I spent ten years in business intelligence and saw numerous attempts by software vendors to deliver vanilla BI on the back of their erp systems which were of only limited value.
  • The week that was 16th – 23rd April

    It’s been a busy week here at TechNet HQ, not least for Simon May who we’re thrilled to see has got his blogging hat back on and knocked out two great articles about Consumerisation of IT (consumer devices in the workplace to the rest of us)!

    We also brought you some interesting little tidbits about huge savings being made on IE6 Upgrades, upcoming community events and how Microsoft DreamSpark can helps kids get into tech.

    Over the coming week you can look forward to more event details, even more great prizes, your latest TechNet Flash Newsletter and a couple of new articles as well. Don’t forget we’ll also be holding two more IT Camps in Manchester in the next few days, so you’ll be able to keep up to date on what’s going on by following the TechNetUK Twitter account and #ukitcamp!

    As always, if you want to get all the latest Microsoft TechNet news straight onto your feed instead of having to click over to the blog, you can like us on Facebook.