Office 365 Update – First Quarter in review

As an on-premises engineer, I am still getting used to the pace of features being released to Office 365 every year, month, week, etc. It takes some getting used to. Some of the features are small improvements, while others are a big new feature for end users to use. Microsoft does have a published Roadmap page where features are listed as to what the status is at the Office 365 RoadMap page

The intent of this article is to provide a summary of features and what it means to those who have Office 365 Tenants. For those without tenants, this article will give you an idea what effort Microsoft is putting into their cloud platform.

The more notable changes IMHO are the following:

  • Skype For Business – available client download
  • Clutter – end-user and administration
  • Public Folders/Contacts accessible in OWA
  • Quaranting Bulk Release
  • Office Admin App – UI restructure
  • Compliance Center
  • Sign-In Page Branding / Self Service Password Reset
  • Office 365 Groups Notebook
  • Removing Deleted Items Retention Period
  • More control over Sent Items for Shared Mailboxes
  • eDiscovery Center Scale Increase

So what makes these features more noteable than others that have been released? Wel, let’s go through each one to see:

Skype for Business

This is one of Microsoft’s biggest planned changes. Starting last year with the announcement of Lync’s name change to Skype for Business we are now slowly seeing the client become available to the end users. This client is the first step for Microsoft to transition from it ‘legacy’ Lync platform to its new rebranded Skype platform. The client itself looks like a mere between Lync and Skype clients providing a ‘seamless’ transfer of people familiar with one or the other platform. This is critical to enable Microsoft to transition is coporate customers as well as retaining its acquired Skype user base.

Read more here

Clutter – end-user and administration
Think of Clutter as an intelligent Inbox Assistant. Remember using AutoArchive to help keep Outlook folders less ‘cluttered’ or at the least make them smaller. Now with Clutter we have an external process that will help remove unnecessary messages from your Inbox. Once turned on, it does take time to ‘learn’ what is important to you (yes, this is an individual process) and eventually clutter will begin to make sure unimportant messages do not go into your Inbox. Like your Junk Mail folder, make sure to review the folder so that nothing important goes missing or un-read.

For the Admin there are a few things that are now enabled for Clutter control. Personalized messages for Clutter (Microsoft write-up is in progress). Retention Policy tags can be configured for Clutter messages – see here [Link:] for more information on this feature. Lastly, bypass rules for Clutter can also be configured for your organization.

In case you need to manually bypass Clutter, Microsoft has provided a good article in TechNet that can be found here [link:]. Since the bypass rules are Transport rules, these cannot be performed by end-users and only an Admin will be able to make the change.

Read more here

Public Folders/Contacts accessible in OWA
This feature was also introduced into Exchange 2013 CU8. Basically Public Folders with content or contacts can be added as a favorite in Outlook which will show up as a favorite in OWA. This method gives access to Public Folder content via OWA. there are obvious downsides as you need to have Outlook in order for this to work. The advantage is that it exposes Public Folders to user in OWA.

Read more here

Quarantine Bulk Release

Before this feature was introduced, messages needed to be released on a once off fashion. If there were lots of messages in Quarantine for a user, it was a bit of an inconvenience / time-consuming process to deliver the messages. Now multiple messages can be select multiple messages and release them for delivery to your mailbox. Great time saver and a bit of an overlooked feature.

Read More here

Office Admin App – UI Restructure

As many Office 365 Administrators have noticed, the UI for Office 365 has changed a few times in recent months. From the menu of the left getting new options and nested menus, to the new Apps feature that concentrates all the Applications and Administrative interfaces that you have access to into a GUI interface. I believe the thought process is to make it easier to see everything in once place. When the change first occurs, it does take some getting used to. However, I have found it to be more convenient when I am trying to find an administrative console faster or to access a certain feature versus potentially navigating the menu on the left. Just remember that what you see will vary what other tenants and users will see. It is driven off your role, rights and licensing.



Read more on these changes here

Compliance Center

Perhaps one of largest changes or maybe a great emphasis by Microsoft is in the addition of the Compliance Center. Along with the other investments in compliance and retention, the Compliance Center helps draw the Office 365 admin to handle retention, archives, eDiscovery and more from one console. What makes this great is that there is no need to go to an individual admin console like Exchange, SharePoint or Lync in order to perfrom certain functions. On the eDiscovery tab in particular, for Advanced Options, it says that you need to go back to the ‘eDiscovery Center’. So be aware that not everything is exposed here.



Read more here

Page Branding / Self Service Password Reset

For the Sign-Page Branding feature corporations now have a way to customize what their end users see while signing into Office 365 via their desktop or mobile device. You will be able to change the logo, the large image on the left of the sign-on page as well as add additional wording near the bottom of the login page (for example who to call if in need of assistance logging into Office 365). This goes along with other features that Microsoft has enabled for custom branding like EOP Message Encryption.



Read More: HERE, HERE and HERE

Office 365 Groups Notebook

Groups came into Office 365 in the Oct/Nov 2014 timeframe. Since then Microsoft has been adding things that users can do with groups. Now Microsoft has added the ability to share OneNote Notebooks with members of the group. My assumption would be this would be a place to put shared notes or information needed by the group. Looking at the current list of features available now for groups, I would imagine that Microsoft has a few more items that will be added in order to facilitate the usefulness of Groups. Thus adding a shared Notebook is a noteworthy addition to the list of features in Office 365

Read more on groups

Removing Deleted Items Retention Period

This is notable because some of my clients were not aware of the default Message Records Management (Retention Policy) policies that were applied to all users by default when a mailbox was moved to Office 365. Now, this change only affects tenants that have left the Default MRM Policy in place and applied to their user base. If a new policy has been created and is applied to all users, the change won’t affect end users. If, however, the default policy is still in place, the Deleted Items folder will no longer have items older than 30 days removed from it. While not a huge change, it is noteworthy because I believe Microsoft received some negative feedback on the automatic feature that was applied to mailboxes moved to Office 365.

Read more here

More control over Sent Items for Shared Mailboxes

This is an interesting feature that is being reintroduced to newer versions of Exchange. In a way back time machine, this feature had been exposed in Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2 Update Rollup 4. So for all future builds, the feature exists. However with Office 365 (prior to the change) and Exchange 2013 (prior to CU9) this feature is non-existent. With the introduction into Office 365 and email sent as or sent on behalf of a Shared mailbox (as long as it is configured), that said sent message will be retained by the sender (the user with permission to send email for the Shared mailbox) as well as in the Sent Items for the Shared Mailbox. The feature becomes useful in tracking down who sent a message via a Shared mailbox.

Read more here

eDiscovery Center Scale Increase

“You can now search a maximum of 10,000 mailboxes and an unlimited number of SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business sites in a single eDiscovery search query. However, if you specify the specific sites to search, the limit is 100 sites.” With eDiscovery and Compliance in Office 365 any increase in what can be searched is a boon for a consumer of Office 365 products. In this case the maximum number of mailboxes and Sharepoint/One drive sites has been increased. I expect Microsoft to continue this patter, if not with eDiscovery per say, at least with other parts of Office 365. While limit increases may not be useful to the majority of users in the cloud, it is noteworthy that Microsoft is increasing these numbers steadily.

Other Features
While the below list of features is not as notable as the ones above, they can still be seen to provide functionality to users of the Office 365 services.

  • Lync Online Active User Activities Report
  • Document deletion policies for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online
  • PowerBI – New preview features for Power BI
  • DKIM Support for Inbound
  • EOP Message Tracking-Increased Detail
  • MAPI over HTTP for Outlook 2013 and Exchange Online
  • Changing support for LinkedIn in Outlook

Let’s review these features to see why Microsoft spent engineering resources to place them into the cloud service?

Office 365 Video

With this feature, Microsoft seems to attempt to setup a one stop shop for sharing of multiple media sources. From documents and slideshows, to pictures and now videos. For videos, just like other parts of Office 365, there will be an empasis on collaboration or sharing / social aspect of the videos. For coporations, using this might create a convenient place to store trainig material or marketing material that multiple peole can view, comment on and collaborate with. Because there is no extra cost, as long as your licensing is at the right levels, there will be an incentive to at least give it some airtime in a corporate environment.

Yammer and mobile devices will also be able to tie in and utilize the video service provide. Tie-ins to Office Graph and Delve will also be provided.

Read More here

PowerBI – New preview features for Power BI

In this preview, PowerBi will gain the following – including dashboards, new visualizations, support for popular software-as-a-service applications, a native iPad app and live “hybrid” connectivity to on-premise SQL Server Analysis Services tabular models. Users will be able to create dashboards that work with data from both on-premises and cloud data for a single paneview and anlysis. There will also be new data connectors for popular services like Salesforce, Zendesk, Marketo, SendGrid, and GitHub and more to come in the future. Excel 2013 or PowerBi (via the PowerBi Designer) itself can be used to publish data for reporting, analysis and more. Lastly, PowerBi can now access on-premises SQL servers as data sources so that data can remain on premises and the analysis can occur in the cloud.

Read more here

DKIM Support for Inbound

DKIM and DMARC are technologies that Office 365 uses to help guarantee good messages arrive in your Inbox. With Inbound DKIM, Office 365 now checks for the DKIM verification information on inbound messages. More on DKIM can be found here and here. This is just another weapon Office 365 is giving to Office 365 tenants to control spam messages.

Read more here

EOP Message Tracking-Increased Detail

“Message trace enhancements with more detail shown in the case of Failed and Resolved status. “Filtered for spam” and “Quarantined” are new statuses that will display based on spam agent actions. Event detail will include “Journaled” event when messages are journaled.”

No additional informatoin at this time from Microsoft on this new feature.

MAPI over HTTP for Outlook 2013 and Exchange Online

Exchange 2013 introduced this feature with Service Pack One and Office 365 is now enabling this to be a form of communication between Outlook and Office 365 mailboxes. Why is this important? Mapi over HTTP is a replacement for the older RPC over HTTP methodology that has been in place for Exchange and Office 365 for a long time.

Read More here

Changing support for LinkedIn in Outlook

Per Microsoft “We are no longer supporting connecting to LinkedIn within the Microsoft Outlook Social Connector in Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010 & 2013. Customers who want information about their contacts from LinkedIn should download the LinkedIn for Outlook app from the Office Store. The LinkedIn app is supported in Outlook 2013 & OWA.” So if you are connecting to LinkedIn via the Social Connector, you need to change to the app that is available at the Office Store.

You can get the app from the Office App Store.


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