Blocking spam senders and domains in Office 365

Security is a one of the most significantly improved areas of Microsoft Office 365. If you are using Exchange Online mailboxes under your Office 365 tenant or a consumer of standalone exchange online protection (EOP), your emails are protected either way.

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Exchange online protection (a.k.a EOP) Is part of the Microsoft’s email safety roadmap which constantly evolves in a unmatched cross-product approach. As email usage has rapidly grown, so has the email security concerns. The idea behind EOP is to provide a range of comprehensive abilities in order to protect millions of users from Junk, phishing (fraudulent mail threats) and malware attacks which are some of the well-known types of email related abuses.

Exchange Online however, has the built in ability to protect you from many threats. Nevertheless, there could be some scenarios that you need to manually handle as an Exchange/Office 365 Administrator. The following article will show you on how to prevent receiving spamming emails from a specific address, domain because, there can be rare cases that one or few emails able to get through EOP and hit the user mailbox (again, very rarely).

In my case, it was the following email which arrived in few user mailboxes (looked obviously spam and the user immediately reported to me). At this point, we can make use of “Blocked Sender List” in Exchange to prevent this happening again. And, as EOP spam filtering learns from known spam and phishing threats and user feedback, it’s a great idea to submit these kind of messages to Microsoft so that they will use it to train the AI based component behind the EOP.


From: Sonia Luton <staffprojectz@post.cz>

Subject: Project

[EXTERNAL EMAIL]

Hi Melina,

There is something i need you to do for me. Let me know if you are available. I am going into a meeting with a limited access to phone calls, just reply my email and i will get back to you.

Thanks,

Sonia


So the address is staffprojectz@post.cz and the domain is post.cz. From Office 365 Exchange Admin Centre, navigate to Exchange admin center and “Protection” –> “Spam Filter” . Click on the “default policy”

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The following flyout will be opened. Navigate to “Blocked lists”

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Click on the + icon to add a new blocked sender and insert the desired address.

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Then let’s add the domain too for blocking.

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Once added, the domain will be in the blocked list and Office 365 will entirely block any emails from this domain.

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Save it and monitor your email traffic time to time to identify if it’s being blocked.

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Password protected excel files in Excel online

If you are one of those users who heavily rely on excel desktop application and thinking of moving fully cloud, perhaps you must think twice. There are some limitations on excel web app compare to desktop app. Some organizations intend to downgrade their Office 365 E3/E5 plans to E1 due to economical aspects but there are some serious consequences which could impact the business.

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Go through this article carefully to understand the full list of limitations – https://support.office.com/en-us/article/differences-between-using-a-workbook-in-the-browser-and-in-excel-f0dc28ed-b85d-4e1d-be6d-5878005db3b6 

Specially as Microsoft stated in the article above, if you have Excel files with password protected, they won’t open in excel online and you will get the message below.

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This level of encryption is usually done within the Excel application using the Protect Workbook feature. It simply means you need to key in a password to open the Excel file.

As this is currently unsupported in Office 365 Excel online, let’s find out an alternative to restrict at least certain functions of an Excel Workbook.

There is a workaround for this matter. However, it won’t help if your requirement is to restrict the viewing of the file, but we can restrict changes from others. This means, others will not be able to amend the data or change structure within a workbook but still can open and see it.

To do this, open the desired workbook from your Excel desktop application and click on the required sheet which will be your current sheet in the setting we are going to set. If you have multiple sheets, these steps must be repeated for each one.

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Now go to Review section –> Click on “Protect Workbook” option

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Provide a password and choose all the fields that you want to restrict others from editing and hit “Ok

Protect sheet – prevents others from editing cells or making formatting changes

Protect Workbook – Prevents others from doing structural changes such as adding, deleting sheets.

Having both these restrictions in place will protect your entire workbook from unwanted alterations. But it wont prevent viewing.

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Now, if you close the Workbook and try to open it again from the desktop application, you’d see something similar to below when you try to amend a field. Meaning you have been restricted doing changes to sheets.

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Let’s try to open from Excel online. Just right click on the file and click “View Online

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Now try to edit a field and you’d see the following message immediately.

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Deletion of tabs, rows, columns or sheets (structural changes) are also disabled now.

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If you want to revert this lock, open the Workbook from the Desktop app again and say “Unprotect” from the Info section and it will enable the functionalities again.

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This could be an option but not really a perfect workaround. If you are on Office 365 E1, limitations like this one is expectable. Bottom-line is – be extra cautious when you downgrade your plan.

Apply your custom helpline contact details in Office 365

Adding contact details of your support center will doubtlessly help users to promptly obtain the necessary support. Office 365 allows you to customize the organizational level details in the global settings and the help desk details is one of them.

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To customize the Office 365 “Help”, follow these simple steps.

Sign in to Office 365 as an Admin and direct to –> Admin Center –> In the Office 365 admin center, Click on Settings –> Organization profile

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Scroll down till you see the following area and hit “Edit”

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Enable the “Help Desk Card” here and “Save” it.

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Now that you have enabled it, you can add the details as shown below (well, it has to be your organization’s details of course !) and hit “Save” once done.

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Sometimes, it will take a few seconds this message to appear after saving so give it a moment and close the message.

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Now, If you log-out and log-in again, you will notice that the change have applied under the “Help” bar.

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Convert Office Files in to PDFs using Microsoft Flow

I recently discovered an cool template in Microsoft Flow which allows you to convert any Office file in to a PDF in a simple tap of a button. This means, you don’t have to dig in through office applications anymore to get a file converted as a PDF, which is a very common scenario for most users.

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As a result of continuous improvement of the cloud platform, Microsoft has recently released a new Flow template (works only on Office files as of now) in Office365 and we can now use this template to work as a simple workflow to convert any office file in to a PDF which may be stored in OneDrive of in a SharePoint Library.

In my case I have stored documents in my OneDrive. First and foremost, I’ll go ahead and add the Flow template.

Head on to OneDrive (or directly to the Flow) –> New –> Create from template

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And then, just search for “Copy as a PDF” and click “Add” to add the Flow.

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Hit “Continue

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It will now display the parameters for you to customize (only if necessary, otherwise just leave with the defaults).

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That adds our new Flow. Now to try it out ! Simple find any office document or create a sample one to test the Flow. I’m using a sample doc here. once you select the file and click the “Flow” dropdown menu, you will notice the newly added Flow is listed there. Just click it !

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This will initiate the Flow. Simply hit “Continue

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Hit “Run” to begin

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And, right after a second or two, you will see the converted PDF is stored in the location you defined in the Flow parameters. Simple and yet cool isn’t it ? !

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Until the next post, Keep Flowing !

Want to add a Flow button right next to every item in your library ? reading this post of mine will get you the knowledge to do it yourself.

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

All new search experience in Office 365 will boost productivity

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Unified and personalized search will surely enhance the productivity for all Office 365 users as it was announced at Microsoft Ignite last year.

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Microsoft Graph and AI powered new interface is expected to supercharge your day to day experience with Microsoft tools. You will notice a significant change when you log in to office.com as these changes are currently being shipped to tenants. It has landed in my Targeted Release Tenant and i noticed the changes few days ago.

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Global search is now in the suit bar and the search result experience is consistently same across the entire Office 365 platform. Also, the all new Office Apps icons are reflected in the Waffle Menu. Just a few more apps like Dynamics and Flow icons to have a new look and they will soon be updated too.

Results are personalized by default: As soon as you click on the search box, search engine is intelligent to display a prominent result in a dropdown based on your recent activities and engagements across the organization.

Search results will include global results across the organization. Through this update you will also find excel and other files.

search box is now capable of commanding the application that you are in. You no longer need to drill down through tool bars to access commands, instead type the feature name in the application to get the list of suggested actions.


Mobile App Updates:

The new SharePoint mobile app will reflect these enhancements as well. Search experience is a key element which has been improved and it will list down common questions, personalized results, and frequent searches of your organization.

Microsoft Flow in a real world scenario: using Office Quick Parts to fill out documents (part 02)

Part 02 (This article)

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After the last step in the part 01 of this article series, we  are resuming with this flow. We now can save this, and quickly give it a test run if it delivers what we need.

Hit “Save”  button and check the flow for any errors from “Flow Checker” option on the top right corner. Also,  you can test any flow straightaway from here.

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Let’s do a dry run here. You have two options to test it out. Use data from the last run or trigger as a new instance. Hit “Save and Test” to begin.

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And hit “Continue” to start it.

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Inputs to be done here for the metadata fields we mapped and then simply hit “Run

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Flow also has an wonderful activity tracker. A cool new interface allows you to monitor your Flow activities from a one place.

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Click on “See flow run activity” to find out the status of this instance. This run has been succeeded.

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We can go back to the library and open up the document to see if our Quick Parts have been updated as per this run. Bare in mind that Word Online might have an issue when you open this kind of a document. Quick parts are working well with Office Desktop Application and Word online Preview Mode but, unfortunately having some issues in Word Online in edit mode. Therefore, make sure you test it with Word Application before you wonder where it went wrong as quick parts may still show empty in online mode even after running the Flow successfully.

Here’s how it should look like after the execution.

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Sending Email Alerts up on completion

After composing of the document, we can configure the flow to send out email alerts. In this scenario, I’m going to send alerts to the person who triggered this flow, alerting him with the composed document as an attachment.

Let’s go ahead and add a new step as usual.

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Search for “Get file content” SharePoint action

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We have to rename it as “Get file content new” so it makes better sense as we already have a step with the default name.

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Next up, parameters. Choose the appropriate site URL from the drop down and file identified has to be the ID. Leave the “Infer Content Type” with its default and that’s it.

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Now, add another new step which we will be using to configure the email alert. search for “Send an email” and select the “Send an email (V2) (Preview)”

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Parameters to be configured as shown below. search for “User email” attribute for Receiver field and choose it.

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My subject line will be “Text: customer name field” concatenated. Feel free to have your own here. Type the text and look for “Customer Name” attribute and place it next to the text in the subject line as shown below.

The Body will be just a plain text which indicates the purpose of this mail. Again, it’s all up to you to insert anything here.

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For the attachment name, use File name with extension, from the Update file properties section.  For the File Content, get that from the Get file content new file section.

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You can extend the content section by adding more attachment/content but that’s optional. just leave the “Importance” as normal here which depends on your situation though. Feel free to adjust these parameters as required.

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Now the exciting part !. We can run our full flow to see if everything works as expected. So I will go ahead and kick it.

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Click on “see flow run activity” to see the status of this instance.

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And click again on the latest instance from the history of this flow.

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You will see the entire history of the instance selected. And best of all, in just a simple click you can see the action result in a handy dandy UI ! Isn’t this amazing ?

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Now let’s switch to our outlook account. In my case it’s my account which was used to kick the Flow. And, I can see the latest item with all our parameters including the attachment which means the hard works have paid off !!

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In addition to that, Flow Dashboard is a great place to keep up with all your things around Flows across the entire tenant. You can turn on/off a flow with just a button swipe!. Statuses and other handy dandy stuff all brought in to a one place to make your life more easier.

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Until next flow post, Happy Flowing !

Start over with part 01 

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

Microsoft Flow in a real world scenario: using Office Quick Parts to fill out documents (Part 01)

Part 01 (This Article)

Yes ! a simple and yet solid Microsoft Flow can be configured to fill-out a Word Document stored in your SharePoint library in conjunction with Quick Parts.

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Image Courtesy: brookfieldinstitute

With this blog series, I’m going to demonstrate, how you can utilize legacy and yet famous Office Quick Parts with Microsoft Flow to optimize your content creation!. Well, Quick Parts aren’t new, they have been in Office suite since 2010 but still being famous among content creators due to its usability. 

To get started, you need the following fundamentals:

  • Office 365 subscription with SharePoint, MS Flow Capabilities
  • A document library to store documents
  • Microsoft Office Application Installed in your PC or Mac

Once you have them, simply log in to SharePoint online and open up the desired site. You need a document library to store documents and also relevant fields (metadata) to be created to match our quick parts (Date, Company Name, Project Name etc..).

In my case, I have a simple library with few metadata fields created as below.

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Following fields in blue, are our quick parts that we will be linking with the SharePoint library fields. They can be belong to a content type (centralized) or a specific to an library, nevertheless we can use quick parts in a document so that anyone can easily fill them out as part of a process.

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Once you have added columns in to the library (much more easier in Modern SharePoint experience!), create a new Word document in that library or if you already have a document, just upload it to the library (just drag and drop). my library is the default “Shared Document” and the columns are “Customer, Project name, Date, Project value”, just four, simple !

Once you have uploaded, open it from Word application as shown below.

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From Word, direct to Insert –> Quick Parts –> Document Property –> Choose the desired field/s

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Here I’m adding Customer field which looks like below once added.

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You have to click on each spot where you want Quick part to be placed and it will insert accordingly. I have added some fields multiple times here which is perfectly fine. Normally, a single field value can be used in various location across a document.

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Changes are usually saved automatically. If you notice the save icon on the top bar of Word Application. So just go ahead and close this now.

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Let’s head back to our library and get started with building the Flow for this scenario. Its easier to work with any office 365 tool nowadays due to the ultimate UI enhancements Microsoft have recently done.

Click on Flow –> Create a flow, from the Library

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You will now be redirected to Flow web site and you must sign in using your O365 account to be able to go ahead from here onwards.

Once you signed in, choose New –> Create from blank from the Microsoft Flow home page. Pretty simple right ?

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Type in “Manual” and hit “Enter” to search. Select the “Manually triggered button” as shown below.

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Next up, we have to choose our SharePoint action. Type in “Get File Content” and select the highlighted action to proceed.

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On the trigger options, Choose appropriate input types to match your fields. Keep in mind that your trigger can be whatever you want it to be, in my scenario, I’m using a manual trigger which is easy for me to demonstrate the use case.

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Now to format our input parameters in the trigger. In my case, I’m adding 4 input types (Date, text and number) according to the Quick Parts I have. You can have more or less, inputs based on your story.

Customer: Text Field | Amount: Number | Doc Date: Date | Project: Text

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Next up, is to configure our 1st SharePoint action to act as we want. we have to bind our SharePoint library to the flow. Choose the site where you have the library from the dropdown. I am using SharePoint because, in this case that’s is where my data resides, but, you can use various other services such as Salesforce, or PowerApps to bring inputs in to the file. The idea of this post is to demonstrate that how data coming from (anywhere) can be automatically entered in to a Word document.

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And select the document library from the listed ones. Leave “Infer Content Type” as Yes as well.

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Now let’s add a new action here. Click on “New” and add the Create File SharePoint action as below.

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This action will update the file properties when the flow is triggered. Select the Site address and folder path (Library). Define the File name by choosing the appropriate fields as you wish. File content should come from the File Content Action itself.

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Once this is done, the Flow so far would look like this. make sure you map the fields properly so you wont have any errors during the first run. A positive first impression is something awesome you know that !!

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Then, click on “New” and search for “Update file properties” SharePoint action from the list to add our next action.

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In here too, we have to configure some parameters to reflect fields and quick parts appropriately. Choose the same site and libraries and Item ID should be “Item ID” from create file. I am using Customer Name field as the title here but its up to you to have your own choice.

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Continue to read part 02

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

OneDrive Quick Tip: How To Properly Stop OneDrive Syncing (Unlink)

OneDrive and OneDrive for business, both these usage types are now been centralized with a single sync (Known as NGSC-Next Generation Sync Client or simply ONEDRIVE) client. Microsoft is actively working on improving OneDrive offerings to give its users a better next level collaboration experience. Nevertheless, there can be some scenarios when you want the link between your local and OneDrive folders and you may decide to keep the file offline instead (this could happen due to various reasons). With this post I’m going to demonstrate how to properly stop syncing OneDrive folders and keep a local copy instead without any data loss.

Step1: First and foremost, you have to ensure that the entire target folder structure including its files are properly synced to your local drives.

To do that ,click on OneDrive icon from your task bar and hit on “Open Folder

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Now your local folders will be opened.  You must ! Ensure that you have enabled “Always available on this device” option for all necessary folders as this option will store a copy of your OneDrive files/folders locally on your device/s. Do not proceed to unlinking without having this enabled across all your folders which you plan to stop sync.

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If you have not done this yet, you must do that before you stop syncing. To do that, simply right click on the desired folder and hit “Always available on this device“. With this option you will notice that your local drives getting filled as the files are downloaded to the device.

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No we can stop the linking. Head back to your task bar and click on “OneDrive” icon. Hit “More” and go to “Settings” from there.

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Direct to “Account tab” and hit “Stop Sync” on the desired location.

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Note the message prompt. And hit “Stop Sync” to proceed.

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That’s all ! you now have properly stopped syncing your desired location, yet, you have a local copy of your OneDrive location. You can head back to local folder to check if everything is there. I have tried this several times and its proven to work. Nevertheless, feel free to try it with a test location.files first before you do it for real ones.

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

Choose when and how you want to receive Office 365 updates (all about rings)

One of the best thing you get from Office 365 or, any Microsoft Cloud stack related product for that matter is that, you are eligible to receive product updates (enhancements, fixes, security updates, new features and so on) regularly for no effort or massive costs on platform migrations every few years. It means Microsoft enhances your experience almost every month now, for no additional cost. ! Yes you go that right !

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With this post, we will see how we can change the way cookie crumble !. Let’s find out how you can change the update ring so that your tenant will receive updates earlier than the other who are waiting for public release.

Important note (Microsoft): The Office 365 updates mentioned in this blog applies to Office 365, SharePoint Online, and Exchange Online. And do not apply to Skype for Business and related services. These release options are targeted, best effort ways to release changes to Office 365 but cannot be guaranteed at all times or for all updates.

There are 4 rings in Microsoft release management strategy. This is also known as Release Validation.

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Any new update is first goes to the respective feature teams and then to the entire Office 365 product team. The entire Microsoft team is the next to receive this to validate the solidness before it goes out to customers. 3rd ring is the Targeted release who will receive it right after Microsoft’s. Finally the Worldwide release (general availability) to those who are waiting for the finest.  3rd ring here (or Targeted) has the advantage here to receive it earlier than the others in the final ring.

Login in to your Office 365 Work or School account with Admin privileges and click on the App Launcher to start.

Important Note (Microsoft): It can take up to 24 hours for the below changes to take effect in Office 365. If you opt out of targeted release after enabling it, your users may lose access to features that haven’t reached the scheduled release yet.

From the app Launcher –> Head on to Admin and click “Show all” to expand blades.

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Expand Settings –> Click on “Organization Profile”. If you have not done this before, you would immediately see the release preferences stays in Standard release mode which means you are in the last ring.

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There are a few things to be aware before you choose your option here:

  1. If you setup target release for everyone, it’d better be a test (or POC, UAT) subscription as the change is going to affect for all users in the organization.
  2. 3rd option is the best ! you do not need to have a dedicated test subscription here, as you have few set of users to enable this so it won’t affect to production users. In my case, I only have 5 users in my tenant and I will change the track for my account only. It means, you can have mixed experience users in a single organization (single O365 tenant). Once you choose the best for you, hit “Next” to proceed here.

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You have to say “Yes” to this.

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In just a second you will get this message if everything went well. 99,99 it does !

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By adding people you can define the group you set as target release users. These are the only users going to get the latest during the ring 3 releases (Target) so in my case, it’s just going to be me only. Hit “Save” to complete it.

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Close the message. And head back to Organization Profile.

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You should notice the change here. And, you can change the target group of people by adding one or more people under Action menu.

To Add more, next to Release preferences, click Actions –> + Bulk add people for first release under the Standard release heading.
Choose Browse to select a file containing each person’s email address –>
Click Next
and then Close.

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Until next post, enjoy the updates !!

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.


Word, PDF, PPT Cannot be Opened but Excel, OneNote | Resolving an Extremely Strange Behavior of Office Web Apps 2013

This Scenario is a brand new Office Web Apps 2013 (With SP1) Farm Configured with Two Nodes. Load Balanced with Windows NLB and Secured via SSL as HTTPS.

After all the Configuration on OWA Farm and WOPI binding on SharePoint, Excel Files Opens perfectly on browser but Word,Excel,PPT,PDF file types are fails with below Errors which is a strange behaviour.

1. OWA Servers are communicating Very Well across each other and Port 809, 810 can reachthrough Telnet.

2. No Issues on the SSL or Load Balancer because Excel is Perfectly Working (Excel Calculation Service not running in the farm at all).

3. SharePoint WOPI Binding doesnt seems to cause any issues because, again Excel is functioning Perfeclty.

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Hanging up for more than 4 miniutes and Error Prompts

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PowerPoint and PDF also the same. of cource the PDF Uses Word Viewer to Display Files on Broswer in 2013.

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As same as the error on screen, Event Log had few errors too whenever the files were being tried to access but most of them did not give a spot on hint relates to this behaviour.

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So Yes, Very Strange but Hold on, We are going to solve this !

After lot of Struggle, The reason was discovered and below are the steps taken.

Demoted Entire OWA Farm and Uninstalled the Product. then Reinstalled OWA in Each Server newly in C: Drive. The Issue was with the Additional Drive (D:) Which I used to locate Program files in OWA Servers which caused the issue.

All file types started working robustly right after the provisioning.

It is a Well-known practice that we normally follow on production environment to Isolate Program files, Logs etc… in to a Dedicated Drive as a best practive but with OWA it doesnt seems to be a good move yet !. Lets wait for a response from Microsoft and till then you better have your whole OWA Located to C Drive which is simple and hassle free.

The Bottom-line Is: WAC must be installed to the same drive letter as the render cache location.

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p align=”justify”>You can Download my TechNet Whitepaper to Setup Office Web Apps 2013 in a Multi-server Environment with NLB and SSL here – https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Setting-up-Multi-Server-23e1f2ca