Office 365 Multi-Geo Part01 (Get Started)

Brief of the concept – The name of the feature says it all. Multi-Geo capability of Microsoft Office 365 allows you to have multiple geographical locations (based on Microsoft Data centers) for your Office 365 data other than having everything in one place for everyone in the company.

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With this latest capability, your organization will now be able to expand the Office 365 presence to various countries/geographical locations using the existing tenant/subscription and as a result, you can give your users the ability to store their OneDrive, SharePoint and Outlook data in their preferred location.

Technically, this means, your Office 365 tenant consists of main central location and multiple other satellite locations across the globe. This is centrally managed via Azure active directory because your tenant information such as geographical locations, groups, user information are mastered in Azure active Directory (AAD).

So, Why you should/shouldn’t go Multi-Geo?

You don’t have to enable it just because its a buzzword or others are using. Multi-geo is not designed to meet performance optimization requirements but to comply with industry compliance requirements (such as GDPR), primarily. Therefore, you have to set/understand the business objective clearly before you start doing it. You may really need it or you may not.

Technical Eligibility

Doubtlessly, any Office 365 customer who operates across multiple countries/regions would like to have this functionality due to compliance (such as GDPR). However, currently there is an arbitrary limit for this feature where small organizations with less than 2500 seats can’t use it. So, yes ! you need more than 2500 licenses in office 365 to have this enabled.

It surely doesn’t make sense to decide the enablement based on the number of users. What matters is, whether you have the need or not. Small organizations even though they are small in number, they can be multi-national. This is a serious point where Microsoft need to act promptly. Small companies with global presence should not be limited on GDPR compliance (e.g. European multinational companies). Community is already raising the voice requesting Microsoft to bring this up for all and here’s the user voice item if you would like to vote. When there is strong amount of votes, Microsoft is well-known to take it to considerations so go ahead and vote/comment if you are in need of this function.

Available Locations

This is the list of all locations available as of now for you to add as a satellite location when you configure Multi-Geo.

Important: Not all locations are supported to add as an Multi-geo location (e.g. South America). And not all Office 365 workloads are supported to set a multi-geo in user level.

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Key terms of Multi-Geo

Tenant – or Subscription in business terms, is the top level. A tenant represents an organization uniquely within Office 365 umbrella usually attached to one or more domain name/s (e.g. mantoso.com)

Geo Locations – Geographical locations (Microsoft Data center locations) available to host an Office 365 tenant’s data.

Satellite Locations – Other locations (e.g. North America, Australia) that you have added to the tenant apart from the Initial (Central) location (India)

Central Location – Where your tenant was originally provisioned

PDL (Preferred Data Location) – Location where a user prefers to store his data. Admins can set this to any location within the configured geos. Important: if you change the PDL for a user who utilizes OneDrive, his OneDrive content will not be automatically moved to the new Preferred Location (PDL). Yes it means you have to manually move them using this method. Exchange mailbox of the same user however, will be automatically moved to the new PDL.

Geo Admin – An administrator who can manage more than one defined geo locations in your tenant

Geo Code – a 3 letter code identifies a particular geo location (e.g. AUS, CAN)

Initial Steps (Fundamental) to get started

There are a few things need to be in place before you get started with Multi Geo. First and foremost, this is an organizational level major change. Therefore you can only go ahead if your senior level have advised to carry out the change so ensure if it comes from the correct authorities.

  1. You need to work with the accounts team to add Office 365 Multi Geo in to your service plan. This is something you have to do offline as only the account team can guide you when it comes to licenses and commercials. So meet the right person who handles your Microsoft contract internally.
  2. Then, discuss and finalize the Satellite locations with the respective authorities of your organization and add them to your tenant.

  3. Set preferred  Data Location (PDL) for every user in the organization. When a OneDrive or Exchange mailbox is created, it resides in their PDL.

  4. Migrate OneDrive content of the users you have moved to the new PDL manually using these steps. Nothing to worry on Exchange mailboxes here as they will be moved automatically.

Detailed technical steps are demonstrated in the part 02 of this series

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor. Please do not copy/duplicate the content of the post unless you are authorized by me to do so.

A great bunch of new features coming soon for SharePoint Modern Experience !

SharePoint product team just revealed news about a fantastic set of modernization features which are planned to release in the 1st quarter 2019. Microsoft been aggressively improving the user experience of SharePoint, OneDrive, in fact the whole Office 365 umbrella for the past few years.

Some of these features are brand new while some are updates for legacy SharePoint capabilities. Nevertheless, each of them looks cool and would definitely great to have. The best thing everyone love about Office 365 is, there is no additional cost for any of these updates. Let’s find out what we are going to get soon.

Bulk Check In/Check Out

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Microsoft previously released bulk edit for list and libraries and now with this update you will have the ability to check in/out multiple records/documents at once. Have a look at the following screenshot comes from Chris MacNulty.

Document Sets

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Document sets group related documents together with shared metadata, routing and visual experiences. They’ve been available in classic mode previously, and now you can work with them in the modern experience starting March 2019 onwards.

Signal Icons

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Isn’t that cool when you have a nice visual cue right next to each file as the status? Here are the new list of status signals that you will soon be able to see in your tenant. There will be more signals and the best news is its not going to just limit to SharePoint but also will be available on OneDrive, Teams, and Office Clients too. Wait no longer than February !

Column Totals

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Custom views allow you to add calculated fields, such as totals or averages, to the footer of a group or the entire list. Now, totals will display in the modern view without forcing users back to the classic interface. Totals will also show in the modern web parts for lists and libraries.

Sticky Headers

SharePoint is known to have large repositories. Large lists and libraries always takes a scroll vertically and horizontally. With Sticky headers, you will have the column headers pinned at the top of the scrolling window so it helps you identify list values as you move vertically and horizontally through the view. And ! column headers will also remain in place inside the list/library web parts across any page you have added them.

Add Columns In-between Column

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Soon you will be able to add a column in between another columns which cuts off the time it takes to reach the end of the column headers. Again, this will help a lot in wider lists/library views where you have lots of columns added in to. Just hover you mouse on the edge between two columns and you will immediately notice the (+) icon.

Column Drag and Drop

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Guess what! You don’t have to dig in and modify the views anymore. Moving a column within a list or a library, simply drag it and drop to where you want it to be. Easier right ?

In a quick note: Microsoft always commits to deliver efficiency, reliability and usability across all products. Feel free to raise you voice if you have any idea you think worth actioning here – https://sharepoint.uservoice.com/forums/329214-sites-and-collaboration

Images: Microsoft (original post is here)

Exploring Out of the Box Searching Capabilities in SharePoint Foundation 2013

Though it’s have been almost an year after releasing SharePoint 2013 there are quite number of capabilities that some of us may have not tried. I’m always testing out SP Foundation in various aspects as it’s one of the best software product available for free in the world.

With this post I’m trying to elaborate on Search Capabilities of SharePoint foundation 2013 which is the very first write-up to start the year 2014 as it’s just arrived. Still there are lots more to talk on foundation 2013 but yet one of the most useful capability we all found in SharePoint was Searching so let’s check this out.

Previously with SharePoint Foundation 2010 you couldn’t do much on Search customizations or any advanced stuff as it was an Enterprise edition’s feature where enterprise values are achieved but yet Microsoft gave you something called Search Server Express (which is also free) which can be integrated with SharePoint 2010 Foundation so ultimately Microsoft gave you a great searching capabilities on top of SP foundation 2010 together with Search Server Express 2010. Read my previous piece I did for Search Server Express with SP Foundation 2010 integration here. What I needed to highlight and elaborate with this was that Searching Capabilities (Search Service Application in SP 2013) in SharePoint foundation is not a hassle anymore as it comes out of the box with SharePoint Foundation 2013 that you can simply manage as same as Standard and Enterprise editions but take a note on below points that you need to be aware.

Only a single Search Service Application can be reside per farm

You cannot customize searching topology which is defined by the farm configuration wizard

Search Service Application is limited to a single server in a farm

for SharePoint 2013 Foundation you can only have one Search Service Application and you shouldn’t be able to modify the topology of the Service Application; this means that when you provision Search using the Farm Configuration Wizard it will create a default topology for you in which all roles are on a single server. So, to enforce these rules they chose to make it so that the PowerShell cmdlets would not allow you to provision the service application or run any method or cmdlet that would otherwise allow you to modify an existing topology (so you can’t change the topology created by the wizard)

Moving on to the possibilities, except above limitations you have almost every possibilities you got in Enterprise Search Application such as – Define file types | Customize Content sources | Search Scopes and quite number of more features you had in enterprise edition.

Alright, coming on to the topic and let’s start to wake up and explore this hidden giant.

I have downloaded SharePoint Foundation 2013 from Microsoft – here. Also it has few Cumulative packages already released which generally publishes together with SharePoint product release and October 2013 Cumulative is the latest so better to have it on production environments after proper testing’s as well.

As usual, copied the setup in to the test server prepared for SharePoint foundation with Windows Server 2012 and here I run. It requires the same prerequisites as SharePoint 2013 other editions so keep them ready or just hit "Install software prerequisites" from below screen you got which will install everything automatically for you if the server has the internet connectivity.

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Once prerequisites are ready, hit on the "Install SharePoint Foundation" from the setup and agree to the license terms as below and hit "continue" to go ahead

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Choose the Server type and hit Install to start the installation. For me it’s always need to be a complete one where I have the total control of Database instances etc..

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After a moment you will see the generic completion screen as below. Let the tick be there as I will be running wizard next and close.

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Let’s go ahead through Next

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Choosing the second option as I will be creating a brand new setup

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Database Server and Credentials as usual in other SP Editions and Next to proceed

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Indeed the passphrase is here as well

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Port number for central administration and Authentication type is default for me here

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The summary appears and lets hit "Next" to begin. It’s time for a cuppa folks ! . This Will take about 5-8 Minutes depends on your resources and performance.

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After a while, here we go the green light signaling you to go. I’m choosing 1st option here as I need just to elaborate the capabilities here. Starting the wizard to configure my SharePoint foundation service applications. Not the second option because of a reason that you will see after this 🙂

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And here is the giant we going to knock to wake up now. Search Services are in built for SharePoint Foundation 2013 and there is no Search Server (FAST) or Search Server express anymore. And also some more service apps are here which are given through Search Server Express in 2010 such as Secure Store, BCS etc.. This is a massive improvement and a value for foundation users.

It should prompt below window for you to define the service account. I’m using farm account for all the services as it just going to be a test.

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And after probably 8-10 minutes the completion appears as below saying that all my service applications now created.

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Lets go to Central admin and see this beauty as same as other editions. Central Administration –>Manage Service Application under Application Management

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So here are the applications finally. Quite good number of services given you for free here with new SPF 13.

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Diving in to the prime focus here, let’s get inside the search Service application. Woah !! Do you feel that you are in a Foundation environment ? I’m not , it’s has almost everything I needed.

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Let’s try to create a new Search App through UI. Oops ! This is the reason I chosen to configure Service Applications through the wizard. For foundation 2013 the option is not there to create a search Service application through UI and its only allowed single Search Service Application per farm in foundation 13.

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Diving more in to search capabilities. The ultimate goal of having a search service application is to get better search experience embedded in to our SharePoint sites indeed (the real Beauty). Moving in to the test web application I created.

Under site collection features list I have the search features enabled. Again same as enterprise.

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And also few under site features

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Then next trying to create a basic search center via Site Content –> New Site –> Choose Basic Search Template under Enterprise Category so it creates my search center.

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Further I can add search web parts to my SharePoint Foundation sites as well. Search Box | Refinement Panel etc..

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This is quite a good improvement in SPF 2013 for the audience who was waiting for. Enjoy it and Happy Days with SharePoint ahead in this New Year 2014 …… !