Office 365 Multi-Geo Part02 (Planning and recommendations)

Multi Geo capability is a little complex topic to wrap up in a single article as Office 365 is a diverse platform with multiple set of business tool offerings. Eventually, Multi-geo configuration can affect to most of these workloads at highest level. That’s where the whole article was split in to 4 stages in order to give you a better and comfortable reading experience with necessary breaks.

Part 1: Get Started

Part 2: Planning and recommendation

Part 3: Configuration

Part 4: Managing and Maintaining

I have gone through the introductory and concept briefing in the part 01 of this article series. Now let’s continue with this 2nd stage which describes planning and recommendations for Office 365 Multi-geo.

Test run – Highly Critical

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Try out with a test user/s first. Consider having some test users for each use case as shown below and try out the changes with these users before you roll out in production.

  • Have an existing test user who has an active Office365 account with Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive being used (with available content)
  • Try to add the capability for this user only
  • Move the user to new PDL
  • Move OneDrive content accordingly
  • Test the functionality for Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint


Initial rollout (pilot run, targeted run) – Critical

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After you have tested with the above single user, use a small group of people (5 would be ideal) as the pilot run. In most cases this group would be from IT staff as they are well aware of the approach and changes, technically.

every user should have the preferred data location (PDL) defined so that when the new workloads are created (such as those who do not use OneDrive right now perhaps later) they’ll be provisioned in the new PDL. Office365 will use central Location for those users with no PDL defined. The recommendation is, better to set PDL for all users.

Prepare a list of users with their User Principle Name (UPN) and include your Test users, pilot users and other groups batches in order. This will help you in the configuration stage and will make the procedures easily and well tracked.

Considerations for Hybrid Scenarios

Azure AD Connect supports Multi Geo by allowing synchronization of the PreferredDataLocation attribute for user objects from AADC version 1.1.524.0 onwards. However, this may vary for each organization  and if you are fully cloud with no on-premise dependency, please ignore.

The schema of the object type User in the Azure AD Connector is extended to include the PreferredDataLocation attribute. The attribute is of the type, single-valued string.
The schema of the object type Person in the metaverse is extended to include the PreferredDataLocation attribute. The attribute is of the type, single-valued string.

PreferredDataLocation attribute is not synchronized by default. This functionality is currently intended for larger organization (Its eventually the size than the scenario at the moment). You have to plan for an Local AD (on –premise) attribute which will hold the “Office 365 Geo Location” for your hybrid users as there is no PreferredDataLocation attribute by default in on-premise Active Directory. Further, PreferredDataLocation attribute can be managed by PowerShell for Azure Cloud User Objects but not for Synchronized Objects. For synchronized objects (Hybrid), you must make use of AD Connect application.

Before you start on technical configurations, I would highly recommend you to digest these articles and beware of the outcomes:

stay tuned for the part 03 (technical steps)

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.

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.

Get Started with SharePoint Hub Sites (Part 01-UI)

Hub Sites in SharePoint Online is the new way of organizing your sites. Now what does that mean?

docking

Based on the size of an organization, SharePoint admins create multiple sub sites to classify and organize content which usually aligns with the organization hierarchy (Department wise). There can be Team Sites and communication sites and yet, Hub sites can consist both these under one umbrella to help you relate them together based on any attribute such as Projects, Departments, Division, Region or whatever you have.

Let me put it in a simple way – Hub Sites will now help you to associate team sites and communication sites to provide a common navigational hierarchy, search, Logos and look and feel.

Hub sites allows you to standardize the site hierarchy. More importantly, it brings the consistency across all sites. Following are some of the characteristics of Hub Sites Capability:

Hub Sites[31203]

Some of the Hub Site characteristics are:

  • A Common Top Navigation (Global Navigation)

A common global navigation is maintained across all connected sites of the particular Hub site.

  • Consistent Look and Feel

Sub sites inherits their look and feel from the root (Hub site) which allows you to maintain a single branding across all your sites. In a simple term, all sites are associated, which means they resides under one Hub.

  • Scoped Enterprise Search

Search acts relevantly here. When you search for something in a Hub site, it performs the search within all the sites of that particular Hub Site.

  • Site activities

User activities happens within the associated sites which means, the engagements are specific to an defined area.

  • Content Aggregation

Automatically aggregates content and displaying from multiple sites. News Web Part, Sites Web Part and Content Web Part can be used in a Hub Site to aggregate content from the associated sites and display the content on the Hub Site’s home page. This reduces a lot of manual work that developers supposed to do to get this done in the earlier days.

Provisioning a Hub Site:

There are two ways you can create hub sites in SharePoint online (Yes ! for now its only supported in SharePoint online). However, there is no template to create a Hub site so you can’t simply create a one using the “New Site” option. Instead, these are the options you have.

  1. Create a New site collection and set it as the Hub site
  2. or Promote an existing site as the Hub Site and associate other site collections to it.

A SharePoint Team Site or an Communication Site can be converted in to a Hub Site. Ensure you have the “SharePoint Administrator privilege or above” in Office 365  to perform these changes.

Step 1: Create a Hub Site in SharePoint (New) Admin Center (UI)

To do this using User Interface, log-in to Office 365 and direct to New SharePoint Admin Center –> Click on “Sites” from the left navigation panel –> Active Sites –> Click on “Create

new

Pick “Communications” Site template and go for “Topic” Site design (for example). Define the Site owner and Site name etc.. and hit “Finish” to create the site.

marketing

Step2: Registering Hub Site in SharePoint

Now we need to register the Hub site we just provisioned. No big deal here ! just follow these steps.

Navigate to the SPO Admin Center –> Click on “Active Sites” and that shows you all the active site collections. Choose the one you just desired as the Hub and “Register as Hub Site” from the Hub Site Dropdown as shown below.

hub2

Fill in the name of the Hub and hit “Save” to complete this.

hub3

You will notice the status is update in a few seconds for this site.

status markeing

Customize Hub Site

We now have the Hub Site created, its time to little bit of tweaking to match organizational theming (logo, theme color, navigation etc..). Something similar to following, you can change the Hub site logo, site logo, theme, navigation etc.. so that it will inherit to the site underneath (Associated)

change look

To do this let’s go to the Hub Site –> Click “Gear” Icon on the top –> Hub Site settings.

settings marketing

You also can edit the Hub site navigation that appears on all connected sites based on the central navigation (Hub). These elements shall inherit from the Hub Site to connected sites automatically. Note: When you customize the Hub Site after connecting other sites in, it will take up to 2 hours to apply the changes in the respective associated sites.

Associating Sites to the Hub:

From the SharePoint Online Admin Center, click on the checkbox next to the site collection you want to associate with the hub, then from the Hub site drop-down list choose the “Associate with a hub site” option. From the list of all the hubs you have available in your tenant, choose the one you want to connect to and hit “Save”.

associte

Choose the relevant Hub you want this site to be associated.

associate2

You will notice the status of the site is updated in a few seconds.

associate 3

Option2: You can also connect a site to an Hub Site using the “Site Information” section of the respective site.

In this case, I have a site called “Partner Engagement” and I have opened up that in the browser.

To do this, navigate to the site that you want to associate with the hub. Click on Settings gear Icon –> Select Site Information –> Choose the Hub Site Association and hit “Save”.

associate 4

You will immediately notice that Hub Site Characteristics have been inherited to the Associated site.

Moving sites across Hub Sites:

Hub Sites offers the flexibility to attach and detach (connect and disconnected in other words) associated sites. For instance, let’s say my organization decides to isolate Project management and the site needs to move from IT department to PM department. We can simply detach the site from this existing hub to a new hub.

Important Notes: However, this method only works for Modern SharePoint experience. Site collections that are in legacy mode won’t have this abilities so consider upgrading your experience soon if you haven’t !

Also, once you connect with an Hub Site, Navigation, Theme and Logos will be inherited automatically (That’s the whole idea !) to the newly connected sites.

  • You can’t associate a one Hub Site to another Hub Site (e.g. Hub A –> Hub B are isolated)
  • Also, an associated site can only be connected to one Hub Site

Dealing with the Hub Site Navigation:

Connecting a site collection to the Hub site, doesn’t automatically add links to the Top navigation of the hub site. By default, only the link of the Hub Site appears on top. You have to build rest of the Top Navigation manually in the hub sites.

Here is how: Navigate to the Hub Site –> Hover over to Top Navigation area –> Click on Edit –> Click the “+” sign to add a new link.
Click OK and –> Save.

In my case, I am adding an 3rd item to my global navigation of the “Marketing Hub.

new

A Finished navigation should look like this and it will reflect across all associated sites.

Navigation

Connected (Associated) Sites will automatically contain a link back to the SharePoint Online hub site. You will also notice that you can’t change the theme of an associated site, because it inherits the theme from the hub site and that’s the whole purpose of this feature.

For instance, have a look at this site “Statistics” of my setup. It now has all the items in the Global Navigation inherited from the Hub.

stats

Site Permissions:

When you connect a site collection to an Hub, it doesn’t impact the permissions of the associated site or the Hub. However, you have to ensure that all users who are going to join sites to the Hub site have appropriate permissions to the Hub, that’s it ! the rest shall remain the same.

Detach an associated site from a Hub:

You can disassociate a site being under a Hub if no longer needed. Your navigation and the logo will be gone after disassociating but the theme shall remain the same as it was inherited from the Hub. You need to manually set it to a different one.

To remove the existing hub site association, go ahead and select “None” in Hub Site association drop down list and Save it, simple as that !

Wish you could use PowerShell to do all these? Follow my article no 02 to get the same thins done via PowerShell.

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