Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cloud Warning! The risk of online services

I ran across a dark underbelly of cloud services
picture taken by cjohnson7
this week. It was fairly unexpected but I think that it emphasizes one of the key problems when looking at cloud services.

Who really owns the data?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Can You Migrate SharePoint FBA SQL External User Accounts and Passwords to Office 365?

SharePoint FBA SQL Accounts and Office 365
The short answer is: there is no way to do this and likely never will be.  Read on if you are interested in more details.

Background on SharePoint FBA and SQL External User Accounts

Using SharePoint’s forms-based authentication feature along with the SQL Membership Provider feature has been a very popular way to use SharePoint as an extranet platform for many years.  In many cases, after a company got their Intranet up and running on SharePoint, the next logical step was to provision a new Web Application for use as an extranet for collaborating with customers, vendors, etc.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Should a Business Extranet Application Run on a Cloud Service?

business extranet application
Because we make an extranet-enabling add-in for on-premise SharePoint, we are getting this question more and more.  People are wanting to know why they should even consider running their extranet applications on-premise any more when “everything is moving to the Cloud”?

(Aside: our definition of a business extranet application is an application that is designed for secure and private collaboration between a business and a business partner such as a customer, vendor etc.  On-premise SharePoint has long been an excellent and popular platform for this type of application when securely published to the Internet using Forms-based Authentication.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

What External Users Cannot Do in Office 365 SharePoint Online

There are times in every organization when it becomes necessary to collaborate with partners, vendors, clients, and even employees who are outside of the company office. SharePoint is built for collaboration, so it is a “natural” for collaboration between users from within, as well as outside, the organization.

An ideal SharePoint collaboration solution would provide external users:

  • Easy, but secure, access to the files and information they need
  • The functionality to accomplish the task, or to collaborate on it effectively
  • The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with other members of the team (internal and external users) in the collaboration environment
  • The capability of effectively using the full range of tools that the collaboration solution provides

A SharePoint extranet hosted on-premises makes the full range of SharePoint functionality available to each user, whether internal or external, according to the limitations set in place by the extranet administrator.
External users' capabilities aren't limited in SharePoint on-premises
The addition of Extranet Collaboration Manager for SharePoint (ExCM), a SharePoint add-on product by PremierPoint Solutions, enables streamlined, powerful, management of SharePoint extranet users, while simplifying access and use for extranet users. It is fully integrated into the SharePoint management interface, and its features are accessible through Site Settings.

These days, however, a growing number of organizations are moving away from SharePoint on premises to Office 365 SharePoint Online, a subscription-based online solution hosted in the cloud by Microsoft. Office 365 provides limited external collaboration capability through its External Sharing feature. But is this scaled-down extranet substitute, with its limited functionality, a worthy replacement for a full-featured extranet? Let’s think about that for a moment.

Here is how Microsoft defines an Office 365 external user:

“An external user is someone outside of your organization who can access your SharePoint Online sites and documents but does not have a license for your SharePoint Online or Microsoft Office 365 subscription. External users are not employees, contractors, or onsite agents for you or your affiliates.

External users inherit the use rights of the SharePoint Online customer who is inviting them to collaborate. That is, if an organization purchases an E3 Enterprise plan, and builds a site that uses enterprise features, the external user is granted rights to use and/or view the enterprise features within the site collection they are invited to. While external users can be invited as extended project members to perform a full range of actions on a site, they will not have the exact same capabilities as a full, paid, licensed member within your organization. The limitations are described in the table below.”

Microsoft then presents a chart showing the three things an external user can do, and the many things he/she CAN’T do.

According to Microsoft, external users can:

  • Use Office Online for viewing and editing documents
  • Perform tasks on a site consistent with the permission level that they are assigned
  • See other types of content on sites

But the list of things that external users cannot do goes on and on. External users are restricted from performing the following functions:

  • Creating their own personal sites, editing their profile, etc.
  • Creating their own OneDrive for Business document library
  • Acting as a Site Collection Administrator
  • Seeing the company wide newsfeed
  • Adding storage to the overall tenant storage pool
  • Accessing the Search Center to execute searches on “everything.” Other search features that may not be available include: Advanced Content Processing, continuous crawls, and refiners
  • Accessing site mailboxes
  • Accessing Power BI features including Power View, Power Pivot, Quick Explore, or Timeline Slicer
  • Opening downloaded documents that are protected with Information Rights Management (IRM,) a Microsoft encryption feature enabled by many organizations for security and privacy
  • Using eDiscovery

Other features that may not be available to external users include:

  • Excel Services features, including Calculated Measures and Calculated Members, decoupled Pivot Tables and PivotCharts, Field List and field support, filter enhancements, search filters.
  • SharePoint Online data connection libraries
  • Visio Services

The list of what external users can’t do is 4 times as long!

If the Office 365 subscriber (the organization) wants the external user(s) to have these capabilities, the subscriber must purchase an Office 365 license for each external user.

But with SharePoint on-premises, an unlimited number of external users (non-employees) can all use ALL OF THE FEATURES of the edition of SharePoint that the organization is using (Foundation, Standard or Enterprise) with no additional licensing, and at no additional charge.

And with the ExCM add-on deployed, both the users and the administrator will enjoy an easy and efficient SharePoint extranet experience.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Are the Ramifications of In-place Office 365 External Sharing Easily Comprehendible?

Theimage external sharing feature of Office 365 fosters the concept of being able to share a document with an external user from wherever the document “lives” in Office 365 SharePoint.   In other words, the feature-set does not natively encourage the separation of “Intranet content” and “Extranet content”.  I call this approach “in-place external sharing”. 

[FYI, I define Intranet content as documents, etc. that are only appropriate for internal employees to be able to access ( for example, a pre-launch product marketing strategy document).  I define Extranet content as documents, etc. that both internal employees AND external non-employees can have access to (for example, a post-launch product reseller fact sheet)].

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Is On-Premises SharePoint Fading Away?

Or is that just what they'd LIKE you to believe?

The conference pep rallies, the executive speeches, the official videos, the company line – to hear Microsoft tell it (publicly), you’d think that SharePoint on-premises was a thing of the past – gone the way of XP, Vista, etc., and replaced by Office 365 SharePoint online.

But is it? Is SharePoint on-premises really finished?

Even though Microsoft wants you to believe the future of software is completely “cloudy” (with everything running as SaaS in the cloud), several industry articles published in the last couple of weeks have infused a healthy dose of skepticism (and caution) into the mix. Maybe…just maybe…we’re not getting the WHOLE story.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

In-Person vs. Live Online SharePoint Training: Which Is Best for You?

PremierPoint Solutions’ Marketing Director Don Beehler recently interviewed SharePoint trainer Robert Schley about what students should consider when evaluating in-person vs. live online training.

Beehler: What are the main differences between in-person and live online SharePoint training in terms of the experience students have?

Schley: With in-person training, there is student/trainer interaction during lunch and breaks, and during those times topics related to a class often come up and are discussed. Another difference is that with live online students, I can’t see their body language very well, so it’s hard to know students if students are really getting what I’m saying or if I need to elaborate or rephrase certain information. I also can’t tell if they are ignoring me or if they are silent because they understand what I’m telling them. In class we banter more and topics just naturally come up, including things they aren’t quite getting. The online students have a more limited opportunity to interact, so they have to be willing to speak up with their questions. Successful live online students are assertive and take responsibility for their training.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ChangeBot’s PowerShell Activity – Set an AD Group as Site Collection Administrator

This post is the first in a series where we will look at how to accomplish certain tasks utilizing ChangeBot’s PowerShell Activity (available in ChangeBot Premium Edition).  ChangeBot already offers you 50 (70 if you use our ExCM product) activities to accomplish a plethora of site administration and user change request actions. If something you want to accomplish can’t be done via one of those activities, then the PowerShell activity can come to the rescue. 

With the combination of ChangeBot’s already powerful activities and the ability to run a PowerShell script as an activity – there really isn’t much that you can’t automate, audit, and run through a proper approval process, when utilizing ChangeBot. You might even have existing PowerShell scripts you need to occasionally run. Why not put official procedures around the process and let ChangeBot execute the PowerShell scripts via a user request form.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FTP vs. SharePoint Extranet – Which Is Better?

External file sharing is essential to the operation of any organization. Teams have to collaborate in order to achieve goals and accomplish projects.

When it comes to choosing an external file sharing platform, a number of key questions must be considered:
  • Is it easy for end users to use?
  • Is it practical?
  • Does it keep company data secure?
  • Is this platform the best possible choice?
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) has been around since the early 1970s. Yet, despite its antiquity, FTP continues to be one of the most popular choices for external file sharing for the enterprise. While FTP is very easy for end users to work with, there are serious security risks to be considered.

Do the benefits of using FTP outweigh the risks? Is there a better choice for external file sharing?

These are the questions we explore in our new free PremierPoint Solutions white paper, “Choosing an External File Sharing Approach: FTP vs. SharePoint Extranet.”

White Paper: FTP vs. SharePoint Extranet

Find out if using FTP is exposing your company data to unnecessary risk, and what you can do about it.

Download this informative white paper now.