Category Archives: Office 365

Microsoft Announces Skype for Business End of Life

Below is the official announcement that Skype for Business will be “retired” in July of 2021.  The newer and more feature rich Teams is replacing Skype for Business.  Skype (the free consumer app) will not be affected by this announcement.

At General Networks we have migrated ourselves and many customers to Teams and the transition is pretty straight forward.  Because Teams is a different interface to the same (mostly) features, some user training is required.  We have conducted many user training sessions for our clients and the Skype features take just a few minutes to go over.  Most of the training ends up focusing on the new features of Teams.

So what’s still missing from Teams that Skype for Business has?

1)     Skype has support for multiple windows and Teams operates in a single window.  There are workarounds but sometimes multiple windows are really what’s needed.
2)     Skype for Business can message with the consumer Skype.  Teams can not yet.

There are other minor things (mostly in the administration of Teams) but those are convenience issues not functional issues.  Microsoft says they are working on solving both the the above issues.  Teams, having so many features, has more “bugs” then the older Skype for Business.  We will update this blog with more information as it becomes available.

 

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​Inspiration for your Modern SharePoint Intranet – The SharePoint Look Book Delivers!

 

As a Microsoft Gold Partner and implementer of SharePoint intranets, we routinely encounter organizations struggling to visualize a great intranet experience in SharePoint.  Many are used to older versions of SharePoint and are turned off by the thought of the bland, text-heavy sites of the past.  Others are altogether new to SharePoint Online through Office 365 and have never had a centralized site for communicating and interacting with their staff.  Where to start? 

As employee engagement becomes a top priority and remote workers are becoming the norm, most leaders recognize the need to provide an intranet site – a place where employees can get the tools and resources they need, stay informed on company news, access a company directory and in general, feel connected to the whole.  SharePoint is a natural for intranets and offers a wide variety of templates to get you started  intranet home pages,  Modern Communication sites, Team sites, Hub sites and more – but how do you deliver something that is both useful and visually stunning?  Something that represents your brand.  How can you see well-designed intranets when these sites are proprietary and generally not publicly available?   

Enter the SharePoint Look Book! 

 

If you are familiar with a “lookbook” in the fashion industry, you know that a lookbook is a collection of creative photographs designed to show off a brand’s style and inspire customers to imagine how they might assemble the various pieces of the collection to create a unique look that fits their vision.  With the SharePoint Look Book, Microsoft does the same for customers seeking to explore what and how they can deliver to their users, based on their unique scenarios and uses cases.  Seeking to inform and engage your staff?  You’ll find examples in the Look Book, complete with page layouts for Modern Communication sites.  Collaboration is your goal?  Check out the Team site examples for working with groups inside and outside of your organization, including details on which webparts were used to create the site. 

Check out the SharePoint Look Book Here 

 

At General Networks, an important component of our intranet deployment approach is to work with your stakeholders to understand your goals for the site and your vision for the user experience.  We provide guidance on what components you’ll need, best practices for utilizing them, and how to take full advantage of what SharePoint offers outofthebox – keeping your costs in check.  We consult on how to build a solid information architecture and framework that is easily maintained and extensible as your usage of the site expands  With the SharePoint Look Book handy, your team can quickly get up to speed on the various template options, page layouts, features they may not have known were available and most importantly, get inspired with beautiful designs in Modern SharePoint sites! The Look Book helps you help your staff better understand what the organization is seeking to achieve, fostering more input, excitement and engagement on the project, which ultimately leads to a well-defined design.  We’ll then take your unique vision and create mockups, wireframes and prototypes for your review and discussion.  Once we have the design locked down, we develop the site, work with your users to test the functionality and provide Quick Guides for both administrators and users of the site to add and maintain content. 

 

Are you inspired?  Ready to give your employees the tools they need to be efficient, connected and inspired?  Contact Cathy Ashbaughcashbaugh@gennet.com to discuss how we can help you bring your vision to life!   

 

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Microsoft Updates Outlook for the Web: Adding AI and Other New Features

New Features Coming to OWA to Compete with Gmail

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Faster with “Modern Experience” for both email and calendar are the main changes.  But there is a lot under the covers.  A dark mode is coming (as displayed) too.  A snooze feature that will make a message as “unread” at a later date and put it at the top of your inbox.  A button to convert an email into a meeting.  And more…

Microsoft adds AI features.  Including one that will suggest potential attachments you might want to include.

Teams integration is also being added.

Look for the updates to start rolling out in late July.

 

Reference Article From CNET: Microsoft’s new-look web Outlook takes on Gmail: Dark mode plus these new features

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General Networks Named a Top Business Services Company by Clutch for 2019!

General Networks is proud to announce that we have been named as one of the top providers of business services in the world by Clutch! We are also excited to say that we have been doing well in a few of Clutch’s more competitive categories, their rankings of the best Microsoft Office 365 consultants, Microsoft SharePoint consultants, and OpenText ECM consultants.

We deliver technology consulting services for customers who need to manage and process critical business content. We bring together business strategy, specialized application expertise, and creative and technology professionals to solve business problems. We help our clients create effective solutions for automating any document intensive business process, from simple electronic libraries to complex document assembly and workflow. Our depth of experience reduces the time and risk of implementing IT solutions.

Clutch takes its reviews seriously, conducting phone interviews with a company’s past clients and getting honest feedback on the quality of their work. These reviews can all be found on our Clutch reviews page, but we wanted to include some of the nice things our clients have said about us here.

“I appreciate their ability to summarize information and suggest actionable solutions.” – IT Director, Research Center

“They are very professional, knowledgeable, and friendly and easy to work with. We’re very happy that we found them.” – Administrator, CF Kent

“General Networks’ responsiveness and accessibility sets them apart; we’ve had a harder time getting prompt support from other providers.” – Vice President, Real Estate Firm

We were also ranked as one of the best ECM consultants by Clutch’s sister site, The Manifest. We were featured for an email migration we performed for a large scale research group in California.

We are honored to receive this recognition. We do everything we can to help our clients succeed, and knowing that they appreciate our work so much is incredible. We will continue to improve and innovate, always keeping our clients ahead of the curve.

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Microsoft Office Deployment Just Got Easier!

The Office Configuration Tool can use configs saved in your Office 365 portal.

This new feature makes deployment of Office so much easier!  Not more XML files to manage.  Just setup your configuration and deploy from a URL on the Office Configuration Tool’s command line.

Here is how!  Be sure to watch the YouTube video that walks you through deploying Office via the cloud!

Contact General Networks and we can help you set this up so you can deploy Office faster than ever!

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On-Demand Webinar | Migrate to Office 365 or Upgrade to SharePoint 2019?

If you are currently running SharePoint 2010, 2013 or 2016 in your organization, you know you’ll need to plan your move forward.  

But to what version?  Continue with the on-premise route and upgrade to SharePoint Server 2019? Move to the cloud with SharePoint Online in Office 365?

As with any major decision, the answer is “it depends.” Some organizations have adopted a cloud-first strategy and will naturally focus on migrating to Office 365, looking forward to enjoying the latest features and accepting that some rework of their customized SharePoint solutions will be necessary. Others may have a corporate directive to retain highly sensitive or compliance-related content on-premise, making the decision to upgrade to SharePoint Server 2019 easy.  For most organizations running an older version of SharePoint the decision is more nuanced and requires analysis of the risks, rewards, and costs to make the final decision. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the pros and cons of SharePoint 2019 and Office 365, watch this on-demand webinar.

In the webinar, Joel Oleson, MVP reviews why your organization should:

  • Upgrade to SharePoint 2019
  • Migrate to Office 365 SharePoint Online
  • Consider Hybrid SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online

Ingrid Camill, our SharePoint Practice Manager, also provides insight on what to expect in the migration or upgrade process.

If you are an IT or business leader considering a SharePoint migration and want to begin to envision which path is best, this is one webinar you will want to watch!

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SPEAKERS

Joel Oleson
Joel Oleson
Microsoft MVP & Regional Director

ingrid camill
Ingrid Camill
SharePoint Practice Manager

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The Problem With Passwords

Microsoft is now saying passwords are not good security.

What is the problem?
1) People will write down passwords if they are too complex.
2) Hackers have great tools to get uninformed people to give up their passwords unintentionally.
3) Even the best passwords can be hacked.

What are the solutions?
1) Stop forcing passwords expirations and replace with a password manager (LastPass, Keeper Security, etc.).
2) Turn on Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on all services.
3) Setup Single Sign-On (SSO)
4) Use bio recognition as a factor for MFA (Finger Print Reader, Facial Recognition, etc.)

Get the security add-on
Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS). EMS can protect Office 365, G Suite and traditional on-premise Windows Server solutions (RDS and File Sharing). Bundled in you get not only the feature above but Mobile Device Management, Managed Antivirus, email and file encryption, and many other security solutions. You can do some truly amazing things with EMS like firewall corporate data from personal data on BYOD devices.

Get fingerprint readers for mobile devices. USB fingerprint readers are available for under $50. There are even Bluetooth fingerprint readers available that can protect not only computers but corporate data on mobile devices (phone and tablets) when used in conjunction with EMS.

Of course, General Networks Corporation (GNC) is here to help with engineers trained on deployment of multiple security tools and training options.

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Microsoft Teams, PSTN Conferencing and Bypassing “The Lobby”

If you using Teams for PSTN Conferencing (Telephone Dial In), you have probably noticed that anyone that is not a member of your Office 365 tenant must be manually admitted from the Lobby by someone who is part of your company. Skype for Business meeting allow the meeting creator to turn this off for a specific meeting and to set the “bypass lobby” as a default feature. However this feature has not yet been added to the Teams client or the Outlook Desktop Client.

And worse yet if everyone is dialing in (member or not) the same issue applies. We have had customers reject PSTN Conferencing as usable because of this problem. However, there is a workaround finally. It requires using PowerShell and its all or nothing but we have bypassed the lobby here at General Networks so we can use Teams as our primary PSTN conferencing tool.

Below are the notes from our engineer that got this working.

If your not a General Networks client to do this for you email tssales@gennet.com and we will let you know the costs. Current clients can email or call the helpdesk.

I’ve updated our meeting policy so that when you scheduled a teams call, anonymous callers can dial in and will be joined to the meeting immediately (no lobby, no admin pin necessary). Here’s how to do it.

  1. Install the Skype for Business Online Connector Module. This module in PowerShell is used to update Meeting Policies in O365 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39366
  2. Restart your computer
  3. Open a PowerShell window in Administrator mode
  4. Run this command: Import-Module SkypeOnlineConnector
    1. If you have trouble running scripts due to your execution policy you’ll need to update your execution policy. See here for details: https:/go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=135170
    2. If it asks you to start WinRM service say Yes
  5. Execute this command: $credential = Get-Credential
    1. Type in credentials of a O365 Tenant Admin (may only need rights to Teams but not sure)
  6. Execute this command: $session = New-CsOnlineSession -Credential $credential -Verbose
  7. Execute this command: Import-PSSession $session
  8. You can now execute commands to interact with the Meeting Policies. Execute this command to see a list of your meeting policies: Get-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy
  9. Find the policy you want to update (i.e. Global)
  10. Execute this command using the policy name in place of GLOBAL: Set-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity GLOBAL -AllowAnonymousUsersToStartMeeting 1 -AllowPSTNUsersToBypassLobby 1 -AutoAdmittedUsers “Everyone”
    1. This will allow phone users to bypass the lobby as well as allow them (anonymous users) to start the meeting.
    2. Additional settings on this command can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/skype/set-csteamsmeetingpolicy?view=skype-ps
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What’s New in SharePoint Communication Sites

What’s New in SharePoint Communication Sites – Branding, Layouts and Customizations

This past January, SharePoint Saturday-San Diego attendees were treated to a number of informative and inspiring presentations  and the exchange ideas with colleagues and Microsoft MVP’s.  Leading experts in the SharePoint Community were in attendance from Southern CA and throughout the US. With temperatures in the 70’s on a bright sunny Southern CA winter day, it was likely a treat for the folks that visited from the Midwest and East Coast as well!
Continue reading…

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