Browsing Posts tagged BPOS

Bob here.  Even though Office 365 is going strong, there are still a lot of folks on its predecessor, BPOS.  And although anti-spam protection is included with BPOS, it’s not the clearest thing in the world to configure.

I stumbled on this site recently, BPOS Tutor, that includes a nice 90-second video that shows how a BPOS administrator can easily add email addresses, domains and IP addresses to black/white lists.  Pretty straightforward.  And you can find it here.

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Bob here.  When we deal with objects, it’s important to know how to refer to that object. This is true in real life, and is also true in the wonderful world of IT. And when it comes to naming things, nobody does it better than Microsoft.

Sorry, what I meant to say was that nobody does it worse than Microsoft.

Sure, there have been some folks in the past who have made some great mistakes. Remember the Chevy Nova? It wasn’t until it was released in Spanish-speaking countries that Chevrolet realized that the word “Nova” translates literally to “no go.” Or when KIA was first introduced into the United States, they didn’t realize the meaning of the letters KIA.

Ah, but Microsoft? Seriously, a database program named Access? How many of us loved say the sentence “can you access your Access database using Access?” How many of us were eager to become a MOUS (Microsoft Office User Specialist)?  Or their Windows Update Services (“WUS”)? And SharePoint? I have to believe that Microsoft has it written in their corporate bylaws somewhere that they simply cannot release 2 subsequent versions of this product with either the same name or same versioning scheme.

Google was able to take their flagship product and turn it into a verb. If you want to get a Microsoft employee slightly unnerved, simply tell them that you were “Googling” something. Of course, they would rather you were using the Bing search engine. However, that would imply that we were “Binging” which has its own implications (at this point you can insert your own joke about working in the word “Purging” into this article.  It’s not hard at all).

Or they’ll just throw the initials at us and hope it catches on. Let’s take BPOS, for example. Business Productivity Online Services. We pronounce it “Bee-Poss.” Catchy, huh? Okay, not really. Everybody pretty much agreed that the product name, simply put, stank. Trying to teach everybody what the initials were, how to pronounce them, what they had to do with e-mail, all of these and more led folks to the undeniable conclusion that Microsoft did not do a great amount of research on the naming of this puppy.

So their new offering, which includes the ability to acquire licensing for Microsoft Office, was done differently. They simply took the word office and added the number 365 to it. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, yeah. Sort of. Unfortunately, it opens up some new issues.

So, let’s say that we have to go search something regarding Office 365. So we go ahead and Google… sorry, I mean Bing, Office 365. Now, unfortunately, both the word “office” and the number “365″ are fairly common throughout the Internet. Even if we add the word “Microsoft” to that search, the Internet is already full of materials dealing with Microsoft Office that have nothing to do with the current 365 offering.

Say what you want about the name, but if you search for “BPOS,” the odds are you’re going to find stuff about that specific system. And yes, I know there are relatively simple ways that you can search online linking the words together so that only the phrase “Microsoft office 365″ will do. But that puts the onus on the end-user to find the information and support that they’re looking for. Our job as IT service providers “and Microsoft’s as IT product providers” is to make the task as easy as possible for those very end-users.

In the end, it’s more about the product than what we call it. And so far, I gotta admit that I’m very pleased with office 365, especially the link product. But it’s a good thing that Microsoft wasn’t behind any of Shakespeare’s plays. I shudder to think would Juliet might have said if she was from Redmond:

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name is now referred to as the ‘Stem Tethered Integrated Natural Carbohydrate Emitting Rose’ (or STINCER)”

Bob here.  I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who enjoys motivational posters (like I sure am, by golly!), But last Friday sure reminded me of the classic poster “Mistakes” from those great motivators at Despair, Inc.

"It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others."

“It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

Now, it might seem rather strange that I’d start out an entry with that kind of reference. But you have to understand that we chose Friday as a swell day (by the way, did you know that last Friday was the 13th?) to migrate our e-mail from Microsoft BPOS over to Microsoft’s new Office 365.

After all, our beta test went swimmingly. The research we did made it look like it would be fairly simple for us to migrate our current environment albeit manually over to the new one. And yes, it was raining, but by golly, we were going to do it!

After all, how tough could it be?

If you haven’t figured by now, gentle reader, the story isn’t going to go well for our fearless heroes in the saga. The assumption (yes, we know) was that if there were any problems, it would be relatively simple to switch our e-mail back to the original. Oh, how wrong we were.

First, a little technical background. When you send an e-mail to someone, the stuff after the @ is referred to as the e-mail domain. Ours is Simplex-IT.com. Each domain has its own set of records, referred to as DNS records. These tell the rest of the world where specifically to send any e-mail sent to that organization. Our started out the day pointing to Microsoft’s BPOS. The idea was to transfer it to point to Microsoft’s Office 365. If there any difficulties, well we would just point ‘em right back. We even practiced our innocent angelic looks, with hands behind our backs eyes looking upwards to the heavens, and whistling innocently.

The strategy was simple. We would set up a new account, using Office 365. Once everything looks appropriate, we would set it to work with our domain. Once everything looks good, we would change the MX records in DNS to point to Office 365, and have a swell time.

What we didn’t realize, and what got us in trouble, was that Microsoft BPOS uses the same anti-spam solution as Office 365. More importantly, if you add a domain that was previously handled by BPOS without first contacting Microsoft to do a special undocumented step, it ain’t going to work. And it will not tell you why not.

Oh, and by the way, we should tell you… you  couldn’t fall back to the original B+ configuration.

So we ended up spending about three hours on Friday, unable to receive e-mails, relying on Microsoft Support to help us figure out this problem. Before too long we were actually able to determine the issue ourselves (which means we searched the Internet and found someone else who had already solved it), but the solution involve Microsoft doing a couple of steps. Unfortunately, Microsoft support people weren’t aware of the steps that needed to be done. At least not at first. So we had the entertaining tasks of moving back and forth from one department to another, throughout the whole time listening to various hold messages telling us “your call is very important to us,” “this call may be monitored for quality assurance,” and “did we know that we could also place a service call online?”

Finally, we got our problem solved. It was actually fairly simple, and the whole problem was very easy to avoid (had we known). It was fairly straightforward. In a nutshell, you need to erase your domain from BPOS and then contact Microsoft and inform them to erase it from there’s side of BPOS. Then, and only then should you add the domain to Office 365. Had we done that, the migration would’ve been a piece of cake.

Actually, our total downtime?  About 3 hours.  In the grand scheme of things, honestly, not the worst thing that could have happened.  But not a result I’m overly happy with.

Now, before you think this is a rant on Microsoft, it isn’t. Office 365 is still a beta product, although it set to release next month. And to be honest, some of the features (like Lync 2010 especially) are actually fantastic. And for the most part, deployment with this one rather large exception has been fairly painless. No, this is a rant on me. We should’ve done some additional testing, we should have done some additional research, and we should’ve done this in the evening or during the weekend. Plain and simple, I got cocky.

I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be this arrogant with a customer’s organization. And for the most part, I think my track record reflects that. The funny part of all this is that the day before this fun event, as I related in an earlier blog entry, I had 50 people online who are very interested in what I have to say regarding marketing. So, I admit, maybe, just maybe, my ego got a little larger than it should’ve.

Boy, did Friday the 13th take care of that!

BPOS Promotion

Extended now through May 31st, 2011 Microsoft is offering an incentive to new subscribers of their Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) that is quite compelling. If your organization has been considering moving to the cloud for Hosted Exchange email, SharePoint Online, Live Meeting or Office Communications, you definitely want to listen to this. Here’s how the promotion works:

For every seat for which a new BPOS client signs up Microsoft will issue a check payable to the Partner assisting in the implementation (that would be us) for a percentage of the first annual subscription fee, up to a total of $1,500! Wow!

DetailsThese Partner Subsidy funds, as they are called, can be used by the client to pay for any services they wish to obtain from Simplex-IT. Most often, they are directly applied to the costs of setup, configuration and migration of emails, contacts and calendar appointments from your previous service. In most cases, these Partner Subsidies will serve to bring your cost of moving to the BPOS solution down to zero (0!) in terms of setup and migration costs.

Microsoft is offering this promotion to encourage potential customers who may be waiting for the new Office 365 to stop waiting and make the jump to cloud services NOW! As Office 365 does become available later in 2011, current BPOS customers will be moved seamlessly to the new service. Automatically. At no additional costs!

Of course, you may have questions. Like how soon can I get started? That’s why Simplex-IT is here…don’t hesitate to call! Just dial 234.380.1277, or you can email John at John@Simplex-IT.com. Let’s take the first step to claiming your place in the cloud today!

There may not be a better time!!

(and yes, this is fairly lifted from the earlier blog post where we said you had to act before April 1st.  Then it was April 18th.  Now it’s May 31st.  But since Office 365 is slated for release in June, we think this one’s actually pretty solid<g>).

So you just went out and bought yourself a fancy new droid eh? Now you would like to receive e-mail, update your calendar, and check contacts from your workplace. Thankfully for you, Simplex-IT is here to help you through the process.

First, click “Settings” from your homescreen.

Steve's Sweet Droid

From here, you will want to click on the “Accounts” button.

Next, on the Accounts screen you will want to click add. The type of account we want to add is called “Corporate Sync” if you did things correctly your screen should look something similar to this:

Go ahead and key in your workplace e-mail and password and leave the domain field blank. More than likely the phone will tell you it could not auto-detect your settings and would like you to key in the settings manually. Please key in your entire e-mail address into the Username field and update the rest of the information accordingly. The only thing that will be the same should be the “Server.”

Once you have completed those steps, go ahead and hit ok. The phone will verify you have entered everything in correctly and begin downloading your workplace information. That’s it, you are now setup to use BPOS on your droid.

Enjoy!

Announcing great news for Blackberry users who wish to integrate with Microsoft’s BPOS Exchange Online service, the cost has been reduced to $0! That’s right. It’s not a misprint. To enable Blackberry Enterprise Server features with BPOS Exchange Online is now a freebie! For all you Blackberry lovers out there, this is indeed good news.

If you are currently a Blackberry/BES user on the BPOS platform Microsoft will be contacting you directly with information on how to cancel the existing paid service and sign up for the new free service.

If you have been contemplating a move to BPOS but have been holding off due to cost concerns relative to your Blackberry, this should make your decision much easier. Contact Simplex-IT and let us help you get set up. As a reminder, if you sign up before April 1, 2011 there could be some additional incentives for you.

For questions, or to get the ball rolling, contact us at 234.380.1277 or John@Simplex-IT.com.

Effective now through April 1, 2011 Microsoft is offering an incentive to new subscribers of their Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) that is quite compelling. If your organization has been considering moving to the cloud for Hosted Exchange email, SharePoint Online, Live Meeting or Office Communications, you definitely want to listen to this. Here’s how the promotion works:

For every seat for which a new BPOS client signs up Microsoft will issue a check payable to the Partner assisting in the implementation (that would be us) for a percentage of the first annual subscription fee, up to a total of $1,500! Wow!

These Partner Subsidy funds, as they are called, can be used by the client to pay for any services they wish to obtain from Simplex-IT. Most often, they are directly applied to the costs of setup, configuration and migration of emails, contacts and calendar appointments from your previous service. In most cases, these Partner Subsidies will serve to bring your cost of moving to the BPOS solution down to zero (0!) in terms of setup and migration costs.

Microsoft is offering this promotion to encourage potential customers who may be waiting for the new Office 365 to stop waiting and make the jump to cloud services NOW! As Office 365 does become available later in 2011, current BPOS customers will be moved seamlessly to the new service. Automatically. At no additional costs!

Of course, you may have questions. Like how soon can I get started? That’s why Simplex-IT is here…don’t hesitate to call! Just dial 234.380.1277, or you can email me at John@Simplex-IT.com. Let’s take the first step to claiming your place in the cloud today! There may not be a better time!!

Ok, to understand my point here, it’s important to understand the lengths I’m willing to go to in order to make a point. Right now I’m on the 8th deck of the cruise ship “Monarch of the Sea.” Before you ask, no, it is not the sister ship of “Chicken of the Sea.”

Anywho, here’s the fun part. I’m on day 3 of a 4-day cruise, taken under extreme suggestion from my lovely wife, Julie. Most folks, when they hear about going on a cruise, they immediately check out destinations, menus, activities, etc. Me? I’m checking out Wi-Fi, cellular charges, wanting to make sure that, fun or not, I’m as online as I need to be. Yup, that makes me at least a workaholic. And yup, it makes a saint out of Julie.

Now, here’s how it works. Cell charges change immediately to $2.75 a minute when out to sea (this is based on my provider, Sprint). And Wi-Fi is available, at (drum roll, please)…$.65/minute. And it’s only available at certain parts of the ship.

So, how do I get to my files? Working on my emails? Talking with my staff while I’m gone? Am I forced to pay a premium every time I want to talk to somebody or do anything with my data.

Welllllll, no. Actually it’s worked out pretty well (so far). And unlike web applications, most of my applications are installed on my laptop (Office, as an example). So here’s what I do.

  1. Open Outlook. Review my current emails, and write any new ones (or replies). But here’s the catch. Do this while offline, so I’m not being charged anything.
  2. Head to where there’s wireless (huh, go figure…a bar!). Connect to the ship’s wireless, and put Outlook back online. All my outgoing emails are sent, and all new emails waiting for me are delivered. Total time, a couple of minutes.
  3. Turn Outlook offline.
  4. Disconnect from the Wi-Fi network.
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But what about files? No problem there, either. Because at Simplex-IT, we do a lot of our file work using our internal SharePoint site. And I’m synchronizing our files using Outlook 2010 (I could have just as easily created SharePoint Workspaces). Which means as soon as I connect, all new files added by anybody to our SharePoint site are automatically added to my Outlook, and I can edit those files offline as well.

And talking to my staff? Well, I’ve got the cell phone ($G$ulp). Or I can go with email. But how about using Office Communicator, which gives me an encrypted chat session with my folks (I can see while I’m online whether they’re available). Yeah, I have to be online for this, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The nice thing about this scenario is it highlights the benefit of both thin (where everything is in the cloud) and thick (where some or all of everything is installed locally) solutions. Relying solely on one strategy opens up several vulnerabilities. By combining the strategies, you give yourself an additional layer of protection and control. And it ain’t that expensive.

So, am I too reliant on the software installed on my laptop? What if, as my wife has threatened, she takes it snorkeling with her? Not a problem. Office 365 (Microsoft’s successor to BPOS) gives me the flexibility to work on Office files from any web-connected workstation.

Ok, let me clarify this. Not a problem in terms of my data. But I think I’d better get back with my wife before I put this to the test<g>.

Ummm…anybody think I could claim this cruise as a business deduction now?  No?  Ok, just a thought<g>.

Bob here.  Ok, for years (since the last millennium, at least) Microsoft has touted (albeit somewhat inconsistently) their Small Business Server (aka “SBS”) product for companies with fewer than 75 users.  It packaged Windows Server (traditional security, File/print sharing, SharePoint, remote access), Exchange (email) and sometimes SQL Server (database) with some reasonable pricing and relatively simple management tools.

Pretty decent product, all told.  It made a lot of these tools available to companies at a price they could afford.  At least, if they were talking at least 10-15 folks attaching to the server.  For companies with fewer users, the costs (especially the CALs, or Client Access Licenses) were pretty substantial for startups with 4-5 users.

Plus, with the advent of cloud based services like Microsoft BPOS (which includes Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting and Office Communicator), which requires no hardware or expensive licenses ($10/user/month), the need for all of that stuff on the server kinda went away.

So Microsoft, who will never walk away from the possibility of adding more options with their product lines, has split up their SBS product (click here for more info).  Currently in pre-Beta, they’ve split it into the traditional SBS (SBS 7), which will pretty much be the next version of SBS (think SBS 2008 R2).

But the interesting piece will be SBS “Aurora” (their code name, not necessarily the product name.  This version of SBS will be aimed at the smaller…um…small business.  Limited to 25 users, offering automatic backup of the computers connecting to it, remote access and other local tools.  But the key function will be to work with cloud based applications (like Microsoft BPOS).  I haven’t heard pricing yet, but I’ve heard rumors that there will be no CAL licensing.

If this sounds a wee bit familiar, it’s because it is.  Microsoft released their “Home Server” edition a couple of years ago, and many small businesses found it to be a great alternative to the more expensive SBS.  So Microsoft is adding the ability for small companies to have the benefits of a local server, but the economy of cloud based services as well.

Could be pretty cool.  Of course, Simplex-IT has already signed up to beta test both products, and we’ll keep everybody up to date with what we find!

On Wednesday, June 2nd from 8am-3pm, Microsoft (along with COSE) is presenting “Microsoft Smart & Simple Technology Strategies.”  According to the post on COSE’s site (click here), you’ll “get tips, advice, and secrets from experts, all designed to help you utilize technology to increase productivity and your bottom line, protect your valuable data, improve your marketing efforts and work better on the go. “  You can see Microsoft’s take on it by clicking here.

Ok, that might be enough to send you there.  But you’ll also get to talk to me during lunch.  Specifically about BPOS, Microsoft’s online suite that includes Exchange, LiveMeeting, SharePoint and Office Communications Online.  I was asked by Microsoft (fools that they be!) to attend the luncheon, and talk to folks interested in learning more about BPOS.

We’ve been working with several companies recently, migrating their email from existing Exchange setups as well as hosted Pop3 services.  It’s actually a pretty cool service!

The event actually looks pretty decent too.  And, unlike most Cose events, this one is absolutely free!