Microsoft Office 365 Trust Center

I am happy to announce that the efforts of the Office 365 Identity team are coming to light with the announcement of the Trust Center today.

My concerns about security of Office 365 have been met with continued focus by Microsoft to address and meet my expectations. However, I am not their only client and this approach has been consistently replicated around the globe in a manner which evolved the product offering.

Office 365 Trust Principles
Your Privacy Matters >

We respect the privacy of your data

Leadership in Transparency >

You know ‘where’ data resides, ‘who’ can access it and ‘what’ we do with it

Independently Verified >

Compliance with World Class Industry standards verified by 3rd parties

Relentless on Security >

Excellence in Cutting edge security practices

Continue to be vigilant

Despite a strong focus on security by Microsoft you will have to pay attention to your own needs and desires in a proactive manner as it relates to security. Some important questions as you study the Service Level Agreement (SLA) are:

  1. If our organization is subject to a specific attack in which we are not sure of the methods used
    1. what support is available to us in addressing this attack?
    2. what is the timeframe in which  we should expect a response from support?
  2. What information is available to us from the Office 365 firewalls and activity logs? How easy is it for us to access this information if we require it?
  3. Are there any configuration requirements in order to ensure we are logging the information required to help us resolve security threats should they occur.

It is my intention to welcome the advance of the Microsoft Office 365 Trust Center and help people explore the dedication and focus Microsoft is bringing to this important area of evaluating the service offering for your organization. I encourage you to investigate the trust center and review the important steps which have been made.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategy Officer | Winrox | 425-577-7377

Exchange 2010–Did you know Single Instance Storage is gone?

In Exchange Server 2010, there is no more single instance storage (SIS). This was a feature which allowed multiple attachments and messages to be stored once with a reference being held in each mailbox. The concept which had been with Exchange for years, had been intended to save space.

So what happened? To hear it from the exchange team, disks are cheap and the ability to have users on separate servers and in different databases decreased the value of SIS to the point where it is no longer relevant. I would say  more complex to implement effectively too. So the decision was to invest the resources in other techniques which would have a similar impact on database size while applying to the current reality that users are not really in the same database anymore.

Underlying differences in architecture:

Prior to Exchange 2010 the database was simpler in that all messages existed in database wide tables as shown in this diagram:

In Exchange 2010, the database evolved so that the tables which existed as database wide were now contained within individual mailboxes. So, what you find now is an architecture where each mailbox is its own complete database structure as described here:

Where did they invest the resources:

  • Compression of Message Headers and Bodies using LZ77 algorithm

Here is what the exchange teams says about compression:

Is compression the answer to replacing single instancing all together? The answer to that question is that it really does depend. There are certain scenarios where SIS may be viable:

  • Environments that only send Rich-Text Format messages. The compression algorithms in Exchange 2010 do not compress RTF message blobs because they already exist in their most compressible form.
  • Sending large attachments to many users. For example, sending a large (30 MB+) attachment to 20 users. Even if there were only 5 recipients out of the 20 on the same database, in Exchange 2003 that meant the 30MB attachment was stored once instead of 5 times on that database. In Exchange 2010, that attachment is stored 5 times (150 MB for that database) and isn’t compressed. But depending on your storage architecture, the capacity to handle this should be there. Also, your email retention requirements will help here, by forcing the removal of the data after a certain period of time.
  • Business or organizational archives that are used to maintain immutable copies of messaging data benefit from single instancing because the system only has to keep one copy of the data, which is useful when you need to maintain that data indefinitely for compliance purposes.

What does the community think?

Concerns about backup and restore times increasing:

  • Microsoft Answer: With a well designed VSS disk to disk backup effects should be minimal

Concerns about attachments and multiple copies:

  • My suggestion is to implement SharePoint which does a much better job of doing document management and will have the same effect. Sending links to documents is a much better method  of maintaining the current state. Although this isn’t an answer to every scenario, there are ways of managing attachments for large environments where this can be an issue.

Concerns about bucking the trend of de-duplication and going the other direction

  • MS has moved data reliability, resiliency, and integrity up from the HW (RAID) level to the application level. The app layer gives us a lot more overall protection than the HW layer where the controllers just look at the bits in on the disk and make sure they are "correct" without knowing if the data inside the bits are ok.

In summary the loss of SIS will likely lead to greater adoption of attachment handling software. I certainly would not be surprised if we see specific functionality added around this for new versions of Exchange. For those planning for today I seriously would look at leveraging document management feature of SharePoint or other third party products. In the mean time training your workforce to send links to central files share is a much better way of handling attachments within your organization.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategy Officer | Winrox | 425-577-7377

SQL Reporting Services: How to configure the service account

To configure the Report Server service account
  1. Start the Reporting Services Configuration manager and connect to the report server.

  2. On the Service Account page, select the option that describes the type of account you want to use. For recommendations about which account type to specify, see Configuring the Report Server Service Account.

  3. If you selected a Windows user account, specify the new account and password. The account cannot be more than 20 characters.

    If the report server is deployed in a network that supports Kerberos authentication, you must register the report server Service Principal Name (SPN) with the domain user account you just specified. For more information, see How to: Register a Service Principal Name (SPN) for a Report Server.

  4. Click Apply.

  5. When prompted to back up the symmetric key, type a file name and location for the symmetric key backup, type a password to lock and unlock the file, and then click OK.

  6. If the report server uses the service account to connect to the report server database, the connection information will be updated to use the new account or password. Updating the connection information requires that you connect to the database. If the SQL Server Database Connection dialog box appears, enter credentials that have permission to connect to the database, and then click OK.

  7. When prompted to restore the symmetric key, type the password you specified in step 5, and then click OK.

  8. Review the status messages in the Results pane to verify all tasks completed successfully.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategy Officer | Winrox | 425-577-7377

Dynamics CRM: 6 Principles of Customer Service to keep in Mind

Many times I run into situations where people think of software as IT and IT as technical skill. However CRM is about customers and its use is about establishing a corporate culture which embodies a system of beliefs about how these most valuable relationships are handled with care. As I have with sales, I strive to remind people of the basic concepts and principles we are trying to instill in the systems we implement.

So here are six principles of customer service to keep top of mind:

  • Be friendly and demonstrate good manners. Teach employees to smile, leading by example. Establish a culture of high quality customer service and commit to deliver superior service whether over the phone, by email or face-to-face.
  • Make customers feel comfortable, valued, and appreciated.
  • Treat customers with respect, empathy, and efficiency.
  • Listen actively to be responsive and exceed customer expectations.
  • Effectively resolve the customer’s problem.
  • Say "Thank you" and "Please" graciously.

These principles may seem to be common sense however their importance to success of a technical project which instills business process to service customers can never be underestimated.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategy Officer | Winrox | 425-577-7377

Dynamics CRM–5 Principles of Sales to bear in mind while implementing

In the CRM world we always have to bear in mind the system is meant to reinforce good customer relationships. I have explored in my previous posts how from time to time people miss the mark. We need to bear in mind the principles which make sales people successful and gear the system to reinforce that success.

The following are five principles of sales which create opportunities for success. We use them to review the system implementation and ensure that we are enhancing the opportunities for the principles to be applied.

  1. Listen to your customers
  2. Seek to understand your customer’s situation
  3. Identify your customer’s needs
  4. Provide proof that your product or service can resolve their needs
  5. Customer believes your solution is cost effective

For those implementing CRM, the goal is always to drive business value by reinforcing opportunities for those who use it to be successful.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategic Architect | Winrox | 425-577-7377

CRM Sales Process questions that give you part of the answer–But is it enough?

Many would have you believe that implementing a CRM system for Sales is about asking process questions like the ones that follow. While you read them think about what your organization is trying to accomplish and what your focus as a company is all about. Bear in mind your major strategies, product niche and the unique competitive position your are trying to build with your company. Now read these questions and ask yourself, does my process reflect my strategy? Do these questions help me implement unique value for our clients in selecting our products because they are a superior fit for our clients’ needs? Read on and expand your thinking beyond the questions.

keep the gearsHow do you get new leads? Does marketing play a part? Are there marketing campaigns?

How does a customer contact you to get information?

How do you track and record leads?

What items do you need to provide to the lead during the sales process?

What steps are taken to turn a lead into a customer? What types of activities?

Are the steps in the sales process recorded somewhere as a record for others to see?

Who talks to potential customers?

When does information get shared so that other departments know that there is a potential customer?

How long does it take before a new lead becomes a customer?

What type of data is collected about new or existing customers?

Where is data stored and who is responsible for making sure that the data is collected? Does anyone review the data? Are there specific reasons for various pieces of data that are collected?

Is there specialized information about the customer and/or the request that you need to complete the sale?

OrdersDo you provide quotes to customers? If so, is there frequently a revision process? How does a quote become an order?

Who prepares quotes?

Who prepares orders?

How do orders get from the Sales department to the fulfillment part of the business? How do orders move through to Accounting for invoicing?

Do you market to your existing customer base? Do you contact them for recurring business?

Are your customers repeat customers? Why or why not?

Is the sales process different for existing customers than for potential customers?

Do sales and marketing personnel have visibility into the process after an order is placed?

What things need to change to make sales more effective? What things need to stay the same?

Can a customer place an order without involvement with a salesperson? How does this occur?

What kinds of reports are used in relation to sales?

Once you understand that CRM is as much about strategy as it is about process, man-looking-through-a-telescope-isolated-on-a-white-backgroundyou will understand that your company needs to be visionary and vocal in the implementation. Most CRM implementations fail to create strategic change and therefore create the burden of process without the value of strategy.

Strategy is the big topic in your CRM implementation and without the strategy to be your guiding principles, process will be nothing more than burden. Invest in your strategy and use that to drive your CRM implementation.

Jeff Loucks is the Chief Strategic Officer for Winrox, a company which focuses on creating competitive advantage by guiding business process improvements with strategy.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategic Architect | Winrox | 425-577-7377

Xbox getting vocal – Voice Remote through Kinnect

Xbox is releasing the promised voice integration with Bing Search and a host of TV and entertainment features. Now with XBox and Kinnect people will be able to search TV content, games, Netflix, the internet and more simply by using voice commands.

For those of you who have been following Microsoft’s voice enabled features and products, you know the power these have brought for years to mobile phones, phone systems, Exchange mail integration, the Windows OS and so on. However this is the first use of voice in the home entertainment room which brings together so much functionality.

My personal thought is there will be challenges using this interface with a crowd of people and a lot of background noise. However anything that means I don’t have to go looking for the remote, a device which I swear has grown legs, is a welcome addition.

Perhaps what is most interesting about Kinnect and now the voice integration is all of the unintended and much encouraged experimentation that goes on in the hacking community. We have seen everything from robots to video surgery leverage the technology in new ways. Launching the voice integrated search engine in an inexpensive console is a powerful new opportunity for innovation.

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategic Architect | Winrox | 425-577-7377

Dynamics CRM 2011 SDK 5.0.8

Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK Version 5.0.8 is now live on MSDN library. Apparently the team is experiencing some technical difficulties with the download but it will be available tomorrow on MSDN downloads. The following is a summary of what you’ll find in this release:

The next SDK update is scheduled for January. Send Feedback

Jeff Loucks

Chief Strategic Architect | Winrox | 425-577-7377