Office 365 Pro Plus in RDS/Citrix

The issue surrounding Office Professional Plus 2013 running under Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as Terminal Services) or in a Citrix environment still appears to have much confusion. Now what is the real story behind it?

One of my previous blog posts talking about how Office Professional Plus 2013 can be installed in a RDS/Citrix environment spoke purely to the technical capabilities of the installer. Bear in mind that this was written when the product was still in beta so was not to be taken definitively.

A great post by Jesper Osgaard at Microsoft explains the Product Use Rights customers get when subscribing to Office Professional Plus 2013 as a standalone license or as part of E3.

There’s been much discussion around this topic in the Office 365 Community, and a recent thread had some great points shared by Chris Clark.

The short version:

– Subscribing to Office Professional Plus 2013 either via standalone Office 365 subscription or as part of the Office 365 E3 suite allows you to use it in a RDS / Citrix environment as one of the 5 allowed licenses.

– The installer from Office 365 cannot be used in a RDS / Citrix environment – you can only use Volume License media

– You need to purchase a single license of Office Professional Plus 2013 via your Volume License agreement in order to obtain the installation media

– This is only available for Enterprise and Midsize licenses not the P2 plan as it uses a small business variant. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/office-applications-service-description.aspx

UPDATE 1: Another useful link from Microsoft at the US Partner SMB&D TS2 Team Blog on this topic

UPDATE 2: If you obtain Office 365 via a syndication partner (eg. Telstra in Australia) then Reseller Use Rights override the Product Use Rights, and the above does not apply – you cannot use your Office 2013 Professional Plus licenses. You can read more at the Australian Partner Team blog. This is probably the first time I will publicly voice my utter dismay and disappointment with Microsoft on this licensing issue, especially given their recent bad press with regards to their pricing in Australia.

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Friendly URLs with Office 365

One of the small challenges faced by organisations adopting Office 365 and other Microsoft Online Services offerings is the loss of custom URLs and naming conventions that their staff have become familiar with.

For example where previously an organisations URL for SharePoint may have been http://intranet internally and http://intranet.contoso.com externally – this was only possible through the use of Alternate Access Mappings (AAM) in SharePoint.

In the world of Office 365 and SharePoint Online this URL becomes https://contoso.sharepoint.com which is somewhat easy to remember if you were successful in securing a tenant domain that resembles your organisation name. Unfortunately not every organisation is lucky enough, and tenant domains on Office 365 are consumed on a first-come-first-serve basis. That may mean that while Contoso in the US registered for Office 365 first and now has https://contoso.sharepoint.com, Contoso Australia would have to choose a different URL – possibly https://contosoau.sharepoint.com or https://contosooz.sharepoint.com. Either way it’s not idea.

Where this gets a bit confusing is adding in URLs for Outlook Web Access – http://mail.office365.com or http://www.outlook.com/contoso.com. Then add Dynamics CRM Online with https://contoso.crm5.dynamics.com.

All of these URLs can be a bit much to deal with for the average user who just wants to get on with doing their job and not have to remember all these URLs.

If your website is hosted externally (ie. not on Office 365) and happens to be on cPanel then you’re in luck as you can use a combination of subdomains and 301 redirects. What is a redirect? Redirects allow you to make a specific web page or URL redirect to another page or URL and display the contents of that page. In a nutshell if we create a subdomain of intranet.contoso.com and create a redirect to point it to https://contoso.sharepoint.com this will allow the user to type in one URL and have it end up at another.

For Paradyne I have created a series of redirects to make it easy for our staff:

Why can you not simply use a CNAME in DNS to achieve this? Because when a CNAME hits the Microsoft web server that is providing the relevant service the URL it will ask for is the original friendly URL. Because Microsoft doesn’t know about http://intranet.paradyne.com.au it won’t know what to do with the request.

When all the redirects have been put in place within your cPanel environment, you must then create A records in DNS to point all of those friendly URLs to the IP address of your web server – as it is doing all the redirecting.

The downside of this means that a bit of traffic goes through your web host, but these days data is all but free so it shouldn’t make an impact.

The upside means that users don’t have to remember different URLs and domains for each of the services they want to access – just the word in front of your domain name.

(An alternative method would be to use a friendly URL of http://www.contoso.com/intranet/ and re-direct that instead, which means no DNS entries required. The choice is up to you.)

How to connect Lync Online to Skype

Earlier this year I pointed out that Skype was taking over from Live Messenger in Office 365 which ultimately works out best for users who can enjoy a seamless communication experience.

A few days ago Microsoft announced that Lync to Skype connectivity was now active, after having been in beta for a few months. I’ve been using this service during beta and quite enjoy it, however there are some gotchas to be aware of:

– Skype users must merge their accounts with Microsoft accounts, then sign in to Skype using their Microsoft account

– Federation to Skype must be enabled in the Office 365 portal

– Skype users should download the preview client in order to see/list Lync users

– Lync users should have the latest build of the 2010 or 2013 clients – available from the downloads section in the Office 365 portal

Adding a Skype user to Lync is relatively straight forward:

When chatting to them you will see the Skype icon next to their name so you will see the difference:

Part of the challenge I had in getting this to work between my Lync and Skype accounts is that my Skype/Live account uses a vanity domain – so I couldn’t simply add the account with its actual Microsoft account address. The format required when someone use a vanity/custom domain for their Microsoft account is:

Original: user@domain.com

On Lync: user(domain.com)@msn.com

As demonstrated with my Skype account:

The availability of Lync to Skype federation is exciting, as many organisations I speak with are already using Skype for business purposes before switching to Office 365 and Lync Online. This now means that they don’t have to leave those external contacts behind when making the switch.

Exchange Online: How to add signatures and disclaimers

For years there have been numerous products on the market for Exchange Server that automatically add signatures to outbound emails.

These products traditionally need to run on the Exchange Server and retrieve information from Active Directory. There is also usually a PC-based console on which to create the signatures and administer the system.

These solutions also exist for Exchange Online in Office 365, however this is also possible without any on-premise systems using native Exchange Online functionality. All it takes is a little bit of reading to understand the variables involved.

Jesper Osgaard wrote a similar piece on his TechNet blog, however in this post I have gone a couple of steps further.

Before starting it is important to have your user information up to date in the Office 365 administration portal. It is assumed that first name & last name are fine, however if you want to automate things such as phone numbers, address details – these need to be present in the user properties.

The first step is to log into the Microsoft Online Portal (https://portal.microsoftonline.com) and select the option to Manage Exchange Online settings via Admin > Exchange.

You’ll then need to select the Mail Flow menu option which will open up in the Rules sub-section.

Rules

At this point we begin defining our rule. Select the options as per the screenshot below.

Specify the variables you want to use from the following list:

  • DisplayName
  • FirstName
  • Initials
  • LastName
  • Office
  • PhoneNumber
  • OtherPhoneNumber
  • Email
  • Street
  • POBox
  • City
  • State
  • ZipCode
  • Country
  • UserLogonName
  • HomePhoneNumber
  • OtherHomePhoneNumber
  • PagerNumber
  • MobileNumber
  • FaxNumber
  • OtherFaxNumber
  • Notes
  • Title
  • Department
  • Company
  • Manager
  • CustomAttribute1 to CutomAttribute15

This will show up as blank text, however if you have any HTML or CSS skills you can use these to improve the aesthetics. Also linking to graphics such as company logos is supported – however you may find that the recipients company may block calling external files within an email.

Select OK, and the rule is applied immediately.

Here is what the end result looks like:

The problem is if you don’t set an exception – your email signature / disclaimer will be added to each additional reply:

So going back to the Exchange Online rule, open up the signature rule you created and select More Options:

We’re now able to add an exception which allows the rule to be ignored if the email is a reply.

Under the exception menu select The subject includes… and add “RE:” to the field.

Press OK, save the rule, and now we’ll see that the rule isn’t applied on a reply:

Obviously the signature I’ve created in this example is quite plain, so it would be a good idea to get a web designer involved who can write the relevant HTML & CSS to make the signature appear more to your liking.

You now have fully functional automatic signatures! No need to configure Outlook for every new user, and a great way to keep a standard signature across all users.