Enhanced Productivity with Windows 10

Enhanced Productivity with Windows 10

Since the beginning of the business computing revolution, IT professionals have been staffed with one over-arching mission: to empower their end users.  Each and every employee within an organization – from the CEO to the firstline worker – depends upon IT to protect them from security threats, and provide them with the tools and technology they need to do their best work.

Although the technology we use has changed dramatically since PCs first started appearing in the workplace, the fundamental purpose of IT – to protect and empower the organization – still holds true today, and more so than ever before.

Looking back just over a decade ago, the world was a very different place where technology is concerned.  The Nokia 2600 Classic was the best selling phone of 2007.  The bleeding edge of technology for its time.  Can you imagine still using a phone like this today?  You wouldn’t.  Nor would you expect your users to.

But the reality is, on their desktop devices, many companies are still running old, outdated platforms – or at best, following legacy IT paradigms – like the traditional 3-year update cadence – and asking their employees to work on machines that have missed out on years of advances no less ground-breaking than that of mobile technology.

Today we are in a fundamentally new era of intelligent computing. Due to the pervasiveness of consumer experiences, we are all more connected, more mobile, more tech savvy than we’ve ever been before.  Technology is all around us – from smart thermostats to internet-connected dog collars.

These new consumer expectations are disrupting traditional businesses, causing the lines between life and work to be blurred forever. Employees expect work to fit them, and to be productive no matter where they are. They expect access to colleagues, data, applications and services at any time. Wherever and whenever they might be on the planet.  As customers – and as employees – we are demanding magical, intelligent, digital moments, that are increasingly proactive and fit us in the moment.

According to The Future Workforce Study, people entering the workforce today no longer ask for sufficient technology at their jobs; they expect it – more than 80 percent of millennials say workplace tech would have an influence when deciding to take a job, while 42 percent say they are willing to quit their job if office technologies are not up to their standard.

Productivity is not enough – the addition of collaborative tools and innovative technologies are vital to the workplace of the near future.   IT needs to provide tools and technology that enable collaboration and allow employees work efficiently no matter where or how that work is getting done.tools that employ intelligence, to assist users with daily tasks so that they’re free to focus on the things matter the most.

A 2017 Forrester Workforce Benchmark Survey shows that 59% of information workers would choose Windows 10 for their next PC or laptop.  Why is this?  We believe it’s because Windows 10 brings the richest, smartest desktop experience, on a platform that’s intuitive for them to understand and use.  A platform built with end-user productivity and efficiency in mind.

“We are focused on empowering both people and organizations, by democratizing access to intelligence to help solve our most pressing challenges. To do this, we are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences”.

Satya Nadella – Microsoft CEO

Microsoft infuses Windows 10 features and apps with the latest breakthroughs in AI – things like the Microsoft Graph, intelligent search, inking, and accessibility – to bring the latest advances and benefits to your users with each update.  To help them save time, take advantage of modern conveniences, and make their job a little easier.

With Windows 10, your users always have the latest technology, and the latest intelligence.  Windows 10 is an intuitive, easy-to-use operating system, with the built-in tools and features that individuals and teams need to collaborate and produce their best work.  Core capabilities give your users options for how they interact with their devices, stay in sync, and find what they need faster.  Built-in apps, designed to work across PCs, tablets, or mobile phones, help users pick up where they left off and stay in the flow.

Windows 10 productivity features show up in 3 key areas

Work smarter: Features to help people stay in the flow, work faster, and find what they need.  This includes features and apps such as Microsoft Edge, enterprise search in Windows, Cortana, or Windows Timeline, which offers a chronological view of activities and documents, so users can go back in time and jump right back in where they were on documents and activities.

  • Enterprise Search – With enterprise search in Windows, users have one place to find whatever they need – right in the Windows 10 taskbar. Enterprise search finds results from apps on devices or in the Microsoft Store, settings, documents, email messages, company resources, web results, people, Power BI dashboards and reports and more. Enterprise search in Windows also has the ability to surface documents and items across local devices, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint locations.  Searching on keywords or names will quickly return results from titles and document bodies, by author, or by collaborators and individuals who shared the documents.
  • Windows User Experience
    • Windows Timeline – Gives users a new view of activities and documents, so they can find things in chronological context. From one device to the next, Windows Timeline syncs and keeps track of where a user is in an app or document, and lets them jump back in where they left off. Timeline integrates seamlessly with Task View, with current activities highlighted front and center. With Office 365 apps, Timeline detects and includes what a user did on their Android or iOS device.
    • Optimize Screen Space – Windows enables users to keep the documents and apps they need in easy view.  They can open up to four apps on one screen and easily snap documents or apps into place to optimize available screen space with Snap Assist.  And if screens are getting crowded, users can create virtual desktops with just the items they want – great for when they don’t have multiple monitors to work with.
    • Start Fast & Smart – Users can personalize the Start menu by pinning their go-to apps and files for fast access, and organizing app tiles by groups and folders.  They can pin underlying content to the Start menu, to jump into a specific document, and Live Tiles display updated information, like weather and headlines, so users can see information at a glance without opening the app.  And for East Asian markets, the start menu now has simplified grouping of apps in the all apps list.
  • Microsoft Edge
    • Enteprise Security – Microsoft Edge is the most secure browser for enterprise customers because it is the only browser that works with Windows Defender Application Guard.  Users are automatically protected from phishing and malicious software while they’re online.
    • Productive Across Devices – Microsoft Edge, available on iOS and Android, creates a continuous browsing experience for Windows 10 users across their devices. Content and data sync seamlessly in the background, so users can browse across devices without skipping a beat.
    • Superior browser performance Designed for how the web is built today, Microsoft Edge is created for modern web standards —and benchmarks like Jetstream 1.1 show it is the faster browser on Windows 10.  It also delivers better battery life performance, letting users do more on the web and stay productive on the go.
    • Take Control & Unleash Creativity – Work in multiple tabs without all the clutter.  Built-in tools make it simple to organize, find and set aside web pages to help users focus on the content they need.  Use Windows Ink or type directly on webpages, transforming them into a canvas for collaboration and creativity. Users can add their thoughts to a page, then easily share with co-workers, or seamlessly save screenshots to apps such as OneNote.
    • Quickly Move Into Action – With Cortana enabled, users get instant access to key actions, like highlighting an unfamiliar term to get a contextual explanation right on the spot. 

Cultivate collaboration: Seamless integration with tools for working with others.  This includes the great things you can do with Office 365 on Windows, apps like Whiteboard and OneNote, and features like Nearby Sharing that allow users to quickly transmit documents, files, and web pages to nearby PCs via Bluetooth.

We know that collaboration is the way work gets done now.  People on average participate on twice as many teams as they did 5 years ago and the average IW has seen increase time spent collaborating by 50.  The benefits are undeniable – companies that invest in collaboration and teamwork are 5x more likely to be high performing.

But it’s not just about the numbers.  The very nature of how we collaborate has shifted.  Teams now are composed of both internal and external members – inside and outside the firewall.  Team members are increasingly geographically distributed.  And the workforce is increasingly diverse in many ways, including demographics – 5 different generations in the workforce at the same time, each with different expectations.

  • Office 365
    • Cloud Location, Familiar Navigation – With OneDrive Files On-Demand, users can access all their files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on their device. Just by signing in, all files—even online-only files—are instantly available in on their PCs. And new enhanced activity indicators in File Explorer make the OneDrive experience on Windows even better than before.
    • Add power to the point with 3D – Users can leverage 3D content to increase the visual and creative impact of their PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents, and Outlook messages.  Users can bring 3D objects to life in presentations with transitions like Morph, that create cinematic animations between slides, or animations like turntable, that allow an object to turn continuously on the slide.
    • Ink the way you think Employees can use a compatible digital pen to annotate Office documents in a fluid and natural way, or edit them directly.  Users can convert handwriting to text, strikethrough to delete, circle to select, highlight to emphasize, and make room to write or insert text.  Users can replay the sequence of mark-ups from co-workers, to better understand another’s thought process, and even use a digital pen as a clicker to advance through PowerPoint slides.
    • The best duo for multitasking – Windows multi-tasking features pair perfectly with Office. Users can arrange their screens however they want, to easily open and manage multiple Office apps and documents on one screen, and effortlessly snap up to four documents or apps at a time into view to optimize their digital workspace.
  • Nearby Sharing – With the Nearby Sharing feature in Windows 10, meetings with co-workers just got easier.  Using the Share option in Microsoft Edge, File Explorer, OneNote, and other Windows apps, users can quickly transmit documents, files, and web pages to nearby PCs via Bluetooth.  So spontaneous sharing and collaboration can happen anywhere – not just in spaces equipped with a screen or projector.
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
    • Collaborate effortlessly – Whiteboard’s limitless surface provides space for everyone’s ideas.  Users can bring in teammates—whether they’re across the hall or in a different part of the world—with real-time collaboration across multiple devices.  Users can see where everyone is on the board and the updates they’re making—whether they’re adding images, putting up sticky notes, or creating diagrams.
    • Work naturally – Microsoft Whiteboard lets people create in whatever way feels natural. Pen-first, touch-first technology lets users make fluid gestures with their fingers or draw details with a digital pen. Users can jot down notes, draw precise illustrations, or search for images on the web. Using fingers, users can swipe through sections of the board, turn the virtual ruler to any angle, or even drag and drop images.
    • Capture Intelligently Intelligent ink in Microsoft Whiteboard recognizes freeform drawings and turns them into standard shapes, so it’s easy to create great-looking tables, diagrams, and flowcharts. And unlike traditional whiteboards, the app automatically saves boards, so users can resume discussions later in another place, follow up from their desk after a meeting, or share links to boards so others can build on top of their work.
  • OneNote
    • Start sharing immediately OneNote comes pre-installed in Windows 10, so users can start jotting notes, sharing, and collaborating with peers as soon as they log in for the first time.
    • Stay organized Whether users need to take meeting notes and share them with a group, sketch an idea, capture an image, preserve an email message in context, print a web page or file, or take a photo of a whiteboard, OneNote makes it quick and easy to get everything organized in one place – notebooks, sections, or pages.  And users can search across all typed and handwritten notes to find whatever they need quickly.
    • Think with ink Users can take notes any way they want – typing onto a page, writing or drawing with a digital pen or using a finger on the touchscreen.  Users have access to a variety of drawing tools and effects, and OneNote integrates the latest advancements in shape recognition, including standard shapes and tables, as well as preserving ink color, size, and highlights when converting handwriting into text. OneNote users can even record their ink strokes so they can be replayed later.
    • Access from anywhere OneNote is available on nearly any device, including Android, iOS, web, Chromebook, even wearables – so no matter where users are, they can access their notes.
    • Always up to date – OneNote supports the latest advancements in things like shape recognition, immersive reader, and integration with new Windows capabilities such as Timeline.

Empower workstyles: Windows is built to address the needs of the modern workforce – supporting different workstyles and individual needs, with things like inking, touch, voice dictation, mobility, accessibility features, and device options for everyone.

  • Work across devices is a compilation of features that are designed to make Windows 10 work better with iOS and Android phones.
    • Windows 10 + Android
      • Continue on PC: With Microsoft Edge on Android, users can move easily from an Android phone to their PC, picking up an activity right where they left off. Microsoft Edge creates a continuous browsing experience for Windows 10 users across their devices – content and data sync seamlessly and safely in the background, so users can seamlessly browse across devices.
      • Sync Office docs across devices: With Office apps on Android, users can move easily from one device to another, without loosing their place in the doc. Users can start a Word document or Excel spreadsheet on their mobile phone, and quickly resume writing on their PC with a full keyboard and screen.
      • Microsoft Launcher: On Android devices, users can download the Microsoft Launcher, to get an easy-to-personalize mobile experience, and single sign on for their favorite Microsoft productivity apps.4 Users can create a customized feed of notifications, people and activities, and personalize their home screen to take action quickly.
      • Intelligent assistance: Cortana helps keep things in order – at work or on the go. Users can add a new event or reminder to their calendar from their PC, and Cortana makes sure it’s on their Android phone, keeping users up-to-date wherever they go. Users can tell Cortana send activities from their phone to their PC, to continue activities with the benefits of a bigger screen.
    • Windows 10 + iOS
      • Continue on PC: With Microsoft Edge on iOS, users can send webpages or articles from their iPhone instantly to their PC, continuing to read or browse with a bigger screen on their PC. Microsoft Edge creates a continuous browsing experience for Windows 10 users across their devices – content and data sync seamlessly and safely in the background, so users can seamlessly browse across devices.
      • Sync Office docs across devices: with Office apps on iOS, users can move easily from one device to another, without loosing their place in the doc. Users can start a Word document or Excel spreadsheet on their mobile phone, and quickly resume writing on their PC with a full keyboard and screen.
      • Intelligent assistance: Cortana helps keep things in order – at work or on the go. Users can add a new event or reminder to their calendar from their PC, and Cortana makes sure it’s on their iPhone, keeping users up-to-date wherever they go.  Users can tell Cortana send activities from their phone to their PC, to continue activities with the benefits of a bigger screen.
    • Accessibility: Windows 10 has a robust set of features for those in need of assistive technology.
      • Ease of Access: Windows Ease of Access settings provides a robust set of accessibility features, making it easy for users to customize their device experience to their needs.  They can quickly discover what they need with a new design that groups features by ability – vision, hearing, and interaction.
      • Vision: Improved performance and unified navigation make Narrator (a screen reader built into Windows) easier to use than before. Narrator provides users a more robust and seamless experience, with capabilities like audio output control, machine-generated intelligent image descriptions, and contextual narration of content parts, such as text boxes within in Word documents.
      • Remove reading distractions: Microsoft Edge can help users focus and take in the words on a website or PDF.  With Reading view, users can remove distractions like ads, or if they prefer listening to reading, Read Aloud will read PDFs or websites out loud.
      • Write freely: Any user can now author and edit documents with voice dictation in Windows.  Dictation will convert speech to text, so users can think freely without a keyboard. And Windows supports text suggestions for hardware, as well as on-screen keyboards, so users can get their ideas intro writing more quickly.
      • Click with your eyes: For those who are not able to use a keyboard, Windows comes with built-in support for eye control.  Users can control the mouse, type using an on-screen keyboard, and communicate with people using text-to-speech, all with their eyes.

Windows 10 isn’t just the platform of choice for end users.  It’s also the platform trusted by IT.  It’s designed to give YOU the tools to do more – to keep the company secure, simplify the deployment and update process, and to harness the power of the cloud to reduce the complexity of managing today’s IT device environment.

We here at Oakwood Systems Group hope you’ll take advantage of what Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 can offer you, to empower the new culture of work in your organization today.

Contact us today and we’ll help you get started!

Microsoft 365 Customer Story: TransBlue

Microsoft 365 Customer Story: TransBlue

Whether you are part of a large conglomerate or a small business like TransBlue, modernizing your workplace is a necessity if you want to keep up with customer demands and the competition.

Running back and forth between jobsites can eat up time and resources, especially for a small business. TransBlue was still running their business the old-fashioned way when they updated their business infrastructure. TransBlue now uses Microsoft 365. The mobility enables them to cut out drives to the job that used to eat up an entire day.

With a suite of tools at their disposal, Microsoft 365 provides TransBlue with the collaboration and mobility their employees need to stay productive. With tools like Microsoft Teams, they can have face-to-face meetings no matter where they are and upload and share on Teams with ease. 

Your organization can benefit from the power of a modern workplace and your employees will thank you for using the suite of tools they already know and trust with Microsoft 365. Email us today to find out how we can help you plan your shift to the cloud.

The shift to the cloud brought agility to TransBlue. The future of your digital business depends on getting your IT right. Contact Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. to find out how we can help you integrate Microsoft 365 today.

Your Path To A Modern Desktop

Your Path To A Modern Desktop

Making the shift to a modern desktop helps you to foster a highly secure workspace, empowered by the latest productivity, teamwork and collaboration experiences for your organization. As an IT Admin, making the shift also removes much of the pain of keeping your desktop environment secure with built in end point protection and easier access to the latest security updates, as well as improved information protection and integrated identity and access management. Deploying new PCs or getting PCs back to a business ready state gets easier and you can keep your user populations happy and secure with the most up to date experiences.

This is best achieved through Microsoft 365, which brings together Office 365 with Windows 10 Enterprise and Enterprise Mobility + Security in a complete intelligent solution.

Has It Been A While?

If you haven’t shifted your desktop environment for a while, you will notice that a few things have evolved since your previous desktop deployments. Here are the top areas to be aware of as you plan your migration.

  • At the core of modern desktop and its connectivity to cloud productivity, security and management services, is the modern Identity and Access Management service with Azure Active Directory. This enables single sign on and secure connectivity across cloud services. It also enables new options for device and configuration management – without requiring connectivity to your local network or systems management tools.
  • Next in-place upgrade is now the recommended approach in Windows 10 instead of the wipe-and-load reimaging process you might be using today. This preserves apps, data and configurations from the previous installation.
  • If you haven’t switched from BIOS to UEFI, now’s the time. UEFI not only speeds up boot times, it is required to enable many of the modern security capabilities in Windows 10. There are tools available to make this switch after or during upgrades to Windows 10.
  • Furthermore, Microsoft Intune can be used to manage your Windows 10 devices like other mobile devices from one place. Now you can also co-manage your Windows 10 devices with System Center Configuration Manager together with Microsoft Intune.
  • Office 365 ProPlus is the preferred option for Office desktop apps and they have new installation options that are different than the MSI-based packages in the past. Don’t worry, it is still a local copy of Office and you can still use your deployment tools to provision and configure the apps.
  • Update behavior can now be managed for Office 365 ProPlus at install time and now for Windows using the Windows Update for Business service by configuring policy or using MDM tools.

Windows Autopilot deployment service

Windows Autopilot brings together Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite, Office 365, and Windows 10 into a single, cohesive experience for IT as well as end users. With the latest updates, Windows Autopilot now spans each step in your device’s lifecycle from acquiring and deploying devices to ongoing resets. This is useful whether you need to transfer ownership of a device from one user to another, or break/fix a malfunctioning device. The goal is to give you a zerotouch IT experience so that you can reset your devices and bring them back to a fully business ready state with the click of a single button in Microsoft Intune.

Despite the new tool and connection options, you can continue using preferred OS deployment tools like System Center Configuration Manager and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit if you wish.

Preparing for Deployment!

The first step of your deployment is to create a high-level plan and get necessary approvals and project sponsors. Next you can assemble your teams and assign areas of responsibility across the following eight steps:

  1. Device & App Readiness
  2. Directory & Networking Readiness
  3. Office and Line of Business App Delivery
  4. User Files and Settings Migration
  5. Security & Compliance
  6. OS Deployment & Feature Updates
  7. User Communication & Training
  8. Windows and Office as a Service

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how to plan your path to a modern desktop. While there may be some up front learning to take advantage of new resources and updated approaches, the value of making the shift should outweigh the initial investment.

The Microsoft deployment experts at Oakwood Systems Group would like to talk to you today and get you, and your staff, on the path to a modern desktop environment!

Imagine What Dynamics 365 Can Do For You!

Imagine What Dynamics 365 Can Do For You!

Customer experience is often the key differentiator between businesses. In fact, 3 in 4 business leaders in a recent study said improving the customer journey and user experience was their top priority in the next year. What’s your priority?

For Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, who own 23 luxury hotels worldwide, they sought out a solution to more intelligently manage customer data while personalizing communication with their guests. Through their integration of Microsoft Dynamics 365 they’ve seen increased year-over-year revenue growth by sending relevant, customized content enabled by an automated, cloud-based system.

Our industry does not respect tradition, it only respects innovation

Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

A powerful CRM, like Dynamics 365, can increase your organization’s profitability by streamlining administrative processes in your sales, marketing, and service divisions, while letting you focus on building and maintaining the customer relationships that matter. A strong CRM solution is a multifaceted platform where everything crucial to developing, improving, and retaining your customer relationships is stored. Without the support of an integrated CRM solution, you may miss growth opportunities and lose revenue because you’re not optimizing your operating processes or making the most of your customer relationships or sales leads.

Imagine misplacing customer contact information, only to learn that your delay resulted in losing your client to a competitor. Or, picture your salespeople pursuing the same prospect, resulting in an annoyed potential customer and some unfriendly, in-house competition. Without a centralized and automated CRM system, your people can lose track of customer interactions and miss business opportunities.

Send us a message below or contact us at (314) 824-3000 to find out how you can make Microsoft Dynamics work for you and your customers too. 

Streamline Data Management and Turn Communication Challenges into Opportunities

Streamline Data Management and Turn Communication Challenges into Opportunities

After several acquisitions and quick growth from a small and nimble company to a much larger group of properties and brands, Red Lion Hotels Corporation needed to digitally transform.  

Using Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams, they improved employee connectivity and unified two legacy data management systems into a single, customized platform, addressing data-quality concerns and improving customer satisfaction.  

At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we realize that technology affects not only companies, but also owners, staff, and customers. To learn how your organization can leverage smart technology to simplify your business and improve customer and employee relationships, contact us today.

Drive secure and scalable business success with a modern data platform

Drive secure and scalable business success with a modern data platform

If you really want to make a difference in your organization, you can start by modernizing your IT infrastructure. That’s what Kyle began with when he started to work for the City of Corona. He worked hard to help the citizens of Corona by moving the city’s IT services to Microsoft 365 and Azure. This allowed the Corona government to provide real-time data and insights for their traffic management professionals; enable better communication with first responders via mobile devices; and connect with the community.

Editing in Microsoft Teams and being able to access features from a mobile platform brought huge time savings and removed redundant efforts among the staff, saving time and resources. With Azure, the city can now access and analyze data quickly, so they can respond to the changing environment faster and with greater accuracy.

Thanks to Kyle and Microsoft, Corona’s shift to a modern IT platform helps them to rapidly meet the changing needs of the city and its employees.

Send Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. an email today to find out how we can help you and your organization shift to a modern business platform with Microsoft.

MS Office 365 – It May Be Time To Look

MS Office 365 – It May Be Time To Look

Wondering about Office 365 benefits.   Time to consider it?  We agree!  And, we have you covered.  Let's jump into the world of online applications.  It hasn't been without challenges.  The launch of Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS, may have been too much, too fast, considering that it was seemingly fast-tracked in response to the launch and aggressive sales campaigns done by another company.  Let me pause here and state clearly that I don't work for Microsoft, but I do drink the kool-aid.  That said, I had a tough time with BPOS because it was marketed mainly to small businesses, we saw a flurry of tiny deals, a lot of noise, and a little bit of MS bravado – “see, we have a cloud offering too.

New Capabilities

Office 365 is infinitely better, and the exciting next releases of products like Exchange and Lync will make it easier than ever to manage a hybrid environment if that is what will work best – some users on Office 365, others using the on-premise Exchange and/or Lync 2013.  New capabilities in Office 365's SharePoint make it a very attractive option for further integrating the business with outsiders like partners, customers, and suppliers.  Making disconnected users finally feel like they are part of the corporate environment has huge benefits, too, in employee engagement metrics and overall organizational culture.

We are also seeing a distinct play in the merger/acquisition and divestiture space.  Organizations that need to be able to acquire and divest with agility are finding Office 365 a great enablement platform.

Office 365 Benefits

Most of our clients still have a lot of questions.  How can I use Office 365?  What will it do for me?  Will it impact my bottom line?  What about security?  Up-time?  Or, the servers/software/processes/workflows I already have?  As a result, huge enterprises like Dupont, Dell, and Scripps Networks (HGTV and DIY Network fans might recognize this name) have clearly answered these questions and have deployed Office 365.

Industry Assessment

Forrester said, in a June 2011 commissioned study, “Office 365 improves productivity, provides IT peace of mind, and reduces total cost of ownership compared to similar on premises implementation.”  Yes, it was a commissioned study, but we're seeing situations where this is totally proven out, and where larger companies are realizing that they can save money, leverage existing staff to do more transformational work, and create a seamless user experience that actually enhances corporate capabilities.


This isn't a commercial for Office 365, and I would not presume to suggest that it is right for every organization.  And, while for a small business, it might be a flip of a technical switch, for larger organizations there are a number of architectural questions to be worked out.  There is no one answer that fits every organization, but based on what I am seeing, it is time to thoughtfully evaluate the platform for its part in an enterprise IT strategy.  As a result, it's time to consider O365!

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Office 365 Promo to Expire Shortly, Regeneration Expected

Office 365 Promo to Expire Shortly, Regeneration Expected

We had a client tell us yesterday that the current pricing promotion for Microsoft Office 365 is too good to ignore.  Office 365 is being used by some of the largest enterprises in the world (CapGemini, American Red Cross), and it is most definitely an enterprise-class solution.  To lower the barrier of adoption, Microsoft put some VERY attractive pricing and bonus offers in place for its customers which currently have Enterprise Agreements (EAs) – on the order of $1.00 per user per month PLUS a potential for $40 per user for partner implementation services.

What's Going On?

This offer expires on 3/31/2013.  While we expect the offer to be regenerated, the new version will likely have pricing differences.  As a result, we are actively encouraging our clients to get in on this offer.  With a minimum of fifty users (regardless of how many you have on your EA), and up to eighteen months to do the implementation, the best time to jump into the Office 365 pond is right now.

A Brief History of Office 365

Office 365 has come a long way since its badly-named original launch.  The integration between this cloud-based Software-as-a-Service and on-premise applications and networks create a compelling, business-enabling, cost-reducing story for most organizations.  It also positions the organization to truly combat the BYOA (Bring-Your-Own-Application) issue.  You may be aware, this is causing information leakage and loss of IT control.

Read more about Office 365 and how organizations are using it.

Next Steps

To find out more about this offer and how you can leverage it, contact Oakwood Systems Group.  We'll talk with you about a Solution Alignment Workshop, or SAW.  This will help you determine how Office 365 can help your organization.  We'll also share details.  Lastly, we'll help you determine your organization's eligibility for the program.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Office 365 Hybrid Deployment; Get Prepared!!

Office 365 Hybrid Deployment; Get Prepared!!

Hybrid deployment?  What exactly is it?  Over the last several months we have worked on many Office 365 deployment projects. In some cases, they can be straightforward, but most commonly they are not. This seems to hold particularly true for hybrid deployments.  This is especially true if there are several integration points.  Also, you need to consider network devices such as load balancers, and restrictive server access from the Internet.

Advanced Planning

Although rolling out a Hybrid deployment of Office 365 isn’t straightforward, it doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult. It’s extremely important to have your documentation and proper planning done in advance in order to be prepared for the implementation (as with any project!).

Main difficulties?  There is no single point of reference for how a hybrid deployment should be implemented.  Also, what steps need to be taken and in what sequence. The lack of documentation and improper planning can lead to misconfigurations and re-work.  As a result, this can lead to issues and drive up the costs of the project.

Maybe the lack of a single recommended approach is because the deployment can be done in different ways. Another thought is there is a lot of dependency on your current environment and requirements. Whatever the case I thought I’d share my experiences.  This high-level overview covers the steps and tools you should have available before starting your hybrid deployment with Office 365.

Let’s Get Started

First off, I highly recommend deploying in a test or lab environment first! If you do have several integration points, or if you do have third-party devices, such as an F5 load balancer, or an identity solution you’d like to utilize in place of ADFS, you had better make sure they work before moving into production. This type of Proof of Concept (POC) should hold true for any new technology implementation before it touches your production environment, especially for something with such high visibility that touches every user’s desktop like email!

Before starting, you need to look at your current environment and make sure it meets some basic requirements:

  • Active Directory forest must be Windows Server 2003 forest functional level or higher
  • Existing Exchange 2007 Servers must be SP3 with Update Rollup 9 or later
  • Exchange 2010 Hybrid Server must be SP3 with v15 Exchange on-line tenant. This means upgrading all of your Exchange 2010 servers to SP3 if it is your current on-premises solution
  • Exchange 2013 Hybrid Server must be CU1 with v15 Exchange on-line tenant. The previous 2 points hold true for this scenario as well because they are required to have coexistence with Exchange 2013

Next Steps

After you’ve met the requirements above, these are the steps and tools you should consider from a high level perspective:

1. Complete the Exchange Deployment Assistant

2. Sign up for Office 365 Tenant

  • I suggest doing your POC with the Office 365 trial so you don’t have to make any unnecessary commitments in regards to licensing. The trial provides 25 licenses and is good for 30 days. If you determine more time is needed just submit a Service Request through your online portal and MS will grant you an extension

3. Utilize the Office 365 Deployment Readiness tool. This tool provides analysis of your on-premises environment in preparation for an Office 365 deployment

4. Prepare for SSO and DirSync. Here are a couple good articles to get you started:

5. Configure SSO

6. Setup DirSync

7. Install Exchange 2010 SP3 Hybrid Server with CA & HT Roles, or Exchange 2013 CU1 Server with Mailbox & Client access roles.

8. Implement HA with your Hybrid servers to protect yourself from the repercussions of a single point of failure

9. Configure your new exchange server/s for coexistence if you’re running legacy versions in your production environment

10. Perform testing with the Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer. Particularly any ActiveSync and Auto discover tests should all return successful results

11. Configure your Hybrid Deployment for features such as Shared GAL, Free/Busy Sharing, Secure Mail Routing, etc

12. Integrate your on-premises environment with your Office 365 Tenant

13. Configure any policies in Office 365.  Concentrate on ActiveSync and OWA.

Final Steps

Specific environment now alleviated? Once your hybrid deployment is set up you’ll want to perform multiple tests.  In other words, this is to ensure the base functionality is working as advertised.  Then you’ll move on to test your integration points. I suggest performing the following tests, but I encourage you to perform as many tests and as many different types of tests as you deem necessary. It’s better to find any shortcomings of moving to Office 365 now.  If not, you might find out later when you’ve already moved some or all of your organization to the cloud!

Tests To Perform

  • Create test mailboxes
  • Outlook client functionality
  • Mail flow
  • Federated sharing
  • Availability
  • GAL Sharing
  • Mailbox move functionality
  • Make sure redirects are working
  • Test with Remote Connectivity Analyzer Office 365 tools

Hybrid Deployment Conclusion

I hope this article has been helpful.  As a followup, I hope you consider moving to the cloud! Happy migrations, and, as always, let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Dismantling an Office 365 Hybrid Deployment

Dismantling an Office 365 Hybrid Deployment

Recently we dismantled an Office 365 Hybrid Deployment. In this scenario, we had a hybrid with SSO deployed but hadn’t started migrating users. We were signed up in the v14 tenant and wanted to start deploying Exchange 2013 in our organization, but that’s not a compatible configuration. The solution was to remove the association between Office 365 and our on-premises Exchange servers so we could do the upgrade. We had to take this route because MS could not commit to any time frames to have our tenant upgraded to v15 but only suggested that we would receive notice in advance of any upgrades. Being a partner, I would have hoped for a better answer than that! Anyways, moving on…

Why Remove A Hybrid Configuration?

There may be other reasons to remove a hybrid configuration. Most commonly it may have been implemented as part of a larger staged migration that had requirements to take advantage of Hybrid features until the migrations were completed, or maybe you weren’t satisfied with the service and want to bring everything back on-premises, among other things…

There isn’t much documentation on how to remove a hybrid configuration on the web and it certainly has not been released by MS. In any case, if you understand all the elements of a hybrid implementation really all you have to do is a reverse engineer. There is no single point of reference, and as a result, I’ve written this blog to share my experiences from a high-level perspective. Here are the steps I had to take, followed by some linkage to other articles that provided some level of technical detail.

Critical Steps

First things first! Make sure all MX and other DNS records are configured to route email and connections to Office 365 if your migration is completed or point them back to your on-premises environment if you’re pulling back from O365.

  • Remove Organization Relationship
  • Also, remove the Send & Receive Connectors that were created as part of the Hybrid Configuration Wizard.
  • Federation Trust from Exchange – remove
  • Domains that were added to the Email Address Policies – remove
  • Remove remote domains created by the Hybrid Configuration Wizard
  • Accepted domain namespaces that were created as part of the hybrid configuration wizard – remove
  • Remove hybrid configuration object using Exch 2013 shell. If you don’t have any Exchange 2013 servers you’ll need to use ADSIEdit.

Planning to manage your users from On-prem AD and utilize SSO?  And are you not using any other MS Cloud services with your on-premises user accounts?  If that is the case, proceed with the next steps:

  • Remove Hybrid Connectors from Federated domains in FOPE or EOP
  • Disable on-premises DirSync services
  • Convert federated domains to managed
  • Disable Dirsync in your tenant portal
  • Convert Users from Federated to Standard
  • Delete Users in Azure Ad
  • Delete Distribution Groups and Security Groups in Azure AD
  • Remove Domains from MSOL
  • Uninstall ADFS Proxy & ADFS Backend Servers
  • Uninstall DirSync

All steps don’t necessarily have to be in that order, but this order seemed to make sense to me.

Office 365 Hybrid Deployment Conclusion

I hope this article has been helpful. Happy migration and if there is anything that Oakwood can do please let us know!

Helpful References

“You don’t have sufficient permissions” error when you try to remove or make a change to a distribution group

Use the EMC to remove a federation trust

Decommissioning your Exchange 2010 servers in a Hybrid Deployment

Next Steps

Review our case studies and engagements where we helped companies just like yours solve a variety of business needs.

Contact Oakwood today to get started!

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Office 365 Managed Services

Office 365 Managed Services

The Business Office 365 value proposition is greater reliability, security, and productivity at less cost than on-premise server infrastructure or applications.  Office 365 is a hosted offering for Software as a Service (SaaS) providing portals and applications for administrators and end-users. It combines the familiar Office desktop suite with cloud-based versions of next-generation communications and collaboration services.

Why Office 365 For Your Business?

  • Exchange Online offering business-class e-mail, scheduling, and mobility
  • SharePoint Online giving advanced document storage and application integration
  • Lync Online providing presence availability, instant messaging, and desktop sharing.

Microsoft takes a comprehensive approach to protecting your data at both the physical layer with significant investment in state-of-the-art data centers and the logical layer using security-aware engineering practices for services and software. Office 365 provides secure access across platforms and devices, as well as premium anti-spam and antivirus technologies that are automatically updated to protect against the latest threats.


The security features and services associated with Office 365 are built in, reducing the time and cost associated with securing your IT systems. At the same time, Office 365 enables you to easily control permissions, policies and features through online administration and management consoles so you can configure Office 365 to meet your specific business and security needs.

Cost Savings

Currently, most technology infrastructure is no longer cost-effective to maintain on-premise. The trend is moving toward monthly fees for these services at much less cost than continually purchasing and maintaining hardware and software. The server hardware you buy today typically will be out of warranty and not supported with no availability of replacement parts within 3-5 years. Then you face the challenge of new operating systems and application software and compatibility, not to mention any hardware failures, software updates, and backups along the way. Moving to the cloud also alleviates the costs of an additional Datacenter for disaster recovery, which can potentially double the cost of maintaining on-premise technology for a business continuity plan.

Circumstances must be extremely unique to outweigh the savings and benefits of Office 365 versus on-premise solutions. For the most savings, the best time to move to Office 365 is at or near a required refresh of servers for file storage, e-mail, or communications. Not only do you escape the capital cost of hardware and software, but you avoid maintenance and disaster recovery along with all backend upgrades. However, you still must stay within the 5 years standard support period of Office desktop software. Typically, organizations will see an average of 40% savings over a 5 year period by moving services to Office 365.

Business Benefits

In most workplace instances, having integrated, always available communication and collaboration solutions streamline the way we work and can be the ticket to greater productivity and cost savings. Moving productivity services to the cloud requires a serious consideration of cost savings, security, and privacy. Office 365 offers a cost-effective solution for communications and file access, whether day-to-day or in disaster situations. The facts of significant cost savings and improved security and productivity are difficult to dispute. The substantial business benefits and enterprise-grade security allow you to move to the cloud with confidence.

Additional Benefits

  • Anytime, Anywhere Access: Office 365 provides web-enabled access to email, important documents, contacts, and calendar on almost any device.  It frees you to work where and when you choose, letting you respond to important requests right away, from almost any location. With the ability to access email and documents from your mobile device, you don’t need to hurry to the office or look for a WIFI hotspot. And if you’re traveling without access to Microsoft Office, Office 365 helps you view and edit documents from the most popular web browsers
  • Professional Face for Your Business: Using professional services like Office 365 tells potential customers that you’re serious about business. For example, you can impress your prospects by inviting them to a collaborative online meeting where you can review your latest proposal. With these state-of-the-art but easy-to-use collaboration, email, and messaging services, you can set yourself apart from organizations that use free or ad-supported services.
  • Easily Communicate and Collaborate Inside and Outside Your Organization: Create a password-protected portal to share large, hard-to-email files both inside and outside of your organization, giving you a single location to find the latest versions of files or documents, no matter how many people are working on them. Send instant messages to colleagues and customers and invite them to participate in online meetings where you can review documents or take control of a desktop.
  • Simple to Learn, Straightforward to Use: You don’t need to learn new software, install complicated systems, or learn the new jargon. In just a few minutes, you can create a trial account and see how easily your business can be “in the cloud”
  • Email, Collaboration, and Online Meeting Solutions: Enhance your Office experience with features like a 25-gigabyte (GB) mailbox that accommodates attachments up to 25 megabytes (MB), calendaring, contacts, online meetings, instant messaging, document collaboration, and more.
    • Safety and Security: Use the same systems leveraged by Microsoft and other enterprises worldwide to help protect email, documents, and networks. These systems scan your messages and documents for spam and malicious software (also called malware) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Microsoft data centers help safeguard your data and are certified to meet several industry-standard certifications.
    • Seamless Coordination with the Tools You Already Know: Office 365 works seamlessly with Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These tools provide the familiar features you rely on as well as powerful capabilities in Office 365. With Microsoft Office 2010 or higher, you can see if others are editing the document you’re using, synchronize documents with your desktop, broadcast PowerPoint presentations, and check documents in and out of your online document library
    • 99.9 % Availability, Money-Back Guarantee: Safeguard your data with enterprise-grade reliability, disaster recovery capabilities, data centers in multiple locations, and a strict privacy policy. The Microsoft data centers that deliver Office 365 are designed with redundant networks, power systems, servers, and continuous monitoring. These and other high availability safeguards provide the basis for the 99.9 % uptime, money-back guarantee that is included with the service
    • Flexibility for Your Business: Pay-as-you-go pricing options give you predictability and flexibility for your business. Office 365 also offers great flexibility by allowing you to easily provide users with only the services they need, cost-effectively adding value to your business

Office 365 Privacy

Microsoft strives to be a leader in industry privacy and transparency.

  • No Advertising: Office 365 does not build advertising products out of customer data or scan email or documents.
  • No Mingling: Business Business Office 365 keeps customer data separate from consumer services such as Live. Microsoft Online Services use separate systems that are physically and logically separate from consumer systems.
  • Data Portability: Customers own their data, and retain all rights, title, and interest in the data stored in Office 365. A full copy of your data can be downloaded at any time and for any reason, without any assistance from Microsoft. Upon Office 365 subscription expiration or termination, Microsoft provides by default 90 days of limited access to export data.
  • Data Limits: Core customer data is not accessed for administration unless explicitly requested via customer service request for operations and troubleshooting. Normal personalization or communications concerning tips and advice utilize no access to core customer data. Customer account information only must be accessed for purchase and billing questions. Microsoft does not voluntarily provide law enforcement access to customer data and tries to redirect such an entity to the customer unless legally required to disclose information.
  • Administrative Access: Access to customer data is strictly controlled and logged and sample audits are performed both by Microsoft and third parties to attest that access is only for appropriate business purposes. Limited key personnel only of the Operations Response Team may access core customer data only as needed and by exception. Support, Engineering, and others in Microsoft have no access to core customer data. Partners have access to core customer data only with customer permission.

Office 365 Security

Microsoft builds on deep industry experience to incorporate cutting-edge security practices from development through to administration and maintenance.

  • Deep Experience: Microsoft has developed proven practices and policies as a result of over 15 years of experience in providing security for online data. Microsoft offers a financially backed 99.9% uptime Service Level Agreement.
  • 5 Layers of Security: Data is secured in 5 different layers – data, application, host, network, and physical.
  • Monitoring and Access Restriction: Office 365 services are proactively monitored to identify potential known and unknown threats by predicting malicious behavior, and also monitors for irregular events that may indicate threats. In addition, production server access is restricted to a short list of critical operations personnel.
  • Secure Lifecycle: The Microsoft Secure Development Lifecycle ensures that security and privacy are incorporated into online services by design, from software development to services operations.
  • Independently Verified: Office 365 is compliant with many world-class industry standards and regulatory compliance as verified by third-party security audits:
    • ISO 27001
    • EU Model Clauses
    • HIPAA-Business Associate Agreement
    • Federal Information Security Management Act
    • Data Processing Agreement

Business Office 365 Conclusion

There is little risk and no obligation to starting an Office 365 free trial for 30 days to learn more. After 30 days you can convert your trial into a paid subscription.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Busting Office 365 Myths

Busting Office 365 Myths

Ready for some Office 365 myths?  Here we go.  Microsoft has paved the way for Office 365 and its components to become part of computing infrastructure. The good news is that these new technologies create a better, more efficient way for teams to work together. This can result in better collaboration, information sharing, and discoverability.

Myth Busters

The bad news is, however, there is a fear of the unknown. Many myths and misunderstandings surround Office 365 and its capabilities.

According to a Microsoft survey of over 2,000 Microsoft Partners, the most common myths regarding Office 365 stemmed from issues relating to:

  • Security and privacy
  • Compliance
  • Maturity
  • Complications regarding productivity when offline

Debunking Office 365 Myths

Take a lunch or coffee break and join in on a 20-minute webinar dedicated to busting common Office 365 myths. In a fast-paced, “Pecha Kucha” format style webcast, you'll learn invaluable information on four topics:

  • Identity myth: Azure and SaaS identity integration
  • Data location myth: Data connection/web apps co-authoring
  • Data analysis myths: Unlocking data insights
  • Mobility myth – anytime, anywhere out of the box with Lync, mobile web app, Multi-Device Management and EMS.


The webinar is available here

Next Steps

Review our case studies and engagements where we helped companies just like yours solve a variety of business needs.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.