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Scoop! Discover Office 365 Infopedia

Yesterday Microsoft announced the new Infopedia portal which will become the next big thing on Office 365 in the near future. It will be shipped as a "NextGen Portal" so that it will be automatically available to all Office 365 users.

These are some mockups that were shown in the session yesterday to give us an idea

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The Infopedia Portal will give end users access to information

  • ….that is relevant to them (with recommendations)
  • ….that is organized around their company
  • ….and with a brand new search experience

And this is how it will look, it's a mockup of a Sales and Marketing portal combining documents from a SharePoint portal with other promoted documents coming from other Office 365 locations:

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Pretty neat right?

Microsoft also introduced some new concepts like Microsites and Boards that will allow you to group certain blocks of information to promote and present them using a more modern card-board like approach.

Let's say you are a building company that has an intranet with a knowledge base that contains a lot of technical documents about standards and regulations, and you want to promote some documents about a certain topic. Using the new Infopedia you could create a Microsite around this topic and pin some documents into an article that describes the topic.

This will allow the content owners a way to visually promote their information, because you can show a sections of the document in the page (an attractive image for instance):

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Also, using the new Office Graph the portal will be able to promote information to you that is relevant to your daily work.

These documents can be discovered by the people through this new portal as well, so it will become very easy to get to the things that you are looking for. You can already 'Mine' for information relevant to you using the new Delve functionality which is now available in Office 365.

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Last but not least Microsoft showed us a mockup of the new search experience here, which will be enhanced visually and will also be a lot more intelligent as well. It well present you the information that you are looking for in an intelligent way, by proposing documents that are more relevant to you personally.

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Because the engine behind the search will become more intelligent we will also see automatic search refinement here as well, to drill down into the information. This will be a huge improvement for end users to get to information, in this example we are looking for 'durability' and we can drill down into all documents about the product 'Olm', and specify for which material I am looking for etc.

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The only downside of these nice new features is that we will have to wait a while for them to become available, since it's still in development. There will be some new features (Microsites and Boards) to already evaluate and use a small part of this concept, but we'll have to be patient for the all-in package since there is no formal release date yet.

For me it is clear that this portal will improve the Office 365 experience significantly, by boosting our new way of working to yet another level.

News NewsTechnology

Op 08/05/2015 door Lou

Buildscreen for TFS and VSO (alpha)

This blogpost is outdated, see the latest version here.

Wouldn’t it be easy if you had a visual summary of all your projects? Our build screen is a useful and easy way to display an organized overview of the build statuses of your projects.

Those of you who are familiar with Visual Studio Online (VSO) or Team Foundation Server (TFS), know that keeping tabs on current projects isn’t an easy task. Each page has to be visited separately, this is a very time-consuming process. At Orbit One a desktop application was used to simplify this. The lack of a VSO implementation and the dated user-interface convinced us to write our own build screen as a web application. This web application has several advantages: setup is one-time process, making it readily available for everyone to use. Furthermore, it’s accessible on every device with a modern browser, this way everyone can take advantage of the application anytime, anywhere. The interface has been designed to be user-friendly, with time-saving features.

The need for a new build screen

A build screen is a tool used to view the status of the most recent projects at a glance. This way, everyone can stay on top of the latest developments, an indispensable feature in a work-environment that uses continuous integration. This allows for an immediate understanding of which projects are having problems or need more attention.

The previous build screen used at Orbit One was the Team Build Screen (https://teambuildscreen.codeplex.com/), but it came with many limitations. The UI was hard to read, there was only a Team Foundation Server implementation and it had to be installed as a desktop application.

With this new build screen, we tried to tackle the major issues present in the Team Build Screen. We offer a responsive web application that with an out-of-the-box implementation for both Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio Online.

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Supported statuses

  • Green: a succeeded build
  • Red: a failed build
  • Purple: a stopped build
  • Cyan: a not yet started build
  • Blue: currently building
  • Yellow: a build with failed tests

When a project fails to build successfully, a circle is displayed with additional information. Clicking on this circle will lead to a report of the concerning build. This allows for swift assessment of the problem without losing valuable time.

Configuration

The web application is easily configurable in the web.config file. There is support for Visual Studio Online, Team Foundation Server, or both simultaneously.

Before you can use a Visual Studio Online account, you must enable alternate credentials. For more information, follow this link.

To enable Visual Studio Online you need (edit in <ConfigurationRestService …/>):

  • A username
  • A password
  • The VSO URI (the URL of the VSO server, see example below).

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To enable Team Foundation Server implementation you need (edit in <ConfigurationRestService …/>):

  • The TFS URI (the URL of the TFS server, see example below).
  • A username
  • A password

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In addition to these settings, you also have to enable the desired services by setting the value to true for the corresponding key (UseVSO/UseTFS) in appSettings.

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This is all the necessary configuration, you can now browse to the web application and see your builds.

Upcoming features

The application and source-code will be made available under the open-source GPLv3 license.

  • Even easier configuration: Setup and edit your desired servers directly from the applications’ user interface.
  • Capping: Limit the amount of retrieved builds
  • Multiple servers support: Have multiple TFS or VSO servers display on the build screen.
  • Filter/search function

The latest version is out now, check it out here.

 

Free tools Free tools

Op 23/04/2015 door Glenn and Sander

Load testing in the cloud

Visual Studio performance and load testing capabilities

Visual Studio offers performance and load testing capabilities since 2005. It allows you to record series of interactions simulating users accessing your website. All executed requests are recorded one by one and stored in your performance test. Then you can scale that up to simulate tens, hundreds or thousands of users accessing that site concurrently during the load test. As simple as that.

However, the biggest challenge is to setup and maintain an environment in order to simulate this user traffic. Basically, it’s a set of virtual machines or physical machines that can be used to generate virtual user requests.

Using Visual Studio Online

Cloud based load testing services are now available as a part of Visual Studio Online. It takes the advantage of elastic scale offered by Windows Azure to generate the desired traffic requirements. Firstly, dedicated virtual machine that hosts test agents is assigned for a particular run. Then test agents simulate the load against your web site by creating the virtual users and executing desired actions. Moreover, you can manually increase the number of agents in use, depending on your load test.
How can you configure your project to run load tests in the cloud?

  • Connect to Visual Studio Online
  • Edit your local test settings:

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Now you can run your tests. While executing tests, you can monitor the performance using the performance graph and the throughput graph.

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When the load test is finished, you can download the report and analyze report.

Pricing

The price calculation is done based on the virtual user minutes (VUserMinutes). To calculate how many VUserMinutes your run will use, you need to follow this equation:

VUserMinutes = (Maximum User Load for the run) * (Duration of the run in minutes)

Each Visual Studio Online account includes 20,000 VUserMinutes per month for free. Additional VUserMinutes are calculated as pay per use service:

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How do we do load tests at Orbit One?

We are using both: Visual Studio and Visual Studio online for performance and load test purposes.

  • Visual Studio Ultimate is used by QA department to create, maintain and trigger performance and load tests.
  • Visual Studio Online project is used as a repository.
  • Visual Studio Online is used to run tests in the cloud.

Thanks to that we can easily create and maintain tests. We have access to the performance lab in the cloud in (almost) no time with just one click and this doesn’t require any maintenance from us.

Technology Technology

Op 20/04/2015 door Lukasz

How to combine self-service and personal customer contact?

How can you use self-service to create a more personal customer service?
This may seem like a contradiction in terms, but taking a closer look, it isn’t!

Nowadays, customers make use of a wider range of channels to contact you than ever before: Skype, web forms, and email, to name just a few. The telephone has long lost its status as our most important channel of communication.

This vast choice of communication channels is slowly making it more and more difficult to efficiently manage and follow up on all your customer queries. Nevertheless, these are also the best moments to convince your clients of the outstanding quality of your products or services. If you miss this opportunity, your prospect or client may switch to another provider with a quicker response time before you know it.

Clients are demanding: they expect prompt service, whether acting as individuals or as representatives of their company. Also, they like to find the answers to their questions by themselves. And you, in turn, prefer not to waste any time on useless or manual administration.

Self-service portal for routine questions

What could be better for efficient communication than a self-service portal where your clients can find information, view the status of their budget or request, and fill in forms? Your staff will no longer need to spend time answering routine questions. This will not only help you save costs; it will leave you more time to invest in personal contact with your clients when this really is necessary. After all, self-service doesn’t mean that personal contact with your clients has become any less important!

Low threshold for personal contact

This is the ideal situation: build a self-service portal where your prospects and clients have easy access to all the information they need. Of course, there will always be questions that cannot be answered in this way. The answer is to integrate Skype into your portal so that your clients can reach your staff at the click of a mouse, who will then be able to speak to them directly. Thanks to this online integration, your staff will be able to see directly what your client was looking for and will, in turn, be able to help him or her much faster.

Flexible and affordable

Before today, customer service at this level was accessible only to big companies. Nowadays, this is available for smaller businesses by adding the Parature self-service module to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This module precludes virtually any need for customisation and you will have a solution on hand that is accessible via the cloud (read: flexible and affordable).

You will, of course, have to digitalise all the underlying processes and integrate them into your customer service platform. If you use an application for file management, for example, you can link this to your customer service platform. This will enable you to get the very most out of your communication with your clients, and ensure the continuous improvement of your service.

The benefits of a self-service customer portal

  • Your clients will have access to round-the-clock support and information.
  • You will create a knowledge network to enable clients to help one another independently.
  • You will have a source of information that will generate direct feedback from your market and that you can use to improve your products.
  • You will be able to measure client satisfaction at every intervention.
  • You will have more time for personal follow-up.

What can Orbit One offer you?

Are you looking for a solution that will let you manage and administrate all your customer queries in and from one central location? Orbit One offers customer follow-up based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and can also establish a link between your self-service portal and your internal communication applications such as Lync (Skype4Business). This will enable your clients to get in touch with the right person at the click of a mouse. Combine the best of self-service and personal contact! We will also be happy to integrate this into your existing business applications and databanks, such as ERP, accounting, CRM, ticketing systems and telephone switchboards.

Contact us for obligation-free advice

Working efficiently Working efficiently

Op 16/04/2015 door Olivier

Four steps to an affordable, reliable and faster network

IT managers struggle with hard choices: the demand for high bandwidth between office locations and the internet is huge. Users have High-Definition video meetings and download large files on the corporate network. This puts the company network and internet connections under high pressure. Your employees are used to their superfast internet connections at home and they don't understand why the internet is slow at the office.

Get rid of your servers

Many companies use expensive network links between their office locations: MPLS offers a dedicated, guaranteed connection. As IT managers need to cut costs, upgrading to a higher bandwidth is simply not an option.

If you move everything to the cloud, you don’t have servers, data or applications in your office. Today, any location with good wireless internet allows your team to work efficiently. Good coffee, fast reliable WIFI and well-equipped meeting rooms are all you need to make your workforce happy. Expensive and complex network systems are technologies from the past.

Four steps to a better company network

1. Replace your expensive MPLS connections by fast and affordable internet connections such as Telenet Fibernet.

2. Choose a solution that includes a backup internet connection, allowing your team to work efficiently in case of downtime (VDSL or 4G backup).

3. Invest in a smart and centrally managed WIFI system, such as Meraki, allowing your team to work from anywhere in the office. This WIFI system offers extra services such as bandwidth policies, firewalling, content blocking, mobile device management, …

4. Migrate your on premise applications to the cloud: Office 365, Azure, CRM Online, Windows Intune ….

Step by step

Usually, cloud migrations are done in steps, starting with the migration of mailboxes to Exchange Online, followed by OneDrive and SharePoint. This means you will need to provide your users access to your company data that have not yet been moved the cloud.

Take a look at Microsoft Direct Access or Azure AD Application Proxy. These solutions are inexpensive, reliable and fully transparent for the end user.

Need advice?

Orbit One helps you understand the way cloud works, and assists you in making the right choices.

Contact us to book an ‘IT strategy of the Future workshop’.

Working efficiently Working efficiently

Op 09/04/2015 door Olivier