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ShareCafé Office 365: Efficient collaboration at minimum cost

This year’s first ShareCafé will focus on working in the cloud, with a particular focus on Office 365. Most people immediately associate the terms “Cloud” and “Microsoft” with Microsoft Azure. There is, however, much more to it. Office 365 - the successor to BPOS - is another cloud service offered by Microsoft, and only one of the many services being launched at the moment. This is a development we can only applaud!

 

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What is this Office 365 service exactly?

Office 365 is a collective name for a number of popular office applications offered by Microsoft to private individuals and business users of all sizes. The best-known of these are, without a doubt, Word and Excel, but the service also includes Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive, OneNote, Yammer and several others. Office 365 is what we call SaaS (Software as a Service), while Microsoft Azure is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service).

“Office 365 ProPlus” vs. “Office Professional Plus 2013”

One of the components that are available (depending on your subscription) is Office 365 ProPlus. With regard to functionality, it is similar to the traditional Office Professional Plus 2013 version, the difference being that is offered as a service to which you can subscribe. This means that instead of owning a software package, you are permitted to use it for a given amount of time. The advantages are that the initial price is much lower and that you will always have access to the latest version - as long as you pay your subscription fees on time! Also, the ProPlus version is not linked to a computer, but to a user and can be installed on as many as five computers at the same time.

Exclusively online?

It is a misconception that Office 365 only works online. As discussed above, a client application is still available that can be used to enable offline working. Besides that, the offline versions have even more special features than the online ones. However, the online versions of Word, Excel, OneNote and so on are more than sufficient for everyday use at the office!

Collaboration?

There are simply no environments that facilitate collaboration on a project as well as this one. Sharing a document couldn’t be easier than through the built-in SharePoint. And if this isn’t enough, you can still use the email function, or online conferencing via Lync. The possibilities are virtually infinite!

OK, so where do I start?

As soon as you’ve been convinced that Office 365 is exactly what you need, the rest is child’s play. A trial version of the popular E3 subscription can be installed in no time at all to let you try it out. After all, hands-on experience will make the advantages much clearer to you than by reading this blogpost. The administrative aspects can easily be arranged through the portal or, if you are familiar with PowerShell, entirely through scripts.

Free trial version: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=403802

Help!

If you’re still hesitant about jumping off the deep end, Orbit One will be happy to help you set up your Office 365 environment. This can easily be integrated into your existing company network and applications, enabling a smooth transition of your On-Prem environment to the cloud (this is called onboarding). Orbit One is always ready to help you - in words as well as actions!

 

News News

Op 09/04/2015 door Vincent

The advantages to minimising your IT Infrastructure

 

Your office should always be a pleasant place to work, with good coffee - and not merely the location where all sorts of IT infrastructure is kept. There are several ways to enable a system to run in the cloud, with plenty of options in the way of control and flexibility

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The numerous benefits offered by the cloud with regard to cost savings, efficiency and IT management make considering a cloud-based approach every time you embark on a new IT project a must. A local installation is only an option if it cannot be avoided. Even suppliers like Microsoft have jumped on the cloud-based band wagon, so to speak: updates are available in the cloud before locally installed versions are released.

Pros and cons of possible set-ups

 

On premise

The infrastructure/servers are located physically at your company and maintained by your own IT department or supplier. The environment is used solely by you (dedicated). Considering that you are solely responsible for maintenance, updates, security, back-ups and so on, the costs of such a local infrastructure can be substantial, to say the least. Additionally, these high costs are also one of the obstacles preventing an on-premise infrastructure from evolving as rapidly as a cloud-based environment. Opting for local installation is only useful for specific applications or it this involves technology that is developed in-house

Partner-hosted

The environment is run on a supplier’s servers and offered as a service paid for through on a monthly or annual basis. The partner takes care of everything, including licences and maintenance. The environment can be used by multiple organisations (shared) or exclusively by your company (dedicated). An environment like this is always more expensive than a public cloud because of the limited number of users. Some projects do, however, require a partner-hosted model. Replacing a telephone switchboard by Lync in the public cloud is, for instance, not yet possible and neither are tailor-made adjustments (e.g. in SharePoint or Dynamics CRM) supported in the public cloud. If you prefer not to invest in custom work, a partner-hosted or on-premise model may still be the best choice for your present situation

Public cloud:

The user has a software subscription at a leading supplier. Infrastructure and servers are relegated to the background. As, in this model, you share the environment with thousands or even millions of users, the ensuing economies of scale will enable you to take advantage of low prices and numerous options. These often include Microsoft applications such as Office 365, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Lync Online, Dynamics CRM Online, Windows Intune, Visual Studio Online, Azure, and many more.

Choosing the public cloud as a standard solution is highly recommended, but the downside of the model is the ‘greatest common factor’: it is, after all, a standard solution adapted to the needs of many different users. You cannot always choose how and when you would like something changed. Still, there are many options that can be selected, such as adapting the standard software to the needs of your organisation or deciding when you want updates to be installed.

The hybrid cloud: step-by-step

Fortunately, there is no need to choose ‘everything or nothing’! Many companies are undergoing a transitional phase and gradually switching from an on-premise to a public cloud or partner-hosted model. Unnoticed by users, technology allows for specific applications to migrate to the cloud and others to remain local. This is the ‘hybrid cloud’.

For example: you email migrates to the cloud in Exchange Online via Office 365, while your file servers and SharePoint remain on-premise. The end users all log in through one channel.

How do we do this at Orbit One?

Orbit One resolutely opts for ‘cloud first’: we aim to launch every new project from a cloud set-up. If a client already working in the cloud wants to start using new technology, this approach will enable him to focus on the essentials straight away: providing the necessary support to his operating processes, staff, customers and partners. To support this process, Orbit One provides workshops for the users with the aim of placing as little infrastructure as possible on the clients’ premises. Not only does on-premise infrastructure slow down currently running IT projects, it also needs to be maintained, which takes up a lot of time and money!

Previously, we offered hosting services in our own data centre. Nowadays, we prefer to use the public Microsoft Cloud, as this enables us to provide a more comprehensive package of services to clients with a smaller budget.

Contact Orbit One

Would you like to work more frequently via the Cloud?

Are you interested to know more about the advantages offered by the Cloud for your organisation?

Contact sales@orbitone.com for a free inspiration workshop.

Working efficiently Working efficiently

Op 24/03/2015 door Olivier

A teambuilding to die for? Follow these 5 steps

Every year, we undertake a teambuilding activity. It’s always a perfect opportunity to further improve the already excellent atmosphere on the workfloor. Our teambuilding event generally starts on the Sunday before, which is when our colleagues from Poland come to Belgium to work together with us for a week. This gives us a chance to meet new colleagues face-to-face and develop closer ties with some of the people we already know.

The actual teambuilding event starts on Friday. How do we set about organising it? Here is our guideline:

1. Look for an interesting setting

A classic - and therefore never a poor choice- is “a chalet in the Ardennes”. This was this year’s choice, too. We booked a chalet (through ffweg.com) from Durbuy Adventure and were pleasantly surprised.

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Or would you like to try something new? It goes without saying that your choice of overnight accommodations depends on the activities you plan to undertake. Make a list of activities, with possible overnight accommodations. One of the things we always look for is a space that has a big, cosy living area (see point 2). If this is not one of your priorities, a hotel might also be an option.

To keep our ecological footprint as small as possible while reducing the possibility of any accidents occurring we always encourage carpooling. This way, nobody will have to drive for too long a stretch if they’re tired!

2. Combine a home-like atmosphere ...

If your programme for Friday is mainly to enjoy a cosy evening together ‘at home’, this will make everyone feel immediately more at ease! You can promote this by assigning someone to be in charge of the evening meal. This person should choose an easy menu and take the initiative, while everyone chips in to prepare the meal.

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To keep the team-building juices flowing, it’s a good idea to organise an activity for later on. This is another activity that can be delegated. We decided on a game with riddles and questions.

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Don’t plan too many activities! Leave plenty of room for your colleagues to take an initiative and make sure you won’t need to keep a constant eye on the clock!

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3. ... with plenty of action

It’s a good idea to plan something active in Saturday. To decide on an activity, start by taking stock of the DNA of your organisation and staff. Orbit One is a young, primarily male, ground-breaking organisation. You can score highly by taking up challenges, action and team work. Driving through the woods in 4x4 jeeps was a brilliant idea. To make sure that we would also be focusing on team-building, a few assignments were also incorporated into the activity.

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Even if this also meant a little waiting.

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After all, changing a tyre is also a great way to build team spirit!

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4. Add a fun bonus

This is certainly a great idea if your employees have children and the accommodations aren’t too far away. Make arrangements to allow your employees and their families to spend a night at the chalet if they want. Holiday homes can usually not be booked for just one night, so you might have to pay for two nights anyway. Giving your staff the chance to make use of this offer will give their families an opportunity to get to know the company and the other staff members better.

5. Keep everything secret

I always keep strictly to this rule! This is not the easiest path to take, but it will help create the right ambiance and atmosphere even before you leave for the weekend! Apart from that, it’s a sure-fire way to avoid discussions about your choices. Make sure that you have taken your staff’s medical needs or important personal preferences into account and, if necessary, provide enough information about these matters or make sure that any special needs are taken care of.

Keeping secrets does, however, have a price: in response to my keeping mum I was treated to a fun, new (and warm!) outfit that I was allowed to wear all day long!

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News News

Op 24/03/2015 door Hannah

How Orbit One simplified and created cohesion in Mylène’s IT infrastructure

This project for Mylène started with a request to replace BestAccount, an in-house application, with Navision towards the end of 2014. Replacing operationally critical applications is not a standard project for which we have a ready-to-use approach at hand, so after extensive analysis, we decided to opt for Service Oriented Architecture.image

This approach yielded the following benefits:

  • A clear division of tasks and responsibilities, in which every master system is assigned a transparent service layer for communication with other systems.
  • All communication runs via WCF services, whether or not data is written or read.
  • Master systems can mutually exchange real-time data through multiple synchronisation.
  • All sync scripts are centrally developed and managed. Mylène IT has full administrative access to these scripts at all times.
  • The integrations are future-proof: master systems migrations to external data centres and/or the cloud do not pose any problems at all.

 

A record was made per operating process and sub-project of the systems to be designated as master systems, the information updated, the data pushed through to other systems and the information to be rewritten to the master system. To illustrate the complexity of this project, we provided a description below of how we tackled product management following the phase-out of BestAccount and which parties were involved in a similar sub-project.

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Apart from product management, we also took a close look at consultant management, eShop ordering, the Navision update with status information to CRM and adjustments to Mylène’s internal systems.

 

Orbit One played a crucial role in this project: as the owners of CRM and Eshop, we assumed final responsibility for the entire projects.
We also acted as the central point of contact for various parties, each taking responsibility for a master system and the accompanying services.
Orbit One assumed the role of Project Manager in the broadest sense of the word. We took it upon ourselves to not only conduct the analysis and handle the technical follow-up of the entire project and each sub-project, but also to take care of the entire project management, the timely coordination of various parties among themselves and the management of the Mylène IT service.

If you are interested to find out what we can do for you and your organisation, don’t hesitate to contact us entirely free of obligation

Realizations Realizations

Op 19/03/2015 door Lou

How to configure your Azure environment to meet the performance and load goals of your web application

About Azure 

Azure Websites is an enterprise class cloud solution for developing and running web apps. You can stand up a website on Azure in seconds, without having to manage Virtual Machines, network load balancers or deployment infrastructure yourself. All of these capabilities are built in and provided by the Azure Websites service.

Scaling 

Scaling options 

There are two options of scaling: 

  • Scaling Up – aka Vertical Scaling (Increase resources capacity within existing node). It means going from a small dedicated instance to a medium one and to a large one.

  • Scaling Out – aka Horizontal Scaling (Increasing resources capacity by adding nodes). It simply means going from 1 machine to 2 machines all the way up to 10 machines.

Autoscale 

Autoscale helps you to survive load peaks. It allows you to grow resources with incoming traffic. If it’s configured correctly – it will save you some money. The reason for that is the fact that it will never use extra resources unless needed. 

How does it work? You have to specify a range of instances that can be used and some metric criteria defining when extra instances can be used.

Azure Autoscale options

Figure 1: Azure Autoscale options

Service Tiers

The Azure Websites service is available in Free, Shared, Basic and Standard editions. 

  • Free and Shared - The Free and Shared tiers are ideal for experimenting with the platform and for development and test scenarios. This article will not focus on those.

  • Basic Tier - Designed for web apps with lower traffic requirements, and which don‘t need more advanced autoscale and traffic management features.

  • Standard Tier - Designed for production web apps.

Pricing

 Available plans and their features with estimated pricing: 

Figure 2: Azure pricing plans

How to select the best plan for your web application? 

You can clearly see that each ‘better’ plan is twice as expensive. How to avoid unnecessary costs then?  

  • Design and develop a set of thorough web performance tests, which will reflect the users visiting your page. Then create load tests based on your performance tests.

  • Execute load tests for the maximum number of users that your web application was designed for.

  • Compare the received results with the expected results

First thing to check are the results of performance tests if the received response times are meeting your expectations. 

Check the statistics provided by Azure portal - what was the memory and Cpu percentage usage. 

Memory percentage and Cpu percentage usage

Figure 3: Memory percentage and Cpu percentage usage

History of resources usage

Figure 4: History of resources usage

 

If the received results are not satisfactory – reconfigure Azure and execute the same set of tests again. Of course we assume that the web application was developed according to the performance standards. 

How do we do it at Orbit One? 

We create performance and load tests using Visual Studio Ultimate. We execute load tests using the performance lab in the cloud offered by Visual Studio Online. 

Based on our own experience you can receive better results by investing in Scaling Up than Scaling Out. It’s simple: The tests that we have executed, demonstrated that it’s more efficient to select an instance with more resources than to add another instance of the same level. It’s also a good idea to use the auto scale option. However, it’s important to check first how your web application will react at the moment of the switch.

Technology Technology

Op 19/03/2015 door Lukasz