Cloud

How secure is your on premise application?

Most CEO’s believe their data is more secure in house compared to the Cloud.  They fail to realize that their servers are often stored in a locked closet or other room, vulnerable to theft and natural disaster.  They also fail to realize that Cloud providers have much more expertise securing data offsite than their own internal IT department.   Below is a list of the common objections and let’s consider the source while reviewing them. 

 

Let’s face it, the number one objection of moving ERP to the Cloud is data security.  This objection typically comes from the IT department struggling to stay relevant in a changing industry.  Before becoming crippled by fear, consider the source of objections and take time to fully understand the Cloud.  Chances are, you will see how Cloud Computing is simplifying business operations and becoming the new standard in business application deployment.  You may also see that data storage in the Cloud is actually more secure than your current operations.  Let’s consider the source of objections and relate them back to history.

Consider how we currently consume electricity in 2012.  To turn on a light in the kitchen, you walk over to the wall, flip the switch and turn on the light, instantly.  If you need a cup of coffee in the morning before heading to work, you plug in your coffee maker, turn it on, and your coffee begins brewing, instantly.  This instant access is called “on demand.”  Today, we have the power grid which allows us to use electricity as a pooled resource, on demand and we pay only for what we use.  Sounds a lot like the advantages of the Cloud, doesn’t it?

Back in the early 1800’s when AC power was created by Robert Tesla, there were a lot of objections coming from those whose jobs and livelihoods were threatened by it.  Back then, it took teams of technicians to maintain the power generators in the basements of companies whose operations were completely dependent on up time.  Every company had their own generators and their own technicians whose sole role was maintaining the generators. 

Those threatened often spoke of the dangers of AC power, the grid and how it would never replace DC power.  As an example, Thomas Edison, determined to prove the point, tragically executed an elephant trying to instill fear in what would happen if they switched to the new, more efficient way of getting power.  This just goes to show how far some will go to try to stay relevant when facing change.   

Let’s apply these same principals from history to today.  Currently, every company using business applications has their own servers, typically running in a locked closet, on premise.  Each company also has an IT department whose responsibility is to maintain the hardware and software for optimal up time.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  And, like with any new technology or way of doing things, there will always be objections. 

Our job is to consider the source of objections, determine the validity of these objections, and conduct an honest comparison of current operations compared to the new way of doing things.

Shining the "Silverlight" on Dynamics GP "12"

As we draw closer to the release of Dynamics GP "12" which is slated for later this calendar year, I wanted to focus a little bit on what may be one of the most under-reported features of the new release: the new Silverlight client for Dynamics GP.

This is BIG news...especially for anyone interested in cloud and/or thin client deployments of Dynamics GP. While the thick client that customers have been using for almost 20 years will still be a deployment option, Silverlight provides a thin client, zero footprint deployment option. For our customers running Dynamics GP in the NjevityToGo cloud, the silverlight client represents a lower cost deployment option because they will not need to license Remote Desktop and Office apps as part of the cloud deployment. It also means that Dynamics GP can be running through-cloud and directly on the client's desktop...interacting directly with their local printers, drives and office apps.

Not only will this be lower cost, but it should also run in any browser that supports Silverlight...can anyone say Safari? Now we don't have any 'official' word from Microsoft yet on this, but you can bet we will be testing the use of Dynamics GP on a Mac running Safari as soon as start getting code drops. More on this in a later post!

What is most amazing about this release is that Microsoft has figured out how to bring all dexterity based apps along for the ride. So, every third party product written for Dynamics GP in dexterity (and there are THOUSANDS), will work in Silverlight right out of the gate. What this means is that Dynamics GP will be a true web-based, thin client, zero footprint application, but will retain all of the functionality that it has accrued over the past 20 years. How can a new player to the web app space like NetSuite possibly compete against this?

It seems that sometimes you really CAN have your cake and eat it too. Way to go Microsoft on figuring out how to turn Dynamics GP into a web application AND keeping all the funcationality we have come to love. I can't wait to get my hands on this and unpack it a bit more. But as it looks right now, Dynamics GP "12" is going to deliver TONS of value.

For more information on why Silverlight was such a great choice for Dynamics GP, click here.

The Cloud is for large companies with a full time IT staff, too

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I met with a very large Financial Services firm today to talk about helping them move from a tier 1 ERP product to Dynamics GP. You might think that odd...going backwards and all...but it happens much more than you migth think. After all, most companies can buy and implement Dynamics GP for a fraction of one year's annual maintenence with their Tier 1 publisher. And these guys said that they "needed a hammer but bought a jack hammer"...so their Tier 1 product is really much more than they need.

Anyhow, these guys are a pretty good sized company and they have a full time, dedicated IT staff to support their user community. They had attended our webinar series on The Cloud and are very interested in evaluating our cloud solution for Dynamics GP as well as the traditional On Premise option. Now, what is a company with plenty of financial resources and a healthy IT staff doing looking at The Cloud, you might ask.

Well, these guys are being asked to do more with the same IT resources, and they are getting stretched. So, the idea of letting someone else (us) manage the infrastructure for the ERP systems is pretty attractive. Plus, they not only don't have to support the new Dynamics GP system, but they also no longer need to support the old Tier 1 system. So, their IT team will free up some bandwidth (or maybe just stop working EVERY Saturday).

But in addition to using The Cloud to free up their IT resources, they are also quite interested because going through cloud means that they don't have to worry about the infrastructure for their ERP system. They don't have to worry about backups. They don't have to worry about maintenance, service packs, hot fixes. They just don't have to worry about any of it. They just plug in, turn on and get to work. Pretty simple. And who doesn't like simple?

 

Dynamics CRM 2011 and SharePoint Online - Installing the List Component for Document Management

After completing our transition to Office 365, I was very excited to start using the integration between Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (in the NjevityToGo cloud) with the SharePoint Online piece of Office 365 (in the Microsoft Cloud). This is a fantastic feature of Dynamics CRM and SharePoint that allows you to manage documents for an account directly within a SharePoint Site. You can add/update/view documents in either CRM or SharePoint and you can take advantage of the powerful search capabilities of SharePoint. Here is a great blog article that explains how this all works.

However, as I started working on setting this up, I realized that all of the documentation on installing the SharePoint List Component assumes that you are using SharePoint ON PREMISE, not SharePoint Online. And, the instructions for performing the installation DO NOT WORK with SharePoint Online. AND most of the articles in the blogosphere state that SharePoint Online is not compatible with the Dynamics CRM 2011 List Component or Document Management features.

I am happy to report, however, that these articles are out of date. In November 2011, Microsoft released an update to SharePoint Online that allows it to work with Dynamics CRM 2011. This blog post from the Dynamics CRM Blog explains how to install the Dynamics CRM 2011 list component with SharePoint Online. Here is another blog post from the Office 365 Team on how to get this working.

I followed these instructions and am thrilled to report that IT ALL WORKS! I have this up and running right now with our NjevityToGo Cloud deployment of Dynamics CRM 2011 (using the November 2011 Service Update) in our cloud and SharePoint Online in the Office 365 Cloud. 

In a nut shell, you can do the following:

 

  1. Download the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 List Component for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  2. Disregard the instructions provided with the download (use the following instructions instead) 

 

Install the Microsoft Dynamics CRM List Component Solution to SharePoint Online

  1. Navigate to the folder where you downloaded CRM2011-SharePointList-ENU-amd64.exe, and double-click it. The install will extract the files mentioned below AND THAT IS ALL. It might as well be a .zip file. There is no real installation here. So, you can run this on a 32-bit or 64-bit machine. It matters not.
  2. In the Open File - Security Warning dialog box, click Run.
  3. To accept the license agreement, click Yes.
  4. Select a folder to store the extracted files, and click OK.
    The following files are extracted:

AllowHtcExtn.ps1 (NOT required for SharePoint Online) 

crmlistcomponent.wsp

  1. Open your browser.
  2. In the address bar, type the URL of the site collection on which you want to install the Microsoft Dynamics CRM List component.
  3. Click Site Actions, and then click Site Settings.
  4. Under Galleries, click Solutions.
  5. On the Solutions tab, in the New group, click Upload Solution.
    Click Browse, locate the crmlistcomponent.wsp file, and then click OK.
  6. On the Solutions tab, in the Commands group, click Activate.

Configure Data Management in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

  1. Navigate to Settings and click on Document Management in the left Navigation bar
  2. Click On Document Management Settings
  3. Select the CRM entities to enable for Document Management and then enter your SharePoint Online URL, click Next
  4. Select how you would like the Document Libraries organized in SharePoint Online (Account – B2B or Contact – B2C), click Next
  5. Document Libraries will now be created in SharePoint Online to support the hierarchy selected in the previous step, click Finish

Document Management with SharePoint Online is now configured within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. When a Microsoft Dynamics CRM user click on Documents on the CRM form, the List Component will look for a corresponding Document Library and if one does not exist create one.





Setting up an Android Phone with Microsoft Office 365

To setup your Android Phone with your existing Office 365 email account using Exchange ActiveSync, follow these steps:

  1. From the Applications menu, select Email. This application may be named Mail on some versions of Android.
  2. Type your full e-mail address, for example tony@contoso.com, and your password, and then select Next
  3. Select Exchange account. This option may be named Exchange ActiveSync on some versions of Android.
  4. Enter the following account information and select Next.
    • Domain\Username Type your full e-mail address in this box. If Domain and Username are separate text boxes in your version of Android, leave the Domain box empty and type your full e-mail address in the Username box. 
    • NOTE: On some versions of Android, you need to use the domain\username format. 
    • Password Use the password that you use to access your account. 
    • Exchange Server Use the address of your Exchange server. To find this address, see “Finding the Server Name” later in this topic. 
  5. As soon as your phone verifies the server settings, the Account Optionsscreen displays. The options available depend on the version of Android on your device. The options may include the following:
    • Email checking frequency The default value is Automatic (push). When you select this option, e-mail messages will be sent to your phone as they arrive. We recommend only selecting this option if you have an unlimited data plan.
    • Amount to synchronize This is the amount of mail you want to keep on your mobile phone. You can choose from several length options, including One day, Three days, and One week. 
    • Notify me when email arrives If you select this option, your mobile phone will notify you when you receive a new e-mail message. 
    • Sync contacts from this account If you select this option, your contacts will be synchronized between your phone and your account. 
  6. Select Next and then type a name for this account and the name you want displayed when you send e-mail to others. Select Done to complete the e-mail setup and start using your account. You may need to wait ten-to-fifteen minutes after you setup your account before you can send or receive e-mail.
 

Finding the Server Name

To determine your server name, use the following steps:

  1. Sign in to your account using Outlook Web App. 
  2. On the Outlook Web App toolbar, click Help > About.
  3. On the About page, under the External POP Settings line, use the Server name value to help you determine your server name:
  4. If the External POP Settings > Server name value includes your organization’s name, for example, pop.contoso.com, then your server name is the same as your Outlook Web App server name, without the /owa. For example, if the address you use to access Outlook Web App is https://mail.contoso.com/owa, your Exchange ActiveSync server name is mail.contoso.com.
  5. If the External POP Settings > Server name value is in the format podxxxxx.outlook.com, your Exchange ActiveSync server name is m.outlook.com. In some cases, Android mobile devices may experience connection problems using m.outlook.com as the server name. If you are having problems connecting, go to the Host name line on the About page. Use the value shown under Host name for the Exchange ActiveSync server name for your device.

What else do I need to know?

If your e-mail account is the type that requires registration, you must register it the first time you sign in to Outlook Web App. Connecting to your e-mail account through a mobile device will fail if you haven't registered your account through Outlook Web App. After you sign in to your account, sign out. Then try to connect using your mobile phone. For more information about how to sign in to your account using Outlook Web App, see How to Sign In to Outlook Web App. If you have trouble signing in, see FAQs: Sign-in and Password Issues or contact the person who manages your e-mail account.

When you use the Host name as the Exchange server name in your e-mail account settings, you should be aware that this setting may change over time. For example, the Host name for your mailbox will change if your user mailbox is moved to a different server or if it is temporarily moved during a server upgrade. 

If you are an IT professional or e-mail administrator, read the blog post Cross-site redirection of Exchange ActiveSync clients in Office 365 for detailed information about connectivity issues you may experience. 

NOTE: When I setup my phone, the instructions provided in step 3 above did not work. I tried m.outlook.com, I also tried the external pop server name (podXXXXX.outlook.com) and that did not work. What finally DID work was using the server name specified in my Outlook Web Access URL. My URL is https://snXXXXXXXX.outlook.com/. In the server box on my iPhone, I typed snXXXXXXXX.outlook.com and all of a sudden, my phone started downloading from Exchange.

We also had a few Android devices that had a checkbox called 'Verify Certificate' that was checked by default. We had to uncheck this setting to get the email account to setup.

 

Feb 13, 5:31pm - After further review: All day today we have been testing Office 365 on our mobile devices. I discovered on my iPhone that if I put in a server address of m.outlook.com, it would eventually work. It just takes about 5 minutes. After my iPhone started downloading email, I went back to the server settings and discovered that the server had been automatically changed from m.outlook.com to the snXXXXXXXX.outlook.com address I originally used. But m.outlook.com is easier to type. :)

I also noticed that if I deleted the exchange account and attempted to re-add it, the iPhone would default the server to the podxxxxx.outlook.com address that I found following the steps above. If I just left that server name in the account, it would also work. But again, when I went back to settings after the email started downloading, the server had been changed automatically to the snXXXXXXXX.outlook.com address.

These server addresses did not seem to work last night. But today they do work. It may be that we just needed a little bit more time for these addresses to propagate to wherever they need to propagate to. 

I should also note that I had originally thought that the snXXXXXXXX.outlook.com address was specific to our organization's email account on Office 365. However, we discovered today one of our employees gets directed to BLXXXXXXXX.outlook.com when they go to Outlook Web Access. And this was the only server address that would work on his phone--he could not use the address that the rest of us use. So, we cannot just send out a single server name to everyone. It appears to be mailbox dependent. But, after the rest of the testing we did, I believe that m.outlook.com would work from any of our devices.

 

Once this is done, your Android Phone should start downloading your Mail, Contacts and Calendar items from Office 365.

If you have another device, want to setup your iPhone email using POP or IMAP, or just need more help, check out this Microsoft Office 365 Mobile Phone Setup Wizard.

This applies to: Office 365 for professionals and small businesses, Office 365 for enterprises, Microsoft Exchange, Live@edu.

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