When seeking Office 365 customer support, you want to find articulate, coherent and effective answers to your problems. Microsoft offers free telephone support; however, US-based English is usually not the first language of the technician. They might (or might not) be technically qualified to resolve your Outlook or OneDrive complaints, but the time and the patience required to resolve your helpdesk ticket sometimes feels like you’re beating your head against a wall. I know; I’ve been there myself.

And ironically, I nearly became one of those technicians. I was hired, went through a 2-month long onboarding process, and started training as a home-based Office 365 Concierge Ambassador, but the only internet access provided at my residence did not meet their security and reliability requirements as part of the employment contract. I’m back in business for myself and, quite frankly, happier to be here again.

Many have complimented me on my communication skills. They know that they’ll be able to hear me speak clearly and without so much technical jargon. They know how tenacious I am when a problem arises, knowing that I’ll see them through to a satisfactory result without frustration.

To put me on ‘retainer’, I have an annual helpdesk service for $250 per person. For companies with 5 or more end-users, then we’ll have to consider a managed services option that includes proactive efforts and cloud-to-cloud backup services in addition to the immediate helpdesk.

To open a ticket, I leave several doors open to convey your message: 

Microsoft 365 Business is the new way to get Office 365. It’s all the features of the Office 365 Business Premium plan, plus Advanced Security (including Windows 10 Pro upgrade) with Safe Links and Safe Attachments, plus Device Management using Intune to manage remote computers and devices (think remote wipe of a company-owned device).

The graphic above shows the left-hand, blue-highlighted column as a stack of 3rd-party services that a company might combine to create a desktop productivity solution, a comprehensive security solution, and a device management solution. As a sum of the whole 3rd-party stack, the company might very well spend over $100 per month per end-user.

If we were to consider all the various Microsoft offerings individually to accomplish the same, then the company would pay $33.50 per month per end-user.

But as a bundle of services called Microsoft 365 Business, the company can opt for the $20 plan per month per end-user.

I use Microsoft 365 Business myself. Prior to this, I paid the same amount for the Office 365 Enterprise E3 plan. But now I get all the added features for the same price. To switch from Office 365 E3 was a wash.

For those currently on the Office 365 Premium Business plan, you can realize a considerable improvement to your company’s security, data integrity and overall productivity for only $7.50 additional per month per end-user. From my point of view, just the addition of Safe Links and Safe Attachments as integral parts of Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection would make the investment worthwhile.

OneNote isn’t just a throw-all repository for all that you’ve clipped from the web or meeting notes that you took and forgot about. It can be a powerful system for storing your files where you can access them not just from their actual location in OneDrive, but these files can be accessed from anywhere that you put them within the OneNote hierarchy of:

Notebooks | Section Groups | Sections | Pages and Subpages

Let’s say you have a photo that you took while on vacation. The photo is of a unique menu found on a whiteboard at a Farmers Market that listed the ingredients, so you’d like to recreate the dish at home. You might create an album of your vacation experience within OneNote, but you also might want to add that menu to a collection of recipes that you keep within OneNote.

You might have a Notebook called Personal. Within that notebook is a Section Group called Vacations. As a Section within that Section Group is Sarasota. The Sarasota Section has a Page called Farmer’s Market. And under the Farmer’s Market Page is a Subpage containing the photo of the menu and you’ve entitled the Page as Menu Photo.

Personal | Travel | Sarasota | Farmer’s Market | Menu Photo

The same photo might want to be found under a Section for Recipes.

Personal | Health | Food | Recipes | Menu Photo

Either way, the original image document remains within your OneDrive repository, so that menu photo can be found by navigating through folders and then files within your locally cached files under File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac).

And while still within OneNote, you don’t have to click through nested Subpages, Pages, or Sections for your file. The search functionality in OneNote is brilliantly fast, that is, if you use key search terms within the titles of your Pages.

Method: Use the Insert menu within the OneNote ribbon to choose a file, picture or PDF to insert into any given Page.

People let their email pile up. Some let it get to astronomical levels, which used to (still does in some cases) impact the performance of their local system. But it doesn’t matter anymore, that is, if you leverage all the free space provided by your Office 365 subscription.

By using In-Place Archiving and a Retention Policy, you can automate the process so that your primary mailbox never becomes unwieldy and your Archive mailbox never runs out of space.

NOTE: The In-Place Archive mailbox should not be confused with the default Archive *folder* within your primary mailbox, although these can work together as described later on.

The screenshot below shows my email account in ‘Outlook on the web’ – the web-based version of Outlook that reflects the contents of the Exchange mail server’s contents for this respective mailbox.

In my case, Archive1 below happens to refer to the default Archive *folder* within my primary mailbox in Outlook. When I click on the Archive  button (in Outlook desktop on the Mac), this easily processes mail from the Inbox folder to the Archive folder as a kind of temporary holding bin.

By right-clicking on a *folder* like Archive1 above, you can assign Messaging Records Management (MRM) policies, such as moving all items to the In-Place Archive after 30 days. In this case, I send the most inconsequential email messages to the Archive folder within my primary mailbox by clicking the Archive rather than the Delete button. But after 30 days, it automatically gets moved to the In-Line Archive mailbox, which expands automatically as space is needed.

Below we can how my Office 365/Exchange Online user account is split into three sections:

  1. Primary Mailbox
  2. In-Place Archive
  3. Recoverable items (topic of another conversation)

A little quick math shows that I have 270 GB of mailbox storage. And after 5 years (since 2014), I’ve only accumulated about 27 GB of email content or about 10% of total storage capacity. That is, until the In-Place Archive automatically kicks in and expands.

 


 

“Archiving in Office 365 (also called In-Place Archiving) provides users with additional mailbox storage space. After you turn on archive mailboxes, users can access and store messages in their archive mailboxes by using Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web App. Users can also move or copy messages between their primary mailbox and their archive mailbox. They can also recover deleted items from the Recoverable Items folder in their archive mailbox by using the Recover Deleted Items tool.”

Last November, I answered a help-wanted email from a contractor that Microsoft hires to provide customer service for their Office 365 cloud services and software. The recruiter responded to my email and resumé with greater excitement than my own! We proceeded through a two-month-long hiring and subsequent onboarding process.
 
Right from the start, I was told that a wired internet connection was required, as well as a minimum download speed of 10 Mbps. I thought to myself, “That’s okay. I can use the Ethernet port on my mobile broadband router to run a cable directly into the Ethernet port on the computer that they would provide.” I went a step further and purchased a wireless router so that I could have a hard-wired solution for them, as well as wireless for my own personal devices.
 
And I took it yet another step further by ordering a new mobile broadband modem, one that promised greater speeds by the ability to lock onto specific cell towers. It arrived in a timely fashion and I proceeded to get it all set up. It worked, but then it didn’t – I could get slightly faster speeds, but it was an inconsistent connection.
 
During the first day of training, we were introduced to the employee manual, which stated explicitly, “mobile broadband is not acceptable”. Ugh. At first, I thought that maybe I shouldn’t mention anything. But overnight my wireless broadband internet service took a nose dive – I could barely get .10 Mbps let alone the required 10 Mbps. There was no way that I could bluff my way through such a condition. I sat down and wrote them a letter of resignation.
 
Because I was honest and upfront with them, they’ve designated my status as “Welcome to Return”, so all is not necessarily lost. But in the meantime, here I was stuck with having spent hundreds of dollars on equipment and I was still ‘dead in the water’ with almost no internet. I fiddled with settings, repositioned the device, rebooted, updated the firmware, fiddled, moved things around, added an antenna, removed the antenna…. Several days later, I now have stable, high-speed internet service! I’ve been getting 30-50 Mbps for the past 4 days straight. What a pleasure!
 
Of course, it was too late. The contractor had become aware of my unacceptable network configuration that violated our employment contract. My only direction forward was to resume my own businesses, dba Resolute IT for local work and Office 365 Tech Guy nationally. And I’m very glad to be back with renewed enthusiasm. But I was truly honored to be given the opportunity to work (indirectly) for the company that created the focus of my business – Microsoft Office 365.

I used to recommend Office 365 Enterprise E3 as the best bang for the 20 bucks within the realm of Microsoft’s Office 365 offerings. But when Microsoft 365 Business was launched at the same $20 mark in August of 2017, then there was a new kid on the block – and this one had Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection.

 

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) adds important layers to the security stack, such as ATP Safe Links and ATP Safe Attachments. And to round out the trilogy, there’s ATP for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams.

 

Just to test drive this latter member of the trio, I downloaded a sample virus file and then uploaded that test malware to my OneDrive file repository. I opened the Office portal and navigated to the supposedly-infected file to give it a click. Because I’ve configured an alert for just such a problem, I instantly received an urgent notification:

 

office 365 advanced threat protection

 

Fortunately, this was a harmless test file. But if it were the real thing, then we would take immediate measures.

 

And the file is locked down:

So as much as we have Exchange Online Protection for email scanning and filtering, I’m more than pleased to know that we have built-in security when it comes to Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.

 

 

Too many equate Office 365 with the old Office suite of software and that they now have to pay for it on a constant basis. It is so much more than desktop software – it’s a bundle of software and services meant to enable productivity anywhere and at any time.

 

I’m going to assume that you already know about the legacy apps, such as Outlook, Word, and Excel. But do you use OneNote, OneDrive, Planner, To-Do, Teams or SharePoint? What about Bookings, Flow, Power BI, or Forms?

 

Of these that I’ve listed above, the most productivity might be realized by the adoption of just two: OneNote and Microsoft Teams. And these two apps go hand-in-hand as OneNote can reside within Teams as an integrated app within one of the navigational tabs found across the top of the Teams app.

 

Other Team members can co-author the OneNote Notebook – that is, they can edit the same content at the same time, no matter whether they’re working from the same office space or not. And if they wish to communicate in regard to the content, then members can instantly engage in a one-to-one or one-to-many chat. And that chat can be converted to an audio or audio/video meeting at any time.

 

In truth, OneDrive and SharePoint can be considered part of this mix because when a person shares a document in Microsoft Teams, that document is shared with another Team member from the sharing member’s OneDrive location. And when that document is published to the Files tab in Microsoft Teams, then that file becomes a common item in the document library of the Team in SharePoint. OneNote notebooks are also stored in OneDrive.

 

Microsoft Teams is part of a paradigm shift in the way that we think about online collaboration. The old method of emailing documents as an attachment is wrong on many fronts and warrants another conversation. The modern workplace is mobile and it’s dynamic. And in terms of productivity, there is no comparison to the ability to collaborate in real time from anywhere as we can do in Microsoft Teams.

 

Within the Outlook ribbon, there’s a big button that says Archive. If you select a message and click that button, the message will be sent to the Archive folder. This is a system folder and cannot be deleted, but it’s really just a folder under your primary Inbox, so this particular Archive still uses up your allotment of space on the mail server.

 

Depending on your Office 365 subscription plan, there are differing capacities for the primary mailbox. But all Office 365 plans that include Exchange Online (basic cloud-based email service) have another Archive location, which is essentially another mailbox, just tied to your own email account.

 

This other Archive location effectively doubles the size of your mailbox. For example, if you have Office 365 Business Premium, then you get 50 GB of storage space for your primary mailbox and 50 GB of storage space for your Online Archive or In-Place Archive – no one seems to agree on which is the most current or correct name. (In the Outlook for Mac email client, this online archive folder shows up as ‘Online Archive’. In Outlook for Windows, it shows up as ‘Online Archive – youremail@yourcompany.com’. In Outlook on the web, it shows up as ‘In-Place Archive – Your Name’.) Whatever you call it, its capacity is also 50 GB, however, it’s an ever-expanding capacity, automatically adjusting at 10 GB intervals, so it’s really an unlimited repository.

 

The way that you offload mail items to this ever-expanding online repository is by way of retention policies. You might have a policy that dictates all mail items under your Inbox older than 1 year will automatically be moved to the Online Archive. When all of these items arrive in the Online archive according to the policy, the sub-folder hierarchy reflects your primary Inbox and its folders. So if you have a folder called News under your Inbox, then a News folder will be created in the Online Archive along with the contents that are older than one year.

 

So similar to Inbox Rules, a Retention Policy is an automatic way to organize your email and take advantage of a vast storage space.

RMM = Remote Monitoring and Management

The RMM software agent runs on desktops, laptops, and servers. While it’s running in the background and invisibly, it collects generic information about your hardware, software, network, updates/patches, security concerns, and user accounts. No confidential data is observed in the process.

Here are the must-haves for any RMM according to the long-standing PSA and RMM vendor, ConnectWise:

  1. Automate any IT process or task
  2. Work on multiple machines at once
  3. Solve issues without interrupting clients
  4. Integrate smoothly into a professional services automation (PSA) tool
  5. Manage everything from one control center

 *I’m using Solarwinds MSP RMM & PSA

Some clients have concerns about possible tech scams, which are valid. There have been too many unsolicited calls from people claiming to represent “Microsoft”, but instead plant malware into your computer and then charge to have them take it out. It’s a big scam and it still happens today.

One key component of the Remote Monitoring and Management solution is remote control software. With a single click, a technician can sit with you virtually to visually examine your problem situation. Other key functions include automated tasks (such as running disk utilities), automatic patching with only approved Microsoft updates, and general network health reporting about your devices and their connectivity.

When the RMM is integrated with a Professional Services and Automation (PSA) tool such as Solarwinds MSP also provides, these tools can powerful insight and capabilities for your IT support team. Sending an email to support@resolute-it.com creates a new ticket request to be approved by Resolute IT Support in its ticketing system.

In short, where we’ve been putting out fires as needed (break/fix), we can now be more proactive and take measures to prevent problems that would otherwise be likely for the future (managed services). The RMM agent and its integration with the PSA management module enable us to look at new billing methods that mean a win/win scenario for provider/client.

One of the loudest buzzwords heard these days within the business computing environment is SECURITY. And the number one method to prevent a security breach is the use of multi-factor (MFA) or two-step authentication.

 

The most common practice in the MFA arena is to use SMS texting to receive an authentication code. When prompted, you enter the code into the field provided and voilà! The problem with this is that hackers are now SIM swapping or hijacking your mobile phone. When they’re successful, the hackers can request and receive a security code to access your account, lock you out of your own account, and wreak havoc with your life.

 

The best way around this is to use an authenticator app. Google has one, Microsoft has one, and there are popular third-party authenticator apps, such as Authy. They all work with any of your online accounts, but you should find one and use it!

 

As a Microsoft-centric technician, my preference is to use Microsoft Authenticator. It provides security codes for all Microsoft accounts either free and business, Google/Gmail, Reddit, Facebook, and so on. The easiest account to access with Authenticator is your Office 365 account – a balloon pops up on your mobile device and you simply tap it to authenticate.

 

When your devices are managed through Intune and Enterprise, Mobility + Security (EMS), then you have to have permission to use the app first. In my case, the Touch ID biometric thumb reader on my iPhone provides quick access to the Authenticator app itself, as well as access to any other Microsoft apps on the device.

 

It takes some getting used to, however getting hacked is not an option.

 

Scott Abbotts | https://resolute-it.com | https://office365techguy.com