Why Microsoft customers don’t need to worry about EU-US Safe Harbour/Harbor

When European Courts judged the 15-year-old EU-US Safe Harbour/Harbor treaty to be invalid last October, Internet news sites started to report how terrible this was for EU companies placing data into cloud services offered (mostly) by American companies. For some, that may be true, but that assumes Safe Harbour is the only protection in place.

This week, IT news sites are at it again. The Register (the tabloid newspaper of IT news sites) has an article titled Safe Harbor 2.0: US-Europe talks on privacy go down to the wire but the actual URI belies a much more dramatic title of “Safe Harbor countdown to Armageddon”. Sensationalist at best, some might even say irresponsible.

I’m no lawyer but, for my customers, who are implementing Microsoft cloud services, there seems to be nothing to worry about and I’ll explain why in this blog post. Of course, Microsoft is just one of many cloud services providers – and for others there may be valid concerns.

The United States Export.Gov website currently displays the following text regarding Safe Harbor:

“On October 6, 2015, the European Court of Justice issued a judgment declaring as ‘invalid’ the European Commission’s Decision 2000/520/EC of 26 July 2000 ‘on the adequacy of the protection provided by the safe harbour privacy principles and related frequently asked questions issued by the US Department of Commerce.’

In the current rapidly changing environment, the Department of Commerce will continue to administer the Safe Harbor program, including processing submissions for self-certification to the Safe Harbor Framework. If you have questions, please contact the European Commission, the appropriate European national data protection authority, or legal counsel.”

EU Model Clauses trump Safe Harbour

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, issued a statement on 6 October 2015. Quoting from that article:

“For Microsoft’s enterprise cloud customers, we believe the clear answer is that yes they can continue to transfer data by relying on additional steps and legal safeguards we have put in place. This includes additional and stringent privacy protections and Microsoft’s compliance with the EU Model Clauses, which enable customers to move data between the EU and other places – including the United States – even in the absence of the Safe Harbor. Both the ruling and comments by the European Commission recognized these types of steps earlier today.

Microsoft’s cloud services including Azure Core Services, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Intune all comply with the EU Model Clauses and hence are covered in this way.”

There’s also a follow-on post which talks in general terms about the wider issues and privacy beliefs but the key point is that Microsoft offers EU Model Clauses within its contracts, which go beyond Safe Harbour. Microsoft also has an FAQ on the EU Model Clauses that is worth a read.

Quoting again from the 6 October 2015 statement:

“We wanted to make sure all of our enterprise cloud customers receive this benefit so, beginning last year, we included compliance with the EU Model Clauses as a standard part of the contracts for our major enterprise cloud services with every customer. Microsoft cloud customers don’t need to do anything else to be covered in this way.”

That suggests to me that customers who have signed up to Azure Core Services, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online or Intune since early 2014 already have greater privacy protection than was afforded by Safe Harbour – and that protection meets the EU’s current requirements. In short, Microsoft customers don’t need to worry about Safe Harbor (sic).

An example of how to engage customers on social media

Almost every day, I see a branded account somewhere using Twitter as a broadcast medium, rather than as a tool to engage two-way conversation with customers. Indeed Matt Ballantine (@ballantine70) called Twitter out on this one…

Then there are the accounts that are named something like @BrandnameHelp, which vary tremoundously in the amount of “help” they offer (although creds are due to @TMLewinHelp and @7DigitalHelp who have both helped me out recently with problem orders).  @BTCare and @AmazonHelp are less impressive, in my experience.

@NatWest_Help picked up on this, slighty sarcastic, tweet from yours truly:

@LondonMidland does a great job of dealing with disgruntled travellers, including gems like this, with childrens toys to illustrate the issue (sometimes real pics too – it’s easier to be sympathetic of problems getting to/from work when you can see flooded tracks/fallen trees/damaged trains from fallen overhead wires, etc.):

There are whole books on this written by people who know far more about customer service and marketing than I do but I’d like to call out one example of what I see as a great use of social media…

Yesterday evening ago, I tweeted about a very amusing Volkswagen ad, noting that my recent car purchase might have been from them had the local dealership not been so completely useless at selling me the car I wanted…

Full credit to @UKVolkswagen, they picked up on this and said “can we help”, later following through with an email address to send more details to. The resulting email response was less impressive, suggesting I should supply a phone number if I wanted a response (I didn’t want a response, but my mobile number was already in the email…).

But what really impressed me, and showed:

  1. Excellent social media monitoring skills (clearly tracking disgruntled customers with rival brands); and
  2. An ability to use social media to engage and potentially attract new custom

was the Twitter conversation I had with @ToyotaGB this evening.

It was too late, as I’d already bought a Volvo (I may have mentioned that once or twice on Twitter…) but still excellent use of social media. Other brands could learn a thing or two…

Short takes: file and folder management from the command line

Turning more open tabs and notes into mini-blog posts…

Some Unix commands when working with directories

A couple of months back, I wrote about having to hurriedly back up my Mac after the file system got corrupted

Along the way I had to pick up some Unix commands that were previously outside my vocabulary… worth noting here for future reference:

Force deleting a folder on Windows

I’ve been cleaning down a PC that is no longer needed for regular use, but we’re hanging onto as a spare PC. I figured the quickest way would be to remove some user profiles but Windows Explorer was having difficulty with some temporary files in the AppData folder structure.  After a while, I fell back to a trusty cmd prompt…

rd /s /q foldername

The equvalent for a file is del /f /q /a filename.

Thanks to Techverse for pointing me in the right direction.

Encrypting Windows 10 with BitLocker

In common with many small business owners (indeed any business owner, it could be argued), my wife needs to be sure that her customer’s data is adequately protected. In her case that means professional cloud services for email (Office 365) and PC backup (Azure) but the data on the PC needs to be protected too…

All major operating systems come with whole drive encryption technologies these days – and for Windows that feature is BitLocker.

When we replaced my wife’s PC a few months ago, I picked what seemed a good small business laptop from Lenovo – a Thinkpad E550 – and, by and large, I’ve been pleased with the purchase.  Somewhat frustratingly though, the PC shipped with Windows 8 (not Pro) and so it has been updated to Windows 8.1 then to Windows 10 Home. That meant that, when I attempted to encrypt the drive by right-clicking in File Explorer, there was no Manage BitLocker option (and the BitLocker Settings stub in Settings, System, About didn’t do anything). Folder-level encryption with the Encrypted File System (EFS) was similarly unavailable (although greyed out, rather than invisible), even when I tried to manually enable it with sc config EFS start= demand.

Whilst there are alternatives available, my support model for my wife’s PC is KISS (“keep it simple, stupid”), as the last thing I need whilst I’m consulting with my own customers is to be worrying about support issues with family devices, so I decided to stick with the technology that’s built into Windows. That meant an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Thinking $99 isn’t too bad a price to pay (after all, this is a business expense for my wife)… I clicked Settings, Update & Security, Activation, Go to Store, only to find that it’s £99.99 in the UK – a £33, or 50%, uplift at today’s exchange rates. By this point I’m starting to feel a little ripped off… although I’m not sure if I’m more annoyed with Lenovo selling a small business PC with an inadequate version of Windows, or Microsoft for only putting encryption in the high-end Windows versions…

Windows 10 Edition upgrade completed

The final point to remember is that not all PCs have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip.

BitLocker error on PC without a trusted platform module

That’s not a problem if you’re prepared to use a USB flash drive as a startup-key. It just needs a little policy change (run gpedit.msc, then Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Bit Locker Drive Encryption\Operating System Drives\Require additional authentication at startup) after which you can work through the BitLocker encryption process as usual but with an extra choice whether to use a USB key or enter a password:

Allow BitLocker without a compatible TPM

Choose how to unlock your drive at startup

Short takes: SharePoint/Delve and shortlinks; CESG guidance on Office 365; removing Sway from the App Launcher

So, it’s Christmas Eve and I’ve run out of annual leave this year so I’m still working… looks like everyone else has gone home though so I’m really just clearing down my mailbox, searching for Inbox Zero nirvana. As I do, there are lots of little snippets that I might like to remember, so here’s a little Christmas compilation…

SharePoint, Delve and short links

We have a URL shortener at work and one of the things it’s really great for is taking reallyreallylongandundigestibleurisfromsharepoint and making them risu.al/short. Unfortunately Alex Eggar, who leads our Business Productivity group, highlighted to me that I’m better off using SharePoint’s sharing functionality… otherwise Delve won’t know what’s going on…

There’s loads of information on Delve for Office 365 administrators and Paul Olenick (SharePoint MVP) has an interesting post the describes more about Delve. What I haven’t managed to get clear in my head yet is why a short URL bypasses the Office Graph… I’m still accessing the content… but I’ll leave that one to the experts!

CESG Guidelines for use of Office 365 at OFFICIAL

I had an interesting meeting with a customer recently, discussing how their Office 365 implementation aligned to UK Government (CESG) guidelines. Whilst they are guidelines, and this customer is only loosely affiliated with the Government, the CESG guidance on Office 365 could be considered as a useful benchmark.

The guidelines are available on the gov.uk website. Currently they include:

Turning off the App Launcher tile for Sway

As I wrote a couple of months ago when describing how to selectively remove tiles from the Office 365 App Launcher, disabling Sway in Office 365 didn’t used to remove the tile from the launcher. Since earlier this month, that behaviour has been changed with more details in Microsoft knowledge base article 3075256.

Encouraging adoption in enterprise social networks

In my job, consulting with many organisations who are adopting Microsoft products and services, including Office 365, I have a lot of discussions about Yammer and other modern communication methods (e.g. Sway).

Many have already had pilots with Yammer and found it didn’t work for them. Some are smart enough to realise that it wasn’t Yammer at fault but a lack of executive sponsorship. Adapting a new medium for communication takes time; it needs a cultural shift. If your boss uses it, you might consider giving it a try (although when I had a team, my experience at getting them to use Yammer was best described as mixed). But if your boss’ boss uses it, or the CEO, and the internal communications team are are using it instead of email, then you might stand some chance of success – because, as well as executive sponsorship, it needs critical mass (which means people need a reason to visit).

Of course, the platform itself has to be usable. In my last place the corporate social platform was Newsgator (which was awful), coupled with an old version of SharePoint and, aside from the teams whose job it was to evangelise its use, it was pretty much ignored. In fact, so much so that other social networks popped up in their own bubbles: the sales community were using Salesforce Chatter; although Yammer actually seemed to gain more traction in some areas (via an external network hosted by Microsoft for partner engagement) because there was something of value there for people.

So, we need executive sponsorship, critical mass, and a usable platform, with content that people value. But there’s something else too – people have to stop using the old methods in parallel.

Recently, I witnessed one organisation where someone posted some infomration on Yammer and it got a flurry of activity/commentary on the original post (so far so good). Then someone else sent an email to a distribution group to highlight the same information. That sender might not have seen the original post but email isn’t a good way to share links about new products. Some (myself included) may consider it as just unsolicited bulk email (spam) but spam that’s sent from inside the organisation. To make matters worse, because Office 365 Clutter doesn’t filter out email from people in your management chain, that email will never be filtered.

No, no, no, no! Post once, on the right medium*. Yammer for information sharing/comments on a topic that might run and run; instant messaging for messages that require a response… instantly (the clue’s in the name) and stop abusing email (which, incidentally is an asynchronous communications mechanism to which you should not require, or even expect, a response). As for voice mail, SMS, etc. Well, who knows… anyway, I’m supposed to be writing about getting people using enterprise social networks here – not a lecture on communication methods (and I know one size doesn’t fit all).

So, that’s my view – which you might agree with, or you may not. But it’s been cathartic to have a little online rant and at least it means I’ll get at least one blog post up this month! For another view, take a look at what the Yammer team at Microsoft shared with me – a 2012 Office blog post on Deploying a Successful Enterprise Social Network: Best Practices From the Field.

 

Mark Wilson is an increasingly busy, grumpy and ranty man, who wants to reduce the volume of email arriving in his Inbox…

* I do have to admit that, on occasion, I have been known to email a group of people and say “please reply to my thread on Yammer”, because I knew a lot of them didn’t use it but I wanted everyone to see the replies withough creating a Reply All email storm. This is not good.

Recovering data after OneDrive for Business “ate” my OneNote notebooks…

Yesterday, I wrote about troubleshooting OneDrive for Business. What I didn’t write about though was the problems that a simple repair to OneDrive for Business (acting on advice to resolve some sync issues on my client) caused for me…

The OneDrive for Business repair operation works as follows:

  • Disconnects all libraries that were experiencing sync problems.
  • Reconnects these libraries. This means Repair downloads and syncs the current server version of each library, as if you were syncing for the first time.
  • Creates an archive copy of any file that had unsynced changes and places these files in a library folder under C:\users\username\OneDrive for Business archives\.

So, if you are using that full 1TB of storage… you’d better have a good network connection to pull the entire contents of the library from the cloud (which is why the next version of the OneDrive client has selective sync).

In my case, I’m only using a few GB but, because I moved my entire Documents folder to OneDrive a few months ago, my OneNote notebooks were part of the data that was pulled down from the cloud.

I rely heavily on OneNote – I stopped using paper notebooks when I left my last job, as my everyday device is a Surface Pro 3 (which I find ideally suited to note-taking) – and here’s the lesson I learned:

OneNote and OneDrive for Business do not (always) play together nicely.

It should work – there’s even Microsoft advice for moving a OneNote notebook to OneDrive (and the same process works for OneDrive for Business) but it seems the mistake I made was to move all of my files in Windows Explorer. Whilst researching this blog post I’ve found Microsoft’s OneNote syncing best practices (KB2819334) and what I should have done is move the OneNote notebooks from within OneNote…

After the OneDrive for Business repair, I was left with a .ms-one-stub file which Explorer reported as being 1KB in size. 6 months of notes had disappeared – and opening OneNote didn’t follow the stub and magically pick up my notes. I felt physically sick. I thought I had two copies – one on the PC and one in OneDrive for Business. But no, OneDrive for Business was my backup – and it had “eaten” my work.

Luckily, there was another backup copy. It wasn’t current, but it was only a couple of days out of date, rather than starting from scratch. I found that OneNote stores a copy of notes in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\OneNote\15.0\Backup.

That location has a folder for each notebook. Each folder contains a OneDrive recycle bin (OneNote_RecycleBin) and copies of  my .one files for each section, with a date when the backup was taken – for example project.one (On 22-11-2015).one. I’m not sure when the backup is taken (I’ve made changes to sections today that are still not reflected in the OneNote backup, but losing a couple of days is vastly superior to losing 6 months.

Even with the new information about the correct way to sync OneNote to OneDrive for Business, I’m not sure I completely trust it. From now on I’ll be making a third copy to another location…

 

Troubleshooting OneDrive for Business

I’ve written previously about the OneDrive for Business sync client – and I was pretty critical of it too. Since then, I’ve been working with OneDrive for Business every day on my work PC and it generally works well for me.  It’s not all a bed of roses though. I’ve had significant challenges with OneDrive in one customer implementation but part of the issue would appear to be their PC build, compounded by the approach taken to applying Microsoft updates.

It doesn’t help though that some Microsoft updates actually break OneDrive – the 13 October 2015 update for Office 2013 (KB3085566) prevents OneDrive for Business from syncing and needs an additional update from 21 October 2013 (KB2986219). And those are Office updates – separate to the OneDrive for Business client updates (e.g. KB3085509 and KB3101505).

I’m hoping that the new unified OneDrive sync client will improve things further. After all, Microsoft are claiming that:

“First and foremost, we’re delivering a rock-solid new sync experience.”

Great! That’s exactly what’s needed.

The new client (based on the consumer OneDrive client, which I think has its roots in Windows Live Mesh, rather than in Groove) introduces selective sync, removes some previous item count and file size limits and gets away from having two clients for OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. It’s also coming alongside improvements to the browser and mobile experiences, and changing to external sharing options (there’s more information on the OneDrive blog) but, for now, it’s an early preview and unfortunately not available for Windows 8.x.

Trying to fix my customer’s issues has led me to some useful resources for troubleshooting OneDrive for Business though – including an Office Support article on Fixing OneDrive for Business Sync Problems and a OneDrive for Business Sync Issues Troubleshooter. I’m not sure how well-known this second resource is, but it walks through a number of scenarios to help resolve problems, including:

Some of this is good practice, some is standard troubleshooting (clearing caches, reinstalling applications) but hopefully most people won’t need to go much further than the first few items. It’s definitely worth knowing about though…

Reconfiguring a Plusnet ADSL router (Sagemcom 2704n)

I’ve been trying to improve my Skype call quality at home and the guys I work with who know about this sort of stuff have suggested that my cheap ISP-supplied router may be part of the problem. Put simply, the Technicolor TG582n that Plusnet shipped me last year is fine for a bit of web surfing, it even streams video from iPlayer, etc. OK, but it’s not up to the task for P2P or real time media.

I was playing around with some of the settings and found that the router wasn’t behaving reliably (when I applied changes, and they weren’t applying) so I called PlusNet, who gave me two options: factory reset and a new router. I went for both.

The factory reset got me back up and running until the new router arrived. Plusnet’s current “Hub Zero” router is a Sagemcom 2704n and, whilst I’ve yet to see if my Skype for Business call quality improves, everything else about it seems to be a retrograde step:

The hardware design is flawed – when fixed to the wall, the router’s Ethernet ports are inaccessible (there isn’t enough room for them to turn through 90 degrees!) and, despite having a Gigabit Ethernet switch the ports are only 10/100 (yes, the ADSL connection is much slower than that but the cheap Ethernet ports reduce the speed of the local network).

Then, there’s the firmware that Plusnet have applied to the router which takes dumbing down to a new level. At least with the TG582n I could make a telnet connection for advanced configuration; Plusnet have blocked telnet, SSH and SNMP so there’s no way to manage the device. They’ve also removed the ability for ICMP to be enabled so my broadband ping trace flat-lined when I plugged in the new router:

PlusNet router blocks ICMP
No ICMP, no ping test

Worst of all, the Plusnet firmware hides the ability to change the IP address of the router, or to turn off DHCP. Given that I have a business account and that the paperwork with the router says “Welcome to Plusnet Business”, I’d have thought that almost any business with more than a handful of users would have its own DHCP server and may want to control the IP range in use (as I do – my Raspberry Pi does runs the infrastructure here). Luckily, after some hunting around I found a forum post with the details I needed:

Log into it using http://192.168.1.254/expert_user.html with the admin name and password.
Select >Advanced Setup >LAN
First select the ‘Disable DHCP Server’ radio button, then at the top, change the IP address

[…]

now click Apply/Save at the bottom. The 2704n will now update and the page will start to refresh but won’t complete as you now have to change the address in your browser URL bar to http://[yourchosenIP]/expert_user.html

In all likelihood, I’ll be buying a new router. Something decent for ADSL2+ that will also work if I do upgrade to FTTC later. In the meantime, at least I’ve managed to get over the biggest hump with reconfiguring the Sagemcom 2704n.

Recording a video of a PowerPoint presentation

One of the challenges I have with an Office 365 implementation that I’m working on is that the customer is unwilling or unable (for various technical and commercial reasons) to configure all of the network ports that are required to make use of Skype for Business. That means that they are unable to attend meetings that I host – they can dial in and hear the audio but they can’t access presentation content.

That’s a bit of a challenge for me, as I need to deliver some training to technical support staff across the globe and in various timezones. So, with Skype for Business out of the question… I started to think about alternatives – like recording a video of a PowerPoint presentation.

I realised it’s possible to record a narrative within PowerPoint and then save the presentation as a video or as a self-running presentation. That’s not as interactive as a Skype session could be but it’s also available for playback later (although this would also be the case with a recording of the Skype for Business session).

The process was not without its issues though. On the positive side, I could break my recording and re-record each slide (for example if I fluffed my words). That also helped when the kids came home and the inevitable family interruptions occurred. Unfortunately, PowerPoint kept on cutting out the first few seconds on some slides, so I started waiting a few seconds before speaking (I can trim it later) and it even recorded silence sometimes, necessitating a PC reboot to make it work again.  The whole process was not exactly fast – around 4 hours to record a one-hour presentation… and that doesn’t include the media encoding.

As I write this, I’m saving the file to MP4, hopefully ready for distribution… now, if only they hadn’t asked me to turn off Office 365 Video I’d have a means to share the content…