Introducing Microsoft Teams—the chat-based workspace in Office 365

By Kirk Koenigsbauer as written on
Today, Microsoft announced Microsoft Teams: the new chat-based workspace in Office 365 that brings together people, conversations, content, and the tools teams need to achieve more together. Naturally and thoughtfully integrated with familiar Office applications and services—and built entirely on the Office 365 global, security-rich, compliant hyperscale cloud service—Microsoft Teams joins the rich portfolio of Office 365 experiences designed for the unique workstyle of every group.
·         Chat for today’s teams – Communicate in the moment, and keep everyone in the know

·         A hub for team work – Give teams quick access to information they need, right in Office 365
·         A customizable experience – Tailor workspaces to include content and capabilities teams need every day.
·         Security teams can trust – Get the enterprise-level security and compliance features you expect from Office 365.
Why Microsoft Teams?
Today, people work on twice as many teams as they did five years ago. As your customers’ need for collaboration increases, so does their need to find new ways to work together. Microsoft Teams can meet diverse customer needs, with an integrated suite that beats the siloed alternatives in every category. Group email and calendar. Content co-creation. Audio/video meetings. Cross-company connections. And more.
Microsoft Teams further strengthens Office 365 value, opening doors for you to discuss the benefits of an integrated set of collaboration capabilities with current customers and to win new business with prospective customers who need persistent chat. The just-announced Developer Preview gives you early access to the resources you need to build bots, connectors, and rich integrations for Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams availability
On 02 November 2016, Microsoft Teams will be available in preview to Office 365 commercial customers with Business and Enterprise suite plans, in 181 countries and 18 languages. Office 365 Administrators of qualifying plans can turn on Microsoft Teams through their IT Admin Center, and begin their pilots today.


Improving service quality in Skype for Business

As written on in 2016. Click here for information on moving from Skype for Business to Teams

When Microsoft IT deployed Skype for Business 2015 to support our highly mobile global user base, our goal was to provide the best user experience in the industry. We learned valuable lessons about hardware requirements, managing our complex network, accommodating diverse and remote clients, and running a unified communications platform in a hybrid cloud environment. We also helped develop a Call Quality Dashboard to help other organizations optimize the user experience.

Microsoft is a leader in unified communications—where voice, instant messaging, and conferencing converge to help employees communicate and collaborate effectively from anywhere. In 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype and integrated it into our Lync unified communications solution to create Skype for Business. Skype for Business has a design inspired by Skype and the security, compliance, and control of Lync.

In 2013, Microsoft IT planned to deploy a pre-release version of Skype for Business to the Microsoft global user base. Feedback from these users would help the product team improve the product before public release. To get Skype for Business to work well for our internal users, though, we would need to manage a complex environment. Unified communications is a real-time service that’s sensitive to change, client-to-client or server health anomalies, network latency, packet loss, and jitter.

Also, we knew that our hardware would be insufficient to support peak usage. We knew this because when we upgraded from Lync 2010 to Lync 2013, users experienced poor call quality, dropped calls, and bad connections. In 2014, we had 10 major incidents when as many as 1,000 Lync users were unable to make calls, join meetings, or were disconnected during a call. We determined that the problem was outdated hardware. The Lync 2013 architecture requires more robust hardware than Lync 2010, but we were still running the old servers. Skype for Business has the same architecture as Lync 2013, so without a hardware upgrade, the user experience would be poor, no matter what else we did.

Together with the product team, we launched the Get to Green program in March 2014, with “green” being the desired state of the service as shown in our metrics. Our goal was to make the end-to-end Skype for Business user experience the best in the industry. In addition to upgrading hardware, we needed to address issues arising from incompatible client drivers and hardware and a variety of networking environments. Also, more and more of our users were connecting to Skype for Business using personal devices and personal wireless networks that we don’t manage. We would need to find ways to improve the way our service performs on these unmanaged devices and external networks.

Creating a plan for great service quality

We got together with the product team to plan the Get to Green program. Our goal was to improve the user experience so there would be fewer dropped calls and better voice and video quality. To succeed, we would need to assess the environment and identify areas of opportunity to improve the service.

We would measure our success by using the Global Employee Satisfaction Survey and the Poor Call Rate (PCR). The employee satisfaction survey is administered bi-annually to a cross-section of employees that represent all roles and regions. It gathers their opinions about Microsoft IT services and resources, including their unified communications user experiences. PCR is an objective measure of call quality, based on a mean opinion score (MOS) for packet loss, jitter, concealment ratio, and round-trip times.

Defining problem areas

To plan improvements that would have the most impact, we assessed the service environment and identified the following areas that affect the user experience the most.

  • Our server hardware was outdated. When we upgraded from Lync 2010 to Lync 2013, we used existing hardware. This created problems because Lync 2013 had a new architecture that ran all of the services on each server, rather than running each service on its own server. The old hardware didn’t have sufficient CPU or memory to handle peak load with the new architecture, so users experienced dropped connections and poor service quality. Also, we were running Windows Server 2008 R2, which did not have the performance advantages of Windows Server 2012.
  • Our network environment is complex, and use is changing. Our unified communications service runs on multiple networks, such as PSTN, wireless, and the Microsoft corporate network. Our networks were designed to support mostly hard-wired connections, but users increasingly connect to our unified communications service by using Wi-Fi networks.
  • We had incompatible client versions, drivers, and hardware. Clients using the service include Windows-based PCs, Android and iOS clients, and a variety of mobile devices. Some of these devices had drivers, versions, and hardware that were incompatible with Skype for Business. Also, we had the further issue that users’ personal (BYOD) devices were unmanaged.
  • We have a limited ability to manage remote scenarios. Because Skype for Business is an access-anywhere technology, we only can manage it to the edge of our infrastructure. Yet 50 percent of our users are outside of our data centers. In these cases, we cannot control the environment, but only influence user behavior.
  • We have a mixed environment. At Microsoft, Skype for Business runs on-premises, in the cloud, and on hybrid infrastructure, as shown in Figure 1. On-premises infrastructure creates IT management and support overhead and requires that we use telecommunications providers for voice service. This overhead and complexity doesn’t support our need for great quality and reliability. Also in the on-premises environment, we share infrastructure with other services and can’t manage end-to-end service health. Changes made by other services often affect our service quality.

Identifying areas of opportunity

To improve the user experience, we focused our efforts on improving these areas:

  • Upgrading server hardware and creating redundancy.
  • Improving network performance, particularly Wi-Fi in our buildings.
  • Doing a better job managing a wide variety of devices.
  • Educating users about the best practices and devices to use with Skype for Business.
  • Creating a user feedback loop, so we can quickly identify and correct issues.
  • Eventually moving all of our users to the cloud.

Focusing on the remote user experience

We decided to focus on improving service quality for our most challenging group of users, field sales people. Out of all our users, they’re the most dependent on the Skype for Business service. They don’t have the benefit of our stable corporate network, so their calls are often affected by network anomalies. Field sales users are often not in corporate offices and they rely heavily on unified communications to do their work. They often connect over external wireless networks of variable quality, and are the most affected by quality and reliability issues. We knew that once we got the service working well for them, all of our users would benefit.

The following two tables show the roles that are most affected by service quality, and the percentage of field sales people that are affected by poor PCR, respectively.

Optimizing Skype for Business

Over a period of several months, we made improvements to the server and network infrastructure, client devices, and user support. We’ve also continued migrating more of our user base to the cloud. While we still have a way to go, early results show that our approach is working, and the user experience is improving.

Increasing server capacity and redundancy

For the on-premises deployment of Skype for Business, a key area that we needed to address was server reliability and availability. To improve reliability and availability, we needed to increase server capacity and introduce redundancy to support the Skype for Business architecture. The old hardware we were using had been designed for Lync 2010, which had a distributed architecture where a capability or service runs on a separate server. To increase scalability, the Lync 2013 architecture allows multiple services to run on a single server or across server farms. Capacity can then be increased by adding servers. This architecture boosts the need for server performance, though. More CPU and memory is required to serve peak loads. For redundancy, we would need to add servers.

Skype for Business uses the same architecture as Lync 2013. To increase reliability and performance, we deployed more robust hardware to meet the new requirements. Also, to take advantage of its threading improvements over Microsoft Windows Server 2008, we decided to run the infrastructure on Windows Server 2012 R2 instead. Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 yielded the added benefits of Windows Fabric, which Skype for Business makes extensive use of.

While still running Lync 2013, we upgraded all of our hardware to support the new consolidated architecture, where multiple services run on the same server. We first set up the new hardware infrastructure and then migrated our Lync 2013 servers over to it. This increased server capacity and network bandwidth to support optimal performance at peak load. It eliminated single points of failure and created redundancy to make the service highly available. Once Lync 2013 was up and running on the new hardware, we were able to do an in-place upgrade to Skype for Business.

To do this migration, we started with the backend servers and user pools, and then migrated the front-end servers. We migrated groups of users in a phased manner so that we could monitor and correct issues as we went along. When all users were migrated, we decommissioned the old hardware. After the servers were upgraded, we upgraded the Lync clients to Skype for Business clients.

Improving networking

We needed to ensure that the network could support peak load, which meant upgrading our data center circuits. We also made appropriate firewall settings, provided better DNS infrastructure, and enabled end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) on the network to prioritize voice and video traffic.

We also needed to account for changes in the way users access unified communications. With Lync 2010, most of our users had hard-wired connections. By the time we were ready to deploy Skype for Business, most of them used wireless connections. The wireless infrastructure in our buildings was creating a huge bottleneck that we had to fix.

We’ve improved our networks and upgraded our unified communications devices to gain better performance and call quality, as follows:

  • To increase the available bandwidth for Skype for Business in our data centers, we moved to dedicated 10 GBps bandwidth through all edge and core routing and network hardware.
  • We enabled network QoS, and configured it to give priority to voice traffic first and video traffic second.
  • We opened the appropriate ports to provide optimal performance.
  • To increase bandwidth and throughput, we upgraded our building Wi-Fi networks globally from 802.11n to the 802.11ac standard and configured them to preferentially select the 5.0 GHz radio band over the 2.4 GHz band. All Microsoft IT-approved devices support the new standard and are slowly replacing incompatible devices.
  • We upgraded all of our managed clients to Microsoft Windows 10, which has improved Wi-Fi drivers.

For details on network planning approaches for Lync Server and Skype for Business Server 2015, see Network Planning, Monitoring, and Troubleshooting with Lync Server.

Improving device management

We developed a Skype for Business tool called the Call Quality Dashboard to help us track down call quality issues. Some of these issues are caused by devices that have incompatible drivers and hardware. The dashboard lets us drill down and identify exactly which devices are causing problems, even personal, unmanaged, devices. We can then work with the users to correct the issues. We’re now able to manage all of our devices better. The Call Quality Dashboard is discussed in more detail later, in Monitoring service health.

Moving to the cloud

We’re gradually moving our users to the cloud-based Office 365 Enterprise E5 service, which includes Skype for Business. By 2017, we plan to move 90 percent of our users to this service (keeping some users on-premises so we can continue to support our on-premises server product). This will resolve many of our current reliability and availability issues. It will also reduce the cost of supporting unified communications.

    • Reliability gains. Our on-premises environment is shared with other systems. Some of our reliability problems are caused by changes made for other network-based services and technologies that affect our Skype for Business and Lync servers. Changes to networking, routing, ACLs, hardware, load balancing, firewall, GPO, and Active Directory changes can all affect the service. Having our service entirely in the dedicated cloud environment managed by Azure will eliminate these issues.
    • Cost savings. Moving to the cloud eliminates the need to support servers in a data center or to support networking. Plus, no in-house expertise is needed to manage this complex infrastructure. The E5 service provides PSTN conferencing and voice calling, so we will eliminate the cost of telecommunications service providers.

We’re migrating our users in steps. Within the United States, we’ve moved almost all of our users to the Office 365 Enterprise E5 service. To support our customers outside the United States, we still use the Skype for Business 2015 on premises solution. This is because, until recently, Office 365 Enterprise E5 was available only in North America. Now the service is expanding globally, and we plan to move all of our international users to it by 2017. We’ll do this in stages as the service becomes available in different parts of the world. As we gradually migrate our international users, we’ll be able to eliminate the on-premises infrastructure in other countries/regions and data centers.

In the meantime, some of our users are hosted on a cloud server, but still have on-premises voice service provided by a telecommunications company. Ultimately, when we move everyone to Office 365 Enterprise E5, we will no longer need the external telecommunications provider, but will receive all of our communications services through Office 365 Enterprise E5.

Creating a feedback loop with users

Telemetry doesn’t tell the entire story. We also collect and prioritize user feedback to reveal blind spots and drive improvements to the product and service. The Global Employee Satisfaction Survey—our main mechanism for listening to users—tells us where we need to improve. In addition, we’ve created an internal SharePoint site called Skype@Microsoft (shown in Figure 3) that gives users ways to send us feedback and requests. It’s the starting point for everything to do with using Skype for Business: community engagement, information, self-service tools, and alerts.

We also gather data from a questionnaire that pops up when a user finishes a Skype call. It lets us know about call quality issues. We view the data in our Call Quality Dashboard, described later.

Helping users help themselves

We depend on our users to make good technology choices. Using the right kinds of devices, peripherals, and Wi-Fi networks with Skype for Business improves their experience. Our Skype@Microsoft SharePoint site gives users help on using Skype for Business, including guidance on technology selection and self-service tools to help them assess how well their client is working. We recommend that they select from a list of peripheral devices that we certified for Skype for Business. The certification process ensures that the devices work well. For the list, see Phones and devices for Skype for Business. We also provide instructional videos.

For our field sales sellers, our most challenging user group, we’ve also developed an outreach program that includes training on tools, tips, and best practices to get the best Skype for Business user experience. These are summarized in the following figure.

Monitoring service health

We use a number of tools to continuously monitor service health, so that we can correct issues that might interfere with a good user experience.

Call Quality Dashboard

To help us diagnose network infrastructure issues affecting call quality, we developed the Call Quality Dashboard, which is included with Skype for Business Server 2015. For each phone call, it shows the type of call (wired or wireless, internal or external) and provides a measure of call quality. It uses PCR as a key performance indicator and rates calls from 1 to 4 based on packet loss and jitter. We also developed the Call Quality Methodology to use with the dashboard data. It provides a step-by-step approach to improving call quality. This has helped us to speed up our investigations and quickly resolve issues.

Using the dashboard, Microsoft IT managers drill down into the metrics—even to the individual call—to ensure that we’re delivering the best user experience at each location or building. We look at the following information:

  • Service health. For both wired and Wi-Fi network infrastructure—both internal and external—we look at PCR to see how healthy the service is. For server-to-client or client-to-client call streams, it provides MOS score for packet loss, jitter, ratio conceal, and round-trip times.
  • Client health. For each client device, we look at information about hardware, settings, client version, wireless driver, and peripheral devices, such as headsets and speakerphones. It also shows us whether a particular device complies with our current standards.

We use this data along with the Call Quality Methodology to drive improvements across Microsoft, and so far have reduced PCR from 8 percent to less than 2 percent. We’re training IT managers to use the tools to drive improvements in their buildings by correcting issues with underperforming devices, incompatible drivers and client versions, and insufficient network bandwidth.

Performing site investigations

Our IT site managers perform site investigations by drilling down into Call Quality Dashboard data to uncover the source of issues. Once they know the source, they can remediate it. The following screen capture shows a top-level view of the data for one of our buildings. The yellow trend lines in the graphs represent the PCR rates on wired and Wi-Fi networks and by day of week. In this case, they’re all trending down, which means the service is getting healthier. The red sections in the graphs represent calls with a PCR that’s higher than the target desirable state. We drill down for more detail, such as the type of calls involved, the network device drivers being used, the wireless hotspot in use, the wireless channel, and so forth. The user ratings that we capture on call quality are also included in the dashboard.

System Center Operations Manager

We use the management pack for Skype for Business Server 2015 to monitor our servers and get alerts on issues, such as when Skype for Business processes exceed a defined performance threshold.

Key Health Indicators

We use the following Key Health Indicator (KHI) performance counters to get metrics about server health: CPU and memory utilization, and TCP transmit time. Along with other resources, you can download the KHI Guide that outlines the methodology that we use to measure KHIs on servers and our environment.

Network tools

We use tools such as the policy assurance manager tool in HP Network Automation to ensure that routers and switches in the data centers are running a compliant configuration and to ensure QoS is enabled end to end. We can also determine where we need to provide additional capacity to achieve availability and reliability for the network and server infrastructure. We use another internal tool to ensure all the network devices are running the gold code and that they’re meeting our capacity and compliance standards.

We also use tools such as Unify Square PowerMon to measure quality during synthetic transactions. We set up probes and test accounts in data centers.

Measuring success

While we’re continually improving, we’re already seeing improvements in the user experience and also enjoying cost benefits:

  • The PCR was reduced to 1.73 percent from 8 percent, mostly due to network improvements and improved Windows 10 Wi-Fi drivers.
  • The Global Employee Satisfaction Survey—our main mechanism for listening to users—showed double-digit improvements in user satisfaction. Users have already reported improvements in availability, reliability, and performance. We’ve turned a corner in terms of understanding the key satisfaction drivers for users, and for the last two quarters we’ve made gains in driving service improvement.
  • We have double-digit increases in employee satisfaction, with an average 18-point increase in user satisfaction across audio, video, IM, meetings, and sharing.
  • We’re saving about $132,000 per day by reducing the cost of using the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and third-party conferencing services, thanks to migrating our users to the Enterprise Voice features of Skype for Business.
  • With more than 127,000 of our users enabled for Enterprise Voice, we’ve been able to decommission 70 percent of our old PBX equipment, saving more than $4.03 million over the last six years.
  • Over time, we expect savings to increase. As we move more users to Skype for Business in the cloud, our datacenter infrastructure needs will decrease, and we will eliminate the cost of telephone carriers completely, which will reduce overall costs significantly.
  • We’re also looking forward to further improvements from new Skype for Business features in coming months, like Keynote for Enterprise Connect, translation services, and better conferencing solutions.

Best practices for a great user experience

Use these best practices to improve the user experience with Skype for Business in your organization.

Provide sufficient capacity and bandwidth

Make sure that server capacity and network bandwidth support optimal performance at peak load. Use redundant systems to make sure that the service is highly available. Enable networking QoS, and open the recommended ports for optimal performance. To ensure your infrastructure supports the best possible service, be sure to follow the capacity planning guidelines for Skype for Business.

Put the right tools in your toolbox

Acquire and set up the tools discussed in this paper so you can monitor and manage Skype for Business service quality.

Move to the cloud

To gain performance and feature benefits, plan to move your Skype for Business users to the cloud—Office 365 Enterprise E5. Not only will it cost less, but it will increase your unified communications capabilities. Also, users like the Skype for Business client. Our Microsoft users are much happier with it.

If you haven’t already deployed a unified communications service, you can start offering a 100-percent, cloud-based service through Office 365 Enterprise E5. Not only will you avoid needing to support the infrastructure, but you’ll no longer have to pay telecommunications providers for telephone services. Rather, your users can connect to the Internet using Skype for Business, and Microsoft Azure will route telephone calls for them. This can represent a large savings for your organizations.

Listen to your users

Take these steps to ensure a great user experience:

  • Understand use cases. Build personas and scenarios. Understand a “day in the life” of each group of users.
  • Listen to your users. Create dedicated listening systems.
  • Collect and prioritize feedback and use it to improve your service.

Help your users get good results

Make sure that users are empowered with tools and training to get the best possible Skype for Business experience. There are many situations that users can manage better than IT can. Help your users help themselves by giving them guidance and the right tools. Provide real-time notification of incidents and self-service workarounds. Make information on best practices easy to find.

Ensure client health before a meeting starts

Provide tools to ensure that the client is as healthy as possible before a user joins a meeting.

Use the recommended home router and best practices guide

For remote users, provide guidance for selecting and configuring a home router. Have a list of recommended Wi Fi routers. Use diagnostic tools to make sure the home Wi-Fi network is performing well.

Use approved headsets and peripherals

Recommend Skype-certified headsets and peripherals to ensure the best possible experience for your meetings. The certification process ensures that peripherals work well.

About Managed Solution

We're technology enthusiasts with a people-first approach. For over two decades, we've witnessed the profound impact that the right technology and support can have on businesses and individuals. Success, to us, is seeing our clients, partners, and team conquer challenges to achieve their greatest goals and build lasting connections. This relentless pursuit of inspiration drives us forward, pushing us to deliver innovative solutions that empower growth and lasting success.

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Education provider brings the latest productivity tools to more than 1 million students

As written on
After education provider Kroton merged with its largest competitor, the organization saw an opportunity to make a fresh start with its productivity tools and standardize on the solution that supported strategic and educational goals. By choosing Microsoft Office 365 over Google Apps for Work, Kroton has new tools to help students get a high-quality education, connect better, and prepare for the workforce. It also meets high security and privacy standards while maintaining the flexibility required to drive innovation.
Choosing the right productivity platform, post-merger
As a distance learning leader, Kroton understands the power of technology to support more effective education for all students. After a merger in 2014 with its key competitor, Anhanguera, Kroton became the largest private education provider in Brazil with about 1.1 million students, 726 distance education learning centers, and 130 campuses spread across all states in the country.
In 2012, Kroton adopted Microsoft Office 365 for staff use, while its students continued to use a mix of learning systems and other productivity tools including Microsoft Live@edu, which was used by approximately 120,000 students. At the time of the 2014 merger, Anhanguera students and staff were using Google Apps for Work. Kroton and Anhanguera agreed that the combined organization needed to standardize on one solution to enhance collaboration and productivity, reduce costs, and simplify management. The merger gave them an opportunity to carefully evaluate their options and determine which technology would best support their strategic goals going forward.
“We performed a very deep analysis in which we defined and analyzed all features of Google Apps for Work and Office 365,” says Mauricio Oliveira, IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager, Kroton. “We cataloged all the features we needed across categories such as collaboration, email, unified communications, and online storage, and gave a grade to each solution based on how well it met our needs. We also went through a proof of concept for both solutions, as well as a financial analysis. After three months, we had a 50-page book describing the differences between the solutions and where each one was better for our company. At the end of our extensive evaluation process, it was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them.”
Kroton is working closely with Microsoft Services Consulting to ensure the migration goes smoothly. Beginning first with Anhanguera, 17,000 employee mailboxes were moved to Office 365. “Microsoft supported us throughout the process,” says Oliveira. “The migration took place in two weeks’ time, and we were able to move all data without any loss.” The migration of Anhanguera student accounts was performed during the academic break, and in February 2015, 320,000 students started the new year with Office 365 ready to support their success and potential for another 480,000 to adopt it in the future. The next stage will bring Kroton students to the new platform by October 2015, at which point Office 365 will be available to approximately 1.4 million students in total.
Connecting across cultures with Enterprise Social
“We often say there are many Brazils within our country,” says Oliveira. “We want to overcome cultural and regional differences by enabling teams of students to collaborate from states all over the country. We plan to deploy Yammer to help them do that in a highly secure, private social networking environment.”
For example, students are required to develop multidisciplinary end-of-term projects, which are presented to instructors as part of the evaluation process. Currently, these groups are composed of students from one location. Yammer Enterprise will make it easy for students from different states within Brazil to collaborate on these projects and benefit from a variety of perspectives and skills.
Reducing travel by meeting online
Kroton staff has been using Microsoft Lync Online for meetings, internal calls, and presence. “Thanks to Lync Online, Kroton has been able to reduce its travel budget by 30 percent,” says Oliveira. “Lync Online also reduces our need for meeting space in our new offices because people can easily take meetings from anywhere.”
The company is enthusiastic about implementing Skype for Business Online, which integrates Microsoft unified communications technology with the Skype video calling service used by millions of people worldwide. “We are actively testing Skype for Business Online now among our 20-person infrastructure team, including myself. We have already noticed improved call quality and reduced bandwidth consumption compared to Lync Online, which will be a major benefit when we roll it out to the entire organization,” says Oliveira.
Enhancing security and control
Kroton uses its existing Active Directory service to control policies, settings, and identity verification for Office 365. Oliveira says, “This way, we can offer single sign-on for users and propagate all policies to Office 365 cloud services automatically.”
With strict requirements to help protect student privacy, Kroton needed a solution that it could trust with sensitive personal information. “Office 365 met our stringent security and privacy terms, providing a high level of service and support directly from Microsoft,” says Oliveira. “Brazil has a dedicated Microsoft Education team, so we always have the support we need.”
Innovating for student success
Connecting students to real-world employment opportunities is a key Kroton strategy. “We have a platform that enables businesses to publish job openings, which are then automatically matched to student competencies and locations,” says Oliveira. This platform also gives Kroton valuable information about the key competencies that employers are looking for, so the education provider can tailor its offerings to match. The company plans to integrate the employment matching solution with Office 365 single sign-on so students can participate more easily.
Kroton has long been a leader in the use of technology to further student achievement, and Office 365 enables the organization to continue that tradition. “Office 365 will give our students an edge in the workplace, and it plays an integral role in our company’s plans for the future,” says Rodrigo Galindo, President of Kroton. “Bringing more than a million users together on a unified productivity platform is a major undertaking, and the close partnership and support we have from Microsoft gives us the peace of mind that we need to make it happen.”

Microsoft Office 365
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, videoconferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to: 
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
"At the end of our extensive evaluation process, it was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them." - Mauricio Oliveira: IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager


Climbing 50 Peaks in 50 Days, Powered by Microsoft Technology

Melissa Arnot returns from record Everest climb to help protégé tackle 50 Peaks Challenge


By Vanessa Ho as written on
In May, Melissa Arnot became the first American woman to successfully climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. A month earlier, her good friend and business manager in Seattle, Christine Hass, had a baby.
After such life-changing feats, you might think the two of them would want a leisurely summer. Maybe hang out at the pool and do a little less after summiting 29,028 feet in brutal conditions on dangerously thin mountain air, or caring for a newborn day and night after giving birth.
But you’d be wrong. Instead, the women are now helping Arnot’s climbing protégé, Maddie Miller, tackle a new adventure called the 50 Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the highest point in all 50 U.S. states in 50 days.


With Microsoft Band, Skype, Office and Surface empowering their journey, Arnot and Miller are now on a cross-country race against the clock in a camper van named “Tiffany,” with Hass providing support from her home office in Seattle. The epic road trip and expedition kicked off on June 27 when Miller summited 20,308-foot Denali in Alaska. She then flew to Florida to join Arnot, who sustained a cold-related foot injury on Everest and skipped Denali to recover and finalize logistics.
After quickly reworking their plans – part of their nimble nature in the business — the pair is now heading north and west, before flying to Hawaii for a final hike up Mauna Kea in Hawaii. If they’re successful, Miller will be the first woman to complete the challenge.

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For the trio, 50 Peaks is less about mountaineering and more about a powerful team working together to achieve goals, share a joy for adventure, and inspire others to accomplish great things. It’s a chance for Arnot, a renowned professional climbing guide, to mentor a younger athlete and share her vast mountaineering experience, which began at 19. She had quit an ad-writing job in Iowa, drove west and lived out of her truck to climb mountains.
“This year is really a year of mentorship, and it’s pretty special. It’s the most responsibility I’ve ever had in terms of teaching and caring for people,” says Arnot, who started her climbing business seven years ago. Earning success in a male-dominated industry, Arnot has summited Everest six times, led expeditions on three continents and climbed to the top of Mount Rainier more than a hundred times.
She has also supported others. This year, she guided a 13-year-old girl on climbs in Nepal for six weeks. She worked on her non-profit organization, The Juniper Fund, which helps families of Sherpas killed on Everest. And she’s been preparing Miller for 50 Peaks, on everything from gear to workouts to mental stamina. The two met in 2013, when Arnot guided Miller on a climb up Rainier as part of Miller’s high school graduation gift from her dad.

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“It’s been teaching her the skills to be technically ready, but also the skills to have the confidence in herself that she can do this,” Arnot says of 50 Peaks, which includes technical climbs, shorter hikes and six summits in a single day.
For Miller, the challenge is an opportunity to learn mountaineering and life skills from a thriving entrepreneur and world-class climber.
“Melissa is a really important person in my life, not just for guiding me up mountains,” says Miller, a 21-year-old Colorado College senior majoring in mathematical economics. “She’s taught me that women can achieve so much, and do so much, and there’s no limitation.”

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The essential, behind-the-scenes glue and magic of Arnot’s business, Infinity Expeditions, belongs to Hass, the group’s go-to, get-it-done executor. As an efficiency expert and administrative director of another company that specializes in wilderness medical care, Hass manages details and logistics. She deals with sponsors, clients, insurance, flights, budgets, media and Arnot’s many speaking engagements. She’s the doer to Arnot’s thinker and climber; when Arnot suggests a raffle to sell the van after 50 Peaks, Hass is thinking of three ways to accomplish it.
“I love being able to support [Arnot] and find success in making the business successful,” says Hass. “It is efficiency, the making things happen, the completion of a project.”
The pair has developed a winning formula for running a business, with Microsoft technology playing a major role. To train for Everest and other climbs — and encourage clients on their workouts — Arnot uses Microsoft Band, which tracks heart rate, mileage and elevation.


Because she works remotely much of the time, she and Hass need seamless tools to keep in touch, scale the business and collaborate efficiently from different parts of the world. For that, they turned to Microsoft’s cloud and Skype for Business, which enables dial-in access (handy for calling in from a big mountain). They save, share and edit emergency plans, the 50 Peaks schedule and other important content in OneNote. And they use Office Lens to scan receipts and avoid the end-of-trip headache of paper piles.
The team includes Melissa Arnot (center) and her best friend plus business manager Christine Hass (right), who is also a new mom. Arnot is coaching Maddie Miller (left), who has taken time from college to complete the 50 peaks adventure.
Everything is done on the light-weight, high-performance Surface Pro 4 — particularly useful when Arnot is 17,600 feet in the air at Everest’s base camp, where every ounce counts.
“Using a lot of different pieces of technology to keep us all connected is probably one of the biggest things that’s helpful for me,” Hass says of 50 Peaks.
The adventure is the latest in a series of expeditions marked by both elation and tragedy, including the 2010 death of one of Arnot’s climbing partners, the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal and two years of deadly avalanches on Everest.
Through it all, the women have supported each other in an extreme sport that’s often nomadic, isolating and tough on friendships. After the deaths, Arnot returned to the U.S. each time to grieve in Hass’ home. After Hass became a new mom this year, she Skyped Arnot in Nepal to introduce her newborn daughter. They’ve been able to bridge distance and time zones through technology.
“When we were both 20-something-years-old and started this friendship and business together, I never could have imagined that this would be our lives,” says Arnot. As she reviewed her itinerary and massive amounts of gear with Hass in the final days before 50 Peaks, she was grateful for the support.
“Getting ready for this huge challenge of climbing 50 peaks in 50 days, I know that there’s no way I could have done that without Christine,” Arnot says. “We’re stronger together.”



Stay connected wherever work takes you

As written on
If you ever travel for business or work remotely, like 23 percent of U.S. employees do, you rely on communication tools to stay in touch with your partners and clients whether you’re inside or outside the office. You need the most up-to-date technology to ensure your work isn’t limited by location or circumstance, but what should you look for in your communication tools?
Here’s our list of five non-negotiable features:
  1. You’re easy to get ahold of—Want to make it easier for people to connect with you no matter where you are? Use your email signature to let others contact you directly, be it cellphone, a remote office number or an online number. With Office 365, you can make your Outlook signature phone number link directly to your Skype for Business address. Your information will be linked automatically, so others can instantly communicate with you in real-time. Read this TechNet article to find out how to create a TEL:// or SIP:// link in your signature.
  2. Take calls from the device that is easiest for you—While constantly on the go, collaboration isn’t limited to your office. You may need to start a call or presentation in your office before transferring to your cellphone to wrap it up on the road. Skype for Business allows you to do so without disrupting your workflow. If you’re on a call or presenting from your computer but have to leave the office, Skype for Business enables you to seamlessly transition your conversation across devices. You can either change the device connected to the PC or transfer to mobile.
  3. Run presentations and share your applications with ease—Running a meeting with remote participants can be tricky, especially when you’re giving a presentation. You shouldn’t have to compromise a quality voice connection for a simple screen share—nor should you feel the need to run a meeting across multiple platforms. Skype for Business makes the process as simple as possible by letting you share PowerPoint slide shows directly in a meeting. No need to worry about sharing files and emailing links, you can just focus on your presentation.
  4. Record meetings—Not sure about some of those key points that were mentioned during your call? Or was a colleague or partner not present? Multimedia recording features should always be included with business-class communication tools. With Office and Skype for Business, you can record and replay presentations and video, so any of those details that might have been missed are always a click away.
  5. Communicate with those outside your organization—It’s unlikely everyone you talk to outside your company will use the same communication tools as you, so it’s important to look for a tool that offers ease of use for guests. Fortunately, connecting with non-Skype for Business users is not a problem. Accessing the conference or meeting as a guest is simple, and the security and robust features the host relies on remain standard.
Several barriers to communication and collaboration can arise when you’re working outside the office. Fortunately, Skype for Business can help. It’s more than just a video chat option; it has the features to keep you connected and make work as accessible as possible.



Professional learning community groups in Office 365 Education

A professional learning community, or PLC, is a group of educators who meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. Teachers around the world have started using Office 365 Groups to make collaboration within a PLC a lot simpler and more streamlined. PLC groups are typically formed around interest areas (e.g., 9th grade math), grade levels (e.g., 10th grade teachers) or across subjects (e.g., science teachers).
Here are some barriers to engagement with PLCs today that Office 365 Groups is addressing:
•Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
•Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
•A challenge for many PLCs is extending the work and relationships in the times and spaces between physically coming together.
•It can be difficult for new teachers to ramp up.
•Information is often stored in personal spaces as opposed to one common place that can benefit others.
•New members need to better understand the journey, story, exploration and history of a PLC, its activities and areas of inquiry.
As part of our April announcement, we mentioned how we are going to further improve our experience for PLCs. Today, we are excited to announce the PLC Groups Preview—tailored to meet the needs of teachers and overcome the above mentioned barriers to engagement today.
The new Office 365 PLC groups include one place to collaborate effectively in a community of practice. Each group comes with a:
•Inbox for group email communication, including Connector for connecting your group to Twitter and following topics or Twitter handles that interest your PLC group.
•Calendar for scheduling group events.
•Document library for storing and working on group files and folders.
•OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes.
•Planner for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress.
PLC groups are also available on all your mobile devices—both Outlook Groups and OneNote have mobile apps. This helps you keep track of your PLC conversations and PLC notebooks, making it easy to share relevant resources with your groups on the go.
A look at how one district implemented PLC groups
For an in-depth look at how Omaha Public Schools is using Office 365 Groups for their PLCs to streamline collaboration, read their full case study on the Customer Stories page and then watch this video:

Administrators at Omaha Public Schools developed some guidance for their staff on how to do PLCs in their district:

Here’s what Omaha Public Schools staff members have to say about their experience with PLC groups:
“Looking at what Omaha Public Schools’ needs are around professional learning, it was important to build around a platform that was consistent with what our teachers and staff use on a daily basis.”
—Rob Dickson, executive director of Information Management Services for Omaha Public Schools
I love the fact that I can create sections, that I can create pages within the sections, and I can upload anything I want, or do a quick snip from a page and throw it in there. Everyone knows the format, so we’re not trying to figure out somebody else’s way of thinking.”
—Laura Wray, 4th grade teacher at Wakonda Elementary School
“Using our PLC groups, everything is templated out, so you just add to them and it pops up in their Office 365 account and they’re rolling the next day…There’s so much asked of teachers. They can go home at night and say, OK, here’s an activity we did today and it really helped with that comprehension strand, and I want to make sure my teammates get that.”
—Rebecca Chambers, instructional technology coach
Office 365 Groups—integrated to support PLCs
Here is an example of how Office 365 Groups for PLCs integrates Outlook, OneNote and a SharePoint library:


In Outlook on the web, a faculty member chooses the PLC template to create a PLC group.


The PLC group collaborates, shares lesson plans and stores student data all in a shared group OneNote notebook.


The PLC group can store PLC reference material in the group’s document library.


For more information about upcoming improvements to Office 365 Groups for Education, please visit the Office 365 Education Roadmap.


Managed Solution is a full-service technology firm that empowers business by delivering, maintaining and forecasting the technologies they’ll need to stay competitive in their market place. Founded in 2002, the company quickly grew into a market leader and is recognized as one of the fastest growing IT Companies in Southern California.

We specialize in providing full Microsoft solutions to businesses of every size, industry, and need.



Office Online—chat with your co-editors in real-time

We recently announced the ability for co-editors to chat with one another directly within a OneDrive document when working in Office Online. Today, we’re pleased to extend this capability to our Office 365 Business and Education customers for documents stored in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online. Built on the same technology as Skype for Business, the new chat feature is available in all the Office Online applications—Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.
How to initiate a chat
When you share a document from OneDrive or SharePoint Online with your co-workers or classmates, they can view, make edits and even co-author with you in real-time. When multiple people are in the document at the same time, their names appear in the list of co-editors at the top right of the browser window. Next to the list of co-editors, you’ll see a blue Chat button (shown below).


Chat in real-time while working with others in Office Online.



Real-time chat is integrated with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Online.



Use emoticons to liven up your conversations.


When to chat and when to add document comments
Use Chat when you want to communicate with others immediately, for example, to ask a quick question or divide sections among the co-editors. Chat history is not saved when you close the document but can be copied and pasted if desired. Use Comments (on the Review tab on the ribbon) when you want to attach a comment to a specific selection within the document, such as when you need to ask if a word or phrase should be changed. Comments are saved with the document and can be replied to, marked as done or deleted.
That’s all for now. We’re constantly working to improve Office Online and add new features. Leave a comment below or add new feature suggestions to our UserVoice sites for Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote.



Happy International Sushi Day! At Managed Solution, we love sushi just as much as the next person, but we also love Office 365.  This year, we're craving more than just California rolls.  New updates to PowerPoint have left our mouths watering.  So, which is better: sushi or PowerPoint? Check out this infographic to see who comes out on top.

By Kelly Cronin

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