Tag Archives: online

Forbes’ Google Cloud migration rooted in trust, cost savings

Forbes says its online audience grew from 15 million users per month in 2012 to 120 million in 2018, a growth spike that ultimately prompted a large-scale move off on-premises systems and into Google Cloud.

The Google Cloud migration now supports all three aspects of Forbes’ business: content, sales and its publishing infrastructure, according to chief digital officer Salah Zalatimo.

“[In 2020], we’re going to be continuing to mature our business model and diversify our revenue,” Zalatimo said. “Google Cloud is about giving us flexibility. We’re going to be able to establish new products and test new features really quickly.”

Forbes used to run its publishing operations on an on-premises, WordPress-based system that was heavily customized, with a front end clunked up by an accumulation of legacy code.

The number of actual people those audience figures represent is likely lower, as Google Analytics defines a user as a browser endpoint. Thus, if an individual read Forbes content both on a phone and a laptop, the user would be counted twice.

Still, the scale involved led to Forbes’ 2018 decision to build a new, custom publishing platform. At that point, the company determined it wanted to make a wholesale push into the cloud centered around one primary provider.

Google won Forbes’ business for several reasons, including pricing, incentives to help its Google cloud migration and a lower-pressure approach to sales, according to Zalatimo. “We didn’t have to make any hard commitments.”

While Forbes has a relationship with Microsoft as an Office 365 shop, it quickly ruled out Azure. “We talked to them, but the pricing was just too high,” he said.

Forbes also met with sales teams at AWS, where it initially hosted the new publishing platform, but ultimately decided that Google provided the most ease of use and the best level of automation for its needs. Forbes moved the publishing platform as part of its Google cloud migration during the first half of 2019.

Forbes has moved most of its digital infrastructure into containers and orchestrates them with Google Kubernetes Engine. It also uses the Istio service mesh to wrangle microservices. Google Cloud storage underpins the system and Google Pub/Sub supports serverless operations.

Forbes estimates that the move to GCP has saved 50 engineer-hours per week thanks to efficiencies and automation. Regression testing and new feature deployment time has dropped by 58%, according to the company.

In addition, Forbes is using Google’s AI and machine learning features to train models that suggest headlines, track trending topics and improve reader engagement.

Google Cloud hones enterprise chops

Former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian came aboard as Google Cloud CEO in November 2018. Since then, Kurian has moved to build out Google’s enterprise cloud sales and support organizations — areas where it had lagged behind competitors. Forbes’ experience on this front has been positive, Zalatimo said.

They are still maturing as an enterprise provider, and we knew that going in.
Salah ZalatimoChief digital officer, Forbes

“They are still maturing as an enterprise provider, and we knew that going in,” he said. “But they knew that going in, too.”

Forbes did work with a services partner to help with the Google Cloud migration, but Google’s account representatives were “extremely involved,” he added. “We always had access, even if it was less traditional.” As one example, Forbes’ teams might find themselves having to call a salesperson in order to escalate a technical issue, Zalatimo said.

Forbes is using a wide array of Google Cloud offerings, including its audience analytics platform, BigQuery data warehouse, Hangout meeting software and authentication service, all of which are well-established.


But of all the cloud providers with which Forbes works, Google stands out as keen on engaging customers very early on in the new product development process, he added. “A lot of [vendors] talk about it, and say they want to do it, but I don’t think a lot of companies actually do.”

Weighing Google’s influence

Walmart and other large retailers have shunned doing business with AWS, given how closely they compete with its parent company in e-commerce. Google’s kingmaker positions in general web search as well as the hugely influential Google News service might make a media company such as Forbes similarly think twice about making heavy investments in its technology.

Forbes did factor this into its decision, according to Zalatimo. “Our options [were] either to lean in or lean away,” he said. “At the end of the day, they do carry the leverage. As an independent publisher, we really don’t. So, if you can’t beat them, join them.”

The company is taking part in the Google News Initiative, where Google works with publishers on new product development and other collaborative efforts.

Forbes benefits from this relationship with Google — but not to the extent it gets any special insights into the Google News algorithm, which can heavily affect a publisher’s traffic when changes are made. “They are like Fort Knox about this,” he said.

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Microsoft shares new technique to address online grooming of children for sexual purposes – Microsoft on the Issues

Online child exploitation is a horrific crime that requires a whole-of-society approach. Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, we have a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. We leverage technology across our services to detect, disrupt and report illegal content, including child sexual exploitation. And we innovate and invest in tools, technology and partnerships to support the global fight needed to address online child sexual exploitation.

In furtherance of those commitments, today Microsoft is sharing a grooming detection technique, code name “Project Artemis,” by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available via Thorn to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function. Thorn is a technology nonprofit that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse.

The development of this new technique began in November 2018 at a Microsoft “360 Cross-Industry Hackathon,” which was co-sponsored by the WePROTECT Global Alliance in conjunction with the Child Dignity Alliance. These “360” hackathons are multifaceted, focusing not just on technology and engineering but also on legal and policy aspects as well as operations and policy implementation. Today’s announcement marks the technical and engineering progress over the last 14 months by a cross-industry v-team from Microsoft, The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik, Thorn and others to help identify potential instances of child online grooming for sexual purposes and to operationalize an effective response. The teams were led by Dr. Hany Farid, a leading academic who, in 2009, partnered with Microsoft and Dartmouth College on the development of PhotoDNA, a free tool that has assisted in the detection, disruption and reporting of millions of child sexual exploitation images and is used by more than 150 companies and organizations around the world.

Building off the Microsoft patent, the technique is applied to historical text-based chat conversations. It evaluates and “rates” conversation characteristics and assigns an overall probability rating. This rating can then be used as a determiner, set by individual companies implementing the technique, as to when a flagged conversation should be sent to human moderators for review. Human moderators would then be capable of identifying imminent threats for referral to law enforcement, as well as incidents of suspected child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC, along with ECPAT International, INHOPE and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), provided valuable feedback throughout the collaborative process.

Beginning on January 10, 2020, licensing and adoption of the technique will be handled by Thorn. Companies and services wanting to test and adopt the technique can contact Thorn directly at [email protected] Microsoft has been leveraging the technique in programs on our Xbox platform for several years and is exploring its use in chat services, including Skype.

“Project Artemis” is a significant step forward, but it is by no means a panacea. Child sexual exploitation and abuse online and the detection of online child grooming are weighty problems. But we are not deterred by the complexity and intricacy of such issues. On the contrary, we are making the tool available at this point in time to invite further contributions and engagement from other technology companies and organizations with the goal of continuous improvement and refinement.

At Microsoft, we embrace a multi-stakeholder model to combat online child exploitation that includes survivors and their advocates, government, tech companies and civil society working together. Combating online child exploitation should and must be a universal call to action.

Learn how to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse materials at PhotoDNA or contact [email protected]. Follow @MSFTissues on Twitter.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Amazon Chime gets integration with Dolby Voice Room

Amazon Web Services has integrated its Amazon Chime online meetings software with a video hardware kit for small and midsize conference rooms made by Dolby Laboratories.

Businesses using Amazon Chime could already connect the app to software-agnostic video hardware using H.323 and SIP. But standards-based connections are generally difficult to set up and use.

The Dolby partnership gives Chime users access to video gear that is preloaded with the AWS software. However, Dolby only entered the video hardware market last year, so few Chime customers will be able to take advantage of the integration without purchasing new equipment.

Amazon Chime is far behind competing services, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Both already have partnerships with leading makers of conference room hardware, such as Poly and Logitech. Also, Chime still lacks support for a room system for large meeting spaces and boardrooms.

Online meetings software must integrate with room systems to effectively compete, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. “So the Dolby announcement represents a much-needed addition to their capabilities.”

Dolby Voice Room includes a camera and a separate speakerphone with a touchscreen for controlling a meeting. The audio device’s microphone suppresses background noise and compensates for quiet and distant voices.

AWS recently expanded Chime to include a bare-bones service for calling, voicemail and SMS messaging. The vendor also earlier this year released a service for connecting on-premises PBXs to the internet using SIP.

Unlike other cloud-based calling and meeting providers, AWS charges customers based on how much they use Chime. However, Chime still trails more established offerings in the video conferencing market.

“Customers I’ve spoken to like their pay-per-use pricing model,” Lazar said. “But at this point, I don’t yet see them making a major push to challenge Microsoft, Cisco or Zoom.”

In a recent Nemertes Research study, 8% of organizations using a video conferencing service were Chime customers, seventh behind offerings from Microsoft, Cisco and others. However, only 0.6% said Chime was the primary app they used — the smallest percentage of any vendor.

Adoption of Chime has been “pretty sluggish,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “But Amazon can play the long game here.” Launched in February 2017, Chime is a relatively insignificant project of AWS, a division of Amazon that generated more than $25 billion in revenue last fiscal year.

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Microsoft challenges Amazon with Dynamics 365 Commerce

Microsoft filled a major gap in its customer experience stack with the Dynamics 365 Commerce online sales platform, giving customers that own physical stores more technology to drive bottom-line revenues. The e-commerce platform is joined by another new app, the Dynamics 365 Connected Store, which combines data collected online with data collected at brick-and-mortar stores.

The idea is not only to enable online sales for traditional retailers, but to also help customers continue their online shopping experiences when they set foot inside a store location, said Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president for business applications and global industry at Microsoft, in a blog post.

Together with other new AI features and data tools added to existing Dynamics 365 applications, Microsoft is giving retailers a strong alternative to Amazon’s platform — but more importantly, it’s challenging integrated CX stacks from Salesforce and Oracle, said Forrester analyst Kate Leggett.

“You can’t support the customer through their end-to-end journey without an e-commerce pillar,” said Leggett, who added that Dynamics 365 Commerce might not be a great leap forward as an e-commerce platform, but it catches Microsoft up to the pack. “It was a real hole in Microsoft’s portfolio.”

Microsoft is focusing its e-commerce platform for B2C retailers for now, Leggett said. Technology vendors sometimes have separate e-commerce platforms for B2B and B2C customers, but Microsoft said it plans to build the B2C side and add B2B-centric features later.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store adds data insights

Dynamics 365 Commerce paired with Connected Store creates a platform for AI and machine learning for behavioral data analysis that can trace customer journeys from online research to their movements through a physical store as they shop. Moreover, Dynamics 365 Connected Store helps store employees personalize their interactions with individual customers by showing them, for example, what the customer was looking at online before they came in.

You can’t support the customer through their end-to-end journey without an e-commerce pillar.
Kate LeggettAnalyst, Forrester Research

Connected Store’s data tools can help optimize store operations on a day-to-day basis by, for example, summoning clerks via phone notifications to help check out customers during busy times. It also analyzes video and inventory data to report on longer-term buying patterns to promote inventory and merchandising efficiencies within a store or region.

“It’s about real-time insights, connected data and analytics — having that data available to deliver outcomes you need,” Leggett said.

Also previewed by Microsoft were related new features for existing applications, including Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, which aggregates IoT data from goods such as connected kitchen appliances that contain sensors transmitting data back to the manufacturer. Another was a set of tools within Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service to make Microsoft chatbots easier to customize and deploy.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store currently is in private preview, while Dynamics 365 Commerce is in public preview. A Microsoft spokesperson said the general availability date would be revealed in the “coming months,” as well as pricing information.

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Boost your ecommerce revenue with Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection – Dynamics 365 Blog

With the booming growth of online technologies and marketplaces comes the burgeoning rise of a variety of cybersecurity challenges for businesses that conduct any aspect of their operations through online software and the Internet. Fraud is one of the most pervasive trends of the modern online marketplace, and continues to be a consistent, invasive issue for all businesses.

As the rate of payment fraud continues to rise, especially in retail ecommerce where the liability lies with the merchant, so does the amount companies spend each year to combat and secure themselves against it. Fraud and wrongful rejections already significantly impact merchants’ bottom-line in a booming economy and as well as when the economy is soft.

The impact of outdated fraud detection tools and false alarms

Customers, merchants, and banking institutions have been impacted for years by suboptimal experiences, increased operational expenses, wrongful rejections, and reduced revenue. To combat these negative business impacts, companies have been implementing layered solutions. For example, merchant risk managers are bogged down with manual reviews and analysis of their own local 30/60/90-day historical data. These narrow, outdated views of data provide a partial hindsight view of fraud trends, leaving risk managers with no real-time information to work with when creating new rules to hopefully minimize fraud loss.

One of the most common ways that fraud impacts everyday consumers and business is through wrongful rejections. For example, when a merchant maintains an outdated and/or strict set of transaction rules and algorithms, a customer who initiates a retail ecommerce transaction through a credit card might experience a wrongful rejection known to consumers as a declined transaction, because of these outdated rules. Similarly, wrongful declined transactions can also happen when the card issuing bank refuses to authorize the purchase using the card due to suspicion of fraud. The implications of these suboptimal experiences for all parties involved (customers, merchants, and banks) directly correlates into loss of credibility, security, and business revenue.

Introducing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection

As one of the biggest technology organizations in the world, Microsoft saw an opportunity to provide software as a service that effectively and visibly helps reduce the rate and pervasiveness of fraud while simultaneously helping to reduce wrongful declined transactions and improving customer experience. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection is a cloud-based solution merchants can use in real-time to help lower their costs related to combatting fraud, help increase their revenue by improving acceptance of legitimate transactions, reduce friction in customer experience, and integrate easily into their existing order management system and payment stack. This solution offers a global level of fraud insights using data sets from participating merchants that are processed with real-time machine learning to detect and mitigate evolving fraud schemes in a timely manner.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection houses five powerful capabilities designed to capitalize on the power of machine learning to provide merchants with an innovative fraud protection solution:

  • Adaptive AI technology continuously learns and adapts from patterns and trends and will equip fraud managers with the tools and data they need to make informed decisions on how to optimize their fraud controls.
  • A fraud protection network maintains up-to-date connected data that provides a global view of fraud activity and maintains the security of merchants’ confidential information and shoppers’ privacy.
  • Transaction acceptance booster shares transactional trust knowledge with issuing banks to help boost authorization rates.
  • Customer escalation support provides detailed risk insights about each transaction to help improve merchants’ customer support experience.
  • Account creation protection monitors account creation, helps minimize abuse and automated attacks on customer accounts, and helps to avoid incurring losses due to fraudulent accounts

See the image below to learn more about the relationship between merchants and banks when they both use Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection:

Banks worldwide can choose to participate in the Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection transaction acceptance booster feature to increase acceptance rates of legitimate authorization requests from online merchants using Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection. Merchants using the product can opt to use this feature to increase acceptance rates for authorization requests made to banks without having to make any changes to their existing authorization process.

Learn more

This week at Sibos 2019 in London, Microsoft will be showcasing its secure and compliant cloud solutions for the banking industry. Read a round-up of announcements unveiled at Sibos and  view an agenda of Microsoft events and sessions at the show. Stop by our booth (Z131) for a showcase of applications relevant to banking, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection, which will be generally available on October 1st, 2019. Contact your Microsoft representative to get started.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

8×8 Video Meetings replaces outdated offering in X Series

8×8 has replaced its old online meetings product with a new one that offers more features and is easier to use. The platform is available only to businesses subscribed to 8×8’s unified communications suite, but the company said it may make the service available as a stand-alone app in the future.

The old 8X8 video conferencing product — built with a mix of technologies, including some from Vidyo — didn’t cut it for many customers, executives said. The company used the Jitsi open source video conferencing software that it acquired from Atlassian last year to build the new product, called 8×8 Video Meetings.

“The feedback that we heard from our customers, and where we saw the market going, really necessitated that we … swap out our whole meetings product for a new and modern video communications solution,” said Meghan Keough, 8×8’s vice president of marketing.

The new platform lets guests join meetings without having to install a plug-in or download an app. 8×8 follows the lead of Cisco, BlueJeans, Highfive and others in embracing WebRTC, the latest standard for internet-based communications.

8×8 Video Meetings also gives users their own virtual meeting rooms and lets them live-stream meetings to YouTube. Other new features include more detailed analytics and the ability to remotely control a user’s desktop while in a meeting, which could be useful for IT troubleshooting.

“I like what 8×8 has done,” said Wayne Kurtzman, analyst at IDC. “They basically updated the system, made it more usable in more places in an enterprise and are not charging more for it.”

8×8 also rolled out an early access program for software to manage video conferencing hardware in conference rooms. The product offers a way to connect third-party video cameras from vendors like Logitech and Crestron (powered by minicomputers by Mac and Intel) to 8×8’s video services.

In July, Gartner named 8×8 one of four leaders in the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) market, alongside Microsoft, Cisco and RingCentral. But the research firm previously cautioned that 8×8 offered an unintuitive video conferencing platform with a limited set of features.

8×8 Video Meetings is part of the vendor’s X Series offering, which combines calling, messaging, meetings and contact center.

The company has attempted to differentiate itself from competitors by its own technology, rather than relying on partners. RingCentral, nearly twice as large as 8×8 by revenue, relies on Zoom for video calling and Nice inContact for contact center.

“8×8 is trying to be a complete one-cloud solution for communication and collaboration,” Kurtzman said.

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Exchange troubleshooting tools help unclog email issues

While Office 365 and Exchange Online are all the talk in the messaging world, there are still a lot of mailboxes in the data center. Most estimates say there are more Exchange mailboxes running on premises right now than there are in Office 365.

Exchange Server’s importance to your organization means it’s crucial to hone your abilities to diagnose a problem when an outage occurs. Every issue is different, but there are some common problems that can be fixed with some Exchange troubleshooting tools to get the system back up and working in short order.

Troubleshooting an Exchange outage can be difficult. There is added pressure when a problem with the messaging platform occurs because everyone in any organization relies on email. This process can be complicated because there are four different versions of Exchange supported by Microsoft: Exchange 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. There are significant differences among these products, but there are some tools and tips that should work with all of them.

Verify your deployment

One way to avoid an outage is to get Exchange set up properly. A good Exchange Server deployment is always going to be your best weapon in the fight to keep messaging services online.

A good Exchange Server deployment is always going to be your best weapon in the fight to keep messaging services online.

Here are some tools you can use to verify a correct Exchange deployment:

  • The Exchange Server sizing calculator: Microsoft’s Exchange team published an Excel spreadsheet that helps you properly size your Exchange Server deployment with tailored requirements for RAM, storage, networking and CPU for your Exchange hardware. My experience with troubleshooting messaging platform outages has often shown most problems occur due to improper sizing of Exchange Server.
  • Jetstress: Jetstress measures the IOPS on your Exchange servers and reports on the ability of the hardware to handle the load. The problem with Jetstress is that the testing process for IOPS can, and often will, stress your server to the point of failure. This means that you need to run Jetstress before you install and configure the Exchange bits. Furthermore, testing IOPS is a good reason not to use virtual servers for Exchange. Jetstress will cause your server to fail during the testing process, which will affect the other servers running in your virtual server environment.

Using Remote Connectivity Analyzer

It’s difficult to pin down the cause of an Exchange outage when you can only examine the system from inside your network. With some issues, what you really need is a way to look at Exchange from the outside. Microsoft offers a web-based tool that can see how your Exchange platform responds to requests that come from outside your network.

Remote Connectivity Analyzer — formerly known as Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer, or ExRCA — started as an on-premises Exchange troubleshooting tool but has since been expanded to cover other Microsoft products, such as Skype for Business and Office 365. The first tab on the website is dedicated to Exchange Server troubleshooting tests. Remote Connectivity Analyzer can test ActiveSync Exchange web services, Outlook connectivity and internet mail flow.

Remote Connectivity Analyzer web tool
Microsoft’s Remote Connectivity Analyzer web tool gives administrators a look from outside their network to test ActiveSync Exchange web services, Outlook connectivity and internet mail flow.

The Message Analyzer tab parses the email headers to show detailed information about a specific email’s path. These tests are fairly simple to run and can give you a lot of information about the state of your Exchange servers without needing to give someone access to your network.

How to use Telnet to verify connections

While Remote Connectivity Analyzer is one of the great Exchange troubleshooting tools for testing what the outside world can access on your Exchange environment, sometimes, you need to figure out if you can access the outside world from inside your network. One simple tool to do this is Telnet.

You can install Telnet as an optional feature on all Windows workstation and server OSes. Once Telnet is added, it just takes a simple command with a valid Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) destination to verify you can get out from your network to that destination.

telnet connectivity test
The Telnet utility lets you test SMTP connectivity to an external messaging server. In this case, the mail server does not respond because it is not a working mail server.

Telnet makes it plain if firewall configurations block the transmission of mail out from your network or if the destination network is down.

Working with Windows logs

While not exactly an Exchange troubleshooting tool, Windows logs provide a lot of useful information when attempting to analyze a messaging problem. This might seem like a basic idea for many IT veterans, but some less experienced administrators might have difficulty deciphering what they find in the logs into actionable information.

For Exchange troubleshooting purposes, you should concentrate on the Application log. Filter the log for red events, and then search on the internet for more information about the specific errors you are seeing.

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Check Office 365 usage reports for user adoption insights

Administrators who move from Exchange Server to Exchange Online — or the full Office 365 suite — must learn new tools to manage these cloud services.

Many Exchange administrators spend a good amount of time managing and maintaining the messaging system, but very few monitor the overall usage of email and its components. They may inadvertently ignore low adoption rates and other issues experienced by users. Microsoft helps administrators generate a multitude of Office 365 usage reports to review and share with their teams to find ways to improve usage. These reports give the IT team access to information to address any questions or concerns around their security and end users’ adoption to their managers or business leaders.

For those who might have opted to move to Exchange Online or the Office 365 suite, one of the benefits of having their email stored in Microsoft’s cloud is the other services included with a subscription. A company that switches its email to Office 365 can also benefit from other cloud services, such as OneDrive, Skype for Business, Teams, SharePoint and Forms. One specific perk related to Exchange Online is administrators get visibility with usage reporting that was almost nonexistent in Exchange Server.

Office 365 usage reports bring clarity

When an organization moves its mail to an online host, many managers and leaders will want to know if their teams have adopted the new services and at what capacity. Usage reporting helps an organization determine the value of the switch to the cloud and provides insights such as:

  • what users need help with if they have a low adoption rate compared to other services;
  • the volume of email and interactions by users to see who are the biggest consumers of those workloads;
  • statistics on compliance to confirm users observe company policies; and
  • statistics on app usability across different platforms.

Interactive Microsoft Office 365 usage analytics in Power BI

One specific perk related to Exchange Online is administrators get visibility with usage reporting that was almost nonexistent in Exchange Server.

This report is available via a content pack in Power BI, which is Microsoft’s data visualization and reporting platform. This feature connects directly to the cloud offering’s back end, extracts the pertinent data and generates Office 365 usage reports in the form of interactive dashboards that are separated by workload, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Yammer and OneDrive.

Administrators do not need to be data experts or have extensive experience with report generation. The content pack simplifies the data collection work by offering several report templates, including a product usage report for a detailed look at the user activity in each service and a communication report, which pinpoints a user’s favorite service to stay in contact with.

Administrators can access the reports from mobile devices or the Power BI portal to share them with business leaders to highlight the overall adoption rate of the different Office 365 workloads.

Email activity reveals user patterns

Another standard report accessible from the Office 365 admin portal is the email activity report.

Exchange email activity report
Administrators can track the trends related to email on Exchange Online.

This page resides under the Reports section and shows the email volume summaries of each Exchange Online licensed user over several periods: seven, 30, 90 or 180 days. These activity reports show the amount of email read, sent and received over a particular period. If a user is receiving a lot of email but is not responding or reading much of it, it can indicate a need for additional training.

This report includes the option to export the results in a comma separated file to import into a spreadsheet for further inspection.

MyAnalytics reporting for individual email behaviors

For users who want an analysis of their work habits related to email and time management, Microsoft offers a feature called MyAnalytics, which reports on their patterns with Exchange Online. MyAnalytics measures time spent checking email throughout the day and how much focus time a user has. MyAnalytics offers suggestions on ways employees can be more efficient and productive with their time on the job to avoid burnout.

MyAnalytics reports are accessible from Office 365 Delve or can be delivered via email weekly.

Security & Compliance Center reports

One area where an Exchange administrator can never rest is security, considering most data breaches occur through a phishing attempt.

Exchange Online admins can see the threats targeting their users through the Security & Compliance Center. The reports identify the different types of attacks and potential data leaks affecting the organization. Some reports include details on the campaigns that target the leaders of the organization, spoof detection, spam detection as well as possible data leakage when sensitive information is sent outside the network. To access the dashboards, go to the Reports > Dashboard section in the Security & Compliance Center.

Administrators with some programming skills and more advanced needs can generate customized reports with the Graph API to pull raw data for more detailed information. For example, administrators can pull out granular statistics from Office 365 about the different ways users are retrieving email from Outlook, such as a Windows browser or the Android app.

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New Contentful CMS targets content delivery for retailers

Contentful has launched a content infrastructure system to drive online sales by enabling more content management across channels for retailers.

Like a headless content management system, the Contentful CMS allows users to publish and update content across all digital platforms at once, but at an enterprise-grade scale. The vendor claimed content infrastructure enables retailers to repurpose existing content, improve impact and deliver marketing messages to target audiences.

Headless CMS enables content creation and sharing across multiple channels with one action by removing the head — or presentation layer — which defines the channel or platform in a traditional CMS. Content infrastructure has the same benefits as headless CMS, but unifies content to be managed from one content hub.

Contentful claimed content infrastructure markets digital content four to seven times faster than a traditional CMS by enabling users to do the following:

  • organize content specific to their business;
  • create content once for different platforms;
  • store all content in a central hub;
  • edit content without the involvement of developers;
  • manage teams with roles and permissions; and
  • publish content to any device.

Contentful intends its content infrastructure to enable brands to build and manage targeted, customized marketing for event-driven campaigns and localize the content for any market. Through the vendor’s Content Delivery API, editors can update content through a web app synced with any platform for consistent management.

The vendor claimed its array of content management services has decreased bounce rates, increased mobile conversion, personalized content across a breadth of languages and locales, updated content at a fraction of the time as legacy tools, and delivers new customer touch points five times faster than with a traditional CMS.

In 2018, Contentful was named a contender in Forrester’s Wave for web content management systems, challenged by leaders Adobe, Acquia and Sitecore. According to Contentful, its headless enterprise focus makes it flexible for developers. Forrester recommended the vendor for progressive digital initiatives that require content unification across channels, but also have easy access to developer resources.

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Try these PowerShell networking commands to stay connected

While it would be nice if they did, servers don’t magically stay online on their own.

Servers go offline for a lot of reasons; it’s your job to find a way to determine network connectivity to these servers quickly and easily. You can use PowerShell networking commands, such as the Test-Connection and Test-NetConnection cmdlets to help.

The problem with ping

For quite some time, system administrators used ping to test network connectivity. This little utility sends an Internet Control Message Protocol message request to an endpoint and listens for an ICMP reply.

ping test
The ping utility runs a fairly simple test to check for a response from a host.

Because ping only tests ICMP, this limits its effectiveness to fully test a connection. Another caveat: The Windows firewall blocks ICMP requests by default. If the ICMP request doesn’t reach the server in question, you’ll get a false negative which makes ping results irrelevant.

The Test-Connection cmdlet offers a deeper look

We need a better way to test server network connectivity, so let’s use PowerShell instead of ping. The Test-Connection cmdlet also sends ICMP packets but it uses Windows Management Instrumentation which gives us more granular results. While ping returns text-based output, the Test-Connection cmdlet returns a Win32_PingStatus object which contains a lot of useful information.

The Test-Connection command has a few different parameters you can use to tailor your query to your liking, such as changing the buffer size and defining the number of seconds between the pings. The output is the same but the request is a little different.

Test-Connection www.google.com -Count 2 -BufferSize 128 -Delay 3

You can use Test-Connection to check on remote computers and ping a remote computer as well, provided you have access to those machines. The command below connects to the SRV1 and SRV2 computers and sends ICMP requests from those computers to www.google.com:

Test-Connection -Source 'SRV2', 'SRV1' -ComputerName 'www.google.com'

Source Destination IPV4Address IPV6Address
Bytes Time(ms)

------ ----------- ----------- -----------
----- --------

SRV2 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

SRV2 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

SRV2 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 6

SRV2 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

SRV1 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

SRV1 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

SRV1 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

SRV1 google.com 172.217.7.174
32 5

If the output is too verbose, and you just want a simple result, use the Quiet parameter.

Test-Connection -ComputerName google.com -Quiet
True

For more advanced network checks, try the Test-NetConnection cmdlet

If simple ICMP requests aren’t enough to test network connectivity, PowerShell also provides the Test-NetConnection cmdlet. This cmdlet is the successor to Test-Connection and goes beyond ICMP to check network connectivity.

For basic use, Test-NetConnection just needs a value for the ComputerName parameter and will mimic Test-Connection‘s behavior.

Test-NetConnection -ComputerName www.google.com

ComputerName : www.google.com
RemoteAddress : 172.217.9.68
InterfaceAlias : Ethernet 2
SourceAddress : X.X.X.X
PingSucceeded : True
PingReplyDetails (RTT) : 34 ms

Test-NetConnection has advanced capabilities and can test for open ports. The example below will check to see if port 80 is open:

Test-NetConnection -ComputerName www.google.com -Port 80

ComputerName : google.com
RemoteAddress : 172.217.5.238
RemotePort : 80
InterfaceAlias : Ethernet 2
SourceAddress : X.X.X.X
TcpTestSucceeded : True

The boolean TcpTestSucceeded returns True to indicate port 80 is open.

We can also use the TraceRoute parameter with the Test-NetConnection cmdlet to check the progress of packets to the destination address.

Test-NetConnection -ComputerName google.com -TraceRoute

ComputerName : google.com
RemoteAddress : 172.217.5.238
InterfaceAlias : Ethernet 2
SourceAddress : X.X.X.X
PingSucceeded : True
PingReplyDetails (RTT) : 44 ms
TraceRoute : 192.168.86.1
192.168.0.1
142.254.146.117
74.128.4.113
65.29.30.36
65.189.140.166
66.109.6.66
66.109.6.30
107.14.17.204
216.6.87.149
72.14.198.28
108.170.240.97
216.239.54.125
172.217.5.238

If you dig into the help for the Test-NetConnection cmdlet, you’ll find it has quite a few parameters to test many different situations.

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