3 wishes for Office 365 in 2016

Data center flexibility, honest reporting, and file sharing clarity will make the lives of Office 365 admins much smoother in the year ahead

3 wishes for Office 365 in 2016
bykst via Pixabay

The pace of innovation for Office 365 is brisk, and barely a day goes by without notification of a new feature or enhancement. It's clear Microsoft is putting a lot of development muscle behind its SaaS solution. 

You can see what has launched, what's rolling out, and what's in development through Microsoft's Office 365 road map. But you know me -- when it comes to Office 365, I want more. 

Here are my three burning requests for Office 365 in 2016.

Exchange Online: Ability to split organization email into multiple regions

Microsoft is working hard to add data centers to existing regions and to expand its data center reach to new regions. But the current model for Exchange Online allows you to have only one Office 365 tenant per domain name. You can use subdomains to have multiple Office 365 tenants for different regions, then use DirSync to synchronize multiple Office 365 tenants to a single Active Directory forest, but there are limitations in setting up your environment for these tasks.

I'd like to see ability for admins to pick and choose alternative regions for their users. For example, if I'm administering an organization that has 3,000 mailboxes in the United States and 500 in Japan, I'd like to choose the U.S. region for the 3,000 mailboxes and the Japan region for the additional 500, all under one tenant with a single DirSync of AD (minus subdomains). This will allow the users in Japan to access mailboxes without latency.

Currently, I would stay in a hybrid configuration and keep some on-premises Exchange servers in Japan. But how much better would it be if I could simply split mailboxes between regions? Another benefit would be that data at rest would reside in the data center I think is best rather than being forced to keep that data in a location that isn't preferred.

Office 365 monitoring: Greater transparency through honest reporting

Whenever there is a serious Office 365 outage (or more specifically, outages for the pieces of Office 365 that matter most, like Exchange), the loudest compliant I hear is that neither the Current Health dashboard nor the SHS (Service Health Status) dashboard reflects the reality of the situation. These will report Exchange Online as green (no issues), when in reality it might be down and stay down for hours. Eventually the quick check monitoring will reflect the truth, but only after IT admins have become frustrated seeking alternate reasons for their lack of connectivity.

There are third-party tools that will inform you of problems -- and do a better, more transparent (aka honest) job of it -- but I'd like to see that from Microsoft directly. You can also watch Twitter for your health update (@Office365Health), but should that really be my source for Office 365 health updates? I don't think so. 

OneDrive and SharePoint Online: A clearer distinction for personal file shares vs. network file share migration

One problem with OneDrive is that the service is often mistaken as a replacement for file servers within an organization. That's not an accurate view. You can use SharePoint Online to assist with document management and companywide file sharing, but OneDrive is meant for personal file sharing and collaboration. There's a slight difference, as you can see, but it's not made entirely clear to Microsoft's cloud customers. Thus, I'm often asked how to fix the "problem" of OneDrive when it's used to replace file servers.

Microsoft recently released its new Next Generation Sync Client, which provides selective sync, support for larger files (up to 10GB), removal of the 20,000 file sync limit, and so on. Microsoft says Next Generation Sync Client will support SharePoint document libraries in future releases. But what I want to see is a clearer distinction in how these solutions can and should be used so that folks on Office 365, especially IT pros managing portals, will understand more clearly how they operate. Then I'd like to see tools that focus more on migration and management of file shares to document libraries in SharePoint Online.

Microsoft is developing aggressively to keep Office 365 moving ahead. There is little competition other than its own on-premises offerings (Microsoft vs. Microsoft), and to get folks into the cloud, it'll have to keep enhancing the solution until it makes no sense to maintain and manage on-premises infrastructure and services. The coming year should certainly be interesting.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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