Aug 13

Another Reason Why Bullets Points are Important

While doing my news rounds this morning my Windows 8 Metro trending news dashboard informed me that Chris Brown, whom I know little about except he gets into trouble a lot, hit and run a 123 year old man. My first reaction was “that’s just terrible”. After closer inspection I noticed there were two stores “Chris Brown hit and run case has been dismissed” and “123-Year Old Man in Bolivia is ‘The Oldest Person in the World’!”. Software developers assume the user will understand there is two separate stories, but we live in a world where no one reads the whole story and comprehend details, we scan our information and take it is fact. When developing applications it is still the software developers responsibility to ensure the content within the application reads like a well polished book including basic things like bullet points to separate stories.


Aug 13

10 Reasons Why Your Non-Profit Should Use Office 365

1. Low Cost

I’ll say it: SharePoint is expensive even for for-profit companies. Traditionally, On-Premise SharePoint can cost a business over US$500k a year to maintain; this cost encompasses the required staff, third party tools, and licenses. On-Premise SharePoint and Office 365 have different pricing models. Licensing for the former is based on how many SharePoint servers are turned on and how many users are using SharePoint. Office 365 pricing is based on how many users are set up with Office 365.

2. In the Cloud

This feature may be one of the best in the list. As the application is in the cloud, users do not have to maintain servers and costly equipment to keep SharePoint operating. Microsoft offers the same health reports as On-Premise SharePoint, and you can receive notifications of outages and service status.


Figure 1 – Office 365 Dashboard

3. Integration with Existing Systems and Legacy Applications

Most non-profit firms use a mixture of Open Source and licensed applications spread across many departments. Office 365 allows you to take ad hoc PHP applications and Access databases and then integrate them directly into Office 365 either by using Azure or by direct importing with applications such as Access. If you have Lotus, GroupWise, or Google e-mail, you can use third party tools, such as Quest’s Migration Suite for SharePoint, to make the migration easy.

4. Ease of Development

Normally, developing custom applications entails months of paying for costly developers and waiting for an application to be released. With Office 365, non-profit organizations can develop applications in JavaScript, HTML 5.0, PowerShell, C#, Node.js, and even PHP. Office 365 allows applications to be built directly in the cloud, thereby eliminating the need for expensive tools and developer environments. A simple application can be developed by power users in weeks instead of months.


Figure 2 – Develop applications within the browser

5. Works Directly with Microsoft Office and Exchange

If your non-profit has an existing On-Premise Exchange environment, Office 365 can be used as hybrid solution (joint connection with On-Premise). You may also move your Exchange mailboxes directly to Office 365 and manage your users within the cloud. The same attributes are available in the cloud as On-Premise. Office 365 also offers built-in compliance and retention policies to assist with audits and e-discovery.


6. Small Learning Curve

As Microsoft is handling most of the administration tasks, your I.T. department does not have to worry about the heavy lifting of taking care of servers. If your users have used SharePoint before, then every aspect of the system would feel the same as that from previous editions to these users. Document Libraries and Lists are called applications in Office 365. When you create a new document library, you can select “Add an app” from the upper right ribbon.


Figure 3- Change in names of Libraries and Lists

7. Training is Available Everywhere

From Microsoft’s online training to YouTube, training is available to get your non-profit company started using Office 365. However, online training should only be used as a tool, not the primary training. I highly recommend you hire a training company to conduct at least one in person for your organization. The best way is to break the training down by department, and then have the trainer create a training curriculum based on interviews and feedback from each department.

8. 508 Accessibility Ready

Accessibility is always important when considering systems, and is even more important when your non-profit group’s mission statement is to help those with disabilities. Office 365 is 508 out of the box, and Microsoft continues to improve its 508 standards. Please visit Microsoft’s Section 508 VPATs site for detailed information on 508 standards on all of its products.


9. Includes a public site

One of the great features of Office 365 is its function for creating a public site directly. Normally, when you hear “web site included,” you think of a cheap-looking site. This is not the case with Office 365. You can use the templates included or develop your site from scratch using your own web development editor and SharePoint Designer. You can also create an extranet for Board Members or Vendors to access without worrying about forward proxies or complex authentication setups.

Figure 4- One public site is included with Office 365 subscription

Figure 4- One public site is included with Office 365 subscription

Figure 5- Make your site public with one click

Figure 5- Make your site public with one click

10. Backup and Secure

Office 365 includes enterprise strength features that make its use safe and secure. The same you expect from a Fortune 500 company. Microsoft has monitors and safeguards for all Office 365 farm solutions to scan for potential hacker attacks, such as denial of service. Microsoft also scans documents and e-mails for viruses and then provides audit and reporting when one is found. Microsoft’s data centers are certified in ISO 27001 and boasts of an EU Safe Harbor seal. Office 365 allows you to integrate securely your existing Active Directory to allow Single Sign On and Active Directory Federated Services. 

When you shouldn’t use Office 365

  • I have mentioned all the great points to Office 365, but this platform is not suitable for all organizations. If your organization has built complex applications on top of SharePoint, moving those applications to Office 365 can be a difficult task.
  • If you have complex security around your SharePoint farm, such as RSA, or complex claims-based authentication, then you should consider implementing a hybrid approach (on-premise SharePoint and Office 365)

Aug 13

22 things to consider when selecting a document management system for your law firm

For a law firm, one of the most important responsibilities is to stay organized and manage each client’s case to as best as possible. Having the right document management system (DMS) can save your law firm time and money, as well as help win cases. I have created a list of things to look for when selecting your next DMS. You can also look at this list and compare the DMS you currently have.

1. Does it integrate with your case management, time management, and accounting systems?

A DMS could be the greatest in the world but if it does not integrate with your existing systems, it can hinder back office management. For example, if a junior attorney spent three hours writing a brief, you should be able to attach a link to the document in your time management system.

2. Does it provide check-in/check-out for all documents and keep track of all changes made to documents and artifacts?

In a typical law firm, you may have an intern, junior attorney, and senior attorney review and provide edits to a document. To check the track of changes, the DMS should provide a check-in/check-out system along with a log showing who checked out a document, what they did to such a document, and how long the document was checked out.

3. Does it allow you to communicate with your clients?

An ideal DMS will allow you to not only mail directly from the document system but also convert a document into PDF before sending it to the client or opposing law firm. Look for a DMS that will also allow you to package documents together, convert them to PDF, compress them into one file, and attach them to your mail client system.

4. Can you take your work home with you without removing documents and artifacts out of the system?

I have worked with attorneys who e-mail themselves documents they would like to work on from home, only to have 6 or 7 versions of the document in multiple locations. The DMS should allow you to access your document from various location a smart phone or tablet. When you open and edit a document, it should stay inside the DMS to ensure that the document keeps its integrity.

5. Does it have a built-in backup and recovery system? If so, how easy is it to retrieve your information?

Backup and recovery are normally not thought about until it is too late. Ensure the DMS you select backs up files to a separate location—whether a disk drive or remote location. Depending on how large and busy your law firm is, this process can be performed on an hourly or daily basis.

6. Is it easy for the office to use?

DMSs come in all shapes and sizes and may have really advanced features. Before selecting your DMS, ensure that your staff understands its core features and can adapt to its advanced features as well.

7. Does it support multiple layers of security to keep your information safe and secure?

With NSA in the news lately, the importance of understanding security in your law firm cannot be overstated. Do not assume the DMS vendor has integrated the best security practices. Your documents normally include PII (Personal Identity Information) and you will be held liable if the information is obtained by unintended individuals. I have also heard of situations where the opposing counsel managed to get hold of documents and communication between the attorney and client due to the lack of security. Having a username and password is not enough. Consider using an RSA token and/or a VPN to access information.

8. Does it allow you to apply metadata and tags to each file you place into it?

This point is very important. The DMS you select should allow you to tag documents with case and matter information to allow you to find such information later. Applying tags and metadata will allow you cross to reference similar cases, thereby saving time when writing up briefs.
9. Does the company provide training and support? If so, when is support available?

You should start to think about training before the system is installed. Ensure that the DMS provides training before, during, and after installation.

10. Does the vendor provide help desk support?

Support is normally thought about when processes are not working the way they should, and your staff begins to complain. Ensure that you have a support plan with the vendor that goes beyond the 9 o’clock to 5 o’clock window. Moreover, ensure that a technical person is available in the area to make a site visit if necessary.

11. Does it support workflows and rules?

A DM system with workflows and rules can boost your law firm’s productivity. For example, if you have uploaded a document regarding a case with a hospital, your DMS applies a HIPPA retention policy ensuring your firm’s compliance.

12. Does it require extensive development and customization before it fits your law firm’s needs?

Certain DMSs require an extensive amount of custom development before being compatible with your law firm’s needs, such as integration with existing systems or creation of complex workflows. Ensure that you understand the custom development entailed, and do not assume the DMS will work the way you want it to right out of the box.

13. What type of documents and artifacts does it support?

You may be using Coral WordPerfect or Microsoft Word. Hence, ensure that your DMS can support both formats as well as the metadata in each application provide.

14. What is the Total Cost of Ownership?

Software in general work on a client access license charged on an annual basis. Ensure that you understand the cost involved, and find out if decreasing your license subscription comes with penalties. Does the DMS require extra staff? If so, what is the cost associated with adding additional staff or using your existing resources to manage the DMS?

15. Does it have audit controls built into it to give you “who, what, where, and when” information about all documents stored inside it?

Your DMS should have built-in audit controls allowing you to have constant view into who is accessing your documents. You want to ensure, if you are ever audited, that you can explain engagement letters and closing letters used, how clients are billed, and how documents are kept.

16. Does it support archiving and offline storage?

Your DMS should allow you to archive your cases and store them offline. You should be able to search across an archive even if it has been moved to remote storage. Ensure that your archive cycle is defined to how your law firm works. For example, is a case archived when it has been settled or closed? If a case has not been touched in two years, is it considered archived?

17. Can you scan documents directly to the system? If so, does it support OCR (Optical character recognition)?

Your DMS should be able to scan directly to your DMS and attach the scan directly to your case management system. Scanning is not enough. Your DMS should also process OCR data from your scanner. Scanned documents without OCR will later keep you from index searching later on.

18. Can you electronically sign documents? If so, does it work with other e-signature vendors?

Electronically signed documents allow you to sign and secure your documents using encrypted certificates. Your DMS should allow you to use electronic signatures from third-party vendors.

19. Are all document communications encrypted?

Whether you are using a system that is in cloud or on the premises, ensure that all communication is encrypted. For example, if you access your DMS using a web browser via “http://yourdms,” your information can be retrieved by anyone on the same network. The URL should start with “https://yourdms,” which indicates that a secure certificate has been issued, and your documents will not be exposed to preying eyes.

20. Does the DMS support retention policies?

Your DMS should allow you to setup and use retention policies based on the type of law you practice, but it should also allow you to setup and use new retention policies in case you expand into a different industry. Some retention polices you should watch for include SOX, HIPPA, OSHA, state and federal tax laws, and SOL for each of the states in which you work.

21. Does the DMS have a basic and advanced search features?

Searching matters and cases is critical to your law firm. Your DMS should allow you to search by matter, case, metadata, and words inside of a document. The DMS should also allow you to view related cases and create saved searches for later use.

22. Does the DMS integrate with Adobe Acrobat?

Adobe Acrobat is an important document editor and reader to any law firm. Make sure your DMS converts documents to PDF and supports advanced features, such as annotation, certification, and form building.

Aug 13

Microsoft forced to change Skydrive name, what does this mean for SharePoint

Not much, just expect a change made to SharePoint 2013 in the next service pack later this year. Check out the whole story here.


Jul 13


The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.

― Albert Einstein

Jul 13

Finally Microsoft Releases Service Pack 2 for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010

This is great news. I have been waiting along time to finally see this happen. Service Pack 2 has the following improvements/fixes for SharePoint

Navigating to a SharePoint site with a BlackBerry device may open a non-mobile page.   Adding RIM6 into compat.browser allows users to access SharePoint pages and view documents in mobile view.
If anonymous access is enabled for Sharepoint 2010 SP1 (or later Cumulative Update), attempts to to access the site via a mobile device will receive an authentication prompt.
Customers are unable to use spell check in Korean when running SharePoint on Windows Server 2012.
Displaying Summary Links Web Part in personalizing view; generating confusing error message.
Deployment fails for content types containing a formula field in Italian.
File attachments are not deleted due to incorrect URL formatting
If requireExactUrl is not set for openweb calls, the PublishingWeb constructor may spawn variation pages  into incorrect locations while attempting re-creation of failed label during create hierarchies.
Incremental content deployment fails, giving the following error: FatalError: The given key was not present in the dictionary
Spell Checker doesn’t work properly with Internet Explorer 10.
Rich text editor spell checker may work incorrectly on 64 bit machines.
Customers encounter issues sending e-mail from workflows when the From address uses a non-Unicode character set.
Updated VBE7.dll to fix safe array corruption for x64 hosts when calling UDF methods using safe array arguments directly from the host.
SQL exceptions will appear in the log when running update statistics timer.
Improved performance of the AllUserData table.
Getting a feed against a discussion board fails if feed contains more than zero items.
SharePoint 2010 client object model now has compatibility for accessing Sharepoint 2013 servers.
Windows 8 users with Internet Explorer 10 receive an error when trying to open a document from SharePoint 2010 directly in the Office client.
Call GetChanges won’t return changes in certain cases where the change log has been edited and no parameters are set.
STSAdm MigrateUser fails when SQL server is not in domain.
Attempting to delete a child web from site settings causes the page to fail.
There is no exposed method to recalculate the second stage recycle bin size.
April 2011 Calendar View does not display correctly with Amman System Time zone
Users can create a scenario where a site loses permissions.
After deleting a web that contains historical document versions in the RecycleBin, rows are abandoned in the database.  These rows bloat the size of the database, causing difficulty with database management operations such as backup/restore, complicating upgrade and other scenarios.
After creating alerts on a document library with unique permissions and moving the contents using SPFolder.MoveTo method, the permissions seem to be lost and even the farm administrator is not able to delete these alerts.

Now some of these items don’t apply to me or my current projects but its good to see Microsoft release such an extensive update for SharePoint 2010 which is still wildly used.

You can find a list of all Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 updates here

You can find the Service Pack 2 update here

Jul 13

How to create a visual webpart in SharePoint 2013

Simple visual webpart using SharePoint 2013.

Great for developers new to SharePoint development.

Jul 13

Bringing Social Conversation into the Enterprise

Yesterday Microsoft announced it will be releasing Newsfeed app for SharePoint 2013 and Office365, this will allow users within organizations to keep in touch and share information throughout the organization using Windows 8, IOS and eventually Android devices. Microsoft is following the social consumer world and bringing some of the same technology that is used outside of office hours to now be apart of office productivity.

Microsoft is not the first vendor to push the social enterprise curtain. Chatter (formally GroupSwim) by SalesForce, has been used by organizations since 2010 and continues to be pushed for larger organizations. Because most organizations are using SalesForce,  they already have one leg in the door. Microsoft will follow the same strategy with Newsfeed and the newly acquired Yammer, which is being positioned as the companies social enterprise network. As a architect, the first thing that comes to mind is how will the enterprise support social technology from a infrastructure and security side. Both technologies allow you to lock down communication within the domain or federated using Windows Server 2012 DirectAccess, but auditing and monitoring features are still not discussed, this will be a concern for your compliance officer. Before making a move to social platforms be sure to understand the risk involved and have a conversation with the human resources and legal department about policy and adaptation.

Jul 13

SharePoint 2010 is still the most searched for on Google

As a SharePoint consultant, its easy to get caught up in the next best version of SharePoint Microsoft puts out, and of course if you don’t well, eventually you will be an unemployed consultant. But organizations (especially federal ) don’t move that fast and they don’t need to. I have found that organizations only use 20% of SharePoint’s capabilities and features and are not even aware of half of the features has to offer. Still we live in a must have the latest a greatest sociality and which causing us to always be thinking what’s the next best thing. SharePoint is not a cheap implementation or upgrade and should a benefit cost analysis should be conducted before deciding to upgrade to SharePoint 2013. SharePoint 2013 offers many advantages in the design, development, term store, search and records management arena, but should be evaluated before making the plunge to 2013. If you are on SharePoint 2007 moving to SharePoint 2013 should be your upgrade route.

Trend SharePoint

SharePoint 2010 still on top