Tag Archives: Office 365

How Can I Use Microsoft Data to Optimize My Office 365 Environment?

For IT administrators, gathering data about user experience and application utilization can be a daunting task. There are many sources of user related data available; however, I will focus down on the data concerning a hypothetical organization’s Office 365 subscription and how SysTrack can help both show and give context to this data. The IT administrator of this organization (let’s call her Samantha) is looking to analyze data concerning the usage of each of the Office 365 products that they have licenses for. In doing some searching online, Sam finds that Microsoft has some data available through their Admin center on the Office 365 portal. This data, however, is limited in scope—it doesn’t tell much about the actual licenses that the organization has, and it doesn’t cover user experience with specific products. She also finds in her search that there are Powershell modules that allow access to organization data, but that would require significant setup and some knowledge on how that scripting works, which would require a significant investment of Samantha’s time in order to get data to a format that would be useful to her.

So, how can SysTrack help Sam with this problem? SysTrack’s normal data collection covers some of the things that Samantha wants, namely the general user experience with specific applications through Health and Black Box data, as well as app focus time. However, to gather the data on specific utilization of the Office 365 products, we need to augment the normal collection with collection from some of Microsoft’s cloud based APIs. This gives us the ability to collect daily activity reports for users of the organization, broken down for each Office 365 product, and from this we can generate data trends over time of how the products are used. For example, with the reports Samantha could monitor how many emails a certain user sends and receives each day. Combining this with the data already available about app focus time for Outlook as well as Health data on latency and network connection, gives a big picture look at how a that user generally uses their email.

Example Office 365 monitoring dashboard utilizing data from SysTrack and Microsoft

In addition to collection based on user activity, SysTrack also collects data on active product licenses for each user. This feature gives Samantha the ability to compare a user’s usage of each of Office 365’s products with what they are licensed for to see if the organization is getting the most out of their subscriptions. There is also collection of Service Statuses for each product, directly from Microsoft, so if there are service interruptions that are affecting users, then Samantha can track that as well. Overall, SysTrack gives a very comprehensive coverage of all the available Office 365 data without having to go hunting for it on multiple pages, easing the job of IT administrators looking for this data.

How does Office 365 perform across Windows operating systems?

Modern users have the choice between a variety of Windows OS and Office versions. In relation to this mix, a common question we have come across in the past is “How does Windows 10 performance compare with Windows 7?” While we have addressed the situation in the past, it remains a popular question to this day. However, users are now becoming curious about the performance implications of Office versions against the operation systems. Through analysis of SysTrack Community data, we were able to reevaluate Windows 7 and Windows 10 performance implications against Office 365.

A feature that Windows 10 has is its integration with various components of Microsoft’s cloud portfolio. With this new component, we felt compelled to look at how Office 365 ran against past operating systems and how past versions of Office, specifically Office 2013, ran against current operating systems. Office 365 may look very similar to older versions, there are quite a few notable differences. While Office 2013 required a product key, Office 365 handles licensing more efficiently for users, potentially allowing each job role to be given a best fit licensing level. This is just an example of how Office 365 is now closely reliant on the cloud. The cloud allows Office 365 applications to be available from any device and encourages collaboration among users while Office 2013 requires a local installation. Office 2013 did not allow for as smooth of collaboration, requiring the user to share files that have been saved locally or manually stored in a place that can be reached by others. Finally, with Office 365 being software-as-a-service, it has improved security and user experience by seamlessly providing small, frequent patches.

With all these updates to Office 365, how does it affect the overall performance characteristics? We ran a comparison of Office 365 against Office 2013 with different operating systems to see how their load times compared (displayed below in Figure 1).

Figure 1

While it is interesting that Office 365 seems to take a slightly longer time to load, it is mostly due to external connectivity and tying the user account context for Office 365 to the application itself. However, looking at application stability (displayed below in Figure 2), Office 365 has significantly fewer faults than Office 2013.

Figure 2

As displayed above, Office 365 faults significantly less in Windows 10 than Office 2013. This can be a result of both being “as-a-service” products ultimately resulting in less downtime users (thus a higher end user experience) and less maintenance for IT administrators. It can be concluded that while Office 365 takes a little more time to load, it is more stable than Office 2013 among the various operating systems.

So what does all this analysis mean? Ideally, Windows 10 and Office 365 should be used together to achieve high end user experience. Office 365, overall, is more stable providing less application faults. However, other operating systems are also compatible with Office 365 despite the slightly longer load time. To evaluate readiness for a Windows 10 migration, or performance monitoring, check out our free Windows 10 assessment, with the addition of SysTrack to provide the transparency of end user experience monitoring.

Microsoft Guest Blog: SysTrack and Windows Modernization Planning

Hi, I’m Divy Sharma with Microsoft Services, and I’ve been working with Lakeside Software’s SysTrack product for quite some time. SysTrack has proved to be extremely valuable for Data Center Modernization assessments and now for Windows 10 planning. Personally I’ve had the most experience helping customers understand their enterprise infrastructure and application portfolios, and assisting them with the complex process of determining what platforms and pathways forward are available to them to optimize their core infrastructure.

Legacy data center systems and workloads are a massive problem in the enterprise. Because these systems have a tendency to evolve naturally over time without centrally structured planning it can be difficult to determine some of the basic needs these systems are addressing. The key for all of the decisions necessary to migrate workloads and users is context. This requires answers to questions such as: What application connections are necessary? What resource consumption do we expect for applications? What kind of user experience do people get today? How many backend dependencies does this application require?

These questions led us to conclude that we really needed a robust way of collecting detailed, continuous operating metrics and usage details to understand how best to help our customers with their pathway forward. With numerous black box servers, unknown assets, and supporting systems distributed geographically across numerous physical locations it would be a difficult proposition to get a complete inventory, much less understand the characteristics of the existing workload and plan how to migrate it. With some of the existing tools in our portfolio we were able to get pieces of the information we needed, but what was missing was the actual activity and capacity analysis for forecasting costs and understanding the purpose of the systems. This is where SysTrack reporting filled in the gaps for us.

The addition of the Kits concept has greatly streamlined the process of gearing up for a DCM project; because the DCM content that was co-developed with Lakeside is made up of a large number of reports and dashboard content this makes reporting of the data as straightforward as the collection.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has started providing the next level of enterprise productivity, security, manageability and advanced threat detection. Solutions such as Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) offer leading-edge capabilities for identity management, device management, application management and provides enterprise-grade security. Additionally, new Windows 10 features such as Device Guard, Enterprise Data Protection and Microsoft Passport disrupts modern cyber-threats with revolutionary security. I have found SysTrack extremely valuable in assessing an organization’s current state of readiness for adopting these features. We have been able to get answers to questions such as – which devices are ready for Windows 10 migrations, which devices have TPM chips for using Windows 10’s advanced features, which devices are capable of supporting virtualization through Hyper-V to protect system memory and kernel-mode apps/drivers from malicious tampering, what is the device profile (desktops/laptops/tablets/touch-enabled devices/VDIs), and, what desktop/web applications are used in the enterprise, by whom, how often and what’s the performance portfolio of these workloads.

I really like the fact that SysTrack can work either as an on-premise solution or purely via Azure cloud. It can work on machines on your Active Directory Domain or on BYOD devices that contingent staff may bring in. It can easily help develop a workload’s profile – CPU loads, memory utilization, disk I/Os, network interaction with other servers – all with minimal impact to host performance. Moreover, it can help aggregate data over thousands of devices, laying a strong foundation to develop data-driven models for multiple scenarios, such as, Windows 10 deployment planning, Application Workload Assessment and Migration planning, Azure migration assessment and cost planning, etc.

For us the real mark of success is what happens after the migration is completed, and this is where the SysTrack data makes the largest difference. Previously it was difficult to really come up with a proof point to demonstrate that the user experience in the environment is quantitatively better than what end users used to get. With the comprehensive reporting in tools like Enterprise Visualizer it’s now possible to connect the starting user experience before the improvements with the steady state experience after all of the optimization and workload migration has taken place, proving success.

Really this gets to the heart of a broader key for ensuring that end users get the best possible experience: point of interaction telemetry. As IT’s role evolves it’s critical to have measures in place to track the performance of the various services that make up the EUC environment. By allowing SysTrack to track things like Office 365 adoption, system performance, and application consumption it’s now possible to track delivered services in a unified way. This makes Lakeside an ideal partner as Microsoft grows its incredible portfolio of traditional and cloud based services. Windows 10 in many ways is the start of a transformation for Microsoft’s offerings, and I think the more service driven direction for IT in the enterprise will benefit from it and Azure offerings tremendously.

Keep an eye out for more posts on Windows modernization and how Microsoft can help deliver the best possible end user experience to your environment.