Awarded the Microsoft MVP for the 7th year!

7thYearMVPI am thrilled to report that Microsoft has awarded me with the Most Valuable Professional award for the 7th consecutive year!

By far, the best benefit of this program are the great relationships I’ve been able to build both with the Microsoft product groups as well as other MVPs. MVPs are a fantastic community of experts who generously share their knowledge and their time. I’m honored to once again be included among their ranks.

Recent Webcasts

Hiya folks, for those that don’t follow me on Twitter, I wanted to point out a few webcasts I’ve been involved with. Check ’em out!


Best Practices for Migrating PSTs and Email Archives to Office 365


Office 365 Migrations and Beyond – Planning for Potential Risks


Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX: Picking Good Numbers

Not your granddaddy’s SfBO

Late last year, Microsoft released a dial-in conferencing and PSTN add-on to the popular Office 365 suite. With these new features, I expect Skype for Business Online to attract serious interest. As a technical implementer, if you’re Office 365 focus has been limited to Exchange and SharePoint Online, you’ll want to be sure you’re positioned to support these new features before your competition beats you to it!

For an excellent, no-fluff introduction to the topic, I recommend you read fellow MVP Paul Robichaux’s article over on WindowsITPro: “Skype for Business: PSTN Calling

Selecting Pleasant Telephone Numbers

One of the first things you’ll want to do after you’ve got the necessary licensing situated is to assign phone numbers to your users. If you’re using the Admin Center, you’ll find this approach is documented here.

When using this screen to assign numbers to my business, I found that the numbers that were being presented weren’t very palatable.AdminCenterNumbers

Obviously this is a subjective assessment, though as an example, you’ll likely agree that numbers that end in ‘0000’ are generally more desirable and memorable than those that involve digits from all over your dial pad. Maybe there is some secret TelCo handshake which allows you to pick from great phone numbers, but alas, I don’t know it.😦

Perhaps more frustratingly, is the fact the portal limits you by showing only a few numbers at a time (per 10 minutes). Based on my business’ location in in Maryland, I wanted a 301 number, but am I supposed to look at 10 numbers every 10 minutes? I’ve not done this with a large tenant yet, so it is possible this UI scales with more licenses/users, but in my testing I couldn’t find a way around this issue.

The good news however, is that PowerShell once again comes to the rescue! Using the Skype for Business Online cmdlets, we are able to bypass the selection limits of the Admin Center and view up to 200 numbers, in a given city, at a time.

The approach is as follows:

  1. Download and install the SfBO PowerShell module.
  2. Establish a PowerShell remoting session.
  3. Figure out what region you want numbers for, and take note of the geocodes.
  4. Search the inventory, reserving 200 numbers for 10 minutes.
  5. If necessary, manually release the numbers and look at another region.
  6. If all else fails, wait 10+ minutes and re-try the above.

Search and Filter with PowerShell

Connect to SfBO

$credential = Get-Credential
$lyncSession = New-CsOnlineSession -Credential $credential
Import-PSSession $lyncSession

Search the inventory

$x = Search-CsOnlineTelephoneNumberInventory -InventoryType Subscriber -Region NOAM -Country US -Area MD -City SS -Quantity 200


Use PowerShell filtering to find desirable number patterns

#Numbers with 00
$x.Reservations.numbers.DisplayNumber | ? {$_ -like '*00*'}

#Numbers ending in 0
$x.Reservations.numbers.DisplayNumber | ? {$_ -like '*0'}

#Numbers not containing 304
$x.Reservations.numbers.DisplayNumber | ? {$_ -notlike '*304*'}

#Numbers with 0 in the last group
$x.Reservations.numbers.DisplayNumber | ? {(($_ -split ' ' )[-1]) -like '*0*'}

PowerShell PSTN FilteringRelease the numbers and look at a different region (avoiding the 10 minute wait)

Clear-CsOnlineTelephoneNumberReservation -ReservationId $x.ReservationId -InventoryType subscriber
$x = Search-CsOnlineTelephoneNumberInventory -InventoryType Subscriber -Region NOAM -Country US -Area MD -City BE -Quantity 200


Select the numbers you like (Don’t forget to include the country code)

Select-CsOnlineTelephoneNumberInventory -ReservationId $x.ReservationId -TelephoneNumbers 13010000000, 13010000003, 13010000002 -Region NOAM -Country US -Area MD -City SS

NOTE: I haven’t worked out the code myself, but you may want to find phone numbers in consecutive blocks, so here is a topic that discusses how to do that.

Once you’ve got the numbers reserved, you can continue to use PowerShell to assign them to your licensed users, or you can go back to the Admin Center and assign them there.

Enabling/Disabling AAD Connect’s Automatic Upgrade Feature

Last week, Microsoft announced this quarter’s Azure Active Directory Connect (AADConnect) update. Version 1.1 (download) includes some big changes, including one that made me worry. AAD Connect now has an Automatic Upgrade feature! Given that this is the first version to include this concept, we won’t see how it works until next quarter, but I sure do hope they are careful.

Cautiously Optimistic

Over the past few years we’ve seen several DirSync/AADSync/AADConnect versions be revoked due to bugs, which means you could wake up one morning to some terrible sync catastrophe resulting from bad sync rules or who knows what. Case in point: THIS VERSION!!! You’ll see in the comments of the announcement I linked above, several people had problems with the upgrade to the 1.1 build and Microsoft quickly released a new version 4 days ago ( Nevertheless, I believe such a sync-related catastrophe is unlikely. The greater risk is letting your sync software get too out of date, which is something I see more often than I don’t. In fact, Microsoft’s sync tools have been so reliable that many organizations are probably still running the same version deployed when they first migrated to Office 365 (Though they are possibly in an unsupported scenario).AADConnect Auto Upgrade

New installations of AAD Connect which use the default “Express” option will enable Automatic Upgrade for you.

I did an in-place upgrade from a prior version to and it left Auto Upgrade in a “Suspended” state, which is not to be confused with “Disabled”. I’m not sure why we need two “not-enabled” states, but it is described in the documentation as a system-only value. It will be easier to test this when there is actually a version beyond to upgrade to.

I think it is interesting that this product doesn’t hook into the operating system’s Automatic Update feature, as most Microsoft products do. My theory is that the Azure AD team is currently moving faster than the requisite internal coordination allows.AADConnect Auto Upgrade 2

Disabling Automatic Upgrade

I would discourage anyone from turning off Automatic Upgrade without good cause (FUD does not count), though there may be some good causes.

For example, while Microsoft discourages us from modifying the default synchronization rules (The product has pop-ups warning you about this too), it is supported. The caveat is that upgrades sometimes redefine the default rules, overwriting your changes. In this case, the guidance states:

If you need to change the scope or the join setting in an “out-of-box” synchronization rule, document this and reapply the change after upgrading to a newer version of Azure AD Connect

As you have probably guessed, this scenario presents a problem with the idea of an automatic upgrade. Luckily for this, and perhaps other reasons, you can disable Automatic Upgrade. There are two new cmdlets for controlling the behavior:

  • Get-ADSyncAutoUpgrade
  • Set-ADSyncAutoUpgrade

Get-ADSyncAutoUpgrade will show you the current state, which will be Enabled, Disabled or Suspended. You can also see this by looking the AAD Connect summary page (second image above).

To disable AAD Connect’s Automatic Upgrade feature, type:

Set-ADSyncAutoUpgrade -AutoUpgradeState Disabled

Enabling Automatic Upgrade

If you need to enable the feature, type:

Set-ADSyncAutoUpgrade -AutoUpgradeState Enabled

Discussing the “Preferred Architecture” on the Exchange Server Pro Podcast

Last month, I was invited back to the Exchange Server Pro Podcast to discuss the Exchange Server Preferred Architecture with Paul Cunningham, a fellow Microsoft MVP.  During the discussion, we covered the definition of the term as well as how to balance it against the realities of your Exchange Environment.false-true

If you’ve got 30 minutes , check it out!

Podcast Episode 8: The Preferred Architecture with Mike Crowley

Presenting at the Rockville, MD Office 365 User Group

If you’ve been here once or twice, you’ll know I like talking about Office 365 and Azure AD Directory Synchronization! If you like this topic too, or are preparing for an upcoming migration, and are in the Washington DC Metro Area next Thursday (Nov. 12), please come to the Rockville-based Office 365 user group meeting.

Rockville Office 365 User Group

During this event, I’ll be covering sync across the following agenda:

  1. Introduction to concepts
  2. Environment Readiness
  3. Tools
  4. Operations and Troubleshooting
  5. Q&A

Attendance is free but please RSVP here:

Guest Appearance on the Exchange Server Pro Podcast

A few days back, I had an opportunity to chat with Paul Cunningham on his Exchange Server Pro Podcast. Paul is a world-renowned Exchange Server expert and Microsoft MVP, based out of Australia. We discussed ways to protect Exchange from attack, along with other security concepts while responding to the recent news around “OWA Vulnerabilities”.false-true

If you’ve got 30 minutes , check it out!

Podcast Episode 4: Securing Outlook Web App (OWA) and Exchange Server with Mike Crowley