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Office 365 and SharePoint Online FAQ

Reddy Kadasani

Recently had to field some questions regarding Office 365 and SharePoint online. Thought it would be beneficial for others looking for similar information. Leave a comment if you have additional input on any of these or have other questions regarding this topic:


Category:

Performance, Scalability

Question:

On SharePoint online are farms replicated Globally? Where are they replicated? What control do we have on the replication?

Response:

SharePoint Online tenant is provisioned in a specific region. The region is chosen by your organization during the initial provisioning of the O365 tenant. For example, Northeast US or Western US etc. Replication is done to another data center in that region but the details are not provided on the administration portal. This is handled automatically by Microsoft.

Category:

Performance, Scalability, Architecture

Question:

How does global affinity work based on users location?

Response:

Users are directed to the tenant in the region the tenant was provisioned. When an office 365 tenant is provisioned, you will be asked to select the primary region. This determined which data center will host your tenant. All users are directed to this data center irrespective of where they are located.

Category:

Performance, Scalability, Architecture

Question:

Performance difference between internal, On-Prem vs. Cloud?

Response:

While setting up the on-cloud environment MS has developed a number of best practices related to scaling of the database layer, optimal distribution of services, and high performance I/O. Based on these lessons learned and best practices, the SharePoint online environment is highly optimized for performance and global access.

Similar performance benchmarks can be achieved for on-premises environments as well. The latter however requires proper capacity planning and scale-out architecture.

In addition, on-premises environments will allow deployment of farm solutions that if not coded properly can make the environment unstable. SharePoint online being a multi-tenant environment only allows “sandboxed” solutions (i.e. based on the App Model).

In short, everything remaining the same, an on-premises deployment would require a higher level of effort and due diligence to achieve the performance metrics of a SharePoint online deployment.

Category:

Security

Question:

Can we impersonate the system admin with regards to workflow or in code?

Response:

SharePoint 2013 workflows are built on Workflow Foundation 4, it executes workflows in Windows Azure. That means some actions are not available. Such as the impersonation step.

The work around for this is to create SharePoint 2010 workflows for specific steps that require impersonation as another user and call them from SharePoint 2013 workflows.

Category:

Security

Question:

If yes to above, is it possible to do this O365 or SharePoint Online?

Response:

SharePoint online allows building of custom and declarative workflows.

SharePoint Online supports workflow through declarative workflows built in SharePoint Designer 2010 and deployed through sandbox solutions. You can include impersonation steps in sandbox solutions.

Ref: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/hh288072.aspx

Category:

Search, Metadata, Taxonomy

Question:

Is their limited control to search and the of creating scopes

Response:

Search scopes have been deprecated in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint online. In place of search scopes, you can use result sources.

A SharePoint Online administrator can manage result sources for all site collections and sites in that instance of SharePoint Online (tenant). A site collection administrator or a site owner can manage result sources for a site collection or a site, respectively.

You can create your own result sources, or use the predefined result sources. After you create a result source, you configure Search Web Parts and query-rule actions to use it.

Ref: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-sharepoint-online-enterprise-help/manage-result-sources-HA103639370.aspx

Category:

Search, Metadata, Taxonomy

Question:

Can we set/adjust the Search Crawling intervals and managed metadata fields?

Response:

You cannot adjust the search crawling intervals in SharePoint online. Crawling is accomplished via a timer jobs. Microsoft SLA for Office 365 provides some guidance on acceptable crawl freshness rates that will be provided. Generally the crawl freshness will be far better than what is in the SLA.

You can define managed metadata fields in SharePoint online both at the tenant level (for all your site collections) and for each site collection.

Category:

Search, Metadata, Taxonomy

Question:

Can we set managed metadata fields programmatically?

Response:

You may set managed metadata fields programmatically in SharePoint online but since you cannot use server side code, you have to use a different technique to accomplish this.

Use PowerShell and CSOM to populate the term store with pre-determined GUIDs for terms
Then you can use the elements.xml file (for the field) to declaratively bind the metadata fields with the term store
Here is a great article that describes a step by step guide to repeatable deployments of taxonomy and managed metadata fields:

http://www.sharepointnutsandbolts.com/2013/09/provisioning-managed-metadata-fields-in-Office-365.html

Category:

Search, Metadata, Taxonomy

Question:

And how are managed metadata fields managed?

Response:

Managed metadata fields can be managed via the SharePoint GUI and via Code (Powershell and CSOM as mentioned above)

Category:

Application Deployment, Troubleshooting

Question:

If there is an issue with our application what will be our ability to debug it in the Office 365/SharePoint Online cloud space?

Response:

There are no direct tools available for debugging as would be the case in an on-premises environment. However the following would be our recommendation:

  • Local Development Environment: This would be the developers environment. Make sure to create components using the App Model. We would recommend you do that even if you have an on-premises environment. This will allow you to create SharePoint components that work on-prem as well as on-line. Do not allow full-trust solutions.
  • Intermediate Integration Environment: This is also on-premises but allows multiple developers to deploy code and test the apps together in an integrated environment. You can avail the usual debugging tools such as developer dashboard, visual studio, ULS logs, and event logs for debugging
  • Test Tenant: Deploy your apps to a test tenant. There are different strategies available for creating a test tenant. You may setup a trial tenant for instance to deploy and test functionality. You can also use a web service to log errors in your code, verbose outputs from your apps can help debug issues as well

Category:

Development

Question:

Does the client object model now include a synchronous call in addition to ExecuteQueryAsync()?

Response:

SharePoint 2013 CSOM supports both asynchronous and synchronous communication.
However, if you are accessing SharePoint from a Silverlight application and via ECMA, all communications will be asynchronous.
This are the two calls that can be used for this purpose:

  • ClientContext.ExecuteQuery
  • ClientContext.ExecuteQueryAsync

Reference: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff798388.aspx

Category:

Development

Question:

Can app-model web parts still contain configuration/editor part/tool part elements?

Response:

App-model web parts is an implementation of a “Client Web Part”. It has three components to it:

  • The page that will “host” the web part
  • The web part itself and its properties declared in XML (the .webpart file)
  • The type of client side api it will use (REST, JSOM etc.) to render appropriate content

It is pretty much self-contained.

You interact with an app part the same way as a web part. So you would go to a page, click on Add a webpart, select your app part and add it to the page.

Although the app part “container” on the page behaves like a typical visual web part, it however does not contain tool parts. However you can still modify some of the configuration elements such as Title, Name etc.

Please see: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/office/dn448480

For detailed videos and articles on developing app parts.

Category:

Development, Search

Question:

With the Search web service deprecated, how has the Client Object Model been improved for search?

Response:

SharePoint Server 2013 provides two new REST interfaces: Navigation and Event Logging. You can use them to create search-driven mobile apps for mobile devices

You can retrieve the deep refiners through the Search API.

You can access the Ranking model and Analytics model as well.

Category:

Development, Deployment

Question:

Can we add files in the layouts folder of 14 hive (on SharePoint Online)?

Response:

No. You will not have access to the 14 hive or the local drives on the machine

Category:

Development, Deployment

Question:

If no to above, is there a new place to put it like a global files and assets?

Response:

Global files and assets such as branding files, images, styles etc… can be uploaded to the Site Assets library.

They can then be referenced in master pages or web parts. Other than that there is no facility to put global files on the physical drives. They have to reside in SharePoint or can live on Windows Azure and accessed via web services.

Some techniques to handle branding assets and global files:

  • Create a common site collection that all users are given “visitors” rights
  • Use this site collection to store the global assets
  • Create a web service to access the global assets

Category:

O365 Service Description

Question:

With regards to your updates, when and how will we get notified?

Response:

Minor updates and features are deployed to O365 on an on-going basis. The message center on O365 will display all notifications that may or may not affect your tenant. An example screen of the message center is shown below:

image

There are three types of messages:

  • Plan for Change: These may involve some action on your part. Clicking on the orange icon as shown above will provide details about the update. These updates also provide you with a timeline for the rollout.
  • Prevent or Fix Issues: Typically these are information messages that will inform you of any upgrades that your may want to roll out in your organization if users are experiencing issues or of a known MS issue
  • Stay Informed: These are strictly informational messages

1 Comment. Leave new

great and helpful blog to everyone.. thanks a lot for sharing

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