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SharePoint Online and On-Premise Syncing almost

Several months ago I had a client who wanted to move to Office 365 and asked if we could sync SharePoint Online with their on-premise Windows Server 2012 Essentials server.  Unfortunately we were unable to do so, then. This has changed in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, and I will also assume when using the Essentials Role on Standard and Datacenter editions. (I’ll do a post on the this great option for business with less than a 100 seats in the near future).

One question you may have is why would I want to have my files in two different locations?  You may wish to have certain files on SharePoint and easily accessible by others from anywhere and you may want to keep your private files private, securely on the server in your office, such is the company financials.  In the past we had to keep the files in two spots and manage each repository separately, now we can keep the files in one location and “sync” the files from the server to SharePoint or from SharePoint to the server.  And the best part, it’s really easy to setup.  In a previous post I step you through how to “connect” Office 365 with your Essentials server. The procedure is basically the same.  Here’s the quick overview for R2:

Select Services from the Dashboard, then click on the Integrate with Office 365 link to the right.

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Follow the prompts and your done. For more information on how to “connect” the two services see article.

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That’s it! How easy was that???

When you reopen the Dashboard you will have a new Office 365 tab, which connects your server to your Office 365 subscription.

The rest is pretty straight forward.  In the Storage section of the Dashboard, you will have a tab for SharePoint Libraries.

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So at this point we think, great I can just dump files into either the SharePoint OnLine repository or the local folder and poof…they will be synced.  This would be awesome but in reality, we still have one more step.  Microsoft has released the SkyDrive Pro (download here) which allows us to sync folders on our server with folders on SharePoint Online.  I installed the application on my server.

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All you need to do now is setup the folders to be synced.  To do this, right click on the SkyDrive Pro icon in the taskbar and select, sync a new library.  Then add the appropriate path.

SkyDrive Pro Sync Settings

Personally, I prefer to set this up from within Office 365.  I select the library I would like to sync with the server then click the Sync button at the top.  This method automatically creates the matching folders on the server for you.  

Sync

That’s it.

As you can see my files on the server match the files on Office 365.

 Files on Server

I’m so happy to see this feature has been added to the overall offering.  I had several requests for this type of functionality with several of my Office 365 and Server Essentials clients.

The only downfall is this is a manual processes.  Meaning you have to push the sync when you need it.  I wonder if a schedule could be setup using Powershell commands.

Bending the Sharepoint Rules

I had an interesting request from one of my clients a few weeks ago: they needed to share calendars, which can be done in no time, but they also wanted the events colour-coded; and they preferred it all to be done from Outlook. Oh, and did I mention we don’t use an Exchange server? But how hard could it be; we have SharePoint 2010, a Windows 2011 SBS server, and most of the company’s users use Outlook 2010.

So the obvious question is, “why not move everyone to Exchange and be done with it?” We have opted not to move to Exchange for a few reasons: first, this is a small company located in an area with sketchy Internet service and even sketchier hydro. We were concerned about not being able to access email in the event of Internet or power loss. They also have a variety of mobile devices, which complicates the matter even more. Did I mention they do not have an IT person on-site? For those reasons, we decided it was too much of a risk to move mail in-house at this time. That being said, they are the perfect candidate for Office 365 because of the reasons outlined above. Stayed tuned for an Office 365 post and why I love it as much as I do.

Now back to the dilemma at hand: how do we share colour-coded calendars with the technology we have in place and use? After some trial and error, we came up with a solution that works best for them. We created a SharePoint calendar and then attached the calendar to each users local Outlook. Great, now we can see the events, but we can’t see the colours the that the users have assigned to each event. We could do this via overlays in SharePoint, but then I would have to have each user add events in SharePoint, not Outlook as they wanted. I also wanted to keep the solution easy, so they could manage it. Creating overlays would be too much work, and, again, did I mention they do not have an IT person on-site? The solution:

Use the colour categories already provided in Outlook. We created the same categories, both in name and colour, on each users desktop Outlook. Now everyone sees the correct colours on their version of Outlook.

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This may not be the “proper” way to do this, but we met the clients needs and kept it simple to manage, allowing the client to focus on their business and not the technology that runs it.

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