EfficiencyNext ready to support orgs losing Microsoft Access Web Apps

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in From the Cloud, From the Mind, Press Releases, Uncategorized | Comments Off on EfficiencyNext ready to support orgs losing Microsoft Access Web Apps

Microsoft has recently announced it is axing its Microsoft Access Web Apps capability in Office 365 and SharePoint Online. https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/the_microsoft_access_support_team_blog/2017/03/31/access-web-apps-to-be-retired/ This capability allowed those who work with Microsoft Access the ability to publish database applications into SharePoint without code. While there are were technical ceilings for what the technology could do, it none the less is incredibly impressive and used by organizations. As of now, it is not possible to publish any new Access Web Apps, and inside of a year (April 2018), existing database applications that have been deployed to SharePoint will be shutdown. We view the decision to discontinue Access Web Apps in Office 365 to be a tremendous mistake. When advocates of Office 365 demo neat features and then receive notice they will be killed with only three months notice, they look like fools, Microsoft looks like it can’t stick to its commitments, and customers are sent scurrying for replacements. It’s a lose/lose/lose. What is perhaps most concerning is there is no obvious underlying technical justification for this move. Access Web Apps are Add-Ins, an extendable part of SharePoint that lives separately from the core code. Keeping the feature available (at least through Access 2016’s support life cycle) would not have been an undo burden. If nothing else, SharePoint Online’s infrastructure made such a thing very practical. While this is purely conjecture, the discontinuation of Access Web Apps feels like a way of pushing developers toward PowerApps, a no-code/low-code platform that is similar but definitely not at feature parity with Access Web Apps. Please note this does not affect SharePoint 2013/2016 on-premise customers. If you are running Access Web Apps on premise, Microsoft has guaranteed they will continue to work, and that the next version of SharePoint on-premise will ship with the necessary services to continue that support. So, turning off the rant now. If your organization had plans to implement Access Web Apps in its SharePoint Online environment, and no longer can, contact us! We have a platform called EfficiencySpring that provides relational database interfaces using the same Add-In approach Access Web Apps used. Supported data sources include SQL Azure and SQL Server. A video of this capability is below: We stand ready to assist organizations that want scalable databases inside their SharePoint Online environments, and perhaps just lost what they had been planning to...

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Year In Review 2016 – EfficiencySpring Integration with SharePoint Online

Posted by on Jan 20, 2017 in From the Cloud, From the Lab, From the Mind, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Year In Review 2016 – EfficiencySpring Integration with SharePoint Online

Hello All! With many of our clients adopting Office 365 and SharePoint Online, we wanted to step up our integration game. To that end, EfficiencySpring, the platform we build all of our custom systems on, can now integrate with SharePoint Online. Below is a video demo! This integration takes the power of EfficiencySpring’s database and process management capabilities, and plugs it into SharePoint, complete with single sign-on, color/theme adoption, and document library saving. If you’re looking to integrate a full-fledged relational database into your Intranets, along with dashboards and other goodies, give us a call! And if you’re looking for help with SharePoint Online adoption in general, we’re happy to...

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A Take on Apple Vs FBI by EfficiencyNext’s President

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in From the Cloud, From the Mind, Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Take on Apple Vs FBI by EfficiencyNext’s President

Note: The opinion in this blog post is that of Paul Katz, President of EfficiencyNext LLC. There has and continues to be a vigorous debate among EfficiencyNext staff, with many going #teamfbi and others #teamapple. The current Apple Vs FBI issue with regard to accessing a terrorist’s iPhone 5c has been a subject of active debate within technology and non-technology circles. The position held by many in technology is that Apple is correct in this specific matter. I, however, feel the FBI should prevail in this one specific case. Detangling Things There has been much talk about back doors and weakening encryption with regard to the court order for Apple to unlock the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, one of two the shooters in San Bernardino terror attack . The iPhone in question is owned by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, which has given complete consent for the FBI to access the phone. The court order is not aimed at weakening the iPhone’s encryption. Instead, the court order requires Apple to build a custom operating system that can be installed on the specific iPhone involved, which will: Nullify the auto-wipe feature Remove delays between PIN code attempts Allow for PIN attempts to be conducted at a rate of 80 milliseconds per attempt Apple, through signed encryption security, is the only party that can load a custom operating system on an iPhone, by their own design. This is why the FBI, through the court system, has compelled Apple to build the custom OS, and brute force determine the PIN to unlock the phone. The request is made under the authority of the All Writs Act to help service a valid search warrant. Hence, this particular case is not about encryption, but rather having Apple create a technique they can run themselves (and only them) which bypasses login security mechanisms. Why I Believe the FBI is Right Apple’s Government Information Requests policy currently states “For all devices running iOS 8 and later versions, Apple will not perform iOS data extractions in response to government search warrants because the files to be extracted are protected by an encryption key that is tied to the user’s passcode, which Apple does not possess.”. Apple failed to consider the possibility that the All Writs Act might be employed to compel them to unlock phones via their authentication mechanisms. In my opinion, (I’m not a lawyer BTW), the All Writs Act applies. Apple seems sufficiently related to to this matter, and building a custom modified OS for a company of their size and financial ability doesn’t seem an undue burden. Under the current Law, I don’t see Apple having much of a case. And concern for precedents must cut both ways. If Apple, one of America’s most powerful corporations, is able to refuse to help service a court approved warrant, how many other companies can follow suit?   The Advice Apple Should And Can Give Each iPhone has the ability to accept passwords and phrases far more complex than a four or six character numeric code; the option is there, just buried a little. A six digit numeric pin has one million possible combinations (000,000 through 999,999). Brute force at about 12 attempts a second would take just under 24 hours. This is what the FBI is banking on. That said, A six character password (alphanumeric + special characters) has over 281 trillion possible combinations (281,474,976,710,656) by my count. Presuming the password isn’t readily guessable, we are looking at 6,515,624,460 hours of bulk attempts to brute force the password. Even sticking with numbers, a user can have a nine character numeric password with a possible one billion...

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Microsoft’s Deeply Flawed SAM Engagement Process

Posted by on Jan 1, 2016 in From the Cloud, From the Mind, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Microsoft’s Deeply Flawed SAM Engagement Process

EfficiencyNext finished its first Microsoft SAM (Software Asset Management) Engagement this last  year, having been contacted by a SAM Engagement specialist contracted by Microsoft. This is a process Microsoft Volume Customers go through so Microsoft can check that customer deployments match the licensing they have purchased. Let us first say, we are an absolute supporter of Microsoft in their desire to insure people are using their software by the rules. Volume Customers receive steep discounts over retail, so some form of review every so often seems a reasonable fair trade. That said, I was deeply disappointed with the unethical nature of the original contact by the SAM Reviewer, and Microsoft’s inability to make the process efficient. This post is a compilation of thoughts I have; I will leave out the names of the individuals I worked with; if anyone at Microsoft would like to DM me on Twitter for details, you can find me at @napkatz. Likewise, I have a sympathetic ear to anyone else who would like to vent/discuss about this process. The way the SAM Reviewer Contacted Our Company and Represented Herself was Deceitful and Unethical I took the initial call from the SAM Reviewer. She said that her company was “Offering a Free Software Asset Management Review” of our software environment, and asked for our IT Manager. The tone was clearly that of a sale. Given that tons of companies cold call us about IT services all the time, I started the usual “just send us something in the mail” line. At that point, the tone changed, and she said she was working with Microsoft and that the review was mandatory. I told her to email me, as I wouldn’t share information about our IT setup with a random caller over the phone. She did email me the formal Microsoft SAM materials, confirming who she said she was. And in the FAQ document she sent over, was this threat: We hope that customers will work proactively with us to ensure they have a compliant licensing position.  However, given the great emphasis Microsoft places on protecting its intellectual property, for those organizations that don’t wish to engage in this process, a more formal communication may be made with respect to our licensing rights and your organization’s obligations under your Microsoft license agreements. In short, the SAM Reviewer wasn’t offering or selling us anything; she was forcing our company into a Microsoft-driven audit, under the implied threat of legal action. There’s plenty of potential motivations to be deceitful upfront I suppose; the SAM Reviewer needs to reach a manager of some sort or perhaps the review can’t happen? So maybe she has to lie her way to get to a manager. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for such unprofessional and unethical behavior. Microsoft should be ashamed of this practice, even if it is their contractors and not them lying and misrepresenting themselves. In short, it is OK to be angry for how this initial contact works. I was, and to an extent, still am. Especially because at our company, we take great pains to make sure we license our software properly, paying Microsoft thousands of dollars a year. The SAM Engagement process ignores the cheaters who don’t have a Volume Agreements, and instead targets paying customers. The SAM Reviewer Only Gives You Three Weeks and You Never See the Review Coming I think this again cuts to how Microsoft doesn’t trust its customers. There’s no reason why these reviews can’t be presented clearly as a scheduled necessity that comes with the privileges of volume purchases at the inception of a Volume...

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Good things from Microsoft in 2015

Posted by on Jan 1, 2016 in From the Cloud, From the Mind, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Good things from Microsoft in 2015

As a software development and services business that implements Microsoft technology, there are always ups and downs. This blog often has covered issues we’ve had while using Microsoft technology, however, it being the New Year, I thought it would be good to highlight some of Microsoft’s more generous actions we saw in 2015 1. Free Windows 10 Upgrades There is a definitely a pragmatic element here; Microsoft wants as many people on Windows 10 in order to drive developers to the platform. Still, Windows 10 is a pretty great operating system to get as a free upgrade from Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. And getting free assistance from a Microsoft Store, if one is close by, is a nice touch. I have family who ran away from Windows 8, but feel very comfortable on Windows 10. I’ve installed Windows 10 on plenty of devices and overall, it has performed well, especially with the November update. 2. Free Visual Studio Community 2015 Microsoft first made Visual Studio Community 2013 available in late 2014, and continued this offering in 2015 with the release of Visual Studio Community 2015. This product is on feature parity with Visual Studio Professional, which is a paid version of the product. There are licensing limitations that restrict how Visual Studio Community can be used in a business setting, however, if you are a free-lancer, student, or hobbyist, you have access to an incredible development tool at no cost. Even on the business side of things, if you are in a small company or your company works on open source projects, there is a high likelihood you can use this tool on some level. The reason for Visual Studio Community is likely pragmatic; Microsoft wants developers to learn and develop on their platforms. Still though, it’s an awesome giveaway. 3. Free Visual Studio Express 2015 I was really concerned that Visual Studio Express might go away in favor of Visual Studio Community. Fortunately, the free (for any use) Visual Studio Express 2015 line of products was also released by Microsoft. It’s a good thing for anyone with an inexpensive BayTrail Windows PC that only has 32 GB of storage; a lot of these $200 or so machines are still sold today, and Express for Web is small enough that it can actually fit on one. I had such a setup on my Dell Venue 8 Pro until its hardware went bad on me. 4.”Free” SAM Engagements (sarcasm) OK, a little snark here. Microsoft pays consultants to call up its customers and help then validate whether they are in compliance with licensing. If not, it’s time to pay up. We’ll talk about this a bit in later blog posts, but overall, its not fun to go through. At least Microsoft pays for the process on their end. 5. More Accessible OneDrive Yes, the story of the year is how Microsoft fumbled its OneDrive marketing, first promising an unlimited storage upgrade, and then reneging on that promise. As well as by reducing the amount of free storage offered. Perhaps what is missing is now that OneDrive is included by default with Windows 10 (an Operating System that is generally well received by millions), a lot more free OneDrive storage will likely be consumed by all. It’s clearly a play to get everyone in their ecosystem, but still, Microsoft is giving away a lot of free storage all around.   Concluding Thoughts? Have I missed anything important here? Feel free to let me know at my Twitter handle @napkatz. Overall, I think 2015 has been a good year for Microsoft and its partners and customers, and I look forward to seeing what...

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