Author: Adam Fowler

How to Backup Office 365 Mailboxes with Altaro

Backing up mailboxes in Exchange Online as a part of the Office 365 or Microsoft 365 suite is always a debated topic – some will argue that Microsoft have enough redundancy and backups in their own environments so you don’t need a third party solution and you’ll always be able to get your data back. However, this hasn’t been proven yet (thankfully) in a real world event where mailbox data has been lost by Microsoft. It also doesn’t cover scenarios where there’s outages, account problems or other connectivity problems that can delay your access to your cloud based data. Is it a risk each company will need to decide if it’s worth an investment into reducing.

Altaro asked me to have a look at their product – Altaro Office 365 Backup – to provide a quick run-through on setting it up and seeing what it does. Their solution is fully cloud based, so you don’t need any extra hardware to get going. You can set up a 30 day free trial here. Once signed up, here’s what to do:

After logging in from the link you’ll be emailed, you’ll be presented with this screen:

The wizard here will take you through the setup required, starting with a Company Name and your domain configured in Office 365 (which you can get from https://admin.microsoft.com/Adminportal/Home#/Domains) – I had to use my primary:

Next, you’ll need to grant access for Altaro to be able to access data in your tenant, which makes sense since you want them to back it up:

Following the links you’ll get the standard window advising you what permissions you’re granting and to whom:

If it worked, a successful message will show and you can go back to the setup wizard:

After doing this three times, you can go to the next step where you can choose which users to back up – which as it says, will be this data: “Office 365 User Backups consist of Emails, Calendars & Contacts within Mailboxes and Files stored within OneDrive accounts.”, then “SharePoint Backups consist of Files stored within SharePoint Document Libraries.”

If it all goes well, you’ll then get to the final screen showing a successful setup:

That’s it – backup has been set up. Of course your data won’t be in there instantly, the first backup happens over 24 hours, and then up to 4 times a day ongoing. You can choose if new users are automatically added to backup plans or not, which should turn this into a set and forget backup system.

Set and forget only works if you’re alerted around issues, which is possible in the Alert Settings – you can choose what sort of alerts you receive, such as if a backup job failed:

Restoring is also an easy process – for example if you want to restore an entire mailbox, the Mailbox Restore wizard will take you through the steps and ask where you want to restore – onto that user’s mailbox, another user’s mailbox, an Outlook PST file, or a ZIP file containing each mail item as an individual file:

You can also use the Granular Restore option, to search and restore particular items rather than entire mailboxes and accounts. The granular restore has the same options as the full restore for destinations, so there’s a lot of flexibility based on what you’re after:

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the ‘Advanced Search’ option lets you define what you’re looking for:

Pricing for Office 365 Backup by Altaro is available at https://www.altaro.com/office-365-backup/#faqs and is a per user, per type (either mailbox or mailbox + OneDrive + SharePoint) model. This also includes 24/7 support and unlimited storage for backups.

After setting this up and trying out all the options, I’m confident in saying this is as good as you could hope for, from a turn-key solution. Setup is literally a few minutes, there’s no software to install anywhere and no infrastructure requirements. The data Altaro backs up is held forever (yes, infinite retention!) assuming you still have a valid subscription. The data is stored in Microsoft Azure, but only in West Europe at the time of writing – so if you have data sovereignty requirements, you’ll need to assess this.

Download your free 30-day trial of Altaro Office 365 Backup

Organization Branding for Safe Link Warnings

Two new little features have turned up for Safe Links as part of the Microsoft 365 Security & Compliance suite.

  • Display the organization branding on notification and warning pages

The first option is to show your organization’s branding on warning pages. This should help users identify that it’s a legitimate warning they’re seeing, as default Microsoft warning pages are often used by malicious actors to look legitimate themselves.

  • Use custom notification text

This lets you put a message that sounds like it’s actually from your own company when a webpage gets blocked. This means you can put in contact details or a process you want users to follow when they hit a site – which could be sending an email or calling helpdesk.

Here’s how the custom text and logo looks on a blocked page:

The custom branding will appear above this warning as a banner and a small logo for your company.

If you haven’t set up branding already, have a read on Microsoft Docs on how to do it for Azure AD and Microsoft 365 (do both!).

Is Bing Good Enough To Replace Google in Australia

Interesting times in Australia, with a standoff between Google and the Australian Government about news revenue. Google has given mixed messages around if they’d completely pull their search engine out of the Australian market – we’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

The idea that Microsoft can fill the void with Bing has very mixed responses out there, and without any real evidence I’d say there’s much more of a negative view of Bing than positive. Ausdroid have a good summary of what’s being said so far:

The last part of the article says

Personally, I am not sure Microsoft’s Bing search could fill the void. There is potential for it, but given how much Google and its services have been so entrenched into our society for decades, I think it will take time for Microsoft’s Bing to become the go-to search function Google is now, if it ever can.

https://ausdroid.net/2021/01/31/microsoft-to-scomo-we-can-fill-the-google-void-with-bing/

I agree that this is a fair take on the state of Bing. I’ve personally tried to use it a few times and had less than ideal results vs Google, but it’s been a while since I last tried. Let’s try again on some searches off the top of my head, and see what the results are (and honestly I don’t know what I’m searching for yet, none of this has been pre-planned trying to get to a particular outcome).

To be fair, I’ll use Microsoft Edge browser in InPrivate mode for Google searches, and Google Chrome in Incognito mode for Bing searches:

Search 1: ‘Adam Fowler’

Some different results on the main page, but scrolling down both have this website (yay). Google has more results on the first page that are actually me, but Google claims 53 million results, while Bing claims 4 million. That’s a huge difference – does it matter? I’m not sure…

Search 2: ‘windows search exited without properly closing your outlook data file’

I grabbed the last error I could find from a Windows PC and searched for it. Both engines came back with answers.microsoft.com then social.technet.microsoft.com as the first two hits, then the results are a bit mixed with both having reasonable results. I was expecting better results from Google based on my historical experience, so I’ll try another techie search next.

Search 3: ‘how to move user to skype for business online’

This is something I actually needed to do. The first result is the same again

Search3b: ‘move-csuser cannot find user in active directory with the following sip uri’

After following the instructions, I hit an error, so searched that on both options. The first result was different, both were correct, but the Bing result was a much clearer and better written article. Again, this wasn’t the outcome I had expected.

Search 4: ‘the good guys gepps cross

I remembered I needed a receipt for a Fridge I’d just bought – I’d normally search the store name and location in Google. The Google results nailed it, with the business info on the right hand side. Bing thought I was asking about the suburb and showed me where it was, but the first results are still useful – just not as useful as Google’s. This is the biggest area I’d like to see Bing do better in.

Search 4a: ‘mod pizzeria’

A local pizza shop that I like. Without defining anything but the name, Google again gives me all the details I want about the business. This time though, Bing did a better job. Below the irrelevant (for me based on my location) information on Mod Pizza (which is different to what I typed), the correct details were below about the business.

Search 5: ‘Google Chrome Download’

Let’s see if Google and Bing like each other. Both results fine, although the Bing ad I prefer with the actual ‘download’ button. Bing gave some encouragement to get Edge though which is a bit intrusive, but at least it’s clear it’s ‘Promoted by Microsoft’.

Search 5b: ‘Microsoft Edge Download’

Both engines giving the right link first up again which is good to see.

Search 6 – image search ‘Capybara’

This looks on par for both engines, both have the ability to filter by time/license/size etc.

Search 7 – Shopping ‘fridge’ and filtering to ‘Westinghouse

OK, here’s an area that Bing fails. All the results are from eBay AU and that’s it. Google however, shows a bunch of well known retailers in Australia. Google wins the Shopping section by a long way, and it doesn’t look like they’ve really focused on the Australian shopping market yet.

Search 8 – Videos: Lano and Woodley

An Australian comedy duo – how do the results look for a video search on them? Bing seems happy to give YouTube and Facebook results, while Google seems to prefer a few Australian websites with their clips on as well as YouTube. At a guess, Bing isn’t scraping Australian sites so well for video clips – but if you’re searching for Videos on a search engine, you’re probably wanting YouTube anyway. I think both engine results are fine here.

Overall, the results were a lot better than I expected. I’ll also still agree it’s not on par with Google yet, but with a focused effort it seems like an achievable goal.

Of course, I’ve only done a few tests, but personally I’m going to change my search engine to Bing and see if any frustrations come up – if they do, I’ll add it to this post.

Let’s see what happens!

Update 4th February 2021

Microsoft released a public statement which included this dot point:

We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors and we remind people that they can help, with every search Bing gets better at finding what you are looking for.

https://news.microsoft.com/en-au/2021/02/03/microsoft-supports-australian-government-proposal-addressing-news-media-and-digital-platforms/

Which to me sounds like they admit they might not be as good as Google in this space yet, but will put more effort into doing so. Let’s hope that happens.

Avoid Legal Woes and Improve Reach Through Web Accessibility

A WebAIM survey of web accessibility reveals that nearly 8 out of 10 web accessibility practitioners believe that websites and apps are not made compliant because of the lack of awareness or the skills and knowledge in implementing web accessibility. Many organizations simply do not prioritize it. However, the same study shows that organizations acknowledge the impact of web accessibility, with at least 80 percent of respondents saying that it has a significant impact on their businesses.

Web accessibility has become a necessity in establishing an online presence. The reasons for this need can be summed up as follows: the need to avoid legal entanglements and the ability to reach or serve a wider audience or potential customers.

Is it difficult to attain web accessibility?

Before discussing the benefits of web accessibility, here’s a point that is worth emphasizing: making a site accessible is not really that difficult. In the past, doing it for an already existing website would have entailed a major overhaul or significant changes in a site’s code. Online store or website owners would have to change the entire layout or colors of their sites to cater to people with visual difficulties. It would also be necessary for them to revisit their site’s code to insert captions, text alternatives, multimedia content alternatives, or make their pages compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers.

However, thanks to technological advances like AI and OCR, things have become considerably easier. Web accessibility solutions like accessiBe are now available to make virtually all kinds of websites accessible without having to commission another web development project to implement the necessary changes.

To demonstrate this ease, here’s a look at how accessiBe works.

The first step is to examine if a website is already compliant with web accessibility guidelines or if it needs some work. To do this, accessiBe provides a quick tool called Ace (ADA testing platform). All you need to do is to enter the URL of your site and click on the Get Results button. 

Ace will indicate if a site being examined is compliant or not. If it is non-compliant, it offers pointers on how the accessibility issues can be fixed. Site owners can work on the changes or improvements they need through these pointers. However, there is a more convenient solution: using accessiBe’s AI-powered solution.

To quickly turn a non-compliant site into one that is fully web-accessible, the process is as follows:

  1. Obtain a script from accessiBe
  2. Copy the script into your website’s code

To get the script from accessiBe, you need to sign up for an accessiBe account. Once you have an account, head </>Installation tab to find and copy the accessiBe script.

Paste the accessiBe script (as shown below) right before the end of the code of your site’s body. accessiBe readily provides specific instructions for installing the script to sites created using different website builders or platforms.

In summary, you just have to (1) test if your site is web-accessible or not, (2) sign up for an accessiBe account, (3) copy the accessiBe script, and (4) and install the script into your site’s code. No overhaul is needed. There are no apps to install and update.

Once accessiBe is installed on a site, it provides a persistent button on all pages, which can be any of the buttons shown below depending on the customizations made. 

The web accessibility button allows any user of a site to change the way a page looks and behaves to make it suitable for their individual needs. It allows the user to change color combinations, adjust text sizes or font spacing, modify the alignment of texts and page elements, mute sounds, stop animations, hide images, or put up a virtual keyboard.

There are many other options available to allow those who have hearing, vision, or motor difficulties to interact with a website more conveniently. accessiBe also makes web pages compatible with screen readers and other assistive technology solutions.

Additionally, accessiBe provides preset profiles to let site users with specific needs proceed with using a site with just a few clicks. Someone who has epilepsy triggered by flashes or strong color contrasts, for example, can choose the Seizure Safe Profile to instantly turn off animations and reduce colors on a site. Those who have reading and focus issues can turn on the Cognitive Disability Profile to display various assistive features to facilitate focus.

There are other similarly convenient solutions similar to accessiBe like Textise and Instant Web Compliance. Using them may involve a few more steps or requirements, but they work in essentially the same way described above. They can make any site web accessible through a simple script, which creates a new graphical user interface (GUI) on top of a page to enable changes without having to do significant tampering with a site’s code.

Website owners can always choose to do it the traditional way. They can hire web developers with web accessibility expertise to examine their pages individually and introduce compulsory changes. It will be a costly and time-consuming process, though. 

Mitigating legal liabilities

Logically, companies are expected to regard web accessibility as a must amid the flurry of lawsuits targeting establishments that do not have web-accessible sites. Netflix, Nike, Domino’s, and several other companies have become defendants in lawsuits that invoke laws such as Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, it appears not many companies put up websites that are web-accessible from the start.

Aside from US laws that make web accessibility compulsory, similar legal requirements are imposed in other countries. The European Union, for example, has the European Accessibility Act that includes a section for web accessibility standards called EN 301549. Companies that refuse to make their sites web accessibility because they are not serving customers in the United States would have to rethink their positions.

While some dismiss web accessibility lawsuits as frivolous, the fact remains that they threaten to disrupt business operations or lead to unnecessary expenses. Even respected academic institutions such as Harvard and MIT have become targets of web accessibility lawsuits. These institutions had to resort to settlements that cost more than a million dollars. If they had to drag the case in court further, the expenses would have ballooned. One estimate puts the cost of addressing one web accessibility lawsuit at around ten grand.

Recently, bipartisan legislation was floated in the United States House of Representatives to resolve the allegedly abusive and predatory web accessibility litigation. This may sound promising, but the threat of disruption, encumbrances, and costly legal expenses remain. As such, it is better to make a site web accessible rather than dealing with the costs and inconveniences whenever a case is filed.

Improving reach and customer service

Aside from evading legal woes, another advantage of making sites web accessible is the possibility of gaining more customers or audiences. The World Bank estimates that there are over a billion people with disabilities worldwide. This translates to around 15% of the global population, who are more likely to use the internet, consume web content, or engage in online shopping if they are given the means to use web pages.

A study by Nucleus Research found that as much as $6.9 billion in potential sales are lost by e-commerce sites because of their lack of web accessibility. More than 70 percent of websites reportedly lose potential sales because they do not provide accessibility features. Customers hop to alternatives because their special needs are not being served.

Moreover, web accessibility also brings with it the advantage of improved usability. Websites that are built with accessibility in mind tend to be better designed and coded. As such, they appeal to users who prefer more intuitive designs and interfaces. At the same time, they tend to be favored by search engines. As a Nielsen Norman Group article on SEO and usability puts it, search result rankings are becoming tied to usability because of search engines increasingly snooping on user behaviors.

The takeaway

Given the availability of quick web accessibility solutions, there is no excuse for companies to avoid or delay making their online stores or sites web-accessible. The benefits are difficult to forego, and the threat of litigation is even more compelling. Quick web accessibility solutions are not free, but the cost does not compare to the cost of a traditional solution and the expenses and lost revenues attributable to inaccessibility.

Image: Unsplash

Screen Sharing to a TV

Screen Sharing on Windows 10

Screen sharing is easy to do on Windows, as long as you have a cable.

  1. Click on the Notification icon in the bottom right of the Start bar, next to the time.
  2. In the notification section that pops out, click the ‘Project’ button. If you don’t see it, try clicking the word ‘Expand’ first to show more icons.
  3. From the Project options, either choose ‘Duplicate’ to show the same on the external screen as your PC screen, or Extend to treat the external screen as a second monitor.

Applies To: Windows 10


If you’re using a cable (generally HDMI), screen sharing to a TV is easy – it’s really treating the TV as another monitor. However, if you’re trying to do it wirelessly, there’s a lot more factors going on.

There is no single standard for having a wireless display. This is why extra hardware or software is required to wirelessly transmit your video to a TV. One of the most well known ways is via Chromecast, as a lot of TVs have this built in. From the PC side, you’ll need to have the Google Chrome browser installed and follow these instructions.

Alternatively, if you have an Xbox One or newer, you can use the Wireless Display app to broadcast from your Windows PC or Android device, to the Xbox itself, which if plugged into your TV will use that as the video output.

If you’re interested in more details around Cast, Project or DNLA options, there’s a great post here from Microsoft Answers.