Office 365

Microsoft Forms now has a shorten URL option

Such a basic thing, but great to see. As per this Forms Uservoice suggestion, Microsoft Forms now has a ‘shorten URL’ option. It’s still rolling out right now (March 2021) but it turned up in my tenants. You’ll find it under the Share menu, and then under ‘Send and collect responses’ :

The tick box is called ‘Shorten URL’:

Before ticking this box, the Forms URL for sharing looks like this:

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=gp6jfCyryEOFjHcqjfOQaicaufj5P4hCmrpZg_pruFhUNUFYSUlQMFEwRjVRNkZPUDBLOFYwUUtRVy4u

After ticking the box, it takes about a second or so to update, then looks like this:

The resulting link is of course, shorter. It also looks a lot nicer:

https://forms.office.com/r/Qca3qTjcMu

It’s nice to see a much more usable URL come out of Microsoft Forms, and still on the forms.office.com domain without having to resort to a third party URL shortener service.

Impersonation Protection delivers emails to Junk Folder

Impersonation Protection in Microsoft Defender for Office 365 is part of the Anti-phishing policies, designed to take action if an external email comes in with a match, or near match, to the display name of an employee.

The actions you can take when a match is made are:

  • Redirect message to other email addresses
  • Move message to the recipient’s Junk Email folders
  • Quarantine the message
  • Deliver the message and add other addresses to the Bcc line
  • Delete the message before it’s delivered
  • Don’t apply any action

What I wanted to do, was deliver the message and add other addresses to the bcc line. This could be used to send a copy of the email to helpdesk for investigation, as Impersonation Protection tends to get a lot of false positives from services that like to use people’s actual names from emails they generate, or from people using a personal account to email other employees.

What I found was that the action was applied, but the email was then delivered to the Junk Email folder. If I wanted that to happen, I would have selected the ‘Move message to the recipient’s junk email folders’ option. After logging a case with Microsoft, I found out why.

Any time an email is detected as an Impersonation Protection, and the mail is still allowed to flow through, it will set the header as SCL 5. As per Office 365 standards, this will deliver the email to the recipient’s junk mail folder.

It makes the choices on what actions to take in the Impersonation Protection settings rather misleading; but there is one option that’s still reasonable – Quarantine the message. This should trigger a fairly quick quarantine digest to the recipient for review, allowing them to review and decide if it should be released. If released, it will then deliver to the Inbox rather than Junk Mail.

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

What is Microsoft Editor?

Microsoft Editor is a new tool from Microsoft, which I’d never heard of before.

Funnily enough, I found out that Microsoft Editor existed after upgrading to Windows 10 2004. One of the fifteen tips when you ‘See what else is new in this update’ after upgrading is this tip below. I couldn’t really understand what application the tip was referring to – the home tab, in Word, in browser mode via Edge?

Although I then found other tips that seemed purely Office 365 related (like PowerPoint and Excel tips) which is strange to advertise as part of a Windows 10 upgrade, the button on this tip takes you to a page that does a much better job of explaining what it is:

Microsoft Editor checks grammar and more in documents, mail, and the web

Here it explains that Microsoft Editor (which the full name wasn’t mentioned in the tip!) is an optional add-in available for Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. It’s also coming to Word and Outlook. Also, if you log into it with an account that has a Microsoft 365 subscription, you’ll get advanced grammar and style refinements.

There’s a bit more info about the Microsoft Editor browser extension here, with direct links for the Chrome and Edge add-ons.

Once installed, you’ll have this little icon in the top bar of the relevant browser:

Clicking it will ask you to sign in:

and you can sign in with a free consumer Microsoft account, or a Work account. After signing in, the icon will turn blue, and you can click it again to see your options.

Note that it uses English (United States) as the default language, which you can change by clicking on the current language which takes you to the options:

‘Show synonyms for spelling suggestions’ is also off by default, so I’ve turned that on.

Here’s a spelling correction and a grammar correction while writing this blog post:

Spelling correction
Grammar correction

I’ll have to use it more to see how good it is, but I am happy to see hopefully a useful tool to help everyone write better. If it’s being added into Word and Outlook, there’ll be extremely elevated expectations of this solution doing its job well!

Synology DiskStation Microsoft 365 Backup Review

Synology sent me a new DiskStation to review after I’d acquired an older one myself to look at it’s ability to back up Microsoft 365 data (the updated name for Office 365). Being a Microsoft MVP in Office Apps and Services category, so I was very interested to see how it worked.

After reading up on and seeing that it was a completely free piece of software available as part of owning a DiskStation, I was hoping this would be a good solution at an incredibly low price – buy your DiskStation and disks, some time to set it up, and you’re done. To me, that’s already a very appealing offering, along with Synology having a good reputation for maintaining and supporting their hardware several years on – which was proved by the 7 year old DS1813+ I set up a few months ago.

I’ve left the new Intel-based DiskStation 1618+ – Quad Core CPU and 4GB RAM (expandable) running for about a month now, backing up my Microsoft 365 tenant’s data. I ticked ALL the options to see how it went. This tenant is just for me, so the data set is smaller than most tenants – but I do run a few live things through it like email and OneDrive. There’s also a little SharePoint Online data from Micrsoft 365 Groups and Teams I’ve played around with.

Here’s what the dashboard looks like now:

Some useful information there around what’s being backed up and how big it is. You might notice there’s a few errors on the summary. I drilled into those and each was because ‘The Microsoft Server is busy’, and a few minutes later it would try again successfully.

This is likely because I used a backup option to get incremental changes, rather than at a set time. Maybe I’m hitting it too much and getting blocked occasionally.


I know I’ve gotten ahead of myself here, so let’s go back to how to set this up. Assuming you have yourself a Synology DiskStation of some sort that supports ‘Active Backup for Office 365‘ – and which models are those? Here’s the list:

  • 20 series:FS6400, FS3600, FS3400, RS820RP+, RS820+, DS920+, DS720+, DS620slim, DS420+, SA3600, SA3400, SA3200D
  • 19 series:RS1619xs+, RS1219+, DS2419+, DS1819+, DS1019+, DVA3219
  • 18 series:FS1018, RS3618xs, RS2818RP+, RS2418RP+, RS2418+, RS818RP+, RS818+, DS3018xs, DS1618+, DS918+, DS718+, DS418play, DS218+
  • 17 series:FS3017, FS2017, RS18017xs+, RS4017xs+, RS3617xs+, RS3617RPxs, RS3617xs, DS3617xs, DS1817+, DS1517+
  • 16 series:RS18016xs+, RS2416RP+, RS2416+, DS916+, DS716+, DS716+II, DS416play, DS216+, DS216+II
  • 15 series:RS815RP+, RS815+, RC18015xs+, DS3615xs, DS2415+, DS1815+, DS1515+, DS415+
  • 14 series:RS3614xs+, RS3614RPxs, RS3614xs, RS2414RP+, RS2414+, RS814RP+, RS814+
  • 13 series:RS10613xs+, RS3413xs+, DS2413+, DS1813+, DS1513+, DS713+
  • 12 series:RS3412RPxs, RS3412xs, RS2212RP+, RS2212+, RS812RP+, RS812+, DS3612xs, DS1812+, DS1512+, DS712+, DS412+
  • 11 series:RS3411RPxs, RS3411xs, RS2211RP+, RS2211+, DS3611xs, DS2411+, DS1511+, DS411+, DS411+II

From the DiskStation desktop, open Package Center and follow these steps:

This was a very easy setup to do – I took screenshots of every step involved, but it barely needs an explanation for anyone who’s an admin of a Microsoft 365 Tenant.

The program will then go off and start backing up what you told it. The ‘Activities’ section of Active Backup for Office 365 will show any backups running, and you can also use the inbuilt ‘Resource Monitor’ to see upload/download speeds, disk utilization etc.

It’s also worth noting that the backup you created has an ‘account discovery’ option where it’ll find any new accounts created and automatically add them to the backup, which is great for not having to change backup settings each time you have a new user start.


Running a backup is great, but how do you restore the data? There’s a second app you’ll need, ‘Active Backup for Office 365 Portal’. Launching this will take you to a web interface where admins can browse all data, and users can browse just their own (user access can be disabled if you prefer).

On this web interface, you can then find the file(s) you want to restore, and restore them. You also get a nice timeline down the bottom so you can move backwards and forwards to see a snapshot of a certain time.

Although Mail, Calendar, Contact, and Site (SharePoint) support searching across all backups for names and contents, at the time of writing this isn’t possible for OneDrive backups. It’s worth being aware of this – if someone requests a file restore you’ll need to know exactly when from. I don’t see this as too much of an issue though, as OneDrive has great version control natively, and an automatic recycle bin – so you’d probably rely on the native solution for finding a file, but still it’s worth knowing this existing limitation.

That was the only slight negative I could find while testing. Everything else just worked, was quick to browse and restore, and incremental backups appeared to be on the DiskStation within several seconds after creating a new file in OneDrive.

Again, this is an incredibly cheap Office 365 backup solution. Some may question if you need to back up Office 365 at all. You could set up infinite retention against all content, so why take a backup? To me it’s a definite grey area, and partly depends how much you value the data. Microsoft may never lose your data, but will it be available 100% of the time? What if that important document is in your OneDrive and hadn’t synced down, and there was an outage? We’ve seen a few outages lately, including ones that have broken authentication – your data is still there, but you can’t get to it. In that scenario, having a local copy of something time sensitive could be worth it. Considering the relative low cost of buying a Synolgoy DiskStation – your disks are probably going to cost more than the unit itself, I consider it a pretty easy sell.