PTG specializes in the delivery of IT services with a focus on business continuity, virtualization, and storage solutions to support your line-of-business and communication applications. Our implementation services are centered around IT and business best practices, gleaned from years of working in the industry and from well-established vendor partnerships.

How to turn off OWA sound notifications in Office 365

I have sounds turned off for my Outlook desktop client because I don’t like the interruption for my train of thought.  Recently, I was working in the web version and couldn’t figure out where to turn the sounds for new mail off in Outlook Web App.  I looked in options for OWA – but it wasn’t there.

After a little more tinkering – it’s actually in Office 365 Settings.


From here – go to notifications to set your notifications for mail and calendar reminders.

I have mine set to show the notification – but not to play the sound.  Finally some peace and quiet!



Migrating Your Servers at the End of Service

End of Service

With the speed of advancement in technology, keeping up with the latest and greatest machines isn’t always feasible or practical for many companies – especially if what you’re using now is working for you. But if what you’re using now reaches end of service, there can be major headaches for you and your business.

On July 14, 2015,  Microsoft Windows Server 2003/R2s will reach End of Service. To be clear, this means Microsoft will end all support for the servers. This has several implications for your business: whatisEOSgraphic


If your business is still running on Windows Server 2003, you’ll need to migrate your to newer servers or to the cloud before July 14. If you are unfamiliar with what to do, this can sound like a scary process. But with a plan in place (and the right IT partner), migrating your data is a painless process. The basic structure of your server migration plan will look like this:


Make an inventory list of all of  your software and workloads running on Windows Server 2003/R2 that will need to be moved to new servers. This step is essential to ensure no servers slip through the cracks. It’s easy to forget about an old print server that only gets used by a couple of people - but it can still leave you vulnerable.



Categorize and analyze the applications and workloads you cataloged based on factors that will help you make informed choices about priorities and urgency. There are several different ways you can categorize your applications and workloads: by type, how critical they are, complexity and risk.



Identify the right migration destination (Microsoft Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure or Office 365) for each application and workload. Different workloads and applications logically lead to certain targets. Your choice will likely be driven by factors such as speed, ease of migration, cost, and desired functionality.



Make the move to your new server(s).


If you are still running any Windows Server 2003/R2 machines, even if it’s working for you right now, we urge you to start making a plan to migrate as soon as possible – before your company’s security or compliance is at risk.


Easing the cost

Microsoft has made some funding available to companies still running Windows Server 2003 to ease the cost of assessment for upgrading to new equipment. We can help you make sure your business meets the qualifications so you can claim your funding and get your migration started.

Fill out my online form.

How to view permission in SharePoint Online

I was working with a customer last week who wanted an easy way to see all users (internal and external) who had access to their SharePoint site.  There are several ways to do this – but the easiest way to see all users is by following the process below.  This does not show which security groups the users belong to, it just shows what users have access to the site.

At the Site Collection level go to Settings->Site Settings:


Then go to People and Groups


You will get dropped out to the Group Membership page – change the number on the end to 0. (In the example below, it’s defaulting to 8.)


Once you change this to zero – you can easily see the names of every user who has access to this site collection.


Productivity on the Go: Microsoft on Mobile

A year ago, you never would’ve seen Microsoft develop software for any platform other than PC or Windows Phone. Microsoft was ‘all in’ on Windows. Other than the Surface, their mobile offerings have gone largely unnoticed by customers, who prefer the Android or Apple ecosystems for mobile.

Microsoft hasn’t given up on Windows as a mobile platform and Windows 10 will see their vision come to fruition. In the meantime, they’re spending at least some development efforts on going where the people already are: iOS and Android.

13 new Microsoft apps just for iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Steve Ballmer once famously quipped that the iPhone was ‘just a toy.’ You could get no ‘real work’ done on a mobile unless you were a very small organization who had all of their apps in the cloud, had zero complexity in your workflow, or were willing to accept a substandard experience.

This is rapidly changing. In just the past 6 months, Microsoft has released or updated these apps just for iOS:

  • Excel
  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook
  • OneDrive and OneDrive for Business
  • OneNote
  • Sway
  • Lync
  • Office 365 Message Encryption Viewer
  • Intune Company Portal
  • Power BI
  • My Microsoft Apps (a single sign on portal)

Just a few days ago, Microsoft announced AT&T Mobile Office Suite, a cloud-based bundle of apps (including some of the above) and services available on Windows, iOS and Android devices aimed at making it easier for employees to get work done from their phone.

Outlook for iOS and Android

One of the newest releases from Microsoft is the Outlook app for Android and iOS devices. This app is similar to the existing OWA app and will eventually completely replace it.

The new app is built specifically for mobile devices making for a much better user experience. With the new app comes new and updated features. Here are some of our favorites:

Customize swipe gestures

In the new Outlook app, you can customize swipe gestures in your inbox, allowing you to quickly and easily take advantage of the actions you use most. Some options include:

  • delete messages
  • flag the message for follow up
  • mark a message as read or unread
  • mark an email as archived
  • respond to an email with a meeting invite

Schedule Emails

Another feature is the ability to ‘schedule’ an email. This serves a similar purpose as flagging an email for follow up, but works a little differently. When you schedule an email, it’s temporarily removed from your inbox and reappears at the time that you designate. It stays in a separate “Scheduled” folder if you need to access in the meantime.

We’ve found this useful for a few reasons:

  • Getting the email at the time you’ve scheduled is a reminded to take action on it at a more convenient time for your schedule. Yes, you can set reminders on emails you flag for follow up from your desktop, but scheduling is the much easier option on mobile.
  • It prevents distraction. By scheduling the message, it’s removed from your inbox, so you can focus on your current task. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • It’s really, really easy to do. Scheduling an email is one of the default swipe gestures in your inbox. All you have to do is swipe right on the message and pick a time (in a few hours, this evening, tomorrow morning or a specific time of your choosing).

Schedule Meetings

We’re also loving the vast improvements made to scheduling meetings. Unlike the email applications native to most phones, the Outlook app allows you to send your calendar availability to a recipient. Through the Outlook app you have the ability to view the meeting invite, reschedule, or check the attendance status of a meeting.

Remote Wipe

One of the best features of the new Outlook app for the IT minded crowd is the ability to remotely wipe it. The difference from other apps is that it’s a selective remote wipe. It only deletes the Outlook app’s information leaving the rest of the user’s device intact.

If you haven’t made the jump to the new Outlook app, we recommend it. Although the OWA app doesn’t have an exact EOL date, the Outlook app will be replacing it in the next few years. Microsoft doesn’t plan to schedule anymore updates to the OWA app but will be releasing updates to the Outlook app every few weeks.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can use these apps in your business – please reach out. Remember – if you are an Office 365 Customer – you most likely have SharePoint available for free!

What Happens to My Data if My Office 365 Subscription Lapses?

A 2014 article from the Wall Street Journal states, on average, there are 394 cloud apps running inside companies!  With all those apps in use, it can be heard to keep up with various subscriptions, renewals, and costs.  (We aren’t even going to go into the security risks associated with this many apps!)

So a frequent question we get from customers is: “What happens to my data in Office 365 if my subscription accidentally lapses?”.  This is a great question, and Microsoft has a very liberal policy on non-payment.

You can find the full language at this link, but in a nutshell:

What happens if a customers does not renew?

If a customer does not renew, they have a 30 day grace period when they can continue using the service. After that point, they have another 90 days when data is held, but functionality is severely reduced. The customer can reactivate the subscription at any time during this period and the billing will be retroactive from the expiration date. After the 120 days, the data is deleted from Microsoft servers.

(Emphasis added was our own!)

So Microsoft will keep your data up to 120 days from the time your subscription lapses (but we recommend you get on auto pay to avoid the risk!). 

This document is specific to Open Licenses for Office 365 but the policy also applies to subscriptions purchased through the Microsoft Subscription Advisor program.

Hat Tip to Todd Sweetser – the best Partner Technical Strategist at Microsoft

How Secure Is Your Password?

Today’s Post is from Zack Moody, Security Engineer                           

In last month’s customer newsletter, I gave out a few basic nuggets that I noticed walking through an airport, but this entire series in a nutshell is ‘Cyber Safety.’ In this post I thought I would dive a little deeper into one of the topics of discussion from last month’s article, ‘Choosing the right password’.

Protecting your identity

I think we all talk a pretty good game about thinking before we speak or not reacting so fast, but do we really think before we click? The world has become a super busy place, and with information at everyone’s fingertips, it’s only getting worse. However, we need to make ourselves take the time to make safe decisions online. Are we sure about where that link or URL is going to take us? Does that attachment in the email from your cousin’s neighbor look fishy? What about those forms you fill out for some new trial of anti-aging medicine? How about using ‘iloveyou’ as your banking password, instead of taking the time to type out something a little more complex? Is that time saved really worth the possibility of having your accounts drained or identity stolen?

Password Testing & Manager Tools

One of the easiest forms of protection, yet widely overlooked, is your common password. Yes, I said it! Some people cringe at the sound of passwords…just another something that I have to remember and keep up with! A strong solid password is your front line of security against compromised data. Here a few places to test the strength of your password…give it your best shot:

How many accounts do you have that require a password? I am sure that list gets longer and longer every week. How many of you use the same password and/or username for each of those sites? Not good…if that attacker can get into one account, more than likely they can get into the other with a little bit of research. How about using common names for passwords? In a 2013 study by Google Apps, your current pet’s name hit the number one spot! How frequently does your pet pop-up on Facebook or Instagram? Some others that made that list were place of child’s birth, child’s name, and favorite holiday destination. The best practice is to pick a unique password for each account, but wouldn’t that get even harder to keep up with? Why not make it easier on yourself and get a password manager!?

These are some of the best. Not only do they store your passwords and credit card numbers for any site, but it also has a super-secure complex, password generator.

Creating Passwords

When creating passwords, you probably know to mix regular characters with digits and punctuation. However, when acceptable, are you using spaces and underscores to construct phrases or even full sentences? Please do not get suckered into substituting letters for numbers and think that it’s a secure password! We all know that trick, so don’t you think that savvy hackers know it to? Not always are you going to get a site that gives you much freedom, but when you do…go crazy! The key here is that it won’t take you much longer to type out a long complex password than it would a simple one. However, it will take a malicious hacker an extremely long time to crack. By just using eight characters you could generate 6.1 quadrillion password combinations, according to research by Paul Lee at Deloitte. However this still does not give you a one up on how quickly super computers can sort through them. Research done at a password conference found that running password-cracking software distributed across five strong servers, were able to sort through 348 billion password combinations a second. At this rate they said a 14-character Windows XP password would be cracked in just six minutes!

As technology gets more advanced and computers get faster, the time it takes to break a password will get much easier. Biometric identifiers will become closer to the average user implementation and less expensive. With some Biometrics being biologically impossible to re-create, that will be become the new key to securing your data online.

Most Common Passwords of 2013

This is a list compiled by SplashData of stolen passwords and shared online by malicious hackers:

  1. …123456
  2. …password
  3. …12345678
  4. …qwerty
  5. …abc123
  6. …123456789
  7. …111111
  8. …1234567
  9. …iloveyou
  10. …adobe123
  11. …123123
  12. …admin
  13. …1234567890
  14. …letmein
  15. …photoshop
  16. …1234
  17. …monkey
  18. …shadow
  19. …sunshine
  20. …12345
  21. …password1
  22. …princess

In the next article, we will discuss passwords a little more as something you know, but combined with something you have…Multi-Factor Authentication. I hope this has been informative for you, and as always, if there is anything you would like to know or hear about in the next or upcoming segments, then feel free to reach out to me.

OneDrive–Confusing, but Powerful

Submitted by: Matt Banning (PTG Project Engineer), Outsourced IT Support and Office 365 Specialist

Storing Personal Documents in the Cloud
One of the questions we get a lot at PTG is ‘what is the easiest way to store my personal documents to the cloud?’. If you’re like 90% of us, we like working from our desktops and NOT uploading via Internet Explorer. So to answer that question, let me first explain where you store your personal documents.

What is OneDrive?
OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) is where you store your personal documents whereas SharePoint is for your company documents. The background workings and functionality are all the same. The fundamental difference between OneDrive and SharePoint though is that your managers and coworkers do not have access to the contents of your OneDrive. As long as you have your company email address you get 1TB of information – roughly the equivalent of 3.6 million images or 300 hours of high definition video – that’s completely yours.

OneDrive Variances
Before I go any further let me go ahead and dispel some potential confusion. The term ‘OneDrive’ is used interchangeably by Microsoft to denote: OneDrive (the free online storage associated with a Windows Live account), OneDrive for Business (associated with your company email address), and OneDrive the application (that creates a folder on your PC to sync to the cloud). OneDrive for Business (the application) will connect to your Office 365 account, whereas OneDrive (the free version) WILL NOT connect to your Office 365 account.

OneDrive is intended to be the replacement for the ‘My Documents’ folder on your desktop, the beauty of it though is that its backed up to the cloud so you don’t have to worry if you accidentally drop or lose your PC. So back to the original question- ‘what is the easiest way to store my personal documents?’.

If you are an Office 365 customer, the only thing you need to do is download the OneDrive for Business application or simply press ‘sync’ from your OneDrive folder.


After you download the application, you’ll have a new folder called ‘OneDrive @ (your business name)’. You can drag and drop or save directly to this folder. Anything you place in it will immediately be synced to the cloud – which you can access from anywhere by visiting the portal at and then choosing ‘OneDrive’ from the ribbon at the top.

Also – you can drag and drop directly into the browser (if you have a modern browser).  This is a handy little feature.

Things to Watch Out For

OneDrive for Business is good – but it’s not perfect.  Some things you need to be aware of:

-There is a limit of 20,000 items that can be synced between your PC and OneDrive.  (That’s a lot of items, but we seem to see customers run into this limit frequently.)

-Special characters are not allowed in OneDrive file names (so no $, %, !, etc.)

-As of now there is no selective sync in OneDrive for Business.  Meaning you have to sync everything from your OneDrive Cloud Storage to your local device.  We are hopeful that Microsoft will change this (soon), but don’t have any definitive details on that yet!

Using filters in Microsoft Outlook to make your life easier

Today’s post is from Reed Wilson, President and CEO of PTG and admitted Office 365 Junkie

If your inbox is anything like mine, it is very easy for mail to get lost in the mess.  I knew there had to be a better way and I recently stumbled across the ‘Filters’ function in Outlook 2013.  (To be fair – this feature is also in earlier versions of Outlook.)

I’ve found that this is an easy way to triage mail using other filters that are in the option set as well.

In Outlook 2013, you can find the Filter Email option in the far right hand side of the Outlook Home ribbon.  You can see all the filters here – so if you just wanted to show Unread – choose Unread.  You can also use timeline filters (ie: show mail this week or yesterday).



You can also ‘stack’ the filters.  In the example above – this will show unread mail across all folders.  If you are like me – you have a ton of unread mail in Deleted Folders.  So if I just wanted to see unread mail from yesterday in my inbox, it would look like this:



(Although this screen says ‘this week’, it is really showing just ‘yesterday’ as you can see in the highlighted string.)

Happy Searching!

Microsoft Outlook Productivity Savers–Volume 1

Today’s post is from Reed Wilson, President and CEO of PTG and admitted Office 365 Junkie

Most of us use Outlook every day, all day.  While email is awesome, I believe we can make it better.  I remember in the early days of my career (pre-BlackBerry devices) when we would leave a meeting and rush back to the office or to the hotel so that we could ‘do email’.  Then BlackBerry devices came along and we could just do email all the time.  It was great, right?  For a while, yes, but then I began to miss the days when I could just focus on the task at hand.

1) Turn off notifications.  This is my number one rule.  Do you open Outlook first thing in the morning, close it in the evening, and try to triage email between tasks throughout the day?  You can turn off all those distractions with less than 5 clicks.  (These steps are for Outlook 2013.



Choose mail in the left hand panel and go down to Message arrival – I uncheck them all (no distractions!)



Psychology Today says you can lose up to 40% of your productivity in a day by multitasking.  (For the non-math types, that’s 3.2 hours!)

2) How many times have you been cc’ed on an email that you really didn’t care about?  “Cake in the conference room!”  You can now safely ignore those emails with a single click.  By choosing ‘Ignore’, any future emails with the same subject line will go straight to your deleted items.  Don’t worry – the sender won’t know that you are ignoring the emails. 


3) You can work offline to triage large amounts of email.  This is a great way to clean up your inbox without having more mail come in.  If you go to Send/Receive in the Ribbon and Choose “Work Offline” – Outlook will drop the connection to your Exchange Server, keeping new mail from coming in/out.  I use this feature most frequently when I have been out of the office for  a few days and really need to get caught up.  Since my colleagues often know I am back – that’s when they will start with the heavy emails…meaning that I can’t get caught up on my older emails because the new ones are coming in. 

Any emails that you ‘send’ while you are working offline will stay in your outbox and will flow out once you go back online (by reversing the steps above).


4) Set an Out Of Office to set expectations.  This is another one of my favorites.  When I am going to be out of the office for a week, I will clearly state in my out of office that I will not be responding to any mail that comes in during that time period.  I also clearly state who the sender can re-direct their message to in my absence.  When I return – I literally delete all messages from that week.  It’s a bit risky, I admit, but it works.  I’ve found that if it’s important enough – people will find the right person to escalate their issue to or will just pick up the phone.  The key here is to make sure you make it clear that you will not be responding to any mail that comes in during that time period.  (Try it, it’s very liberating to delete 1000 emails in a single clip!)

Configuring Office 365 on your iPad or iPhone

Today’s Post is brought to you by Andrew Atkins, IT Support Specialist

As part of the new Office for iPad suite, Microsoft has released an app called OWA for iPad. OWA stands for Outlook Web App (previously, Outlook Web Access).

This app allows you to access, create and view email, manage your calendar, and keep up with your contacts. You will need to have at least an iPad 2 or iPhone running iOS verion 6 or higher.

Now at this point you are probably thinking to yourself “But wait, I already have these features built into my iOS device. Why do I need another application to handle these things?”

Well for starters the built-in mail, contacts and calendar applications in iOS are all completely separate. With the OWA for iPad they are all neatly packaged into one application. Additionally you can share your calendar with a colleague right from the application or open a shared calendar. Both of these are things you cannot do in the native iOS calendar!

When you first install the OWA for iPad you’ll be asked to sign into your Office 365 account.

Log In Screen for iPad is on the left, iPhone is on the right


Now that you are logged in you will be dropped right into your mail. From here you can create, delete and manage your email just as you would from a normal OWA window or from your desktop Outlook 2013 program.

Now if you want to switch to check something on your calendar or to schedule a meeting simply click on the button in the bottom left of the screen. (Shown circled in Red here)


This button will bring you to the Navigation Screen. From here you can change between Mail, Calendar, People and Options menu. Also if you press and hold this button you can use voice commands to control the application.

The OWA for iPad also includes push notifications on your lock screen so that you don’t miss those important meetings, and new emails, attaching files from your OneDrive, configuring automatic replies for your account along with a host of other features.

Ready to get started? Here’s the link to download and install OWA for iPad:

I will be posting how you can manipulate settings for the app in a future post. 

Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can be of any help getting you set up on your OWA for iPad.