Aug 062021
 
Office 365 Logo

When you deploy and install Microsoft Office 365 to a VDI environment, especially with non-persistent VDI (such as VMware Horizon Instant clones), special considerations must be followed.

In this guide I will teach you how to deploy Office 365 in a VDI environment, both with persistent and non-persistent (Instant Clones) VDI Virtual Machines. This guide was built using VMware Horizon, however applies to all VDI deployments including Citrix XenServer and WVD (Windows Virtual Desktops).

By the time you’re done reading this guide, you’ll be able to fully deploy Office 365 to your VDI environment.

I highly recommend reading Microsoft’s Overview of shared computer activation for Microsoft 365 apps.

Guide Index

What’s required

To deploy Office 365 in a VDI Environment, you’ll need:

  • VMware Horizon deployment (or equivalent other product)
  • Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus licensing (See below for specifics on licensing)
  • Microsoft 365 (Office 365) Single sign-on
  • Microsoft Office Deployment Tool (Available here)
  • Microsoft Office Customization Tool (Available here)
  • Microsoft Office 365 GPO ADMX Templates (Available here)
  • Roaming Profiles or Profile Management software (like FSLogix)

Licensing

In order to properly use Shared Computer Activation with Office 365 in your VDI environment you’ll need one of the following products:

  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly known as Office 365 ProPlus)
  • Office 365 E3
  • Office 365 E5
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

All 4 of these products include and support “Shared Computer Activation“.

Microsoft 365 Standard, Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, and Office 365 Business Essentials cannot be used as they do not include or support Shared Computer Activation.

An exception is made for Microsoft 365 Business Premium which actually includes Microsoft 365 Apps for Business, but doesn’t support enabling “Shared Computer Activation” via Group Policy Object and SCA must be enabled using the XML configuration file method.

What is Shared Computer Activation (SCA)

Shared computer activation is an optional activation method built inside of Office 365 and Microsoft 365, designed to control and manage activations on shared computers. Originally this technology was used for Office 365 on RDS (Remote Desktop Servers) to handle multiple users since Office 365 is activated and licensed per user.

Later, this technology was modified to handle Office 365 activations in non-persistent VDI environments. When utilizing SCA (Shared Computer Activation), when a user runs and activates Office 365, an activation token is generated and saved. These activation tokens are saved to a network location that the users has access to which allows the user to roam.

Due to the nature of non-persistent VDI, a user will always be logging in to a system they have never logged in to before. When Office 365 is deployed properly, it will call out to and look for the roaming activation token to automatically activate Office 365 without calling out to Microsoft’s servers.

This is also handy with persistent VDI, where you can have a roaming activation token be used on multiple desktop pools as it follows the users.

These activation tokens once generated are valid for 30 days and remove the need to activate Office during that timeframe. As expiration nears, Office will automatically reach out to Microsoft’s servers and attempt to renew the licensing activation token.

You’ll want to make sure that you have implemented Azure AD Connect and SSO (Single Sign-On) properly along with the correct GPOs (covered later in this post) for auto-activation to function without prompting users to sign-in to activate.

If you have not using SCA, you’ll need to follow additional special steps to have roaming profiles include the licensing directory, however I do not recommend using that method. The licensing information (and activation) without SCA is stored in the following directory:

%localappdata%\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Licensing

You can configure Shared Computer Activation and the location of the roaming activation token using Group Policy, the local registry, or the configuration.xml file for the Office Deployment Tool.

Shared Computer Activation is ONLY required for non-persistent VDI. If you are using persistent VDI where users are assigned a desktop they are frequently using, shared computer activation is not necessary and does not need to be used.

Even though Shared Computer Activation is not required for persistent desktops, I might still recommend using it if you have users using multiple desktop pools, or you’re regularly changing your persistent desktop golden image and refreshing the environment.

Later in the document, we’ll cover configuring Share Computer Activation.

Deploying and Installing Office 365 to the VDI Environment

The steps to deploy and install Office 365 to VDI vary depending if you’re using persistent or non-persistent VDI. In both types of deployments you’ll want to make sure that you use the Office Deployment Tool which uses an XML file for configuration to deploy the application suite.

You can either modify and edit the Office 365 configuration.xml file manually or you can use the “Office Customization Tool” available at: https://config.office.com/

Office Deployment Tool and Office Customization Tool

Using the Office Deployment Tool and the Office Customization Tool, you can customize your Office 365 installation to your specific needs and requirements.

Using the tool, you can create a configuration.xml and control settings like the following:

  • Architecture (32-bit or 64-bit)
  • Products to install (Office Suites, Visio, Project, and additional products)
  • Products to exclude
  • Update Channel
  • Language Settings and Language Packs
  • Installation Options (Installation Source and configurable items)
  • Upgrade Options
  • Licensing and Activation (EULA acceptance, KMS/MAK, User based vs Shared Computer Activation vs Device Activation)
  • Application Preferences

Once you have a configuration.xml file from the Office Customization Tool, you can use the Office Deployment Tool to deploy and install Office 365 using those customizations and configuration.

The configurations you use will vary depending on your VDI deployment type which I will get in to below.

Installing Office 365 with Persistent VDI

To deploy Office 365 with persistent VDI, Shared Computer Activation is not required.

You will however, want to use the Office Deployment Tool to prepare the base image for automated pools, or manually install Office 365 in to the VDI Virtual Machine.

See below for the instructions on Installing Office 365 on Persistent VDI:

  1. First you’ll need to download the Office Deployment Tool from this link: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=626065. You save this wherever.
  2. Create a directory that you can work in and store the Office 365 installation files.
  3. Open the file you downloaded from the Microsoft Download site, extract the files in to the working directory you created in step 2.
  4. Open a Command Prompt, and change in to that working directory.
  5. You can either use the included XML files as is (for default settings), modify them manually, or use the Office ustomization Tool.
  6. If you want to use SCA (Shared Computer Activation) make sure the following lines are added to the file right above the final line (right above):
    <Display Level="None" AcceptEULA="True" />
    <Property Name="SharedComputerLicensing" Value="1" />
    These variables enable Shared Computer Activation and disable automatic activation. Save the XML file.
  7. We’re now going to run the tool and download the Office installation files using the xml from above by running the following command (if you modified the XML file and/or changed the filename, use the filename you saved it as):
    setup.exe /download configuration.xml
  8. There will be no output and it will take a while so be patient.
  9. We can now install Office 365 using your XML configuration by running the following command (if you modified the XML file and/or changed the filename, use the filename you saved it as):
    setup.exe /configure configuration.xml

Office 365 should now install silently, and then afterwards you should be good to go!

If you did not use SCA, the product will need to be activated manually or automatically via GPO.

If you did use SCA, you’ll want to use the GPOs to configure first-run activation, as well as the location of the roaming activation tokens.

In both scenarios above, after installation is successful you’ll want to configure Office 365 for VDI.

Please note: With persistent VDI, you’ll want to make sure that you leave the Office 365 updating mechanism enabled as these VMs will not be destroyed on logoff. The behavior will match that of a typical workstation as far as software updates are concerned.

Even if you are using persistent VDI, I highly recommend you read the notes below on installing Office 365 on non-persistent VDI as you may want to incorporate that configuration in to your deployment.

Installing Office 365 with Non-Persistent (Instant Clones) VDI

To deploy Office 365 with non-persistent VDI, things are a little different than with persistent. Shared Computer Activation is recommended and required if you’re not using profile capture software like FSLogix. You can however still use SCA with FSLogix.

We’ll use the Office Deployment Tool to prepare the base image. Using the tool, we’ll want to make sure we exclude the following applications from the XML file:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • OneDrive

Using the Office 365 installer for the above products will cause issues as the software gets installed in the user profile instead of the operating system itself.

These applications have their own separate special “All User” installation MSI files that we need to use to install to the base image.

We’ll use the Office Customization Tool (OCT) at https://config.office.com/ to create a configuration XML file for our Non-Persistent Office 365 deployment.

Below is an example of the XML file generated from the Office Customization Tool for Instant Clones (Non-Persistent VDI) Virtual Machines:

<Configuration ID="XXXXXXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXXXXXXXXXX">
  <Add OfficeClientEdition="64" Channel="Current">
    <Product ID="O365ProPlusRetail">
      <Language ID="en-us" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Groove" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Lync" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="OneDrive" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Publisher" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Teams" />
      <ExcludeApp ID="Bing" />
    </Product>
  </Add>
  <Property Name="SharedComputerLicensing" Value="1" />
  <Property Name="SCLCacheOverride" Value="0" />
  <Property Name="AUTOACTIVATE" Value="0" />
  <Property Name="FORCEAPPSHUTDOWN" Value="FALSE" />
  <Property Name="DeviceBasedLicensing" Value="0" />
  <Updates Enabled="FALSE" />
  <Display Level="None" AcceptEULA="TRUE" />
</Configuration>

You’ll notice I chose not to include Groove, Lync, Publisher, and Bing Search. This is because these are not used in my environment. I’d recommend excluding applications you don’t require in your base image.

You’ll also notice that I chose to disable Office 365 updates as these get managed and handled inside of the base image and we don’t want the instant clones attempting to update Office as the VMs are deleted on logoff. We also choose to accept the EULA for users so they are not prompted.

After we have our configuration XML file, we’ll proceed to installing Office 365 on the non-persistent base image:

  1. Create a directory that you can work in and store the Office 365 installation files.
  2. Open the file you downloaded from the Office Deployment Tool on the Microsoft Download site, extract the files in to the working directory you created in step 2.
  3. Copy the XML file created above from the Office Customization Tool in to this directory.
  4. Open a Command Prompt, and change in to that working directory.
  5. Confirm that SCA (Shared Computer Activation) is enabled by viewing the XML configuration file. You should see the following text:
    <Display Level="None" AcceptEULA="True" />
    <Property Name="SharedComputerLicensing" Value="1" />
  6. We’re now going to run the tool and download the Office installation files using the xml from above by running the following command:
    setup.exe /download non-persistentVDI.xml
  7. There will be no output and it will take a while so be patient.
  8. We can now install Office 365 using your XML configuration by running the following command:
    setup.exe /configure non-persistentVDI.xml

Office 365 should now install silently.

For the skipped applications (Teams, OneDrive) we’ll install these applications separately. Go ahead and download the MSI installers from below and follow the instructions below:

Installers:

Installing Microsoft Teams on VDI

I have created a guide that covers how to install Microsoft Teams in a VDI environment and how to enable Microsoft Teams Optimization.

To Install Microsoft Teams on non-persistent VDI using the MSI file above, run the following command on the base image:

msiexec /i C:\Location\Teams_windows_x64.msi ALLUSER=1 ALLUSERS=1

Installing OneDrive on VDI

Microsoft has a guide on how to install the OneDrive Sync app per machine (for use with non-persistent VDI).

To install Microsoft OneDrive on non-persistent VDI using the EXE file above, run the following command on the base image:

OneDriveSetup.exe /allusers

Updating Office 365 in a VDI Environment

In persistent VDI environments, the auto-update mechanism will be enabled and activated (unless you chose to disable it), and Office will update as it does with normal windows instances. You can modify and/or control this behavior using the Microsoft Office ADMX Templates and Group Policy.

In non-persistent VDI environments the updating mechanism will be disabled (as per the XML configuration example above). To update the base image you’ll need to run the “setup.exe” again with the “download” and “configure” switch, so make sure you keep your configuration XML file.

Here is an example of the Office 365 Update process on a non-persistent VDI base image. We run the following commands on the base image to update Office 365:

  1. setup.exe /download non-persistentVDI.xml
  2. setup.exe /configure non-persistentVDI.xml

The commands above will download and install the most up to date version of Office 365 using the channel specified in the XML file. You then deploy the updated base image.

Configuring Microsoft Office 365 for the VDI Environment

Once Office 365 is installed in the base image (or VM), we can begin configuring Office 365 for the VDI environment.

To configure and centrally manage your O365 deployment, we’ll want to use GPOs (Group Policy Objects). This will allow us to configure everything including “first run configuration” and roll out a standardized configuration to users using both persistent and non-persistent VDI.

In order to modify GPOs, you’ll need to either launch the Group Policy Management MMC from a domain controller, or Install RSAT (Remote Server Administration Tools) on Windows 10 to use the MMC from your local computer or workstation.

You’ll probably want to create an OU (Organizational Unit) if you haven’t already for your VDI VMs (separate for persistent and non-persistent VDI) inside of Active Directory, and then create a new Group Policy Object and apply it to that OU. In that new GPO, we’ll be configuring the following:

We’ll be configuring the following “Computer Configuration” items:

  1. Microsoft Office – Licensing Configuration
  2. Microsoft Office – Update Configuration
  3. Microsoft OneDrive – Known Folders, Use OneDrive Files On-Demand
  4. Windows – Group Policy Loopback Processing Mode

We’ll also be configuring the following “User Configuration” items:

  1. Microsoft Office – First Run Configuration
  2. Microsoft Office – Block Personal Microsoft Account Sign-in
  3. Microsoft Office – Subscription/Licensing Activation
  4. Microsoft Outlook – Disable E-Mail Account Configuration
  5. Microsoft Outlook – Exchange account profile configuration
  6. Microsoft Outlook – Disable Cached Exchange Mode

Below we’ll cover the configuration

We’ll start with the Computer Configuration Items.

Microsoft Office – Licensing Configuration

If you’re using SCA (Shared Computer Activation) for licensing, we need to specify where to store the users activation tokens. You may have configured a special location for these, or may just store them with your user profiles.

First we need to enable Shared Computer Activation. Navigate to:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine) -> Licensing Settings

And set “Use shared computer activation” to Enabled.

If you’re using FSLogix and redirecting the profile to a VHD file, you don’t need to perform the steps below. If you’re not using FSLogix and are not using a profile redirection mechanism, we’ll need to set “Specify the location to save the licensing token used by shared computer activation”. We’ll set this to the location where you’d like to store the roaming activation tokens. As an example, to store to the roaming User Profile share, I’d set it to the following:

\\PROFILE-SERVER\UserProfiles$\%USERNAME%

Microsoft Office – Update Configuration

If you’re usBecause this is a VDI environment, we want automatic updating disabled since IT will manage the updates.

We’ll want to disable updated by navigating to:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine) -> Updates

And set “Enable Automatic Updates” to Disabled.

We’ll also set “Hide option to enable or disable updates” to Enabled to hide it from the users.

Microsoft OneDrive – Known Folders, Use OneDrive Files On-Demand

There’s some basic configuration for OneDrive that we’ll want to configure as we don’t want our users profile folders being copied or redirected to OneDrive. We also want OneDrive to be used with Files On-Demand so that users OneDrive contents aren’t cached/copied to the VDI user profiles.

This configuration is ONLY if you are using OneDrive and/or have it installed.

We’ll navigate over to:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> OneDrive

And set the following GPO objects:

  • “Prevent users from moving their Windows known folders to OneDrive” to Enabled
  • “Prevent users from redirecting their Windows known folders to their PC” to Enabled
  • “Prompt users to move Windows known folders to OneDrive” to Disabled
  • “Silently move Windows known folders to OneDrive” to “Disabled”
  • “Silently sign in users to the OneDrive sync app with their Windows credentials” to “Enabled”
  • “Use OneDrive Files On-Demand” to Enabled

We’ve new configured OneDrive for VDI Users.

Windows – Group Policy Loopback Processing Mode

Since we’ll be applying the above “Computer Configuration” GPO settings to users when they log on to the non-persistent Instant Clone VDI VMs, we’ll need to activate Loopback Processing of Group Policy (click the link for more information). This will allow use to have the “Computer Configuration” applied during User Logon and have higher precedence over their existing User Settings.

We’ll navigate to the following:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Group Policy

And set “Configure user Group Policy loopback processing mode” to Enabled, and “Mode” to Merge.

We’ve fully configured the Computer Configuration in the GPO. We will now configure the User Configuration items.

Microsoft Office – First Run Configuration

As most of you know, when running Microsoft Office 365 for the first time, there are numerous windows, movies, and wizards for the first time run. We want to disable all of this so it appears that Office is pre-configured to the user, this will allow them to just log on and start working.

We’ll head over to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 -> First Run

And set the following items:

  • “Disable First Run Movie” to Enabled
  • “Disable Office First Run on application boot” to Enabled

Microsoft Office – Block Personal Microsoft Account Sign-in

Since we’re paying for and want the user to use their Microsoft 365 account and not their personal M365/O365 accounts, we’ll stop them from being able to add personal Microsoft Accounts to Office 365.

Head over to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 -> Miscellaneous

And set “Block signing into Office” to Enabled, and then set the additional option to “Organization ID only”

Microsoft Office – Subscription/Licensing Activation

We don’t want the activation window being shown to the user, nor the requirement for it to be configured, so we’ll configure Office 365 to automatically activate using SSO (Single Sign On).

Navigate to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 -> Subscription Activation

And then set “Automatically activate Office with federated organization credentials” to Enabled.

This will automatically activate Office 365 for the VDI user.

Microsoft Outlook – Disable E-Mail Account Configuration

We’ll be configuring the e-mail profiles for the users so that no initial configuration will be needed. Again, just another step to let them log in and get to work right away.

Inside of:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Outlook 2016 -> Account Settings -> E-mail

And we’ll set the following:

  • “Prevent Office 365 E-mail accounts from being configured within a simplified Interface” to Disabled
  • “Prevent Outlook from interacting with the account settings detection service” to Enabled

Microsoft Outlook – Exchange account profile configuration

When using Exchange, we’ll want your users Outlook Profile to be auto-configured for their Exchange account so we’ll need to configure the following setting.

Navigate to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Outlook 2016 -> Account Settings -> Exchange

And set “Automatically configure profile based on Active Directory Primary SMTP address” to Enabled.

After setting this, it will automatically add the Exchange Account when they open Outlook and they’ll be ready to go! Note, that there is an additional setting with a similar name appended with “One time Only”. Using the One time Only will not try to apply the configuration on all subsequent Outlook runs.

Microsoft Outlook – Disable Cached Exchange Mode

If you’re using persistent VDI, hosted exchange, or FSLogix, you won’t want to configure this item.

When using on-premise Exchange with VDI, we don’t want users cached Outlook mailboxes (OST files) stored on the roaming profile, or the Instant Clone. We can stop this by disabling Exchange caching.

Navigate to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Outlook 2016 -> Account Settings -> Exchange -> Cached Exchange Mode

And we’ll set the two following settings:

  • “Cached Exchange Mode (File | Cached Exchange Mode)” to Disabled
  • “Use Cached Exchange Mode for new and existing Outlook profiles” to Disabled

This will configure Exchange to run in “Online Mode”.

Microsoft Office Common Identity Registry – For Roaming Profiles

If you’re using Roaming profiles and folder redirection with non-persistent VDI and instant clones, the user may be prompted repeatedly on new logins to log in to their Office 365 account (with a login prompt) even though SCA is configured and working.

When troubleshooting this, one may think that the issue is related to SCA, when it is actually not. This prompt is occurring because of authentication issues with Office 365.

To correct this issue, we’ll need to add a registry configuration to the GPO that will delete a key on login.

User Configuration -> Preferences -> Windows Settings -> Registry

We’ll create a new registry GPO item, that will “delete” the key path below inside of “HKEY_CURRENT_USER”:

SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Common\Identity

This will delete the Identity key on login, and allow Office 365 to function. This may not be needed if using FSLogix or other profile management suites.

Deploying the Base Image

At this point you can push and deploy the base image and have users log in to the VDI environment and Office 365 should be fully functioning.

Please keep in mind there are different methods for deploying and configuring Office 365 depending on what application delivery and profile management software you may be using. This is just a guide to get you started!

May 312021
 
Office 365 Logo

After you Deploy Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for employee remote access and Install Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment, your next step will be to configure it by deploying Group Policy Objects to configure Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment.

By deploying a Group Policy Objects to configure Office 365, you’ll be able to configure Office 365 for first time use, activate the product, roll out pre-defined configuration, and even automatically configure Outlook mail profiles.

Following these steps will help you provide a zero-configuration experience for your end users so that everything is up and running for them when they connect the first time. I will also provide a number of GPO settings which will enhance the user experience.

What’s Required

To Configure Microsoft Office 365 on a Remote Desktop Services Server, you’ll need:

  • A Remote Desktop Services Server (Configured and Running)
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly named as Office 365 ProPlus)
  • Office 365 Installed with SCA (Shared Computer Activation, as per “Install Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment“)
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise ADMX GPO Administrative Templates (Download here)

Shared Computer Activation

In order to properly configure and activate Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment, you will need to Install Office 365 with Shared Computer Activation. You can read my guide by clicking on the link.

Configure Office 365

Once you’re ready to go, you can begin configuration.

To make things as simple as possible and centrally manage every aspect of your O365 deployment, we want to configure everything via GPO (Group Policy Objects). This will allow us to configure everything including “first run configuration” and roll out a standardized configuration to users.

In order to modify GPOs, you’ll need to either launch the Group Policy Management MMC from a domain controller, or Install RSAT (Remote Server Administration Tools) on Windows 10 to use the MMC from your local computer or workstation.

You’ll probably want to create an OU (Organizational Unit) inside of Active Directory for your RDS farm, and then create a new Group Policy Object and apply it to that OU. In that new GPO, we’ll be configuring the following:

We’ll be configuring the following “Computer Configuration” items:

  1. Microsoft Office – Licensing Configuration
  2. Microsoft Office – Update Configuration
  3. Microsoft OneDrive – Known Folders, Use OneDrive Files On-Demand
  4. Windows – Group Policy Loopback Processing Mode

We’ll also be configuring the following “User Configuration” items:

  1. Microsoft Office – First Run Configuration
  2. Microsoft Office – Block Personal Microsoft Account Sign-in
  3. Microsoft Office – Subscription/Licensing Activation
  4. Microsoft Outlook – Disable E-Mail Account Configuration
  5. Microsoft Outlook – Exchange account profile configuration
  6. Microsoft Outlook – Disable Cached Exchange Mode

Let’s start!

Microsoft Office – Licensing Configuration

Since we’re using SCA (Shared Computer Activation) for licensing, we need to specify where to store the users activation tokens. You may have configured a special location for these, or may just store them with your user profiles.

First we need to activate Shared Computer Activation. Navigate to:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine) -> Licensing Settings

And set “Use shared computer activation” to Enabled.

Next we’ll set “Specify the location to save the licensing token used by shared computer activation” to the location where you’d like to store the activation tokens. As an example, to store to the User Profile share, I’d use the following:

\\PROFILE-SERVER\UserProfiles$\%USERNAME%

Microsoft Office – Update Configuration

Because this is a Remote Desktop Services server, we want automatic updating disabled since IT will manage the updates.

We’ll want to disable updated by navigating to:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine) -> Updates

And set “Enable Automatic Updates” to Disabled.

We’ll also set “Hide option to enable or disable updates” to Enabled to hide it from the users.

Microsoft OneDrive – Known Folders, Use OneDrive Files On-Demand

There’s some basic configuration for OneDrive that we’ll want to configure as we don’t want our users profile folders being copied or redirected to OneDrive, and we also want OneDrive to be used with Files On-Demand so that users OneDrive contents aren’t cached/copied to the RDS Server.

We’ll navigate over to:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> OneDrive

And set the following GPO objects:

  • “Prevent users from moving their Windows known folders to OneDrive” to Enabled
  • “Prevent users from redirecting their Windows known folders to their PC” to Enabled
  • “Prompt users to move Windows known folders to OneDrive” to Disabled
  • “Use OneDrive Files On-Demand” to Enabled

We’ve new configured OneDrive for RDS Users.

Windows – Group Policy Loopback Processing Mode

Since we’ll be applying the above “Computer Configuration” GPO settings to users when they log on to the RDS Server, we’ll need to activate Loopback Processing of Group Policy (click the link for more information). This will allow use to have the “Computer Configuration” applied during User Logon and have higher precedence over their existing User Settings.

We’ll navigate to the following:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Group Policy

And set “Configure user Group Policy loopback processing mode” to Enabled, and “Mode” to Merge.

Microsoft Office – First Run Configuration

As most of you know, when running Microsoft Office 365 for the first time, there are numerous windows, movies, and wizards for the first time run. We want to disable all of this so it appears that Office is pre-configured to the user, this will allow them to just log on and start working.

We’ll head over to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 -> First Run

And set the following items:

  • “Disable First Run Movie” to Enabled
  • “Disable Office First Run on application boot” to Enabled

Microsoft Office – Block Personal Microsoft Account Sign-in

Since we’re paying for and want the user to use their Microsoft 365 account and not their personal, we’ll stop them from being able to add personal Microsoft Accounts to Office 365.

Head over to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 -> Miscellaneous

And set “Block signing into Office” to Enabled, and then set the additional option to “Organization ID only”

Microsoft Office – Subscription/Licensing Activation

Earlier in the post we configured Office 365 to use SCA, now we’ll need to configure how it’s activated. We don’t want the activation window being shown to the user, nor the requirement for it to be configured, so we’ll configure Office 365 to automatically active using SSO (Single Sign On).

Navigate to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2016 -> Subscription Activation

And then set “Automatically activate Office with federated organization credentials” to Enabled.

Microsoft Outlook – Disable E-Mail Account Configuration

We’ll be configuring the e-mail profiles for the users so that no initial configuration will be needed. Again, just another step to let them log in and get to work right away.

Inside of:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Outlook 2016 -> Account Settings -> E-mail

And we’ll set the following:

  • “Prevent Office 365 E-mail accounts from being configured within a simplified Interface” to Disabled
  • “Prevent Outlook from interacting with the account settings detection service” to Enabled

Microsoft Outlook – Exchange account profile configuration

We’ll want your users Outlook Profile to be auto-configured for their Exchange account so we’ll need to configure the following setting.

Navigate to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Outlook 2016 -> Account Settings -> Exchange

And set “Automatically configure profile based on Active Directory Primary SMTP address” to Enabled.

After setting this, it will automatically add the Exchange Account when they open Outlook and they’ll be ready to go! Note, that there is an additional setting with a similar name appended with “One time Only”. Using the One time Only will not try to apply the configuration on all subsequent Outlook runs.

Microsoft Outlook – Disable Cached Exchange Mode

Since we’ll have numerous users using the RDS server or servers, we don’t want users cached Outlook mailboxes (OST files) stored on the RDS server. We can stop this by disabling Exchange caching.

Navigate to:

User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Outlook 2016 -> Account Settings -> Exchange -> Cached Exchange Mode

And we’ll set the two following settings:

  • “Cached Exchange Mode (File | Cached Exchange Mode)” to Disabled
  • “Use Cached Exchange Mode for new and existing Outlook profiles” to Disabled
May 032021
 

So you’re looking at deploying Microsoft Teams for your Horizon View VDI deployment.

This guide will allow you to deploy Microsoft Teams Optimization for Manual Pools, Automated Pools, and Instant Clone Pools, for use with both persistent and non-persistent VDI. This guide will NOT provide instructions on deploying Microsoft Teams inside of non-persistent VDI or Instant Clones (stay tuned for a guide for that soon).

Please make sure to check out Microsoft’s documentation on “Teams for Virtualized Desktop Infrastructure“, and VMware’s document “Microsoft Teams Optimization with VMware Horizon” for more information.

Requirements

To get started, you’ll need the following:

  • Microsoft Teams MSI Installer (Available here: 64-Bit, 32-Bit)
  • VMware Horizon Client (Available here)
  • VDI Desktop or VDI Base Image
  • Ability to create and/or modify GPOs on domain
  • VMware Horizon GPO Bundle

Background

Before Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization, VMware’s RTAV (Real-Time Audio-Video) was generally used. This offloaded audio and video to the VMware Horizon Client utilizing a dedicated channel over the connection to optimize the data exchange. With minor tweaks (check out my post on enhancing RTAV webcam with VMware Horizon), this actually worked quite well with the exception of microphone quality on the end-users side, and high bandwidth requirements.

Starting with Horizon View 7.13 and Horizon View 8 (2006), VMware Horizon now supports Microsoft Teams Optimization. This technology offloads the Teams call directly to the endpoint (or client device), essentially drawing over the VDI VM’s Teams visual interface and not involving the VDI Virtual Machine at all. The client application (or thin client) handles this and connects directly to the internet for the Teams Call. One less hop for data, one less processing point, and one less load off your server infrastructure.

Microsoft Teams Optimization uses WebRTC to function.

Deploying Microsoft Teams Optimization on VMware Horizon VDI

There are two components required to deploy Microsoft Teams Optimization for VDI.

  • Microsoft Specific Setup and Configuration of Microsoft Teams
  • VMware Specific Setup and Configuration for Microsoft Teams

We’ll cover both in this blog post.

Microsoft Specific Setup and Configuration of Microsoft Teams Optimization

First and foremost, do NOT bundle the Microsoft Teams install with your Microsoft 365 (Office 365) deployment, they should be installed separately.

We’re going to be installing Microsoft Teams using the “per-machine” method, where it’s installed in the Program Files of the OS, instead of the usual “per-user” install where it’s installed in the user “AppData” folder.

Non-persistent (Instant Clones) VDI requires Microsoft Teams to be installed “Per-Machine”, whereas persistent VDI can use both “Per-Machine” and “Per-User” for Teams. I use the “Per-Machine” for almost all VDI deployments. This allows you to manage versions utilizing MSIs and GPOs.

Please Note that when using “Per-Machine”, automatic updates are disabled. In order to upgrade Teams, you’ll need to re-install the newer version. Take this in to account when planning your deployment.

For Teams Optimization to work, your endpoints and/or clients MUST have internet access.

Let’s Install Microsoft Teams (VDI Optimized)

For Per-Machine (Non-Persistent & Persistent) Install, use the following command:

msiexec /i C:\Location\Teams_windows_x64.msi ALLUSER=1 ALLUSERS=1

For Per-User (Persistent VDI) Install, you can use the following command:

msiexec /i C:\Location\Teams_windows_x64.msi ALLUSERS=1

If in the event you need to uninstall Microsoft Teams to deploy an upgrade, you can use the following command:

msiexec /passive /x C:\Location\Teams_windows_x64.msi

And that’s it for the Microsoft Specific side of things!

VMware Specific Setup and Configuration for Microsoft Teams Optimization

When it comes to the VMware Specific Setup and Configuration for Microsoft Teams Optimization, it’s a little bit more complex.

VMware Horizon Client Installation

When installing the VMware Horizon Client, the Microsoft Teams optimization feature should be installed by default. However, doing a custom install, make sure that “Media Optimization for Microsoft Teams” is enabled (as per the screenshot below):

Screenshot of VMware View Client Install with Microsoft Teams Optimization
VMware View Client Install with Microsoft Teams Optimization

Group Policy Object to enable WebRTC and Microsoft Teams Optimization

You’ll only want to configure GPOs for those users and sessions where you plan on actually utilizing Microsoft Teams Optimization. Do not apply these GPOs to endpoints where you wish to use RTAV and don’t want to use Teams optimization, as it will enforce some limitations that come with the technology (explained in Microsoft’s documentation).

We’ll need to enable VMware HTML5 Features and Microsoft Teams Optimization (WebRTC) inside of Group Policy. Head over and open your existing VDI GPO or create a new GPO. You’ll need to make sure you’ve installed the latest VMware Horizon GPO Bundle. There are two switches we need to set to “Enabled”.

Expand the following, and set “Enable HTML5 Features” to “Enabled”:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> VMware View Agent Configuration -> VMware HTML5 Features -> Enable VMware HTML5 Features

Next, we’ll set “Enable Media Optimization for Microsoft Teams” to “Enabled”. You’ll find it in the following:

Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> VMware View Agent Configuration -> VMware HTML5 Features -> VMware WebRTC Redirection Features -> Enable Media Optimization for Microsoft Teams

And that’s it, you’re GPOs are now configured.

If you’re running a persistent desktop, run “gpupdate /force” in an elevated command prompt to grab the updated GPOs. If you’re running a non-persistent desktop pool, you’ll need to push the base image snapshot again so your instant clones will have the latest GPOs.

Confirming Microsoft Teams Optimization for VDI

There’s a simple and easy way to test if you’re currently running Microsoft Teams Optimized for VDI.

  1. Open Microsoft Teams
  2. Click on your Profile Picture to the right of your Company Name
  3. Expand “About”, and select “Version”
Screenshot of Microsoft Teams - About and Version to check Teams Optimization for VDI
Microsoft Teams – About and Version to check Teams Optimization for VDI

After selecting this, you’ll see a toolbar appear horizontally underneath the search, company name, and your profile picture with some information. Please see the below examples to determine if you’re running in 1 of 3 modes.

The following indicates that Microsoft Teams is running in normal mode (VDI Teams Optimization is Disabled). If you have configured VMware RTAV, then it will be using RTAV.

Screenshot indicator of Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization disabled
Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization disabled

The following indicates that Microsoft Teams is running in VDI Optimized mode (VDI Teams Optimization is Enabled showing “VMware Media Optimized”).

Screenshot indicator of Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization enabled
Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization enabled

The following indicates that Microsoft Teams is configured for VDI Optimization, however is not functioning and running in fallback mode. If you have VMware RTAV configured, it will be falling back to using RTAV. (VDI Teams Optimization is Enabled but not working showing “VMware Media Not Connected”, and is using RTAV if configured).

Screenshot of Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization Fallback
Microsoft Teams VDI Optimization Fallback

If you’re having issues or experiencing unexpected results, please go back and check your work. You may also want to review Microsoft’s and VMware’s documentation.

Conclusion

This guide should get you up and running quickly with Microsoft Teams Optimization for VDI. I’d recommend taking the time to read both VMware’s and Microsoft’s documentation to fully understand the technology, limitations, and other configurables that you can use and fine-tune your VDI deployment.

Mar 302020
 
Office 365 Logo

Once you deploy Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for employee remote access, your next step will be to install user applications as well as all your line of business applications.

One of the most widely used applications suite is Microsoft Office, particularly Microsoft Office 365.

In order to deploy Microsoft Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services environment, a number of requirements must be met. There is also special instructions which must be followed to properly deploy it.

This information also applies when you want to install Office 365 / Microsoft 365 to a shared virtual machine or a golden image for VDI (for VDI you can read my full guide “Deploy, Install, and Configure Microsoft Office 365 in a VDI Environment“).

After reading and completing the steps in this blog post and deploying Office 365, you can head over to my guide on how to Configure Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services Environment using GPOs to pre-configure Microsoft Office and it’s applications for when your users log in.

What’s required

To deploy Microsoft Office 365 on a Remote Desktop Services Server, you’ll need:

  • A Remote Desktop Services Server (Configured and Running)
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly named as Office 365 ProPlus)

Licensing

Special attention must be paid to licensing. In order to properly license and activate Office 365, you’ll need one of the following products that supports Shared Computer Activation:

  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly known as Office 365 ProPlus)
  • Office 365 E3
  • Office 365 E5
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

All 4 of these products include and support “Shared Computer Activation“.

Microsoft 365 Standard, Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, and Office 365 Business Essentials cannot be used as they do not include or support Shared Computer Activation.

An exception is made for Microsoft 365 Business Premium which actually includes Microsoft 365 Apps for Business, but doesn’t support enabling “Shared Computer Activation” via Group Policy Objects and must be done using the XML configuration file method.

Installing Office 365

Once you have the proper licensing and you’re ready to proceed, you can start!

  1. First you’ll need to download the Office Deployment Tool from this link: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=626065. You save this wherever.
  2. Create a directory that you can work in and store the Office 365 installation files.
  3. Open the file you downloaded from the Microsoft Download site, extract the files in to the working directory you created in step 2.
  4. Open a Command Prompt, and change in to that working directory.
  5. We’re now going to run the tool and download the x64 image using the xml that was extracted by running the following command:
    setup.exe /download configuration-Office365-x64.xml
    To download the 32-bit version or enterprise version, use one of the other xml files that are in the directory.
  6. There will be no output and it will take a while so be patient.
  7. Now we want to open the xml file we previously used (in our case “configuration-Office365-x64.xml”) and add the following lines to the file right above the final line (right above </Configuration>):
    <Display Level="None" AcceptEULA="True" />
    <Property Name="SharedComputerLicensing" Value="1" />
    These variables enable Shared Computer Activation and disable automatic activation. Save the file.
  8. We can now install Office 365 by running the following command:
    setup.exe /configure configuration-Office365-x64.xml

Office 365 should now install silently, and then afterwards you should be good to go!

When a user logs in for the first time it will ask them to activate on their account. The user must have a license attached to their Office 365 account.

For more information and advanced settings, you can see the Microsoft guide here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/deploy-office-365-proplus-by-using-remote-desktop-services.

You are now ready to proceed to Configure Office 365 in a Remote Desktop Services environment, so that everything is configured and ready to use when your users log in.

Aug 202018
 

An all too common problem is when users report e-mail delays ranging from 5 to 15 minutes. When troubleshing these types of issues, you’ll notice this commonly occurs when receiving e-mails from organizations that use Office 365. Specifically this occurs due to greylisting.

Why does this happen

You’re organization is using greylisting on your e-mail proxy/SMTP relay to reduce spam. Greylisting temporarily rejects the first send of an e-mail and waits for the sending server to re-transmit the message. This process usually takes around 5-15 minutes to complete. Greylisting is used because spammers won’t re-transmit the message, which leads to a massive reduction of spam messages coming through.

Once the sending server retransmits, the sending server IP address is added to your firewalls “safe senders” whitelist. From this point on the IP address (or server) will not be subject to greylisting (and any subsequent e-mails).

Office 365 has hundreds, if not thousands (possibly 10’s of thousands) of servers they use to transmit e-mail. The chance of multiple e-mails being sent from a single server is very slim, therefor greylisting is applied to every IP (server) that is sending e-mail because it’s different. Each e-mail from an Office 365 user can take 5-15 minutes, since a new server is used every time.

How to resolve

You’ll need to configure and add an exception to your e-mail proxy/SMTP relay/firewall. This exception can be based off domain, DNS name of sending server, or IP address ranges.

Scroll down for instructions on how to create an exception on a Sophos UTM.

Domain Exception

If you use domain based exceptions, you’ll need to configure these manually for each sending domain that you want your firewall to skip greylist checking. This is a very manual process, which requires lots of human intervention to continuously update your greylist exception.

DNS FQDN of MX Server

This method is the easiest, however most firewall or UTM’s will now allow these types of exceptions since a number of DNS queries will be needed everytime an e-mail comes in. One DNS query on the MX record, and then another DNS query on the DNS host contained in the MX record. If you can configure this type of exception, you’ll want to configure it as below:

*-com.mail.protection.outlook.com

IP Address Range

This is the best method. To create an IP address range exception, we’ll need a copy of all the IP address ranges or IP address spaces that Office 365 uses to send mail. This list can be found at: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/enterprise/urls-and-ip-address-ranges?view=o365-worldwide.

We’ll need to create an exception that skips greylist checking on the IP addresses outlined in the above link. This will stop any greylist checking on e-mails from Office 365 servers.

In my case, I use a Sophos UTM firewall, and to create an exception I had to do the following:

  1. Log on to the Webmin interface.
  2. Select “Email Protection”, then “STMP” on the left hand side, then “Exceptions” tab at the top.

    Sophos UTM E-Mail and SMTP Exception List

    Sophos UTM E-Mail and SMTP Exception List

  3. Create a “New Exception List” and call it “Office 365 GreylistWhitelist”.
  4. Check the “Greylisting” box under “Antispam”, and then check the “For these source hosts/networks”.

    Sophos UTM SMTP Create Exception

    Sophos UTM SMTP Create Exception

  5. Click the “+” button, and call the Network Definition “Exchange365-EOP-Group”. Change the type to “Network Group”.
  6. Click the “+” button in the members section, and start adding the IP spaces. Repeat this for each IP space (in total I added 23). Each network name (IP address space) requires a unique name, I named mine “Exchange365-EOP1” through “Exchange365-EOP23”.

    Sophos UTM SMTP Configure Exception

    Sophos UTM SMTP Configure Exception

  7. Click Save on the Network Group, and click Save on the exception.
  8. Enable the Exception

    Sophos UTM SMTP Exception Rule

    Sophos UTM SMTP Exception Rule

  9. Completed! You’ve now made the exception and delays should no longer occur.
Jan 142018
 

The Problem

In the latest updates and versions of Microsoft Office 2016, I found a bug where when a user adds a new on-premise Microsoft Exchange 2016 account, it will repeatedly prompt for a username and password and ultimately fail if you hit cancel (no matter how many times you enter credentials). This was on the internal LAN on a domain joined workstation.

I did the usual checks:

  • Check Virtualdirectory configuration on Exchange
  • Check Virtualdirectory configuration on IIS (Internet Information Services)
  • Check Autodiscover DNS entries, InternalURL and ExternalURL configuration
  • Check for SCP inside of domain

All the of the above came back fine and were configured properly.

I have numerous other Outlook 2016 clients configured and working (installed as older versions, but have been updated), so I used those to troubleshoot (same scenario, domain joined on internal LAN and external WAN). After spending 10 hours ripping apart everything, confirming configuration, I noticed that when using the “Test Email Autoconfiguration…” (holding CTRL while right clicking on Outlook tray icon), that the e-mail clients had a skewed order for checking autodiscovery.

The e-mail clients were actually trying to authenticate with Office365 before my own on-premise Exchange Server (domain SCP or autodiscover records). This is absolutely bizarre! After spending 2 hours googling (I couldn’t find anything), I finally stumbled across this document and found an interesting piece of information:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-ca/help/3211279/outlook-2016-implementation-of-autodiscover

“Outlook uses a set of heuristics to determine whether the user account provided comes from Office 365. If Outlook determines confidently that you are an O365 user, a try is made to retrieve the Autodiscover payload from the known O365 endpoints (typically https://autodiscover-s.outlook.com/autodiscover/autodiscover.xml or https://autodiscover-s.partner.outlook.cn/autodiscover/autodiscover.xml). If this step does not retrieve a payload, Outlook moves to step 5.”

WTF?!?!?

So while this doesn’t explain why this happened, it explains what’s happening. I believe this is what’s happening as my working clients are trying to Autodisocver with Office365 first…

I went ahead an created a registry value to control the policy for “ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint“. After configuring the registry key, I noticed that Autodiscover was now functioning properly and checking SCP and autodiscover DNS records first. I have no idea why the “heuristics” determined I was an Office365 user, but I’m not (I do have access to Office365 as a partner, but don’t use it and don’t have it configured). This may effect other partners, or users that utilize some O365 services…

The Fix

To fix this issue, create a text file and copy/paste this text below.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\AutoDiscover]
"ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint"=dword:00000001

Then save it, and rename it as ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint.reg and run it (this will import the applicable registry key). ONLY DO THIS if you are using an Exchange On-Premise account, and not a Office365 or hosted exchange account.

Keep in mind that autodiscover also queries the domain root (domain.com), before querying the autodiscover host (autodiscover.domain.com). If you want to stop both the Office365 autodiscover and the root domain autodiscover challenge, use the following below:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\AutoDiscover]
"ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint"=dword:00000001
"ExcludeHttpsRootDomain"=dword:00000001

You’ll notice that we also set “ExcludeHttpsRootDomain” to “1” which stops it from checking the root domain.

After this, the issue was completely fixed. If you know what you’re doing, you can also use Outlook GPO settings and deploy this to a vast number of systems using Group Policy.

Additional Note (added November 2nd, 2018)

While reading numerous documents covering autodiscovery, I also came across an article that went in to detail with particulars as to how Mapi over HTTP functions. Even with the above, when accessing Outlook externall from the domain, you may still notice a single password prompt for the first time you log in externally.

After reading through documentation, I found that this is most likely because the first user account login (the very first time the user logged in on the computer), the username format of “DOMAIN\Username” was used, and not the UPN. The documentation mentioned that this may fail the negotiation, which will require a single password prompt on autodiscovery. This issue can be avoided by using the users UPN ([email protected]) to log in for the first time on the system.

Please note that the UPN must match the user’s e-mail address.