But Office 365 is just the same as on-premises functionality!

Clearly the title of this blog post is incorrect, but I had to raise it as recently someone made this comment to me. Their view was that they can run Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Skype for Business Server on-premises which would deliver the same functionality as Office 365.

What does Office 365 provide that you simply CANNOT deliver with on-premises systems? Focusing on the core feature set (without bringing in Project Online, Dynamics 365, EMS or others into it), it’s not a small list:

Product Description Where you see it
Exchange Online Protection Mail filtering service built into Exchange Online Behind the scenes
Advanced Threat Protection Protection against unknown malware & viruses, real-time protection against malicious URLs at time-of-click Behind the scenes
Exchange Online Archiving Yes you can have archiving on-premises, but not unlimited Client & web
Office 365 Groups Mix of document library, OneNote, Planner, Skype for Business, and SharePoint team site functionality Desktop, web & mobile
Microsoft Teams Chat-based workspace integrated with Office 365 Groups Desktop, web & mobile
OneDrive for Business Similar to Exchange Online Archiving, organisations can run OneDrive for Business on-premises but not provide unlimited storage Desktop, web & mobile
Skype Meeting Broadcast Host online meetings for up to 10,000 attendees Behind the scenes
Clutter / Focused Inbox Email sorting using machine learning, based on individual mail habits Behind the scenes
Delve Personal search & discovery of content Desktop, web & mobile
MyAnalytics (formerly Delve Analytics) Behavioural analytics based on mail & calendar Web
Yammer Enterprise social network platform Web & mobile
Office 365 Video Share & manage business videos Web & mobile
Planner Manage tasks on graphical boards (similar to Trello) Web
Sway Visual storytelling service Desktop, web & mobile
Power BI Interactive business intelligence dashboards Desktop, web & mobile
PowerApps Build mobile apps & logic flows Desktop, web & mobile
Microsoft Flow Automating workflows across apps and services (not just Office 365) Desktop, web & mobile
Office Graph Machine learning mapping connections between people & content Behind the scenes


Kirsty McGrath of OnPoint Solutions has created a wheel of the Office 365 services available, building on a similar one from Sharegate.

Simplifying profile pictures in Office 365 with Hyperfish

An important component of humanising collaboration and communication are profile pictures as they literally give a face to a name.

Profile pictures are displayed in Office 365 in almost all areas where a person’s name is shown:

  • Office 365 portal
  • Office apps on the desktop (eg. Outlook, Word, Excel, etc.)
  • Office apps on mobiles & tablets
  • SharePoint Online
  • Delve
  • Office 365 Groups
  • Planner
  • Teams
  • And so on and so forth…

Knowledge base article 3185286 from Microsoft explains how profile picture synchronisation occurs in Office 365 and the flow between SharePoint Online and Exchange Online – the primary storage locations for profile pictures that all other services depend on.

SharePoint Online picture synchronisation for users who have an Exchange Online mailbox SharePoint Online picture synchronisation for users without an Exchange Online mailbox


In Office 365 there are a number of areas where profile pictures are stored, all with different size limitations:

Location File size limit Pixel size limit
Active Directory 100kb 200 x 200
Azure Active Directory 10kb 96 x 96
Exchange Online
SharePoint Online
Skype for Business Online
500kb 648 x 648
Yammer 10mb 5000 x 5000


The frustration many admins experience is that they may have set up a great system for new employees to have their picture stored in the on-premises Active Directory with a decent resolution, but when it is synchronised to Azure Active Directory for Office 365 the file is crunched down to the 10kb limit. This picture then flows through to all other features of Office 365. As a thumbnail in Outlook or Delve this is ok, but when doing a Skype for Business call without video the profile picture gets stretched out and looks pixelated:

Over the years there have been a number of scripts and apps written to work around the challenges of thumbnail pictures and hi-res pictures, but these are more for administrators to use and are not always effective – especially when a user updates the picture themselves in one location but not another.

Enter Hyperfish – an end-user driven solution for ensuring that Office 365 has the right quality & sized picture in all relevant locations. While it may appear dangerous to put this into the hands of end users, Hyperfish provides administrators with a number of key controls around the quality and appropriateness of picture:

Hyperfish utilises the Azure Face API so if the administrator has chosen to not enabled the “Allow no faces” (as seen in the previous screenshot) and a user uploads a picture of their dog they will be politely declined:

Similarly, if a user uploads a picture of themselves making a face then again they will see the relevant message to indicate that the picture is not appropriate:

Administrators also have the ability to review picture before they are published to the profile:

Hyperfish works with on-premises, hybrid, and pure-cloud scenarios and is charged in bands of users on an annual level.

A free analysis is available for organisations to understand the level of completion across their user profiles which is a great way to start improving the quality of user experiences and interactions.