10 Things to Know About Office 365: From an IT Professional’s Desk BY JEFF LIZERBRAM, MCSA, SOLUTIONS ARCHITECT
1. Office 365 Admin Tools
Office 365 Admin Center
The Office 365 Admin Center is usually the first stop when checking for service health, licensing status, and active user configuration.
PowerShell for Office 365
When the Office 365 Admin Center is not enough to allow you control over user accounts and bulk-change operations, then use PowerShell for Office 365. Keep in mind, Windows PowerShell that is included with Windows 7 will not work alone without adding necessary Windows Management Framework updates. However, there is a standalone PowerShell module for Office 365 specifically useful for administrators who are running Windows 7 as their admin PC. Unfortunately, Mac OSX computers do not have built-in nor are their separate downloads quite yet to manage Office 365 through Windows PowerShell. Windows 8.1 and above already have the required Windows Management Framework to connect to Office 365 natively.
Office 365 Admin App
For those system administrators on the move, good news! The Office 365 Admin App is available for Android, iPhone and Windows Phones, in both the standalone and Partner flavors. The Partner flavor allows you to remotely check all your delegated customer portals, and allow you to make some modifications, depending on the account synchronization setup.
2. New Features and Updates Opt-In
One of my favorite things about Office 365 is that it is always up-to-date. A tenant will always be able to leverage the latest technologies, versions and releases of Office 365 components as soon as they come out. However, sometimes an organization is not so ready to be on the cutting edge. Therefore, to avoid being the “guinea pig”, an organization can make a choice: Release updates EARLY to entire organization, or release updates to SELECT group of users. Usually, the IT staff would be the first ones to try out new software rollouts, and this is a great option for those who just want a few to get their feet wet.
Just like a fun journey of a roadtrip and experiencing the things along the way, stay up-to-date with all past, current, and in-development rollouts that Office 365 is making on virtually a daily basis. Visit http://roadmap.office365.com to see what’s coming to a tenant near you!
4. Office 365 ActiveSync vs. Mobile Device Management (MDM)
ActiveSync still is the most common method of connecting mobile devices with Exchange Online, and for good reason: It offers a myriad of controls for the administrator. Contrary to popular belief, ActiveSync with Exchange Online matches the most stringent controls and policies of 3rd party mobile device management suites, and covers devices all the way from Apple IOS devices, Android, Windows phones, and even still supports Blackberry and Symbian devices! With over 60 configurable policies and controls, ActiveSync alone may be just what an organization needs to keep their “Bring Your Own Devices” (BYOD) policies under control, at no extra cost!
Mobile Device Management, on the other hand, expands the Exchange ActiveSync capabilities and provides one step further into management of applications on devices; particularly the ability to containerize or sandbox applications to bring them under corporate control within a BYOD policy. Requiring additional Azure and Intune components on the tenant domain, MDM goes beyond just the messaging control of devices and brings a full mobile application management platform to an administrator’s toolkit.
5. Multi-Factor Authentication
Probably one of the most under-used security aspects of Office 365 is the ability to use Multi-Factor authentication. This allows to control of authentication through something a user “Knows” (such as their password), and something a user “Has” (such as their mobile device). Minimally, it is recommended for Administrators to have this function to further locking down their tenant environment. And with the Azure Single Sign-On Portal, Multi-factor Authentication can extend into on-premises and other apps, such as DocuSign, DropBox for Business, Dynamics CRM, Google Apps, LinkedIn and more.
6. Azure SSO Portal
Speaking of which, the Azure SSO Portal gives the user an app launch that goes beyond Office 365 Apps, such as Mail, OneDrive for Business, Sites, Yammer, etc. Office 365 now extends the application launcher to include other supported SaaS applications that support SAML, WS-Federation or Open ID Connect protocols. Logon to https://myapps.microsoft.com to see your application launcher today, and see how it can work for your organization.
7. Azure Rights Management (ARM)
Yet another feature of Office 365 that is under-utilized is Azure Rights Management. By default, a tenant domain does NOT have this feature enabled, but is easy to setup with a few clicks of a button and a few PowerShell commands. Think of Azure Rights Management as your document and Email Encryption platform. Here, you can secure your files and folders in OneDrive, secure files on your own desktop in Offline mode, and utilized the built-in interfaces that Office 2013 and future Office suites already have built-in for locking down security on documents, whether they are a Word document containing secure passwords, to an Excel or Access financial database. Plus with Azure Rights Management comes the ability to create email rules to enabled Microsoft Message Encryption, where emails can be sent with secure information safely to a recipient, requiring either a sign-in account or a one-time access code. Azure Rights Management replaces the necessity of standing a multi-server Information Rights Management infrastructure within your own datacenter. If you have an Office 365 SKU that includes ARM, go ahead, don’t be shy, and turn it on!
8. Office 365 Video
Office 365 Video is great if you want to incorporate organizational training, IT technology training, onboarding new employees or distribute a CEO message company wide. The video portal allows content to be discoverable, mobile, and simple to use. It’s a great way to provide effective communications within any organization.
A few months ago, Microsoft surprised us with Delve, a tool which up to this day has mostly a mystery on what it exactly does. But click on Delve in your Apps Launcher, and see for yourself. This is Microsoft’s Office 365 search engine which provides fast and relevant searches for content that are based on YOUR data usage and social interactions within the organization. Based on the powerful Office Graph Engine, which is the engine behind the scenes of Yammer, Delve displays content that might be most relevant for each individual based on what they’re already doing in SharePoint, Exchange, or OneDrive for Business. Pretty cool, huh?
10. Office 365 Trust Center
Certainly, this list was in no particular order of importance, and this final “Thing to Know” should really be at the top of every IT Professional’s list. While many prospective customers of mine are hesitant to start moving their email and documents to Microsoft’s cloud services, it is important to know, that in most cases, Office 365 is more secure than the existing and aging on-premise Exchange and File Server solutions. Office 365 exceeds compliance standards in the commercial, government, financial and healthcare fields, contains the most stringent security policies (both physical and logical), and stands up to one of the most highly available systems out there, with a current track record of 99.99% uptime. That equates to 52 minutes, 35.7 seconds per YEAR! Compare that to your current on-premise uptime calculations. Visit http://www.trustoffice365.com for a complete description of how it meets these standards.
Thank you for allowing me to share my 10 things to know about Office 365. I’d like to thank Richard Harbridge from 2toLead for providing helpful insights on his May 2015 blog, 10 Things That Many IT Professionals Don’t Know about Office 365, which has motivated me to share my own IT Professional perspective. I encourage you to visit his blog to see what other things that Office 365 has to offer.
Other blog posts by Jeff Lizerbram:
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