Are you using Office 365 the way Microsoft intended?

Iby Boztepe

Are you benefiting from the collaboration and security features of Office 365 that you're most likely already paying for?

Within the highly regulated healthcare sector, the usage of Microsoft Office 365 -- a suite of cloud-based productivity and collaboration applications -- has become very popular. The ability to convert what was once CAPEX into OPEX is very appealing for many enterprises, not-for-profit and government agencies.

In the rush to subscribe and implement, however, some very important opportunities are usually missed. Whilst there are many benefits which are quickly leveraged, we’ve found that many collaboration tools and a number of advanced security features are often not fully utilised or understood. 

Given the collaborative nature of our sector and the critical importance of IT security, maximising these features will achieve better outcomes for all. Some of common features overlooked include: 

  • Real-time collaboration, 

  • Advanced Security and Compliance features, 

  • Password Unification. 

Real-time Collaboration, Anytime and Anywhere

Microsoft “Teams” is a unified communication and collaboration platform which combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage (including collaboration on files), and application integration.

Microsoft "Sharepoint" allows users to see real-time edits or additions their colleagues are making to a Word or Excel document. Multiple people can even work on the same document at the same time. It also saves each version automatically, so you can revert to older versions easily. This ensures a quicker and simpler collaboration between employees and departments, resulting in improved productivity.  You can also share large documents with external parties, providing them direct access without having to use file sharing services such as DropBox. 

Advanced Security and Compliance  

A common misconception about the cloud is that it’s not secure. However, in reality, it isn’t any more or less secure than an on-premise system. It’s all in how you use it and what security measures you put in place. Another misconception is that you don't need to worry about security because Microsoft takes care of everything for you. This is not the case and creates a false sense of security.   

Office 365 has built-in security and continuous compliance. You always know where your data is, who has access to it, and who accessed it and when. You can also remotely wipe all data from a mobile device if it’s lost or stolen. But did you know that there are advanced security features that are often not enabled or configured appropriately to maximise your investment?  

Office 365 has a lot of built in security features to keep your company’s data safe which are not enabled by default. Some of most notable include:  

Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA): ATA uses analytics and machine learning to detect and alert you to suspicious activity straight away. ATA has built-in intelligence to learn, analyse, and identify normal and suspicious users or devices, keeping you updated in real-time. It can detect things such as anomalous logins, password sharing, or modification of sensitive security groups. 

Mobile Device Management (MDM): This feature helps you secure and manage Office 365 on employees’ mobile devices to protect private company intellectual property. You can create and manage device security policies, remotely wipe a device, and view detailed device reports. It provides a “Unified Endpoint Management” of both organisational and personal devices in a way that protects organisational data.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP): This monitors emails and prevents sensitive information from leaving your organisation. When enabled, all emails to and from an organisation are scanned for information such as credit card numbers or keywords related to your intellectual property. But DLP goes beyond email. You can configure alerts when specific documents are shared or even prevent the accidental (or purposeful) sharing of sensitive information. You can even control how to deal with non-compliance, with options including denying the sharing of information, informing management, or merely a warning about sensitive content.  

Password Unification 

Utilising a system known as Single Sign-On (SSO), the passwords for all the Microsoft and non-Microsoft systems used by the organisation can be unified into a single access control system. This adds security and convenience when users sign-on to various applications. 

With single sign-on, users sign in once with one account to access devices, company resources, software as a service (SaaS) applications, and web applications. Administrators have a centralised user account management system which allows them to easily add or remove user access to applications. All these systems can also be secured with multi-factor authentication.  

Without single sign-on, users must remember application-specific passwords and sign in to each application. IT staff need to create and update user accounts for each application such as Office 365, Salesforce, Zendesk, etc. Users need to remember multiple passwords (which usually means they choose weak passwords), plus spend the time to sign in to each application.

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