Microsoft makes Office 365 the cloud productivity service to beat

by Bharat Suneja

Pushed back from its normal summer schedule to early fall, Microsoft’s last TechEd conference TechEd Europe 2014 could have been a ho hum affair. Evidently, Microsoft had different plans.

In a slew of announcements at TechEd Europe 2014 in Barcelona, Microsoft has raised the bar significantly to make Office 365, the cloud-based productivity service, an almost irresistible proposition for customers.

But before we dive into today’s announcements, consider an important announcement Microsoft made yesterday:

1. Unlimited cloud-based storage for Office 365 customers

In April this year, Microsoft raised the storage limit in OneDrive for Business, it’s cloud-based storage service included in Office 365, to 1 Terabyte.

Yesterday, the company announced that OneDrive for Business users will get unlimited storage. What this means for customers: unlimited storage in the cloud, data accessible from anywhere, lower storage costs, and the error-prone processes of backup and disaster recovery outsourced to the service. Users can also keep a local copy of the data so it’s synchronized with OneDrive and available offline on one or more computers.

Unlimited cloud-based storage at no additional cost removes one more reason to keep data local-only.

Let’s take a quick look at what Microsoft announced in Barcelona today.

2. Mobile Device Management for Office 365

Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) has offered basic mobile device management (MDM) capabilities in the form of Exchange ActiveSync Policies, rechristened Mobile Device Policies with wave 15 (Exchange Online and Exchange Server 2013). In Barcelona, Microsoft announced new MDM capabilities in Office 365 to allow you to secure information on devices running  operating systems.

  • Multi-Platform: The new MDM capabilities allow you to secure information on all major mobile platforms – Apple iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.
  • Protection beyond email: The new MDM functionality goes beyond email and protects both email and documents.
  • Selective wipe of Office 365 data: Whereas Exchange ActiveSync client implementations wipe the entire device, including a user’s personal information, documents and photographs, the new selective wipe functionality only wipes Office 365 corporate data.
  • Single management console: The new MDM capabilities in Office 365 can be managed from within the Office 365 portal. As demo’ed in this Garage Series video, MDM is a part of the new Compliance Console in Office 365, removing the need to learn and use yet another management interface.

3. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for SharePoint and OneDrive for Business

Exchange Online and Exchange Server 2013 introduced Data Loss Prevention (DLP), a security and compliance feature that allows you to configure policies to protect sensitive information including PII and HBI in email and prevent such information from leaving your organization. What really makes this feature truly remarkable is the pre-canned DLP templates that allow you to quickly apply policies to comply with regulations such as HIPPA and PCI, and built-in definitions of sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers.

The new DLP functionality works across SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.

4. Advanced encryption at rest with per-file encryption

In Barcelona, Microsoft announced advanced per-file encryption of data at rest in Office 365, including files in OneDrive for Business. As the name suggests, the technology encrypts each file in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business with its own unique key, greatly reducing the risk of unauthorized access to such content. Needless to say, this is a major security enhancement. Customers should wait for more details on the implementation and decide whether it meets or exceeds their security requirements.

Privacy and security of information stored in the cloud has been a major concern and perhaps a blocker for some organizations. Office 365 offers some great Security and Compliance features. The addition of advanced encryption will go further in addressing these concerns.

This week has seen Microsoft announce major new functionality to Office 365 that makes this cloud service the one to beat.

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