Microsoft release new security and data compliance features for Office 365

Microsoft release new security and data compliance features for Office 365

Data security, protection and compliance are continuous processes within businesses with new threats impacting on organisations of all shapes and sizes every single day.  So to help in the fight against malware attacks and accidential information discloure Microsoft are adding to their existing array of security and information governance tools to help Office 365 customers protect their information and stay ahead of the evolving threats to their data.

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Are you using SharePoint for document management? Well some changes are heading your way!

Are you using SharePoint for document management? Well some changes are heading your way!

It's a really interesting time for the Office 365 subscriber at the moment.  As with all cloud based services one of the main advantages is having a platform that is continuously updated by the supplier.  In most cases the changes are to do with security or so minor they are not really noticed but there are some changing that are starting to appear in Office 365 that subscribers should take note of.

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What's coming to Office 365

The days of the IT upgrade where everyone has to take a day off for the IT people to get new software installed onto their PCs is over for those businesses using Office 365, as it is continuously updating with new features all the time.  As this episode of Office Mechanics shows there have been over 450 new features in the last year alone and more to come with Office 365 now extending to different platforms such as iOS and Android and with it offering more than just a place to store your stuff.

Check out the short video below to see what has been happening and what is coming our way soon with better integration and new applications joining the Office 365 family such as Office Delve and Sway.

For more information on what Office 365 could do for your business or to arrange a free demonstration or trial, you can contact us at or call 028 9031 1010 at any time.

Why would my business want Cloud Computing?

If we go back in time five years any discussion we would have had about technology for a business would have probably involved topics such as: server hardware, reliable and flexible access to email, having enough storage for growth, assurance of backup and speed of recovery.

These topics have not changed today, but where all of these things would have been based on equipment running within the business itself and would come with a lot of flexibility, they also came with a lot of additional costs in terms of service contracts, software upgrades and periods of downtime with productivity loss when things either went wrong or something needed upgraded.  So something had to change!

So back to today and that same business conversation in terms of the options available have changed quite a bit.  For example, email is usually one of the most important applications in a business today, so it needs to be reliable.  So moving this out of your building where the internet connection may not be the most reliable into an environment that will always make sure email keeps running and is kept secure for the fraction of the price of running a server in your building can be quite compelling.  You also have the added benefit of not worrying if your office internet connection goes down not getting your email, as you'll still get your email on your phone, tablet or anywhere else you are with an internet connection.  Now that can be very compelling!

So here are some reasons why you should consider a move to cloud computing:

  • Lower operating costs - less systems running the in your office means less to manage or maintain which in turn lowers the costs for support and upgrades and keeps your team productive;
  • Business continuity is built it - unlike your in house IT system that is dependant on components, power and internet providers, cloud computing platforms are built with redundancy from the ground up.  Multiple mirrors of your data are held both locally and geographically in data centres with multiple power sources and internet connections. There are not many businesses that could justify that level of spend on redundancy and business continuity which is what makes these platforms very appealing as now they don't have to worry about it;
  • Compliance is automatic - cloud computing vendors need to ensure you the customer they can not only protect your data but have controls in place to ensure a member of staff can't just plug in a USB key and lift your data.  Not every supplier takes this to the highest level but the ones that do, follow strict operating guidelines and get independently audited to the latest international compliance standards; and finally
  • Costs are measureable and controllable - just like keeping the lights on in your house effects your electricity bill the same can be said for cloud computing.  These services usually work to a per user, per month or number of units consumed over time type of model. So if you increase or decrease usage this is proportionate to the price you pay per billing period.

Not everything today is as cloud computing friendly as email or websites.  Some of that is down to the variances in the speed of the internet connection depending on where you are or what you are doing.  But the majority of the issues are down to how certain applications are designed; if they were designed to run on a server then they are best kept on a server.  However, on the plus side the server they now run on now doesn't have to be the top of range specification, because now the server is going to be doing a lot less than it did before and doesn't need to be as powerful or cost as much.  Even as I write this, more and more forward thinking software companies already have or are working on moving their applications to this type of environment and the ones that don't will be left behind as this technology is only getting better as each day passes.

For more information on how cloud computing could save your business time and money, give Endeavour a call today on 028 9031 1010 or email and arrange to see a first hand demonstration of cloud computing at work and we can show you what it could do for your business.

Is Office 365 secure?

So you are about to upgrade your ICT systems and a number of the potential suppliers you've been talking to are recommending a cloud based solution - but how can you be sure your information will be safe?

It's one of the first and most common questions I get asked every time we meet with a customer and demonstrate one of the Microsoft Cloud Services, such as Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online or Microsoft Azure.

It's a really important question and is a completely understandable concern for any organisation considering a cloud based solution.  However, when we start to look at what most of these customers currently have in place we normally discover that a move to a service such as Office 365 is actually more secure than what they have in place at present - let me explain.

There is more to IT security than who can see your data.  There are a variety of different risks to mitigate on a continuous basis, so it's not just about where the ones and zeros are stored but more about how your information is stored based on your company's need and the layers of protection both physical and logical that are applied to that information on an ongoing basis.  So, if you think about an organisation that has a server located within its premises, there are all kinds of risks some of which are addressed continiously such as backup and some that are probably not addressed quite so regularly such as software upgrades, auditing, security patches, information classification and business continuity.  Then there are the basic risks such as physical security, power, cooling and connectivity which are all the addressed with strict policies and standards along with failover systems in a Microsoft cloud environment but would be very expensive for your typical small/medium sized business to implement in-house.  Therefore, your typical small/medium organisation will usually accept some of these risks but the argument would be if they did move to something such as Office 365 they would actually increase their information security and business continuity capability compared to running their information systems on servers within their offices.

An example of one element of security functionality Office 365 can provide is shown in the video below which shows how Office 365 offers encryption at all layers of the business from internal data sharing to external communication with 3rd parties:

This is just one of many layers of security that is implemented within the Microsoft Cloud Services stack and there is far more than we could cover in one news item.  However, its safe to say that Microsoft as a cloud services provider does take information security serious and as a provider as Software as a Service (SaaS) in the case of Office 365 has a wide range of internal access controls, multiple security technology layers, redundant/backup systems and compliance monitoring with independent security auditors.

So the answer we provider our customers is: "Yes, Office 365 is not just secure but is likely to be more secure and reliable than the server in your back office."  Not only that it will continue to be reviewed and upgraded everyday and you as the end customer can be as involved in that as you want or need to be going forward.

For more information on just how seriously Microsoft takes the security of its cloud services you can visit the Office 365 Trust Centre where you will see first hand the facilities and measures that are implemented and maintained on an ongoing basis.

Why charities and non-profit organisations should consider using Office 365


Every charity/non-profit organisation we have ever worked with over the years has been driven by a core set of values and objectives, which we believe fits in well with what Microsoft Office 365 now offers this sector, for example:

  • Fundraising:  As well as the everyday implementation and planning of projects, events and initiatives, the biggest task facing charities is fundraising. So with collaboration platforms such as SharePoint Online that comes as part of Office 365, organisations can create areas for ideas to be forged with a wide audience of staff, volunteers and 3rd parties that will allow them all to communicate, generate awareness and contribute towards these goals.
  • Communication & Collaboration:  This is essential in every organisation but it can be difficult for charities in particular especially when geography and diversity of roles is added to the equation.  Organisations need to protect their information and Exchange Online which also comes as part of Office 365 delivers corporate standard email with antivirus and anit-spam all to the highest level. Combined with SharePoint Online and Microsoft Office these platforms provide a familiar environment for staff and volunteers alike that will allow for ideas and vital information to be recorded easily and consistently on any device.  The collaborative nature of Office 365 also cuts across geography and language boundaries while keeping costs low. Since everything is on a secured and centralised platform, ideas, updates and operational information never slips through the cracks.
  • Measuring Performance:  One of key elements of any charity is the requirement to monitor how well their projects are going, and assess and evaluate their effectiveness. This usually means that there is a lot of data that needs to be recorded and processed within tight timeframes, all of which takes time and effort that take away from the organisation core values and objectives.  So with the various elements of Office 365 information and data can be sorted, organised and made more accessible to those who need it and when data is centralised and available for analysis, it’s becomes easier to gain insight in order to make more strategic decisions.
  • Social:  Is something that can really help with adoption and awareness and with Office 365 it can also help charities create a more social based environment while still ensuring that operational information and objectives are met.  This in turn can encourage volunteers who are not necessarily tuned into corporate processes to contribute to ideas and information that turn into delivering key objectives in a less formal way.
  • Keeping Costs Down:  This is at the core of every charity and non-profit organisation and with Office 365 under a cloud computing subscription model this is a reality.  No more expensive capital expenditure on network servers and service contracts or downtime that generates more costs from upgrades or the latest security threats. Microsoft take care of all of that from their own data centres while also ensuring your information is kept secure and more importantly private to you.  This means even the smallest organisation can have a complete disaster recovery plan built-in when they move to Office 365, on a technology platform that is upgraded automatically and encourages information management and task automation to ensure more can be done in less time, and who in todays busy information driven world doesn’t need more time in their day?

Making sure resources are where they are needed most! 

Microsoft as you would expect with a founder such as Bill Gates, is a company that donates and subsidises a lot of their software to charity, education and non-profit sectors and this is equally true of their attitude towards Office 365 pricing to these sectors today.  For example, charities and non-profit organisations that already have Microsoft Office and don't need lots of extra software licences can avail of Office 365 for free.  While others that want or need more functionality and extra software are also given considerable discounts that are a fraction of the normal costs given to a typical commercial business.  A summary of the costs and eligibility for UK based charities/non-profit organisations can be found here.

So at the end of the day charities that are able to adopt and take advantage of Office 365 will be driving more than just a culture of collaboration and efficiency; they will also be ensuring that more of their funding will go directly towards the causes that need it most and in these times of economic caution and budget cuts coming from every direction that is the real pay back for making the change.

For more information on how the Office 365 platform can help your organisation save on costs, improve communication and speed up processes feel free to contact us on 028 9031 1010 or email us at and we will arrange a demonstration for you.