I’ve been directly involved in IT for the last 20 years but like most people was a heavy user of IT services before then. Back in my college days I’d be typing up college assignments in WordPerfect (which provided both word count and spell check) and then printing it off on a dot matrix printer. I am not 100 years old but that does feel like a long time ago and in technology terms it is.
I mention this because although the specific makes/brands may have changed the underlying requirement for information creation and dissemination remains.
It’s fair to say the leader in this field is Microsoft. With 1.2 Billion Office users, 60 Million active O365 users and 50,000 small business customers being added to Office 365 every month it’s difficult to argue (here).
Office 365 has continued to evolve as it’s grown in both popularity and in its importance to Microsoft and with so many versions it’s easy to get confused between the different SKUs, pricing models and features.
In fact Microsoft have recently increased the scope of this service further by introducing Microsoft 365 Enterprise (not to be confused with Office 365). This new family of M365 takes Office 365 and adds Windows 10 for the desktop and Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) making a suite of services under one simple SKU.
One of the things that makes this really appealing to modern businesses is flexibility and how you pay for it. Whereas traditionally you might have Office 365 on an annual agreement and Windows OS on a 3 yr OVS agreement this new M365 SKU is under a CSP (Cloud Service Provider) agreement and can therefore be paid for monthly and flexed as needed. No more buying tons of licenses, divesting part of the business and being left with a load of paid for licenses you can’t use.
So what do you actually get in Microsoft 365 Enterprise?
The most commonly used feature is email using Exchange Online. Huge user mailboxes and AV mean an end to the bad old days of having to delete an email from your inbox before you could send an email. You can upload all your existing emails or start from scratch, there’s an option to archive emails and make sure they can never be deleted making you more compliant. You can access all your emails from mobile and tablets as well as desktops and you never have to patch another Exchange Server again. It also includes calendars and sharing for scheduling.
After email Office is probably the most used element of 365 with the latest versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel available as local downloads or online. These really come into their own when combined with OneDrive for Business as this enables real collaboration on live documents and sharing.
This area of file sharing remains the last bastion on On-Prem for many companies nervous about their data being out of their eye line. Some are happy to utilise OneDrive for all files allowing access to all from any device and will argue about increased productivity and fewer issues while others are more reluctant. This is something that will gradually sway more towards Cloud as people become more confident in the technology, after all we all use services like Dropbox and online banking already. Until then a hybrid local server in conjunction with OneDrive allows many of the benefits but with a bit more overhead. In either case full policy management is provided to make sure the sales team don’t get sight of the Boardroom minutes.
This collaborative theme continues with Skype for Business making calls between users simple and toll free as well as moving users away from email towards Instant Messaging for faster responses and less clutter. Video calls are simple and cut right back on travel and accommodation costs as well as bringing people closer together to fix issues quicker.
Teams and Sharepoint offer systems to centralise all the information related to a project, event, process or customer so team members can see all the files and interactions quickly and instantly. This is a new way of working that does require a bit of time investment but is quickly repaid many times over.
All of these systems come with all of the security that people expect from a company like Microsoft but where Microsoft 365 Enterprise excels over Office 365 is in the inclusion of additional security at the user and desktop level.
Tools such as Threat Protection, ID and Access Management, Data Loss Prevention and Bitlocker ensure that users are as safe as possible by quarantining attachments to detect malicious behaviour, providing time-of-click protection against malicious URLs by wrapping them up and checking the destination before opening.
A single per user monthly fee (£28 per user per month at time of writing) means all of the complexity that used to be associated with providing these services is simplified increasing the chance that you’ll use these features which will reduce costs associated with downtime, data loss, breach, ransom ware etc…
Microsoft 365 Enterprise also works alongside other 3rd party services (such as Codestone Cloud) if you need bespoke applications delivered from the Cloud (or Azure) so you really can reduce your local overhead while increasing output.
As a Microsoft Gold Partner and Cloud Service Provider with ISO 27001:2013 accreditation Codestone Solutions have the skills and experience to manage these transitions with you.