Office 365 is an essential tool for many organizations that have thrived for years within the Microsoft ecosystem. It takes those many nostalgic tools like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook — the tools that most of today’s workforce grew up revering and using — and makes them available in the cloud. This breaks the limits of devices and allows users to use these tools on any device and have their work saved to the cloud without having to worry about using up their precious hard drive or SSD storage.
For organizations, it gives IT a much better way to enable their workforce. No more painful manual mass updates to all systems in the organization to give them the latest version of Word or Excel.
COVID-19 Makes Work From Home a Necessity
During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis work from home has become a mandate that IT teams have had to scramble to support. Organizations that have already made the switch from desktop to cloud apps were much better equipped to handle this change.
This shift from controlled in-house desktop systems to bring your own device (BYOD) has a bearing on security. Data is now more fluid. It is accessed from outside the confines of an office building. This can be during transit, at a Starbucks cafe, or at home. IT teams have given up tight control of data long ago. However, IT teams still need to have measures in place for when things go awry.
Securing Office 365 — Apps, Users, Devices
There are multiple levels of security controls. From the organization’s side, IT centrally manages all access and authorization of users and third-party apps. This is done centrally using Office 365’s user account management feature, or in the case of enterprises, using Active Directory. This part of security has been unchanged, and IT is very familiar with managing users and data from this console. From here, it all changes.
When it comes to devices, Office 365’s Mobile Device Management feature is essential to keep track of the plethora of devices that access the organization’s data in the cloud. Most of these devices are mobile devices, many are laptops, and very few are desktops. These devices keep changing and access to them needs to be revoked or allowed on an ongoing basis.
This is where Office 365 steps in to allow policy-based device management. IT can set policies on how to authenticate new devices, and the user can add new devices without requiring IT’s assistance, as long as their behavior is within limits of the allowed policies. Mobile Device management is an essential part of managing cloud-based work apps like Office 365.
Going a step further, Office 365 has smart defaults to ensure that user behavior is monitored, and any suspicious activity is reported to IT teams. Things like repeated incorrect password entries, suspicious IP addresses, proxies that route traffic and neighboring apps on the users’ device are all tracked. Office 365 checks if the device is verified, and only after this allows the Office 365 apps on that device to access the organization’s data from the cloud. If the device is not verified, the user needs to reset their password and only then can they access the organization’s data.
Fine-Grained Security for Office 365
Apart from Office 365’s own efforts to secure data, there are third-party solutions that add on machine learning and artificial intelligence to monitor user behavior and spot security threats. These tools enforce more granular control over devices, networks, apps, and data. They are an essential investment for organizations that operate in sectors like banking and finance where financial data needs to be handled with extra care. Tools like Forcepoint focus on behavioral analytics to improve security, while others like Practical 365 focus on securing email and networks with spam filters.
Backup and Recovery for Office 365
Despite all the measures an IT team may take, security attacks and disasters are bound to happen at some point. In these situations, IT teams need to take additional precautionary measures to safeguard their data from permanent loss.
Hackers can target company data and look to gain access or even delete sensitive data. Employees can go rogue and intentionally delete company data. In these cases, strong security measures alone aren’t enough. To weather this kind of storm, it’s essential to have a full backup of all your Office 365 data. You should be able to recover data quickly even if it’s been destroyed. This will enable seamless operations and the least impact to your organization.
Microsoft doesn’t provide a data backup solution for Office 365 since they provide just enough security and backup for data that meets the needs of small organizations. For larger organizations, and those with more stringent security and backup needs, there are third-party data backup and recovery solutions like Nakivo.
It’s critical that these solutions backup all data and provide quick recovery of data when needed. Additionally, an important feature for Office 365 backup is eDiscovery. eDiscovery enables you to search for a specific piece of data from your backup and restore just that piece of data. It is powerful when you’re in a hurry to recover critical data during an incident. It saves time and resources and reduces mean time to recovery (MTTR).
In conclusion, Office 365 is an integral part of today’s modern workforce. Challenges like COVID-19 prove this point. IT teams have been taking steps to modernize their organizations by adopting platforms like Office 365. Yet, two key factors in this adoption are security and data backup.
Office 365 provides basic security and backup enough for small organizations. But, when the stakes are high, and your business depends on your data, you need to go beyond basic security and backup. There are numerous third-party solutions that offer state-of-the-art security and data backup and recovery services. Modern IT teams would do well to venture out to find these tools and pick the appropriate ones to empower their workforce without compromising the interests of the organization.