Microsoft Windows and Office 365 are the bread and butter of productivity for thousands of organizations in the U.S. Windows has long been the dominant desktop operating system, while Office 365 is the go-to application suite for everything from editing corporate copy in Word to monitoring expenses via Excel.
The changes to Windows and Office in Microsoft 365
It was no surprise, then, that these two office staples were recently combined into a new cloud-based subscription package announced at the Microsoft Inspire 2017 conference. Microsoft 365, which also includes Enterprise Mobility + Security, has been billed by one Microsoft vice president as "a fundamental shift" in how the company approaches its software strategy.
The value of Microsoft 365 seems to reside in how it consolidates the management of several essential business services under one umbrella. This setup has clear benefits for security (e.g., easier updating across devices) and collaboration (a unified set of applications across the organization).
Its fresh technical design and overhauled business model also highlight some of the common challenges in administering older configurations of both Windows 10 and Office 365. The complexity of these platforms, along with the sheer number of cyberattacks that target them, can make life difficult for inexperienced IT departments in particular. Here are some issues to watch out for:
1. Not having a proper data recovery strategy
Windows-based systems have been vulnerable to malware such as the WannaCry ransomware that spread across the world in May 2017. Although that threat was quickly contained (and a patch promptly issued by Microsoft), the incident highlighted a real risk to many implementations of Office 365: not having any recourse in the event that essential data becomes unusable, as it might if encrypted by ransomware without access to the encryption key.
According to a survey by Barracuda Networks, two-thirds of Office 365 administrators use the Recycle Bin to recover data. This approach is not recommended: Data deleted from the Recycle Bin is not recoverable if inadvertently removed, plus it is set to expire after a certain amount of time, anyway. It is very limited in scenarios in which you need to recover data for applications such as Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive.
Many admins also do not test data recovery mechanisms on a regular basis, despite the majority of them also needing to support recovery at multiple locations. The unified management architecture of Microsoft 365 is in part a response to this sort of issue: Administrators need a consistent, reliable strategy for making critical data accessible to numerous devices, services and branch offices.
2. Struggling to fend off advanced cyberattacks
The popularity of Microsoft's platforms make them obvious targets for cybercriminals. In addition to the WannaCry threat we mentioned earlier (which targeted Windows PCs), there was a recent string of brute-force attacks against enterprise Office 365 accounts identified by Skyhigh Networks researchers.
This incident involved repeated efforts to gain access to sensitive data held in one company's Office 365 implementation. More than 100,000 failed login were attempted, using cloud infrastructure to automate a campaign focused on the credentials of just a few high-level employees at the victimized firm.
The attack was eventually detected and contained in time. Nevertheless, it was representative of the broad spectrum of security challenges - e.g., access control issues, advanced persistent threats, etc. - associated with Office 365. It is no accident that Microsoft 365 has been marketed for its "built-in, intelligent security" capabilities that protect corporate data from exfiltration.
3. Taking a long time to migrate essential data
Although Office 365 is one of the most prominent Microsoft products, it only surpassed traditionally licensed Office in revenue in mid-2017. The ongoing popularity of on-premises Office is understandable, since it affords a high degree of control for the enterprises that use it.
However, the shift from this form of Office to Office 365 can be jarring. For starters, the quality of an organization's network connection is crucial in determining how long a migration will take; in some cases, the process will be much longer than anticipated.
There are also the potential complications related to authentication and identity management. For example, Azure Active Directory is not equivalent to the older Active Directory.
Become better-versed in Office 365 at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers
To navigate these challenges and many others, it pays to have extensive training in Microsoft platforms, as well as CompTIA certifications such as CompTIA Security+. You can acquire these credentials at your nearest New Horizons. Find a location close to you today, and also be sure to take a look at our webinars page for tips on finding a rewarding IT job in today's market.