In these uncertain times, it has been impressive to watch companies large and small quickly provide their employees with the ability to work from home. Without a doubt, this is the result of a cloud journey which started years ago, when Office 365 provided online versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and OneDrive, allowing people to work from anywhere.
In the previous six months, the push Microsoft has made to encourage its customers towards Microsoft Teams has paid dividends. The latter had enabled people to easily continue working, this time from home, armed with the tools, data and ubiquitous access they need.
This is a far cry from those organisations who have been unable to start their cloud journey. These companies have had to make a Herculean effort over the last few weeks, to enable and support their users remotely, escaping the protection and safety of their protected networks.
Leverage Microsoft 365’s Security Features
The chasm between Microsoft Office365 (O365) and Microsoft 365 (M365), to my mind, is similar to that between the original Microsoft Office and O365. Though I am sure this is a by-product of my years as “that paranoid IT Security guy,” I find it difficult to understand how one could go all the way to O365 and then just stop there. M365 is a swiss army knife of security tools, and provides even more value if you have a tendency for Microsoft-flavoured productivity apps; it is a no-brainer!
For example, the plumbing needed to use Office365 identity: Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), was more a consequence or afterthought of moving to Office365 than a driver to get there. Yet Microsoft has built a great set of tools leveraging this platform. When properly configured, they can significantly reduce the chances of your organization being compromised. With M365, Azure AD gets the premium treatment and becomes a game-changer to extend your IT footprint outside the walls of the corporate offices. Azure Active Directory can help take away all those different passwords to the many cloud applications you provide your teams. In essence, they log in to Outlook online, and Microsoft looks after the rest.
Secure legacy apps with Azure Active Directory
Not only do new cloud applications benefit, but legacy applications hitherto stuck inside your network can be set free. This is where Azure Application Proxy, provided with M365, comes into play again. Azure Application Proxy not only provides a secure channel for these applications to be safely used from anywhere, but can also improve the login experience, leveraging your O365 credentials to enable access.
Fewer passwords are better for security; no passwords in the back of a notebook here! Your single Microsoft password (Single Sign-On or SSO) is now securing your access to critical applications. In turn, M365 is securing that password with ‘Conditional Access,’ enforcing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) based on artificial intelligence (AI), and analyzing data about how and where you are trying to connect to protect you. In English, you can log in to your account only if you have your phone to validate your identity, just like logging in to your bank. Of course, this is only one of the many enhancements that M365 provides. The solution supports security and compliance, protecting your data everywhere.
Remote working does not stop with the provision of remote access. That is where it starts. Having the right security toolset is as essential as having the right productivity tools. In fact, it is more critical.