Microsoft 365 – Lots of Hype; How About a Tour?

So many people talk about ‘Office 365’ or ‘Microsoft 365,’ but when it comes down to knowing what these actually are and what they do, most people are pretty fuzzy. First of all, it’s changed a LOT over the last few years (that’s what happens when you focus a lot of money on R&D!). Next, as Microsoft focuses on the 365 offering, they’re NOT giving much focus to legacy products, giving the clear signal of what’s to come. I’d also add that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and find ourselves at a very unique point in history where the technology tools and on-demand software have been accelerated by sheer NEED; how do we get work done when we can’t go to our offices or meet with our teams?

In early October, we presented a high-level ‘Tour’ of Microsoft 365. This webinar was a BIG hit and generated a lot of discussion. Even though we kept it to one hour, and only covered the highlights, it was a lot to take in, so we thought we’d recap. As you dig into this info, get your pen or highlighter out; you’ll be the only one in the room who actually knows what you’re talking about when it comes to Microsoft 365!

OK, here we go – There are three (3) groupings, categories that make up the Suite of offerings:

  • Business Apps – Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint
  • Cloud Services – Exchange, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint
  • Business Security – MFA (multi-factor authentication), Defender, Azure Information Protection, Intune, Conditional Access, Windows Virtual Desktop (Chris’s favorite!)

Now, the first two, Business Apps (Office to you and me) and Cloud Services are part of Office 365. This product combination has been around for a while. Think about it as the foundation of the 365 offering. I can’t think of a single client who doesn’t use Word and Excel. Many use Teams, especially since March 2020, and a growing number are using OneDrive for local documents on their mobile devices.

Microsoft 365 is the more mature product, incorporating Office 365 with the Business Security you and I need in order to safely use these software programs, and to protect our mobile devices. Take all the products from Office, add Teams and shared documents, and you absolutely need the security additions! With Microsoft 365, at a basic level, you have the necessary security. As an IT group, we’re EXTREMELY excited about these additional security products.

  • Multi-factor authentication, for instance. You probably have this with your bank; you log in with your username and password, then you receive a code that you enter to ‘authenticate’ that it’s you.
  • Microsoft Defender has some basic tools to ‘defend’ the local device. One example is a firewall (not the same as what you have to protect your network) and a basic anti-virus (not our favorite).
  • Intune has some great security for businesses when it comes to protecting remote equipment. It also has some handy tools for the IT professionals, allowing us to maintain the remote devices.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop is just ‘so cool’ according to Chris. I have to say, we’ve been using it to access our hosted server and it is quite friendly, scalable, and simple. We’ll cover this one in more detail in our future webinar about the Next Generation of Hosted Services.

With so many features and options, Microsoft continues to adjust its packaging names and prices. At a high level, these tools can be grouped into three (3) buckets:

By the Service – license for the specific service you want to use; not all services are available ‘a la carte’; this is the least cost-efficient way to purchase the core services

M365 Business packages – a wide array of apps and cloud services are included; great security features; designed for small to medium businesses; biggest bang for the buck; max of 300 licenses. This is our favorite!

M/O365 Enterprise – higher service limits (read ‘more money’); no limit on licenses

When choosing the right level of licensing, we recommend you reach out to us so we can talk it through with you. There are quite a few things to consider, and we are totally prepared to walk you through the right questions, so you can get to the right licenses.

When should you consider moving to the M365 suite? What’s a good ‘trigger’ to take a look and get started? If any of these apply to you, give us a call and we can help you take a look at whether it’s time to make some changes.

  • Do your team members have more than one computer? The 365 licenses will cover up to 5 devices per named user. So your laptop, the workstation at the office, and your tablet would all be covered under one license.
  • Do you have an on premise Exchange server? This is a good time to look at what version you’re running, what software and license costs you would incur to do an upgrade, how much space the data is taking up on your network and backups, and time to maintain and keep it running. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s very possible that a move to M365 is in your future.
  • Are you using Teams? Are you paying for Dropbox, Zoom, or other remote meeting and shared data platforms? The M365 licenses include Teams and OneDrive at a minimum; there might be some savings here.

We’ll break down all of these M365 tools, and even some of the more powerful add-ons, in the coming months. Watch for our webinars and newsletter articles. Before you know it, you’ll be one of the ‘experts’ on Microsoft 365 (or at least a happy user)! Ready to jump in right now? Give us a call and we’ll get you started.