Navigating 4 Common Challenges in Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 has become one of the most widely used cloud computing services in recent years, buoyed by its familiar brand, numerous integrations and cross-platform compatibility. A report from Skyhigh Networks revealed that over 58 percent of sensitive data in the cloud was stored in Microsoft Office documents. Plus, this share was expected to increase in the years ahead due to the inclusion of 1TB of OneDrive storage with entry-level Office 365 subscriptions.

Individual services such as Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business Online were all adopted by majorities of companies with more than 100 users apiece in Skyhigh Networks' study. Overall, Office 365 has an enormous footprint among today's businesses as well as a bright future for further adoption. However, getting the most out of its different parts requires a high level of technical skills to help with tasks such as identity management.

Let's look at some common mistakes in this area and others in Office 365, and how you can address them:

1. High costs of single single-on

Despite the similarities in name, Azure Active Directory, which is cloud-based and integrated with Office 365, is not equivalent to Active Directory, which is on-premises and contained within Windows Server. Accordingly, organizations with traditional Active Directory may use either password sync or federated single sign-on tools to make connections to Azure.

"Azure Active Directory is not equivalent to Active Directory."

For many firms, the differences between the two will be slight. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, federation requires fewer password prompts, but costs more to implement than sync. Some IT departments pay too much for federated SSO tools, or do not explore third-party SSO options that may be more cost-effective.

2. Lax security practices when connecting to Azure

Security is a perennial concern when moving data to the cloud: It was in fact the second most-cited issue by respondents to a 2016 RightScale survey of enterprises. As you move to Office 365, you can run into security problems that could put sensitive data at risk.

One possible stumbling block is the download of data to unapproved devices. Be sure to configure Device Registration Service if you are using Active Directory Federation Services. Any device not on the main list can be forced to complete multi-factor authentication before being granted access.

3. Migration challenges, especially with Exchange

In theory, Exchange Online is an ideal email solution that is much more scalable and easier to manage than an on-premises deployment. However, it is rare for any organization needing Exchange via Office 365 to not have an existing Exchange deployment, meaning that migration is necessary.

There are many possible roadblocks here, including insufficient bandwidth, trouble maintaining user contacts and notes from other platforms such as Gmail and difficulties in setting up a hybrid environment (i.e., one in which there are both on-prem and cloud/Office 365 components). Planning and equipment procurement are both important as you prepare for migration to Office 365 services.

4. Picking the right support plan for Office 365

We mentioned Active Directory sync earlier when discussing identity and access management (IAM) for Office 365. This feature is included in many Office 365 plans, but is notably missing from the Home and Small Business versions. You could end up with a relatively cheap plan that nevertheless does not cover the IAM bases that you need it to.

Office 365 is so much more than just your documents moved to the cloud. It is a new approach to collaboration, email and cloud computing. To ensure that you are ahead of the curve, be sure to obtain our Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Office 365 Solutions Associate certification to develop and refine your Office 365 skills.

Nov 2016

By: Kayla Tellers