> Microsoft 365: Transformation & Progression for Enterprises

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Microsoft 365: Transformation & Progression for Enterprises

The IT landscape continues to evolve exponentially as organizations work to embrace this pace of change with a vision to thrive. A noticeable shift from cloud first to cloud smart[1] prevails as enterprises gain more knowledge and realize cloud adoption, without a clearly-defined ROI or roadmap, could have a negative impact on business.

In a recent CIO round table, participants said inhibitors to their cloud first strategies include:

  • Cost overruns
  • Lack of effective exploitation of cloud capabilities
  • Skill gaps
  • Lack of managed & professional services

Getting Cloud Smart

Successful organizations are focused on tangible and intangible business improvements, including process improvement, speed to market, cost management and technological maturity, as core principles of being cloud smart.

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are now best practice and organizations see them as the best way to align IT to business. For their workloads, most enterprises are intent on identifying ideal execution venues that align adoption curve, technological maturity, business imperatives and economics. Not surprisingly, even in this cloud smart approach to IT, Microsoft 365 has emerged as the ubiquitous platform which ties everything together and serves as an entry point to the cloud. Customers have justifiable reasons for moving to Microsoft 365:

  • Renewal of enterprise agreement contracts
  • Familiarity with the Microsoft platform
  • A desire to move to a cloud model & its operational efficiencies

The complexities associated with effectively adopting the MS 365 platform and maximizing its benefits in line with a cloud smart mindset is often lost in migrations. And major inhibitors to being cloud smart continue to be:

  • Lack of planning
  • Insufficient understanding of the difference between customer & service provider responsibilities
  • No access to competent managed service providers for the specific use cases

Business Case: Microsoft 365 Customers

Three Commonalities observed in Microsoft 365 customers:

1)   Understanding Cloud Adoption: A Business Improvement Tool

This is paramount to being cloud smart. Building a clear ROI, based on an extensive understanding of the business and the platform, is critical. Most of us have a pre-defined understanding of Microsoft Office as a simple communications platform. The same applies to Microsoft 365. However, the latter platform has understated capabilities to potentially transform a business. Example? The ability to automate processes using Microsoft Power automate [2]. Picture a small or mid-sized business manually interacting with invoices. Power Automate offers AI-enabled image recognition to upload invoices automatically, recognize key fields and update accounting databases. For many mid-sized enterprises, this could save hours of manual processing, improve accuracy and generate new business efficiencies. It would be wise to capture it in ROIs for Microsoft 365.

2)   Shared Responsibilities: Infra Resiliency VS Data Resiliency

The term “cloud” can be interpreted differently and using the term to denote different types of clouds can be confusing. A major challenge when dealing with SaaS platforms is delineation of responsibilities and making assumptions that could jeopardize the ability to maintain uptime. Resiliency of the infrastructure versus resiliency of data hosted therein is one such assumption. Microsoft’s infrastructure architecture may or may not apply to the customer’s data. While the infrastructure architecture is globalized and highly-resilient, the customer is ultimately responsible for their data. Whether IaaS/PaaS/SaaS, the customer still owns the data life cycle management and related business continuity planning.

This is also true for the Microsoft 365 platform. A clear understanding of the difference between “Data infrastructure” and “data backups” is recommended. Microsoft’s primary responsibility is to the customer’s global infrastructure uptime. An IT organization’s responsibility is to have complete access and control of the customer’s data and its location [4]. Microsoft uses georedundant data centers and data replication functionality to seamlessly failover to a working copy of data and application. The backup is different than replication. In replication, the deleted data or corrupt data is replicated along with good data. To be fully protected, backup and replication is necessary.
Data loss is costly and mostly a result of human error or lack of understanding about the capabilities. In Microsoft 365, there are different retention policies and mechanisms for Mailboxes, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams across different Recycle Bins, hidden folders and more. It’s complex for a user or IT admin to navigate them all. Capabilities to protect customer data exist but there is no service specifically designated as a comprehensive backup and recovery solution. If backup and recovery in Microsoft 365 is important, then a third-party backup tool is necessary.

3)   Security of Data: The New Oil of the Economy

As businesses evolve digitally, alignment with data compliance rules in their industry is crucial. Adoption of a SaaS service could raise their attack surface and the enterprise would subsequently need to enhance their security posture using third-party security services like Skout, INKY, Trend Micro and others.

Microsoft provides native capabilities including:

  • Identity & access management
  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Information & threat protection
  • Advanced compliance capabilities across various editions

The level of security and compliance capabilities of Microsoft 365 is based on editions. To keep pace with evolving phishing attacks, for example, features like randomized URLs scanning, behavior profiling based on social graphs, AI usage to find zero day attacks, ML and other capabilities may only be available in certain editions of Microsoft 365.

Microsoft 365 offers enterprises a favourable opportunity to progress digitally through a new pace of change brought on by this pandemic. As a digital platform, MS 365 can help transform businesses, enhance their security posture for infrastructure and data and ultimately achieve their financial goals.

Written by: Anil Kanwar

Anil Kanwar is a Solution Architect responsible for working with enterprise customers to understand their IT strategy, provide assessments of their current infrastructure state, design target state and provide a phased approach to reach and maintain it using TeraGo services. Anil brings 20+ years of enterprise IT experience in Hybrid IT Solution Architecture, Product Management, Delivery & Program Management for large IT Operations

1. Federal Cloud Computing Strategy – From Cloud First to Cloud Smart – https://cloud.cio.gov/strategy/#cloud-smart
2. Microsoft Power Automate documentation – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-automate/?utm_source=flow-sidebar&utm_medium=web
3. The Microsoft 365 Shared Responsibility Model – https://www.veeam.com/blog/office365-shared-responsibility-model.html
4. This ebook outlines the out of the box security features in Microsoft 365 and uncovering the gaps that require action to achieve an effective backup and recovery strategy – https://go.veeam.com/office-365-backup-for-dummies