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Office 365: bringing better, social isolation to the nation!

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Here’s an insight into how Office 365 can change your life as a remote worker. Mark Norris, IT security manager at Focus Group, explains…

In today’s news, I’ve had to move from my upstairs office (AKA the spare room) back to my old downstairs study. It does mean no more looking out at the trees; it also means no more naming the visiting birds after people in the office.

There are the starlings that arrive on mass, have a big munch up and leave as quickly as they arrived. Reminds me of when a client sends free food samples and the sales team dive in! The real reason for my relocation is that my son is playing some Xbox game called Rainbow Siege Call of Duty Overwatch team death match. His constant shouting and swearing loudly meant I had to move away, but not before I learnt a few words and phrases!

The beauty of Office 365

I am lucky in that I can move between the two rooms in my house with ease which is exactly what Office 365 is geared up for - the ability to access emails or files from anywhere in the world. Gone are the days when someone worked from home, they had to download all the files or data to their laptop, so that they could effectively work offline. Apart from the security risks of ensuring that the data stored locally on the workstation is secure and encrypted, what happens if the data becomes lost or corrupted? What happens if that laptop is stolen? How sensitive is the data? The list is endless.

Microsoft Office 365 solves all of that. Your data remains where it resides now. There is no need to move it and whatever access controls are in place remain in place. If Sam in accounts can access all the client bank details in the office, then Sam has this same access when he works remotely.

Accessing your enterprise software over the internet has big advantages. For one, all you need is your computer, whether that is a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, and an internet connection or phone coverage. As the Office 365 software is running in a Microsoft data centre, you simply connect to the Internet to access the software.

Safe and trusted data

Another phrase I seem to have always found myself saying is “Single Trusted Source”. With regards to GDPR, companies should know where their data resides and having a trusted source is paramount. Allowing users to save data locally to their machines reduces a company’s ability to demonstrate that they know where all their data resides. Microsoft Office 365 provides centrally located data that is your single trusted source of data; if you make changes to a document from your tablet at home and then your colleague views the file from their phone, they will see the most up to date document.

Using part of the Office 365 package called SharePoint Online means data lives in the cloud and can be as secure or open regardless of geographic locations. You may have a document that you want everyone in your organisation to read, but only a few people to edit it. The security can be as granular you want, but the key takeaway (now that McDonalds are shut!) is that your data is centrally managed and is a single trusted source. If you have a need to collaborate on a document in real time with people, then you need nothing more than your web browser.

Say goodbye to the ‘Chummies’

I am sure there are people who realise that if I can access my emails or data anywhere in the world just using a web browser then what about someone else? My answer to that is read my first blog. ‘Chummies’ are keen to obtain your email address and password. Chummies are not smart, they are only after one thing - money. Therefore, NEVER EVER share your password with someone or if the portal asking for your password looks suspect, then it is. There are products out there that even check the colour of Office logos on a web page to see whether they are genuine.

I cannot stress how important it is that if you have staff remotely accessing their emails and data, then you should use some MFA product. If I had 18p for every time I have stated this, I would have £82.08 by now. And yes, I do appreciate that there are people out there now reaching for a calculator, that is a good thing as it is making you think about MFA.

How does it work?

Sally is working from home. She logs into her email and then must enter a code from her phone to complete the login. This is multifactor authentication (MFA). Something you know and something you have (in this case a code on your mobile phone). However, Sally does not follow company guidelines around spam email and does not adopt the “if in doubt throw it out” practice. She clicks on a spam email and inadvertently gives a Chummy her password. A few hours later Sally is sitting watch TV as another person fakes enthusiasm on Antique Roadshow as their heirloom turns out to be something purchased in 1960 from Woolworths. Her phone receives the authentication code for the Office 365 access. Sally knows she is not logging in. It means that Chummy has attempted to log in, but as the code must come from Sally’s phone, Chummy cannot complete the login. Sally is now aware that someone knows her password and can change it immediately. All companies that allow staff remote Office 365 access should have a working MFA solution.

The dream team

Okay, so Office 365 gives me email, the ability to store and save files in a single trusted source, gives me Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but what else does it give? I have saved the best bit for last. TEAMS. The ability to call, speak and see each other. It gives you the ability to share your desktop with colleagues and is a one stop shop for all your video conferencing needs, so that you don’t feel alone. You can see your colleagues and what their homes look like, too. On this morning’s call with my team I noticed one of the sales team had the same mirror I have on my landing…

Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that provides global, remote, and dispersed teams with the ability to work together and share information via a common space. You can utilise cool features like document collaboration, one-on-one chat, team chat, and more. Microsoft Teams is also fully integrated with many other Office 365 services, such as Skype, SharePoint, Exchange, and Yammer.

Teams core capabilities:

  • Chat – Enjoy public and private conversations with your teams. The deep integration of Skype video into the application brings you popular social features, such as adding emojis and custom memes to your discussions.
  • Hub – Teams offers a shared workspace for the various applications in Microsoft Office including PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Planner, OneNote, SharePoint, Delve, and Power BI. This feature gives you and your teams the option to work natively without having to stress about toggling between applications as you try to get projects completed.

Microsoft Teams was built for a diverse workforce. With Teams, everyone around you will always be in the know. Given our current situation, the ability to meet virtually is an important and cost-effective feature for businesses today.

Before I wander off to look in the fridge at what I can have for some lunch, I thought I would mention Spanning, in relation to keeping data safe and how long are people’s emails saved. What happens when someone deletes that all-important email, how is it recovered? Office 365 only keeps deleted data for a short period of time.

But what if you had a product that allowed a user to recover any email? Spanning takes daily backups of your mail files and saves them and allows a user to self-access the data. No more calls to the help desk asking for them to recover an email or file!