From The Expert Feature Article
January 07, 2015

Optimizing Your O365 Game

By TMCnet Special Guest
Christian Ehrenthal, CEO, Knowledge Vault

The cloud is delivering greater flexibility and more options to MSPs and enterprises than ever before. As a result, organizations are eagerly signing up for services like O365, Dropbox, OneDrive and Box (News - Alert).net that enable their end users and employees to work and collaborate remotely or on-premises with equal ease, and at an attractive price point.

As organizations of all sizes and across all industries are making moves to take advantage of cloud-based services like Microsoft (News - Alert) Office 365 (O365), management and configuration challenges, data silos and lack of transparency all complicate their ability to maximize the benefits of these tools. They want to contain costs without sacrificing security and control. Fortunately, there are best practices organizations can leverage to optimize use of cloud services.

Clouds on the Horizon

While the benefits of cloud services are obvious, their rapid adoption across the market is revealing the data governance and management challenges they bring as well. For example, adopting an ecosystem of cloud services often means dealing with an infuriating patchwork of data silos whose complicated tangle shields it from effective IT administrator oversight. As a result, organizations are challenged to maintain compliance regulations mandating that sensitive data be kept within the network.

The sheer scale of new cloud services makes it difficult for IT administrators to keep up with the features provided by each. Adding new cloud services, which introduces the need to track how these services interoperate with one another at any given time is a management nightmare. Often, these cloud services lack governance and enterprise analytics capabilities, forcing admins to extend governance to cloud services as well as their existing legacy systems with the limited native tools available to them. As a result, rapid adoption of multiple cloud services often results in gaps in governance and information silos.

Risks in the Status Quo

While these factors are certainly annoying, it would be a mistake to shrug them off as inconsequential. Ignoring these challenges could result in a host of risks to the organization’s bottom line. Without insight into who has access, how they can access, what are they accessing, and where they are sharing data within and outside the enterprise, it’s highly difficult to migrate to Office 365 successfully. Without controls on what cloud data can be shared with others inside – and outside – the organization, the company risks data leakage, loss of control over critical unstructured data and noncompliance with data governance standards and regulations. This perfect storm of complexity needs to be addressed if the organization is going to take full advantage of the ROI and efficiency benefits the cloud has to offer.

Best Practices 

Fortunately, there are best practices the organization can adopt to minimize risk and maximize the benefits of cloud services in its environment.

  • Ready to migrate? Create defined migration plans and ensure the team has the reporting and governance tools needed to monitor the process.
  • Level set: Employees need the right levels of security and compliance configured before they get started. This includes setting appropriate access, appropriate levels of auditing and appropriate audit reviews, and double-checking that the team has the tools they need to support this process.
  • The compliance angle: The needs of the security team, auditors, business managers and administrators from a reporting and active governance perspective must be baked into the strategy from the onset. Consider including visibility into and control over license management, configuration and activity reporting.
  • Everyday tasks: What are the common processes the administrators will be performing? Build in processes that automate these and make them easier to track and report on. Best practices include using scripts to perform tasks like enforcing mailbox auditing and setting password complexity. Alternatively, the admin can delegate using graphical wizards that are tracked and stored in an online audit database.
  • Think beyond O365: O365 may be the biggest and most obvious cloud service on the horizon, but a comprehensive strategy will be able to accommodate others as well. Plan ahead. What other cloud content solutions is the team looking at, and how can the team ensure that IT complexity does not impact the organization’s performance, business flexibility and budgets?

Looking ahead

If implemented correctly, these best practices can help MSPs and enterprises extract the most benefit possible from cloud services, while shielding the company from unnecessary risk and complication. By taking these steps, organizations can ensure successful migrations and audits, a more secure environment and increased efficiencies in lowering ongoing costs.  

Edited by Maurice Nagle