What is Microsoft 365?
Most of us are familiar with Office 365 by now. The most popular product bundles sold under this banner include all of the following productivity tools:
- Exchange Online for Email
- SharePoint Online for company-wide document sharing and intranet functionality
- OneDrive for personal file sharing and storage
- Teams for chat-based workspaces, virtual meetings and other collaboration
- Office applications: Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, etc.
- And several other productivity apps
Not to be confused with Office 365, Microsoft 365 is a larger bundle of cloud-based software that provides further extensions on the Office 365 platform—extensions which, at their core, present answers to a perplexing problem:
How do you manage and secure a computing environment that is built on top of a public cloud?
The “Four Walls” have evaporated!
In the olden days, you would have had your data and applications installed on a server in your office building. Therefore, the physical equipment would be physically protected by lock, key and camera, in a building with four sturdy, brick-and-mortar walls. Likewise, logical protections were provided by firewalls, passwords, security logs, antivirus programs, etc., creating digital barriers or “boundaries” which closely mimicked and followed the physical ones around.
However, with the rise of Office 365 and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products like it within the last decade; the traditional, server-based, “four walls” model is beginning to break down. After all, when users, devices, and data become mobile, every bit and byte you deposit into the cloud is now accessible from any device, anywhere—so where are your boundaries now? We suddenly find that all the walls have evaporated!
The old security mechanisms just weren’t built to work within a mobile-first, cloud-first framework. So, we needed something new: some other ways to manage end-user identities, devices, and data—without relying on the concept of the four walls.
Therefore, Microsoft 365 represents the next evolution of small business networks and cloud computing. It includes Office 365 for productivity just as we are used to seeing, and layers on top of it all of the modern tools required for securing and managing business resources, entirely from the cloud.
Does this imply that your on-premises servers and systems such as Active Directory may become obsolete and that everything could soon move to the cloud, once and for all?
Yes, it does.
What is included with Microsoft 365?
As mentioned, like Office 365, Microsoft 365 is another “bundle” of software packages. Just like Office 365, it comes in both “Business” and “Enterprise” varieties. The products included in all Microsoft 365 bundles will have four common pillars:
- Office 365: The same productivity suite you already know
- Windows 10: Windows is now a subscription-based service; the Microsoft 365 license also grants upgrade rights to Windows 7/8/8.1 Pro (but not Home), as well as Windows Virtual Desktops in the cloud
- Device Management: Also known as Microsoft Intune, Device Management provides tools to remotely manage, secure, and even wipe all types of devices–Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Intune will manage both company-owned and BYOD devices (Bring Your Own Device).
- Security: Every Microsoft 365 bundle includes add-ons that enhance security and compliance for your organization. In this category, we will discuss data retention and classification, Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), and more.
Since most of us are already familiar with Office 365, our upcoming blog posts will dive into some more detail on each of the latter three pillars listed above. These details will help you evaluate why you may want to consider Microsoft 365 over Office 365 only, as well as to provide some ideas for how you might start using these feature enhancements as we evolve into a cloud-first and mobility-centric era.
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