Going Beyond the Office 365 Admin Center: The Indispensability of Third-Party Office 365 Tools

Office 365 use has spread across the world, mostly thanks to the diverse advantages it offers, including increased productivity, simple collaboration, and ease of access. That’s why it’s no surprise that a survey by Spiceworks found that, by the end of 2019, an additional 24 percent of organizations employing more than 1,000 people and 18 percent of organizations employing between 100 and 1,000 people plan to adopt Office 365 in their work environments. This is, of course, great news for Microsoft, which already has more than 120 million commercial users for Office 365.

Although high adoption rates are good for Microsoft, the administrative burden that comes along with employing Office 365 falls on the shoulders of IT admins. This burden includes Office 365 users and license management, reporting, auditing, and more. Increasing the weight of this burden is the constant risk of cybercriminals using an organization’s Office 365 setup as a security loophole.

Native Office 365 tools offer a wide range of capabilities to help organizations deal with their routine tasks, but on their own, they don’t stand a chance against today’s cybercriminals. A study by Osterman Research from 2017 shows that among the organizations that will deploy Office 365, 70 percent believe that Office 365 requires some sort of additionalproduct or service to help it realize its full potential. But why are third-party tools necessary? What do they offer compared to native Office 365 solutions?

Why are Third-Party Tools so Important?

Microsoft’s tools have certain shortcomings, which can be effectively mitigated by third-party alternatives. One major limitation of Microsoft’s native tools is their inability to perform tasks in bulk. IT admins managing Office 365 environments have to create new users, assign appropriate licenses, revoke licenses, remove users who leave a department or the organization, and more as part of their day-to-day routines. In most organizations where numerous, mundane tasks are performed daily, admins would rather spend the valuable time funneled into these tasks on more important tasks that require their attention.

Another place Microsoft’s native tools falls short is with PowerShell scripting. If you plan to use these native tools, you’ll need a fair amount of knowledge about PowerShell scripting. If you’re adopting Office 365 to boost productivity, requiring PowerShell scripting to perform tasks is like driving a plane instead of flying it. Unless each of your admins is an advanced scripter, you may be setting them up for failure by expecting them to use only these native tools.

Many organizations want to decentralize their Office 365 administration based on location, function, or any other specific need. This ensures that admins have the required level of access only, which helps secure their processes. It also reduces the administrative workload and increases overall productivity. Native Office 365 tools, however, have predefined admin roles that are enabled for users across the organization; this limits the capability to granularly delegate admin capabilities based on an organization’s requirements.

The most important reason for you to augment your Office 365 setup with third-party tools is the additional capabilities they offer to ensure better safety and compliance with various IT regulations. Complying with various stringent regulations is critical, especially now, with the average cost of non-compliance problems shooting up to $14.82 million—a 45 percent increase from 2011, according to this study. However, the native administration tools in Office 365 store audit log data for only 90 days, which is nowhere near the retention period mandated by various compliance regulations. Some of the common regulatory standards such as HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, PCI, and GLBA require retention of audit logs from anywhere between one and seven years. The native tools also fail to provide fine-grained audit reporting for quick and insightful investigation. This makes compliance auditing a challenge for admins, yielding a costly and time-consuming process.

Office 365 Security

Office 365, like any other software, is not 100 percent secure. Organizations store a great deal of critical business resources in Office 365, making it an ideal target for cyberattacks. Hackers are constantly discovering new and sophisticated ways of acquiring your sensitive data. However, the probability of a successful attack can be mitigatedwith a combination of the right tools and strategies to ensure around-the-clock monitoring as well as offer capabilities to extensively plug known vulnerabilities. Though Microsoft has recently come up with some new features to broaden the scope of security, the jury is still out on whether they can single-handedly conquer the increasingly innovative attacks of hackers.

Every organization should think seriously about adopting third-party capabilities and strategies according to their needs to fill the gaps left by native Office 365 tools. These third-party tools can also improve their productivity from the cloud and secure their valuable resources from malicious hackers lurking in cyberspace.

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