• June 22, 2018
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

Stepping Out With Office 365

Stepping out of an international airport into a city where you’ve never been before and a country where you can’t speak the languages is exhilarating, breathtaking, and disorienting, all at the same time. You leave the flight cocoon, where the flight attendants speak English, and enter an environment that’s linguistically challenging.

I often wonder, when walking around cities in the U.S., what it would be like if I didn’t know English. What if all the street signs, directions, and notices in store windows were gibberish to me? How wonderful it would be if I suddenly stumbled over something familiar—a name I recognized, a word in a language I understood, a random comment from a passerby on the street that made sense.

I recently returned from a business trip to Prague, where I was speaking at a conference. The conference languages were English and Czech. I am far from fluent in Czech. I think I know, at most, five words. But it was heartening to hear company names I recognized in the middle of a talk in Czech. It gave me the illusion that I was following what the speaker was discussing. I say “illusion,” because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t actually following it at all.

The Same in Any Language

When it comes to tools for knowledge management, one company name that resonates is Microsoft. Regardless of country or language, when someone says or writes Microsoft, you know exactly what that company is. You don’t need to translate Microsoft into Czech, Japanese, or Swahili. Microsoft is Microsoft. The same holds true for Office 365. It’s called Office 365 in countries around the world.

Office 365 has a global presence. Adoption is widespread, regardless of country or language. It is recognized as a tool that enhances productivity, encourages collaboration, and is easy to access. For multinational companies, installing Office 365 resembles a “no brainer.” But even smaller companies that do business in only one country see value in Office 365.

However, Office 365 is not without some challenges. It requires internal support, particularly in the areas of licensing, reporting, auditing, and security. These support functions become the responsibility of the organization’s IT department. The resources required for this support are not trivial. Plugging security holes and being ever vigilant about potential security breaches become more critical every day, as cybercriminals constantly look for vulnerabilities.

Third Party Tools

Manikandan Thangaraj, Director of Product Management at ManageEngine, suggests third party tools as the answer to these challenges. The day-to-day administrative tasks related to Office 365, all those seemingly petty activities such as adding new users, removing people who have left the organization, and changing licensing details, can have a negative impact on the enterprise if not done correctly and promptly. Or, as the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”Thangaraj thinks this is something that can be delegated to third party tools.

That’s not the only place where third party tools can play a role. He cites PowerShell scripting as another. The nativeversion requires a significant knowledge investment. It’s not something you pick up overnight. Just like learning a second language, you need to spend time studying the PowerShell equivalent of vocabulary and grammar. Without a cadre of expert scripters on staff, all those productivity gains you thought would materialize from using PowerShellscripting turn into the exact opposite, and you take a productivity hit. This is particularly true in organizations with decentralized IT departments, since the predefined roles set by Office 365 may not line up with your organization.

The most important reason to consider third party tools, says Thangaraj, concerns regulatory compliance. Particularlyin today’s environment of enhanced regulatory scrutiny and changing requirements for data retention and data privacy, the ability to comply is crucial. The alphabet soup of regulations—HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, PCI, GLBA—can be best adhered to via third party tools. Some of these require retention schedules for log data much longer than the nativeOffice 365 allows for.

No one really looks forward to being audited. However, internal auditing is a fact of life for improving performance. Native Office 365 has fewer fine-grained reporting tools than third parties—another reason to bring third party tools into the mix.

Securing Your Knowledge

In a perfect world, not only would we all be able to understand each other regardless of the languages we speak, but all software would be completely secure. No data breaches would occur; nobody could hack into our systems; critical business information would not be compromised; and denial of service attacks would not happen. All our data would remain safe and secure.

We don’t live in that perfect world. For languages, we rely on translation tools. For securing our data, Thangaraj sees tremendous value in using third party tools. Office 365, no surprise, is just like other software packages in that it’s not 100% secure. Not only that, with its high name recognition, it’s a target for cybercriminals. Microsoft is constantlylooking to improve security, to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, but it’s a rapidly evolving area.

Carefully combining tools and strategies with 24/7 monitoring and plugging known vulnerabilities can defeat attacks and protect sensitive information. Office 365 can’t do this by itself, at least not yet. Hence, third party tools. Office 365 doesn’t present you with the challenges of international travel, but its dominance in most countries does encourage the development of third party tools to make your organization more productive.

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