What is Microsoft 365? Office 365? How does Microsoft manage Your Data?
Good questions, right? Let’s find out here! Microsoft 365 is the staple personal, or business application suite offered by Microsoft (MS) and utilised by over 1.5 billion people. But what exactly is Office 365? And where is Microsoft 365 suddenly coming from? In this article, we aim to help you understand exactly that! On top of understanding what Office 365 is, due to the ever-advancing and tighter regulations around data, we also will help you to understand the all-important questions of how Microsoft gather data and what they do with it all.
Brief History of Office 365
History is a really strong word in the context of Microsoft Office 365. I have a pair of shoes that is older than it and wouldn’t call them history either. The difference is that Microsoft made a huge change to the way they license and sell their top-nudge Office package. Originally launched in 2011, Office 365 is simply a cloud-based version of Microsoft’s signature applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Due to its now cloud-based nature, it enables the users to always run the most up to date version of the software. This eliminated the need to download and store update files and patches, alongside removing or even having to wait for the update at all! On top of including cloud-based versions of Microsoft’s Office Essentials, Office 365 includes service management and additional security features. It is a subscription-based model offering monthly or annual subscriptions. This model is shifting software provisioning into the professional services sector, nowadays often knows as Software as a Service or SaaS for short.
Package types and what you need to know about them
Microsoft categorises a business as a company with less than 300 employees. Everything above is considered an enterprise. Based on that, the different packages aim at slightly different needs and security concerns. This assumption is often a bit confusing and we’ll elaborate on that a little further. You can always get a free online version of the main tools for private use, and while its functionality is fairly limited, you are benefitting from the same application suite that has been around for as long as I can remember. We are going to focus on the suites designed for business.
Office 365 Business
It’s not that long ago when Microsoft announced that Office 365 is no more and rebranded all the old packages into MS 365 counterparts. We’ll stick with the old name for this article as it is a little bit less confusing.
- Office 365 Business Essentials is now Microsoft 365 Business Basic
- Office 365 Business Premium is now Microsoft 365 Business Standard
- Microsoft 365 Business is now Microsoft 365 Business Premium
Below is a chart to give a very basic overview of what is included in each package. Key things to note would be that Basic does not include the ability to host webinars nor live events. It also does not include Microsoft Bookings and there are no desktop versions of the app. Additionally worth noting, Premium includes advanced security and device management capabilities that the other two packages lack. Depending on your requirements, any business of up to 300 employees should find that the business category will have a package sufficient for their needs. However, Office 365 Enterprise offers great features that even smaller businesses may find useful and should at least evaluate.
Here is the full comparison: Compare All Microsoft 365 Plans | Microsoft
Office 365 Enterprise
For larger businesses, the enterprise category will be the first choice. Similar to Business, Office 365 Enterprise category is again broken down into further packages, this time consisting of four choices. Overall, Office 365 Enterprise has greater functionality and offers more aspects than Office 365 Business category.
Key things to note from the chart above would be that the Apps package only gives you access to the standard apps and is not a tool for helping you to run a business. Some of the critical things missing are as followed. No Exchange, Bookings or Teams. No Microsoft Stream. From the work management section, only Forms is present in the app’s package. Additionally, the app’s package lacks analytics, security, and compliance features as well as lacking social and intranet features, seriously diminishing its effectiveness in boosting collaboration.
E1 too lacks quite a few features including analytics, security, and compliance. Alongside this, it also lacks multilingual versions, no desktop install and no Microsoft bookings. E3 and E5 are closer in comparison. However, the best example would be that E3 is E5’s little sibling that you can’t rely on as much for more mature problems. E5’s superiority over E3 can be attributed to the fact it is the only one to include Power Bi Pro, Microsoft Defender for 365, Cloud App Security and Advanced Compliance 365. For the largest companies or those more interested in security E3 or E5 will be the only way to go. Those not looking for Microsoft’s all in one solution but still wishing to make the most of Microsoft Apps will want to go for the Apps package. Smaller enterprises will consider E1 but in our experience, many find that they will need to upgrade at some point either due to scaling up in size or expanding the operational side of their business. Resulting in them needing additional tools.
Here is the full comparison: Compare Microsoft 365 E3, E5 & F3 | Microsoft 365 Enterprise
On-prem vs Cloud – The Office 365 Story
Essentially then Office 365 is a much more easily managed version of the traditional Office licensing model. You can simply add or detract from your licence due to its monthly subscription model. Accessibility improves greatly as well with the SaaS model because it utilises the best of the cloud. Meaning the best and most up to date versions of your applications and files will be accessible anywhere with an internet connection. This too greatly increases collaboration.
Through ease of access for employees and customers, but also due to Office 365’s additional features that allow for easy collaboration, giving multiple people the ability to work on a project in real-time in different locations. It can improve communication and organisation alongside collaboration and can be the core of any business or enterprise as an all-in-one communication, collaboration and organisation solution.
When using Office 365, especially for the core of your business, the amount of data collected would be astronomical. GDPR alongside other legalisation surrounding data governance means there is an increasing need for businesses to understand exactly where all their data is going. This would still be the case when using 365 even if it is run and supported by a company as big as Microsoft.
Firstly, it is worth noting that whilst data is stored on Microsoft servers you as the author of that data own it. Any file you create, and all its contents will be owned by you. You own all operational data and all intellectual property. This would include customer data stored in spreadsheets, as well as content you create. As this data is owned by you, you define what its uses are and it is your responsibility (responsibility is something we will look into in more detail in a later article so keep an eye out). So, operational data and intellectual property are owned by you. What about personal data?
Personal Data is the only data owned by Microsoft. This data will include all data needed to register such as names and location but also will include PC activity and user behaviour. But what does Microsoft do with this data? Microsoft states the data is collected mainly to improve services. Unlike other companies, Microsoft does not sell their personal data for external advertising, however, they do use it to create ‘narrowed adverts’ for internal and direct advertising. This data will be stored out of the reach of the end-user, and you will not be able to access it. However, Microsoft is not exempt from the legislation we are all so focused on. So, you can be assured that even the data out of your reach will be protected and is GDPR compliant, or HIPAA compliant if from the US. Some may not want Microsoft to collect personal data but as it is out of reach, is it out of control? The answer is no, well not entirely! Some data must be collected in return for your ability to use Microsoft such as names and location and therefore, the collection of this data collection whilst not out of your control would be dependent on your want to use Microsoft apps. Other data such as PC activity and user behaviour can be controlled better. Don’t want Microsoft to monitor this? Then turn off any background analytics that is currently switched on. Additionally, when prompted always select options that refuse the collection of data. Microsoft may warn you this can impact how streamlined products will work for you. However, the reality is, there should be a large enough sample size submitting analytics that Microsoft can successfully navigate what changes are needed to be made.
Please find their Privacy Statement here.
How good is Office365?
Overall then Office 365, depending on the package selected, can be the technological core of any business. No matter the size of the company it can help to increase collaboration, organisation and communication alongside security and compliance. In terms of data management and where data is stored this will be Microsoft Data centres scattered throughout Europe. You own all your created intellectual property and operational data. The only data you do not own is personal data you create through activity and behaviour. This is sorted outside of your reach but can be limited in its collection and will be regulated and kept under GDPR compliant circumstances. Additionally, Microsoft ensures that your data will be protected internally through measures and controls they put on their employees. All this means Office 365 is a safe and secure easily accessible business suite that would suit any company or enterprise.
Want to find out more about Office 365? Are you aware of the Shared Responsibility Model? How about its potential impact on a business? Then look out for further articles in this series! If you haven’t already, check out this article’s accompanying webinar. The two go hand in hand to create the perfect guide for all your need to know about Office 365!
Link to the webinar recording: Securing Office 365 – YouTube
Still, feel as though you are unsure what 365 package would suit you and your company best? Are you already using Office 365 but feel it has not been optimised for your workflow and processes? Do you need additional support in securing your Office 365 and security processes? Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We at IQ IN IT can answer any and all questions relating to 365, helping you to achieve optimum collaboration, communication and productivity by making the most out of this great bit of SaaS.