MS Cloud Roadshow The Hague 2016 recap

For those who followed my Twitter feed (@ErkelensJeroen) will know that the Microsoft Cloud Roadshow touched down in The Hague, Netherlands last thurdsay and friday. This Azure and Office centric event was attended by a big crowd and showcased a lot of sessions. It were two packed days with a lot of entry-level sessions, but a lot of updates that were interesting for ITPros as well. I picked out those learning points that seemed most interesting based on my area of work and I’m happy to share them with you.

PowerBI

I thought this was one of the big success factors of the roadshow for me. PowerBI made a huge lead forward. In my tweet below you can see the the dashboard builder. Just select an entry from the right pane, drag it to any location and configure its parameters and create a dashboard as shown in the tweet below:

If you want to get really fancy, you’ll want to wait for the PowerBI content pack for Office365 to create fully customizable dashboards as shown by Anne Michels (MS) :

Skype for Business

Another major feature coming to the Netherlands for SfB is of course Cloud PBX. While already available in other countries, such as the United States, this highly requested feature is something a lot of companies are waiting for. Assigning a cloud phone number is really as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Created a ‘verified location’
  2. Get phone numbers (either through Microsoft or have them ported from your current provider)
  3. Assign phone numbers to a user in a verified location

Now wait less than 1 minute and the number is reachable through PSTN (and VOIP, obviously). And the best part is this process assigns the phone number to a user account. Should the user roam, the phone number will roam along. The validated location assignment is only required due to legal.

Exchange Online

One interesting fact on Exchange Online is that Exchange Online (which is just a bunch of Exchange servers) aren’t updated, except for security updates. Instead, Exchange servers are redeployed with a newer version the binaries. This combined with data redundancy ensures data security and server optimalization.

Office 365 (and Azure) Message Centers

Another good to know aspect is that Microsoft will always notify you through the Message Centers and RSS feeds within 15 minutes in case a bigger issue occurs that affects your tenant. So it’s good to subscribe to the RSS feeds and use the Office 365 Mobile Admin apps!

Yammer

Yammer was on the agenda as well and was positioned in a very good way. Yammer is easily underestimated in terms of implementation and features. However, Yammer can have a very prominent place within the organization. Give employees instant access to the latest project they need to be aware about, or get them together to form an ad-hoc brainstorm group. Just be aware implementation is much more complex than anticipated at first hand, as you can see in the tweet below:

In addition, we were told that Microsoft hosts Yammer groups you can join to directly get in touch with the Microsoft product development teams, including product managers!

Azure AD Applications

Did you knew that Azure already knows how to provide single sign-on to over 2500 non-Microsoft SaaS-services such as Twitter and Facebook?

These can be enabled through Azure Active Directories \ Applications. In addition, you can also publish your own applications and of course create links for them in the Office MyApps section.

Cloud Protection

Advanced Threat Protection and Advanced Threat Analytics are absolute neccesities for high-security environments. ATP is a collection of security features, such as Safe Links (URL rewrite to have all external URLs checked) and Content Security. Advanced Threat Analytics is an advanced and comprehensible method of auditing and correlating events into misuse detection patterns. In addition to ATP and ATA, Azure AD Identity Protection was briefly discussed as shown in: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/ad/2016/03/02/azure-ad-identity-protection-is-in-public-preview-whoop-whoop/. Safe Links even rewrites old links from years back, even way before ATP was implemented!

Azure AD Identity Protection is primarily used to add an additional level of on user behavioral level. It detects anomalous usage of accounts, such as 2 logins in 1 minute spread over multiple continents. Regardless of proxy configuration and possible IP spoofing, this is impossible travel behaviour and is reported back to Azure AD Identity Protection. An admin may choose immediate remediation for these accounts, such as a password reset or enforcement of MFA. The level of auditing in Azure and Office is enormous. Everything, even an: allow based on suspected behaviour is audited. Getting to know your employees’ behaviour does not always have to be linked to a block or report action. Logging in the background and establishing a pattern is one of the key features of Azure AD Identity Protection.

In addition to platform-specific security measures, Microsoft showed their general cloud security principals:

Office 365 FastTrack

As most of you know, the Office 365 FastTrack can be used to aid and speed-up Office 365 implementations and migrations. It’s currently in the process of greatly enhancing its featureset as you can see in the roadmap:

 

Are you interested in Microsofts cloud technologies? Visit the Microsoft Cloud Roadshow, you won’t regret it!

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