Cloud-based storage and applications are touted as the way of the future, promising organisations greater flexibility and productivity as well as fewer IT-based headaches. But understandably, many business leaders still have their questions about the security of these systems: how safe is their company data when it’s being stored on a separate company’s servers? How effective are these products at filtering out cybersecurity threats? What if our internet cuts out one day?
To help answer these questions and more, we’ve put together a guide to the strengths and weaknesses of Office 365, which is one of the most popular of these cloud-based suites available today. Read on to discover where Office 365 excels (pun intended) and where you might want to add an extra layer of protection for your productivity and company data with third-party products like TitanFiltering.
Strength: Work from anywhere
One of the best things about cloud-based applications like those offered by Office 365 is that they support remote working. As telecommuting becomes more of a norm due to how much it boosts productivity and employee satisfaction, organisations need tools that make working from home easy and allow everyone to stay in the loop.
Office 365 supports remote working by offering access to their applications wherever you are and there’s no need to download anything onto your device: simply log on via the internet and get access to all of your files on the go. A single user can access their account through up to five different devices, meaning that you can check your emails while waiting for your flight at the airport on your phone or finish that PowerPoint presentation at home on your laptop the night before a big meeting.
Weakness: Loss of productivity with internet outages
That being said, as O365 products rely on access to the internet, a slow connection could mean loss of productivity. However, if this is a common occurrence for you, you can opt for an O365 plan that allows you to download full desktop versions of these products to keep working even if your wifi cuts out unexpectedly. Simply upload your progress onto the cloud-based version to save your work once the internet picks up again.
Strength: Seamless collaboration
There’s no confusion as to what the latest version of a piece of work is or who made the latest updates to it: with Office 365, there’s only need for one document for each piece of work and you can easily track changes and who made them in real-time. You can even create your own social network for your company with Yammer, making collaboration and keeping up with colleagues even easier.
Weakness: Cross-organisational collaboration can prove tricky
That being said, working with external bodies that don’t use O365 can throw a spanner in the works of seamless collaboration. Luckily, there are ways around this: you can use Office Online to allow people who don’t have an O365 subscription to view and edit relevant files. That being said, this tool is very limited in its functionality.
Strength: Automatic updates, familiar products
Once upon a time, it fell on the shoulders of IT departments everywhere to download software updates for products used by their employers. This took time out not only out of their days but also those whose computers IT staff were updating. With cloud-based suites like O365, this is no longer the case as updates are installed automatically.
This allows your staff to be more productive and for everyone to have access to the latest versions of Office products with no added cost. What’s more, the majority of people grew up using Microsoft Office products like Word and PowerPoint, meaning they’ll adopt updates easily as they have a lot of experience in using these products.
Weakness: Updates only compatible with sophisticated systems
The automatic updates with advanced features that Microsoft rolls out for its O365 products on a regular basis are useful only when your systems support them. When it comes to older hardware and operating systems, devices can struggle to utilise these new features to their full potential. Getting around this issue is both costly and time-consuming. To gain full use of advanced features, you’ll have to update your hardware, operating systems or both.
Weakness: Data controlled by an external company
Some people still have their hesitations about moving to the cloud and putting their data in the hands of a third party. Cloud-based suites are not necessarily any safer or riskier than systems that rely on hardware or your company’s private network because no system is perfect.
Microsoft has its own, strict policies in place around data protection that could clash with the way you do business. For example, some types of files can’t be uploaded onto their servers. If you find yourself in a situation where O365 interferes with your organisation’s common practices, you may want to consider something like their Enterprise solution that allows you to control your own data.
And while they’re by no means commonplace, there have been outages for the Office 365 suite in the past. During downtime caused by outages, people can experience difficulties accessing their data stored on cloud-based products. This is why it’s important that organisations have a plan B in case this ever happens.
Strength: Good security features
Office 365 makes for a very popular target for cyber attacks due to its widespread use worldwide. To combat these threats, Microsoft has developed many sophisticated security features. For example, O365’s Data Loss Prevention feature allows businesses to monitor, regulate and protect sensitive business data.
Meanwhile, Threat Intelligence offers a broad view of the current cybersecurity threat landscape and Mobile Device Management allows your IT department to manage mobile access to company data and remotely wipe any stolen devices. Microsoft’s Advanced Security tool helps those who find that the other O365 security features don’t cut it by filtering out more advanced threats and by offering features like multi-factor authentication.
Weakness: Lack of predictive technology in security features
While O365 is protected by many innovative security features, these lack the ability to predict the latest threats. Third-party tools like TitanFiltering use predictive machine learning technologies to recognise threats before they’re added to lists for well-known data security threats. This means that in order to have zero-day protection from advanced cybersecurity threats, you’ll need to deploy a third-party solution.
The bottom line an how to strengthen the security of O365
As you can see from the list of strengths and weaknesses above, Office 365 is an excellent set of products that are designed with the modern workplace in mind. That being said, as with any piece of technology, O365 does have its blind spots.
We’ve already mentioned some of the ways to combat these throughout this article, but many organisations would also greatly benefit from patching up the built-in security features of Office 365 with third-party tools.
In next week’s blog post, we’ll go over how TitanFiltering can do just that. In the meantime, check out more articles on cybersecurity and IT strategy on our blog, check out our events page and have a look at our free IT resources for business leaders.