A rose by any other name

The evolution of Microsoft naming conventions of its Office 365

A rose by any other name

Today, given that Microsoft decided to change the entire naming convention of its Office 365 product line, we might take an overdue look at what that signifies. Remember, it came out in 2011, so reimagining and course correction are welcome and expected.

You may have noticed that the product you used last month, Office 365 Business Premium (Nitec’s most popular MS product, by the way), has had a bit of a rebrand. Given the propensity of Seattle–based companies and their product naming conventions, for example, replacing “Small” with “Tall” and “Medium” with “Grande”, it might be helpful to take a closer look. 

The New Names for Office 365 Products

We now have a suite of products as below.  

Old Name: Microsoft 365 Business Basic
New Name: Office 365 Business Essentials

Old Name: Microsoft 365 Business Standard
New Name: Office 365 Business Premium
Comparison: Basic + Desktop Apps

Old Name: Microsoft 365 Business Premium
New Name: Microsoft 365 Business
Comparison: Std + modern security and modern management 

I know, I know. Most of you are like, “Meh! What do I care if some navel gazers spent millions on focus groups to come up with a marginally more attractive name?”. However, there is something worth understanding about where things are headed, so we will spend a few minutes laying the foundations of why Microsoft 365 Business Premium is where you need to be going forward. Microsoft, in some ways, has taken their time with M365B – looking at the features and listening to feedback from a reseller like us, a nip here. A tuck there etc., but they have hit their stride recently by getting the right mix of features to allow it to be the one-stop shop needed to get the job done in the SME space.  

For decades we have had our servers on our premises. This approach served us well in the world of 56K modems and 100Mb networking, but we all know those days have passed. As every day passes, the chances of you replacing your current server with a new one in the same rack diminish, and you end up with your data in some form of cloud service increase. Back in the day, a 25–user company might spend £50,000 getting a server and the associated work to implement it. Most people don’t think about things this way, but if that solution lasted four years, that would be £40 per user per month for the four years. But, of course, you still need your office license at £9.40 per month. So, let’s call it a round £50.

I’ll be honest. I have plucked these numbers out of my head, but as they say, a picture says a thousand words. There is an important principle here, even if the specific math is not exact. I’ll explain…

It’s Time to Invest

The cloud will help you make efficiencies, but you need to invest in security now to get there! You are already in the cloud and need to secure your presence there.

That on–prem server could manage all the settings your network needed. You assign printers, control file permissions, and decide whether you can turn off your firewall or use USB thumb drives. But the wheels are starting to come off. The on–prem server is struggling/failing to manage and control machines that never darken the premises door. The bigger you are, the more complex this is and the longer it will take. You may be a hybrid mix for some time, but the direction of travel is the same, even if the curve is a bit shallower. 

These changes were coming anyway, but Covid–19 is one of those moments that has just taken the status quo and jabbed it in the arm with ephedrine or PCP. It has thrown into sharp relief that having your IT and servers tied only to your premises can be a real problem, and as more of us work from home and spend more time outside the office, this problem will get bigger and bigger. 

Managing Your Security with Microsoft

As I said, this problem was happening anyway. The real issue, which is easily missed, is that the security you had when everyone worked in the office needs to be more enforceable in our distributed world. Of course, you can buy solutions to all these problems, but these products are almost all directed at enterprise customers and are expensive.

Microsoft, however, has neatly bundled the type of management we have on–prem (reimagined for a modern, work-anywhere world) and the security we need for 2021 (rather than 2011) into the M365BP product. The security improvements are stark, to be honest.

Microsoft tells us that 99.9% of hacks are handled with the modern security features in the premium edition. It might be better to think of it like this: if you don’t take your security seriously, you will soon find yourself examining your security from the wrong side of a breach. It would be a shame to discover that you, like Starbucks, have described your wall of defence in the most optimistic way possible (e.g. “Tall”) rather than the more accurate (“Paper Thin”). 

If you look at this with some perspective regarding the total cost of IT, it makes so much sense. We should all be doing what we can to review our on–premise infrastructure. In many cases, it's more expensive, more complicated to manage and less flexible. Some of us won’t get there quickly, but M365BP is an excellent step towards having the flexibility and manageability we need at a very reasonable price. 

Just so we are clear, we aren’t entirely tone-deaf. We get that no one wants to be investing in anything right now. We all want to cuddle up next to the cash we have left and sit on it. But there’s never a good time to have a breach, either.

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