25/05/2020

A Rose By Any Other Name

I thought today, given that this month 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 some reimagining and course correction is both welcome and expected.

You may have noticed that the product you used last month, namely 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 useful to take a closer look.

The New Names for Office 365 Products

We now have a suite of products as below. 

New Name

Old Name

Comparison

Microsoft 365 Business Basic

Office 365 Business Essentials

 

Microsoft 365 Business Standard

Office 365 Business Premium

Basic + Desktop Apps

Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Microsoft 365 Business

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 are going to 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, have taken their time with M365B – looking at the features and listening to feedback from reseller like us; a nip here and a tuck there etc but they have really hit their stride recently by getting the right mix of features to allow it to truly be the one stop shop needed to get the job done in the SME space. 

For decades we have had our servers in our premises. To be fair, in the world of 56K modems and 100Mb networking this approach served us well 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 the chances of you ending 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 4 years that would be £40 per user per month for the 4 years. You still needed 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 though even if the specific math is not exact. I’ll explain…

It’s Time to Invest

graph showing future IT expenditure over time
graph showing future IT expenditure over time

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

That on–prem server was capable of managing all the settings that your network needed. Assigning printers, controlling permissions to files. Deciding whether you could 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 door of the premises. For sure, the bigger you are the more complex this is and the longer it is going to take. You may be a hybrid mix for some time to come 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 though that has just taken the status quo and jabbed it in the arm with ephedrine or PCP. It has thrown into sharp relief the reality 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 say, this problem was happening anyway and the real issue which is easily missed is that the security you had when everyone worked in the office is largely unenforceable in the distributed world we now live in. Of course, you can buy solutions to all these problems, but these products are almost all directed at enterprise customers and they are expensive.

Microsoft, however, have 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 tell 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 at some point in the near future you will find yourself examining your security from the wrong side of a breach. It would be a shame to find that you, like Starbucks, have described your wall of defence in the most optimistic way possible (eg “Tall”) rather than the more accurate (“Paper Thin”).

If you look at this with some perspective regarding the total cost of IT, you can see it makes so much sense. We should all be doing what we can to review our on–premise infrastructure. In a lot of cases its more expensive, harder 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 completely 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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