“Microsoft 365 – that’s just Office 365, right?” Busting the myths of Microsoft’s enterprise portfolio

“As a Microsoft instructor, it’s not uncommon for me to hear: ‘Microsoft 365? That’s just Office 365, right?’” says Richard Keep, Senior Microsoft Instructor at Firebrand Training.

In reality, Microsoft 365 isn’t a rebrand of Office 365 – it’s the overarching term now used to describe Microsoft’s enterprise offering.

IT pros will find that it’s being steadily integrated across Microsoft’s portfolio, but what does that mean in practical terms: what is Microsoft 365?

What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is an integrated service that includes Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. In Microsoft parlance: a “complete, intelligent solution…that empowers everyone to be creative and work together, securely.”

Formerly known as Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5, Microsoft 365 is sold on a subscription basis in three flavours (Business, Enterprise and Education).

But what sets Microsoft 365 apart from other enterprise offerings? Unlike its competitors, Microsoft runs a massively successful desktop operating system, server operating system and cloud offering.

“To run a true enterprise environment you need a service that can manage the entire picture, from the devices and users, through to data and business processes,” says Keep.

Widespread adoption of its office, server and cloud offerings give Microsoft the ability to manage everything within a business – from personal data to security policies. No competitor can do this, and it sets Microsoft’s enterprise service apart from the crowd.

Office 365

Office 365, Microsoft’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, is a cornerstone of the Microsoft 365 offering.

It’s an ever-expanding suite of cloud-based tools, covering email (Exchange), Office apps (like Word and Excel), content management (SharePoint), instant messaging (Skype/Teams), social networking (Yammer) and storage (OneDrive).

Put simply, Office 365 takes care of your employee’s access to email, communications and document storage.

Office 365 is available for personal, small business and enterprise plans, but Microsoft 365 offers more. Microsoft 365 offers better security than that provided in a simple Office 365 subscription, including Advanced Threat protection, remote wiping, App protection and unlimited cloud archiving for Exchange email.

Windows 10

Included as part of Microsoft 365, Windows 10 utilises more cloud-based features than any previous release of Windows and with each new release more integrations are being introduced.

Windows 10 also includes the new Windows AutoPilot feature that can potentially allow users to pull down a corporate desktop Windows build wherever they are in the world. “That means no more strategically placed transport servers and image replication woes,” says Keep.

Enterprise Mobility + Security

The third pillar of Microsoft 365 is the Enterprise Mobility + Security suite. “In my opinion, this is the piece that makes Microsoft 365 a great solution for enterprise,” writes Keep.

“Not everyone loves Microsoft and not everyone is going to be excited by Office 365, there will always be competitors - Google Apps or Salesforce, for example.

“Plus, not everyone is going to be thrilled at an ever-evolving version of Windows. Not every IT pro will want to use the same device to complete their work, that’s the nature of the modern network,” says Keep.

Enterprise Mobility means that if you’re not happy to use Windows 10 you can still use your Apple machine, for example.

“10 years ago, as a network administrator, my job was relatively straight forward: desktop computers, purchased by me, running my operating system image and software, accessing servers in my server room running operating systems backed up and managed by me,” explains Keep. “Desktop, User and Server security could all be managed via Group Policy.”

The last 10 years have seen a shift in the way users expect to work. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is common but for businesses, employees using their personal phones to access corporate information is risky if not controlled.

These changes present a challenge for businesses; personal phones and corporate data means sleepless nights for any IT team. Luckily, Microsoft 365 brings together a number of services to solve this challenge.

The Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite includes a number of technologies, some of which have now been around for a while, like mobile device management through InTune or authentication through AzureAD.

The service also includes newer technologies like machine learning based threat detection, rights management and document classification and labelling as well as enhanced authentication. Known as “protection at the front door” this addresses the long-running risks associated with the vulnerability of usernames and passwords.

It’s an extensive list of products, but ultimately it means that IT pros have control over who is accessing business data, regardless of the operating system or device they are using.

What about the competitors?

Each of the three areas of the Microsoft 365 work together to give an enterprise everything they need to collaborate, communicate and secure their networks and data.

Competitors just cannot compete with Microsoft’s enterprise offering. Google For Business offers Microsoft Office-equivalent applications but fails to provide a mobile device management solution. On the other hand, Meraki have mobile device management but no Office 365 equivalent.

“At a time where the number of onsite server rooms is decreasing day by day and reliance on cloud-based resources is increasing, Microsoft 365 seems to be the one product to rule them all and no, Microsoft hasn’t just rebranded Office 365,” says Keep.

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