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This month, we introduced several new capabilities that improve user experience, streamline the management of common tasks, and enhance identity-driven security measures. We also want to hear your feedback, so that we can make sure these updates are relevant and useful to you.
Streamlining the way you work
Updates to the Office 365 user experience—We announced updates for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook that are designed to embrace the breadth and depth of Office 365 features, while simplifying the user interface and improving accessibility. These updates include a simplified ribbon to encourage focus and collaboration, modern colors and icons to improve rendering and accessibility, and AI-powered search to quickly surface relevant information. These changes will start to roll out to Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscribers over the next few months.
Connect Office 365 Groups to SharePoint sites—Office 365 Groups can now connect to existing SharePoint sites, allowing newly created Office 365 groups to integrate with your existing SharePoint infrastructure. Connecting a group to a site provides a single starting point to find content, team news, and communications with modern pages, libraries, and lists—without losing any previous content or permissions.
Reduce distractions with Outlook for Android—We introduced “Do Not Disturb” in Outlook for Android to help you reduce distractions and get more done. Now, subscribers can set timed or scheduled periods when email and calendar notifications will be paused. For those with multiple Outlook accounts, Do Not Disturb settings can be customized for each email address—enabling granular control over how you spend your focus-hours.
Manage progress in Microsoft To-Do—This month, we introduced “Steps” in Microsoft To-Do—a new feature that allows you to break down tasks into smaller, incremental steps—making large projects more manageable. Now, when a you create a To-Do item, you can add a range of detailed steps that are tracked through to completion. We also introduced the ability to share your To-Do lists, enabling you to work together on tasks and complete projects with colleagues and friends.
Dictation in OneNote—Office 365 subscribers with Windows 10 can now take advantage of hands-free dictation using nine languages in OneNote. Dictation provides a simple, yet transformational, way to express ideas and capture notes using only your voice. You can also make edits using your keyboard without having to pause the recording. Simply click or tap the Dictate icon and start speaking.
Adobe PDF integration in Office 365—Last September, we expanded our strategic partnership with Adobe to focus on integrations between Adobe Sign and Office 365 products, like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and Outlook. This month, the Adobe Document Cloud team announced new capabilities for OneDrive and SharePoint that provide improved fidelity when working with PDF documents. Once integrated by your administrator, PDF services provide rich previews of PDF documents in OneDrive and your SharePoint sites, and allow you to combine several files into a single PDF in your document library.
Securing the modern workplace
We introduced several new important capabilities that strengthen your organization’s identity-driven security, and ensure important data is kept safe.
Secure your organization with baseline security policy in Azure Active Directory—We introduced the preview of a baseline security policy in Azure AD that enforces multi-factor authentication for privileged accounts. This new policy will apply to all organizations that have Azure Active Directory and help secure the most important accounts in your tenant. Customers can opt in to the baseline protection policy in preview, and at general availability will be opted in by default with the ability to opt out at any time.
Block legacy authentication using Azure Active Directory conditional access—This month, we introduced the preview of conditional access support for blocking legacy authentication, which enables organizations to stop users from authenticating to legacy apps. Identity attacks such as password spray almost exclusively target these older client apps. This feature improves the overall security of your IT environment by getting users to move to more modern clients that support modern authentication mechanisms.
Enhance data classification across your organization—The new Label Activity Explorer in Office 365 provides a quick overview of how the data in your organization has been labeled—allowing you to investigate risky or abnormal activity. To help you manage labeling across the lifecycle of your organization’s content, we enhanced the Data Governance dashboard with new features like the Data Governance toolbox, added links and tools for common data governance tasks, and provided a single resource for guidance.
- Microsoft Teams has reached FedRAMP Moderate Compliance and will start rolling out to U.S. Government Community Cloud (GCC) customers on July 17, 2018.
- Visio Online is now available in Microsoft Teams. Coworkers can now collaborate on Visio Online diagrams from within their team or channel without toggling between apps.
- SharePoint Swoop—our new enterprise reality show—features a team of MVP experts with just three days to help a Microsoft 365 customer modernize their intranet.
- At Computex 2018, we outlined our vision for how partners can build intelligent edge devices and solutions.
We’ll be working hard over the coming months to add more capabilities to Visual Search, so your input on these features is greatly appreciated, as always. We hope you’re as excited by Visual Search as we are!
Microsoft has been building out the capabilities of the Microsoft Teams mobile app in recent months, adding features more advanced than those traditionally supported by unified communications mobility clients. Nevertheless, the vendor has more work to do to catch up with rival Cisco and to provide a seamless mobile experience to businesses.
Microsoft is on par with the meeting features in Cisco Webex Teams mobile, but Cisco can give users a more seamless experience for scheduling and joining meetings from their mobile phones. That’s because Cisco Webex Teams and Cisco Webex rely on the same back-end cloud infrastructure, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.
“Cisco has been very, very mobile-centric for a long time, so I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to have the same maturity in the mobile client,” Kerravala said. Nevertheless, recent improvements to the Microsoft Teams mobile app are “a good start.”
Microsoft users must juggle multiple UC mobile apps
Microsoft still has separate mobile apps for Teams and Skype for Business that require users to toggle between apps. Users can generally only access Teams meetings from within the Microsoft Teams mobile app, rather than from the mobile apps for Outlook or Skype for Business.
“The ability to schedule and join calls or meetings needs to be a lot more consistent,” Kerravala said. “So, if I’m in Outlook mobile and I can start a Skype for Business meeting, I should be able to start a Teams meeting.”
This gap in interoperability could cause headaches for businesses, as they attempt to migrate users from Skype for Business to Teams in keeping with Microsoft’s directive that it will eventually phase out the former.
Microsoft is encouraging customers that use the cloud version of Skype for Business to begin using Teams simultaneously. The vendor recently gave users the ability to transfer contacts and groups from Skype for Business to Teams and made instant messaging exchanges between the two clients persistent for Teams users.
Recent features added to the Microsoft Teams mobile app included the ability to join audio and video meetings in Teams or request a meeting to call them on their mobile devices. Once in a meeting, the Microsoft Teams mobile app lets users upload files, share their screens and control presentations.
Team collaboration elevates mobile clients
Team collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams and Slack are growing in popularity because they provide a single platform for communicating synchronously and asynchronously and for getting work done through third-party integrations.
That model for unified communications (UC) has made mobile clients even more significant, as vendors compete to deliver products that help users stay connected to colleagues and data whether they are in the office or working remotely, analysts said.
“The lines between communication, collaboration and conferencing are blurring,” said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. “One of the biggest challenges for vendors is to create consistent experiences across various device types.”
Traditional UC mobile apps were built primarily around calling and messaging, but mobile phones already provide those same capabilities over cellular networks. The mobile apps for Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams now give users access to nearly all of the files and collaboration tools available to them on the desktop.
“For all the manufacturers in this space, their singular goal should be [the following]: Can the user eradicate the term, ‘I’ll take care of that when I’m back in the office?'” Kerravala said.
Apple plans to disable some Facebook web tracking capabilities in the next version of iOS and Mac operating systems.
At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the company’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi explained the new antitracking features that will be rolled out in the next iteration of Apple’s web browser Safari. The features are meant to prevent Facebook and other companies from collecting user data automatically.
Specifically, Federighi called out the “Like” and “Share” buttons that appear on countless websites. In order to use either of those buttons, or leave a comment in the comments section, the user has to be logged into Facebook. But even if the user doesn’t click on the buttons, they can still be used to track that person just because they loaded the webpage.
“We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons,” Federighi said on stage at WWDC. “Well, it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not. So this year, we’re shutting that down.”
Facebook web tracking was called out specifically by Federighi, but Google has similar tracking abilities and will also be affected. Both Facebook and Google use web tracking to deliver targeted ads to users and collect data.
In the next version of the macOS Mojave, Apple will also disable what it calls “fingerprinting” by data companies. The companies collect information on the configuration of a particular device, including the fonts it has installed and the plug-ins that are enabled, to create a unique device profile and then use that to track the device from site to site.
“With Mojave, we’re making it much harder for trackers to create a unique fingerprint,” Federighi said. “We’re presenting webpages with only a simplified configuration system. We show them only built-in fonts. And legacy plug-ins are no longer supported, so those can’t contribute to a fingerprint. And as a result, your Mac will look like everyone else’s Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device and track you.”
In other news
- The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to purchase and set up a cloud browser for its employees. According to a request for information (RFI) from the Defense Information Systems Agency, the DoD intends to have its 3.1 million employees move to a cloud browser because the department believes it would be more secure to have employees browse the web via a remote server that operates outside the DoD network than to have it happen on their own devices. This is a technique the RFI called “cloud-based internet isolation” and has been gaining interest among enterprises. In 2017, security company Symantec acquired the company Fireglass with the intention of bolstering its browser isolation capabilities.
- The email and password data of 92 million users of the genealogy website MyHeritage was exposed in a data breach, according to the company. A security researcher found a file named ‘myheritage’ on a private server not connected to MyHeritage that contained the email addresses and hashed passwords of users who had signed up before October 26, 2017, which is the date of the data breach. In a statement, MyHeritage said that the hackers don’t have the actual passwords and there was no evidence that any of the information had been used. “We believe the intrusion is limited to the user email addresses. We have no reason to believe that any other MyHeritage systems were compromised,” the blog post MyHeritage said credit card data is stored with third-party providers and actual DNA and family-related data are all on segregated systems, so they weren’t affected by the breach.” We have no reason to believe those systems have been compromised.”
- The malware VPNFilter targets more devices than previously thought, according to updated research from Cisco Talos. VPNFilter was previously found to be infecting small office and home office routers and network-attached storage devices from several different vendors. Now, the researchers at Cisco Talos believe the malware is targeting more makes and models of those devices, and doing so with additional capabilities. New vendors now affected by VPNFilter are Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Ubiquiti, Upvel, ZTE, Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear and TP-Link. VPNFilter also now has the ability to deliver exploits to endpoints using a man-in-the-middle attack. “With this new finding, we can confirm that the threat goes beyond what the actor could do on the network device itself, and extends the threat into the networks that a compromised network device supports,” Cisco Talos’ William Largent wrote in the blog post detailing the new findings.
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Today we’re pleased to announce three new Time Series Insights (TSI) explorer capabilities that we think our users are going to love.
- First, we are delighted to share that the TSI explorer, the visualization service of TSI, is now generally available and backed by our SLA.
- Second, we’ve made the TSI explorer more accessible and easier to use for those with visual and fine-motor disabilities.
- And finally, we’ve made it easy to export aggregate event data to other analytics tools like Microsoft Excel.
Now that the TSI explorer is generally available, users will notice that the explorer is backed by TSI’s service level agreement (SLA), and we’ve removed the preview moniker from the backsplash when the explorer is loading. We have many customers using TSI in production environments and we’re thrilled to offer them the same SLA that backs the rest of the product. The ActionPoint IoT-PREDICT solution is a great example of one of those customers using the TSI explorer to enable their customers to explore and analyze time series data quickly. Check out their solution below.
There are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it. Transparency, accountability, and inclusion aren’t just built into our culture. They’re reflected in products and services designed for people of all abilities. With this in mind, it’s critical to our team that everyone can easily glean insights from their data using TSI, and these new capabilities significantly improve TSI’s usability for those with visual and fine-motor skill disabilities. The most obvious example of this work is the new table control that allows users to view aggregated data in a tabular format. While we made many less obvious improvements that make TSI more inclusive, two that I’m especially excited to share is TSI’s improved keyboard navigation and the addition of full narrator support. While we’re proud of the new functionality we delivered today, we think of accessibility and inclusion as core design principles and will continue to invest in feature work that takes advantage of them.
Finally, we are excited to deliver a feature that many of our customers have been asking for – aggregate event data integration with Microsoft Excel. With the addition of the table, users can now simply export aggregate data as a CSV for integration with other analytics apps, like Microsoft Excel. This new capability enables users to take advantage of familiar tools that are already a part of their workflow for analyzing and processing data. Users will be able to take aggregate data from TSI and export it to any tool that can read CSV files. Users will still be able to export raw data as a CSV or JSON, but aggregate data export fulfills a common ask from our community.
Here’s a screenshot of the new table and the CSV export:
We are excited about these new updates, but we are even more excited about what’s to come, so stay up to date on all things Time Series Insights by following us on Twitter. Don’t forget to check out the Microsoft Internet of Things blog for news from our peers in the Azure IoT engineering group.
Microsoft moved to bolster its cloud storage capabilities with the acquisition of NAS vendor Avere Systems, giving it a high-performance file system to manage unstructured data in hybrid clouds.
The Pittsburgh-based NAS vendor Avere’s OS file system is incorporated in FXT Edge filers in all-flash or spinning disk versions for on-premises or hybrid cloud configurations. Avere also provides a virtual appliance, the Virtual FXT Edge filers, which are available for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Google Cloud Platform.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Microsoft disclosed the acquisition in a blog post on its website but declined an interview request to provide more details about its plans for the cloud NAS vendor. Microsoft acquired early cloud NAS vendor StorSimple in 2012, and gives that technology to Azure subscribers to tier data into the cloud.
However, Avere CEO Ron Bianchini wrote in a company blog post that the two companies’ “shared vision” is to use Avere technology “in the data center, in the cloud and in hybrid cloud storage …” while tightly integrating it with Azure.
“Avere and Microsoft recognize that there are many ways for enterprises to leverage data center resources and the cloud,” Bianchini wrote. “Our shared vision is to continue our focus on all of Avere’s use cases — in the data center, in the cloud and in hybrid cloud storage and cloud bursting environments. Tighter integration with Azure will result in a much more seamless experience for our customers.”
Avere was founded in 2008 as a company that focused on the data center with its FXT Core Filers that used flash to accelerate network-attached storage (NAS) performance on disk systems. The company later transitioned to the cloud with its Avere FXT Edge Filers that served as NAS public clouds, allowing customers to connect on-premises storage to AWS, Google Cloud and Azure services.
In addition to NFS and SMB protocols, the Avere Cloud NAS appliance supports object storage from IBM Cleversafe, Western Digital, SwiftStack and others through its C2N Cloud-Core NAS platform.
Marc Staimerfounder, Dragon Slayer Consulting
The NAS vendor also sells FlashCloud, which runs on FXT Edge Filers with object APIs to connect to public and private clouds. The systems can be clustered so that cloud-based NAS can scale on premises while also providing high-availability access to data in the cloud. Customers can use FlashCloud software as a file system for object storage and move data to the cloud without requiring a gateway.
“They provide a true NAS filer,” said Marc Staimer, founder of Dragon Slayer Consulting. “They provide a complete, end-to-end package. The only other vendor that offers end-to-end is Oracle. But Oracle does not have a global namespace. Avere has a global namespace.”
Avere founders Bianchini, CTO Michael Kazar and technical director Daniel Nydick came from NetApp, which acquired their previous company Spinnaker Networks in 2004 for its clustered NAS technology.
Some of Avere’s customers include Sony Pictures’ Imageworks, animation studio Illumination Mac Guff, the Library of Congress, Johns Hopkins University and Teradyne Inc. The company is private so it does not disclose revenue, but a source close to the vendor put its bookings at $7 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 and $22 million for the year. Those bookings were up from $4.8 million in the fourth quarter and $14.5 million in 2015.
In March of 2017, Google became an Avere investor during the company’s $14 million Series E funding round. Avere raised about $100 million in total funding. Previous investors include Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital and Western Digital Technologies.
The Avere team will continue to work out of its Pittsburgh office for Microsoft.
Cloud and AI for Cybersecurity in Healthcare
Azure provides AI and analytics capabilities needed to digitally transform healthcare claims fraud, waste, and abuse processes into data-driven proactive solutions.