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Level 3 offers Amazon cloud collaboration tool as a service

Level 3 Communications has launched Amazon Chime as a managed service — the latest sign that the cloud collaboration tool is capable of competing with Microsoft’s Skype for Business and Cisco’s WebEx.

Last week’s introduction of the Level 3 service demonstrates progress in Amazon’s goal of becoming an enterprise communications provider, said Ira Weinstein, an analyst at Wainhouse Research, based in Duxbury, Mass.

“If I was advising one of my large enterprise clients, I would tell them you now have a very reputable vendor’s product in Chime, and you’ve got it wrapped in Level 3’s production-friendly, managed environment,” he said. “Second, Chime is more than sufficient for the typical enterprise, and when you wrap it in Level 3’s managed services, it becomes better supported.”

Level 3, a multinational telecommunications and internet service provider, hopes to tap into the large enterprise customer base of Amazon Web Services, the retailer’s platform-as-a-service business, said Jon Arnold, an analyst at the Canadian firm J Arnold & Associates. In the second quarter, AWS generated $4.1 billion in net sales.

 “You can’t ignore Amazon,” Arnold said. “They’re too big.”

Other Amazon partners in Chime cloud collaboration tool

Amazon, however, is not big enough to succeed in the crowded UC and collaboration market on its own. Along with Level 3, Amazon has partnered with UC vendor Vonage, which offers Chime as a feature in all business communications plans.

Level 3 is targeting medium to large businesses with a pay-per-use model. The company is also willing to bundle its PSTN service with the cloud collaboration tool.

Chime is based on technology Amazon obtained last year through the acquisition of online meeting provider Biba.

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Symantec Endpoint Protection and the details for buyers to know

Symantec Endpoint Protection is a client-server software platform that provides layered security for physical and virtual endpoints aimed at environments with more than 250 users.

A similar product, Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition, is designed for smaller environments with more limited administrative support. A cloud-based version — Symantec Endpoint Protection Cloud — is also available for small to medium-sized organizations.

This article focuses on version 14 of Symantec Endpoint Protection.

Feature set

Symantec Endpoint Protection includes antivirus and antimalware, a firewall and intrusion prevention component, host integrity checking, external media control, application control, network access control, and website browsing protection. Behavioral monitoring uses machine learning to prevent most zero-day attacks, as well as to stop the spread of an infection if an attack breaches network or system security. The Power Eraser component enables administrators to scan an endpoint from the management console to remove an infection remotely, and System Lockdown handles application whitelisting and blacklisting.

Endpoint Protection does not protect mobile devices, and Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition does not include email protection, application control or support for virtual environments.

The Symantec Global Intelligence Network, one of the largest of its kind, analyzes data from hundreds of millions of users and sensors and works with Symantec’s Insight and SONAR (Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response) technologies to identify and categorize current threats.

To increase performance, Endpoint Protection uses scan elimination and deduplication techniques to reduce the number of files it must scan on each pass. Additional Endpoint Protection features then prevent malware and other threats from affecting customer endpoints.

Platform coverage

Symantec Endpoint Protection supports Microsoft Windows Vista through Microsoft Windows 10 client systems, macOS and several Linux distributions. Supported server systems include Microsoft Windows Server 2008 through Server 2016, Microsoft Windows Essential Business Server, Microsoft Windows Small Business Server and several flavors of Linux (Red Hat Linux Enterprise and SUSE Linux Enterprise, among others).

For virtual environments, the solution supports Amazon WorkSpaces, Citrix XenServer, VMware vSphere Server (ESXi), VMware ESX, Windows Azure, Microsoft Hyper-V and VirtualBox by Oracle.

Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition does not support Linux operating systems, virtual environments or mobile.

Performance

In tests conducted by AV-Test in November and December 2016 on Windows 10, Symantec Endpoint Security 14 scored 17 out of 18 when evaluated for protection, performance and usability.

The highest-ranking products during that period were Kaspersky Small Office Security and Bitdefender Endpoint Security, which both scored 18. Symantec Endpoint Security won the AV-Test Best Protection 2016 award for delivering outstanding protection performance.

Manageability

Symantec Endpoint Protection for on-premises includes a management console that runs on a server and pushes agent software to each client. Administrators can view and manage Windows, Mac, Linux and virtual machine clients and make policy configurations using the console.

Small Business Edition works similarly, but is designed for easier setup and administration. This product enables customers to use a cloud-based host, or to install the management console on an on-premises server.

Pricing and licensing

Symantec Endpoint Protection products are licensed per endpoint with essential support included. Customers can purchase licenses online at the Symantec Store or through a partner for quantities higher than those offered online. The following table lists the manufacturer’s suggested retail price per license; additional quantities are available at special pricing. Symantec offers a 45-day money-back guarantee on Endpoint Protection purchases.

Licensing and pricing

A free, fully functioning 30-day trial of Symantec Endpoint Security or Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition is available from each product’s respective website.

Support

General support for Symantec Endpoint Protection includes access to the company’s online knowledge base, eLibrary, support videos, a community forum, the SymDiag diagnostic tool, product documentation, and downloadable updates and upgrades.

Endpoint Protection customers may open a support ticket by visiting Symantec’s technical support website or by contacting a Symantec support technician by telephone 24/7. Paid support plans, which include direct access to support engineers, faster response times and so on, are available through Symantec resellers.

Support for Small Business Edition includes maintenance, service updates and 24/7 telephone support.

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Lost and found: Use an Exchange recovery database to restore data

deleted an important email or to satisfy a request from a lawyer or regulator.

A company that runs Exchange 2016 off a single server in a branch office or lacks a database availability group can tap into the Exchange recovery database to restore information, messages and other items from mailboxes. Recovery databases are special mailbox stores that are accessible only to administrators; they exist solely to obtain deleted email or other items from a production Exchange mailbox.

Execute the email recovery process

Recovery databases are special mailbox stores that are accessible only to administrators; they exist solely to obtain deleted email or other items from a production Exchange mailbox.

The email message restoration process involves a few steps. The administrator creates a new database object on the Exchange deployment and identifies it as a recovery database. The admin then restores a production database into the recovery database, which copies the data from a backup into the new recovery space. After that, Exchange reads from the mounted database. Finally, the admin runs mailbox recovery requests to bring data from the mounted recovery database into the corresponding mailbox or mailboxes — or different mailboxes or archives — to the production side.

Build the Exchange recovery database

Create the new database to hold the content we want to retrieve with the PowerShell command below. The –Recovery flag instructs Exchange that this database should not be treated as a typical mailbox database.

New-MailboxDatabase -Server EXCHANGE2016 -Name MyRecoveryDatabase -Recovery -EdbFilePath c:exchange.edb -LogFolderPath c:logs

Next, restore the production Exchange database with software or the other backup processes. For example, administrators who use Windows Server Backup would pick the location of the backup files and the date of the backup, and then choose Files and Folders to locate the database file (EDB) and the log files associated with the database. The administrator would then restore files to the locations used in the PowerShell command above to create the Exchange recovery database.

Next, use the ESEUtil utility to put the database in a readable condition. Find the location of the recovery database, and run the following at the command prompt:

eseutil /r log_file_base_name /l c:path_to_log_files /d c:path_to_database

Run the command below from the database directory to make sure the State field says Clean Shutdown, which indicates a successful recovery.

eseutil /mh databasename.edb

Next, use the name of the database to mount it with this command:

Mount-Database MyRecoveryDatabase

Once the database mounts, choose from one of the following restore options:

  • Restore content from a mailbox on the recovery database to an identical mailbox on the production database;
  • Restore content from the recovery database to an archive database;
  • Restore content from one mailbox on the recovery side to a different mailbox on the production side; or
  • Restore specific folders from within a mailbox into a corresponding mailbox, a different mailbox or a target archive mailbox.

Here are some sample commands that illustrate the required PowerShell syntax:

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Tim Jones Restore” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Tim Jones” -TargetMailbox “Tim Jones”

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Tim Jones Restore” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Tim Jones” -TargetMailbox “Tim Jones” –TargetRootFolder “Your Restored Items”

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Susan Smith Restore” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Susan Smith” -TargetMailbox “Susan Smith” –TargetIsArchive  –TargetRootFolder “Restored Items In Your Archive”

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Susan Smith to New Info Mailbox” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Susan Smith” -TargetMailbox “General Info” -TargetRootFolder “Susan Smith Items” -AllowLegacyDNMismatch

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Tim Jones Recovery of Acme Matter Content” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Tim Jones” -TargetMailbox “Tim Jones” -IncludeFolders “Acme Litigation/*”

To restore content from the built-in folders, surround the folder names with hashtags — for example, #Inbox# or #Deleted Items#.

How to handle a conflict

When restoring a previous version of an item, the same name of the item already exists in the destination mailbox. The administrator needs to dictate which action to take and what data to keep — the item from the recovery mailbox, the item with the latest date or everything and allow duplicates. Use the –ConflictResolutionOption PowerShell parameter to set these options:

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Tim Jones Restore” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Tim Jones” -TargetMailbox “Tim Jones” –ConflictResolutionOption KeepSourceItem

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Susan Smith Restore” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Susan Smith” -TargetMailbox “Susan Smith” –TargetIsArchive  –ConflictResolutionOption KeepLatestItem

New-MailboxRestoreRequest -Name “Susan Smith to New Info Mailbox” -SourceDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase -SourceStoreMailbox “Susan Smith” -TargetMailbox “General Info” -TargetRootFolder “Susan Smith Items” –AllowLegacyDNMismatch –ConflictResolutionOption KeepAll

After the restoration process, remove the mailbox restore requests. Completed requests remain in a queue for auditing purposes, so remove them to prevent current requests from mixing with completed ones. The first line displays the current requests to ensure the administrator selects the correct ones, while the second line removes them.

Get-MailboxRestoreRequest

Get-MailboxRestoreRequest | Where Status -eq Completed | Remove-MailboxRestoreRequest

The final step is to delete the Exchange recovery database to free up the disk space using these commands:

Dismount-Database MyRecoveryDatabase

Remove-MailboxDatabase MyRecoveryDatabase

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Scrutinize the Office 365 roadmap to steer clear of trouble

Microsoft wants Office 365 administrators tracking every new feature and update that it puts out, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.

The cadence of releases for a cloud-hosted product can be a perk, with a steady arrival of innovative tools and functionality. But it can also be a pain, particularly if Microsoft deprecates a component that a business needs.

On its Office 365 roadmap website, Microsoft lists more than 200 features in development, rolling out or recently launched. New or upcoming features range from Advanced Threat Protection Status — which reports on the malware that ATP catches — to an option for users to delay or choose when Office 365 sends their message. As Microsoft expands Office 365 into a security, collaboration, cloud storage, private branch exchange and communication suite, IT admins must stay updated on the latest changes on the platform and alert users on the availability of new apps and features.

These Exchange and Office 365 experts — all TechTarget contributors — offered their insights on how Office 365 administrators can adapt to Microsoft’s constant changes and their experiences with how businesses handle the twists and turns of the Office 365 roadmap.

Perils of constant change

Michel de RooijMichel de Rooij

Many organizations use IT Infrastructure Library-based processes to implement new Office 365 features, which can be problematic because of the service’s rapid rollouts. Instead, look to Microsoft’s Office Insider program, with its fast and slow update rings, to bring updates into your business at the right pace.

Editor’s note: Microsoft’s Office Insider program allows Office 365 subscribers to receive early access to new features that they can test out and provide feedback on.

Let a few power users and IT operate on the fast ring to try out new features, but remember that those updates might never arrive based on your region. For example, I still haven’t received Focused Inbox in Outlook 2016, despite running First Release in Office 365 and Insider Fast for Office 2016. Microsoft sometimes pulls features, which happened to the automatic creation of groups for delegates. Also, Microsoft can turn new features on by default, often without administrative controls. An organization that signs up for these early releases needs to be comfortable with a certain amount of unpredictability.

Finally, Microsoft seems to push for certain features that its customers do not care for, such as the option to create Office 365 Groups when you actually want to create distribution groups.

It’s difficult for email and collaboration tool admins to act proactively against the sudden changes in Office 365’s roadmap, but they should always provide feedback to Microsoft when they have strong opinions about features. Administrator pushback caused Microsoft to pull the change for automatic creation of groups for delegates. There will be discrepancies between what the software provider develops and what customers are comfortable with or actually use.

Keep track of the Office 365 roadmap for changes, both for planned updates and those in development — the latter might arrive sooner than you think.

For more from Michel de Rooij, please visit his contributor page.

Users want the latest and greatest

Reda ChouffaniReda Chouffani

Office 365 changes constantly. Users will hear about new features and demand training for them. Administrators have to adapt, and they might even block new features from end users until IT can thoroughly test these updates. But admins cannot restrict the flow of enhancements as a long-term solution; users will still want to get what’s new. The IT staff needs to consider what users want while it evaluates whether these features provide a tangible benefit to the company.

New features can also be disruptive after organizations adopt and master them, if the service changes. For example, Microsoft offered a free version of its cloud-based business analytics Power BI feature, but some of its capabilities — such as dashboard sharing — disappeared when a new edition superseded the old. Early adopters of Power BI had to choose between a trial or the paid version — or lose the capability altogether.

Office 365 changes constantly. Users will hear about new features and demand training for them.

There are risks, but Office 365’s constant updates can benefit those who plan ahead. Microsoft helps IT departments implement and adopt platform features with its free FastTrack service. FastTrack ensures the IT team uses best practices with Office 365 and also provides technical assistance with implementation of its services.

For more from Reda Chouffani, please visit his contributor page.

Keep an eye on the roadmap

Neil HobsonNeil Hobson

Microsoft’s Office 365 roadmap site lets administrators understand what lies ahead for significant service and feature updates. This roadmap is split into five categories: in development, rolling out, launched, previously released or canceled. To avoid issues, administrators need to check the roadmap regularly for new items that might affect their Office 365 deployment. This gives them the early visibility required to commence high-level planning.

As new features on the roadmap near rollout, Microsoft posts announcements to the Message Center, which can be found within the main Office 365 administration portal. The Message Center also contains dated announcements about changes and actions that prevent or fix issues. Announcements contain a short description of the feature or issue, information on how it will affect the organization, actions to prepare for the update and a link to more detailed information. It is vital that administrators check Message Center posts often to be fully prepared for the imminent changes. Some actions must be completed by a specific date to avoid problems.

Admins can configure Office 365’s tenant release option to manage how the platform pushes out new features. An organization selects the First Release option to receive new features early. Admins can then choose to release those features to the entire organization or just specific users. Alternatively, the Standard Release option means that new features come via the default release schedule.

For more from Neil Hobson, please visit his contributor page.

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How can IT put PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment to use?

PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment is a tool that can benefit all levels of users, which is why many developers and administrators use it almost exclusively when working with PowerShell — often skipping the original console altogether.

With PowerShell ISE, which provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for writing and fixing PowerShell scripts, IT administrators and developers can write, edit and run PowerShell scripts and commands. It provides a more user-friendly way to work with the wide range of features available for creating and testing PowerShell codes.

For example, PowerShell ISE includes IntelliSense for autocompleting commands and for matching cmdlets, variables, parameters and other language elements. The GUI also provides quick access to a variety of snippets that make it easier to construct command logic, such as looping structures. In addition, admins get multiple execution environments, selective code execution and the ability to run commands from either the PowerShell script or the console pane.

What else can PowerShell ISE do?

PowerShell script development

PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment provides many other features to support PowerShell script development, such as drag-and-drop editing, tab completion, block selection, syntax coloring, keyboard shortcuts and Unicode support. Plus, admins can open PowerShell script files by dragging them from Windows Explorer to the PowerShell ISE GUI. They can even extend the PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment object model to customize the deployment and add functionality.

Troubleshooting

Admins can also use PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment to troubleshoot and debug PowerShell scripts. Although this goes hand in hand with script development, sometimes admins must fix an existing script and want to use PowerShell ISE’s debugging capabilities. Not only do they get features such as selective execution and multiple execution environments, but they can also set up breakpoints, step through code, check variable values and display call stacks. In addition, PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment displays parsing errors as admins type.

PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment is also useful as a learning tool.

Running complicated commands

Admins might also use PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment when they want to run complex ad hoc commands and prefer to avoid the inherent clunkiness of the PowerShell console. With PowerShell ISE, they can type all their code in the script pane and then, when they’re ready, run part or all of the code. This also makes it easier to tweak the script if admins need to run it multiple times, incorporating slight modifications with each execution.

Learning

PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment is also useful as a learning tool. Someone new to PowerShell can benefit a great deal from built-in features, such as IntelliSense, snippet access and parse error displays.

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Microsoft stitches up Windows Server 2003 on busy June Patch Tuesday

Organizations that still use Windows Server 2003 got a surprise on June Patch Tuesday, with a Microsoft security…

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update for the unsupported server operating system.

A month after the company issued patches for legacy systems to ward off the WannaCry ransomware attacks that affected thousands of computers, Microsoft released a free patch for Windows Server 2003, which has been unsupported since 2015. Microsoft addressed the exploit used in the WannaCry attacks in its March Patch Tuesday, but that only applied to supported Windows systems. The company later issued updates to protect unsupported Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003 operating systems.

This most recent course reversal — which also applies to other unsupported systems, such as Windows XP — comes alongside June Patch Tuesday updates that addressed an eye-opening 94 vulnerabilities.

“In reviewing the updates for this month, some vulnerabilities were identified that pose elevated risk of cyberattacks by government organizations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors or other copycat organizations,” Adrienne Hall, general manager of Microsoft’s Cyber Defense Operations Center, wrote in a blog post. Hall indicated Microsoft chose to issue these additional security updates to protect unsupported systems from threats that may be similar to WannaCry.

Microsoft encourages businesses to migrate from legacy systems, such as Windows Server 2003, through end-of-life support deadlines. By releasing a security update for an unsupported product, Microsoft risks setting a precedent that businesses can stay with legacy products and still receive critical security updates.

In a separate blog post, Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center, cautioned that this “should not be viewed as a departure from our standard servicing policies,” and businesses will be best-served by staying on Microsoft’s roadmap with supported Windows systems.

“It’s sort of a double-edged sword,” said Amol Sarwate, director of vulnerability labs for Qualys Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif. “For things like WannaCry, when the exploitation is so high and everyone and anyone is affected, Microsoft did the right thing by releasing patches for an end-of-life operating system.”

At the same time, “if they do this more often, people will start thinking the patches will be there, and that takes them away from the goal of moving away from the old operating systems,” he said.

Patch for in-the-wild vulnerability

Of the 94 vulnerabilities Microsoft identified for June Patch Tuesday, 27 are remote code execution (RCE) exploits that could allow an attacker to take control of a machine.

Sarwate said the top priority for Windows Server administrators should be CVE-2017-8543, which affects Windows Server 2008 and above, and is currently exploited in the wild. On an unpatched system, attackers can send a specially crafted Server Message Block request to the Windows Search service to gain control of a computer.

Administrators should give prompt attention to address CVE-2017-8507, an RCE vulnerability in Microsoft Outlook an attacker could use to gain control of a system when a user views an email message, Sarwate said.

For more information about the remaining security vulnerabilities released on June Patch Tuesday, visit Microsoft’s Security Update Guide.

Dan Cagen is the associate site editor for SearchWindowsServer.com. Write to him at dcagen@techtarget.com.

Next Steps

How to adapt to Microsoft’s patching changes

New patching process may mean less control

Security Update Guide brings growing pains


Essential Guide

Catch up on the Windows Server patches of 2017

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What is Microsoft Log Parser Studio? – Definition from WhatIs.com

Microsoft Log Parser Studio is a front-end utility that features a graphical user interface, report builder and query repository for Microsoft’s Log Parser application.

Log Parser is a free command-line tool that can run queries based on SQL syntax against log files for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes. Administrators can also use Log Parser to examine data sources from the Windows operating system, such as the Windows registry; Internet Information Services (IIS); Exchange; and other applications to locate specific entries or conditions.

Log Parser Studio builds on the capabilities of Log Parser and comes with more than 180 pre-defined queries. The Log Parser Studio GUI features a number of icons tied to specific actions, such as “show chart” and “export CSV.” Administrators can write, execute and manage queries in the GUI. The Log Parser Studio can store queries in a centralized repository.

Log Parser Studio GUI
Log Parser Studio features a GUI to execute queries based on SQL syntax. The administrator can use the interface to do various tasks, such as sort through the results or build a chart based on the query results.

Log Parser Studio provides other features and functionality, including the ability to import multiple XML files; context-aware searching; support for all Log Parser formats; support for Exchange logs, such as EEL and EELX log formats; the capacity to export queries as PowerShell scripts; and query logging, which saves all query work. Log Parser Studio can run a collection of queries in a batch job and execute queries automatically for use in daily reports.

Microsoft released Log Parser Studio in 2012.

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Office 365 administrators must brush up on cloud skills

Think you know how to manage and support that on-premises Exchange Server? Cloud will make you question your s…

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kills.

As enterprises switch to the Office 365 platform, admins must change how they work and what systems they work in. And this means understanding several areas in which most admins have little to no experience. Here are several must-have skills for Office 365 administrators.

Get familiar with PowerShell

Systems administrators have used PowerShell to manage Microsoft’s applications and operating systems with console commands since its release with Windows Server 2008. Microsoft developed PowerShell to support everything from Windows Server and SharePoint to Exchange Server and Office 365. And Office 365 admins who have only dabbled with PowerShell need to get more comfortable with it, because there are many management tasks that cannot be resolved from the administrative web portal.

Understand licensing tiers

Exchange Online users have several add-ons, such as email security and collaboration features; administrators likely will need to manage different aspects of each. Understand licensing so the organization only purchases what it needs. For example, not all users need the full Microsoft Office productivity suite — assign the less expensive Office 365 Enterprise E1 license or the Exchange Online plan, instead of the more expensive E3 or E5 plans. This helps budget for licensing and avoids unnecessary purchases.

Know your security needs

Microsoft stores hosted email in multiple highly available data centers, and many IT executives think Microsoft backs up email. While Microsoft explicitly states it protects mailboxes from accidental deletion, any deleted message is gone when it is removed from the Deleted Items folder — unless admins apply litigation holds or create other retention policies. Therefore, many new Exchange Online administrators subscribe to Office 365 backup service providers for cloud-to-cloud backups.

Sharpen security skills

Thanks to the rise of cyberattacks and ransomware, Office365 administrators have increased safeguards to protect email — a popular entry point for attacks. Microsoft has many security add-ons to fend off different attacks, including Advanced Security Management, Advanced Threat Protection and Advanced Threat Analytics. Research each service to understand what it covers, how to manage it and then determine if those security components fit your organization’s needs.

Keep the lines of communication open

Many enterprise IT admins hesitated to use Cloud PBX and public switch telephone network features introduced in the Office 365 E5 plan. Few cloud-hosted VoIP vendors could provide the full collaboration stack that includes conferencing, instant messaging, desktop sharing, video and voice. However, more companies have signed on with the E5 plan for calling and conferencing features. Admins who dropped on-premises telephony systems must adapt and manage the cloud version through the Office 365 admin portal.

Take an active role with end users

Office 365 offers so many apps and services — with more arriving at a steady rate — that it’s challenging for IT admins to describe every tool to end users. To address this, be sure IT teams control the flow of new apps and improvements and become proficient with new services before introducing them to end users. This will give end users confidence in the IT team’s ability to support them.

Next Steps

Key Office 365 tasks admins should know

Use the admin portal or PowerShell in Office 365?

Log Parser Studio helps pinpoint Exchange problems

Dig Deeper on MS Office 365

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An Office 365 pilot can make or break a rollout

Exchange administrators were once preoccupied with time-consuming tasks that involved managing a complex messaging…

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environment. But when Office 365 entered the picture, many of those same admins can use a single web portal to manage and configure systems.

This shift into the cloud also offers new opportunities and frees administrators for other tasks, but the success of the implementation depends on how prepared they are for the change. An Office 365 pilot is the best way to determine if a full implementation will succeed or fail.

Ideally, an Office 365 pilot should roll out to about 5% of end users. This ensures IT spends adequate time to plan and evaluate the new platform within the environment and with a set number of users. It also provides the opportunity to test-drive the platform and determine any potential configuration requirements, issues and implementation caveats that admins need to address prior to a full migration.

During the pilot stage, an organization can either purchase licenses for a number of end users under an existing Microsoft agreement or sign up for a trial version. This enables admins to implement the pilot project and perform most of the required tasks to get end users on the Office 365 service. During the Office 365 pilot phase, IT should use the following points to evaluate and prepare:

Keep an eye on bandwidth

The biggest factors that affect Office 365 performance are connectivity and internal networking configurations. Regardless of the speed of the Office 365 service in Microsoft’s data centers, if the organization’s network bandwidth cannot meet Microsoft’s requirements then end users won’t have a good experience. An Office 365 pilot forces IT to evaluate and identify the specifications required to use the cloud platform. Admins can download several tools for these tasks from Microsoft’s site, such as the calculator that estimates how much bandwidth an organization needs based on the number of end users.

Admins who skip the pilot phase could encounter additional costs later if the organization’s bandwidth is not adequate. And slow network speed for Office 365 could result in slow email delivery and poor tools performance. End users lose confidence and the implementation likely will fail.

More hands-on work in the portal builds confidence

The biggest factors that affect Office 365 performance are connectivity and internal networking configurations.

Exchange Online includes greater functionality and capabilities than its on-premises counterpart, including additional features like Exchange Online Protection, advanced threat protections, data loss prevention, archiving, e-discovery, user mailbox administration and reporting. The portal offers a centralized and consolidated management console that differs significantly from what is available with on-premises Exchange Server.

IT is less likely to be overwhelmed during the full implementation if admins perform due diligence during the Office 365 pilot phase. Review and map out the organization’s policies and familiarize yourself with administrative options.

Address compatibility with email clients and mail-enabled devices

Connectivity and compatibility with legacy applications and devices, such as mobile devices, mail-enabled scanners and printers, often go unaddressed before a move to Office 365. And they can become bigger problems after a migration.

Many of these systems interact with Exchange to communicate and transmit data to end users. But not all these systems have native support for Office 365 and its security requirements. This can lead to a lack of email support unless IT admins perform alternate configurations and setups. An Office 365 pilot helps identify gaps and allows IT to build and test alternate setups to prevent interruptions when the system goes live.

Be aware of customization or custom code in Office

An Office upgrade can be an IT pain point. Several companies in various industries still run Microsoft Office 2010 or even 2007. To use Office 365, these organizations need to upgrade to a new Office environment that requires internet connectivity at least once every 30 days. To keep an Office 365 plan active, someone must sign in at least once every 30 days.

A common challenge with the new Office 365 ProPlus, which allows end users to access Office apps on all devices, is the lack of support for some of the component object model components or legacy add-ons. For example, Sage 100 ERP required clients delay an Office 365 ProPlus while it sorted through some legacy issues. The Office 365 pilot project would help uncover potential incompatibilities and enable IT to take the appropriate steps to upgrade or to rewrite some custom code.

Embrace O365 service, support

Once IT moves to Office 365, its fate is in Microsoft’s hands with regards to guarantees on end-user uptime, including the time it takes to fix any service interruptions. Because the current Office 365 platform has built a reputation for reliability by consistently meeting its guarantee of 99.9% uptime, this is no longer a concern. This doesn’t mean that issues won’t pop up from time to time but, in the pilot stage, IT must learn how to work through the support portal and understand the different service health and monitoring indicators available online. This helps IT teams better prepare for issues or interruption.

The primary focus of an Office 365 pilot project is to test how well the platform will work within the organization. The larger the organization, the more critical the pilot phase is to the success of the project. If admins skip this phase, they risk unwanted surprises for everyone involved — and that could lead to negative consequences and a lack of confidence in the platform.

Next Steps

When to consider a single Office 365 tenant

Five areas to consider before a move to Exchange 2016

Tips to manage Office 365 for Exchange admins

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