Turn Managing Office 365 from Bear to Breeze

Microsoft Office 365 sounds like a piece of cake to install and use. And for a single end user, it can be. But just try and move an entire shop, even a small one, over to the Microsoft productivity cloud suite. The management difficulties can be shocking.

Part of the problem is the administrator skills needed for on-premises Microsoft Office are almost exactly the same as those required for Office 365 – which translates into  a deep mastery of PowerShell scripting and Active Directory. This comes as quite a surprise to many Office 365 customers.

The result? Some customers looking to move to the cloud opt for Google Apps, and live with far fewer features, rather than tangle with the management beast that is Office 365.

For many SMBs the now six-year-old Office 365 is inevitable. After all, that’s where Microsoft is putting its muscle with its “all in the cloud” strategy. And cloud-based productivity solutions when managed properly have huge advantages. SMB IT departments no longer have to deal with as much hardware infrastructure; fixing problems with on-premises installations of Office; setting up new versions and updates; and running complex and expensive Exchange Server installs.

Office 365 is certainly a way to get away from on-premises management madness. Unfortunately Office 365 comes with its own set of issues. The third-party management tools that used to handle Office, Exchange and other solutions are designed for on-premises and won’t help with the cloud-based Office 365.That means IT will have to update their management tools or make do with what tools Microsoft offers, which IT has long complained aren’t rich enough in function or easy enough to use.

Another problem is the reliance upon PowerShell, a Microsoft scripting tool, and Active Directory (AD) to manage Office 365. Large enterprises have IT admins that are adept at PowerShell and AD, while SMBs generally don’t have that luxury.

A Closer Look at Office 365 Ups and Downs

With Office 365, upgrades are handled automatically through the cloud. This makes the process easier and insures all users are on the exact same platform.

Because Office 365 is SaaS, it can relieve IT of much administrative grunt work, allowing them to focus on strategic tasks and initiatives.

Here are issues IT faces with SaaS such as Office 365:

  • Difficulty tracking licenses so you don’t overpay
  • Security and data leakage threats when employees leave and still have access to the applications and information
  • Difficulty scaling to more users
  • Poor performance leading to end user complaints
  • Lack of IT visibility into SaaS operations

Setting up new Office 365 accounts is complex, as each user is on boarded separately. The same issue  arises when you need to off board, or close down accounts.

SaaS tools are supposed to make licensing easier. This should be especially true for those moving off of Microsoft Office and away from on-premises versions of server applications such as SharePoint and Exchange. Microsoft on-premises licensing is notoriously complex. There are multiple volume programs and a gaggle of ways to calculate costs. Few IT pros understand it completely.

Office 365 is far easier to buy and understand your licenses. At the same time, subscription fees are ongoing, so licensing must likewise be managed on an ongoing basis. And these fees can add up, especially as you look to upgrade to premium versions – so it is critical that customers only pay for what they actually use. Tracking Office 365 users and how much they are using is critical to proper software budgeting and spending.

Answer to Office 365 Management Woes

There is an answer to all these problems, and it lets customers realize the full value of Office 365 without all the heartache.

A new breed of software, led by Kaseya 365 Command, greatly eases the administrative and management burden Office 365 customers face. Aimed at SMB IT pros, 365 Command replaces PowerShell-based administration with an intuitive web-based solution.

Once the management problem is licked, customers can exploit the richness that is Microsoft Office (albeit in cloud form), and take advantage of decades of end-user learning and the level of comfort with this software.

365 Command to the Rescue

365 Command fundamentally changes how Office 365 is managed, taking a higher-level, more intuitive approach. Management tasks are easily applied to groups of users instead of doing things on a one-user-by-one-user basis.

In similar fashion, IT can easily manage multiple remote Office 365 environments, all from the same straightforward web console. This makes it cost effective and highly efficient to support an array of company locations and hundreds of users.

At the same time, IT gains superior auditing and reporting – so you always have full visibility into what is going on in the Office 365 environment, can spot trends, and make sure you are making efficient use of your network and software licenses.

In rest of this article, we look at specific ways 365 Command takes control of Office 365, improves the value of Microsoft Office Portal, and does myriad things Microsoft Office Portal simply can’t.

365 Command Simplifies Office 365 User Management

Some Office 365 management tools focus solely on Exchange, but this is only one Office 365’s pain point. Instead, Kaseya 365 Command goes further into handling the full range of Office 365 applications and services. With it, one can control provisioning and access to OneDrive, edit permissions, configure access, and create templates for SharePoint, and generate reports for OneDrive, SharePoint, Lync, and more – from ONE console.

That’s just the beginning. Let’s start with how Kaseya 365 Command handles user management.

Setting Up Cloud Users – It’s easy to create new user accounts and assign licenses to existing accounts in 365 Command. That can also be done in Microsoft’s Office Portal – just not nearly as easily, or with the same rich function as 365 Command. What really sets 365 Command apart, though, is:

  • User names can be changed on Federated User Accounts without having to write a PowerShell script.
  • Passwords can be configured how you want – you can reset to a password of your choosing, require it to be changed at first login, or set it to never expire. These settings can be applied to multiple users at once.
  • You can assign or remove users from groups without having to go to each group you wish to modify. Instead, you go to the user object and add or remove that user to and from multiple groups at the same time. This saves time and reduces errors.
  • Simplified de-provisioning. No PowerShell scripts or complicated procedures are needed to remove users and de-provision accounts. This is a real money saver as you identify licenses you are paying for, but not using.

Supporting multiple users/customers from one console – A key feature of 365 Command is the ability to access all users and customers from one single console, which dramatically simplifies administration – thus saving enormous amounts of time. It takes fewer staff to handle administration, which reduces human administrative errors, and frees staff to concentrate on other issues. It also increases visibility as to how and where Office 365 is being used. What was a time-consuming and difficult task is simpler because everything is accessed and viewable from the one console.

Simplifies Mail – 365 Command allows you to manage cloud mailboxes from the console. With 365 Command you can easily:

  • Create custom templates to automatically assign settings to mailboxes after they are created. The list of items this huge time-saving capability lets you set includes password expiration, mailbox quotas, mailbox access and retention, time zone and language. It also enables archiving, auditing, and can activate Litigation Hold.
  • Edit permissions, both for mailboxes and for folders in the mailbox, from the console.
  • View “member of” information and modify group memberships. Convert mailboxes between different types – full, shared, or resource – without writing PowerShell scripts.
  • Create shared mailboxes without PowerShell, and create a security group to control access, at the same time.
  • Export mailboxes to PST files from the console.

365 Command Improves Governance and Security

365 Command goes far beyond the basic reporting capabilities of Microsoft’s Office Portal or other third-party management offerings. By providing over 40 reports not available through Office Portal, Kaseya 365 Command gives you in-depth analysis and usage insight that you couldn’t otherwise gain.

  • Reduce Risk – As mentioned earlier, with 365 Command, you are better able to see exactly who is using what features, and where and when they are being used. The extensive reporting and auditing of 365 Command means policy or security breaches can be caught early and rectified. It is also easy to determine whether roles need to be modified for proper governance.
  • Role-Based Management – With 365 Command you can easily enforce policies through role-based administration. Granular access control limits what functions users can access in Office 365 and 365 Command. Tight control of end user privileges means better security and can go a long way in preventing data breaches.

Kaseya 365 Command Gives You Total Control

If you are an IT manager needing to simplify your infrastructure, the web-based portal of 365 Command gives is the ticket to efficient management which in turn saves time and money. With the intuitive, high-level interface, 365 Command is ideal for novices and pros alike.

You can use 365 Command to add or remove users, manage multiple customers or clients from one console, monitor and generate reports to determine usage and compliance, improve security, and more, all with a just a few clicks. There’s nothing to download – even better, 365 Command doesn’t install agents on your devices. Instead, you simply access the 365 Command portal to perform management tasks and generate reports.

These are just some of the ways 365 Command takes you beyond what Microsoft’s Office Portal provides.

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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