There’s no question the COVID-19 pandemic threw businesses for a loop when national quarantines went into effect; particularly businesses that hadn’t taken preventive measures. The good news is – regardless of what level of preparedness your organization was at prior to the pandemic – businesses can make up for lost time by relying on proven enterprise solutions that have functionality they may not have tapped into during happier times. At the top of that list is Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), an SaaS enterprise productivity platform.
Whether they know it or not, enterprises using M365 are already ahead of the business continuity game. In fact, the software was designed to be catastrophe-proof. A major reason why is obvious: the cloud platform is supported by the biggest enterprise tech company in the world. M365’s service is backed by extra servers and multiple network cards, as well as data redundancy through replication across multiple data centers around the world and Microsoft also monitors the platform’s performance to quickly diagnose and remediate issues that affect customers. That is why Microsoft’s M365 SLA guarantees 99.9% availability.
Businesses can’t take a “set it and forget it” mentality to M365, however. Savvy IT leaders are making the best of their current situation by implementing new business continuity policies and apps intended to enhance security and productivity. Below you’ll find a few tips and underutilized tools that can help IT and business continuity professionals.
Security is Business Continuity Job No. 1
Ransomware was a major threat to enterprises before the COVID-19 pandemic and is now an even greater threat. Europol released a paper in early April which warned businesses that ransomware attacks were on the rise.
A new paper from Europol – based on contributions from European Union member states and partners – examines how cyber criminals have reacted and evolved since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they’re seeking to exploit vulnerabilities that have emerged. The report states, “The types of criminals exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic online were also active in the area of cybercrime before. However, some are believed to have intensified their activities and are actively recruiting collaborators to maximize the impact of their attacks or schemes.”
Basic security measures such as ensuring all business apps and security solutions are updated are critical but there are some M365-specific issues that must also be taken care of including:
- Implementing strong password policies and multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA requires at least two forms of personal user identification and is recognized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines for password security. Microsoft offers tools such as Microsoft Authenticator for users to install on their smartphones, as well as smartcards, to work in combination with traditional password logins and promote MFA adoption.
- Limit granting wholesale administrative access and privileges to employees – even if they work in IT – and achieve M365 tenant segmentation via role-based access control.
- Monitoring employee activities such as their mailbox practices can identify risky behavior and proactively secure business-critical data. Preventing risky activities such as auto-forwarding to external email addresses and limiting access rights to other users’ mailboxes can prevent the spread of malware and the leakage of data through emails. In addition, being aware of unusual email activity prevents targeted spam or social engineering tactics common among today’s cybersecurity threats.
- With the majority of employees are working from home, IT must make sure all remote logins are legit. The answer is to monitor suspicious M365 sign-in activities. Knowing how many suspicious sign-in attempts are happening, where they are coming from, and what they are targeting is a key security best practice – and especially critical during this crisis.
Using OneDrive and SharePoint for Resilient Document Storage
Allowing or encouraging the storage of enterprise documents on personal employee hard drives is a disaster waiting to happen, pandemic or not. M365’s cloud storage not only offers enhanced access management and security but also ensures documents are available to all of an organization’s employees instead of buried on a hard drive that also contains photos of a recent family trip to Disneyland.
Using OneDrive and SharePoint, even employees without a company laptop or mobile device can safely work on business documents. Secure accessibility is critical both during and in a post-pandemic world as employees are reliant on the ability to quickly find key information to stay productive.
Maintaining Communications and Collaboration Continuity with Microsoft Teams
For the last few years, Microsoft has wanted enterprises to move from Skype to Teams. With the coronavirus-driven rise in remote work, enterprises need to make this move given it is a more fully-featured collaboration tool.
However, having a solution like Teams available is not the same as knowing how to properly use it. Even shops that have moved from Skype to Teams often just scratch the surface of what the Microsoft collaboration and communication solution can do. For remote workers to match their in-office productivity, they need to take advantage of the app’s advanced features, such as co-authoring documents, and go beyond basic chat and videoconferencing functionality.
Microsoft Teams is also an ideal way to keep remote workers informed on the latest company news. With everyone out of the office and watercooler chats eliminated, it’s important that businesses create a central “source of truth” for corporate information. This consolidation empowers businesses to integrate more structured interaction, as well. For example, an enterprise could roll out a channel in Teams which allows HR to quickly reply to employee questions.
M365 is an incredible asset for businesses as it contains a diverse array of enterprise apps, many of whom are underutilized. During difficult times, its important IT teams maximize the value of all the tools they have available rather than scramble to implement new ones. Tech leaders can take advantage of the robust SaaS platform to plug in any holes in their continuity strategy or fortify it.