MDM Comes to Office 365

As the capabilities of mobile devices have increased over time, they have found themselves more and more involved in the day-to-day of modern business. With the rise of BYOD, ensuring the security of company information has become a much more difficult task. Microsoft is now turning this trend around to give organizations their power over data back.

Several months ago, the company announced that mobile device management features would soon be integrated into Office 365 plans without the need for it’s standalone MDM software, Windows InTune. According to Microsoft, the new feature of the popular cloud productivity suite will begin rolling out as early as today, with worldwide availability expected within 4-6 weeks.

All commercial Office 365 plans will receive access to these features, affecting Microsoft mobile applications that are linked to Office 365 accounts, such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and the general Office app for phones. The new Office 365 feature will be made up of the following three components:

Conditional Access:

Organizational data that is hosted within Office 365 will only be accessible by devices that have been enrolled within the organization’s plan. By having a phone or tablet enrolled, administrators will be able to apply group and individual based security policies which require predetermined security protocols (PIN lock must be enabled, etc.)

Device Management:

Through the Office 365 portal, administrators are able to setup their policies for devices enrolled devices. Each policy is comprised of criteria that must be met in order to access data. For example, in order for a user to access their OneDrive for Business account on iPhone they may have to first protect it with a password of predetermined complexity. Policies can also block “jailbroken” or “rooted” devices which have had their hardware restrictions removed, putting them at risk of compromising data security.

Administrators will also gain access to new analytic tools, which show how devices are being used within an organization. This includes device compliance, date of last sync, OS, and more. With this information, the admin can block an improperly used device from connecting to Office 365.

Selective Wipe:

The last major feature of this rollout is capabilities for selectively wiping Office 365 data from a device. This is highly valuable in cases of theft and employee turnover, where sensitive company information could be put at risk. Administrators can choose to wipe all Office 365 data that has been synced to the device. Because this information is housed within the Office applications on mobile, the wipe process leaves personal files and applications intact.

Is Office 365 MDM for Me?

While the new mobile device management features of Office 365 will grant companies a great deal  control over how devices are being used within their organization, it may not be the complete security solution that a business is looking for. Upon release, Office 365 mobile device management will only be apply to devices running iOS, Android and Windows operating systems. Additionally, as this feature extends only to Office 365 data on mobile devices, businesses may need to consider another MDM solution to manage employee owned computers and mobile devices as a whole. In these cases subscribing to Windows InTune may then be the better choice to make.

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