What is our primary use case?
We're using Microsoft Defender for endpoints.
We went that route as we did have an IT service provider, however, they were very expensive. When we did a corporate merge at the beginning of 2019, we decided that we were going to go to Office 365 and do a one-stop-shop. We didn't want to have the on-prem equipment to maintain.
In our last solution, we were limited as to what we could do for, for example, email addresses for the entire company, which were about 80 people. It was very costly to do that. Therefore, we only had our program managers and our site leads with email addresses.
When we decided to come back over to the corporate side, we wanted to keep the same flexibility and be able to have access to Microsoft for their tech solutions or their tech assistance, depending on what we needed. It gave us that flexibility and we were able to run the company on basically two IT people rather than paying $3,000 to $4,000 a month for IT services from other vendors, such as like Ntiva or something like that.
What is most valuable?
We really like SharePoint, the Office 365 for endpoints. We're still messing around with that. We've only had that for about six weeks of play. It was good as it really started to give me insight as to what vulnerabilities I had out there on my company-owned machines. That's my most valuable tool right now due to the fact that I can not only monitor the health of the machines but also run through that same endpoint protection. I have access to cyber analysis and security testing for all my employees. I can send out test malware emails or some sort of phishing attempt emails for my entire company all in one fell swoop. I can keep a monitor on who passed, who failed, who's taken the required training, et cetera. The security compliance center that comes with that and it helps us a lot.
There are all sorts of really good tools for use on the information security side that allow us to make sure that our people are doing business and doing business right.
With our whole tenant, we had a little over a terabyte of storage just for our SharePoint. Then, each individual gets a terabyte of storage for their OneDrive. It's really nice being able to not have to worry about monitoring the storage. I mean, we do go in and we do our storage monitoring about once a quarter just to make sure that we're not approaching any limits. For example, in my account, I'm about halfway through my limit because I'm the IT guy. I've got software backups. I've got all sorts of equipment backups. It's nice to have the capability to maintain that kind of storage without having to go out and purchase it. It comes out of the box, for the company.
What needs improvement?
It seems like every other week when we log into the administrative portals, it doesn't matter which one, it could be the active directory portal, it could be the exchange admin center or SharePoint admin center, it seems like Microsoft is consistently updating with new versions of the admin centers, which can be frustrating.
This is due to the fact that, if you haven't been on in a while, sometimes it takes a good hour or two to reorient yourself -especially when you're trying to find a setting. We went through an assessment about four months ago and I had the hardest time finding certain settings in my baselines. Just being able to demonstrate something as simple as an audit log, when they move things around, can be challenging. It seems like at least once or twice a month. It gets a little confusing.
On the endpoint protection side, they've done a merge with both our security center and their compliance center. You can do multiple things from doing the same thing, however, for multiple admin sites. You get used to like one and then it takes you to another. It gets a little cumbersome or confusing as the outlays are different, the menus are a little bit different. That's one of my biggest gripes about it.
Sometimes, if we have a user that is doing some work from home, for example, and they're not on their corporate laptop and they're on their regular laptop, or vice versa, and they have like a personal Office 365 license, they sometimes conflict with each other, which then puts the person into an authentication loop, which basically means they can't access their stuff properly. We're running into that problem, actually, with one of our users right now.
For some reason, there were three different Office products that were loaded on there. A regular Office 365, Office 365 Business, and then Office 365 Enterprise. How all three of them got on there, we're not quite sure. He can open up some of his documents normally that are stored on his machine from the OneDrive, yet, when they try to open up documents that are in SharePoint, every now and then, depending on the updates that are pushed out by Microsoft, they can't open up the documents. At that point, you kind of like have to uninstall or do an online repair of the Microsoft Office itself, and then re-install it.
Due to this issue, you're losing productivity time. This guy just happens to be our corporate recruiter. We're losing time with him being able to look at resumes and stuff like that, or look at qualifications or statements of work and stuff like that.
We've been working for about two hours and yeah, I mean, he can download the document and open it up, but he can't actually open it up while it's in SharePoint. When you don't have that, when you lose that capability, especially like when they're working on proposals and when time is of the essence, it can become a big issue.
Sometimes when the software pushes security patches it breaks, Windows wide.
For how long have I used the solution?
We started off with the Office 365 GCC High cloud government cloud solution. We had certain types of data that warranted certain levels of protection. Once we migrated all that data over to the government, we went through a name change, and then came out of that solution and into the corporate Office 365 about this time last year. Overall, we've been working in Office 365 for about three years now, at different levels.
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What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The solution is quite stable. I'd rate it at 95%.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The scalability is amazing. It's very easy to expand if you need it to.
How are customer service and support?
The technical support is very good. They are helpful and responsive.
How was the initial setup?
We did the setup in a phased approach, where we went out and did our research and then once the tenant was assigned to us, we went through, and built everything. As we got close to releasing, we send out a notification to all of our users saying, "Okay, effective this date, this is what the new processes are going to be." We sent them out in the documentation. However, first, we had to do the research and get everybody together.
We had done a corporate merger. We were merging two companies together. My company had one email system, while the other company had another email system. That's why we had to go through all of the procedures for migrating the other company over. We had to go through all the procedures on how to migrate their data from the Ntiva server, which had all the personal drives. We had to have all that stuff in place for the users.
We did our migration from GCC High over to the commercial side and then, once we were all set up and ready to go, we initiated cutoff dates when we needed to stop using the previous portal.
We had spent probably about two to two and a half months setting up the backend to get Intune in place and to get all of the data properly cataloged.
We're still in the process of getting things set up as there are new technologies that come out or changes to the admin sites. We're implementing those changes and we're going through making whatever adjustments we need to make. Now that we've got the endpoint protection and more monitoring, we're seeing how that's going.
One of the drawbacks that we found out was that when we were putting out new policies to the machines, each machine operator actually reacted a little bit differently due to the fact that we did have a couple of Windows machines and a couple of Macs that we did our testing on. Once we felt that we were good, we pushed everybody out, pushed all the settings out to the security groups that we'd set up. Things didn't go as smoothly as we'd anticipated as some machines went flawlessly and some machines were rebooting constantly as they were processing stuff. It was interrupting people during their workday. It works great in dev tests, however, as soon as you put it into production, the reactions are totally different.
Overall, it was definitely a successful migration with just a couple of challenges.
One of the big benefits of it was that it really made us understand the system a lot better. We had some older machines. It made me realize, okay, this machine is way outdated. We need to update this machine.
We just had two people that handled the deployment process.
What about the implementation team?
We used a reseller that helped us with the implementation and setting up the SLAs. Law They took over our entire license structure. Now, we pay them instead of Microsoft.
What was our ROI?
The ROI is basically to have the peace of mind and the service level agreements in place on the security side, on the infrastructure side, from Microsoft and to know that they're doing their due diligence to make sure that all of the data is protected. They're very good about sending out notifications when they have issues going on, depending on what the suite is. If it's the entire Microsoft 365 suite or if it's SharePoint, if it's Exchange, if it's Intune and stuff like that, they're very good about letting us know. That way, I can evaluate it and still let my teams know when there's a problem. Then, they know to wait it out rather than barrage us with phone calls and, "Hey, I can't do this. I can't do that."
The ease of access, basically, to have almost everything in a one-stop shop, is definitely a good return on the investment as well. Not having to have the on-prem servers, not having to worry about making sure my servers are up to date or my certificates are all up to date and purchased is a great ROI. It's all kind of built-in.
I also have the flexibility to expand services through Azure to do certain things. For example, if I wanted to set up a firewall, I can go in, quickly provision a firewall, and get it configured. That allows my company to be more secure. That saves me and the company time from having to go out and purchase equipment. It's all there right in the infrastructure stack.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
We're a hybrid between Microsoft 365 Business Premium and Business Basic, depending on where a person stands in the company. Our headquarters staff is all Business Premium, while the rest of our staff members who work on government sites are set up for Business Basic because we're just providing them with email services. The headquarters staff members who have a laptop issued out to them have a Premium license. And we have Defender for Endpoint specifically for our corporate-owned devices.
If we want to expand certain capabilities, we do have to purchase some additional licensing. When we first started on the commercial side, we went directly to Microsoft and we had full control over all of our licensing. Then, when we got into certain things, like the endpoint protection license, we had to go through a third-party reseller for that. They, in turn, had to take over our whole licensing structure. We just did that last month, however, it's nice due to the fact that they do offer a 10% discount.
They also offer a one-stop shop, where if we, as the administrators run into some problems, we can go directly to them. They can either open a ticket with Microsoft on our behalf, or they have staff on-site that can help, so then that way I'm not at the mercy for Microsoft to give me a callback.
They also do have certain solutions where if they have to get remote into the machine, for whatever reason, we have to pay them a little bit of extra money to do that. We haven't had to do that part yet, however, it's nice to know that it's there as there are some times where it's just easier to have our employees reach out to them directly. Right now, we're still doing it on our own. That's one of the downfalls of it - that for smaller companies we have to go through a third-party vendor.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We were looking at Amazon Web Services as a viable solution. However, Office 365 at the time was the way to go. It was cheaper. It was basically a one-stop shop, whereas Amazon Web Services was a pay-as-you-go arrangement. They also didn't have the flexibility that we were looking for. Plus, the cost for the data in and data out was quite substantial when you look at the grand scheme of things. We had to not only provide a workstation for the people to work on, but we also had to create a virtual workstation for them to work on. Therefore, we would have been basically paying twice.
That was kind of what we were running into with our other service provider, Ntiva. We were paying for the virtual machines as well as the equipment for the people to do their work on. What was nice about 365 was that we could provide them a license and, with that license they would have access to whatever our tenant offered as far as collaborative solutions such as SharePoint, OneDrive, the whole Office suite, et cetera.
What other advice do I have?
We're an Office 365 shop. We do all of our stuff through Azure.
I'd rate the solution at a nine out of ten. If they were better on the administrative side, I'd likely rate them at a perfect ten out of ten.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.