Microsoft 365 Licensing, Yammer and Teams, Office DPIA, and Exchange

Something’s Always Changing inside Office 365

The Office 365 for IT Pros writing team does our very best to track the ongoing changes within the service so that we can analyze and report on important updates in the book. Given the volume of change, not all of which shows up in the Office 365 Roadmap or publicly announced by Microsoft, it’s a task that keeps us busy. This week was no exception. Here are some interesting things that happened.

Microsoft Responses to Dutch Complaints about Office

In November 2018, a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) report for the Dutch Government slammed Microsoft because of the volume and type of data gathered by Office 2016 and the Office Online Apps. Microsoft uses the data to track how people use their technology and identify problems, but in the era of GDPR you’ve got to be careful about consent, ownership, and control of data. reports that Microsoft has committed to update the Office desktop products by the end of April 2019. What’s missing is any discussion about changes for the Office Online Apps, specifically SharePoint Online, or the other information gathered by Office 365 in places like the audit log (see my article for details). I feel there’s more to come here.

Yammer Feels Pressure from Teams

The news that Yammer had lost out to Workplace by Facebook in GSK was known last November. To balance the ledger, Microsoft has large multinationals like Shell and public bodies like the Belgian Police to talk about how they use Yammer. On the surface, it’s OK to lose some customers if you’re gaining others.

But the fact that Teams now supports teams with up to 5,000 members puts pressure on Yammer from an internal source. Microsoft marketing uses an inner-outer loop analogy to position Teams and Yammer and worked quite well when the largest team maxed out at 2,500 members. Doubling the limit makes Teams a bigger danger to Yammer because it cuts the number of companies who need to deploy Yammer to support large-scale conversations.

Microsoft marketing uses the inner-outer loop analogy to position Teams and Yammer
A 5,000-member team is quite an inner loop

Things aren’t all rosy for Teams. A 5,000-member conversation could be bedlam and the management tools mightn’t be quite ready to support such large groups. On the upside for Teams, it is better integrated into Office 365 than Yammer is, especially in terms of compliance and eDiscovery. It’s also true that the market growth is in Teams, so where this all leaves Yammer, even if its new management delivers what was promised at Ignite 2018, is anyone’s guess.

Exchange Fixes a Privilege Elevation Vulnerability

On Patch Tuesday this week, Microsoft issued updates for Exchange 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 to address a privilege elevation vulnerability. Unusually, Microsoft changed the internal architecture to address problems in Exchange Web Services (EWS) push notifications and its connection to Active Directory.

It’s interesting that although many reports were published about the original problem and the dire consequences that might ensue should an attack penetrate your Exchange server, relatively few sites followed up with coverage about the fixes. This proves that bad news is always easier to sell than good. It’s also worth noting that no evidence exists that the techniques exploited by the vulnerability were ever used to attack Exchange outside test conditions.

The EWS fix has been in production in Exchange Online for some time and no problems have been noted with clients that consume push notifications (to learn about new mail, for instance). It’s a nice example of how Office 365 validates fixes at massive scale before code is delivered to on-premises customers. On the other hand, it can be argued that the vulnerability is yet another reminder why it’s easier to run email in the cloud…

Charting Microsoft 365 E3 and E5

Microsoft employee Aaron Dunnage did the community a favor by publishing some graphics to illustrate the component parts of the Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 plans. Only licensing specialists find the details of the licenses and add-ons you might need for different Office 365 features, so it’s nice to have a graphic overview. A reduced-size version is shown below. To get the real thing, go to Aaron’s Github repository.

Graphs showing the different components of Microsoft 365 E3 and E5
Breaking Microsoft E3 and E5 down into boxes

With so much changing that affects how Office 365 works, don’t you think you need to learn from a book that’s always being updated? Subscribe to Office 365 for IT Pros today!

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