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Category Archives: Microsoft

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

Hackers and cybercriminals are launching increasingly sophisticated and damaging attacks, including the “WannaCry” ransomware that is currently causing widespread problems for businesses across the globe. To counter this, Microsoft have recently released additional security and advanced threat protection options for Office 365 that provide an additional layer of protection against new threats. Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) provides a way to protect users from malicious links in emails, zero-day attacks and unknown malware and viruses. It includes features such as:

  • Safe Links which provides comprehensive detection and deactivation of malicious links before the mail is delivered to any device.
  • Safe Attachments which opens email attachments in a special, protected hypervisor environment and watches to see if there is suspicious activity.

 

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Threat Protection services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled.

For organisations that have Exchange Online, Enterprise E1 or E3 licensing, Advanced Threat Protection can be added as a standalone license, adding an additional layer of security to existing email services.

If this something that you would be interested in learning a bit more about, and would like to speak to a Micromail expert please click on the link below:

Contact Micromail today to discuss your IT security requirements

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

The rising popularity of cloud service platforms presents a unique challenge for IT security. These platforms can hold user identity and organisational data, but because of their separation from the corporate network, tend to be outside the reach of traditional on-premises security analytics software. This gives rise to a blind-spot in terms of security for IT administrators that can be difficult to resolve.

On the user side, it is often not possible to see centrally if third party applications are granted access to cloud data by users, for example unauthorised email or calendar tools. These applications can provide legitimate services to users but if there are flaws in their design, critical or sensitive data may be left exposed and become a target for hackers.

This issue is made more difficult with the widespread use of unmanaged personal smartphones, computers and tablet devices for business use, potentially leading to privileged information being accessed through third-party applications on devices with an unknown security or patching status.

Microsoft’s is a large cloud service provider and their Office 365 suite of applications run on encrypted servers within their world-leading datacentres. These datacentres are protected with layers of advanced security and certified by leading certification providers including: ISO 27001, HIPAA, UK G-Cloud and EU-US Privacy Shield. While this highly secure infrastructure ensures that information is stored in an environment that is as safe as it can be, user identity is left as the path of least resistance for malicious access to gain access to organisation data. This can be achieved in a number of ways including: weak user passwords, users continuing to use previously compromised passwords or “brute-force” password attacks where huge numbers of passwords are tried against each account and made easier if users are using weak passwords or the same password across a number of services.

Office 365 Advanced Security Management

To help secure against these type of threats, Office 365 Advanced Security Management monitors 70+ different metrics for each user account within Office 365. This allows alerts to be automatically generated when policies are triggered and manual or automatic actions to be taken to prevent security breaches.

Advanced Security Management policies are created and customised to monitor for specific user account activity with the aim of identifying suspicious behaviour. Each one can be set to look for specific actions and thresholds; for example, downloading large amounts of data in a short space of time or repeated login failures from an unexpected location. Once an alert is generated, administrators have the option to take an action on the users account right from the alert page or, if it’s a particularly serious scenario, have the account suspended automatically on detection pending further investigation.

General behavioural analytics are also performed on this stream of data, learning what normal activity looks like for each user and a “Risk Score” is generated based on the full range of parameters. The score is based on how unusual or risky the behaviour is; this can be logging in at an unusual time, making administrative changes from an unexpected location or many other metrics. The risk score is attached to each alert to assist IT administrators in deciding what further action to take.

Advanced Security Management also includes an “App Discovery” dashboard within the Office 365 control panel. This service can analyse logs uploaded from firewalls and proxies and produce reports on cloud application activity within the organisation across a large range of non-Microsoft cloud platforms. This can give a view of how many potentially unapproved cloud services are in use by users across the organisation and how much data they are uploading to them.

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Security Management services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled. For organisations that have any other Office 365 licensing, Advanced Security Management can be added as an add-on license to enable these features.

Contact Micromail today to discuss your IT security requirements

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

Email remains top of the list for hackers and cybercriminals looking to gain access to restricted systems or data. Traditionally this has comprised of emails infected with malware and viruses, sent either out to databases of random addresses or targeted to a specific organisation or individual. The standard defence against this type of attack is using email filtering solutions that scan against a continuously updated list of known threats.

With the constantly increasing number of viruses and malware, this type of protection is as important as ever. On top of this, there are a new set of challenges that need to be addressed – unique threats hidden within email attachments, including rapidly changing malware and zero day attacks, and malicious URLs in the body of emails. These are designed to avoid standard protection by behaving in a way that does not flag them as a threat and once delivered to the user, have a high chance of successfully infecting the target network.

Microsoft Office 365 offers inbuilt, robust protection against traditional email threats through “Exchange Online Protection”, which is enabled on all existing Exchange Online mailboxes by default. This email filtering service uses multiple scanning engines and the latest virus definitions on each email to effectively defend against these infections.

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

Defending against threats that have not been seen before requires a proactive approach to email scanning. Office 365 “Advanced Threat Protection” provides in depth scanning services for attachments and URLs using technologies called Safe Attachments and Safe Links.

Safe Attachments takes incoming email attachments and opens them within a special environment to monitor their activity. This service simulates a number of different operating systems to maximise the chance that novel viruses and malware are identified and blocked before they get anywhere near your network. Suspicious attachments are then blocked and stripped out of the email before it is sent on to the destination mailbox for delivery.

Safe Links follows all web links within an email to their final destination to determine if they lead to any malicious sites or content. This provides security against links that first go to a legitimate site but are automatically redirected to a malicious site thereafter. Any dangerous links are disabled within the email before it is delivered to the end user, allowing the content to be safely viewed. Included with Safe Links is the ability to generate a report containing the users that have attempted to follow the disabled links. This allows organisations to identify users that are potentially vulnerable to malicious emails and to provide information on how to recognise these emails in future.

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Threat Protection services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled. For organisations that have Exchange Online, Enterprise E1 or E3 licensing, Advanced Threat Protection can be added as a standalone license, adding an additional layer of security to existing email services.

Contact Micromail today to discuss your email security requirements

Micromail has once again won Microsoft Ireland’s prestigious LSP Partner of the Year award. The 2016 award was presented at Microsoft’s annual Irish Partner Awards dinner at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto on 12th July.

The LSP Partner of the Year award recognizes excellence in licensing solutions & services, along with the highest levels of customer service. It confirms Micromail’s position as the most successful LSP (Licensing Solutions Partner) in the country.

Congratulations to all the Micromail team. This award is a tribute to their expertise in software licensing, and their dedication to exceptional customer service.

Office 365 in Education, and Recent Changes

Microsoft have been very generous to educational customers looking to subscribe to their Office 365 services. They have been less generous however when it comes to explaining exactly what services are on offer, and of informing customers when changes to these offerings occur. There is a lot of information ‘out there’ but in our experience this seems to have caused more confusion than clarity.

So what is on offer, who qualifies and how do eligible customers access these service offerings?

To begin, a short history of the Office 365 family and the different suites available to education. The majority of my discussions around Office 365 start by explaining that Office 365 is a family of products, rather than the ‘latest version of Office’. A lot of customers (educational and otherwise) believe that ‘Office 365’ was the natural successor to the Office 2013 suites (Office Standard and Pro Plus). This, as we know, is not the full story: ‘Office 365’ is essentially a suite of products, largely cloud based, which chiefly consists of Exchange, Skype for Business, SharePoint and Office 365 Pro Plus. As cloud based services Microsoft provision and manage Exchange, SharePoint, Skype and Office 365 Pro Plus from their datacentre infrastructure (cloud I/F). Office 365 Pro Plus here is what people typically associate with ‘Office 365’, that is the familiar applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Rather than these products being the ‘latest version’, they represent a new licensing model, namely a change to ‘per user/per year’. So if you want to use Office Pro Plus 2016 you can still purchase it outright as a perpetual license if you please, or via a 365 per user/per year subscription. In essence the product’s functionality is the same, however the move to ‘per user’ and a Microsoft managed update cycle bring some major benefits and challenges.

The Education offerings and recent changes

Microsoft have for some time made a suite of the 365 products available to education for free. Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint were originally made available to education for free as part of the O365 Education A2 Plan. This plan lacked some ‘enterprise’ features available in the higher plans but was intended to bridge the gap for customers who up to this point largely viewed Enterprise class email as beyond the means of school IT budgets. The paid for O365 Education A3 Plan enabled access to all enterprise features, as well as the Office 365 Pro Plus per user subscription. There was some reshuffling of the suites in early 2015, when A2 became E1 and A3 became E3. For all intents and purposes, the offerings remained the same – E1 gave you hosted Exchange, SfB and SharePoint, while E3 added the Office 365 Pro Plus product etc. Microsoft announced some significant changes to the line-up at their worldwide partner conference in Orlando in July 2015, where they announced and have been rolling out a rebranded ‘Office 365 Education’ which replaces the E1 offering. Just another name change, right? Well, no, not in this case. The launch of Office 365 Education (still free!) saw Microsoft opening up ‘enterprise’ features of Exchange, SfB and SharePoint under this free subscription offering. For a comprehensive breakdown of what is offered, see the following live pivot.

What about the Office suite of products?

Well, Office 365 Pro Plus remains a paid for product – unless your organisation has a qualifying annualised agreement in place. What does this mean? Well a typical scenario would look like this – a school licenses their on premise desktops and laptops etc. via the Open Value Subscription Education Solution Agreement (OVS ES). This allows schools to pay an annual fee based on staff count, which covers them to deploy their chosen software site-wide on all school owned computers and laptops. If that set of software includes Office, the school typically qualifies for free Office 365 Pro Plus for students and staff.

Finally, a word on Office 365 Education Plus

This suite was rolled out directly to qualifying customers’ tenants by Microsoft. It combines the feature set of Office 365 Education and Office 365 Pro Plus. This is important as it halves the work for both the customer and partner when it comes to assigning seats and aligning renewal cycles. Furthermore, unlike the Office 365 Pro Plus subscription, the subscription is auto-renewing. Customers already using O365 Education and Office Pro Plus should simply assign these licenses instead.

Feel free to drop me a line…

Clear? Well, hopefully you’re a bit clearer on the Office 365 offerings in education now, but feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

For more information on Office 365 in Education please contact
sean@micromail.ie
or
phone 021 4515590

Regards,

Seán Deasy

 

From July 1st, on-premise User CAL pricing will increase 15% across all Microsoft volume licensing programs. On-premise Device CAL pricing will not change.

Microsoft CAL (client access license) licenses are available both on a per user and per device basis and were priced the same up until December 2012. The on-premise User CAL increase is another sign that Microsoft’s Mobile First, Cloud First strategy continues to steer the direction of the company. It is also a move that encourages customers to adopt Microsoft Office365 cloud solutions as the per user CAL increase only impacts on-premise deployments and not cloud based ones.

Notes and comments:

  • On-premise Device CAL pricing will not change.
  • Customers that have purchased user CALs on a fixed price annuity agreement (Enterprise Agreement, ESA, SCE, OVS, OVP) won’t be affectedduring the term of their current agreement.
  • Now is the time to consider a cloud based agreement such as Office 365 Enterprise, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Enterprise Cloud Suite (dependent on the size of your organization).
  • Forestall the July price increase by purchasing on-premise User CALs in June.

If you have any questions or queries call our Microsoft Licensing Team on 021 4515590 or email info@micromail.ie

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Visual Studio 2015 is due to be released later this year and with it the former Visual Studio Premium with MSDN and Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN subscriptions will both disappear, to be replaced by the new Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN level. Visual Studio Professional with MSDN will continue to be available.

What is Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN?

This new edition includes all the high value features that were present in Visual Studio Ultimate, along with new innovation that’s coming with the 2015 release.

  • End-to-end solution for your development teams, including the most feature-rich Visual Studio IDE for working on any type of project.
  • Build quality applications at scale with advanced features such as Load Testing, automated and manual testing and new IntelliTest capabilities.
  • Manage complexity and resolve issues quickly with features such as Code Map and IntelliTrace
  • Enhanced MSDN subscription benefits including comprehensive access to software for dev/test, Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio Online Advanced, $150/month in Azure credits, training and support.


Don’t have Visual Studio Premium with MSDN yet?

Buy or renew Visual Studio Premium with MSDN now and be automatically upgraded to Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN when Visual Studio 2015 is released later this year.
For the price of Visual Studio Premium with MSDN, you will get Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN, the top-end IDE and the most comprehensive solution set ever offered for creating, modernizing, operating, and scaling business applications.

Upgrade to Visual Studio Premium with MSDN

Upgrade from Visual Studio Professional with MSDN or Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN to Visual Studio Premium with MSDN for 50% off the regular list price and get a free upgrade to Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN automatically when we release Visual Studio 2015. This Upgrade Promo ends on June 30th. *

* Upgrade Promo notes:

Eligible Licenses:
Only active Visual Studio Professional with MSDN and Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN licenses purchased prior to April 1st 2015 will be eligible for this upgrade promotion.

Eligible Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs:
The promotion is available for purchase in the following Microsoft Volume Licensing programs: Enterprise Agreement (including SCE), Select, Select Plus, Open Value, Open Value Subscription, Campus Agreement. Notably, the Open program does not offer upgrade purchase (also called “step-ups”).

Promotion duration: May 1, 2015-June 30, 2015.

If you have any questions or queries call the Micromail Microsoft Licensing Team on 021 4515590 or email info@micromail.ie

MS logo Black

Microsoft has announced that Windows Server 2003 support is ending July 14 2015. Common questions we have seen customers ask are, ‘What will this mean for my organization?’ ‘What happens after July 14?’ and ‘What can I do now?’

Windows Server 2003 will continue to operate after July 14 2015, but importantly it will operate unsupported by Microsoft. This means no security fixes will be released for Server 2003 and support (free or paid) will be non-existent. The lack of updated security fixes is a major issue, exposing your environment to possible malware attacks. Plus newly released applications will unlikely be supported on Windows Server 2003.

So what should I do? The simplest way to deal with potential issues is to get current and upgrade to windows Server 2012R2.
For more information on bringing your Server up to date please contact info@micromail.ie or 021 4515590.

Regards,

Hugh O’Donoghue

CESI 2014 Conference took place in Galway on the 28th Feb/1st March. Founded in 1973, CESI or Computers in Education Society of Ireland, has strived to deliver information and understanding to teachers on how best to use technology in the classroom. It has been a forum ‘organised by practitioners for practitioners…’, hosted on their busy website, as well as the usual social media and of course the annual conference. The conference offers a chance to meet those people you have spoken with throughout the year, as well as a chance to meet vendors and see what’s new on the market.

On the road to TeachMeet

Having been offered the chance to present on the Saturday, I drove up Friday afternoon in order to attend the TeachMeet event that evening. TeachMeet is a more informal event where presenters are given 2, 5 or 7 minutes to present something they believe would be of interest to the (largely primary/secondary school teacher) audience. They were encouraged to do so without PowerPoint, a big departure for those familiar with such events!

Highlights included Mary Linehan’s (@linehanbm) presentation on using MineCraft in the history classroom. She demonstrated how the development of your character in MineCraft closely resembles the development of society through the ages, from agrarian societies through the iron-age and into the industrial revolution. A really interesting presentation, and no PowerPoint!

Another standout presentation saw Bianca Ní Ghrógáin (@groganbee) demonstrate how she turned her pupils into piano keys. How? Well, by electrocuting them by the look of it!! All questions to @groganbee on the actual methods involved. This demonstration saw @groganbee trending higher for a time than the Eurovision qualifiers. The interest in the presentations saw the running times extend slightly. No one was in a rush to finish up and the TeachMeet ran into the early hours. Of course I retired at a reasonable hour, in order to be prepared for my own presentation the next morning!

Onward to GMIT for CESI proper

The next morning saw the venue move from the Clayton Hotel to the main GMIT campus and after a welcome address and keynotes, the breakout sessions began. Tom Lonergan, National Co-ordinator of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (Formerly NCTE) gave an impassioned speech about the use of wireless networks in schools, as well as touching on the BYOD phenomenon. Tom was anxious to warn schools to shop around when contracting for a wireless infrastructure contractor, as well as stressing the need for a substantial support contract.

Other memorable breakouts were ‘An Introduction to the Raspberry Pi’ by Jake Byrne, ‘Open Education Resources, Portals and Communities, Supporting Innovation in Education’ by Neil O’Sullivan and a number based on the options around bringing CoderDojo into your classroom.

Microsoft Licensing In Education

I took the stage shortly after 12:30 to run through my presentation on licensing software in schools, with a specific look at the Microsoft and Adobe options. After running over the basics of software licensing, I discussed the potential benefits of certain agreement types over others. I also touched on the new Student Advantage benefit for schools with an annualised agreement which includes Microsoft Office. This benefit offers the school’s students the opportunity to deploy Office 365 Pro Plus on up to 5 of their personal devices.

Microsoft  O365 Student Advantage

Adobe for Schools

I also ran through the basics of Adobe licensing for schools, as well as highlighting such free resources as the Adobe Apps for Education and Adobe for Academics. Both of these resources offer training tools and forums for educators.

Adobe Apps for Education

The presentation was well received (I hope!), with a number of follow up questions from teachers about their specific site requirements. If you would like to discuss the topics covered, or indeed run through the presentation itself, feel free to drop me a line directly at sean@micromail.ie. Looking forward to CESI 2015 already!

Regards, Seán

Microsoft has plans to shut down the Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) service and migrate its existing customers to Exchange Online Protection (EOP).

What is Exchange Online Protection (EOP)?

Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is a new and more advanced cloud-based email filtering service that replaces FOPE. Like FOPE, it helps protect your organisation against spam and malware, and includes features to safeguard your organization from messaging-policy violations. EOP includes several new features that were not available in FOPE, including a new administration center, the ability to use Exchange transport rules to enforce email policies, and enhanced handling of bulk email messages. EOP is currently available in three different subscription plans:

  • EOP standalone: Where EOP protects your on-premises mailboxes.
  • EOP features in Exchange Online: Where EOP protects your Exchange Online cloud-hosted mailboxes.
  • Exchange Enterprise CAL with Services: Where EOP protects your on-premises mailboxes, like EOP standalone, and includes data loss prevention (DLP), remote Windows PowerShell administration capabilities, and reporting using web services.

Action Required for FOPE Customers

No changes are needed to the customers’ existing enrolment. Customers will be sent an email from Microsoft which gives them step-by-step instructions on how to convert their existing FOPE subscription to the EOP service. Customers will be notified of their individual transition date via email 30 days prior to transition. After transition the volume license agreement will continue to reflect FOPE until its expiration date. FOPE will eventually be replaced by EOP when you sign your next 3 years agreement with Microsoft. Additionally new customers can sign up for an EOP trial or purchase EOP via the web at the Exchange Online protection home page.

To note: Existing Office 365 customers who are using online services except for Exchange online can set up their EOP service within the same account. This allows users to manage EOP alongside Office 365 services after your transition is complete.

For More Information

Contact Micromail today to setup your EOP trial or to discuss your licensing options.

Regards, David.