Jon Anderson, Now Micro Senior Systems Consultant, answered some questions to help our customers get the most out of Microsoft.
- What are some hidden gems or underutilized features of Microsoft’s products that companies should be aware of?
One of the most valuable products that I regularly see being underutilized is the Microsoft Defender suite of tools. Organizations that own A3 / E3 licensing can take advantage of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 1, which includes several useful tools for securing devices. Organizations that own A5 / E5 licensing can further take advantage of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint with the Plan 2 license. Also included are tools like Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps and Microsoft Defender for Office 365.
There are also several products beyond the Defender suite of tools that I commonly see being licensed but underutilized or not used at all. Always on VPN, Windows Update for Business, Remote Help (for educational organizations), Conditional Access, Intune, Autopilot, and more. All the products in this list are included at some level in an A3 / E3 license.
2. How can organizations optimize their licensing to fully leverage Microsoft products capabilities?
I recommend reviewing the list of Microsoft licenses that are owned by the organization. Look at the list of features that are included in the license and determine if there is value in implementing any of the features that are currently unused. It is possible to apply different levels of licensing to multiple groups of users and/or devices. I’d recommend evaluating which features are required by the users / devices in the organization and purchasing the appropriate licenses to match the feature requirements.
3. How should companies determine which Microsoft apps/services are most valuable for their specific needs?
I recommend taking advantage of the trial licenses that Microsoft offers. Most of the licenses Microsoft offers are available to use in a trial mode. This allows for evaluating the features of the license without having to purchase it. Trial licenses can be a great tool for evaluating a feature in your own environment. If a longer period is needed to evaluate a product, another option is to buy a small number of licenses. Once the project is ready to move forward at a larger scale, more licenses can be purchased.
4. What are the biggest mistakes you see companies make when implementing Microsoft solutions?
The most common mistake I encounter is a rushed or incomplete implementation of a product. Often, a project may be started without a thorough understanding of the product or a clear goal for the end state. The result of this can be a product that does not work as expected and may require significant effort to fix or re-implement. My recommendation is to spend the time to learn about the product prior to implementing it in a production environment. A Microsoft partner (Now Micro) can also be a great resource to help get a product configured right the first time.
5. How can companies keep up with the rapid pace of innovation from Microsoft? What’s your advice for staying current and training employees on new Microsoft products?
Microsoft has an extensive library of free product documentation available online. Microsoft has also published many free training courses on a wide variety of topics. In addition to these great resources, there are also many Microsoft Tech Community blogs that are worth following. Finally, I’d recommend looking for active user groups in your area. A user group can be a great resource for both learning and networking.
6. For companies invested heavily in Microsoft, what does their IT/infrastructure roadmap need to factor in?
The cloud. Microsoft has been heavily pushing most of their product and service offerings into Azure, and I don’t see that trend changing or slowing down anytime soon. I recommend evaluating the tools and processes in your organization that currently rely on traditional on-premises resources to see if there is a path forward to the cloud.