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Behind the rise of Office 365

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Is Office 365 the one-stop cloud solution for business? Mimecast’s Senior Sales Engineer, GIULIO MAGNI, looks at its potential shortcomings and how companies can overcome these.|Is Office 365 the one-stop cloud solution for business? Mimecast’s Senior Sales Engineer, GIULIO MAGNI, looks at its potential shortcomings and how companies can overcome these.

Microsoft has said that Office 365 is the future and the numbers agree. More than a million subscribers are signing up each month and four out of five Fortune 500 companies are already using Office 365.

Why the overwhelming success? The reason lies in the rapid rate of cloud adoption, both global and local. Ipsos Mori’s SMB IT Research 2015 found that 57% of South African small to medium businesses are already accessing their work remotely through using a cloud service. And this number is only set to grow. IDC Futurescape predicts that as early as 2017, more than a third of new applications will be cloud-enabled.

The exponential growth numbers paint a picture of a future where Office 365 is standard, and the question that emerges is not so much “should I migrate” as it is “when will I migrate”. There is, however, another question that needs answering before making the leap to Office 365, namely what the practical implications of the move are.

The unspoken promise of Office 365 is that it is the last great data migration that businesses will ever have to make. Unfortunately, it still comes with all the teething problems of any largescale IT implementation. No IT solution is perfect, and identifying the gaps in Office 365 before migrating is critical to a smooth transition.

The hidden shortcomings

Microsoft’s messaging on Office 365 is that it is a one-stop cloud solution for managing important enterprise data such as email. To an extent, this is true, especially for smaller companies. Office 365 is rich in features: 99.9% email availability in its SLA, antivirus and malware protection and email recovery.

However, a closer look at the functionality of these features reveals pain points. Outages happen and even an excellent product like Office 365 is vulnerable. Officially, the amount of downtime is low enough to adhere to its SLA, however there have been recordings of O365 outages. Downtime can include admin access, AD authentication, policy engine, archive access and so on. Adding up the outages across all of the services amounts to an issue that doesn’t just impact the average email user but entire organisations.

The data dilemma

There are other gaps in the Office 365 platform that impact business continuity and data archiving. In Office 365, there is no ‘true’ email archiving, for example. Users can delete emails from the archive unless they are placed on In-Place Hold, something that can affect compliance. While there is a recovery period if this happens, the data is lost forever as soon as the deleted items folder is emptied.

Another notable shortcoming is the lack of mobile access users have to the email archive. End-users are only able to access the archive from a browser or Windows desktop. In addition, Office 365 lacks the ability to archive email on a network drive, further limiting the archive’s mobility. In an always-on world, the inability to search and recover important email data can have serious business consequences.

Two clouds are better than one

None of this makes Office 365 a poor solution. On the contrary, it is an excellent product that will over time add new layers of functionality. But just like the on premises world from which we come it is precisely this strength that opens the space for a third-party services aimed at supporting the Office 365 experience.

The cloud may have changed the way in which we work, but one thing remains true: It is risky relying on a single service provider, particularly when it means that your data is essentially sitting in one giant basket. Mimecast’s approach to this has been to create products that can work seamlessly alongside Office 365 to enhance its email archiving capabilities. We anticipate more companies will offer these kinds of add-on services as Office 365 becomes more universal.

How can businesses decide which of these third-party services is right for their needs? Companies looking to migrate to Office 365 need to closely examine their own requirements and where Office 365 might fall short in addressing these. That will give them guidance that will allow them to seek out products to successfully bridge the gap.

Giulio Magni offers these top tips to optimise your Office 365 experience:

·         Not all Office 365 plans are created equal. Vet the different plans’ offerings and use your Office 365 dashboard to research which purchase service add-ons might need to be added to meet your organisational needs.

·         Most on-premises legacy archive solutions don’t work with Office 365, leaving your users unable to access archived email. Get a compatible archiving solution in place before the migration.

·         Never use the Permanently Delete option in Office 365 without having a robust archiving solution in place. Set up retention policies and tags early on and test these on a few accounts before applying company-wide.

·         Microsoft is continuously improving functionality and fixing bugs through its updates, but these may affect productivity. Enable First Release to let your support staff try updates before worldwide release.

·         Finally – You will hear Microsoft say that you don’t need another service but they cannot be impartial about mitigating themselves. It is your business and your responsibility to keep the email communication flowing and compliant. Remember the principals you adopted when everything was in house – the same methodology still applies today – just in the cloud.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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