December marked the launch of Microsoft’s latest Office 365 Enterprise Plan: E5. E5 joins Microsoft’s existing stable of Office 365 E1, E3 and E4 plans, and will ultimately supersede E4 which is scheduled for retirement by 30th June 2016.
In line with its launch, we’ve picked out five of the stand out features available with the new release:
- PSTN Conferencing
- Advanced Threat Protection
- Power BI Pro
- Delve Organisational Analytics
- Equivio Analytics for eDiscover
1. PSTN Conferencing
PSTN Conferencing (Public Switched Telephone Network) provides dial-in audio conferencing to Skype for Business web conferences. Previously this conference bridge feature could only be achieved using a third party audio conferencing provider or via an on-premises deployment of SfB/Lync Server using Mediation servers and PSTN gateways.
Dial-out conferencing is also included – allowing the presenter of a SfB conference to add attendees to the conference by dialling them directly. Alternatively, attendees can join audio by requesting SfB to call them on a specified phone number.
Softcat already have customers evaluating E5 for the PSTN Conferencing features alone – coupled with SfB’s already strong video/web conferencing capabilities, PSTN Conferencing offers a potentially cost effective alternative to traditional web conferencing services. Yes, a fair use policy applies (3,000 minutes per user per month) but no more paying per conference or per minute.
Currently, the E5 suite is available “without PSTN” as PSTN Conferencing is only available in 15 countries (UK is included) from the December launch. PSTN Conferencing is available as an additional cost via direct billed agreements only – on the Enterprise Agreement this is priced at £1.21 per user per month (Level A). At some point in the future (once PSTN Conferencing is available globally) we can expect a single, inclusive E5 purchase option.
PSTN Calling (currently available only in the US) allows Microsoft to offer bolt-on calling plans (domestic and international minutes). These again are an additional cost option, availability in the UK is expected mid-2016.
2. Advanced Threat Protection
Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) has been generally available since last summer and costed as a separate, optional item. Whilst the Exchange Online service already includes robust email protection against spam, viruses and malware, ATP takes this a step further with additional protection against specific types of advanced threats.
A feature called Safe Attachments is said to offer "better zero-day protection" by opening email attachments in a separated, sandboxed environment to check and detect for malicious behavior – before the attachment gets anywhere near the user.
The system also scans messages for dangerous content, such as malicious hyperlinks in an email. Known as Safe Links, this will pick up suspicious URLs even when they are obscured in another address. Reporting tools allow admins to trace the source of an attack, and ATP keeps a record of every user who has clicked on a URL so if remedial action is required it is easier to know where to target. Messages and attachments that don’t have a known virus or malware signature are routed to a special environment where ATP uses a variety of machine learning and analysis techniques to detect any potential threats. If no suspicious activity is detected, the message is released for delivery to the mailbox.
3. Power BI Pro
Power BI Pro allows users to query data in clever and visually appealing ways. Live and changing data can be viewed through dashboards and interactive reports, using natural language to query data and see results.
Improving BI/Analytics within the enterprise has been top of Gartner's CIO priorities for the last 3 years running, and Power BI Pro is set to make significant inroads here – especially as much of these features can be used with common applications such as Excel, as well as via mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows.
4. Delve Organisational Analytics
Delve allows users to find content from across Office 365 that is relevant to them. It provides user insight and visibility of what colleagues are working on – including Sites, documents, Yammer posts, shared attachments – quickly and easily. It uncovers relevant content according to what and who you’re working with.
Delve Organisational Analytics takes this a step further, giving management and team perspectives to what Delve delivers. Aspects such as time management, meeting effectiveness, cross-team connections can be identified, giving interesting performance indicators and analysis which is otherwise typically very difficult to assess.
Delve uses sophisticated machine learning to analyse relationships between people, content and activity which could give rise to useful and unexpected organisational business intelligence.
5. Equivio Analytics for eDiscovery
Equivio (acquired by Microsoft in January 2015) offers machine learning analytics that is applied to email and documents. It is particularly relevant to areas of governance, legal hold and litigation by analysing huge volumes of data quickly and effectively – grouping possible duplicate documents, reconstructing email threads, clustering by subject and general data mining. The cost savings associated with speeding up litigation reviews alone can be considerable. Again a great example of Microsoft’s application of machine learning to deliver clear business benefit.
There are multiple ways to purchase E5; for more information or to discuss your wider Microsoft licencing requirements, don’t hesitate to contact your Softcat account manager or fill in the below.