Can Office 365 Provide 360° Governance?

How to determine if O365 functionality is appropriate for your organization

How to determine if Office 365 functionality is appropriate for your organization

In working with our customers to supplement their Microsoft Office 365 (O365) environments, I’ve been afforded unique insight into Microsoft’s cloud services. And, as in the case with most enterprise software, rarely does one size fit all. True assessment of O365 – or any other data management platform – requires the business to know the right questions to ask from the get-go.

Let’s be clear: I think Office 365 is a great suite for some smaller companies looking to offload their environments in a "set it and forget it" fashion. I also think some of the horror stories have been overstated, at least for the average SMB.

But, I’ve definitely seen cases where users wish information had been more transparent during the decision process, and not just because they're disappointed that "cloud" doesn't translate to "not my problem." A few topics I’ve encountered in my discussions come up repeatedly, and therefore should be key considerations for any business deliberating whether to use O365 as a primary information governance tool.

SharePoint was/is not designed to be a file server. Architecture matters.

  • As recently as 5 years ago, Microsoft reps were touting SharePoint for its fantastic collaboration functions – and rightfully so. But at that time, they specifically warned that SharePoint (and eventually, OneDrive) was not a robust file server, and that this differentiated from Records Management platforms and ECM systems. Alas, a new business opportunity was right around the corner, and branding was repositioned.
  • Many IT pros are bummed to find that moving all content into SharePoint online (in the O365 suite) is met with restrictive quotas and costly fees to exceed those quotas.
  • In order to work around slowdowns from overcrowded sites, admins are encouraged to create new sites/farms. The “everything in one place” philosophy is impossible when you’re creating new sites over and over. It’s a novel concept that OneDrive would be the “OnePlace” for everything.  Unfortunately, admins are forced to search, manage retention, and enforce other controls across each individual site.
  • In the case of redundancy, O365 should be used to make Exchange on-premise environments redundant. It should not (can’t) make file servers redundant.

Limited functionality when searching through mail

  • IT admins are often prompted by legal teams to perform most tasks involved in the EDRM.  Having a legal hold function is great, but it’s limited to mailbox-level. Many Admins are forced to search by case terms and date ranges as well, severely impeding speed and efficiency.
  • Microsoft suggests journaling a few different mailboxes to an external mailbox, but you’re still on your own to search/manage/extract/report that content further.

Many admins would appreciate more granular control

  • The lack of granularity in search was mentioned above, but it also extends to…
  • Group permission settings. They are often all-encompassing. If an admin adds users to a group so that those users can view calendar items or files, it's impossible to prevent those users from receiving ALL emails associated with that group.

Licensing and upgrade Issues, especially for Midsize Business Licenses

  • Needless to say, Microsoft is a huge company. Like most, they have plenty of third party vendors. The complications between changing licensing models, lack of communication between vendors, and differing suggestions between reps can be annoying at best, and costly at worst. Ask about feasibility of future upgrades, and be specific with those inquiries.

In the end, the entire ZL team and I agree on one thing: the decision to choose an information governance platform or tool is rarely black and white, for any business… despite what the marketing department might want you to think. IG in general is extraordinarily multifaceted, and so it follow that most products in that space will be as well. Ask the right questions, get the right answers. And most importantly, try to find the accounts of actual product users in organizations similar to yours before moving forward with a purchase.

My familiarity with multiple fields has shown me the importance of information governance within companies. My role in account management with ZL has given me the opportunity to see the problems large companies face in their quest for information governance. I hope to bring these problems to light while offering my personal perspective. Interests: travel, music festivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, food. Education: political science, Spanish, management. Professional background: healthcare and law.