MFA – Great security enhancement or productivity buzz-kill?

MFA – Great security enhancement or productivity buzz-kill?

We’re a little more than a month into turning on Office 365 Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for everyone at CloudStrategies. My aim here is to share some thoughts and observations around the experience of using the technology across all my various devices. Is MFA a great way to secure our Office 365 tenant or a productivity buzz-kill? Within the first few days – I would have said a definite yes to both those questions. After a little more time using it every day, I still believe in the security benefits, but have warmed up enough to feel a little less productivity challenged.  More than that, I feel comfortable that I’m taking reasonable and prudent measures to protect access to our systems and data while leveraging the investments we’ve already made in Office 365.

So – let’s start with level setting on what MFA is, and why I believe more and more businesses are going to deploy it sooner than later. Frequently referred to as 2-factor authentication, MFA is technology that requires that a user not only have a username and password to access technology platforms, but instead also prove that they possess something as an additional level of security before accessing systems. The classic example that’s in everyone’s wallet is a debit card. The card without the pin isn’t useful, and the pin without the card doesn’t get you money from an ATM either.

Years ago I carried an RSA SecureID token that had a rotating number on a screen that I needed to have with me at all times to access corporate platforms. The geek in me thought it was cool to carry with me on my key-chain – but the user in me quickly found it difficult to have to sign-in to a VPN before I could do any work from outside the office. Though it may have been subtle, it definitely was enough of a pain that I wouldn’t bother signing in for anything other than a very specific purpose or goal – thus discouraging me from doing as much work as I otherwise might have from outside of the office.

Today, with Microsoft’s implementation of MFA for Office 365, I have a similar feeling of security as I did with my RSA ID, but yet, for my main devices and applications, I also have a sort of “fast pass” that makes the productivity hit much more manageable.

There are two core components of MFA that end users will learn to manage. The first is very much like the RSA experience – though it primarily is delivered through an App on the end users cell phone. The second is called an App Password and can be used as a one-time code for any application that needs to access an Office 365 resource on a regular basis (in the background) – such as email clients, OneNote, calendar applications, cell phones, etc. Let’s talk about the experience of each of these parts of MFA:

For the first part, any time a user needs to access any Office 365 resource through a web browser – whether on their own device – or on a public device, they will start by signing in normally with their username and password. After doing so – instead of immediately gaining access their account, they will be prompted to provide a second level of authentication. For this, there are a few choices. The one I’ve been using has been to be prompted for a 6 digit number that I can only retrieve by launching a simple app on my mobile phone. When prompted for the code, I simply pull out my phone, launch the app, and wait for it to provide me with the number. The number is continuously changing – every 30 seconds or so, so you can never predict what it is and need to type in the number within a given time period. This works exactly like my old RSA token did – perhaps with one benefit in that when I’m home I find that my phone isn’t ever very far away from me – as opposed to where I kept my keys and RSA token – so I’d need to run to the other side of the house to retrieve it.

For all non-browser based access to Office 365 applications, a user’s regular password will no longer be enough to access the system. Because applications like Outlook, Office applications, mobile phone apps, etc. do not have a mechanism to support the entry of an Authentication Code, they will instead leverage a uniquely generated “App Password”. Office 365 can generate up to 40 unique 16 digit App Passwords that can be used for individual applications or devices. App Passwords, once generated, can never be displayed a second time. They are entered and stored in individual applications on a per device basis and once entered, applications function normally – without the need for a MFA Authentication Code. The security strength of App Passwords comes from the fact that they can be deleted at any time. The productivity benefit of an App Password comes from the fact that once entered, those applications no longer need to have a password entered for recurring access to Office 365.  In the event of a breach, and once an App Password is deleted from the Office 365 console, any apps that have stored that password will no longer be able to access Office 365. Think about a scenario where a device is lost or stolen – a simple action of deleting the App Password will nullify that devices ability to provide any access to anything that shouldn’t be accessed.

Security in our lives always comes at a cost – frequently restricting access or limiting our capabilities. Microsoft’s Office 365 MFA solution provides an increased level of protection with a reasonable approach to securing systems and data. Any productivity hit is likely short lived for most users and the comfort that businesses can receive knowing that users data won’t be easily be compromised through the loss of a device or the inadvertent compromise of an individual’s password.

How to Move from Bricks to Clicks

To Cloud or Not to Cloud – How to Move from Bricks to Clicks

To Cloud or Not to Cloud

How to Move from Bricks to Clicks


Cloud computing strategies deliver higher IT service levels at lower cost by reducing many expenses. Deployed effectively, they can actually ELIMINATE many expenses, including office rental and all of the operating expenses related to maintaining office locations. Here and in this month’s CloudStrategies Webinar you’ll learn more about how your company can enjoy these savings.

Former Novell chairman Robert Frankenberg has often been credited with being the first to say that “Work is an activity, not a destination.” Certainly, especially these days, everyone is finding that to be true.

The Beautiful Balance Sheet

Imagine running a business with almost no physical plant costs. No rent or leasehold expense. No big electric bill or phone bill, no heating or cooling costs, no premises security or maintenance. Imagine the impact to your balance sheet!

More of the One Resource Nobody Gets More Of

Many people like to say that “Time is the enemy.” Everybody wants more but we all get exactly the same amount. That’s true, but it becomes a question of how well you use what you have. Companies whose people work from home gain hours of productive time each day that would otherwise be spent commuting to and from an office or other work location.

Do What Major Corporations Do

Many major corporations are sending their people home to work. Supplied with business cards bearing their own home address, dedicated phone and fax numbers, and equipped with a personal computer, all-in-one printer/fax/scanner and perhaps a phone these workers have moved from “bricks to clicks” almost effortlessly.

They rise to work each morning and their commute takes a few seconds as they go from bedroom to office space. There, they sit down with all the communications and productivity capability they could possibly want. Many don a headset that can connect via Bluetooth to their computer, their mobile device, and their phone so their hands are always free to work on the keyboard and mouse.

How do you start to put this all together for YOUR company?

Start with Microsoft Office 365!Microsoft Office -365 Logo

Microsoft designed Office 365 to offer everything remote workers needed to be productive from anywhere.

Office 2010 Professional -Write and edit the documents you need to produce with Word, the foremost choice of word processors. Build the spreadsheets that guide your business in Excel, the presentations to convey all of this to others using PowerPoint. Microsoft Office 2010 Professional is a key component of Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Exchange & Outlook deliver the most popular email messaging and personal information management platform in the world. Share calendars, contacts, tasks, notes, and other information with all of your colleagues wherever they may be.

Microsoft Lync -Lync REDEFINES communication. Share instant messages for quick notes, questions, or comments with your colleagues, clients, suppliers and other associates. Speak with them, see them on video, even share each others’ computer screens to collaborate on projects. Best of all, you can gather in large groups to hold meetings or just say hello. Whoever is speaking is displayed on the video and anybody can share just about anything.

Microsoft SharePoint enables powerful collaboration and sharing of information in one convenient place that everyone in the organization can securely and readily access.

Windows Intune LogoAdd Windows Intune to manage everything and you have greater efficiency and superior productivity with no physical “home base” to worry about or pay for!

The experts at CloudStrategies can help you select client devices, communication accessories, and select the right services to drive your completely cloud-based office.  Call today to learn more.

The New Office 365 Subscriptions

Office Logo 2013 jMicrosoft recently unveiled “The New Office” heralding it as a cloud service that works beautifully with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard on new Windows devices – from PCs to tablets.

An important part of their goal to re-envision Windows and modernize Office is the introduction of new subscriptions that open a host of possibilities, making subscribing to Office 365 the best choice for many – especially families, people with multiple devices and small businesses.

Observing that many companies are embracing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives, Microsoft clearly sees an important connection growing between the ways in which people live, work and play, and they have designed the new solutions with that in mind. With a single subscription, you can use Office across a wide variety of devices – everything from PCs and tablets to Macs.  You can easily save to and access your documents from the cloud and personalize your experience with Office.  Office will be updated more frequently to support new scenarios, and subscribers will always be current with the latest innovations.  Subscriptions also open new possibilities like integrating web services into Office in ways never before possible. Microsoft has even added popular communications network Skype calling minutes and SkyDrive storage.

New Subscriptions

Office 365 Home Premium

A single subscription to Office 365 Home Premium covers the entire household.  While you use a laptop, your daughter can use the PC in the den, and your son can use a tablet.  You can each sign-in with your individual Microsoft accounts using your settings and accessing your documents, but you still need just one subscription to get:

  • All the Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.
  • Ability to use Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs shared among all users in the home. Subscribers also have flexibility to change their 5 devices at any time, and full featured Office applications are available for temporary use on any PC.
  • Nearly 3 times the amount of SkyDrive storage with an additional 20GB over the 7GB you get for free.
  • 60 minutes of SkypeTM world calling per month to keep in touch with family anywhere.
  • Premium licenses that are always up-to-date with latest new features and services released regularly. With the new Office, new capabilities will be added multiple times per year.
  • Office 365 Home Premium, a single subscription for up to 5 users, will be available in both physical and online stores across 227 markets worldwide for $8.33 per month ($99.99 billed annually).  A free 30 day trial will also be available online.

Office 365 Small Business Premium

In addition to Office 365 Small Business, the new Office 365 Small Business Premium is designed for organizations with 1-10 employees, and each user gets the following benefits:

  • All the Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher plus Lync.
  • Ability to use Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs for a single user. Users also have flexibility to change their 5 devices at any time, and full featured Office applications are available for temporary use on any PC.
  • A 25 GB Outlook mailbox, shared calendar, contact manager, scheduling and task-list tools, and 10 GB professional-grade cloud storage for the organization plus 500 MB per user.
  • Ability to host online meetings with audio and video using one-click screen sharing and HD video conferencing (HD video camera required)
  • Set up, build, and maintain a public-facing website with no additional hosting fees.
  • Premium licenses that are always up-to-date with latest new features and services released regularly. With the new Office, new capabilities will be added multiple times per year.
  • No IT expertise needed. Simple setup to get started quickly and customize the service with ease.

Office 365 Small Business Premium will be available from CloudStrategies across 86 markets worldwide. Contact your CloudStrategies Advisor or call 973-630-5020 for more information.


OComing Soon: The New Office!

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer recently unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office, available at The next release features an intuitive design that works beautifully with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices, including tablets. The new Office is social and unlocks modern scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service that is always up to date.

“We are taking bold steps at Microsoft,” Ballmer said at the press conference in San Francisco. “The new, modern Office will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light-up when paired with Windows 8.”

Office at Its Best on Windows 8

Cs 0365 IconTouch everywhere. Office responds to touch as naturally as it does to keyboard and mouse. Swipe your finger across the screen or pinch and zoom to read your documents and presentations. Author new content and access features with the touch of a finger.

Cs 0365 IconInking . Use a stylus to create content, take notes and access features. Handwrite email responses and convert them automatically to text. Use your stylus as a laser pointer when presenting. Color your content and erase your mistakes with ease.

Cs 0365 IconNew Windows 8 applications . OneNote and Lync represent the first new Windows 8 style applications for Office. These applications are designed to deliver touch-first experiences on a tablet. A new radial menu in OneNote makes it easy to access features with your finger.

Cs 0365 IconIncluded in Windows RT . Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which contains new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, will be included on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, including Microsoft Surface.

See how the new Office gives you the flexibility to focus on what is important.

Office Is in the Cloud

Cs 0365 IconSkyDrive . Office saves documents to SkyDrive by default, so your content is always available across your tablet, PC and phone. Your documents are also available offline and sync when you reconnect.

Cs 0365 IconRoaming . Once signed in to Office, your personalized settings, including your most recently used files, templates and even your custom dictionary, roam with you across virtually all of your devices. Office even remembers where you last left off and brings you right back to that spot in a single click.

Cs 0365 IconOffice on Demand . With a subscription, you can access Office even when you are away from your PC by streaming full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based PC.

Cs 0365 IconNew subscription services . The new Office is available as a cloud-based subscription service. As subscribers, consumers automatically get future upgrades in addition to exciting cloud services including Skype world minutes and extra SkyDrive storage. Subscribers receive multiple installs for everyone in the family and across their devices.

Office Is Social

Cs 0365 IconYammer . Yammer delivers a secure, private social network for businesses. You can sign up for free and begin using social networking instantly. Yammer offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.

Cs 0365 IconStay connected . Follow people, teams, documents and sites in SharePoint. View and embed pictures, videos and Office content in your activity feeds to stay current and update your colleagues.

PCs 0365 Iconeople Card . Have an integrated view of your contacts everywhere in Office. The People Card includes presence information complete with pictures, status updates, contact information and activity feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

Cs 0365 IconSkype. The new Office comes with Skype. When you subscribe, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Integrate Skype contacts into Lync and call or instant message anyone on Skype.

Office Unlocks New Scenarios

Cs 0365 IconDigital note-taking . Keep your notes handy in the cloud and across multiple devices with OneNote. Use what feels most natural to you – take notes with touch, pen or keyboard, or use them together and switch easily back and forth.

Cs 0365 IconReading and markup . The Read Mode in Word provides a modern and easy-to-navigate reading experience that automatically adjusts for large and small screens. Zoom in and out of content, stream videos within documents, view revision marks and use touch to turn pages.

Cs 0365 IconMeetings . PowerPoint features a new Presenter View that privately shows your current and upcoming slides, presentation time, and speaker notes in a single glance. You can zoom, mark up and navigate your slides with touch and stylus. Lync includes multiparty HD video with presentations, shared OneNote notebooks and a virtual whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming.

Cs 0365 IconEighty-two-inch touch-enabled displays . Conduct more engaging meetings, presentations and lessons, whether in person or virtually, with these multitouch and stylus-enabled displays from Perceptive Pixel.

The New Office Lineup

While the full lineup of offerings and pricing plans will be announced in the fall, Ballmer discussed three new Office 365 subscription services. When available, each new subscription offer will include the new 2013 editions of the Office applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. In addition, subscribers will receive future rights to version upgrades as well as per-use rights across up to five PCs or Macs and mobile devices. The three new editions will be the following:

Cs 0365 IconOffice 365 Home Premium – designed for families and consumers. This service also includes an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month.

Cs 0365 IconOffice 365 Small Business Premium – designed for small businesses. This service also includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD webconferencing.

Cs 0365 IconOffice 365 ProPlus – designed for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.

Microsoft Office 365-Equipped “Only In America” Boston Whaler Reaches Boston

OIA - Spirit 7

In one of the most interesting applications of Microsoft Office 365 that we’ve seen, John Mirassou,  John Bertsch & Marty Burke have successfully sailed their 19 foot Boston Whaler from Norfolk VA to Boston MA landing in Boston Harbor on the Fourth of July one month after they set sail.  According to John Mirassou, Office 365 helped them communicate, coordinate, plan and arrange every leg of the journey.   Several other boats joined them in the voyage.  When one needed to know where they could leave their boat trailer in Boston, the Only In America crew was able to put them in touch with the local Boston Whaler dealer to make arrangements.  On their way into several ports they weren’t exactly sure where they were staying that night.  “With five boats,” explained Mirassou, “that becomes a logistical issue!”  A few quick emails, conversations, and sometimes videoconferences later all the arrangements were made.  “(CloudStrategies Sr. Solutions Architect) Mark Gordon was the one who trained us on Office 365 and he’s just been a godsend.  Mark was just instrumental in setting the whole thing up!  Everything from sending out email blasts to showing us how to post our video webisodes to helping us get a lot more friends on Facebook!” explained John Mirassou.  Visit the Office 365 SharePoint managed website at !

“Next year,” Mirassou declared, “we plan to have a lot more boats cruise with us, and they’ll all have to be on Office 365 to keep in touch.”  Truly a cloud-based flotilla!!  See the complete Case Study from Mark Gordon in this month’s CloudStrategies Newsletter!

Microsoft Releases Office 365

Microsoft Office -365 Logo

“Where Office Meets the Cloud”

Office 365 Components Bar

On June 28, 2011 Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage in New York City, connected via videoconference to media events around the world, to announce the general availability of Microsoft Office 365, “where Office meets the Cloud!” 

Office 365 is now available in 40 markets, many of which are directly served by CloudStrategies, and brings together four of Microsoft’s most powerful and popular offerings into one predictable, budgetable, affordable monthly subscription:

Email & Calendar

Powered by

Microsoft Exchange Online

Office 365 gives you access to email, calendar, and contacts from virtually anywhere, at any time, on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices-while it helps to protect against viruses and spam.

Office Web Apps

Powered by

Microsoft SharePoint Online

Office Web Apps are convenient online companions to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft OneNote that offer you an easy way to access, view, and edit documents directly in your web browser.

Websites & Collaboration

Powered by

Microsoft SharePoint Online

Office 365 enables you to access and share documents and insights, contacts, calendars, and tasks in a single location and from a shared computer or smartphone.

IM & Online Meetings

Powered by

Microsoft Lync Online

Microsoft Lync Online helps you find and quickly connect with the right person through instant messaging (IM), Lync video calls, or online meetings from within the Office applications you already use every day.

Cs O 365 Ad PicOffice 365 is available in a wide range of service plans designed to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes, ranging from the largest to the smallest.

With Office 365, people can stay on the “same page” using instant messaging and virtual meetings with people who are just down the hall or across the world. They can work on files and documents at the same time and share ideas as easily as they can share calendars. Office 365 gives people new ways to work together with ease, on virtually any device.

Microsoft Office applications are at the heart of Office 365. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook and other Office applications connect to Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync to deliver a world-class solution for communication and collaboration.


How can we help? CloudStrategies Discover, Adopt, and Manage Great Cloud Solutions
Drop us a note on what type of Cloud Solution that you're interested in learning more about...