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.

Microsoft Refines Its Focus on The Cloud

In his FY 2012 annual letter to shareholders, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first identified Microsoft as being a “devices & services” company, saying “This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves — as a devices and services company. It impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses. The work we have accomplished in the past year and the roadmap in front of us brings this to life.”

That declaration has been further refined.

The new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, recently issued an email to all of his employees in which he declared that Microsoft would be known, going forward, as the “productivity and platforms company” in our “mobile-first and cloud-first world.”  In this blog post, we’ll explore what he meant, and what it means to all of us.

Productivity & Platforms

Fundamentally, Nadella is referring to the two services that will form the foundation of the future for Microsoft:

  • When he says “productivity” he is referring to Microsoft Office 365, the complete productivity suite which gives you the familiarity and power of Office with the flexibility of the cloud. With Office in the cloud, your applications and files are with you wherever you go, whether you’re working offline at your desktop, online, or on one of your devices. Edit files at your PC or Mac. Email or share files from your tablet. Join an online meeting from your phone. What you need is accessible from anywhere, right up front, and always up to date.”
  • When he says “platform” he is referring to Microsoft Azure, the “open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. You can build applications using any language, tool or framework. And you can integrate your public cloud applications with your existing IT environment.”


Going back just a few years, if you spoke with anyone about networks or computing you’d probably both be picturing a desktop or laptop computer with someone sitting at a desk doing productive work.

Today, you may be in your car shopping for a new appliance.  Instead of driving from Best Buy to Lowe’s and to Home Depot you more than likely take out your handheld smartphone device and open the app for each of those retail stores to compare their prices on the unit you’re interested in.  Perhaps you’re already in one of those stores when you find what you’re looking for and want to compare prices.  You simply point your smartphone at the “QR” or bar code on the shelf-sticker for the item, scan it, and instantly obtain price comparisons from the other stores.

Then you may sign on to your bank to make sure you have sufficient funds in your checking account to make the purchase.

Needing moral support, you text a friend to ask their opinion of your intended purchase.  They point out some reviews you might want to look at.  You email home asking your spouse to take a quick photo of the spot you have picked out to install this appliance in to make sure it will look right there.

The next day you’re heading into work and begin checking in via email with your team members… on the same device.  You go to work before you even get to work.


As you’re heading to the office you check your inbox and receive a complaint from a client that you didn’t send the file they’ve been waiting for and they need it before the start of the working day.  Do you turn around and head home to retrieve it?  Speed up and drive recklessly to get to work sooner?

No.  You keep all your workfiles in Microsoft OneDrive, your private cloud storage service.  That cloud storage is automatically replicated on your office computer so when you work on a document it is automatically saved locally and in the OneDrive cloud.  Your home computer also replicates that OneDrive cloud storage, so the document was already there on your local drive to work on over the weekend at home.

Now, as you’re travelling, you access OneDrive using that same trusty handheld smartphone you’ve been using and email it directly to the client from where you are.  Problem solved.

Your Productivity and Your Platform

Turn to CloudStrategies to help you architect your platform for future productivity.  Much is changing not only within Microsoft but within the entire IT industry.  We’re here to help you navigate through all of it, finding those innovations that are right for you and your business.

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.


Happy First Birthday Office 365

Happy First Birthday

Microsoft Office -365 Logo

One year ago, on June 27, 2011 in New York City, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled Office 365. Ballmer predicted that Office 365 would give businesses an edge, and that has been true for companies all over the globe.

“Office 365 is a hit with big and small companies alike,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Division. “I’m delighted to welcome Lowe’s, Burger King, Japan Airlines and others that have chosen Office 365.”

The biggest global brands continue to flock to Office 365. They are doing so because Office 365 enables new ways to share information and connect with customers and partners. This year, JetBlue, Campbell Soup, WellPoint, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Patagonia joined DuPont, Starbucks and major cities like New York and San Francisco in using Microsoft’s cloud productivity services. And today, Lowe’s, Origin Energy and The Hilti Group, Hallmark Cards, Japan Airlines, Burger King and Renner are the latest to join the Office 365 family.

Cs Lowes Lowe’s has signed an agreement with Microsoft to implement Microsoft Office 365 across more than 1,745 stores, 200,000 employees, and its corporate offices in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Office 365 will help the home improvement retailer improve customer service by providing collaboration tools to increase communication among its stores and employees.

Cs Hallmark Hallmark Cards , the largest creator of greeting cards in the United States, recently deployed Office 365 to over 9,500 people across the company. With this move, Hallmark receives the latest in productivity from Microsoft and realizes the economic benefits of the cloud. The company chose Microsoft due to Office 365’s ability to integrate seamlessly with Hallmark’s existing investments in other Microsoft technologies, such as SharePoint.

“The decision to move to Office 365 is part of a broader strategy to provide an integrated, unified platform to increase productivity and connect our employees across the globe,” said Tony Marshall, director of Enterprise Architecture at Hallmark.

BCs Bkurger King was founded in 1954 and is the second-largest fast food hamburger chain in the world. According to Mike Capote, chief privacy officer and senior director of IT at Burger King, “With Office 365, we have a unified platform for communication and collaboration, helping save us money and gain efficiency.”

Doubled Global Footprint and Continuous Updates

To mark the anniversary of Office 365, Koenigsbauer revealed that people in 46 new markets can now get Office 365 for the first time. In addition, the service is adding support for 11 new languages. With this, Office 365 is now offered in 88 markets and 32 languages and reaches over 4 billion people around the globe.

All these markets can take advantage of the continuous improvements to the service. Microsoft has introduced more than 50 new capabilities to the service in the past year, an average of one update per week. These updates – like password reset and enhanced storage for SharePoint Online – make people more productive and IT professionals more efficient.


New Updates Coming to Microsoft Office 365

New Updates Coming to Office 365

·  Exchange Online Gets Office Web Apps attachment preview

·  SharePoint Online Adds Windows Phone 7 Access, BCS & LiveID

·  Lync Online interoperability with Exchange Online voice mail and Mac Support

Microsoft Office -365 Logo  


Office 365 On Track to Become One of Microsoft’s Fastest-Growing Offers Ever

“We are seeing really positive momentum for Office 365. Customers are adopting Office 365 eight times faster than our previous service, and the solution is on track to become one of our fastest-growing offers in Microsoft history,” said Kurt DelBene, president of the Office Division at Microsoft.

In the August 2011 issue of CloudStrategies News we reported on the first wave of improvements to Windows Intune.  Now, more details are becoming available about upgrades and improvements to Microsoft Office 365.  In fact, Microsoft is making more than 30 new updates to Office 365 to enhance collaboration and communication, including:

Exchange Online

  • Exchange Online will now be able to use WebReady Document Viewing from Office Web Apps to get high-fidelity previews of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents in exactly the same format in which they were created.  Users can then choose to edit their document with a single click.

SharePoint Online

  • Customers with Office 365 Enterprise plans will be able to use Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to connect to external systems via web service based endpoints.
  • Office 365 administrators will be able to invite external users to site collections using their Microsoft Live ID for authentication.
  • Windows Phone 7 .5 users will be able to access SharePoint Online lists and document libraries from their Windows Phone.

Lync Online

  • Lync Online will add multitenant hosting, voice support for mobile information workers and interoperability with Exchange Online voicemail
  • Support for Lync for Mac. Mac users can now use instant messaging, presence and videoconferencing through Office 365.


  • SkyDrive gets simpler app-centric sharing for Office, powerful file management and easier uploads with HTML5. Share any Office document in one click. Work together more easily with any contact – across email services and connected networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Powerful tools to manage and organize files quickly. Drag and drop multiple files to upload across browsers on PC and Mac.

For more information on these improvements and how they can benefit you, call CloudStrategies at 973-630-5020


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