Office 365 December update: More security, compliance

Available in the new E5 bundle and as add-ons, here's what Advanced Threat Protection, Customer Lockbox, and Equivio Zoom e-discovery will do

Office 365 December update: More security, compliance
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On Dec. 1, Microsoft will offer several new add-on services for Office 365, as well as the new E5 plan bundle for enterprises that includes the add-on services. They're worth your attention.

One of the features, ATP (Advanced Threat Protection), is already available and should gain new features to boost its effectiveness in protecting users. Although I can't give ATP a stellar endorsement, I certainly appreciate that additional help on security is a good thing -- especially if it doesn't cost you more money.

One side benefit to being part of a Microsoft cloud offering is Microsoft security tools "learn" by noting attacks on other customers and applies those lessons to its security tool. For major threats, that protection will come your way whether you actively use APT or not. It's all but guaranteed that Microsoft will apply defenses against major vulnerabilities detected at APT customers in the free EOP (Exchange Online Protection) as well. APT customers of course get such defenses first and for a broader spectrum of issues.

Obviously, hoping that someone else gets hit first so you can benefit from the attack shouldn't be anyone's security strategy. But it is a valuable aspect of security tools like antimalware and OpenDNS intelligence: A globally scaled service can learn from the few and expand protection to the many.

Another new feature in the Dec. 1 updates is Customer Lockbox, which provides greater data transparency in the cloud and offers customers full control over access to their data in Office 365. Should a Microsoft engineer need access to your data, such as for troubleshooting, you have to give explicit approval each time, and each request and approval or rejection is logged. Office 365's back end requires very little -- usually no -- human access to customer data to aid in security and privacy.

The Dec. 1 Office 365 update also includes Equivio Zoom, a compliance-oriented tool Microsoft acquired earlier this year. With regard to compliance, it all comes down to discoverability. Equivio provides Office 365 advanced e-discovery to help find more relevant content by, as Microsoft says, "eliminating duplicate files (using near-duplicate detection), reconstructing email threads, and identifying key themes and data relationships." Users can use the relevance feature to "train the system to intelligently explore and analyze large, unstructured data sets" to zero in on relevant material.

These additions to Office 365 are all smart moves. Of course, we have yet to see how much the E5 plan costs. Here's hoping that these new features will be within reach of all enterprise customers, not only deep-pocketed ones, to gain their greater security and compliance advantages. Stay tuned.