Office 365 opens a window into data governance

A new dashboard will let IT more easily monitor, retain, and manage data across Office 365 -- not email alone

Office 365 opens a window into data governance
Credit: Nick Hoffman

Knowing what data you have, along with where it's located and lives, then managing that data to the needs of your organization are all part of data governance strategy. If you use Microsoft’s Office 365, you know it has many aspects ripe for data collection -- and that can be confusing.

Clearly, data governance in Office 365 goes well beyond email archiving because there are now so many different conduits for data. In today's world, people might communicate through email (a key data governance focus point), SharePoint, OneDrive, Skype for Business, and/or Yammer. Then there's all the data from your other systems that Office 365 can ingest via third-party tools.

As a result of this greater universe of data and data conduits, Microsoft is planning changes to its data-management tools. As an admin, you can see the current version's import, archive, and retention options in your Office 365 portal, in the Security & Compliance section's Data Governance tool.

Microsoft says it will soon release an enhanced version tool with a data governance dashboard that provides data analytics and improved tools for data retention.

Office 365 data governance dashboard

Office 365's new data governance dashboard will provide at-a-glance information about the data in the system.

The new tool will take a broader look at the entire system of data so that you can easily establish policies with retention settings through a wizard. When creating a policy, you'll be able to choose specific locations to preserve or all locations (including email, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Outlook Groups, and public folders).

Oddly, Yammer is not included, so you might still need to use Yammer's own data-export feature or a third-party tool. (Perhaps Yammer is excluded because of  Microsoft's new Slack-like alternative called Microsoft Teams.)

The new data-management tool's wizard supports the recently released preservation-lock feature, which prevents even an IT admin from disabling the policy. (This was meant to conform with SEC Rule 17a-4, to ensure certain policies can't be tampered with, even by IT.) The preservation-lock feature lets you extend how long you keep data but not disable that retention -- ever. As you would imagine, the tool warns you several times that you are about to permanently lock the policy.

I should note that Microsoft is not changing its fundamental governance architecture: There is no copy or separate data bank for the retained (held) data; it's not a true archive but a state applied to the source data. Some organizations prefer to keep their retained data as a truly separate archive, which requires using a third-party tool in the case of Office 365.

But I believe Microsoft is focusing on the right approach to data governance in the more expansive world of Office 365. It should help alleviate compliance burdens on businesses large and small.

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