Microsoft says their Cloud Usage has jumped 775% due to COVID-19

Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and Office 365\Teams collaboration services have seen a significant, in fact colossal, spike in usage over the past week as companies globally continue to deal with an increase in remote workers due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and lock downs that are being put in place to help control the infection rate and curb the impact on the world’s health services like our incredible NHS.

Microsoft said yesterday that in the last week it has seen a 775% increase in the use of its cloud services in regions where enforced social distancing and lock downs have been put in place such as here in the UK, most of Europe and many States in the US.

Microsoft Teams is seeing more than 900 million meeting and calling minutes per day.

Microsoft had  previously stated just last week that they was prioritising traffic for critical front line and public services such as NHS as well as also tuning and reprioritising services to cope with this unprecedented demand. This includes prior temporary limits on free offers (outside key workers and NHS for example) to prioritise capacity for existing customers and the downgrading of video in Teams for example to help manage traffic. Microsoft has said that these limits are typically being isolated to regions/locations that are seeing the most demand and that customers impacted can use alternative regions to get around some of the performance hits while they even out and scale out their services to handle the new demands.

Last week, Microsoft has some issues with adding new services to Azure in some regions, including the UK which caused them to “drop below the typical 99.99% success rates.”. This was caused by the huge surge in new Azure Virtual Desktop services being spun up as organisations looked to quickly enable remote desktop to facilitate homeworking after the UK mandated work from home as part of the UK Covid19 lock down measures.

COVID-19 sees huge demand and growth

Microsoft said last week that Teams has “seen a very significant spike” in usage and counted more than 44 million daily users. This week new numbers have revealed that last week they also saw more than 900 million meeting and calling minutes per day.

Windows Virtual Desktop has also seen a 300% increase in the last week with hundreds of thousands of new Desktops being added globally.

Other collaboration platforms like Cisco’s Webex and Zoom have seen similar surges in network traffic tied to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s not just Microsoft though…

Microsoft of course isn’t the only Web conferencing provider seeing such growth. Other collaboration platforms including Cisco Webex and Zoom have seen similar surges in network traffic tied to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cisco has also reported large growth and demand and said Webex traffic from China had increased by more than 2,000% since the outbreak began and that more than 30% of its enterprise customers have reached out for help getting their employees set up to work from home.

Since the start of the outbreak, Microsoft, Zoom and Cisco have made their platforms available for free to most businesses affected by COVID-19 and are having to work relentlessly to expand the capacity of their services to ensure as few disruptions as possible…. All have had growing pains and as the lock downs continue globally, it probably won’t be the last time!

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Protect yourself from COVID-19 themed “PHISHING” attacks

Microsoft sent out warnings last week about an rise in phishing attacks and scare mongering related to the coronavirus outbreak with many cybercriminals playing on people’s fear in order to steal personal data.

Criminal groups have various ways to attack vulnerable people, including malware, but Microsoft have emphasised that “91 percent of all cyberattacks start with email” and almost all are aimed at tricking their targets into handing over their credentials.

Microsoft has a robust set of security and protections servives designed to detect and block malicious emails, links and attachments with, Office 365, Office 365 ATP, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Defender all working in together to protect. These services leverage advanced machine learning, heuristics, and anomaly analysers to detect malicious behaviours in email to try to prevent these landing in user mailboxes and to protect them should they get through and users click on the links.

Unfortunately technology alone will never be 100% foolproof, therefore it’s important for users and for IT to ensure the latest security updates are deployed, services are enabled (a staggering number of organisations have services like Office Advanced Threat Protection for example but don’t use it) and use advanced anti-malware and Endpoint Protection service, such as Microsoft Defender.

MFA is Critical to Identity Protection

If you don’t use multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all of your personal and business Office 365 (and other mail products like Gmail etc.), I’d strongly suggest you enable it and use Microsoft’s Authenticator to protect you.

Combined with Password Self Reset and Risk Based Conditional access MFA can detect and prevent over 99% of phishing attacks by preventing user identities since logins are protected by an additional login authentication step (just like you need to access your online banking).

Education is still key

It’s still important for users to be vigalenr and to educate themselves around what to look for..

Bad spelling and grammar, suspicious links and attachments and emails that look to good to be true, should always raise your suspicions… Even with the extensive protection, if you are suspicious about an email, never click on links or open any attachments, especially those with weird file extensions such as pdf.exe” or “txt.hta”

Cybercriminals (especially now) use urgency and scare as an attack vector. Microsoft warn users about the current trends which should always trigger an alarm:

  • Threats. These types of emails cause a sense of panic or pressure to get you to respond quickly. For example, it may include a statement like “You must respond by end of day.” Or saying that you might face financial penalties if you don’t respond.
  • Spoofing. Spoofing emails appear to be connected to legitimate websites or from your boss, or medical insurer, but take you to phony (often legitiame) scam sites or display legitimate-looking pop-up windows. Always check the website and the Url.
  • Altered web addresses. A form of spoofing where web addresses that closely resemble the names of well-known companies, but are slightly altered; for example, “” or “”.
  • Incorrect spelling or salutation of your name.
  • Mismatches. The link text and the URL are different from one another; or the sender’s name, signature, and URL are different.

What do I do if I get a suspicious link?

If you think you have encounter a suspicious email or website, speak to your IT team. Microsoft also recommends using the built-in tools in Outlook on the Web, on the desktop Outlook app and in the Outlook Mobile app to report suspicious messages.

If you’re using Microsoft Edge, you can also report suspicious sites by clicking the More (…) icon > Send feedback > Report Unsafe site.

Final word

While bad actors are attempting to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis, they are using the same tactics they always do. You should be especially vigilant now to take steps to protect yourself,” the company said today. You can learn more about Microsoft’s recommendations on their Security blog.

Host of new features announced as Microsoft Teams Turns 3

I talked yesterday about about the tremedous growth of Teams (partly due to the impact covid-19 is having with increased working from home) but today as Teams Turns 3 a wealth of new features have been announced to the public which focus on two key themes.

  1. Building the very best online meeting experience; and
  2. Bringing technological solutions to traditionally underserved professionals, including firstline and healthcare workers

Here are all the new features coming soon to Microsoft Teams that have been announced today:

  1. Real-time noise suppression during calls, which should help you better understand what your others are saying especially when people are out and about or have poor signal
  2. Raising your hand… When you are in large meetings, a new raise hand feature will let others know you have something to say.
  3. Pop out chats: a features missed by many from Skype for Business, the ability to pop out chats into a separate window is also coming soon after being in private preview for a few months
  4. Offline use :Microsoft Teams is finally getting offline and low-bandwidth support, making the app still useful without an Internet connection
  5. First-line workers using RealWear head-mounted devices will soon be able to get information and communicate hands-free due to new Teams integration.
  6. New collaboration bar devices certified with Teams, such as the Yealink VC210 collaboration bar for meetings.

Covid19: The way people work IS changing as Teams daily usage passes 44 million

Microsoft has announced that the daily users of Teams now sits as 44 million (up some 37‰ since last week and have also highlighted a number of global businesses with over 100,000 users on Teams including Accenture, Continental AG, Ernst & Young, Pfizer and SAP which demonstrates the true global scale of Office 365 and Teams.

Microsoft has said that the user count last Wednesday was 32 million, but 12 million have since been added due mainly of course to the impact of travel restrictions brought about globally by COVID-19.

In a statement, reported by CNBC, Microsoft VP Jared Spataro said that the COVID-19 outbreak will be “a turning point for the way people will work and learn, Our customers have certainly turned to Teams during this challenging time, and we’ve seen usage spikes in markets most impacted by COVID-19,”.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO has that “As organisations around the world are changing the way they work in response to this situation, we’re going to learn a tremendous amount to transform how we work together”

We are seeing this ourselves at Cisilion where I work as many of our customers are acceleraring their Teams deployment and migrations away from traditional voice solutions, enabling voice in Teams to achieve a truly Unified and integrated experience across Office 365.

When the world finally emerges from the grips of COVID-19, I truly beleive there is going to be fundamental change in how organisations work and transcend some of these geographic boundaries and how they truly empower people to work anywhere.

Anyway., hope you are staying healthy and well.

Thank for reading as always..

Microsoft has made Teams free for the entire NHS

As part of a huge tech aid programme in response to COVID-19, Microsoft has made Microsoft Team available to the entire 1.5m NHS workers for free which was announced in a tweet by Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care.

Teams free for NHS

NHSX is a UK Government body that has responsibility for setting national policy and developing best practice for the National Health Service (NHS) IT and technology services.

This will allow all NHS organisations that use run NHSmail (a customised and hosted Exchange email service run by Accenture) will now have access to Microsoft Teams, (they will need to configure it or work with a partner or Microsoft Fast Track local administration and configuration). NHS Digital have also said that they will support the implementation of Microsoft Teams locally via its NHSmail support site.

Those NHS organisations that don’t run NHSmail will need to contact Microsoft directly to get access to Microsoft Teams but this will be a simple process.

More infornation on this can be found below.

Microsoft Teams to be rolled out across NHS in response to coronavirus

Who’s the Gartner Leaders in Analytics and BI?

It appears there’s nothing stopping Microsoft run at being the clear leaders across its cloud and data services.

Just announced, and for the 13th consecutive year, #Microsoft has been positioned as leader in the Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.

For the 2nd year running Microsoft is positioned furthest to the right for completeness of vision and furthest up in the ability to execute within the leaders’ Quadrant. Beating Salesforce, IBM Tableau, Oracle and SAP to the top right spot buy more than just a bit! #PowerBI #microsoft365

Gartner Quadrant for Analytics and BI

Microsoft and Gartner put this leading position down to the following:

Many of the strengths of Power BI come directly from our customer feedback such as:

  • Power BI insights and Office 365 productivity. Power BI looks and feels exactly like the rest of the familiar Office application making every user instantly productive.
  • Find answers fast with industry-leading AI. Power BI incorporates many of the latest advances in Microsoft AI to help non-data scientists prepare data, build machine learning models, and find insights quickly from both structured and unstructured data, including text and images.
  • Meet the most demanding enterprise needs. Power BI works together with Azure Synapse Analytics to enable fast, interactive analysis across petabytes of data.
  • Comprehensive data protection. Power BI is the only BI product that claims to be able to secures customer data through Microsoft Information Protection and Microsoft Cloud App Security, even when data is exported out of Power BI.
  • Turning insights into action. Users can go straight from data to insights and insights to action with the Microsoft Power Platform, combining Power BI with Power Apps and Power Automate to easily build business applications.
PowerBI dashboard

Click here to get the full Gartner Report

Do you use PowerBI?

My top 5 new things in Microsoft Teams for Feb 2020

1. Cross collaboration with Outlook and Teams

Whilst Teams is one of the most effective and fluid ways for indivials and teams to communicate, not all conversations are suited in teams. This month (though you have to look for it) there is new 2-way integration between Outlook and Teams to make it easier shift conversations from one medium to another. Users can now:

1. Move an email conversation from Outlook (along with attachments) into a Teams chat or channel conversation by clicking on the ‘’Share to Teams’’ in Outlook.

Outlook to Teams

2. Share a conversation from Teams to an Outlook email by clicking on the more options (‘’…’’) icon in a conversation.

2. Updated @tags in Chats and Channels

Microsoft have made it easier toget connected to right people with “targeted communication”. For example, if you need to send a message to say, all of sales or all managers, it’s now possible to quickly message everyone assigned to a specific tag at the same time by simply @mentioning the tag name in a post. By using tags, team “owners” can now organise users based on a common “tag” , relevant to a role, project, or location etc.

Tagging in channels

3. New File Experience.

The Teams file experience is “powered by SharePoint” and as well as looking a little more modern, includes the ability to sync files to your computer, see rich previews across over 320 file types, create views, see document life-cycle signals, review on-hover file cards, pin files to the top, take actions like check in and check out, and loads more.. In fact everything you can do in SharePoint, because, well.. the Teams file store is SharePoint anyway.

New File Experience

I wasn’t a huge fan of this at first as I quite liked the simplistic view in teams but if you work with files and lot (and have a lot in your teams and channels) then after a few days you’ll wonder how you manged without it! That said.. Be nice if you could tune it a bit to suite.

4. New Live Captions in Meetings

This has actually been in preview for a couple of months so if you, like me have been using it, you may not have realised that it’s now in ‘General availability state’.

Basically, you can use live captions to give subtitles to your Microsoft Teams meetings. Let’s think for a minute.. This is really powerful and great for accessibility but also if you are in a meeting where noisy surroundings (coffee shop, loud office, airport etc) where you may struggle to hear all of what is going on..

With live captions you can turn on live subtitles during your Teams meetings so you never miss what somebody is trying to say as you can read what people are saying in real time. English only at this time with more language support coming soon we are told.

Live captions in Teams

5. New Security and Compliance Features

2 new features were added to a team this month too which bring some of the wider Microsoft 365 Security & Compliance features natively into Teams

  1. Legal Hold for Teams Private Channels
  2. Communication Compliance which helps HR and admin detect capture and take remediation actions should inappropriate communications be used in teams that could impact well being or lead to abuse or bullying.

That’s it for now… Look forward to seeing what’s new in March!