Microsoft Entra aims to secure access for the multicloud connected world

Microsoft has just announced “Entra“, which is the latest “family of products” and joins their other suites alongside Priva and Viva.

Entra brings together all of Microsoft’s identity and access products and services and includes Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), as well as their Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) and decentralized identity services.

Identity is one of the biggest cornerstones for cybersecurity.

Microsoft Entra. Image (c) Microsoft

Microsoft Entra aims to help simply the way organisations approach and accomplish attack surface reduction in the multicloud, hyperconnected world by filling the biggest and most critical gaps. It does this by:

  • Protecting access to any application or resource for each and every user
  • Secure and verify every identity across hybrid and multicloud environments
  • Discovering and governing permissions in multicloud environments
  • Simplying the user experience with real-time intelligent access decisions.

Microsoft Entra embodies our vision for what modern secure access should be. Identity should be an entryway into a world of new possibilities, not a blockade restricting access, creating friction, and holding back innovation. We want people to explore, to collaborate, to experiment – not because they are reckless, but because they are fearless.

Microsoft.

Entra works with the majority of all cloud platforms, including Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, as well as other Microsoft apps and websites.


To find out more, visit the Microsoft Entra website to learn more about how Azure AD, Microsoft Entra Permissions Management, and Microsoft Entra Verified ID deliver secure access for our connected world.

Microsoft’s One Outlook is now available to preview for Office Insiders

The new (beta version) of the One Outlook experience is available to paying Microsoft 365 or Office 365 Business and Education customers enrolled on the Office Insiders Beta Channel.

One Outlook is a new “unified email experience”, which will bring together the various versions and experiences from across their platforms into a single unified and consistent experience. This means it will eventually replace the existing Win32 and UWP apps on Windows, Outlook Web Access, and the Apple macOS versions. Microsoft will also be using it to host their Outlook for Web on browsers.

Microsoft’s longer-term goal is to also to replace the built-in Windows 11 Mail & Calendar apps with this version of the client – but this is likely to be someway off, but Windows Insiders are hoping to be able to start testing it in coming week meaning it might make its way into an early 2023 build of Windows 11.

One Outlook takes most of its inspiration and design from the Outlook web version, matching it closely in terms of design, features, and functionality – though there are still more things to come.

“Today, we are taking our next step by sharing a preview of the new Outlook for Windows, designed to bring consistency across our Windows and web codebases to help you be more productive and stay in control of your inbox.”

Microsoft Office Insider Team

Main Differences and Features

The new Outlook is built well and runs super quick (old outlook was a bit heavy on resources). The UX has some really clean lines though out the design too – it looks modern and fresh, and the design overall is a much more minimalistic and feels less cluttered.

New One Outlook Beta Experience

This One Outlook also adds a few new things not found in the Win32 version including: –

  • New look and feel aligned to the Outlook on the Web experience which adds a single view for calendar, email, and to-do items
  • Message reminders which use “AI” to automatically remind users about missed messages that need attention – these reminders appear at the top of the inbox until the user dismisses them,
  • Microsoft Loop components (which was previously confined to just Teams chat)
  • @mention for files – providing the ability to more easily share files using the “@thenameofthefile” convention to more quickly attach files and documents saved in the cloud to email messages without having to browse for the files.
  • New Outlook RSVP feature designed for hybrid work. This allows users to RSVP but also clarify whether they will be attending a meeting in-person or online.

Let’s quickly cover Microsoft Loop…

So I love ‘loop compoents’. Why? Loop will IMO, soon transform (again) modern co-authoring and Collaboration. With Loop, rather than collaborating on a whole documents, you can edit/author in real time components like lists, tables, paragraphs etc.   With this now in Outlook, it should hopefully start to end the endless reply-to-all storms since loop compoents can be edited and changed in real time. I covered loop in a previous blog.

There are some important things missing for Enterprise

Firstly, of course, this is a preview, which means it is not the final version. This is only currently available on the Insiders Beta Channel and as such there are some features (some small and some big) key features missing. The key ones missing for me (which I think will reduce the number of users willing or able to test it) are:

  • Multi-account support
  • Offline / Cached Mode support.
  • Search Folders,
  • Quick Steps
  • Support for Personal accounts & third-party services (like Gmail) – but that’s coming

In addition, this beta release lacks some of the legacy Outlook extensions that many power users need in enterprise environments including older add-ins and COM object support. I suspect some of this is on purpose to get a better feel of what add-ins and extension organisations actually need and use.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Downs

  • The new design (while missing some features) is really nice
  • Outlook RSVP (though expect to come to the “old” version too)
  • Loop Components – these are awesome
  • @filementions for easy sharing of cloud files

Thumbs up
👍 The new design (while missing some features) is really nice
👍Outlook RSVP (though expect to come to the “old” version too)
👍Support for Microsoft Loop Components – these are awesome
👍@filementions for easy sharing of cloud files

Thumbs Down
👎Menu layout freaks you out a little – and no file menu – this will put people off
👎No Offline use (yet), which in a hybrid world – almost makes it unusable for now

How to get it and test it

To get and test drive the new Outlook experience, your need to be enrolled in the Office Insider Beta builds, ensure you have a minimum Office beta build of 15225.20000 and then enable the “Try the New Outlook” toggle button.

Switching to the new One Outlook preview

Remember, as with anything new or different, user feedback is critical and as Office Insiders Microsoft are expecting feedback (good and bad from its testers). As such it is important (if you are an Office Insider) to provide constructive and useful feedback about things you like that you think are missing or that you love.


If you are a tester, want to shape it’s future (and you can) – go test it and feedback to Microsoft on your experience.

Viva Goals promises to bring ‘purpose and alignment’ to the employee experience

Microsoft Viva Goals has just been annouced and has entered a closed private preview. It will be included in the current Microsoft Viva suite subscription from Q3.

What will this bring?

Viva Goals is based heavily upon Microsoft’s 2021 aquisition Ally.io, who are a world leader in the realm of objectives and key results (OKR) platform which will find its way into Viva and gradually across the rest of Microsoft 365 and Teams. Viva Goals promises to help aligns teams to an organisation’s strategic priorities and will bring them together around an organisations’ company mission and purpose and values.

According to Microsoft’s latest work trend index report, more than half of all managers say they feel leadership is ‘out of touch’ with employee expectations around work life, hybrid work, and workload commitments. This new Viva Goals module is designed to address this by bringing purpose and alignment into Viva alongside the other core purposes the focus on culture and communications, wellbeing and engagement, growth and development, as well as knowledge and expertise.

Viva Goals (image (c) Microsoft

“Viva Goals brings business goals into the flow of everyday work, making it easier to stay up to date with connected data and automated reminders as well as to share OKRs and their progress across the organization with customized dashboards and quick links. It integrates with Microsoft Teams, Azure DevOps, etc.—and has more integrations to come with Microsoft Viva, Power BI, and other Microsoft 365 apps and services”.

Vetri Vellore |Corporate VP |Microsoft Viva Goals

Vellore states that (according to the work trend index report) 77% of employees say it’s important or very important for their employer to provide a sense of purpose and meaning at work, and 69% say its important or very important to be rewarded for impact instead of hours worked.

Want to see Viva Goals in action

Viva Goals is Private Preview, but to learn more about the wider Microsoft Viva suite, visit the Microsoft Viva website and check out the video below.

Viva Goals in action (YouTube)

Microsoft announces new Managed ‘Security Experts Services’ to ramp up fight against cybercrime

Microsoft’s security business is growing faster than any of their other mainstream products and services, and today they announced they will be adding three new services designed to help organisations spot and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

Here’s the TL;DR version.

  • Microsoft are bolstering their security services offerings to go along with its technology products and partners.
  • Security is the fastest-growing broad product category for Microsoft.
  • Microsoft are increasing annual research and development spend in cybersecurity from $1 billion to $4 billion (more than any other security vendor anywhere).

The new services will see Microsoft’s own cyber security experts providing hands-on, proactive threat hunting for organisations unable to fully build out their own SOC due to the global security skills shortage and cost.

Keep reading to learn more…

This new announced investment comes as we see increasing reports from industry analysts on the continued increase in cyber security budgets globally as organisation continue to invest in protecting against the ever-increasing threat of ransomware attacks, identity theft and network hacks. 

Attacks are getting smarter and more targeted

Cybercrime attacks are continuing to rise and get increasing sophisticated, costing the world’s businesses $6 trillion USD last year, with that number expected to rise to $10.6 trillion in 2025.

According to Microsoft, “most human-operated ransomware attacks share some common traits, as attackers take advantage of an organization’s reliance on legacy software configurations or poor “credential hygiene” to gain entry into systems, and once in to find privilege escalation points to move through systems and carry out attacks.“.

Whilst identity hygiene is improving many organisations still do not get the basics right with poor identity protection, lax controls, no (or patchy) MFA and a disjointed and fragmented approach to security rather than a Zero Trust ‘defence in depth mindset’

Guarding single points of entry is not enough anymore, and a system or systems of managed extended detection and response (MXDR) is helping to help companies take a step back and look to guarding overall systems rather than focusing on locking down network ports or domains etc. “, Microsoft said in their latest security blog.

What is Microsoft Security Experts?

Microsoft Security Experts is a newly announced set of human, AI and software led services they will offer to organisations which will provide managed security services without them needing to build everything in house.

Microsoft Security Expert Services

Whilst just the start, the three new security managed services include Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, and Security Services for Enterprise.

  • Microsoft Defender Experts for Hunting.
    • This involves Microsoft Security engineers hunting and altering organisations of issues they proactive hunt in clients’ devices, Office 365 productivity software installations, cloud apps and identity platforms programs.
    • This will put Microsoft into a more direct competition with pure-play security software companies such as CrowdStrike.
    • Cost is circa $3 pupm.
  • Microsoft Defender Experts for XDR.
    • This is a more people intense service that will see Microsoft Security Experts helping organisations act on threats. Microsoft say that this type of work is typically done by a variety of different organisations today, including the big four accounting firms.
    • Cost is $14 pupm.
  • Microsoft Security Services for Enterprise
    • This service includes an even broader set of people-driven services.
    • It aims to be more specific and customised to the needs of large enterprise organisations.
    • It’s set to help elevate the global security skills and people challenge which affecting almost every organisation.
    • Costs are bespoke to each organisation.

Microsoft and Security

Security is already a $15 billion annual business for Microsoft, and in 2021/22 it has increased faster than any other significant product or service that Microsoft sold – up 45% YoY.

Microsoft is of course no new kid on the block when it comes to cyber defence, and last year blocked over 9.6 billion malware threats and 35.7 billion malicious emails as well taking down several huge state nation attacks.

Microsoft believe that they are uniquely positioned to help their customers and partners do more to meet today’s security challenges. “We secure devices, identities, apps, and clouds—the fundamental fabric of our customers’ lives – with the full scale of our comprehensive multicloud, multiplatform solutions. At Microsoft, we understand today’s security challenges because we live this fight ourselves every single day“.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella had already announced last year that their annual cyber security research and development spending is increasing to a staggering $4 billion, up from an already huge $1 billion.

What about the role of the Microsoft Partner?

Details are still emerging about how partners that sell security consultancy, enablement, training and of course managed extended detections and response (XDR) will be able to leverage these and build on their services.

Microsoft has said in their Yammer partner community site that they will be making a whole new set of investments in partners to help advance (or build) their managed extended detection and response (XDR) services business.

Growth and demand for Managed Security Services

According to Gartner, demand is on a fast growth trajectory, and more than 50 percent of organizations will be using managed detection and response (MDR) services for threat monitoring, detection, and response functions that offer threat containment and mitigation capabilities by 2025.

Microsoft say that their Partners will play a critical role in addressing this incredible customer demand.

Smaller Organisations – Here’s why you should care about Microsoft Defender for Business

Defender for Business

Today (May 3rd 2022) Microsoft formally announced the general availability of the standalone version of Microsoft Defender for Business.

Why should I care?

Well firstly, it’s a myth that smaller organisations are not targeted and attacked. Security continues to be an increasing challenge for small and medium businesses with a more than 300% increase in ransomware attacks alone in the past year alone, leading to increase cost in time and money, whilst pulling you away from doing what matters most – running your business and making money.

300% Increase in ransomware attacks 2021

As an example, the solicitor I was personally using last year for a house purchase was victim of a cyber-attack in September last year and it took them almost 3 months to get back on their feet which cost them loads of business – including mine!

In addition, according to a report commission by Microsoft – over 90% SMB organisations admit to buying “bad” endpoint security (which means it is below par, nor is it integrated into their wider security portfolio).

What is Defender for Business

Microsoft Defender for Business brings enterprise-grade security to smaller and medium sizes businesses (SMBs), including world-class endpoint detection and response capabilities.

Microsoft Defender for Business

Microsoft Defender also continually scores the highest across all industry endpoint protection products. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security/threat-protection/intelligence/top-scoring-industry-antivirus-tests

Why Defender for Business

Microsoft position this as “the solution for the new Hybrid Workforce”. As employees increasingly work across a mix of different devices and locations, Defender for Business delivers end-to-end security and moves beyond traditional end-point anti-virus, with their cloud connected, AI-powered service that is backed by trillions of daily signals, bringing enterprise grade, real time detection of known or trending threats including zero-day attacks and ransomware.

Microsoft Defender for business is part of the wider Microsoft 365 Defender family – a unified pre- and post-breach enterprise defence suite which natively coordinates detection, prevention, investigation, and response across endpoints, identities, email, and applications to provide integrated protection against sophisticated attacks.

Key Benefits

  1. Reduce your vulnerability with Defender’s risk-based management approach
  2. Help eliminate risks by reducing the surface area of attack
  3. Protect against cyberthreats like ransomware and malware
  4. Detect and investigate advanced persistent attacks
  5. Automatically investigate alerts and helps respond to complex threats

Here’s how it works

If you think of your business as like you might think about your own house, we can use this simple by effective analogy:

  1. Threat and Vulnerability Management is like a proactive police/crime assessment – looking at your doors and windows for potential weaknesses. It’s a risk prevention approach to vulnerability management that reduces threats before they grow into serious problems.
  2. Attack surface reduction works by making sure the windows are locked, and only the right people have keys to the front door. This helps minimise risk by reducing the attack surfaces open across your devices.
  3. Next Generation Protection acts as the lock for your front door. It helps to stop the things you don’t want to enter, from file-based and fileless malware, to spyware.
  4. Endpoint Detection and Response is like a security camera system, helping you see and record an intruder in the building. Defender’s advanced tools then sets off the alarms, allowing you to respond directly to the problem, device, or file.
  5. Auto Investigation and Remediation is like your smart alarm system, calling the authorities and taking the intruder away. Defender for Business automatically investigates alerts and helps remediate complex threats, acting as your personal security analyst, working 24/7 to protect your business.

In short, Microsoft Defender for Business looks across your environment, multiple activities, devices, and users and then aggregates your alerts into a single incident making it easier for you (or your IT Services partner) to manage and respond to threats before they impact your business.

How does it compare to Defender for Enterprise?

Defender for Business provides the same premium protection at endpoint level for SMBs as it does for Enterprise organisations – the only difference is the price point and simplified management. The table below, shows the main differences.

Microsoft Defender Product Comparison (c) Microsoft.

How do I get it?

All these features and more are available as part of Microsoft 365 business premium plan or can be purchased (if you are not a Microsoft 365 subscriber) as a standalone application.

Microsoft Defender for Business Options

Speak to your Microsoft Partner or CSP license provider in the first instance. They can probably also help you quickly get started and set it up..

Defender for Business is already included as part of Microsoft 365 Business Premium – Microsoft’s comprehensive security and productivity solution for businesses with up to 300 employees (or as part of a blended licensing approach). Microsoft Business Premium costs just £16.50 per user per month.

You can (from today) also purchase Defender for Business as a standalone solution for just £2.75 per user, per month and what’s more support for On-Premises and Cloud Hosted Servers for SMB is also coming later this year.