Cisco Live 2022: Cisco Catalyst Management is coming to the Meraki cloud

At Cisco Live 2022 this week, Cisco annouced that Catalyst is coming to the Meraki cloud which put simply means that organisations will now be able to manage their Catalyst switches and access points using the Cisco Meraki cloud dashboard, providing a centralised view of the network with real-time switch status and health.

Image (c) Cisco Meraki

Supported platforms

At time of launch, the Catalyst 9200, 9300 and 9500 switching platforms will be supported in the Meraki dashboard with two different options:

  • Cloud Monitoring (monitoring only)
  • Cloud Management (monitoring and config management)

Licensing

  • Monitored Catalyst switches needs only a Meraki license.
  • Fully managed Catalyst switches requires DNA Advantage (DNA-A) or DNA Essentials (DNA-E) licensing.

The main difference between the two switching licenses is that DNA-E will not include application visibility or client usage data.

Is this the end to DNA Center?

Put simply, No. What Cisco is doing is providing more flexibility and options to their customers. It will mean, however that organisations will need to make a choice as to where that want to manage their Cisco Catalyst infrastructure. In Meraki, in DNA Center, or standalone.

Once a Catalyst switch is fully managed by Meraki it will no longer be an IOS device and will instead run Cisco Meraki software. If the Catalyst switch is a monitored only switch though, it will still be accessible and manageable via the CLI.

New Catalyst Wireless Switches

Cisco also annouced that they are introducing three new Catalyst wireless access points that can be managed by their Meraki dashboard or a C9800 controller.

  • Catalyst CW9166
  • Catalyst CW9164
  • Catalyst CW9162

Feature Partity with DNA Center?

No.. Well not initially anyway.

Since this is the first iteration of Catalyst management within the Meraki Cloud dashboard, there will not be feature parity with what is possible with the CLI or DNA Center. Initially all the core basic basic monitoring and configuration will be available and Cisco have a said a feature list and roadmap will be published soon.

Why are Cisco taking this approach?

Cisco have traditionally been continuing to build on-premises software solutions, such as DNA Center, but with their increased focus of software subscriptions and cloud this is a logical move and something their competition have been doing for a while.

Since the aquisition of Meraki back in 2013, Cisco have continued to try to provided multiple options for their customers and this appears to eb a great move into that hybrid space, providing and option for scenarios where DNA Center maybe too much or complex, but a more simplistic cloud managed approach with a Meraki may well fit organisations who want cloud management with Meraki while still having the feature-rich capabilities of the Catalyst product set.

Getting Started…

Cisco advise their customers to speak to their account manager, work with their trusted a isco partner and / or to check out their get started guide. There’s no need to go full in and organisations can start their move cloud management for Catalyst at their own pace.


Read the full detail from Cisco

Microsoft Viva Sales: Aims to provide seamless integration from any CRM into Office 365 and Teams.

With the annoucement the Viva Sales platform, Microsoft aims to help organisations harness the power of their existing CRM platform and seamless expose this within and across Microsoft Teams and Office 365 without third party apps, plug-ins, or data exchange tools. Microsoft’s goal is a native, common and familiar experience regardless of an organisations choice of CRM system.

Viva Sales will connect customer data across from any CRM into Teams and Office.
Image: (c) Microsoft

This approach is not unique to Microsoft. Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack last year was in part to enable them to ramp up their communications tools for sales teams. Microsoft, however, is not looking to compete directly with Salesforce or any specific CRM vendor. Microsoft’s goal here is more around “filling gaps” left behind by legacy and traditional CRM systems that done provides the “smarts” that systems like Salesforce and Dynamics 365 provide for example.

In the official announcement of Viva Sales, Microsoft said:

We definitely think people benefit from a CRM system, the difficulty is, a lot of what’s happening between a customer and a salesperson is actually never recorded in the CRM system, because it’s just too tedious.”.

Jared Spataro | Corporate VP for Microsoft 365

What does Viva Sales do?

Due for release in Q4 2022, Viva Sales will allow sales and marketing teams to automatically synchronise data between any, and all, of their communications applications such as Microsoft Teams and Outlook, and their CRM system which does not have to be Dynamics 365 either. This is like the Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Slack integration, and what Microsoft have done natively with Dynamics 365 and Teams.

In their official blog, Microsoft describe Viva Sales as a intelligent service which enables sellers to capture insights from across Microsoft 365 and Teams, eliminate manual data entry, and receive AI-driven recommendations and reminders – while staying in the flow of work. Viva Sales promises to streamline the seller experience by surfacing the insights with the right context within tools people already use, without them needed to dip in and out of their CRM therefore saving time and ensuring that the CRM becomes part fo the core workflow without compromise on the productivity tools the teams use across the wider organisation.

Microsoft say that Viva Sales will work with any CRM to automate data entry and brings AI-powered intelligence to sellers in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

The key benefit for organisations using Viva Sales is that is that Viva is already (naturally) integrated with Microsoft Teams and Outlook which are used and adopted.

The launch of Viva Sales isn’t just about sales however. What!!!?, Well, Microsoft has a much broader vision with Viva to provide a layer of intelligence across its entire Office 365 suite and Teams. This strategy is demonstrated by the incredible reach and integration available through the Microsoft Graph – a major part of strategy for moving beyond the underlying enterprise resource planning tools and more towards the type of workflow play displayed and respected by the likes of ServiceNow.

A Change of Approach

This approach is a strategic shift for Microsoft. In the past, Microsoft’s go-to-market strategy was to require their customers to choose their products such as Teams and Dynamics 365 over the say WebEx, Zoom and then Salesforce or HubSpot. With Viva Sales, this is now about choosing what products work for you and then leveraging the intelligence services through Viva and the Microsoft Graph to bridge them together and provide data intelligence on top.

“The most significant thing about this announcement is we are saying … choose whatever you want to choose — what we actually think will be most valuable over time will be the layer of intelligence that binds it all together.”.

Microsoft

Microsoft have compared the enterprise software industry to that of a city, where it is built from the ground up. For example, If Azure, AWS and GCP are the city’s foundations, then SaaS applications and workflow are its roads and buildings.

“People will keep putting money into sewers and roads and stuff like that,” he said, “but a lot more money goes into the hardware put on top.”

What do you think?

What do you think of the announcement? Is this a good move for Microsoft or are sellers better off just working in their native CRM?




Like what you read, why not subscribe?

Microsoft ends support for their once-dominant web browser Internet Explorer.

Today (June 15th 2022), what was once the “king of the web browsers” has officially retired after 27 years, marking the end of an era. As of now Internet Explorer is officially “end of life”.

Bill Gates and Microsoft Internet Explorer Logo
Bill Gates – Showcases Internet Explorer (c)

Microsoft Internet Explorer was released in 1995 and quickly became the dominant browser, almost instantly wiping out the previous dominant player Netscape. Internet Explorer was the dominant web-browser for more than a decade as it was bundled with the Windows operating system (similar to how Edge is today) that came pre-installed on billions of computers.

What does “End-of-life” mean?

In short, just that – it’s dead. Officially, “End of life” refers to the point in time when an application is no longer supported by the software company that makes it. In this case, Microsoft’s end of life for Internet Explorer means continued use of the browser after today is still allowed, but Microsoft will no longer update it, patch it or support it if something goes wrong.

This is important since new computer viruses, malware, and ransomware attacks are developed daily, and the web-browser is a major window into many of the apps that employees, customers, consumers use every day. Users should therefore stop using Internet Explorer use their modern Chromium-based Edge browser (or other 3rd party choice) since no more security updates will be provided by Microsoft as of now.

It has been a while coming

This has been a while coming, ever since Internet Explorer’s market share continued to be dominated by Google Chrome and others and Microsoft announced, and launched it’s new Edge Browser which built on the open source Chromium framework which Google uses within it’s Chrome browser.

Microsoft had already ended support for Internet Explorer for their Teams web app back in 2020, shortly followed by removing support across their other key web apps and services including OneDrive, Dynamnics, PowerApps, Outlook and Office from August 2021.

“Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10,”

Microsoft

Microsoft will continue to be supported in very few situations including with customers running the Windows 10 long term services branch (ltsb).

The Future is Edge

Microsoft Edge, was released in 2015 and was upgraded in 2019 to include the Chromium open-source code which Microsoft is now a major contributor along side Google and others. The move was done to compete with more popular browsers like Google Chrome, which has (and still does in part) dominated the market.

Microsoft Edge is a modern open-source browser and offers improved compatibility, streamlined productivity, and hugely better browser security.

As new apps and software products are released onto the market by other companies, old software versions can’t keep up. Microsoft Edge Chromium-based browser can now support a wider variety of platforms, which makes it more useful for the modern era. IE 11, in comparison, held limitations preventing it from updating alongside newer technologies.

What about legacy web apps and sites?

For older websites and services, Microsoft Edge provides a built-in “Internet Explorer mode”, making the use of using older web browsers like Internet Explorer unnecessary.

Microsoft recognise that many larger organisations “may have a surprisingly large set of legacy Internet Explorer-based websites and apps, built up over many years.” As such Microsoft have promised to support legacy web apps via it’s Internet Explorer mode until at least 2029, which gives web developers 8 full years to modernise their legacy apps and eventually remove the need for IE mode.

Legacy Support and Help is available

Users shifting from Internet Explorer to Edge can easily transition their passwords, favourite websites, and other browsing data from to Edge.

Microsoft recommends that any organisation that still has concerns or needs to support Internet Explorer (and therefore need legacy support) do the following.


Like what you read? Feel free to subscribe

Microsoft to acquire cyber intelligence research expert Miburo

Microsoft continues its huge investment and expansion of their leading cyber security, threat analysis and response solutions with the acquisition of Milburo, a world leader in foreign threat analysis and research detection services.

They announced via their security blog site that they have entered into an agreement to acquire Milburo, who will be ‘assimilated’ so to speak into Microsoft’s Customer Security and Trust organisation.

Microsoft will leverage Milburo portfolio to help bolster their current threat detection platforms while also expanding their abilities to counter new cyber threats and state sanctioned information operations and attacks. Miburo’s mission statement is to “protect democracies and the free information environment from malign influence and extremism.”

“Working in close collaboration with the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, our Threat Context Analysis team, our data scientists and others, the new analysts from Miburo will enable Microsoft to expand its threat detection and analysis capabilities to address new cyber-attacks and shed light on the ways in which foreign actors use information operations in conjunction with other cyber-attacks to achieve their objectives. Miburo has become a leading expert in identification of foreign information operations.”

Tom Burt |Microsoft

The public announcement arrives just a month after Microsoft acknowledged its role in combating many state-sanctioned cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns aimed at Ukraine by Russia.

Microsoft 365 Admin Center now lets admins report on Windows & Office Update compliance

Microsoft Security Logo

Microsoft has unveiled a new “software updates” dashboard in the Microsoft 365 admin center that enables IT to get a simple, unified overview of the installation status of Windows and Microsoft 365 app updates across all their devices. This is currently in preview.

Software update tab in Admin Centre

“Keeping devices current with the latest security updates is an important part of an IT admin’s role. The software updates page in the health section of the Microsoft 365 admin center provides a high-level summary view that informs you of devices that may be behind on taking the latest updates released by Microsoft. “

Microsoft

The software updates page now has a new tab that shows Windows update status and end of service statistics. These charts provide information about all the Windows devices running unsupported versions of the Windows as well as those that reaching the end of support.

There is a separate tab which provides update status for Microsoft 365 Apps.


This new dashboard currently only provides update status for Microsoft 365 apps and the core Windows OS, but they plan to expand this in the future to cover critical on premises servers such as Exchange.

There is currently no ability to drill down into the non compliant devices. To do this you need to head the Security pane or Microsoft Endpoint Manager but I suspect this will be linked by the time it comes out of preview.

You can read the full blog here.

Windows Autopatch is now available for public preview

Microsoft Autopatch

Windows Autopatch, a service to automatically keep Windows and Microsoft 365 up to date in enterprise organisations, has now reached public preview. When officially released (GA), it will be included Microsoft commercial customers with a Windows Enterprise E3 license or higher.


In short, Windows Autopatch automatically allows organisation to shift the management and deployment of Windows 10, Windows 11 and Microsoft 365 Apps including quality and feature updates, drivers, firmware to Microsoft.

What’s the purpose?

Essentially this aims to take the nightmare out of the age-old “patch Tuesday” and promises to be a great time saver for IT admins. With Autopatch, IT can continue to use their existing tools and processes for managing and deploying updates to devices OR can look to phase in or replace this in entirety and with this new “hands off” approach and let Windows Autopatch take care of security, driver and firmware updates.

“Changing the way things get done, even when that change makes things easier, gives pause to most people who run large IT organisations. By joining the public preview, you’ll be able to get comfortable with Windows Autopatch and ready your organisation to take advantage of the service at scale”.

Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft


The main purpose of Windows Autopatch is moving the update orchestration burden from the IT department to Microsoft. Once deployed, configured and tested, Autopatch should allow the entire effort around planning and managing the Windows Update process (sequencing and rollout) to be taken away from IT freeing up time and resources.

“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate,” Bela added.

“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate.”

Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft

How to enable Autopatch

Windows Autopatch devices must be managed by Microsoft Intune for this to work and Intune must be set as the Mobile Device Management (MDM) authority or co-management must be turned on and enabled on the target devices.

As you’d expect, there are a handful of steps needed to enable the preview and to enrol your Microsoft 365 tenant into the Windows Autopatch public preview:

  • Log on to Endpoint Manager as a Global Admin and navigate to the Windows Autopatch blade which is under the Tenant Administration menu – this will only be visible if you have the right licenses deployed.
  • Using an InPrivate browser window, redeem your Autopatch preview code
  • Run the readiness assessment, add the required admin contact, and add the devices you want to enrol in the service.
  • Tick the box, to allow Microsoft to manage updates on behalf of your organisation.
Allowing Microsoft to manage updates for your organisation

Microsoft provides regularly updated instructions on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve common errors such as “tenant not ready,” “device not ready” or “device not registered.”

Microsoft also provides detailed instructions (and video) on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve the status of “tenant not ready,” or a status of “device not ready” or “device not registered.”

Microsoft YouTube video on enabling Windows Autopatch

How Autopatch works

The Windows Autopatch service automatically splits your organisation’s device estate into four groups of devices described by Microsoft as “testing rings”.

  • Test Ring: Contains a minimum number of devices for test purposes
  • First Ring: Contains ~1% of all endpoints (think of this like the early adopter ring)
  • Fast Ring: Contains ~9% of devices
  • Broad Ring: Contains the rest of the devices.

The updates are deployed progressively, starting with the test ring and moving to the larger sets of devices following a validation period in which the system and IT can monitor device performance and compare it to pre-update metrics through End Point Analytics.

Autopatch rings. Image (c) Microsoft

Autopatch also features a nifty, feature called “Halt and Rollback” that block updates from being applied to higher test rings or rolled back automatically. This is key for critical dates or projects which may be impacted by updates or where quality errors are detected in the Test Ring updates.

What about Patch Tuesday and Critical Updates?

Microsoft will continue to deliver monthly security and quality updates for supported versions of the Windows on the second Tuesday of the month (commonly referred to Patch Tuesday or Update Tuesday) as they have been to date. These will be delivered by Autopatch also.

For normal updates, Autopatch uses a regular release cadence starting with devices in the test ring and completing with general rollout to broad ring.

Any updates addressing a critical vulnerability, such as Zero Day threats, will be expedited by Windows Autopatch with a aim to patch all devices immediately.


Microsoft provides further info in the Windows Autopatch support documentation, including details on service eligibility, prerequisites, licensing and features.

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.

Microsoft FY22 Q3: Big increases across Azure, Microsoft 365, Security Windows, Surface & Xbox

Microsoft’s Q3 2022 financial results we annouced last night, and once again they have annouced double-digit growth. Here’s the headlines.

  • Revenue $49.4 Billion (up 18%)
  • Net Income $16.7 Billion
  • Profit increase of 8% year on year

Much of this quarter’s growth is related to the cloud, with server and cloud services revenue up 29%  and Microsoft Cloud up 32% to $23.4 billion. Here’s a summary of the results.

Microsoft 2022 Q3 results

More Personal Computing

Up 11% to $14.5Billion was Microsoft’s “more personal computing” division which includes Windows and Xbox.

Up 11% also was “Windows OEM revenue growth,”.  Satya Nadella said that “Companies are adopting Windows 11 at a faster pace than any previous release.”

Xbox had its best sales in 11 years (up 14%), easily beating the relatively limited PS5 in terms of supply.

Cloud, Office 365, Business Processes

Office 365 revenue was up 17% in commercial and 12% in consumer with them now boasting 58.4 million consumer subscribers, up 2 million from last quarter and 8 million from this time last year.

Intelligent Cloud (Azure) revenue increased 46% in the quarter, and Microsoft said that the number of Azure deals worth at least $100million in the quarter more than doubled

LinkedIn continues to see huge growth, up 34% this quarter, which follows growth of 37%, 42% and 46% respectively in the previous three quarters.

Security was up 45% and was a huge call out, with revenue growth from security products and services across of Microsoft’s three segments.

Devices / Surface

Microsoft’s Surface devices also has a good quarter, up 13% increase in revenue despite the ongoing chip shortage. 2022 is Surface’s 10th anniversary, and I expect some big announcements this year to mark the date later this year.

Aquisition and Other Stuff

Microsoft announced a plan during this quarter to acquire video-game publisher Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the largest transaction in Microsoft’s 47-year history.

Microsoft also closed its Nuance Communications acquisition and laid out a strategy for expanding in health care, an industry Nuance focuses on.

Full report and annoucement

You can read the full report and analysis here.

https://news.microsoft.com/2022/04/26/microsoft-cloud-strength-fuels-third-quarter-results-2/

Microsoft has created an awesome mashup of the latest Surface and Windows 11 innovations

In recent years, Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple Book and is know known for putting together some pretty awesome product launch and general marketing videos for their Surface Lineup and Windows 11.

Whilst we usually only see these things at annual press events and new product launches such as Laptop Studio or Surface Duo, Panos Panay has recently taken to social media and posted a really awesome mashup reveal of the latest innovations across Windows 11 and the Microsoft Surface Products.

Many of my followers will know that I am a huge fan of Surface and also an MVP for #Windows11, but I must admit, this short video even gave me goosebumps since it really does capture the best of what makes Surface devices truly remarkable and innovative (setting the standard for other OEMs). The video also shows some of the latest enhancements within Windows 11 that were annouced formerly in their Future of Work event on the 5th April, where Panos showed off enhancements to things like Fluent icons, the Start Menu, and Windows Hello.

Check it out below!

Microsoft Authenticator adds ability to generate Secure Passwords for you.

To mark the one year anniversary since Microsoft launched their Autofill feature on Authenticator, they have just updated the service with the ability to auto generate strong, unique passwords for you.

Microsoft Autofill (like a password manager) allows you to (for personal and corporate use) unites all of your passwords and stores them security in Azure AD via your Microsoft Account (or Azure AD account) for use across Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome (via an extension) as well as across your smart phone. Furthermore, the Microsoft Authenticator app can be used for managing all your passwords and this new feature helps you be even more secure online by generating secure and unique passwords that you don’t even need to worry about remembering (which is traditionally what leads to weak passwords).

Microsoft Authenticator App

To access this new feature, you need to be running the latest version of Authenticator on iOS or Android.

Authenticator will prompt you to use the feature when ever you create a new password for a website or cloud service or when you change the password of an existing one.

The app has slightly different behaviour across iOS and Android at the moment.

  • Android – tap the Passwords section, then click the (+) button, and choose Generate Password. You can save any passwords with the save icon and even name or copy them.
  • iOS – clickthe ellipses button at the top right of the app, and choose password generator.

What do you think. Do you use Microsoft Authenticator for password management today? What do you think of this new feature.

Surface Laptop SE – hands on video-review

Surface Laptop SE

Microsoft is known for setting the standard and innovating the laptop market with Surface and with Surface Laptop SE they have done it again – this time at the lowest end of the market with the extremely cheap but well built Surface that starts from just £229.

What is Surface Laptop SE?

Microsoft target market for Surface Laptop SE is schools that buy laptops in bulk to give to students in classrooms and/or to take home. This is laptop for children from primary age up to mid-secondary school age, which explains why this has been built with lower end specifications and the more lightweight and plastic design.

Surface Laptop SE is not sold commercially or direct to consumers and runs Windows 11 SE, which relies on remote provisioning, deploying, and admin for installing and maintaining applications.

Note: Windows 11 SE is not like Windows 10 in S Mode. Windows 11 SE run apps from both in and from outside the Microsoft Store. The main difference is that the OS is trimmed down and has been specifically optimised for lower specification devices. Windows SE is Microsoft's solution to help empower teachers and learners with productive, sturdy and reliable laptops at scale. 

For a device that costs between £229 and £300 you might think “really!!!!”, but I’d say that Microsoft has done it again and created an awesome piece of budget hardware which should set a new standard for low-end devices built specifically for Pre-School, Primary and lower Secondary School students.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop SE is available to education through Surafce resellers and also via Microsoft directly and pricing starts from just £229 for the 4GB RAM/64GB model, which comes with a dual-core Intel Celeron N4020 processor. The model I tested, was the slightly higher specification model which retails at around £299 and has 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage and a quad-core Intel Celeron N4120 CPU.

First Impressions: Look and Feel

This looks like a Surface! From a design perspective, the Surface Laptop SE has some similarities from its sibling, the Surface Laptop Go, but has a much more attractive price for the education market. To get to a price of just £229, Microsoft have had to compromise in a number of areas such as swapping the sleek “Surface” metal for a more child-friendly plastic for the overall chassis design. Do not let that put you off though – it is still a sleek and elegant design that looks modern, clean and far more premium than it should for a device at this price.

Unveiling – Surface Laptop SE

The top lid features a simple but bold Surface logo, while the underside of the device is clean with just seven screws that hold it together allowing for easy accessibility for repairs – yes – this is a repairable device! Alongside this, there are four rubber feet with the two rear ones being slightly taller than the front to allow a natural and angled keyboard typing experience.

Port and connectivity wise, the Laptop SE has a USB Type-A, USB Type-C (which supports power, data and video display), a headphone jack, a separate barrel type charger in favour for a the standard Surafce Connector – which I found a little odd, but presumably is much cheaper to replace.

Laptop SE is extremely light – weighing just over a kilo at 1.11kg (about 2.4 pounds) which is the weight of a bag of sugar! You can see my “unboxing experience” below.

First Impressions: Useability

So first things and weird to get my head round is that the Surafce Laptop SE does not have a touch screen, nor does it support pen and ink! This is not surprising given the price point but had to put that out there – it is a Surface after all!

Typing Experience

It’s normally easy to tell a cheap/budget laptop from the quality of the casing, keyboard and trackpad but not on Surface Laptop SE. The experience on Laptop SE is every bit premium and features exceptional quality and usability. Unlike many other budget laptops, Microsoft have reinforced the keyboard, which provides a sturdy and premium typing experience which is IMO the same as the experience on any Surafce Laptop Go .

Display

As a budget device, Microsoft have replaced the usual LCD multi-touch screen found it other Surface devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio, 11.6-inch non-touch TFT screen with a resolution of 1366×768 and an aspect ration of 135 pixels per inch.

When using the Surface Laptop SE, the display is bright, colours look good and the matt screen works well (especially given that in a school environment it’s usually bright and light). Viewing angles are good too and it’s easy to see the screen even if you are looking square on. Finally, screen bezels are a bit thick, but given this is designs for school use, it means you dont grab the screen when closing the lid or changing the angle.

Surface Laptop SE is equipped with just a 1-megapixel 720p (30 FPS) front-facing camera, which is of course a lower budget option compared to the flagship devices. Despite the lower resolution, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the camera worked (even in low and bright light), and in a Teams test call with myself, the image quality was very good and sharp. The onboard microphone is also really good (well it was in limited test environment) and did a great job of picking up all the relevant voice tones.

Battery Life

Given this is a device for schools, it needs to last the school day at least right and even more if the schools are providing these on a 1:1 basis for students which is happening more and more.

Battery life is good, Microsoft claims 16 hours, which they never seem to get right in real life, but I used my test device for a whole day from 8:30am until the battery died at around 4:30pm – a solid 8.5hrs of constant use with it plugged into a second screen, running on wireless and with all my common apps open including Teams which I used for around 6 Teams Meetings.

Performance and Workload

Surface Laptop SE is totally silent in operation. It doesn’t get hot, it does not have a fan, so it produces no ambient noise – at all.

My Test Scenario
1. Battery fully charged (no plugged int mains)
2. Wireless On
3. External Monitor Connected via USB-C in Extended Mode
4. Brightness and Power all set to “auto”
5. Workloads tested: 6 x Teams Calls (with video), PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, Edge

As you’d imagine by the insanely low price point, Surface Laptop SE is no power horse, though it performed surprisingly well given what I threw at it.

For the main all my core apps like Office Apps and Teams ran well. The device comes with Minecraft Education Edition installed too, so took this for a spin over lunch and it too ran without an issue or lag (I just need to learn how to play it). Surface Laptop SE seemed quite happy chugging along with the majority of my day-to-day productivity apps together. Apps running via the browser were naturally more responsive which is one of the great things with modern apps like Office 365 in the browser.

Multiple App launching

The only place where it seems to “struggle” a bit, was initial device boot up, resume from sleep (which takes a second or two) and general “first time” app launching where you really notice the performance lag of the “out-dated” chipsets in this device – the N4120 Celeron processor is some 3 years old. This isn’t Microsoft’s fault as it’s the best they can do (and they have done well) with what Intel offers at this low price point.

That said – performance it is not awful, and after a few hours of use, it feels normal to be honest – this is due in part to the way in which Microsoft optimised Windows 11 SE to take the best advantage of the low-power Celeron N4120 processor, including streamlining the Windows 11 OS to use less system resources.

I cover Windows 11 SE in a separate post.

Conclusion and Closing Comments

Given the age range and sector this device is aimed at – it is more than adequate and a great bit of “value” Surface tech.

Surface Laptop SE Final Thoughts

Surface Laptop SE highlights what makes Surface, a Surface and it sets the standard for low cost, good quality laptops for primary and secondary education. Microsoft’s attention to detail, focus on core features, and quality design where it matters are all what Surface does best and Surface Laptop SE is no exception.

You won’t be buying one of these for the office, but even though this is designed for school children. It feels good to use and doesn’t feel like a budget friendly device at all. Most students (even teachers to be honest), don’t “need” a high-end Surface Laptop or Pro and if this means schools can equip students and teachers with technology to facilitate digital curriculum then Surface Laptop SE can go a long way to help school achieve this.

This of course, brings us to the obvious question about why Microsoft doesn’t sell this directly to consumers as well (with Windows 11 Pro)? I think they should – I’d certainly buy one for my 7 y/o. I think with a slightly better CPU, it would make a great home laptop at a crazy cheap price.

To end this review, if you work at a Primary or Secondary School, are looking at ways to increase your device to student ratio or provide a laptop for every child, Surface Laptop SE should be looked at.


Ready my similar posts…