PSTN dial-in for Microsoft Teams meetings is now free and unlimited for enterprise, business, frontline, and gov.

In addition to the recent price rises annouced last week to almost all Microsoft 365 plans (other than the highest E5 plans), Microsoft also annouced some good value news for users of Microsoft Teams.

And today, we are announcing that we will add unlimited dial-in capabilities for Microsoft Teams meetings across our enterprise, business, frontline, and government…

Jared Spataro, Corporate VP | Microsoft 365

What’s it currently cost?

At time of writing, Microsoft’s PSTN Audio Conferencing is included with Microsoft 365 E5 and Office 365 E5 (for free) but requires an add-on licence for all other licences such as E3 (the most common base licence across most organisations).

The PSTN audio conferencing licence (add on) is currently priced at circa £3pupm (about $4) and for enterprise customers on an Enterprise Agreement (EA), there is also an option to pay via Pay Per Minute billing.

What about dial-out conferencing?

In the official Microsoft blog, they refer to unlimited dial-in conferencing and do not specifically talk about any changes to dial-out conferencing where a meeting participant calls a user into a conference from a meeting rather than them dialing in.

Under the currently model, each licenced user gets a pooled 60 minutes per user per month that can be used to dial-out to non-premium numbers in any of the Zone A countries. More info on that here.

It’s not known (well I couldn’t find it) if this is also changing under the new plan.

Big value or not?

Microsoft has more than 300 million commercial paid seats, though less than 10% of these are E5 so adding this value to all Office/Microsoft 365 plans is of course welcomed value.

This, on the Surface is clearly good news and should potitivley impact a very large number of organisations (assuming they use Microsoft Teams for meetings of course) adding more value to the license they pay for (price rises aside of course).

The question remains of course, as in todays online world how many people still “dial in” to conferences and this of course limits the other mediums and media in a teams meetings such as video, content sharing/viewing and app Co authoring but is useful in situations where you are perhaps driving, travelling or in a area with no or poor Internet connectivity.

Source article

Read more here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2021/08/19/new-pricing-for-microsoft-365/

Welcome your thoughts or feedback. Is this a good move or not?

Latest updates to Microsoft Whiteboard bring new collaboration capabilities for Windows, Teams, iOS and Web.

Announced this week on the Microsoft 365 Admin Center, the latest version of Whiteboard is now rolling out to Microsoft Teams and Web users but is also coming soon for Windows and iOS. The new features are coming in 2 waves with the first set of updates coming now.

Rolling out now

This 1st new update brings new collaboration capabilities including new sticky note colours, highlighter colours, new content types, improved inking support and a few other features. There’s also a “read-only mode” for education.

More on the way…

In addition to these features, Microsoft is also agressively working on additional features (due late September), including laser pointer, collaborative cursors, customizable templates, better object alignment, and a new lick of pain for the overall UI which also promise to bring performance enhancements to the Whiteboard app performance in Teams and web clients. These were annouced at ignite earlier this year.

Microsoft 365 E5 becomes more “cost efficient” as non E5 SKUs get first price increase in years..

Microsoft’s have annouced the first ‘substantive’ price increase for many of its commercial Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscription plans is coming in March 2022.

On March 1, 2022, Microsoft will be increasing prices for most of its commercial Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions with the exception of consumer, education and also Microsoft 365 E5, which will not be increased.

The increases will range from $12 per user per year more for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, to $48 per user per year more for Microsoft 365 E3. In some cases, Microsoft is increasing prices to match those of the competition (read, Google), officials said. In other cases, it is adjusting prices to reflect the considerable value added to the Office 365/Microsoft 365 suites over the past several years, they added.   

Microsoft have said in a blog post that since the introduction of Microsoft 365 four years ago, they has added 24 apps to their Office 365/Microsoft 365 suites, including Teams, Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate, Stream, Planner, Visio, OneDrive, Yammer and Whiteboard as well as over 1,400 new features to its the core products across Microsoft 365 subscriptions over the past decade.

How much are the increases?

I’ve only seen the US$ pricing so far, but price increases range from $12 pupm for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, to $48 pupm for Microsoft 365 E3. In many cases the reason for these increases is to reflect the considerable amount of value added services added to the Office 365/Microsoft 365  over the past few years.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic up $1 to $6pupm

Microsoft 365 Business Premium up $2 to  $22 pupm

Office 365 E1 up $2 to $10 pupm

Office 365 E3 up $3to $23 pupm

Office 365 E5 up $3 to $38 pupm

Microsoft 365 E3 up $4 to $36 pupm

Microsoft 365 E5 No change at $57 pupm.

Microsoft 365 F SKUs – No change.

Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft 365 said “Microsoft believes the changes in prices may make the Microsoft 365 E5 SKU even more attractive” to customers”.

Take but give back..

Microsoft also said (more quietly) that that will be adding unlimited dial-in capabilities for Teams meetings across all its paid enterprise, business, frontline worker and government suites over the next few months (after offering free conferencing on a limited time for the last 12 months). This will help drive more people towards audio dial in (and presumably voice services) within Microsoft Teams and allows meeting participants to dial-in and join a Teams meeting from any device. Without needing the Teams client installed.

Read more….

For the official annoucement (US only at time of writing), read the official blog here.

Microsoft and Rubrik Partner to bolster Zero Trust,and Ransomware protection

MICROSOFT and Rubrik (a US-based, Gartner leading data backup and protection company) have announced a new strategic partnership which will see them working together to providing Zero Trust data protection to help organisations protect and mitigate against the rising threat and risks of ransomware attacks across cloud and hybrid cloud environments, including or course Azure and Microsoft 365.

This work will address the rising customer needs to protect against surging ransomware attacks, which are growing 150% year on year.

As part of the partnership, Microsoft has also made an equity investment in Rubrik.

Who are Rubrik?

Rubrik work with enterprise customers, helping them protect and recover from ransomware attacks, automate data security operations, and transition data from on premises data centres to the cloud.

Like Microsoft, Rubrik takes a Zero Trust approach to data management, which follows the NIST principles of Zero Trust. Zero Trust is based on the concept of “never trust, always verify.” In practice, this means that access to any resource within the network must be subject to specified trust dimensions, or parameters. Failure to meet these parameters results in denial or revocation of access. This is in complete contrast to previous security models that assumed implicit trust within the network perimeter.

Rubrik said in an annoucement that;

“As the pioneer of Zero Trust Data Management, Rubrik is helping the world’s leading organizations manage their data and recover from ransomware. Together with Microsoft, we are delivering tightly integrated data protection while accelerating and simplifying our customer’s journey to the cloud.”

Bipul Sinha | Co-founder and CEO |Rubrik

The better together story

Rubrik and Microsoft are already partners and according to Microsoft in their press statement, have been working together with over 2,000 mutual customers using Azure across six continents. In a press release announcing this new strategic partnership, Microsoft said that “the two companies will be providing Zero Trust data protection for hybrid cloud environments, including Microsoft 365“.

End-to-end application and data management is critical to business success, and we believe that integrating Rubrik’s Zero Trust Data Management solutions with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 will make it easy for customers to advance their Zero Trust journey and increase their digital resilience.

Nick Parker, Microsoft CVP Global Partner Solutions.

Summary and Thoughts

The data backup and recovery market is a big and crowded marketplace with leading companies like Veeam, Acronis, Veritas, ArcSerce, Commvault etc, making data backup and recovery their market and currency.

Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup & Recovery

Microsoft uses a “shared responsibility” model for data and availability in that they take responsibility for the services being available, online and resilient, but it’s up to the customer delivered online to govern, secure, backup, and maintain their data and content which has been where the traditional backup and recovery vendors have stepped in.

This investment could signal a new longer term area of focus and growth for Microsoft which could put pressure on the other vendors in this space especially if Microsoft now have a vetted interest to have a “preferred” partner / vendor for data protection and recovery.


What do you think?

Do you work with or use Rubrik for data protection? How do you see this playing out. Good or bad for the market?

Microsoft Teams will finally let users “swap” meeting content with the Gallery view

Microsoft Teams is getting a new much needed feature that will allow users to swap between shared content and the Gallery view during meetings.

Now in Public Preview, this new feature is (though I’m sure it was there once before) rolling out to users enrolled in the public preview channel using Windows 10 and macOS clients.

What does this new feature provide?

The new swap experience (supported in both large gallery & dynamic mode as well as Together Mode) finally means that users can now simply swap between any content being shared and on their chosen participant video feeds, bringing participant videos to the center and content like shared desktop/window, PowerPoint presentation or Whiteboard etc to the side or top.

Clicking on the shared content again brings the shared content back to the center of the meeting window. Gallery view and Together mode. Previously, the app used to disable the 49-person Large Gallery view in screen sharing mode, but this release lets users enable Large Gallery while sharing content or screen.

This may sound like a little thing… It is, but it’s been a niggle of many of my customers (and me once I discovered you actually couldn’t do…. I’m convinced I used to be able to).


A few bugs…

I’ve only tried this a few times in meetings as it “lit up” for me today and there a few bits that don’t quite work yet (which Microsoft do state in their blog).

In the preview version, Whiteboard content and PowerPoint Live presentations cannot be viewed in the swap state though I expect this will get sorted before it’s officially live for everyone.


If you have this preview feature, test out and make sure to file feedback via the Teams Feedback section in the app.

Microsoft launches Windows 11 Innovation Portal

This week (end of July 21), Microsoft made Windows 11 available to #WindowsInsiders in the BETA channel (it’s been available for a month now in the DEV channel).

To help Insiders (and the general consumer and corporate) understand exactly what did and is going into the development of Windows 11, Microsoft have put together a informative “Windows 11 Innovation Portal”

What’s inside?

The portal has a collection of videos from various key Windows 11 developers, marketing managers and Panos Panay himself which look at how general product feedback from users and #WindowsInsiders have helped and will continue to help shape Windows 11.

Windows 11 Insider portal

Other videos in the collection focus on the extensive ways in Windows11’s accessibility features have been designed and there’s then a section of info and videos that introduce some of the newly designed and AI fueled features such as the new start menu, touch keyboard, voice typing, snap view and new “tablet posture”.

So.. If you want to know more (before during or after you’ve installed Windows11) check it out now and let me (and other #WindowsInsiders) know what you think.

Microsoft adds SafeLinks protection to Teams

Microsoft 365 now has “Safe Links” protections across Microsoft Teams for any organisation that uses Microsoft Defender for Office 365 (formally Office 365 ATP).

Defender for Office 365

What is Safe Links?

Safe Links is a feature of Defender for Office 365 that scans URLs clicked by end users to check for malware and malicious or phishing sites in real time.

Safe Links was first introduced in 2015 (for just Exchange Online at the time) and was originally used to “detonate” links in e-mails to detect malicious payloads. Safe Links was subsequently added to Microsoft 365 applications, as well, such as PowerPoint and Word.

With the latest update and expansion across Microsoft 365, Safe Links now provides transparent, integrative and native intelligent protections against malicious links in conversations, group chats and channels chat across Microsoft Teams.

Enabling the feature

This can be configured in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal. Detailed instructions can be found here

As with SafeLinks across the other Office services, admins can add exclusions and trusted sites if needed.

New “Side-by-Side” and “Reporter” Presenter modes coming in August to Teams

ReporterMode_InTeams

Coming to complement the newly released “Standout mode” that rolled out to Microsoft Teams last months, 2 new immersive presentation modes are about to start rolling out.

This update is referenced within Microsoft 365  Roadmap ID 83371.

What do the new modes mean for presenters?

Thia update will enhance the presenter view to make desktop or app sharing more inclusive and better for hybrid meetings, ensuring the presenter can be seen at all times. Side by Side and Reporter Mode

Side by Side Mode

In this mode, meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed and content overlaid on a background image (which can be customised).

Side-By-Side mode in Teamss
Side by side presenter mode in Teams

Reporter Mode

In this mode, the meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed superimposed over the background image while having the content over their shoulder, placed diagonally. Like. TV broadcast.

ReporterMode_InTeams
Reporter Mode in Teams

The modes are customisable….with different backgrounds (not custom ones yet though).

What can be customised?

  • Presenters are able to customise the background image before starting the presentation.
  • Presenters are able to enable or disable the video feed during the presentation from the sharing bar.

Microsoft buys CloudKnox, the only multi-cloud, hybrid cloud permissions management platform

After their acquisition RiskIQ just last week and ReFirm the month before, Microsoft have just annouced they are now aquiring CloudKnox, a leader in Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM).

Who are CloudKnox?

Founded in 2015, CloudKnox, are the only multi-cloud, hybrid cloud permissions management platform that provide granular visibility, automated remediation and continuous monitoring consistently enforcing least-privilege principles to reduce risk. CloudKnox works with Azure, as well as the AWS and Google public clouds as well with leading virtualisation and hybrid cloud vendors including VMware.

Image displaying key features of CloudKnox
CloudKnox

CloudKnox are the leaders in Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) space and offers complete visibility into privileged access within cloud services.

What Microsoft plans to do with the CloudKnox acquisition.

In Microsoft’s most recent security blog, Joy Chik (VP of Identity at Microsoft) said:

“Modern identity security needs to protect all users and resources consistently across multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments….Today, Microsoft is taking a significant step toward this goal with the acquisition of CloudKnox Security, a leader in Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM). CloudKnox offers complete visibility into privileged access. It helps organizations right-size permissions and consistently enforce least-privilege principles to reduce risk, and it employs continuous analytics to help prevent security breaches and ensure compliance. This strengthens our comprehensive approach to cloud security.”

Joy Chik, Corporate VP of Microsoft Identity

The post (which can be read here) summarises how Microsoft will leverage the CloudKnox technology to help Security Admins with tasks such as managing privileged access in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environment through a set of comprehensive yet simple threat assessments and prevention methods as well as ensuring security enforcement and governance.

Finally Microsoft said that the acquisition of CloudKnox will allow Microsoft to further harden Azure Active Directory with more granular visibility, continuous monitoring and automated remediation for their hybrid and multi-cloud identities, access and permissions further solidifying their market leading position in Identity and Access Management.


Windows Server and SQL 2008 and 2012 – Extended Support Options

SQL and Windows Server 2008

Extended Security Updates were made available (at a cost) by Microsoft for both SQL Server and Windows Server versions 2008 and 2008 R2 since “official support” ended but these extended support update are also now coming to an end on:

  • SQL Server 2008: July 9th, 2022
  • Windows Server 2008/2008 R”: Jan 14th, 2023 respectively.

If your organisation is still running any of these older server products in Azure then you will be currently entitled to (and receiving) 3 years of free Extended Security Updates, and Microsoft have recently announced that one more year of Extended Security Updates will be available BUT ONLY if these workloads are running in Azure.

 

SQL Server and Windows 2012

Support for SQL Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 / 2012 R2 is also coming to an end:

  • SQL Server 2012: July 12th, 2022
  • Windows Server 2012/2012 R2 on October 23rd 2023

As with version 2008, Microsoft will be making (again at a cost) 3 years of Extended Security Updates available from your licensing partner or Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and, as before these will be free if these workloads are running (or moved into) Azure

If you are no planning on moving these into Azure, then you’ll need to buy licences for each server instance you need to cover.

Cost for ESU are

  • Year 1: 75% of the licence cost
  • Year 2: 100% of the licence cost
  • Year 3: 125% of the licence cost

What are my options?

If you are still on Windows Server 2008 or SQL 2008, you have 3 options:

  1. Migrate the VMs/Servers into Azure for  ONE MORE YEAR of free support
  2. Migrate or Rehost apps and workloads to Windows Server and SQL Server on Azure virtual machines
  3. Modernize with Azure services such as App Service and Azure SQL Managed Instance, and never have to patch or upgrade again.

If you are Windows or SQL Server 2012, you have 4 options:

  1. Pay for Extended Support for up to 3 years
  2. Upgrade the Servers to a supported version of SQL and Windows 
  3. Migrate or Rehost apps and workloads to Windows Server and SQL Server on Azure virtual machines
  4. Modernize with Azure services such as App Service and Azure SQL Managed Instance, and never have to patch or upgrade again.

 

Further Reading and References

You can find the formal announcement here, along with the data sheet which does into more detail, as well as a FAQ from Microsoft.