Office 365 License Management Planning for 2021
With 2021 around the corner, (trust us, we can't believe it either!) it's a good time to start...
Welcome to part four of Addressing the Office 365 Monitoring Gaps. In part 1, Michael Van Horenbeeck discussed the differences in monitoring cloud-based systems vs traditional on-premises deployments. In part 2, we discussed admins least favorite thing, outages. Part 3 was all about the native tools available to admins.
In this post we will cover how organizations can fill the Office 365 monitoring gap and improve their end users experience with Office 365.
As mentioned in part 1, given the scope of this topic and ENow's dedication to high quality posts we decided to break this up into 4 parts.
Monitoring has undoubtedly changed from the purely on-premises days. Back then, IT departments had complete visibility into their infrastructure and the interdependencies. As organizations migrate to Office 365, the baton passes to Microsoft to handle themaintenance of their service, per their SLA agreement. However, Microsoft is only responsible for the cloud service, and has very little visibility into the infrastructure on your side. This creates some blind spots, as you have no visibility into Microsoft’s infrastructure. In a hybrid environment, there are added complexities, creating more places to look when an outage occurs.
The best Office 365 monitoring solutions don’t depend on a single source of data to make assessments. Logically, the more information that is available, the clearer the picture and the better a decision can be made as to what to do should an outage occur. In addition, Office 365 monitoring solutions that extract data on an ongoing basis can report availability and outage trends on a historical basis on a monthly, quarterly, yearly, or long-term basis. Analysis of this data can identify any weaknesses that may exist in a configuration and allow administrators to rectify issues before they become a real problem.
ENow’s Office 365 Monitoring and Reporting solution provides this type of visibility so that users remain productive. It monitors Office 365, your on-premises hybrid services, and remote locations, on a single pane of glass. It provides a single, easy-to-use, view of everything that you need to check. You don’t need separate tools to monitor all these vital components. Everything is integrated and monitored as one system. The monitoring dashboard is ideal for displaying on a large monitor in a network operations center, or in a background window, where a quick glance tells you everything you need to know about the health of your environments. ENow’s single solution enables organization to detect outages immediately, validate the end user experience, and increase adoption while controlling costs.
ENow’s Office 365 Reporting and Monitoring solution is your own personal outage detector that pertains solely to your environment. Knowing immediately when a problem happens, where the fault lies, and why the issue has occurred ensures that any outages are detected and solved as quickly as possible.
ENow’s monitoring provides early warnings of outages in any of the components within the infrastructure, including Office 365. It is, of course, preferable when administrators know that something has gone wrong and have taken steps to rectify the issue before end users notice that they can’t get work done. Even if the problem cannot be immediately addressed because it is within Office 365, a support call can be logged with Microsoft, and a mitigation plan can be set in motion to advise end users what they can do to remain productive. For instance, if Exchange Online is unavailable, you can tell users that clients such as Outlook Web App and mobile devices won’t be able to do much work with email, and that they might be better off switching to Outlook. If SharePoint Online is unavailable, users can be told to work with local copies of documents until online access is restored. Being able to proactively coach and guide end users during outage situations is a much better position to be in than having to scramble to understand what’s going on, and then rushing to react.
It’s important to note that many of the Office 365 outages mentioned previously were eventually reported in the SHD. However, the key difference is the SHD is not tenant specific, meaning customers had no visibility into how the outages impacted their organizations. The information presented is quite vague, as all it really tells you is there is some sort of issue happening somewhere, and the the outage may or may not effect your users. In comparison, ENow’s Office 365 Reporting solution is tenant specific, and can instantly give admins visibility into what services and which subset of their users are effected. For example, the Exchange Online outage on Jan 2, 2019 affected the majority of Europe, but other areas remained undisturbed. In addition to Office 365 service outages, the outage can also be part of the on-premises components you are responsible for. ENow monitors all major components from the Network, Certificates, authentication, as well as your hybrid servers.
The ultimate measure of a service is your end users’ ability to connect to the service and complete tasks pertinent to their role. Unfortunately, Office 365 often leaves many admins in the dark, waiting for their end users to bring a problem to light. When the issue does reach the help desk, there is often no easy way to validate their complaint, which, in turn, increases MTTR.
The best way to measure the end-user experience is to perform synthetic transactions. Synthetic transactions programmatically mimic end-user interactions with the service and typically focus on the most common actions taken by a user. By continually performing the same operations that a“real” client, such as Outlook or Microsoft Teams, would perform, these transactions give you an end-to-end view of the service, including DNS and network operations, logon, as well as sending and receiving data. By establishing a baseline, which includes latency and performance, you can quickly see over a historical time period if there is an issue that needs attention. This could include issues with the service, hybrid components that you maintain or with connectivity between the user’s location and the service.
Although synthetic transactions can provide a lot of information about a specific action, such as whether the action was successful and how long it took to perform a certain task, the behavior of a transaction alone does not necessarily tell you what component caused a specific problem or where an issue occurred. For this, synthetic transactions must be complemented with the necessary application logic and additional tests allowing the monitoring solution to correlate events. By unlocking this level of visibility, you will have detailed insight into the cause and location of the problem. ENow runs its suite of monitoring tests both from the workstation where it’s installed and from an independent cloud provider, giving you a 360-degree perspective on connectivity and functionality issues. ENow’s Remote Probes enable organizations to run monitoring tests from locations they specify. Remote Probes let you monitor service quality and performance from the locations where your users work so you always have up-to- date data about service quality in those locations. Monitoring the experience that individual end users have when using the service is critical to identifying and localizing problems. By deploying Remote Probes where your users are, you get complete visibility into performance and service quality at each individual location so that you always know where problems are occurring and who is affected.
In an on premises world, Microsoft introduced new features every few years within major releases. Back then, companies had the choice to deploy the software. If they did, configuration of several services (Exchange, SharePoint, Lync) and training end users was required. Office 365 delivers new features nearly every month that can improve end user collaboration and productivity. While the fast-paced cloud world reaps a plethora of benefits, it also introduced a new set of challenges. How do you know if your user community is really adopting and using these features? If they are not using these features, is your organization really taking advantage of the licenses they purchased?
While Microsoft does offer an Adoption Pack, it has some limitations. For example, it is limited to the last 12 months or less, depending on the service. In addition, it requires elevated permissions to setup and customize the reports. The user level details are only available for the last complete month, for users with an assigned product license. Sharing reports presents a challenge for many companies, as both parties must have Power Bi Pro or Premium. In essence, if one user has the free Power Bi service, they cannot share their dashboards.
ENow closes the Office 365 Monitoring gap by properly monitoring adoption, enabling IT Pros to pinpoint underutilized licenses. For example, one report can identify that a particular department, like marketing is not leveraging Microsoft Teams. Upon investigation, IT Pros may find that the Marketing Team is: using a competing service that could be eliminated, unaware that Microsoft Teams was available to them, do not how to use it, or perhaps they don’t need the application to meet their goals. Out of the box, Office 365 gives very limited information when it comes to licensing. ENow’s solution empowers organizations to obtain financial accountability by driving hidden costs out of their Office 365 investment. Gaining insights into the usage and attribution of those licenses is important. It can help organizations make better decisions on what licenses to buy or which ones to swap for another license plan.
Microsoft continues to invest huge amounts of money in growing the reach and expanding the size of Office 365. They’re adding new services and capabilities, expanding into new regions, and ramping up their marketing efforts to capture more (and larger!) customers. Along with all these activities, they are continuing to slowly enhance their included monitoring tools. However, the nature of cloud services means that customers will never get the complete visibility they need from Microsoft’s own tools; there are some components, such as hybrid services, that must be monitored from the customer side. In addition, customer-centered monitoring of service availability and quality is critical to detecting and resolving problems no matter their origin. ENow is the market leader in Office 365 monitoring and reporting, combining synthetic transaction-based monitoring with Microsoft’s own monitoring APIs to give you a clear, actionable picture of the state of your cloud services. Its unique combination of reporting and monitoring functionality has led global companies like Facebook, Dignity Health, and The Wonderful Company to choose ENow.
On-premises components, such as AD FS, PTA, and Exchange Hybrid are critical for Office 365 end user experience. In addition, something as trivial as expiring Exchange or AD FS certificates can certainly lead to unexpected outages. By proactively monitoring hybrid components, ENow gives you early warnings where hybrid components are reaching a critical state, or even for an upcoming expiring certificate. Knowing immediately when a problem happens, where the fault lies, and why the issue has occurred, ensures that any outages are detected and solved as quickly as possible.