Whats New with Office 365 Compliance Center

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Litigation is costly, time consuming and a headache -- and chances are your company is involved in it in some way. Compliance is the topic that causes many IT leaders to lose sleep, as they wonder whether they will survive a call from legal.

Microsoft is listening.

You would be forgiven if you missed some of the significant compliance news Microsoft announced last week in the midst of the Ignite conference hullabaloo, but the combined announcements show the company's commitment to addressing lingering concerns with putting data in the cloud.

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I’ve been tracking what Microsoft is trying to do with compliance, e-Discovery and other legal and compliance concerns for some time now. The lightspeed push to the cloud over the last five years has left a gaping hole in what organizations can do to get governance of their data under control.

Historically, this had been the realm of the third party. Microsoft announced significant news about Compliance Center in Office 365 during last year's SharePoint conference. One year later, and we've only recently received it.

Since the initial announcement Microsoft has added new features and announced future ones. Highlighted below are a few of those new features and their impact to the overall Office 365 compliance story.

New Features Coming This Year

Drive shipping

Microsoft wants your data. And it wants it so badly that it’s making it very easy for you to migrate bulk content into Office 365. One of the drivers for this is essentially the desire to gain competitive advantage for some of these compliance features. If your data is sitting on-prem, then obviously you’re going to have a tough time getting accurate data with Compliance Center.

In addition to providing a method for migrating content for you, Microsoft has provided a secure method to ship physical drives to Microsoft, while at the same time satisfying chain of custody requirements. This is a key component in many governance programs, so it’s nice to see Microsoft taking it seriously. Essentially you can initiate a job to ship a drive, which will create a unique secure key and help automate the shipping process with an approved Microsoft carrier.

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Integration with Equivio Zoom - Preview June 2015

Microsoft purchased Equivio Zoom last year, and it was no secret as to why. When Microsoft introduced eDiscovery Center for SharePoint 2013, it was a major step in the right direction towards giving organizations basic e-discovery capabilities out of the box. But the e-discovery space is very mature and saturated with advanced solutions that provide predictive coding and other powerful review features.

Enter Equivio.

Making good on its acquisition, Microsoft is offering an integration between its e-discovery functionality and Equivio Zoom, available in preview in June 2015. It will be interesting to see exactly how the integration works. During the live demos, we saw a direct login to Equivio and a quick walkthrough of its functionality. No mention of cost was made. So either this is bundled somewhere within the Enterprise bands, or we'll find out how much extra it will be to take advantage of this integration.

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Compliance Search & Management Activity API - Preview June 2015

In Compliance Center you can cast very wide nets to grab analytics on really anything going on within Office 365. Two of the tangible examples given during Ignite were, “What’s happened to a particular document within 365” or “Show me all activity for a particular user within 365.” This is a very powerful feature that essentially provides a complete audit trail for a single object, no matter the activity.

To extend these capabilities, Microsoft announced a set of REST APIs that will allow partners and customers to take this data and create meaning out of it. Some really fantastic examples were demoed that Microsoft partners created. One example was a graph-driven dashboard that showed various security anomalies based on region. Because the raw data can be tapped into, this dashboard was able to show that a particular region in the organization was experiencing an unusually high level of failed authentication issues.

Partner preview for this API starts in June 2015.

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Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for OneDrive and Office 2016 Apps

The key improvement here is that Policy Tips will now be viewable within OneDrive and Office 2016 apps -- that goes for desktop apps, too.

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Mobile Device Protection in Office 365

This was announced last year, but with its recent availability, it’s worth revisiting. Compliance Center now has capabilities to manage Office 365 data across iOS, Android and Windows devices. You can create mobile device policies for a variety of MDM scenarios from within the management portal.

Automatic Archive Scaling

Compliance Center you have the ability to provide users with an archive mailbox in Outlook and OWA. Essentially this is “in-place” email archiving, without necessitating a third party platform. The announced improvement is essentially automatic archive scaling to an unspecified and unlimited size. Microsoft is removing any boundary that may present itself for users with very large archiving needs.

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Microsoft is clearly committed to addressing tangible concerns that customers have with putting their data and their client’s data in the cloud. With this increased focus in enterprise data protection, potential customers can realistically clear barriers that once prevented them from considering Office 365.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Hryck.