At this month’s annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, corporate vice president John Case announced their new E5 Suite for Office 365, available to eligible partners and their customers by year end. The new E5 suite underscore Microsoft’s mobile first, cloud first strategy by adding features that enhance real-time, day-to-day business communications; improve data analysis and reporting; and strengthen compliance and security threat management to an already robust business productivity suite of products. Case’s announcement should banish any detractors of the wildly popular Office 365 SaaS suite who critiqued the purchase and integration of Yammer and Skype.

The top seven features bundled into the forthcoming E5 suite include: Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast, PSTN Conferencing, Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling, Power BI Pro, Delve Organizational Analytics, Customer Lockbox and Advanced Threat Protection.

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Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast

The highly anticipated Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast enables broadcast meetings for up to 10,000 participants. This is great for companies who communicate through town-hall, all-hands meetings, or need to make product or sales presentations. Attendees can join the meeting from a browser on nearly any device, as well as rewind, pause and resume playback based on his or her own schedule without affecting the broadcast. Utilizing Sochi Olympic-tested Azure Media Services on the backend for steaming meeting audio and video, the package also includes Bing Pulse for sentiment tracking and real-time polling, and Yammer for audience conversations and dialogue during the broadcast. Any USB-tethered camera can be plugged in to provide high-definition video meeting images. With all these feature sets working in unison, the broadcast service creates a highly professional, interactive ‘many-to-many’ communication experience.

PSTN Conferencing (US-based only)

PSTN conferencing will be available for U.S. based customers in the E5 bundle. PSTN conferencing allows people invited to a Skype for Business meeting via Office 365 to join by dialing-in using a landline or mobile phone. Traditional dial-in capability is single touch, convenient and is, in addition to current meeting options, already available on PC, smartphone and browser.   The new PSTN feature allows users to join an online meeting from places with no Internet access. Additionally, PSTN conferencing with Office 365 will allow users to add others by simple dial-out.

Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling

Currently in preview for US-based Office 365 customers, cloud PBX with PSTN calling provides users the ability to make and receive traditional phone calls from their Skype for Business client. Calls may be managed using hold, resume, forward and transfer features found on traditional phones. This cloud-based service is built on proven Lync Server and Skype for Business Server technologies. Watch for Cloud PBX with PSTN calling to roll-out worldwide later in 2015.

To preview any of the three new Skype for Business products, participants must have a current subscription to a bundled or standalone license equivalent to Skype for Business Plan 2 and sign up at Skype for Business Preview. The Skype Meeting Broadcast preview is available worldwide. PSTN Conferencing and Cloud PBX with PSTN calling previews are available only to U.S. customers.

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Power BI Pro measures the health of your business through advanced data reporting and dashboards using natural query language.  Its Power Query, Power View and Tiling commands make Power BI a favorite with company CIOs, marketing heads and line of business users by effectively moving the power of data out of the server room and into the hands of on-demand, in-demand users.

Power BI Pro includes all the functionality of the free Power BI version plus additional data refresh and collaboration tools offering higher data-capacity and data-streaming limits.  New Power BI Pro features include creating and publishing customized content packs; sharing refreshable team dashboards and reports using groups; connecting on-premise data using Personal Gateways; and enabling live interactive connectivity to SQL Server Analysis Services.  To preview a free 60-day trial of Power BI Pro, sign into Power BI and try-out these new features.

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Delve Organizational Analytics

Delve Organizational Analytics builds on the current Delve features and gives additional personalized insights from the most commonly utilized user data and coworker interactions. A dashboard has been added to measure, track and identify key trends such as frequently used team documents and leading team interactions. Julia White, general manager of Office 365, described the Delve dashboard as, “essentially, your health tracker for work.”   Originally codenamed ‘Oslo’ internally, Delve was added to Office 365 as a tier-one admin panel tile in September, 2014. The new Delve Analytics dashboard improves on data relevancy and even gives reminders to ‘take a break’ or ‘get back to work’ through the ‘My work/life balance’ graphs and ‘My meeting time’ statistics. Delve and its organizational analytics are great for teams and groups who work together on collaborative projects.

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Customer Lockbox

Customer Lockbox is designed to provide unprecedented customer control over their content in the rare instance that a Microsoft engineer may need to reach across to trouble-shoot a support issue. In an effort to maximize data security and privacy for users of Office 365, Microsoft contains customer data requiring nearly zero interaction. The new customer lockbox feature provides just-in-time access with time-bound authorization. All access control activities are logged and audited via Office 365 Management Activity logs. Customers can explicitly approve or deny a request for data access. Until a request is approved, the Microsoft engineer will not be granted entry.  Customer Lockbox will also be available for Exchange Online standalone plans by the end of the year, and for SharePoint Online standalone plans in the first quarter of 2016.

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Advanced Threat Protection

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) hardens subscriber email environments by blocking bulk email at the IP address level. The new service evaluates known bulk email offenders through advanced machine-learning identifiers, and then rates the reputation of a sender and frequency of mailing, thereby marking known spammers. Microsoft provides built-in safe lists and threshold levels for the administrator as well.

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ATP’s technology is based on the recent acquisition of Aorato and is available now in preview. The real-time, time-of-click safe attachment protection scans each message, and,as described by Microsoft Office 365 security product manager Shobhit Sahay, creates a ‘detonation chamber’ that queries the URL for executables, registry calls or requesting access privileges.   Based on this analysis, the service can block the message via the ‘safe link’ and ‘safe attachment’ templates.

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ATP comes with ample reporting and tracking capabilities so administrators can gain insight into who is being targeted. Administrators can then set up company policies and block messages accordingly.

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ATP will be included in the E5 bundle and is available now as a standalone subscription for $2 per user per month for select Exchange and Office 365 plans. Government pricing is offered at $1.75 per user per month.

E5 Enterprise Plan: Things to Consider

While some of the feature sets to be included are already in release, (Delve, Power BI and Advanced Threat Protection) having all feature sets in one bundle will appeal to many customers. Microsoft expects to announce the E5 Enterprise Plan pricing and availability date later in 2015, so check with your CDW account manager for the latest information.

Microsoft product managers and engineers have clearly been working hard to ‘hang’ more productivity features and functions on the Office 365 delivery framework. Office 365 innovation keeps rolling out. Customers who still scoff at moving to the cloud might at least consider a hybrid environment so as to not be left behind. Some of the new feature sets such as Power BI and Power BI Pro will only be available for online consumers.

Let me know what you think about the new features and E5 plan in the comment section below. Bookmark the Office 365 Roadmap link to stay up-to-date with the latest product improvements, and follow me on Twitter @Cloud_Kimb to stay informed on the latest Office 365 and cloud trends.

Interested to learn more about Office 365? Check out these articles in BizTech Magazine or more posts from the CDW Solutions Blog for more information.

 

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