This year, our own Wade Wilson and Dan Falkenberg were lucky enough to attend the Microsoft Summit 2017 in Sydney. This year, the summit was focused on Digital Transformation and Empowering the Employee. Here was their experience:
Dedication to Security
One big change this year over past years was the notable speakers, specifically those on the agenda dedicated to security. This has changed over time with a conventional IT system being centralised and therefore security is being focused primarily on a single point with an occasional check of the outer points.
However, this has now changed in the sense that everything is becoming decentralised, and therefore you have to shift your focus to the outer points and further. On top of this is now the term Shadow IT which covers everything that IT and management are unaware of and have not approved.
What is Shadow IT?
The best way to define Shadow IT is with an example. One form of Shadow IT is services that allow you to save your files to the cloud and share them with other people, sometimes those not in your company. Very commonly these would be set up and have sensitive company data uploaded into them. Now, think about the risk a business would face with this additional challenge. For this example let’s use a salesperson. A salesperson will commonly have travel as part of their job and need to work away from the office. They’ll likely want to use company data and files and the go, and decide it’s too hard to discuss this with the IT department, so they find it easier to use one of the free cloud file sharing services. They sign up and very commonly use their work email and the same password as they would use to log into the Server at work, which is a problem. The second problem is that they would typically then upload the database of the client’s info. Getting into the habit of using this unapproved method, they likely begin talking to other salespeople on their team and end up recommending this cloud-based file-sharing service to them. Here are two big issues that could occur:
- Let’s say the salesperson is poached by the competition. They still have access to that cloud-based file-sharing service. Therefore, this salesperson who is now no longer part of the organisation can still view all of the files that are being uploaded, and if they download a copy without editing the file their name will never appear as having edited the file. Now, say the Sales Manager notices a loss in sales and assumes a security breach, so therefore gets everyone’s passwords changed. It will not make any difference as IT does not know about this Shadow IT cloud file service and the problem remains.
- Another potentially huge issue is that the cloud services could gets hacked, as we have seen often in the last few years, and the email address and password the hackers have now obtained is the same as the password to access the corporate Server, leaving the company completely exposed.
This threat is real, and is happening right now more than we would all like to admit, however Microsoft is ahead of the game.
Imagine if the new staff member is given access to everything they need on a device of their choice that allows them to fully perform their job in a completely secured method. What would happen if a company in Australia all of a sudden has a staff member attempting to log in from Russia? Now the company can be notified within minutes, stopping and blocking the hacker through additional levels of security. All this is now at the fingertips of companies ranging from a single-person company all the way up to the largest company in the world, and it’s all due to the global systems Microsoft have deployed . According to Business Insider, Microsoft themselves have spent a billion dollars on security in the last year, so you can be sure they are serious about putting their money where their mouth is.
Expansion of the Office 365 Product Set
Microsoft have also continued their commitment to SMB and SME with the continued expansion of the Office 365 product set. You may know this as the new versions of Word, Excel, Outlook etc. however, that is a very small portion of their business tools which all seamlessly integrate together. The newly or updated added tools to note are;
- Microsoft Flow: To create amazing automated systems.
- Microsoft Forms: To create online forms for internal or external usage.
- Skype for Business: To be your entire phone system, video chat and messaging platform.
- Power BI: To give you visual dashboard to know exactly what’s happening in your business whether from a desktop or on your smartphone.
Collaboration Over Competition
The last noticeable change this year is that Microsoft is “playing nice with others” with sponsors such as Suse Linux and other competitors. Most companies in the world they try to protect their brand by providing the product to the client directly, and competitors and kept as far away from the client as possible. Microsoft, however, have a very clear direction by providing the underlying framework for not only application developers but also Microsoft’s competitors to focus primarily on their strengths and now allow the biggest infrastructure company in the world to be the place they trust on run their technology upon.
Microsoft have a deep culture of futuristic thinking for both retail and business. This is evidently clear when there are people attending this annual conference that have done so for many years, and yet still have that moment where everyone in the room simultaneously goes “Oh wow.”
Experiencing the Microsoft HoloLens with Mixed Reality is nothing short of amazing. Where many companies are still developing VR headsets, the Microsoft HoloLens has real world applications in industry from healthcare, automotive and transport.
We truly enjoyed attending this summit, and hope to do so again next year!