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Expert Intel

Microsoft Roundup – April 2024

Published: April 30, 2024
Expert: Alex Eley
Role: Technical Director
Specialises in: Microsoft Technology
What you will learn:
Alex explores the strategic uncoupling of Teams from certain licenses, the launch of AI-enhanced Surface devices, and significant security enhancements in the latest Patch Tuesday.
Microsoft are only at the very start of what’s going to be possible with AI, and I'm excited to watch this space.

Insider Insights from Our Technical Director Alex Eley A Microsoft Roundup this April

Over the last month, Microsoft has rolled out a series of significant updates that are helping to reshape how businesses use their software and secure their digital environments. As ever, Microsoft continues to launch new products and make changes to existing software – so our Technical Director Alex, has distilled his favourite updates and this month provides us with his top three takeaways.

Comprehensive Changes to Microsoft Teams and Licensing

This April marks a significant turning point for users of Microsoft 365, Office 365, and Microsoft Teams, especially for those located outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Microsoft has introduced several important adjustments to its licensing framework:

There’s been a global licensing realignment:

Microsoft’s licensing for Microsoft 365 and Office 365 no longer automatically include Microsoft Teams (in certain regions). This modification aims to simplify and standardise the licensing globally, mirroring changes already implemented in Europe.

Microsoft have introduced a new standalone Teams option:

For organisations that rely heavily on Microsoft Teams for communication and collaboration within their business, Microsoft now offers a standalone Teams SKU, specifically for enterprise customers. This allows businesses to tailor their software subscriptions to better meet their specific needs.

Ongoing Support for Current UK-based Customers:

If you’re currently using any Microsoft licensing plan that includes Teams, rest assured that your service will continue without any issues. Microsoft is still supporting existing customers through renewals, license additions, and upgrades.

My thoughts:

In my opinion, Microsoft’s decision to separate out Teams from some of its Microsoft 365 bundles can be viewed as a strategic move for a couple of reasons…

From a data regulation perspective, we know that regulatory requirements in different countries or regions can influence how software products are offered. For instance, privacy laws and data sovereignty concerns in the European Union and other areas can affect how companies like Microsoft structure their products. By decoupling Teams from other offerings, Microsoft might also be aiming to streamline compliance with such regulations.

Secondly, as the market for collaboration tools becomes increasingly competitive with rivals like Zoom, Slack, and Google Workspace – Microsoft may see a benefit in allowing customers to choose Microsoft Teams independently of other products. This could make Teams more competitive on its own merits rather than as an automatic add-on. Although I’m potentially biased, I think Teams is the only option for those that operate within an M365 environment – unified integration, advanced security and customisation are just a few of the extra benefits that get my vote over the competition.

Innovations with AI-Powered Surface Devices 

In my last roundup, I explored Microsoft’s new hardware, Azure Cobalt and Azure Maia, developed specifically for artificial intelligence (AI) tasks and generative AI applications. Continuing with that theme, it’s worth noting that Microsoft has further expanded its hardware lineup with two new AI-enhanced Surface devices.

Surface Laptop 6: This new laptop has been designed to tackle the most demanding business tasks with ease. It features an AI-accelerated PC that enhances Microsoft Copilot experiences, boosting productivity and facilitating smoother workflow transitions.

Surface Pro 10: As a blend of versatility and performance, the Surface Pro 10 offers a dynamic user experience tailored to modern business needs. Its integrated AI engines adapt intuitively to user preferences, optimising performance for a variety of professional scenarios.

These devices have been designed not just as tools, but as partners in the workflow process, equipped to handle day-to-day tasks and complex projects with unparalleled ease and efficiency.

My thoughts:

The reason I’m highlighting this latest development is because the integration of AI into devices represents a significant advancement in technology, with potentially profound implications for both consumers and businesses.

So, how?

Firstly, in the workplace, AI-integrated devices could automate routine tasks, predict maintenance needs, and optimise operations. This not only saves time but also allows employees to focus on more complex and creative tasks, boosting overall productivity.

Secondly, AI can significantly improve the user experience by making devices more intuitive and responsive to individual needs. For instance, smartphones that learn user preferences for apps or smart home devices that adjust settings based on behaviour patterns can make daily tasks much easier and more efficient.

Finally, AI enables a high degree of personalisation in devices, which can tailor content, notifications, and functionalities to the individual user. In addition, AI can make technology more accessible to people with disabilities. Features like voice recognition, language translation, and visual recognition help break down barriers and enable more people to use technology effectively.

All very exciting stuff, and Microsoft are only at the very start of what’s going to be possible with AI, and I’m excited to watch this space…

April’s Extensive Security Update: Patch Tuesday

For those who may not have caught the news, Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday this month was nearly record-setting, with the company rolling out updates for 150 CVEs in associated Microsoft software.

This extensive list includes fixes released for security gaps in an array of Microsoft products such as Office, Microsoft Edge, SharePoint, Exchange, Azure DevOps Server.

Among these CVEs, 67 vulnerabilities are classified as remote code execution (RCE) bugs and three of the discovered vulnerabilities were rated as critical.

Ok, so why am I highlighting this specific patch Tuesday?

Because although patching a large number of products isn’t necessarily something to shout about, this month underscores a critical aspect of cyber security management that cannot be overlooked: the absolute necessity of diligent patch management within IT departments if you want to keep on top of security risks.

As technology advances, the complexity and interconnectivity of systems grow, leading to an increase in the potential attack surface. New types of software, devices, and services are being developed and deployed at an unprecedented rate, each with its own set of potential vulnerabilities. This proliferation requires organisations to remain vigilant and responsive to a larger volume of patches to maintain security.

Fortunately, Microsoft applies automation to patch management in several innovative ways, leveraging its cloud services to streamline the process. These methods help both in the creation and deployment of patches, as well as in facilitating end-users and IT administrators (like us) to apply new patches more efficiently and reliably.

Through services like Windows Update, Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager, and Microsoft Azure Automation, patches can be deployed automatically to devices and systems across an organization’s network. This automation ensures that critical security updates are applied as soon as they become available, reducing the window of opportunity for an unauthenticated attacker.

While I’m confident in the robust security posture of Microsoft’s products, it is imperative that organisations also take proactive steps to apply these patches; without such diligence, vulnerabilities may remain that could be exploited.

The Broader Impact of Microsoft’s Updates this April

April’s updates from Microsoft are setting the stage for some exciting advancements, this month emphasising the need for agility and vigilance when managing your organisation’s toolsets. In a nutshell, my takeaways this month are:

Stay on top of your security: Regularly updating systems is essential for defending against cyber threats in an ever evolving technology landscape.

AI is being built into our devices: The introduction of AI-powered devices is set to transform how businesses operate, offering new levels of efficiency and customisation.

Licensing to support the many: The new licensing options provide businesses with the flexibility to choose the applications they need, when they need it.

Want to know more about how we can support and secure your business with Microsoft technologies? Why not get in touch and speak with our experts today.

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