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Microsoft 365 Suite Gets New Features For IT As Windows 10 Spring 2018 Update Is Unveiled

Delivery of software updates and management of devices are among the areas getting an upgrade in Windows 10 and Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Friday said that its Microsoft 365 suite will be getting a number of enhancements for enabling simplified IT management.

Launched last July, the Microsoft 365 suite brings together Office 365 productivity applications along with Windows 10, device management and security into a single comprehensive offering for businesses.

Some of the updates stem from Microsoft's Windows 10 April 2018 Update, which will be rolling out Monday.

Among the Windows 10 updates are enhancements to delivery optimization, which enable a single device to download an update and then deliver that update to other devices over the local network. "This significantly reduces bandwidth (by as much as 90 percent) and that results in a much better experience for everyone on the network," said Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of enterprise mobility and security at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, in a blog post .

The Windows 10 April 2018 Update will introduce a capability for monitoring the status of delivery optimization using Windows Analytics. Anderson noted that two data points that can be monitored will include the number of devices enabled and the amount of bandwidth saved.

Reed Wiedower, CTO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, said that his company has been working with several of the product group teams at Microsoft around the new capabilities.

"The big announcements we're excited about include the updates to Windows Analytics ... around the management of delivery optimization," Wiedower said in an email to CRN. "We've seen several customers who are reluctant to move to a modern management framework, precisely because many of their sites are remote and they are concerned about bandwidth. With visibility of delivery optimization, it becomes quite easy to see which sites aren't configured to take advantage of peer-to-peer updating, and to see how much total bandwidth has been saved overall."

For easier management of devices, Microsoft said that its Windows AutoPilot solution will include an enrollment status page as part of the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. The page will allow IT "to ensure policies, settings and apps can be provisioned on the device during that out-of-box experience before the user gets to the desktop and begins interacting with the device," Anderson wrote. "Now IT can ensure every device is compliant and secure before it is used. ... Windows AutoPilot is an absolute game-changer."

Lenovo and Dell are the first OEMs to support the Windows AutoPilot deployment service on their PCs, while HP, Toshiba, Panasonic and Fujitsu will be doing so as of this fall, Anderson noted.

With Windows AutoPilot, "from an end-user perspective, you'll be able to unpack a device that was shipped directly to you, plug it into a network, and have it immediately self-configure on powering up," Wiedower said. "Once it's done so, when you log in, any applications or settings that are specific to you, the end customer, will apply to the device as well."

New Signature has been helping customers to deploy AutoPilot for several months, and "the experience is magical," Wiedower said.

In terms of Office 365 updates, the Microsoft 365 admin center — described as a common management entry point for a Microsoft 365 implementation — will now be extended to users of Office 365. This means that IT professionals will no longer need to use multiple consoles, Anderson said.

"Users of both Office 365 and Microsoft 365 will now have access to the same admin center with the same capabilities," he said. "For Office 365 users, this means a simpler admin experience that easily integrates with your other Microsoft services — all without giving up any capabilities or control."

In addition, Anderson said that managing compliance will now be easier in the Microsoft 365 suite thanks to new capabilities. The features will help with meeting regulations around data archiving, retention, disposition, classification and discovery, he said.

For instance, a new data privacy tab will let users execute data subject requests for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), while privileged access management will let users provide "just-in-time" access for admin roles in Microsoft 365, instead of having to give out permanent admin privileges, according to Anderson.

"Overall, many of the recent changes Microsoft has made from an organizational perspective directly align to this goal: to transform customer experiences from mundane ones to magical ones," Wiedower said. "That's why it's exciting to be a Microsoft partner now, because you can help customers realize that in a modern environment, technology isn't a hindrance but a way to make your day more productive."

The news of updates to Microsoft 365 comes a day after Microsoft reported strong growth of 58 percent in commercial cloud sales for its third fiscal quarter ended March 31. Microsoft reported 42 percent growth for Office 365 commercial revenue during the quarter.

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