How Intune Conditional Access Keeps Your Data Safe

pexels-photo-577210Have you heard about Intune conditional access? Intune is a cloud-offering from Microsoft that allows for secure mobile management. Intune is Microsoft’s solution for IT managers who feel a desperate need to secure mobile devices and apps and their access to email and other corporate data.

Their concern is legitimate; today’s networks have extended beyond a LAN or WAN to include personal smartphones, laptops, or other digital devices, accessing your corporate data from every Starbucks on the planet. These same devices are probably downloading apps for personal use. Microsoft has responded with Intune conditional access as a way to manage these devices in the Azure cloud

A subscription service, Intune is a great addition to the conditional access features already found in the Azure Active Directory. Together, these features give companies the security they need to manage email, data, network access, mobile devices, and more.

This article will help you understand how Intune Conditional Access will create a more secure infrastructure for your organization.

What is Microsoft Intune Conditional Access?

Microsoft Intune provides mobile application, device, and PC management. It’s an Azure cloud service designed to control who accesses corporate data and devices.

The software uses conditional access to allow validated users on their authenticated devices to reach your corporate data. Intune can be programmed to challenge users to authenticate their devices, as well as encourage them to enroll their devices under the security software. The benefit for the company is that it eliminates unrestricted devices and people from accessing the network. These features, ironically, can also be monitored or regulated via your (approved) smartphone.

With the Azure Active Directory, you can also manage conditional access through one system portal. From that hub, you can restrict what applications are downloaded and accessed from any device in your network. You set the rules, and the software helps the entire company follow them.

Intune conditional access in Azure allows the administrator to see every approved device on your network as well as devices attempting to enter, but failing. Also, robust reporting mechanisms allow you to spot trends over time.

Intune conditional access can reinforce corporate compliance policies by:

  • Restricting access to your network by blocking any device that isn’t managed by Intune or that is not IT compliant.
  • Enforcing password rules and multifactor authentication frameworks.
  • Creating and regulating security and compliance rules.
  • Restricting access to SharePoint or other tools that may be accessed remotely.
  • Enforcing application access and completely removing corporate data from the application level – the level that is currently most vulnerable to malware.
  • Encrypting data at rest.
  • Pin-locking devices to protect unauthorized users from accessing company data or email.

These are just some of the ways Intune conditional access can help keep your organization’s data safe. We believe it’s the perfect solutions for some of the biggest challenges that IT network managers are facing today.

Is Microsoft Intune Conditional Access Right for Your Company?

Intune can be purchased separately or as part of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite. Contact CWPS to find out more about Intune conditional access. We’ve found it has helped eliminate our client’s biggest fears tied to BYOD policies that create a security risk for an organization.

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4 Methods For Mitigating Zero-Day Vulnerabilities and Threats

pexels-photo-577585 (1)A zero-day threat is a security vulnerability that’s exploited by a hacker on the same day it appears. The problem is the breach happens so quickly; there’s no patch available to fix it. The first time you knew the vulnerability occurred was when the hacker used it to attack your organization.

The hacker, who may have been probing your network for months, usually is the one that discovers these vulnerabilities. Antivirus, intrusion prevention, and firewalls don’t always protect against the new, unknown threat. 

While no organization can completely protect themselves from a zero-day threat, there are a few things you can do to mitigate your risk. This article can help you stay prepared.

Stopping the Zero-Day Threat

“These brand new threats are by far some of the most difficult cyber attacks to defend against. Half the time, we never see them coming. Even when we do, we are too late.”
James Wang – Matt Williams, June 22, 2017

A DZone article from last year chronicled the zero-day threat:

  • In 2012 there were 14 zero-day vulnerability incidents reported.
  • In 2013 there were 23.
  • In 2014 there were 24.
  • In 2015, there were 54 – a 125% increase.

While 2015 was the last year data was available it is safe to assume that the number of zero-day vulnerabilities continues to rise. The same article suggested that 30% of malware in the fourth quarter, 2016, used zero-day vulnerabilities. 

An article in ComputerWorld suggests there are four key ways to potentially protect an organization from the zero-day vulnerability: 

1. Use preventative security practices. Keeping firewalls and antivirus protection up-to-date and matched carefully to corporate needs, while blocking attachments, and managing external devices, are all important. Installing patches for on-premise systems immediately upon issue as well as conducting vulnerability scans, are also important. Finally, use application whitelisting in addiction to blacklisting software to help spot malicious activity.

2. Use intrusion prevention systems (IPS). Look for an IPS that has network protection offering content validation and forensics, application integrity checking, third-party verification, and much more.

3. Establish disaster recovery procedures. Developing and practicing incident response that includes established roles and procedures is critical to mitigating the damage while it’s happening.

4. Silo the breach by preventing its spread. This includes establishing need-to-know-type protocols for document access 

It’s clear that today’s cyber security efforts must have multiple controls in layers across every piece of a network, including any personal devices accessing a network. In order to protect an organization from zero-day threats, IT administrators’ must enact security measures that offer a measure of granular control for all devices accessing the network. It must allow the admin to administer the network from a centralized hub and offer the flexibility to tailor policies for individual users as well as groups. 

Exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities is still a new discipline for hackers. This behavior is expected to increase as bad actors improve their techniques. Following these four steps are really the best way at the moment to mitigate the risk of the zero-day vulnerability.

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How to Prepare For an Office 365 Cutover Migration

pexels-photo-935756IT professionals understand the value of planning before the go-live happens. How many disasters have occurred because a lack of planning has stymied a project? In the transition from on-premise applications, to the cloud, what are the key planning metrics that any IT manager must address before making either an Office 365 cutover migration or an Office 365 hybrid migration?

First, the Office 365 Cutover Migration

If we were to break out the actual steps needed before the Office 365 cutover migration it would be something like this:

  1. Communicate go-live dates with users.
  2. Prepare servers by creating emails in Office 365.
  3. Migrate mailboxes.
  4. Complete post-migration activities.
  5. Welcome users.
  6. Re-configure domain to route email to Office 365.

While this seems like a simple six-step process, it certainly touches on the high points of the tasks you must undertake. It’s true that the cutover migration process is actually the easier of the two migration approaches to Office 365. One thing to keep in mind; the maximum for a cutover migration is 2,000 mailboxes. Microsoft suggests you do these in batches of 150. 

The first step for a full-cloud or Office 365 hybrid migration is to verify the domain. Your IT manager will need to verify your corporate domain by proving that you own it. Basically, there’s a TXT record from Microsoft that must be added to the DNS.

You should also check if anyone is running the old Exchange Server 2003; this will need to be updated before the migration. Also, you must also assign individual licenses once their mailbox is migrated. 

These are just some of the things to expect during a cutover migration. Now let’s look at a hybrid migration and the complexities involved. 

How About the Office 365 Hybrid Migration?

The second most common way to migrate to Office 365 is via a hybrid approach. Mixing on-premise Exchange mail with the Office 365 cloud could be the best deployment method for your organization. EdTech points out that while this approach is more complex, it “supports long-term coexistence and the ability to move mailboxes back and forth between Exchange and Exchange online.” EdTech also says there are actually about 200 tasks that are crucial to making this type of migration a seamless process. 

Things to keep in mind include the fact that the hybrid migration can only be configured with Exchange 2007 through 2013. For Exchange 2007 and 2010, you must have, at a minimum, one Exchange 2013 client access/mailbox server running in order to even use the Microsoft’s Hybrid Configuration Wizard. If you don’t have this, you’ll have to upgrade before selecting a hybrid deployment.

The Microsoft Office TechCenter offers assistance around Exchange Server deployment that may be helpful. Microsoft also offers a cool infographic to give you a sense of what happens behind-the-scenes in an Office 365 hybrid migration. TechGenix also has a good article on the steps necessary for a hybrid migration.

Contact CWPS when you’re ready to make the switch. We can help ensure that your deployment is seamless, no matter whether it’s a cutover or a hybrid go-live.

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Why Office 365 is the King of G-Suite Alternatives

pexels-photo-927451Office 365 is still the most widely used productivity software. Find out why Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are still the best G Suite alternatives.

The Google G Suite is here, and it’s trying to compete directly with Microsoft by offering an alternative to software products like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint that most companies have already built into the fabric of their workflows.

While most will probably not consider switching to the G Suite because these workflows are so ingrained, start-up organizations may still be looking lean toward Google’s office products since they typically cost less up-front.

This article will look at the G Suite alternatives and which makes the most sense for SMBs.

G Suite Alternatives

There are still some competitors in the office productivity space. Apple’s iWork productivity suite is probably the first G Suite alternative to come to mind. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers are not really what Apple is currently known for, however, placing this software as an afterthought behind hardware like the iPhone, the Mac, and the Apple watch.

Apache OpenOffice is an open source document tool that has a spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, drawing, and formula editor tools. The problem with OpenOffice is the open source formatting, that lets users add to the programs. In 2015 Apache reported there weren’t enough users to update the code.

Corel’s WordPerfect is another G Suite alternative; it has many of the same functions of the typical office suite, with one addition – there’s a photo-editing platform built in. Interestingly one of WordPerfect’s selling points is that they are Microsoft Office compatible. This irony should not be lost on those selecting an office productivity suite.

When looking at these competitors, it’s clear that Microsoft’s Office 365 is still the King of G Suite alternatives. While there is an element of personal preference, there is a lot of reasons why Office 365 is still preferable to G Suite.

For example, there are a lot more applications tied to Office 365. Also, Microsoft offers both cloud and on-site deployment for Office 365. Overall, Office 365 is simply more flexible than GSuite. 

The software features are what makes Office 365 the best of the G Suite alternatives. Here are some examples: 

  • Google Sheets, which is the G Suite alternative to Excel, now allows common language to be used in the calculation function of their spreadsheet. But Excel is unarguably the winner, here, because it has many more advanced features. That’s why, in a recent study, the majority of CFOs use Excel. Financial bloggers like James Kwak say Excel is “one of the greatest, most powerful, most important software applications of all time.”
  • Ironically, the G Suite allows you to save files as a Word document, which speaks to the pervasiveness of the Office 365 platform of products.
  • Office 365 has Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), an email filter that targets malware and viruses in real time.

The Wired magazine headline spells it out plainly, “Google work apps gain new powers, but Microsoft still rules.”

To find out more about Office 365 and what it can do for your business, contact CWPS.

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SharePoint vs Confluence - A Side-by-Side Comparison

pexels-photo-860379If your organization is trying to decide between SharePoint and Confluence, you’ve come to the right place. Both software platforms have been created by two of the most well-respected companies in the technology game; Atlassian, the Australian company that makes software geared for developers, and Microsoft, the American firm that first cornered and then kept the market for office communications tools.

Both firms offer collaboration software; Microsoft’s has SharePoint and Atlassian has Confluence. This article offers a side-by-side comparison of each.

SharePoint vs. Confluence – Commonalities

A surface look at each platform shows that both offer ways to manage documents and tasks via wikis or intranet sites. Both software platforms are now in the cloud, accessible wherever there is a digital connection. This means the ability to edit documents in real-time is a standard feature. They also have good customer service and free trials of the products, along with community discussion boards to share information.

A deeper dive into the features of SharePoint vs. Confluence shows that both platforms integrate well with email and calendars. This is terrific from a project management perspective. Other features for both products include:

1. An API
2. Customer support
3. Training resources
4. Project management tools
5. Live editing
6. Document management

SharePoint vs. Confluence – Differences

The first difference to note is that Confluence does not offer a desktop version.

Both platforms are very sophisticated. Confluence has a nice UI/UX. For users familiar with the Microsoft family of products (who isn’t?), the software will likely feel intuitive. Confluence and SharePoint both make it simple to upload documents and have document templates to give you a head start.

But Confluence integrates with JIRA and HipChat. Microsoft, on the other hand, integrates all of their tools under the Microsoft umbrella, including ERP, CRM, office tools, and more. In this, Microsoft wins the interoperability race.

One con for Confluence is that it does offer fewer features than SharePoint. This makes the software easier to learn. While SharePoint is a more robust tool, it does require upfront training to learn all the features and benefits of the software.

Also, there’s an ongoing complaint about the jump in Confluence pricing, from $10 per month for 10-14 people to $50 a month for 15 to 25 users.

In addition to having more features, SharePoint intranet sites can be published as public-facing sites, something that the Confluence wikis haven’t offered yet. SharePoint also offers an integrated chat feature; Confluence does not.

Probably the biggest difference between SharePoint vs. Confluence is that SharePoint offers advanced customization options. SharePoint also comes with a robust data warehouse, so document storage is pretty hefty. Finally, SharePoint has tons more add-ons than Confluence, although we know Atlassian is working on this.

So, which is better? We generally believe Confluence may be a good option for the very small business or entrepreneurial startup. (Watch that price jump at 15 users though!) SharePoint is a much better option for small businesses with more than 25 people, mid-level companies, or enterprise organizations.

Ultimately, you will have to decide, however, we can offer you a test drive of Microsoft’s SharePoint to see all the features that could help your team collaborate. Contact us to find out more.

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What to Expect From an Exchange to Office 365 Migration

pexels-photo-840996It’s 2018, and that means that we now live in a cloud-first world. This also means that this is the year that many organizations that are late-to-the-party planning on an Exchange to Office 365 migration. The appeal of being able to shift human and financial resources away from on-premise email applications has finally captured the attention of these organizations.

This article will look at the decision-making process and the types of migration options currently available as well as help you understand what to expect during the transition.

Creating a Migration Strategy

Mapping a migration strategy is the first step toward successful deployment. Here are a few questions that you should ask when coming up with your migration strategy:

(a) What kind of coexistence is needed to provide uninterrupted email service? If the deployment is happening off-hours or over a weekend, this may not be an issue at all. Or, there may be a period where you run on Exchange and Office 365 concurrently.

(b) How will you conduct identity management during the migration? Will you need a single sign-on? Will all identities exist in the cloud or will there also be on-premise identities?

(c) How will you conduct provisioning of the user accounts? Is your company small enough to do this manually will you use a synchronization tool?

(d) Last but certainly not least, consider the size of the mailboxes being migrated. The number of mailboxes will impact timelines and coexistence needs.

Next, let’s look at the migration methods that you mist consider.

Ways to Conduct the Exchange to Office 365 Migration

If you’re attempting the migration from an on-premise server, there are at least seven methods to move email accounts:

1. A cutover migration is a massive move of all email accounts at once. You can only do this if you’re running Exchange 2003, 2007, 2010, or 2013. This type of migration is probably the easiest, which is why most small business owners select it. These migrations can only handle up to 1,000 mailboxes and it can take a few days to transfer everything over.

2. A staged migration is when you move email accounts in batches, which is typically necessary for enterprise-level organizations. The amount of time and number of batches that run depend on the volume of mailboxes. Keep in mind, just like on a cutover; each batch can only transfer 1,000 mailboxes at a time. Generally, the newer versions of Exchange servers work better for a staged migration.

3. A hybrid migration allows coexistence of on-premise servers and online email as the Exchange to Office 365 migration occurs. This is the most complex process (with a lot more steps) because it splits functions between on-premise servers and Office 365 in the cloud. The problem lies in deciding which functions should go where. Should you migrate SharePoint to Office 365 first? What about email archives? On the flip side, a hybrid migration doubles the number of mailbox transfers to 2,000 at a time.

4. You can also use the Office 365 Import Service to move large PST files.

5. Or, migrate the emails from an IMAP-enabled email system (Internet Message Access Protocol). This is helpful for migrating emails from Gmail exchange, or other email platforms that integrate with IMAP. One caveat; this process doesn’t create mailboxes for you; you’ll have to do it manually.

6. While you can have users conduct their own migration, this might be risky.

7. You could also allow a third-party vendor like CWPS to conduct it. Having a dedicated IT team with dozens of Office 365 migrations under their belt could be just the help needed to guarantee a successful outcome.

Other Considerations for the Exchange to Office 365 Migration

TechTarget has a good article on ActiveDirectory, your domain name, and the migration process. Basically, you have to tell Office 365 to add your domain name to their service. You retain control of your domain, but Microsoft has to be able to verify that you own it. Normally, you’d just provide the logon for the DNS server. 

You can also conduct a process called “identity federation,” which allows users to login to Office 365 using Active Directory user names and passwords and the company authenticates and manages passwords. The good part about this process is it doesn’t share the passcodes for your DNS server.

The other issue to tackle, once the migration strategy has been mapped, is to consider how you’re going to establish and manage user accounts in Office 365. TechTarget says there are three ways to do this in the Office 365 admin console:

1. Active Directory synchronization, which requires copying the contents of Active Directory from the on-premise environment to the cloud host for Office 365. Like identity federation, the company retains control of the Active Directory.

2. Identify federation can also be used to manage user accounts, allowing users to login using Active Directory credentials. A token from that logon is passed to Office 365 to create the user login.

3. Multifactor identification (recommended) requires a second method of authentication above and beyond passwords and usernames. The service pings the user via phone call or text message to verify their user information.

These are all some of the most important factors to be considered when conducting an Exchange to Office 365 migration. Request a consultation with CWPS today and learn how we can help make the process seamless, with minimal business impact.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Mobility + Security Sweet Ebook

Comparing Azure vs. AWS Pricing

pexels-photo-572061There are four primary cloud providers on the market today: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Service (AWS), Google, and IBM. What’s been interesting to watch, over the past decade, is the marathon for market share that these providers have been running.

As the complexity of cloud services has increased, there’s been a corresponding drop in prices. That’s because these providers are really neck-and-neck in the horse race of services they offer. While Azure has edged out the other providers in compliance and hybrid options, AWS has remained more competitive in other ways – like their embrace of open source development.

But where Azure and AWS differ most right now is in pricing structures. This article seeks to compare Azure vs. AWS pricing and lay it out so that the average cloud-seeker can understand who has the best bang for the buck.

The Skinny on Azure vs. AWS Pricing

The first thing to know is that some big discounts (sometimes as high as 75%) are offered if the customer signs a one-year (or longer) contract.

Generally, it’s best to speak with your sales rep to discuss what kinds of discounts are available. If you have a history of spending with a cloud provider, there may be an opportunity for negotiation.

These pricing models are not simple. Pricing depends upon the server instances running, how close the cloud data center is, the type of software running, and more. You may pay hourly, monthly, or something else entirely.

The problem with a one-size-fits-all pricing structure is that cloud services can be packaged together in hundreds of ways. Each package warrants a different price. It’s a bit like a car or home insurance; comparing apples to apples means understanding the exact coverage specifications.

Here are some general things to know:

Azure Pricing includes:

1. Reserved instances, which can save you money on a one to three-year contract.
2. Hybrid implementation, which can save you up to 40% if you are running software on-premise while still using cloud services.
3. Developer Pricing for testing or DevOps can bring down the Azure pricing even further, especially if you’re using Visual Studio.
4. Microsoft Enterprise Agreements are for large organizations that negotiate equally large discounts.

AWS Pricing includes:

1. On-demand pricing, which is a standard cost structure with no discounts. It’s like the window sticker MSRP on a car.
2. Spot pricing can be applied if you don’t care where your processing is happening. If you have data that needs processes with no deadline, Amazon will run it wherever or whenever it fits.
3. Reserved Instances offer discounts for contracts.
4. Dedicated Hosts are applied if you’ve already paid licensing fees. You can save a little money sometimes when using something other than an on-demand server.

While this is complicated, we can tell you that InfoWorld suggests that Azure currently has the best pricing, depending on the package. Datamation has a great chart that confirms Azure currently edges out AWS in price point. However, always check with your cloud reseller to get the best price. CWPS is standing by to help compare Azure vs. AWS pricing. Call us today.

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The Business Impact of Office 365 Single Sign-On

apple-desk-office-workingThe single sign-on, or SSO, is exactly what it sounds like. SSO means a single login for access control across social networks, platforms, cloud resources, mobile apps, and more. TechTarget points out that the SSO is made possible through control by a session and user authentication service, such as the Office 365 single sign-on.

This article looks at the benefits of the single sign-on, how it works, and who can use it. What impact will an SSO have your business? How could Office 365 SSO improve the user experience?

Why Businesses Need an SSO Service

Backend administrators and frontend users can benefit from a single sign-on service. On the backend it helps with logging user activities, on the front-end it lets them move between applications without logging out and in again.

Two big trends have given rise to the need for SSO:

1. An increase in the volume of user credentials for system access.
2. Rising security threats.

The complexity of managing usernames and passwords has grown in correlation to the volume of software and hardware that we interact with. At times, there is a toss-up between security and convenience; making each user go through multifactor authentication will elicit groans that will be felt across the organization.

Yet users are accessing our cloud-driven networks from desktops, laptops, tablets, cellphones, and more, from Wi-Fi that could be anywhere. Studies tell us that the average user interacts with 12 passwords from different systems every single day. Users either select the same password across multiple devices, posing a security threat, or write them down somewhere – posing a different kind of security threat. 

How is a business supposed to confront this issue?
The answer is SSO. 

The Benefits of SSO

SSO allows the user to go through one authentication that includes entering their credentials. The SSO handles the login across all the domains the user is trying to access.

There are a few key benefits to this: the user is authenticated as secure; multiple passwords aren’t floating around waiting to be picked up, and the user views the process as much more convenient. How many calls is your help desk receiving when the users simply forget or lose their password?

On the backend, administrators generally view SSO as a positive; it even helps with HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance rules, according to a recent study. When used with multifactor authentication, SSO becomes a solid solution to the time, convenience, and security issues that come with multiple user logins.

One example of an SSO is the option to convert to Office 365 single sign-on. Let’s look at the steps for converting to this process. 

Office 365 SSO

We know that Office 365 has multiple tools and modules under the Microsoft umbrella. For administrators, managing SharePoint, Exchange, and all the other functions within the platform can be challenging. One way to cope is to apply Office 365 single sign-on. Here’s a great article from Microsoft on how to configure Office 365 SSO. Contact CWPS if you need assistance with Office 365 SSO. You’ll find that the convenience and increased security will be worth the switch.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Mobility + Security Sweet Ebook

Microsoft Azure vs. AWS – How They Stack Up in 2018

141021-OSX7TL-419What’s the “state of the state” for cloud adoption this year? According to Gartner, the "default position has now flipped as businesses consider cloud deployments first for most upgrades or new installations."

It seems like the scales have finally tipped in favor of cloud adoption, after more than a decade of architectural stability, security, and expansion. Gartner says that more than 70% of all businesses will be in the cloud by 2021. Forrester agrees, citing 2018 as the milestone year when more than 50% of all businesses will have significant architectural frameworks in the cloud.

Two of the most dominant players providing those cloud architectures are Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). In a head-to-head comparison of Microsoft Azure vs. AWS, how do they stack up against the influx of traffic heading in their direction? Why would an SMB or even an enterprise organization choose one or the other? What are the nuances that set these providers apart from each other?

AWS – E-Commerce Giant

A comparison of Microsoft Azure vs. AWS by RightScale in their “State of the Cloud Report,” shows AWS leading Microsoft 64% to 57% in cloud adoption by enterprise organizations. The majority of these adoptions include running some sort of application in the cloud:

Adoption Type AWS Microsoft Azure
Actively running apps 68% 58%
Experimenting with apps 15% 22%
Planning to use apps 7% 8%

While AWS is leading on the app side of deployments, they made another market capturing move in late 2017 when AMS and VMware announced an expansion of their hybrid cloud offering with disaster recovery services. VMware developed the strategic relationship with AWS about a year prior to this announcement, but VMware can also be used with Azure services for machine virtualization.

AWS offers these services in the cloud:

  • Compute
  • Storage
  • Databases
  • Analytics
  • Networking
  • Mobile
  • Developer Tools
  • Management Tools
  • Internet of Things
  • Security
  • Enterprise Application

However, from a revenue perspective AWS is the clear leader, with four times the revenue generated from the cloud as Microsoft Azure. AWS got into the cloud game a few years earlier than Azure, as well, so Microsoft has some ground to gain in terms of revenue and new client business. That’s really in every area except one; Computer World UK has suggested that Azure is closing the gap on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), especially for enterprise organizations:

But despite AWS’s dominance, Microsoft has quickly gained ground under the leadership of “cloud first” CEO Satya Nadella, building a huge global network of its own.

The AWS IaaS offering includes:

  • Content delivery and storage
  • Compute
  • Networking
  • Database

For comparison, the Azure IaaS offering includes:

  • Data management and databases
  • Compute
  • Networking
  • Performance

In a feature-by-feature comparison, Microsoft Azure vs. AWS offers similar services for storage and networking. They both have all the benefits of the public cloud, including scalability, security, self-service, and reliability. Both companies have invested big money in their cloud offerings.

Currently, AWS offers the biggest range of services that include database, mobile, developer and management tools, security, applications, IoT, and AI. AWS has a relatively new machine learning service for developers that offers image recognition, text to speech, and access to the same engine behind Alexa.

AWS provides a number of other tools to help developers get the job done:

  • Container Services
  • Elastic Beanstalk
  • Lambda
  • Batch

However, AWS does not have the same volume of tools for app hosting as Microsoft. Azure is the winner for developer tool for cloud-hosted developer apps.

So, while AWS is the market leader, who you should go with depends upon the services you’re searching for. Developers that gravitate toward Microsoft and hybrid applications are going to want to go with Azure.

Microsoft Azure – Trusted Innovation Provider

“Microsoft Azure can hook into all those Windows Server customers in the enterprise data center and stretch into its cloud.”

ZDNet

Some of the reasons that customers choose Microsoft to begin with; they are one of the most trusted and reliable names in IT. Microsoft excels at offering software as a service (SaaS) applications in the public cloud.

But Microsoft Azure has some other offerings that set the provider apart. For example, Azure does seem to lead the pack in compliance, with more than 70 offerings. They were the first to commit to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and have been selected as the leading and most trusted vendor for government organizations

Microsoft Azure offers the following services in the cloud:

  • Compute
  • Networking
  • Storage
  • Web + Mobile
  • Containers
  • Databases
  • Analytics
  • AI + Machine Learning
  • Internet of Things Integration
  • Security + Identity
  • Developer Tools
  • Management Tools

Like their IaaS applications, hybrid models are an area where Azure is gaining ground on AWS. The Microsoft Azure Stack includes a consistent hybrid cloud with open source tools for developers to bridge the gap between cloud and on-premise deployments. It offers a virtual machine architecture, IaaS and PaaS capabilities that make on-premise solutions much more portable.

Azure also has a huge footprint, with services available in 44 regions across the globe.

When it comes to Microsoft Azure vs. AWS in machine learning, Microsoft also offers a comprehensive service that lets developers deploy algorithms and APIs. Azure offers management and security tools like Active Directory and EMS.

For developers, Azure has:

  • App Services
  • Cloud Services
  • Service Fabric
  • Container Service
  • Batch
  • Functions
  • WebJobs

This is just a few of the tools available to developers in the Microsoft Azure cloud. .Net developers have a fairly easy time publishing an application to Azure; the platform does much of the work and the process is intuitive.

Feature Breakdown: Microsoft Azure vs. AWS

One of the difficulties in migrating to the cloud is our use of legacy applications. Often, organizations do not have the resources available to create a new app for the cloud environment, so a hybrid model becomes the best option.

Also, Azure has a seamless integration with Active Directory and Visual Studio. However, AWS has traditionally won the race for open source developers. AWS has always welcomed Linux users and has solutions for open source applications. Staying true to the competition that defines the cloud race, Microsoft recently opened their .NET frameworks to developers and launched the SQL Server on Linux.

Finally, the other big consideration when comparing Microsoft Azure vs. AWS is that Microsoft has developed and is still working on an interconnected universe of interoperable services. It’s now possible to leverage solid Microsoft architectures and apply them in the cloud, in the pipe, and on the ground. End users have been using Microsoft tools for decades; the Office 365 world now includes every office communication and organizational tool imaginable, from good old standbys Word, Excel, and Outlook, to file storage in SharePoint, as well as Skype for Business, an ERP for analytics, and more. Microsoft has developer tools and cloud offerings that include security designed for today’s mobile world with Microsoft Office 365 EMS.

This interoperable universe makes for easier transitions and stakeholder buy-in when seeking to roll out new software. This could be a plus for your team.

But What About Cost? Microsoft Azure vs. AWS?

In the past few years, the competitive nature of the cloud deployment market has ensured that the costs of Microsoft Azure vs. AWS have remained relatively close.

Click here for a cost calculator for AWS.

Click here for a cost calculator for Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft Azure vs. AWS -- Bottom Line?

So the question, at this point, is which to choose: Microsoft Azure vs. AWS. For developer tools, hybrid models, and interoperability between platforms, we choose Microsoft Azure every time. For more information on how the cloud can help your business, contact CWPS.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Mobility + Security Sweet Ebook

How to Get The Most From Office 365's Collaboration Tools

office365 collaboration toolsSometimes it takes a village to get work accomplished. The problem: today’s villages are often spread across different cities, states, and countries (not to mention different departments and organizations). A single project can include someone working from their home office in a New Jersey suburb or a coffee shop in Amsterdam.

Microsoft understands this and has developed a great set of tools across the Office 365 collaboration universe. This article looks at these tools and helps our readers figure out how to optimize their performance.

Microsoft Collaboration Tools That Get the Job Done

Network collective efforts are simply not possible without collaboration tools that span email, instant messaging, conferencing, file sharing, customer service, and project management.

Here’s the lowdown on the Office 365 collaboration package and how you can get the most from each tool:

Email through Microsoft Outlook is the most widely used digital communication tool in the U.S. and around the globe. We don’t need to tell you how to maximize it; most readers have been using this tool for the past decade (at least). In fact, we are increasingly turning to other Microsoft tools because our inboxes are too full.

Skype for Business has been a brilliant addition to the Office 365 collaboration family. That’s because our dispersed teams need a way to see each other through video conferencing where attendees can still whiteboard their ideas in a virtual setting.

OneDrive is a simple, secure place to store files in the cloud. It keeps a desktop uncluttered while creating an accessible paper trail that cannot be destroyed by a spilled cup of coffee on a laptop.
SharePoint takes OneDrive to the next level. It is a Microsoft Collaboration tool that’s most frequently used for team communication and organization. Getting the most from SharePoint can include creating project-specific Intranet sites to store and share documents, setting up calendars that sync with Outlook, instant messaging in real-time during document editing – and more.

Yammer is an instant messaging tool that can pool opinions from a group immediately. For fun, use it to figure out where to go to lunch. Or, talk about a client meeting – or even last nights favorite TV show.

A Connected Universe: Office 365 Collaboration

When Microsoft launched the Office 365 collaboration tools, the entire point was to create an easy-to-access universe of tools where one login could give the user everything they need to make work happen. A few years back, organizations had to use multiple tools with tool-specific sign-on, unique user interfaces – and many of them simply didn’t play well with each other. The result was a lot of busy work between applications involving copy/paste and retyping information that was already entered on one platform.

Microsoft’s collaboration tools were created to provide a seamless and efficient user experience. Each tool is already optimized to get the most from each application under the Office 365 umbrella. To find out how to streamline your communication and collaboration efficiency, contact CWPS to discuss your options.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Mobility + Security Sweet Ebook