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Microsoft made generally available mobile device management capabilities in Office365, providing corporate subscribers a way to protect email and data on devices running the cloud-based productivity suite.
Microsoft provides the mobile security tools at no additional cost, making it an attractive service to companies. The mobile device management (MDM) capabilities are a subset of Microsoft Intune, a cloud-based enterprise mobility management service.
Microsoft announced last October that Office 365 MDM capabilities would be coming. The features generally available as of this week let companies control access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel data across Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone devices.
Office 365 MDM features
IT staff can set security polices to ensure that only phones and tablets managed by a company can access corporate data. To deliver the capability, Microsoft leverages Intune and the cloud-based Azure Active Directory.
Other security mechanisms include requiring a pin to unlock a device and jailbreak detection to prevent unauthorized people from accessing data on a stolen or lost smartphone or tablet.
The MDM tools include selective wiping of data, so administrators can remove corporate content while leaving personal data untouched. This is an important feature when people leave a company.
Microsoft is also providing reports within the Office 365 administration center, so companies can track who is accessing data.
Enterprises that need more advanced protection can subscribe to Intune, which is part of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS). The service covers laptops, as well as smartphones and tablets, and includes application management capabilities that can restrict actions like cutting, copying and pasting content.
Microsoft is rolling out the Office 365 capabilities globally, a process expected to take four to six weeks.
Microsoft strategy behind free services
Most large businesses have already installed the capabilities announced by Microsoft, experts said. However, the option of implementing them through Office 365 may prove attractive.
MDM for Office 365 will introduce smaller companies to features that could entice them to try Intune or Microsoft's full EMS later, rather than buy a similar product from a third party.
Microsoft often uses the lure of free services to get companies to upgrade to paid products. The vendor, for example, provides basic versions of Rights Management Services in Office 365 and Azure Active Directory.
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