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Office 365 adds storage, MDM enhancements

In an effort to entice more enterprise customers, Microsoft beefed up Office 365 with MDM and free unlimited storage.

Microsoft is upping the ante for IT shops in need of more storage availability and mobile management controls in Office 365 plans.

The company will beef up its Office 365 storage and management capabilities to entice IT customers to weigh Microsoft's full slate of mobile product offerings. It will soon introduce mobile device management (MDM) capabilities directly in Office 365, plus free, unlimited storage in OneDrive for all Office 365 customers.

While the changes could pique IT's interest in Office 365, integration with existing systems will be key to whether or not Office 365 is a good fit for organizations.

Office 365 plans, OneDrive storage

For example, the real value of the unlimited free OneDrive storage depends on how it is integrated with other business applications outside of what Microsoft already offers, said Imran Shaikh, IT program director at Vista Equity Partners LLC in San Francisco.

"Free storage is great, but what is the use case?" Shaikh said. "Can I use it for business, or are we just talking about users offloading PC data to the cloud?"

Indeed, these are attractive options for businesses that already have Microsoft products in place, said Wes Miller, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft, an IT analysis organization in Kirkland, Wash.

The real value of file sync-and-share [products] is not the amount of storage offered.
Alan Lepofskyanalyst, Constellation Research

The MDM capabilities come from Microsoft Intune and include security and management policies for devices, such as ensuring corporate data syncs only to devices managed by IT that connect to Office 365. Selective wiping of corporate data and jailbreak detection are also included with management in the Office 365 administration portal. MDM for Office 365 is also built into Office productivity apps for policy-setting and control.

"Odds are, a good-sized business will have already done the work for single sign-on and gotten all these things in place anyway for Office 365," Miller said. "Now, you'll be able to manage Office 365 for free using the same infrastructure as Intune."

MDM for Office 365 doesn't contain the full capabilities of Intune, however. Microsoft suggests customers consider Intune for more advanced features like mobile application management for Office mobile apps (such as restricting copying and pasting between apps) and comprehensive MDM features such as bulk device enrollment in Office apps and email profile deployment.

Microsoft wants customers to enjoy the MDM for Office 365 experience so much that they pay for Intune or the full Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) with Intune as opposed to going for a third-party MDM company, Miller said.

This continues a trend with Microsoft, as items like Rights Management Services within Office 365 and Azure Active Directory Basic are free but require that enterprises buy EMS to get full capabilities.

Whether these offers from Microsoft fully catch on depends if enterprises buy into Office 365 and Windows 10, Miller said.

MDM for Office 365 will roll out in the first quarter of next year for Windows Phone, Apple iOS and Google Android devices, the company said. It will be included in all Office 365 subscriptions.

Free OneDrive storage may not be enough for IT

In addition to the added MDM capabilities, all Office 365 customers will receive free unlimited OneDrive storage. Previously, customers were capped at 1 TB of free storage per user. While Microsoft has started rolling this out to consumer editions already, unlimited storage for OneDrive for Business customers will be added to the Office 365 roadmap, and customers will begin receiving the unlimited storage next year.

None of Microsoft's enterprise file sync-and-share competitors deliver free storage, with Dropbox and Box each offering 1 TB of storage for $15 per user per month.

Free unlimited storage might be an advantage for Microsoft, but it may not be enough to entice enterprise customers to buy Office 365 licenses.

"The real value of file sync-and-share is not the amount of storage offered, but rather the variety of integrations, depth of security and level of collaborative features a platform offers," said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc. in Toronto.

The greatest strength for OneDrive for Business is integration with Office applications and Outlook, Lepofsky said.

While IT may worry about what users may or may not keep in their unlimited storage in Office 365, Microsoft also introduced extended data loss prevention capabilities to OneDrive for Business, as well as SharePoint Online, Windows File Share and Office applications. For OneDrive for Business, these include policy enforcement such as restricting and blocking access to sensitive files.

"That's really good news for enterprises that may have been threatened by [unlimited storage in OneDrive for Business]," Miller said.

Microsoft recently updated its pricing for enterprise Office 365 licenses, with subscription plans ranging from $5 to $15 per user per month.

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Do Microsoft's management and storage changes make Office 365 more attractive to your enterprise?
I really don't think getting free OneDrive is going to be a make-or-break for Office 365. If anything, some companies might be concerned about it becoming a security issue.