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From Bad Practice to Best Practice: 10 Tips for Office 365 Administrators

When planning a new or updated SharePoint implementation, SharePoint administrators play a key role. Often responsible for installing, configuring and upgrading SharePoint systems, they also help train and support business colleagues with SharePoint usage and how to effectively backup data. Quite the juggler!

However-as a recent McKinsey study found-as organizations are continuing to make the move to the cloud, the role of a SharePoint Administrator is evolving into that of an Office 365 Administrator. At first glance, the two roles may not look too different. But in the same way Office 365 has changed the way businesses operate with SharePoint, the role of an Office 365 Administrator is more diverse than you might first think.

In some ways, the leap from on-premises to the cloud won't change the administrator's activities in any significant way. But in other scenarios, the difference is pretty important. And that's why in today's post we will run through 10 areas Office 365 Administrators can improve user performance, content security, platform longevity and more.

     1.    Managing permissions

There are three key elements-each working in conjunction with one another-to consider when managing permissions in Office 365:

  • Permissions inheritance
  • Permission levels
  • SharePoint Groups

Check out this video to fully get to grips with how SharePoint permissions impact your sites, as they're very important to making sure users can only access the content and sites they have clearance for.

Permissions can be assigned at any level (Site, Library or Item) to both individual users as well as groups of users. This offers you a high level of specificity in terms of assigning permissions, but it also means the process of manually assigning such permissions can be huge. The more permissions that are configured directly, the more management this model requires, taking up your time and-if it doesn't go to plan-decreasing overall site performance.

Best practice

Administrators should organize their site structure to reflect requirements for access (create a sub-site for documents that contain sensitive SharePoint Groups, for example).

Assigning permissions to Groups makes things much easier to manage in the long-term. You can set access rights to relevant sites and libraries that will be automatically applied to any users that gets added to a Group. By grouping people who require similar access together, you can better reflect the requirements of your organization and keep content accessible and secure with less hassle.

     2.    Folders or metadata?

In medium to large organizations, your Intranet is going to contain a lot of libraries, all with a lot of documents in them. To help make libraries easier to navigate, Administrator can allow users to create new ones themselves, in the same way you would create folders to organize the content on your personal computer.

This is a great solution for managing a small number of items, but problems arise when you have masses of content; sub-folders can quickly stack up and suddenly you have lots of nested content and users complaining that they can't find the files they're looking for.

Best practice

Metadata is the answer here. By creating metadata for documents, you can offer users the ability to sort and find documents via content labels or even via the words in the document. On top of that, you can create ‘Views'-a set of predefined filters that can be applied to the library. A View could be titled ‘Recent Reports', for example, and designed to show all documents with a type of ‘Report', sorted to show the most recently modified one first.

If you ever consider data migration, Sharegate would be a really helpful tool regarding that. 

     3.    Content overload

While metadata has its many uses, you need to be careful of not going overboard. For metadata to work, every document needs information. That means inputting multiple metadata fields for each and every content type, which can prove complex and extremely time-consuming for users. And if it's too complex or too time consuming, users simply won't do it. Nobody wants to spend a half hour filling out fields for every document they create.

Best practice

Remember that SharePoint is a tool for your company's day-to-day work, and should therefore be as unobtrusive as possible. When it comes to content types, metadata fields etc., it pays to keep things simple and stick to only the labels you need.

     4.    Monitoring the service health dashboard

A lesser-known feature, Office 365 Administrators are able to view the status of services and find out when maintenance is scheduled using the service health dashboard (SHD). This shows the current status of all your services, details of any disruptions and outages, and any planned maintenance times.

Best practice

Monitor it! Microsoft updates the tenant-specific Service Health Dashboard (SHD) in the Admin Portal on an hourly basis, pushing notifications through to you if there's ever a problem. So there's no excuse not to keep up to date and keep your services in check. You can download the Office 365 Admin mobile app to stay notified no matter where you are.

     5.    Monitoring activity

While we're on the topic of the Office 365 Admin center, there are some other useful features to help keep you in-the-know with your Office 365 environment. One of those is the Office 365 Reports dashboard, showing you an overview of all Office 365 products in your organization. 

Best practice

The Reports widget within the admin center gives you a quick glance on activity across your Office 365 products: email activity, SharePoint site usage, Yammer activity, Skype for Business activity and more.

     6.    Lock down your information architecture

Proper governance of your content hinges on information architecture. That means administrators should look to enforce and activate certain features to help:

  • Require check-out of files

This can ensure that only one person can edit the file until it is checked in. Prevent confusion and don't run into version or tracking issues.

  • Track versions

You will naturally want to keep version history of documents as it's one of the most useful features in SharePoint Online. If you need to keep previous versions of files or compare old and new versions, libraries can track, store and restore files.

  • Require document approval

You can specify that approval for a document is required; documents remain in a pending state until they are approved or rejected by someone who has proper permissions.

  • Stay informed of changes

Use RSS technology that is permeated throughout SharePoint to alert you of any changes to a library, such as when files that are stored in the library change.

Best practice

Other best practice methods for information architecture can include creating workflows, defining content types and audit tracking: defining a policy that allows you to enable ‘audit' tracking of events like the editing, copying or deleting of files. But more on that later...

     7.    Mobile Device Management (MDM) policies

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets can be used to access your work email, calendar, contacts and documents and the rest of Office 365. This gives workers the ability to get their work done regardless of time or location. You may already do this-which is great-but without a mobile device management policy your company content may be at risk.

Best practice

MDM can manage mobile devices like Windows Phone, Android, iPhone and iPad. As long as your users have an Office 365 license, they can be enrolled in MDM for Office 365. See how you can set up Mobile Device Management in Office 365 here.

     8.    Erratic auditing

Actioned through the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center, running an audit log search is used when you need to view user and administrator activity in your Office 365 environment.

Best practice

In Office 365, audit logs are unified, meaning you can search holistically across all Office 365 activity. You first need to turn on audit logging before you can run an audit log search. Once turned on, you can select Audit log search in the Search & investigation tab to search through the following:

  • User and Admin activity in SharePoint Online
  • User activity in OneDrive for Business
  • Exchange mailbox audit logging (user) and Exchange admin audit logging
  • Azure Active Directory admin activity
  • User and admin activity in Sway, PowerBI and Yammer

     9.    Checking for external sharing

There are two different types of external user: Authenticated User and Anonymous Guest. Administrators need to know which user can share what. There are several reasons you may need to manage the external sharing of documents in Office 365: whether it's discerning which users are external or internal, finding objects with permissions given to external users, or making the securing of site collections easier.

Best practice

You can only activate external sharing at the site collection level - so be careful! See exactly how you can set-up and manage external sharing in Office 365 with this ultimate how-to guide

     10.  Office 365 user training

User training is often a much-maligned process, both for the trainer and trainee. Because of this, most users were likely trained when Office 365 was first implemented into the business, which could now be as long as six years ago. User training needs to be a continued activity, reinforcing and expanding on previous and current knowledge of the platform, its functionality etc.

Best practice

A good place to start is the Office 365 Learning Center-great for getting to grips with each area of Microsoft's productivity platform. Consider suggesting a ‘refresher' session for Office 365, allowing users to voice any questions or concerns they have with the platform.


Published Friday, December 01, 2017 9:01 AM by David Marshall
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