Six Common Office 365 Problems You Should Know About

Microsoft's Office 365 has gained popularity as a service -- but there are a few reasons why it might not be the service you need for your company.

Sandra Lupanava

January 29, 2018

6 Min Read
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Microsoft’s Office 365 has had eight successive quarters of healthy double-digit gains, driven by various subscription plans and flexible pricing. As a result, Microsoft reported the Office 365 revenue to surpass license income already two times in the FY17 Q4 and FY18 Q1.

However, Office 365 has its downsides. Here are some of the more common Office 365 problems people encounter when they use the service. You can assess them to understand if they’re deal-killers before you become an Office 365 company.

Drawback #1: Ownership Limits

Office 365 belongs to Microsoft and is physically hosted in Microsoft Datacenters, and those are accessible to authorized Microsoft specialists only. Microsoft also ensures the overall Office 365 support and maintenance. For example, if you have a workflow performance issue, you will have to address to Microsoft Support. Their response can take time, so you might not be able to fix the problem immediately. Moreover, Microsoft decides when to introduce updates and launch new features. It means that unlike your on-premises solution that can be static for many years, your Office 365 solution will change whether or not you want it to.

The ownership issue is among key reasons for companies to opt for hybrid deployments that allow them to benefit from cloud collaboration capabilities along with keeping control over the on-premises part of the deployment.

Drawback #2: Performance Issues

Limited control over the implementation can result in performance issues -- by definition that's a significant Office 365 problem. By default, Microsoft guarantees 99.9% of Office 365 uptime and supports the guarantee with a financially backed SLA. Thus, if a customer’s monthly uptime is less than 99.9%, Microsoft pledges to compensate the gap through service credits. This sounds reassuring, indeed. However, real cases prove that performance issues with your Office 365 solution are still possible.

In March 2017, due to an intermittent Office 365 outage, users all over the world had difficulties with accessing their OneDrive, Skype for Business and Outlook accounts. In June 2017, another Office 365 downtime was registered across Europe and the USA. Finally, in September 2017, European subscribers faced the Exchange Online borkage.

All in all, it means that organizations need to have a plan B to face potential Office 365 downtimes. Let’s say, if collaboration interruption is unacceptable, it’s reasonable to have an auxiliary communication medium (an extra email box or a collaboration tool outside of Office 365) to stay available in case of force-majeure.

Drawback #3: Security Concerns

Security is one of the core domains where Microsoft invests heavily. Still, security stays the key reason for companies to postpone their cloud adventure. While Microsoft provides multilayered Office 365 security ensured via physical protection, built-in security features and customer controls, organizations are often afraid to lose their data stored in the cloud. Security concerns are among Office 365 problems.

In August 2017, Microsoft leaked Office 365 usernames and email addresses across multi-tenant admin dashboards. The leak was reported by a number of affected users in multiple Office 365 data center regions, including USA and EMEA.

Traditionally, Office 365 is a frequent target for cybercriminals who perform brute force attacks and spread malware to disrupt particular deployments. Exchange Online stays the most attractive target for hackers who look for stealing valuable corporate information and private data from subscribers’ emails.

To avoid security issues, Office 365 admins should monitor their deployments via Office 365 security center to identify changes in the system behavior, keep an eye on data sharing and users’ activities. They have to pay a particular attention to access controls and user permissions to prevent third-parties from reaching confidential data, as well as ensure employees follow device security policies.

Drawback #4: Compliance Boundaries

Compliance is another pain point for organizations considering Office 365 as their collaboration platform. The majority of Office 365 services and apps have already successfully passed the international certification, thus they are compliant with the requirements specified in ISO 27001, EUMC, HIPAA BAA, FISMA and a variety of national, regional, and industry-specific requirements.

At the same time, different applications and services of the Office 365 suite have different compliance categories described in the dedicated Compliance Framework. Services and apps in categories C and D have the highest compliance commitments (SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Project Online, Office Delve, etc.). Some apps and services aren’t compliant at all, for example, Microsoft Stream that is currently on the auditing stage.

In practice, organizations that have specific Office 365 compliance requirements can address their challenges directly to Microsoft or to their Office 365 consultants.

Drawback #5: Customization Challenges

Office 365 comes with a bunch of enterprise subscriptions attractive for large businesses. Obviously, big companies often require flexible software to adapt it to the specific business environment.

Office 365 won’t make it to the top of customization-friendly platforms. Yes, it offers a variety of apps and services to let companies choose the most suitable ones. But when it comes to customizing a particular app, the mission can be tough. Moreover, the updates brought by Microsoft can impact the existing customizations.

In this context, SharePoint Online is the most adjustable app of the suite in customization terms. So, at least, creating a custom cloud intranet won’t be a big problem.

Drawback #6: Adoption Pitfalls

Finally, organizations can also hit the Office 365 adoption roadblocks. Adoption can become a challenge for companies that move to Office 365 from their on-premises solutions. There can be a whole bunch of questions to elaborate on with end users, for example:

  • How to effectively use the entire Office 365 suite?

  • How to benefit from the capabilities of particular apps that differ from those on-premises. For example, how to leverage SharePoint Online communication and hub sites that aren’t available on-premises?

  • How to manage collaboration with external users?

  • How to use Office 365 on mobile devices securely?

Due to regular Office 365 updates and possible customizations, you may need to offer ongoing user training to inform employees about the newly introduced features and explain to them how to use these tools efficiently.

How to Keep Office 365 Problems Away From Knocking You Down

When you start to investigate Office 365 in detail, you can come across several aspects that companies can see absolutely differently. For example, a marketing agency can easily skip all of the pitfalls described above, as those don’t impact their successful operations. A healthcare provider will be confused with compliance boundaries as well as security issues. At the same time, a company that runs a deeply customized on-premises SharePoint deployment will be daunted by the customization boundaries.

However, forewarned is forearmed. Knowing all the possible challenges beforehand, you can assess all the pros and cons of implementing the Office 365 suite cold-bloodedly and elaborate an optimal adoption plan. But if you aren’t ready to deal with the Office 365 challenges on your own, consider accepting the assistance of a third-party Office 365 consulting team that will help you to create a new Office 365 ecosystem and take the maximum benefit out of it.

About the Author(s)

Sandra Lupanava

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