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Key Terms FIs Need to Know for Microsoft 365 (Office 365) and Azure Active Directory

Key Terms FIs Need to Know for Microsoft 365 (Office 365) and Azure Active Directory

Many financial institutions rely on Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) to access resources that can enhance their employee productivity and business operations. Here are some basic, but important, terms to keep in mind for these products:

  • Microsoft 365 (M365) versus Microsoft Office (O365)

Microsoft announced early last year that it was rebranding most of its O365 products to M365.

“We are changing the names of our Office 365 SMB SKUs on April 21, 2020. Yes, that’s right, the Office 365 name is hanging up its jersey and making way for Microsoft 365.”

Because Office 365 was so widely used, it has taken a while for this name change to catch on. Adding to the confusion, Microsoft already had M365 products prior to the name change. In most cases today, M365 and O365 are terms that are used interchangeably.

  • Azure AD

Microsoft Azure AD is a cloud-based identity and access management service that enables users to sign in and access various resources. You may be familiar with Active Directory as your on-premises identity management platform. What you may not realize is this: When you purchased M365, you received Azure AD along with it. Azure AD allows your employees to sign into resources like M365, the Azure portal, and other SaaS applications. They can also use Azure AD to sign into some of your institution’s other resources, such as apps on the corporate network and intranet.

  • Azure AD Sign in

Since all O365/M365 services are funneled through Azure AD, whenever employees try to access these resources, they must first sign in to Azure AD. Essentially, Azure AD facilitates sign-in attempts by authenticating users’ identities. Because Azure AD works behind the scenes, employees may not realize they’re not directly signing into O365/M365.

  • Basic versus Modern Authentication

Customers of O365/M365 and Azure AD can choose basic or modern authentication to access their services. Basic authentication requires simple credentials like a username and password while modern authentication goes a step further with multi-factor authentication. This advanced login protocol requires a username, password, and another identity verification such as scanning a fingerprint, entering a code received by phone, or using the Microsoft Authenticator app. This adds another layer of protection to the sign-in process before users can access their O365/M365 and Azure AD accounts.

Safe Systems can make it easier for financial institutions to strengthen their security posture when using cloud-based solutions like M365 and Azure AD. M365 Security Basics provides visibility into security settings for these products through in-depth reporting, alerting, and quarterly reviews.