Major Update To Dynamics CRM Coming In Q4 – Microsoft

Microsoft began what promises to be a long road to the fourth quarter release of its Dynamics CRM product today.

The product has been completely redesigned, with the on-prem and cloud versions receiving major upgrades. It’s worth noting that while this is a major release announcement, the company has been making ongoing updates to the cloud version of the product. This announcement is simply the culmination of that work, while the on-prem users will be seeing these updates for the first time.

The latest version involves four main areas that Microsoft wants to emphasize in this release including productivity, mobility, intelligence and customer service. In an effort to keep the update in the news (presumably), it is providing details of each of these categories in the coming weeks, culminating in that general availability date in December.

Today’s announcement involves the productivity piece, which in typical Microsoft fashion relates to how well it works with other Microsoft products. Say you want to view a PowerPoint slide deck or an Excel spreadsheet, you can now do all of that without leaving the Dynamics interface, presumably making you more productive because you don’t have to switch between programs.

For example, a user could click a Microsoft Word document, review it, and then return to the CRM by clicking the back button. It’s not super sophisticated, but it is an effective way to move quickly between different applications.

This is great for the all-Microsoft, all-the-time shops, but a Microsoft spokesperson pointed out there will be connectors to other non-Microsoft programs as well, in keeping with CEO Satya Nadella’s directive on mobile-first, cloud-first and cross-platform compatibility. The mobile versions should work on iOS and Android.

Today’s announcement also included CRM for Outlook, which provides direct integration with the Microsoft email platform, where many sales people tend to live during the day. Again, keeping with productivity theme, this provides an easier way for busy sales people, who have been known to balk at updating the CRM database, to make updates in a more natural way.

Microsoft is integrating Dynamics with Delve, the tool designed to surface information that matters most to users. For a busy sales person, that could be information about the industries he or she cares about or the latest pricing data. Delve is an interesting tool, designed to push information to users, but it tends to focus on pulling information from Microsoft products.

The new version will also integrate with Cortana, the voice assistant in Windows 10, which will enable sales reps to use voice commands to interact with Dynamics.

The other announcements will become clearer in the coming weeks, but involve integration with the Cortana Analytics Suite announced at its Worldwide Partner Conference in July to bring machine learning and intelligence to the CRM tool.

The customer service piece involves making use of FieldOne, the company Microsoft bought in July.  The new tools will expand Dynamics to managing service or field reps out in the field.

The mobility piece will include offline access, which will solve a big problem around accessing a cloud-based application when there isn’t a connection available.

While the updates are a big leap forward for the product, the Nadella-led Microsoft was supposed to be about services working across platforms. The company is offering integration to non-Microsoft products through APIs, of course, but it seems to be focusing on keeping customers in the Microsoft environment.

R Ray Wang, principal at Constellation Research says this is likely by design. “Ninety-five percent of corporate America is using Microsoft [tools], so they are getting a ton of pressure from CIOs to integrate. We left a meeting last week where the CIO was annoyed the stuff just didn’t play well together,” Wang said.

This release is designed to address those concerns and is a “bit better” at it, he said.

To be fair, Wang says we are probably going to see more of this type of integration across a company’s tools from other vendors.

New Security Features for Azure SQL Database

Microsoft customers use over 1.5 million mission-critical databases in Azure, which provide high availability, security, compliance, high performance. From the smallest startup to the largest enterprise, data security is increasingly top of mind for all businesses, especially as they continue to target the cloud for both new and existing applications.

Building on the security foundations of SQL Server, Microsoft supports its customers as they transform their business and move to the cloud – as on 14th October 2015 Microsoft announced the following security features for Azure SQL Database:

  • Always Encrypted will be in public preview by the end of the month. Always Encrypted helps you protect sensitive data without having to relinquish the encryption keys to Azure SQL Database. Data remains encrypted at all times – in transit, in memory, on disk and even during query processing.
  • Transparent Data Encryption will be generally available now. Transparent Data Encryption helps you meet compliance requirements by encrypting your databases, associated backups, and transaction log files at rest without requiring changes to your applications.
  • Azure SQL Database supports Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) authentication in public preview now. Azure AD authenticationprovides an alternative to SQL Authentication. It simplifies password management by allowing you to connect to a number of Azure services including Azure SQL Database using the same identity.
  • Row-Level security generally available now. Row-Level Security allows access to rows of data based on a user’s identity, role memberships, or query execution context.
  • Dynamic Data Masking will be generally available by the end of the month. Dynamic Data Masking lets you define masking patterns on database columns to limit the exposure of sensitive data.
  • Threat Detection will be in public preview by the end of the month. Threat detection complements Azure SQL Database Auditing and alerts on suspicious database activities at the database or logical server level.

Building on SQL Server security foundations

Microsoft delivers world-class data security and privacy protection for both on-premises and in the cloud. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, over the past six years, SQL Server has had the fewest nu1mber of vulnerabilities among the leading database engines such as Oracle, IBM DB2 and MySQL. This, along with our continued momentum of security investments, makes SQL Server the most secure relational database available.

Built on the foundation of SQL Server and combined with Azure’s physical and operational security, Azure SQL Database meets the most stringent regulatory compliances such as ISO/IEC 27001, FedRAMP/FISMA, SOC and PCI DSS.

Keeping your data safe

In order to achieve the highest degree of protection and meet the regulatory compliances you need to secure your data in SQL Server on-premises or Azure SQL Database, we provide multiple layers of data protection. This includes encrypting data while at rest, in motion or in use, authenticating only authorized users against the database or application, and limiting user access to the appropriate subset of the data. Additionally, Microsoft provide continuous monitoring and auditing of activities to help in the detection of potential threats and provide a record of critical events in case of a breach. These rich security capabilities are each balanced by the ability to quickly implement features and mitigate security risk without compromising developer productivity or a customer’s experience. These layers of protection are summarized across three areas: Protect Data, Control Access and Monitor Activity.

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The announcement is focused on the new capabilities we’re delivering across all of these layers to make it even easier for customers of Azure SQL Database, our managed database-as-a-service, to secure their data.

Protecting data

With Always Encrypted, Microsoft is first to offer built-in protection of data against theft at all times -namely at rest, in flight and while in use. Always Encrypted enables you to encrypt sensitive data such as credit card numbers using NIST’s AES 256 cipher, retain the encryption keys in a trusted environment (e.g., Azure Key Vault), and perform operations against the encrypted data (ciphertext) inside SQL Database. Cloud database operators or other high-privileged, but unauthorized users will not have access to the encryption keys, nor do they need to since sensitive data will remain encrypted even during query processing. This separation of concerns between those who own the data (and can see it) and those who manage it (but should have no access) is only possible with Azure SQL Database.

Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), protects your data and helps you meet compliance requirements by encrypting your database, associated backups, and transaction log files at rest without requiring changes to your application. SQL Database TDE is based on SQL Server’s TDE technology which encrypts the storage of an entire database by using an industry standard AES-256 symmetric key called the database encryption key. SQL Database protects this database encryption key with a service managed certificate. All key management for database copying, Geo-Replication, and database restores anywhere in SQL Database is handled by the service – just enable it on your database with only two clicks on the Azure Portal.

In verticals such as finance, banking, and healthcare, regulatory compliance requirements such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) v3.1 mandate strong, end-to-end protection of payment data. SQL Database now supports the strongest version of Transport Layer Security (TLS) to protect all data during transmission to and from SQL Database. Support for TLS in combination with TDE and Always Encrypted provides a comprehensive encryption solution meeting PCI DSS requirements.

Controlling access

Azure SQL Database now supports Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) authentication in addition to SQL Authentication. It helps stop the proliferation of user identities across database servers owned by an organization since the same identity that can connect to SQL Database can also be used to provide a single sign on experience with a growing number of Microsoft cloud services like Office 365. Database users based on Azure AD principals can be managed in the Azure Management Portal or via REST APIs/PowerShell.

Security is not just about allowing you to access a database or application; with a large number of users, it becomes important for applications to allow users only access to their data. Row-Level security (RLS) allows you to restrict read and write access to rows of data based on a user’s identity, role memberships, or query execution context. RLS centralizes your access logic within the database itself, which simplifies your application code and reduces the risk of accidental data disclosure. Dynamic Data Masking limits exposure of sensitive data by masking it for non-privileged users. It operates by hiding the sensitive data in the result set of a query over designated database fields, while leaving the underlying database operations unaffected. Microsoft Customers can decide how much of the sensitive data to reveal, with minimal impact on the application layer.

Monitoring activity

SQL Database’s new Threat Detection capability uncovers anomalous database activities that indicate a potential security threat to the database. Threat detection is integrated with the Azure Portal or can surface information about suspicious events directly to the subscription administrator. Threat Detection currently complements Azure SQL Database Auditing which records database events and writes audited events to an audit log in your Azure Storage account. Auditing can help you maintain regulatory compliance, understand database activity, and gain insight into discrepancies and anomalies that could indicate business concerns or suspected security violations. Both Auditing and Threat Detection are great examples of how we are proving additional value in Azure and making it simple for you to monitor and respond to risk.

A secure platform

As part of our cloud first principle, these features are available in the cloud with Azure SQL Database and will be delivered as part of SQL Server 2016. Across all layers of protection, both Azure SQL Database and SQL Server provide a platform to easily implement state-of-the art defense for data and applications. Azure SQL Database with its high availability (99.99% SLA), predictable performance and enterprise-grade security is the only comprehensive Platform as a Service (PaaS) database in the cloud. SQL Database is part of our end-to-end data platform designed to make it easier for you to maximize the value from all accessible data. With the announcements, we’re building on our existing investments and continuing to make it easier for customers to capture, transform, and analyze any data, of any size, at any scale – using the tools, languages and frameworks they know and want in a trusted environment on-premises and in the cloud.

Microsoft Reveals New Office 365 Planner

0Microsoft is excited to introduce a brand new experience in Office 365—Office 365 Planner, which offers people a simple and highly visual way to organize teamwork. Planner makes it easy for your team to create new plans, organize and assign tasks, share files, chat about what you’re working on, and get updates on progress. Planner can be used to manage a marketing event, brainstorm new product ideas, track a school project, prepare for a customer visit, or just organize your team more effectively.

Teamwork organized

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One of the most valuable aspects of Planner is that it helps teams organize their work visually. Each plan has its own Board, and within each Board, each work item or task is represented by a Card that can have due dates, attachments, categories and conversations associated with it. Team members receive an email notification whenever they are assigned a new Card or added to a conversation.

Every Card can have documents (or pictures) attached that automatically get rich image previews, so it is easy to understand what the Card is about at a glance. In addition, Cards can be organized on the Board into customizable columns called Buckets, which can be prioritized and tagged with colored labels.

Planner also gives you views to keep your work on track. The Hub view lets you track overall progress across all plans, while the “My tasks” view lets you filter down to see just what you need to do across every plan. In addition, the “Charts” view includes interactive charts for visualizing people’s progress against deadlines. Click a red segment on the histogram to quickly see which aspects of a plan are behind schedule and use the Board to rebalance work across the team. With Planner, everyone is always on the same page. A single glance of the Charts view is all it takes to know where things stand.

Works great with all of Office 365

As a member of the Office 365 suite, Planner is integrated with other Office 365 services, such as Office 365 Groups, so all of the conversations in Planner are available in Outlook 2016, Outlook on the Web and the Outlook Groups Mobile Apps.

Planner is also an ideal way to organize your Office files. Attach your Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents to a Card and start editing them right away. When a document is attached to a Card, it is stored in a SharePoint Online document library, allowing you to work on them offline.

Planner in education

Plans are also a great way to organize school work. Every plan has a OneNote Notebook created for it, which means you can organize your coursework and share all your notes with classmates.

Enterprise ready, globally available

Microsoft have worked hard to ensure Planner lives up to the rigorous requirements of Microsoft’s largest enterprise customers. Technical features such as multiple redundant backups, virtually instantaneous recovery and HIPAA, FISMA, ISO27001 and EU Model compliance ensure that your data is safe, secure and always available. To make certain everyone has fast access to Planner, the service is deployed in multiple datacenters around the globe, so everyone has their work close at hand. You can visit Office 365 Trust Center to learn more.

Planner availability

Office 365 Planner will be available in preview to Office 365 First Release customers starting next quarter, so keep an eye on your Office 365 app switcher and give us your feedback after you make your first plan!

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Sign up for Office 365 today!

Enjoy!

 

 

Microsoft Drops New Windows 10 Build Bringing Skype Integration, Edge Improvements

Windows 10 Build

 

Microsoft detailed a number of statistics relating to the performance of apps on its Windows 10 platform, alongside a new build of the operating system for its testing community.

According to Microsoft, more than half of visits to the Windows Store now come from Windows 10 users. Given the relative youth and market share scale of Windows 10 compared to Windows 8.x, it’s an encouraging statistic.

Microsoft also stated that Windows 10 generates twice the engagement and four times the revenue on a per user basis compared to its predecessor. Like Amazon, Microsoft is not releasing precise statistics, but, instead, comparative metrics that appear encouraging; we can compare this to Amazon’s past announcements about how its new Kindle is the best-selling yet and so forth.

Still, even carefully selected positive data can be useful. The above is predicated on the recently released figure that there are 110 million devices running Windows 10 today, which is 11 percent of where Microsoft expects to be in a year or two.

More engagement and more revenue implies happier developers. Or at least more piqued developers, I’d wager.

Build 10565

Also out is a new build of Windows 10 — build 10565 — which is out now for those in the company’s testing community who have signed up to receive new code as quickly as possible.

The latest build includes improvements to Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, to help the service understand notes that were handwritten on a screen. Ink, in other words. Given Microsoft’s focus on pen-based input, the addition is sensible.

In Edge, Microsoft’s new browser that will eventually fully supplant Internet Explorer, a new tab preview option lets users hover over a browser tab to see a quick preview of its content. Yes, this echoes past work the company has done on the Start Bar.

Finally, among the most interesting additions is the integration of Skype’s various communications capabilities into Windows 10 itself; Skype proper isn’t going anywhere, but Microsoft wants to take its tools and bake them into the operating system itself. (The shiver up the back of your neck is the specter of antitrust past, naturally.)

The Skype integration was previously promised, and Microsoft promised similar functionality for the mobile-edition of Windows 10 as well.

Microsoft has had a decent few weeks. Its hardware event went well, Windows 10 has failed to flop, and the company’s update cadence has so far, at least, beaten my expectations.