Microsoft: Stronger than ever
Ever since I started with PCs back in 1986, a mind-boggling 33 years ago, Microsoft was always there. I have loved them and I have hated them, but never managed to do my job without them. They built their company on significant key products like Windows, Word, Excel, Exchange, and SQL-server that one by one knocked out respective competitors, such as Wordperfect, Borland, and Novell.
But their thick-client approach and strong reliance on their key products made them vulnerable for competition from emerging network-centric competitors with free or very cheap e-mail, operating systems, office suites, and databases. On top of that, their smart-phone strategy flopped. Many questioned their potential for further growth. Not many years ago, Microsoft traded at 10-11 times their P/E (an indicator that often describes investors belief in future growth). Today Microsoft is trading at 28 times P/E, and investors seem to believe much more in their prosperous future. Microsoft is more valuable than ever, how did they manage to turn around?
I find that Microsoft’s are more aligned with the way I believe information technology moves forward and that their vision and ability to execute is better than ever. For me three specific reasons stand out :
- Their feature-rich and evermore open Azure cloud platform
- Their Office 365 suite with several new and interesting extensions and apps
- The considerable potential of integrating all of this - infrastructure, content, and information - and collaborate both within and across companies, organisations, and borders.
I don’t think that any other vendor is in a better position to support companies and organisations to move towards needful digital transformation. That is why I some time ago decided to invest heavily in integrating our digital Signage platform DatabeatOMNI (on Azure since long) with Microsoft Office 365. In a relatively short period of time, we have achieved some remarkable things and I strongly believe that this is just the beginning. In a few planned blog posts, I intend to share some thoughts on this with focus on the benefits and changes I believe not only will impact our users, customers, and partners but the digital signage market as a whole.
Why is security so important
Our entry point with the Office 365 integration is user management and security. Instead of using our internal user database, we now allow users to signup and log in with Office 365. This has three distinct benefits.
First, user management. We know that usernames and passwords are frequently forgotten and must be reset and changed regularly and that users are retired and new are added. For every user and password regime, the processes are the same. For organisations, user-complexity increases for each added system users need access to. Eventually, with many software services and vendors in their portfolio, complexity grows into a security management nightmare.
Second, one can assume that users prefer to use the same password and leave their same login credentials across their entire portfolio of systems they use. Should any of their software vendors user database be hacked, it is more than likely that the hackers have both username and password and access to their corporate systems as well.
Thirdly, we have my personal favorite, simplicity. I remember old TV and VCR remote controls and have since grown a strong distaste for complexity.
Simplicity is the aim of all that we do in Databeat, we find it beautiful, but also difficult to plan and implement. We now encourage all existing users and customers to use Office 365 authentication for DatabeatOMNI. They can simply click on the Office 365 button and get instant and direct access to DatabeatOMNI. If they are already logged in to Office 365, the process is fast and seamless. Users do not have to worry about a new username, password, and a new security regime. Users need to remember and update fewer passwords and they are less likely to stick yellow notes under their desk with passwords written on it.
Behind the curtains, these login requests are routed to the Microsoft's Office 365 servers, where a state of the art authentication process ensures that login is secure and importantly, according to their organisations´s policies; password only sign-on or two-factor/multi-factor authentication (that we recommend all implement sooner than later). The passwords are not even saved in DatabeatOMNI so organisation administrators do not have to worry about their users leaving their credentials on various servers and services (at least not ours).
Like most vendors, we do take security seriously and build in systems to protect our users, but we must admit that we do not have the resources and competence than Microsoft, therefore we are comfortable leaving user security and authentication to them.
This way, Microsoft has helped us improve two key elements of our Digital signage solution, it is now simpler and more secure. That is one of many ways of keeping software services ahead of the competition, we love Microsoft.
Next article will be about simplicity in visualizing existing information in Office 365, stay tuned.