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We work with organisations from all walks of life, with different ambitions and requirements. Explore how we’ve helped them reimagine everyday, and align technology with their culture and business goals.

Microsoft Messaging Competency: Gold!

We're going for gold! Cloud Business has recently achieved the Microsoft Messaging Competency. Find out what this means to our customers here >
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Choosing the right Microsoft 365 subscription for your non-profit

Microsoft 365 has six subscriptions offerings for non-profits, presenting affordable options to improve productivity. With that many options, how do you decide which plan is right for you? Our latest blog breaks down each of them to help you find your golden plan >
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Exchange “Zero Day” Critical Security Patch

Read this to learn how to patch your Microsoft Exchange Services and protect your organisation from Zero Day attacks.
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error with Microsoft Exchange

Quick tip – error installing Microsoft Exchange

Here's how to solve this error message when installing Exchange "this user isn’t a member of the ‘Schema/Enterprise Admins’ groups."
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Microsoft Messaging Competency: Gold!

We’re delighted to have recently achieved the Microsoft Messaging Competency and have added Messaging to our Gold Partner status. This demonstrates our Microsoft 365 messaging and Exchange capabilities to deploy, configure, and monitor recipients, permissions, and mail flow in hybrid and cloud environments.

To meet the competency requirements 4 of our team have each passed the following exams:

  • Exam MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Messaging Administrator

These exams tested our team’s ability to design & implement Microsoft 365 services; manage user identity & roles; manage access and authentication; plan Office 365 workloads & applications; manage organisational settings & resources; plan & manage the mail architecture; plan & implement a hybrid configuration & migration, and secure the messaging environment.

Cloud Business has extensive experience delivering Microsoft messaging engagements and projects, and this competency validates the hard work of our team.

If you would like to discuss a Messaging project, please get in touch >

Choosing the right Microsoft 365 subscription for your non-profit

As software companies look to penetrate new markets, the breadth of solutions targeted at non-profits has increased substantially. Aware that charities face a high degree of budgetary scrutiny, software providers offer generous pricing models and customisations to suit non-profit organisations. When combined with government funding that is increasingly available, now is a great time to adopt technologies to enhance productivity.

Microsoft 365 is a key solution that non-profits are embracing. With the shift to remote work, organisations are seeing large communication improvements thanks to Microsoft’s suite. With tools like Microsoft Teams offering real-time, remote collaboration, non-profit employees are able to easily plan fundraising efforts, hold virtual meetings, and host live informational events.

Microsoft makes this possible through numerous charity-specific SKUs designed to improve operations and IT. However, in this lies a conundrum: how do you choose the right 365 subscription plan for your organisation when there are so many available?

Book a discovery call with one of our 365 experts, and we’ll take you through the options available >

365 subscriptions explained

First and foremost, choosing the right Microsoft 365 subscription requires an understanding of the benefits they provide. Only then, and with a deep understanding of your organisation’s needs, can you ensure your budget is spent in the best way.

Microsoft Business Basic, Standard, E3, and E5

The first thing to know is that Microsoft’s non-profit subscriptions, like its enterprise offerings, are tiered. As you’d expect, each jump in price offers access to more apps and features, with some key differences to be aware of.

For many small non-profits, the free Microsoft 365 Business Basic offering will be attractive. Charities who meet the requirements will gain access to Exchange email services, 1 TB of OneDrive storage, and video and chat services via Microsoft Teams.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Business Basic plan does not provide access to Microsoft’s suite of productivity apps, Office 365. Non-profits won’t be able to take full advantage of the real-time collaboration SharePoint offers, nor will they gain access to the powerful productivity features of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. This is primarily for organisations with workers who are primarily frontline, or those who have an existing productivity solution in place.

For those who do need the apps within Office 365, a paid subscription is the only option. All paid non-profit subscriptions include the suite, with the cheapest being Business Standard, which additionally provides the services of Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams from the basic tier. At £2.30 per user/month, it’s a no-brainer for most non-profits with under 300 employees.

Larger non-profits will need to consider an Office 365 enterprise plan to get past that 300-user limit. Office 365 E1 is the free tier, providing the same services as the Business Basic Plan, but for unlimited users and with additional compliance and auditing tools. E1 users can run virtual meetings for up to 10,000 participants and access 50GB per user of business-class email, calendar, and contacts storage.

Microsoft 365 E3 comprises the same apps and services as the Business Standard plan but comes with some notable additions. As well as removing the 300-person limit, it bundles in 100GB per user of email storage, additional OneNote features, and unlimited personal cloud storage. It also provides IT departments with apps to manage software and information while providing data loss and rights management tools for email. Finally, organisations can make use of self-service business intelligence to visualise and analyse data with Excel. This all comes in at a respectable £4 per user/month rather than the £17.60 a commercial business pays.

Finally, there’s Microsoft 365 E5. It’s more than double the price of E3, and that’s because it ties in a ton of extra functionality. As well as everything from the previous tiers, it throws in various analytics tools to power data-driven decision making. eDiscovery enables predictive text and coding analytics, while Power BI and Microsoft MyAnalytics provide personal and organisational insights.

This alone makes E5 a wise choice for large non-profits, but it also brings significant upgrades to a company’s communications and security infrastructure. For £12.30 per employee/month, organisations can:

  • Join audio conferences in Microsoft Teams via landline or mobile phone
  • Make use of a cloud-based call management system to make, transfer, and receive calls from a wide range of devices.
  • Be better protected via Microsoft’s advanced security offering, which automatically protects against zero-day malware and virus threats while better safeguarding messaging systems.

Microsoft 365 has a plan for any type of non-profit, and we’ve covered the basics of them in this blog to help you understand what’s available. If you’re still not sure what subscription plan is right for your business, give us a call. We’ll give you a detailed rundown of which is best suited to your non-profit and how you can get the most for your budget.

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Exchange “Zero Day” Critical Security Patch

At the beginning of the month, Microsoft identified zero-day vulnerabilities in on-premise Exchange Servers, which are being exploited by a nation-state affiliated group.

On-premises Exchange Servers 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 are affected, not Exchange Online.

An Exchange “Zero Day” Critical Security Patch has been released and many organisations have now applied it. For those that haven’t, Microsoft highly recommends that you take immediate action to apply the patches for any on-premises Exchange deployments you have. The first priority should be servers which are accessible from the Internet (e.g., servers publishing Outlook on the web/OWA and ECP).

Below are listed steps and resources from Microsoft to help you protect your on-premise Exchange environment. However, if you would like our help, especially if your Exchange servers haven’t been kept up-to-date which can make patching more difficult, please get in touch asap.

Steps to patch your Microsoft Exchange Servers

  1. Move to the latest Exchange Cumulative Updates
  2. You can use the Exchange Server Health Checker script, which can be downloaded from GitHub (use the latest release).
  3. Running this script will tell you if you are behind on your on-premises Exchange Server updates (note that the script does not support Exchange Server 2010).
  4. We also recommend that your security team assess whether or not the vulnerabilities were being exploited by using the Indicators of Compromise we shared here.

Cumulative Update Installation (Best Practice)

  1. Reboot the server before upgrade.
  2. Test Upgrade on non production (if available).
  3. Have a tested & working backup of both AD and Exchange.
  4. Use an elevated command prompt to run the Cumulative Update.
  5. Temporarily disable any anti-virus software during the update process.
  6. Download the EXE or ISO (see links from the first section)
  7. Run the setup.exe (run as administrator double click or from CMD)
    • Select either check for updates. / don’t check for updates subject to your requirement.
    • Select Upgrade, Agree to the license terms, complete the readiness checks.
    • Install.
  8. Reboot the server post upgrade.
  9. Verify the upgrade:
    • “Get-ExchangeServer” 
    • “Get-ExchangeServer -Identity Mailbox01 | Format-List”
    • Review setup log on C:
    • Control Panel, Programs and Features, Look under Installed Updates and check the update is installed.

Exchange patch information

The importance of installing those updates!

Although hundreds of millions of Exchange mailboxes now run in Exchange Online, a substantial number remain on-premises. Many large organisations run hybrid deployments and keep some mailboxes on-premises.

When vulnerabilities like the one above are identified, it can be tricky to apply patches when servers have not been kept up-to-date. As a result you may have to get support from an external party to ensure your environment is secure. So when an update becomes available, install it.

You could also ask your IT service provider to support your Exchange environment. They will do this job for you, ensuring you’re always up-to-date.

It may also be the time to consider whether you should be running on-premise Exchange servers. Moving to the cloud and Exchange Online will reduce the risk of these kinds of attacks.

3 reasons to move email to the cloud

  • The increasing sophistication of attack. This vulnerability now has a patch, but don’t expect attackers to
  • Multifactor authentication. Moving email workloads to the cloud supports better user-level defence through multifactor authentication and use of conditional access policies.
  • More functionality with Exchange Online. On-premises Exchange is not a big focus for Microsoft any longer. Instead Exchange Online gets all the attention. It’s part of the full Microsoft 365 experience, integrating with Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, Planner etc. with more features and delivering a collaborative modern workplace experience.

If you would like to discuss migrating to Exchange Online, please get in touch. You may also like to read our case study on how we migrated 22,000 mailboxes for Solent University, click here >

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error with Microsoft Exchange

Quick tip – error installing Microsoft Exchange

“This user isn’t a member of the ‘Schema/Enterprise Admins’ groups.”

We have run into an issue several times with customers when preparing for a Microsoft Exchange installation, and thought it would be good to share!

When installing Exchange, whether that be an upgrade or a brand new install, the account you use for the installation needs to have Enterprise Admin and/or Schema Admin group membership. Having ensured that this membership is assigned, you can often find you still receive the following error when trying to extend the Exchange Schema:

The Active Directory schema isn’t up-to-date, and this user account isn’t a member of the ‘Schema Admins’ and/or ‘Enterprise Admins’ groups.

This error is in complete contradiction to what we know to be true, however, when checking the account in Active Directory we have noticed that the Primary Group was still set to Domain Users (see below)

If you set the Enterprise Admin or Schema Admin group to the primary group by clicking the “Set Primary Group” button, then log off from the server and then log back in to update the group membership. The Pre-requisite checks should then pass without issue!

Hope this helps. If you need any further support with technology deployments including Microsoft Exchange, please get in touch with our team.

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