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Pandemic pushes the importance of cloud technologies

Microsoft Inspire, an annual Microsoft Partner Conference for the first time in history, was showcased virtually this year allowing partners from around the world to join.

Partners heard from various inspirational keynote speakers, along with executives taking point on the subject of the changing business and consumer landscape as an effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gavriella Schuster – Corporate Vice President of Microsoft, in her opening keynote announced the four key areas which are Microsoft’s key focus for FY21, impacting organizations in a post-COVID world:

  • Enabling remote work
  • Business continuity
  • Security
  • Cloud Migrations

Many of the product announcements and future roadmaps at Microsoft Inspire 2020 centered around the theme of making remote work more accessible, “the full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution” Gavriella said.

Here are some of the main headlines and and product announcements.

The future of Remote Work for Partners

Part of the new “remote everything” movement, Microsoft announced that it’s focus would be on:

  • Empowering employees,
  • Optimizing operations,
  • Transforming products,
  • and Customer Engagement.

What was first considered to be a temporary solution, has now become a permanent shift in the way businesses will operate post COVID-19. By empowering their end customers with new modes of working and building resiliency and rebuild businesses. Delivering more cloud-based enhancements like Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft Teams, and Power Platform solutions.

The new face of Microsoft 365 – Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, this year’s ‘game changer’ mentioned through the event was established as the new ‘remote work ecosystem’. Uniting communication and collaboration between employees through one platform.

As partners began the transition around empowering employees through these solutions, security concerns were addressed as data is transferred between digital locations.

“We are helping customers meet compliance requirements and protect their most sensitive information. The new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft 365 helps organizations identify and protect sensitive information across all their endpoints,”

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Microsoft Inspire 2020 – Product Announcements

Business Applications Announcement

  • Microsoft released a pre-built Power Platform solution that will help customers prioritize health, security, safety and streamline the process of returning employees to the workplace.

Microsoft 365 and Teams updates

  • Power BI personal app for Microsoft Teams – a centralized hub for data visualization and accessibility.
  • Microsoft Lists – a new Microsoft 365 app that facilitates easy information tracking and organization of works. Available in Microsoft Teams by Mid-August.
  • New capabilities in Microsoft Teams to support the first-line workers.

Azure Updates and announcements

  • New multi-factor authentication and Privileged Identity Management support in Azure Lighthouse.
  • Launch of the latest member of Microsoft’s hybrid portfolio – the next generation of Azure Stack HCI. It is the fastest and easiest way to integrate existing datacentres with cloud.
  • New Azure Migrate enhancements to enable customers to conduct richer datacentre assessments.

Dynamics 365

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Voice capability to offer out-of-the-box integration with everyday applications.
  • Preview of Dynamic 365 Connected Store – the AI tool that uses intelligent edge devices like video data and IoT sensor data to deliver triggered alerts and actionable recommendations.
  • General availability of Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection with new capabilities like Account Protection and Loss Prevention.

Extended Meeting Capabilities with Teams Apps

Microsoft is excited to announce new meetings extensibility points that will enable project services like us to expand the Teams meeting experience. With this new capability, developers will be able to build apps or integrate their existing ones within the meeting surface and provide a richer collaboration experiences for users across the entire meeting lifecycle – covering events and actions from before, during, and after a meeting. These new extensibility points will be available soon for preview over coming weeks.

Empowering solution services with new meetings surfaces
Until recently, developers could integrate Teams apps within the constructs of channels, 1:1 chats, and group chats – but not meetings. Now, these new meetings extensibility points provide an opportunity to enable their apps within the scope of a meeting as tabs, in new surface areas like the app panel, through in-meeting app signals for notifications, and access to critical APIs to enable powerful app experiences. Developers will be able to enable these capabilities by configuring Teams app to be available in meeting scope within their app manifest.

Enabling richer collaboration experiences across the meetings lifecycle
Microsoft Teams is the hub for teamwork and with these new meetings extensibility points, developers will be able to enable richer collaboration experiences across the meetings lifecycle. End users will enjoy an enhanced end-to-end meetings experience as they go from scheduling the meeting to attending the meeting to collaborate with meeting attendees after. Below are a few examples of the possibilities with these extensibilities.

Before meeting experiences
Users will be able to add Teams apps during meeting set up. Through the “roles” API, technicians will be able to configure the apps to tailor the experience based on the user’s role/persona (e.g., presenter, attendee, guest, anonymous).

before meeting experiences.png

During meeting experiences
Developers will be able to design how the Teams app uses the app panel (right pane) within a meeting. They can build experiences integrating tools such as adaptive cards, HTML, and other platform capabilities to create an engaging surface for users to interact with. Again, technicians can configure how the apps will behave based on the specific roles/personas in the meeting. The apps themselves will be visible from the meeting tool bar to host tabs.

during meeting experiences.png

Another capability that clients will be able to take advantage of are through in-meeting notifications (content bubbles), where the app will be able to surface important content to the users based on their role/persona.

during meeting experiences2.png

After meeting experience
The benefit of these new meetings extensibility points is that, like today, end users will have benefit of having their apps persist within this meetings surface to continue to use and draw back upon for further collaboration.

after meeting experiences.png

Consistent level of administrative controls and management
While these new extensibility points provide new sets of capabilities, developers can remain confident and leverage their existing toolset to manage Teams apps that integrate in meetings. We’ll be able to continue to have the same controls, tools, and policies to ensure enterprise grade security, manageability, and trust.

Unlocking meetings scenarios together with Microsoft Partners
Meetings extensibility has been a highly requested from both MSP Clients and Managed Service Partners for good reason. There are numerous scenarios across lines of business, industries, and competencies where these extensibility points will unlock opportunities to enhance collaboration and productivity. We’re excited to announce that several of Microsoft’s key partners, including Polly, Open Agora, Miro, iCIMS, and HireVue are integrating these new capabilities in their Teams apps at the time of our anticipated general availability launch later this year – unlocking new scenarios and experiences for Teams users to interact with their apps across the meeting lifecycle.

polly and open agora.png

Polly and Open Agora are apps that allow users to create and distribute polls and surveys to gather data easily for real-time insight and analysis. With the new meetings extensibility points, these partners will be able to build more integrated polling/surveying experiences directly within the scope of meetings.


Miro provides users a virtual whiteboard for visual brainstorming and organization. With the new meetings extensibility points, users will be able to enable these apps across the entire meetings lifecycle for whiteboarding before, during, and after meetings.

icims and hirevue.png

iCIMS and HireVue are talent acquisition and interviewing platforms that provide organizations end-to-end recruiting, interviewing, and hiring solutions. With the new meetings extensibility points, users using these Teams apps will be able streamline and enrich the candidate hiring experience, such as entering interview feedback directly while facilitating virtual interviews.

Design, build, and expand new meeting experiences
Microsoft are excited to provide partners these new meeting extensibility points. As Microsoft roll out the developer preview over the coming weeks, Microsoft invite us to begin integrating your apps with these new extensibility capabilities and look forward to collecting your feedback to help us improve. General availability is expected later this year.

The End of Windows 7 – January 2020

What does Windows 7 “End of Life” mean?
Microsoft have announced that Windows 7 will be “end of life” in January 2020. “End of Life” means that Microsoft are no longer considering the decade-old operating system, a viable and secure option for users. In fact, mainstream support for the product ended in January 2015 but has been in an “extended support” phase since. This means, no new features have been added, and warranty claims no longer valid. With the EOL planned in January 2020, this phase of extended support will also end.

What does this mean for you, if you are still running Windows 7?
Microsoft will no longer provide security patches and bug fixes for the operating system. With vulnerabilities continuously discovered, this causes serious concern for the security and stability of your data. Windows 7 is likely going to be a focus point for hackers and criminals, as the system will be increasingly vulnerable to attacks. Due to the product considered obsolete, Microsoft’s support for it will end as well. This means that if we, as your IT partner, need Microsoft’s help with resolving an issue, we no longer receive assistance. Once support becomes end of life, you can still use the software however, you should not.

ABT have received many questions from concerned users on what to do next.
The most beneficial options for those still working on Windows 7 are to upgrade the software or replace the workstation altogether. Changing to an alternative operating system such as Linux or MacOS is usually not viable, we strongly advise our clients not to consider the upgrade path. It is very questionable whether the cost of upgrading old Windows 7 machines to Windows 10 provides value. Typically, these devices are more than 3 years old and out of warranty, this means long-term reliability cannot be guaranteed. If you do decide to upgrade, you will have a modern operating system, however, the cost of licensing, downtime and labour associated with an upgrade does not justify the benefit. It is likely, that this upgraded device will soon require new hardware, causing these upgrade costs repeated.

Speak to us about your options to remove an existing, aging Windows 7 computer from your fleet. You will often find this to be a more economically viable solution in the long run. While we have you, we will discuss other expiring technologies with you, such as Office 2010, Server 2008, all critical Microsoft systems due for the end of their extended support.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-Factor Authentication. What is it, and why do I need it.

MFA. It is a term you will have heard. The IT industry loves acronyms, so you’ll find MFA plastered all over news articles, blog posts, and maybe in an email you would have received from us. As your IT Partner we take your security very serious, and MFA is part of this. But what is it?

Simply put, MFA is another way to let a system know you are who you say you are. You’ll have a password, sure. But what if a bad guy knows your password, by guessing it, or by stealing it? With your login ID, which is often easy to find, and your password, suddenly all your email, documents, photo’s of your family, financial information and browsing history becomes available to use.  And passwords are only as safe as they are secure. Most people hold well over 50 passwords, so many will duplicate passwords across systems and, sometimes very unsafe websites. A password manager can help, and please reach out to us if you need one, but even then you’re still vulnerable.

Multi-factor verification is more secure than just a password because it relies on two forms of authentication: something you know, and something you have with you. The something you know is your password. The something you have with you is typically a phone. The way it works is that after you log in with your password, the system will ask you to verify who you are by sending a text message to your phone, give you a code in an “authenticator app” on your phone or have you confirm on the phone that all is good and access can be given. Two-factor verification can help to stop malicious hackers from pretending to be you, because even if they have your password, odds are that they don’t have your device, too.

MFA is a little bit of extra effort. You’ll need to create a credential up front and need to enter it when you want access. We can sometimes make it a little easier, for example by limiting the number of times you need to authenticate when you’re in your company’s internal network or give you an “app password” that can make it easier. But in all situations having two forms of authentication is better than having one.  Safety is no longer guaranteed in business, or even your personal environment (you really should use MFA for your personal email and documents as well). If you’re not protected, the question isn’t whether you’re going to be compromised, but when. And how much it is going to cost you or your business.

ABT have performed MFA projects for dozens of our clients, enabling security for thousands of our users. If we haven’t yet reached out to you to enable MFA on your company’s data, we will. If you would like more information, or would like us to engage with you to increase your security even more, please reach out to