The last time Microsoft released user info (about a year ago), it said Office 365 has 120 million users, as reported by ZDNet. The platform offers small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) a cloud-based suite of applications that is mobile, enhances collaboration, and boosts workplace productivity and efficiency. Plus, because Office 365 is from Microsoft, users are familiar with the apps and don’t require much of a learning curve.

Part of Office 365’s appeal is email. For SMBs using a basic email client from some obscure service provider, Office 365 is a giant leap forward. And almost everyone in today’s workforce has at some point gained a basic familiarity with Outlook’s email and calendar functionality.

Office 365 may be great for email (among other things), but this is 2018, and the variety of threats that attack businesses via email remains a huge fear. The concern is valid—a report from Wombat Security found that 76 percent of responding organizations experienced a phishing attack in 2017. Moreover, the bad guys have become too good at making malicious emails look legitimate, thus fooling even cautious users into clicking what shouldn’t be clicked.

Unfortunately, Office 365’s email on its own isn’t equipped to provide the comprehensive security necessary to protect SMBs. But that’s not a reason to avoid the innovative suite. Here is a look at why choosing the right email security solution is essential for unlocking the potential of Office 365.

Office 365 Email

A major reason that businesses seek Office 365 is its email capabilities. For SMBs, the platform offers enterprise-class email, incredible mobility, large mailboxes, ease of use, seamless functionality with other Office 365 features, and robust compatibility with non-Microsoft solutions. For businesses without the IT resources to implement their own native email, Office 365 delivers a platform that doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge to set up, but does offer a UX your employees might already be familiar with.

Security Imperfections

The security features of Office 365, as well as the idea that it’s cloud-based, are sometimes touted as advantages. Unfortunately, these security benefits have been overstated. For example, Office 365 offers email encryption, but only within inboxes, and not point-to-point. Email in transit is unencrypted and, therefore, vulnerable. Also, the standard email filtering is too basic, potentially opening the door for ransomware, phishing emails, and other threats. Although filtering can be custom-set, this is time-consuming and still leaves the potential of missing something that results in a vulnerability.

ATP Is Just OK

Microsoft does offer Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), an add-on for additional cost that enhances Office 365’s existing email features. The best thing we can say about Advanced Threat Protection is, well, it is more advanced than the platform’s basic security. ATP isn’t the worst solution, but it still falls short in several areas, including web filtering in case a user does click on a malicious link in an email, real-time threat notification alerts, and customized threat intelligence. This option is a good start, but for truly top-notch protection, a third party is your best bet.

Pick a Powerful Security Solution

When choosing a third-party email security solution for Office 365, a good first consideration is seeking a provider that is an expert with Office 365. From there, look for software that goes beyond ATP to provide maximum protection from threats before and after they reach inboxes. The best solutions provide point-to-point encryption, strong filtering, continual updates and support, and little fuss to set it all up. Office 365 is an important investment that can yield many benefits on the email front, so the security solution you choose must be powerful in order to protect and maximize that investment.

secure your office 365 investment

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