New framework makes security, compliance more accessible for education institutions
By Esther Matshego, Licensing Advisor at Altron Karabina
With South Africa being a top target for cyber attackers, and privacy regulations such as POPI coming into force, organisations, including education institutions, need to do more to protect their users and better manage their data. An ideal solution for them is Microsoft 365 Education A5, which offers telephony functionality, more robust security, better compliance management and advanced analytics – and is currently being offered at a discounted rate.
As part of Microsoft’s Education Transformation Framework for Higher Education, the A5 plan has been discounted by 20%, making it an ideal option for those institutions that have identified online or hybrid teaching and learning as a key part of their roadmap. It also makes it more affordable for organisations that have understood the value of the A5 plan but had not taken it up due to cost. Over the previous three years, only the A3 plan was offered to institutional customers on a discounted basis.
In addition to new customers, the framework benefits both users of the A3 plan who have identified increased security, compliance and communications needs, as well as institutions that signed up for A5 under the old framework. Existing customers who are on the A5 plan can take advantage of the 20% discount – based on eligibility criteria – by moving to the current education framework by starting a new Campus and School Agreement.
Institutions will be able to better secure their environment through encryption and endpoint security while offering more features and functionality, and enabling increased self-service features to reduce reliance on IT support. All of this allows for an enhanced experience for the institution’s end-users, while the organisation still maintains control over who has access to the different services and what information is available to them.
When it comes to managing compliance, the Microsoft 365 Education A5 plan offers the following over and above what is available on the A3 plan: endpoint data loss prevention, communications data loss prevention (for Teams chats), communication compliance, customer key, advanced message encryption, customer lockbox, insider risk management and privileged access management.
On the security side, the additional features that institutions gain from being on the A5 plan include Microsoft Defender for Office 365, Microsoft 365 Defender for Cloud Apps and Microsoft Defender for Identity. Further, automatic sensitivity labelling in the A5 plan means that confidential information is automatically restricted to only those with access, while other content can be shared in a way that other recipients cannot edit it.
When it comes to analytics, A5 plan users have Power BI Pro, an interactive data visualisation tool, and MyAnalytics, which helps employees and employers gain insight into how workers spend their time across Microsoft 365 applications and to help improve efficiency, included in their subscription.
Now that education institutions are moving more of their work into the cloud, enabling seamless remote working from any location and device, we need to pay attention to how they can protect themselves and their data from cyber threats and improper access. These features will not only help these organisations with improved security and compliance, but it also means they do not need to invest in additional third-party software or tools to gain these benefits.
To cater for the increase in online and hybrid learning, the A5 option includes Phone System, which enables call control and PBX capabilities in Microsoft 365 through Teams, enabling education institutions to replace their traditional hardware-based telephony systems and ensuring that educators and administrators can make and receive their landline calls from remote locations. Calls between users in the organisation are handled by Phone System, removing long-distance costs on internal calls.
For those users who wish to remain on the A3 plan, there is flexibility in being able to select functionality that is only included in the A5 plan. For example, Phone System is available as an add-on and is currently available on a discounted basis for a limited time as well; as not all users within an organisation might require access to telephony features, institutions can add licences accordingly.
This flexibility extends to applications such as Power BI Pro, which A3 plan users can also add to their existing agreement in order to give their education institution advanced analytics tools and capabilities. By working with Altron Karabina, a Microsoft partner that has in-depth technology and industry expertise, organisations can better understand their technology requirements and ensure that the solution – including having the correct and right number of licences – matches their needs.