Microsoft Defender for Office 365 Review

Essential security capabilities, plenty of email protection, and enhanced data loss prevention


What is our primary use case?

This solution is a mixed product. It can be used for email security and for information protection which is basically data loss prevention. Many people do this type of setup for DLP, but it is under Microsoft's naming convention, they call it Microsoft Information Protection(MIP).

How has it helped my organization?

It definitely is a must for email protection and O365 app DLP.  Combined with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, Microsoft Defender for Identity, and MCAS, it provides a holistic solution for threat protection, email protection, O365 apps protection, and DLP for both internal and external risks.

What is most valuable?

Some of the valuable features on the email side are anti-phishing, anti-malware, and Safe Links. Anything that has the word "safe" in it is essentially made to defend against the common email vulnerabilities that you would see in similar products. Without these features, it does not have nearly the capabilities. 

On the information protection side, the best features are probably the data loss prevention policies that cover the whole suite of Office 365 applications. I will explain it a little more, from an information protection standpoint, Defender for Office 365, does strictly apply to the Office apps, but that is where it can get confusing because it can do more. It works with MIP, and MIP can be part of a SKU in the M365, particularly the E5 SKU or equivalent. It can protect and prevent data loss of data wherever it operates. It does not matter where it operates, it can be in a different cloud service, on-premises, in Office, a SaaS application, or even It could be your own applications that you have developed. Defender for Office 365 helps with the loss prevention for Office 365 applications.

What needs improvement?

There needs to be an improvement in having the product work across multiple operating systems and have better support for non-Microsoft file types.

Defender for Office 365 handles the Microsoft supported file types, but MIP is limited. This solution does what it needs to do, but it does not go to the depth of if it was working with MIP, a holistic information protection system. It does not support all the file types an organization might use. For example, AutoCAD B1 for manufacturing or defence-oriented companies, they have to add a third-party add-on, or you would have to create the extensibility.

In an upcoming release, there should be business continuity features added. Proofpoint solution addresses what happens if you have an outage. If your tenant or your SaaS application is not available, there is no continuity right now with this solution. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the solution for approximately 6 months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Generally, it is stable with a good SLA.  Still there can be outages in either O365 or Azure AD but they are rare.  That is where Proofpoint adds a BC/DR feature that is lacking with O365 Exchange Online.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is a scalable solution. We have deployed it to several hundred thousand people, and it scaled fine. There are different considerations that need to be made before the solution can scale properly. For example, If I am in a hybrid environment, my connection to the cloud is 100 MB, and I have got 100,000 users, that connection bandwidth is not going to work. As long as people know that there are certain adjustments that are needed to scale, then it will scale properly.

Another example, if it is a Multi-GEO spread across the globe, you are only as good as your network backbone or what you pay for your network backbone, this is the case in many clouds. If you are using a hybrid setup, it is the same situation, you need to figure out how to regionalize things and then have adequate bandwidth. There are techniques to use that makes sure you are using the shortest path to the cloud from each region. If you do not pay attention to all of these considerations when attempting to scale the product you are not going to have a good experience.

How are customer service and technical support?

Microsoft does a very good job of having information available for customers such as documentation and online videos. The problem is wading into every consideration that you have to have, such as, is the network sufficient, or evaluating the different setup scenario types where it could get really complicated. For example, having a Multi-GEO setup, what is the impact of a network on the performance. There are scenarios where it can get difficult, where a company acquires another company and they both are in separate Active Directory force and a lot of them at times, they do not know the order of how to do things. The complication of supported models between how you do identity and some of them do not even know how to do enterprise architecture or the difference between enterprise architecture and solution architecture. You could run into best practices not being followed and have to re-engineer everything, I have run into all kinds of scenarios.

Generally, the only problem with the documentation is it is hard for people to put all the information together, there can be a lot of information. Microsoft support is only as good as their documentation, and their documentation is currently behind. Since Ignite 2020, all the announcements came out of that and the documentation still has not caught up. We are now at Ignite 2021. 

A lot of these technical support agents just read a script. However, it depends on which level you are talking about. If you get entry-level support and then you are moving up the ladder, it could take time to get the information you are seeking for a resolution. If you get the right support person then you are good, but if not then you could be going around in circles for a while before you are able to resolve your issue.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

At GuidePoint Security we are paid consultant therefore work within the requirements of customers.  Some customers understand the holistic Microsoft XDR and information protection solutions and how they integrate together to send signals to a SIEM/SOAR product for incident discovery and remediation.  Others use a mixed bag of products from CrowdStrike, Symantec, etc. on endpoints, may use a third-party CASB product i.e. Netskope which combined with Netskope's Secure Web Proxy forms their SASE solution.

How was the initial setup?

The installation can be easy in SMB but there can be some difficult challenges in large enterprises.  Typically it is companies going through mergers, etc.

What about the implementation team?

Full deployment can have challenges, but it is all depending on your organization's usage. For example, organizations that have to be in the government cloud and where they have both US and non-US citizens. In the government cloud, friendly nations can participate in the government cloud and there are some that definitely cannot. There could be many that cannot be allowed. For example, If there were two that could not be allowed, those two clouds have to be separated completely. They cannot communicate with each other whatsoever. That is a little bit of a problem for some organizations. What if I have a subsidiary in Australia that says, "No, I do not want to be in the government cloud." how are you going to handle the fact that all your US subsidiaries have agreed to go into the government cloud and the Australian one is sitting out saying "no". You then now have to treat these separately like they are two separate organizations.

What was our ROI?

We have received a good return on investment with this solution, it does what it is supposed to do. Particularly from the email and information protection perspective, it does a very good job, but it could be better.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Microsoft licensing should include Microsoft Defender for O365 in their E3 and E5 licenses.  Currently it is all or nothing unless you purchase an add-on which we advise enterprise customers to do.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I have evaluated Proofpoint in the past which has continuity features that this solution is lacking.

What other advice do I have?

The solution is really good, but not perfect, nothing is. They have done a very good job, they just have a little ways to go. The way their documentation is constructed, connecting the dots holistically is something people find hard and that is the reason they call people like me because I know how to connect the dots.

I rate Microsoft Defender for Office 365 a nine out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Hybrid Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

Latest version
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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