Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Office 365 Business-to-Business (B2B) Capabilities


This has come up a lot lately and I want to write something about this.  Business-to-business (B2B) capabilities are available in Office 365 and here are some features can consider turning on.
Skype for Business Online


Skype for Business Online external connectivity (federation) enables a Skype for Business Online user to connect with users in other organizations that use Skype for Business (as well as those that host their own Skype for Business Server on-premises). Federated contacts can see presence, communicate by using IM, and make Skype-to-Skype audio and video calls.

Skype for Business Online external connectivity requires the consent and correct configuration of both parties of the federation relationship. After the federation is set up by the administrators of both sides, users in each organization can see presence and communicate with users in the other agencies.


Public IM Connectivity

Additionally, Skype for Business Online can be configured to allow communications to consumer Skype.  This can enable communications scenarios with citizens and constituents.  Presence, instant messaging and video conversations is supported.


Exchange Online

Federated Sharing

Federation refers to the underlying trust infrastructure that supports federated sharing, a method for Microsoft Exchange Online users to share free/busy calendar data and contact information with recipients in other external federated organizations or with users that have Internet access. These include organizations that are also hosted by Exchange Online, or external Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 or Exchange Server 2013 organizations. Using organization relationships and sharing policies, Exchange Online administrators can enable users to send calendar-sharing invitations from Microsoft Outlook Web App or Microsoft Outlook 2010 or later.

Once configured, an organization will have the ability to coordinate schedules with people in different agencies or with friends and family members so that you can work together on projects or plan social events. With Office 365, administrators can set up different levels of calendar access in Exchange Online to allow businesses to collaborate with other businesses and to let users share their schedules with others. Business-to-business calendar sharing is set up by creating organization relationships. User-to-user calendar sharing is set up by applying sharing policies.


Exchange Online Protection

Trusted Partner Messaging

Organizations can set up secure mail flow with a trusted partner by using Office 365 connectors. Office 365 supports secure communication through Transport Layer Security (TLS). Agencies can create a connector to enforce encryption via TLS for business-to-business emails. Additionally, there is the ability to apply other security restrictions such as specifying domain names or IP address ranges from which your partner organization sends mail. TLS is a cryptographic protocol that provides security for communications over the Internet. Using connectors, you can configure both forced inbound and outbound TLS using self-signed or certification authority (CA)-validated certificates.
Note - this solution does not impact the actual end user experience of sending email between organizations, however it adds an additional level of security if desired for sending email between agencies.


SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business

Guest Access

If an organization performs work that involves sharing documents or collaborating directly with vendors, clients, partners, or customers, it is possible to use SharePoint Online sites to share content with people outside your organization who do not have licenses for your organization’s Microsoft Office 365 subscription. When a site is shared in SharePoint Online, an email message is sent to the external user containing the invitation to join the site.
  • If the external user is already associated to an Office 365 tenant, that user can use that identity to access SharePoint Online sites and documents that are shared. 
  • If the external user does not have an Office 365 account, they can access SharePoint Online using Microsoft Account (Your Microsoft account is the one that you use for personal services like Xbox Live, Outlook.com, Windows 8, Windows Phone, and more).  Invitations can be sent to people with any type of email address, such as user@gmail.com, user@contoso.com, or user@Comcast.net. External users sign in to the shared site via a one-time association of their email address with a Microsoft account.
Additionally, site users can generate a Guest Link (an anonymous link to a document) to share documents stored in SharePoint Online with external users without requiring the external user to sign in. Site users can create a Guest Link right from where the document is stored, such as in OneDrive for Business or a team site library, by using the “Get a link” button.

Finally, there is solution called Restricted Domain sharing that you can consider using.  This allows for an Allow/Deny List based on email domain.  At the tenant level, administrators can limit sharing invitations to a limited number of email domains.  This is a powerful feature that will allow you to set-up controlled external sharing with your partners.


What is Office 365 Groups?

Office 365 Groups is the next generation of collaboration solution available in Office 365 that brings together “best of breed” collaboration experiences.  Office 365 Groups bring together Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Office Online, and Skype for Business Online into a unified end user experience.  When a group is created:
  • A mailbox is created for the group for shared email
  • A shared calendar is created for group meetings and events
  • A shared library is created to store files and documents
  • A OneNote notebook is created to share project information and meeting notes
  • A planning tool is available to organize and assign tasks

Note that Office 365 Groups is a “suite” feature requiring the acquisition of an Office 365 E3 (or higher) Suite.

Guest Access for Business-to-Business Collaboration

Office 365 Groups supports the ability to invite guests in a similar manner as SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.  Office 365 Groups has been available for time and this is a new feature that US Federal agencies should consider leveraging for cross-business collaboration.

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