vege - Fotolia


Must-know apps for Office 365 and Exchange

As Office 365 increases in popularity, admins should get to know these apps and how they work with each organization.

With an increasing number of available apps for Office 365, it can be difficult to know which ones to deploy and use in conjunction with the software. The answer varies with each organization, but Exchange administrators must know which apps are used and how they work with the organization's systems. If your organization uses cloud services such as Office 365 or Azure Rights Management, take the time to research the apps likely to be of value in your organization.

Email and Microsoft Office are likely the first two apps that come to mind in relation to Office 365. Most end users can't be without email, so a mail app that connects to an Exchange Online mailbox is something many consider essential. For Windows Phone users, Outlook Mobile is already included and allows for Exchange ActiveSync connectivity to Exchange Online. Microsoft offers an Outlook Web App (OWA) for Office 365 app that provides iPhone and iPad users mobile functionality, such as offline access to mailbox items.

Most end users will also want to view Office documents on mobile devices. To facilitate this, there are versions of Microsoft Office available for a number of device platforms. Office Mobile is built into the Windows Phone operating system and allows users to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. A version of Office Mobile is also available for Android users.

For Apple devices, Microsoft offers Office for iPad and Office for iPhone consisting of individual Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps. As an Exchange admin, be sure you understand not only the core Office apps your end users have, but also related apps such as OneNote and OneDrive for Business. This is because your end users may be storing files in multiple locations.

Link up to the Lync app

For organizations using Lync Online in Office 365, there are apps for Lync 2010 and Lync 2013 for Windows Phone, Android, iPhone and iPad. These apps bring Lync features such as instant messaging and audio conferencing to the mobile device. Not only will systems admins likely want to use the Lync app as part of their day-to-day duties, but they'll also want to be aware of any functionality restrictions applicable to some countries. More information on these apps can be found on the Office on Mobile Devices site.

Native apps in Outlook and OWA

There are apps for Office 365 that appear within existing products such as Outlook or OWA.  Exchange Online comes with five apps enabled by default and available to all end users. The Bing Maps app, for example, displays in Outlook or OWA the map location of physical addresses that appear in email.

To find these apps, Exchange admins can launch the Exchange Admin Center, navigate to the Organization pane and then click the Apps tab. The Action Items, Bing Maps, My Templates, Suggested Meetings and Unsubscribe apps are then revealed.

File protection for Office 365 apps

In addition to Office 365, an organization can deploy other cloud services, such as Azure Rights Management. If this is the case, consider the Rights Management sharing app available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone mobile platforms. This mobile app allows your end users to view protected files, as well as protect any pictures they might want to share. If they want to protect files other than pictures, they'll need the Rights Management Services (RMS) app for Windows. These apps can be downloaded from the Microsoft Rights Management portal.

Monitor Office 365's health

Admins must consider apps for Office 365 that can understand the health of the service. The Office 365 Admin app allows admins to connect to the Office 365 service to view service health information and determine the status of any maintenance activities. The service health screen shows each Office 365 service along with an overall health indicator; the maintenance screen reveals details of maintenance activities. The app is available from Microsoft for Windows Phone, Android and iOS.

Each service health area can also be used to reveal the health of sub-areas within that service.  For example, in the Exchange Online service health screen, you can see the health of Exchange Online areas such as email and calendar access, management, provisioning and voicemail.

Incident details are also provided, including when the incident started, the current status of the incident and customer impact. This app will prove useful in scenarios where admins are away from their desks, but are required to confirm the overall status of Office 365 if there are issues with the service.

Dig Deeper on Office 365 and Microsoft SaaS setup and management