Get answers to your Office 365 security and compliance questions

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Office 365 reporting tool offers insights, analytics

Microsoft's Office 365 reporting tool gives administrators flexibility with how reports are generated and ways to monitor the consumption of the cloud platform.

A move to the cloud means administrators can be more hands-off in certain areas, but reporting isn't one of them. Microsoft Office 365 is equipped with a number of reports that administrators should keep an eye on. Here's a look at how to get the most out of the Office 365 reporting tool, specifically its usage function.

To access the Office 365 reporting tool, select Reports from the main Office 365 admin center window using either the graph icon in the navigation menu or the report widget. You can also hover over the navigation menu option to see the two report categories: Usage and Security & Compliance.

When you select the required report category, the dashboard appears. The Usage dashboard has a modern look; the Security & Compliance dashboard has a more traditional text look with links to the available reports.

Microsoft presents a set of graphical reports in the Usage report dashboard. The company refers to these as report cards. They consist of reports on:

  • Active users
  • Email activity
  • OneDrive files
  • Skype activity

Report cards on the Usage dashboard give an overview of the status of report elements. The administrator can select and view all available reports from the menu. Several reporting timeframe options -- 7, 30, 90 or 180 days -- show admins how individual business units use Office 365 services across different time periods. Changing the time period applies to all report cards on the dashboard.

Microsoft presents a set of graphical reports in the Usage report dashboard. The company refers to these as report cards.

For example, the Email Activity report card shows -- in a bar chart -- statistics for the given time period, such as the individual number of email messages sent, received and read, as well as the number of active licensed end users that sent or read an email. It also shows the total number of messages sent and received across the organization, along with the percentage change figure of these statistics over the previous reporting time period. This type of insight enables admins to quickly see if expected operating patterns are being observed and users are maintaining compliance requirements.

A useful, but often overlooked, feature of the report card is the ability to choose which bar chart elements display. To do this, click on the respective element name to select or deselect it.

How to get even more from Office 365 reporting

Clicking a report card gives admins a more detailed view of requested report across for a specified time period. Each report has multiple views that provide different information. For example, the Email Activity report shows information such as user activity and the number of users; the OneDrive Usage report offers information in areas such as accounts, files and storage. Within a view, further details of the time period are presented below the displayed graph. In the case of the Email Activity report, the messaging activity for individual end users is presented in columns that reveal information such as:

  • User name
  • Last activity date
  • Number of messages sent
  • Number of messages received

Administrators can also add columns to display further information, such as:

  • End user's display name
  • A Boolean value indicating whether the end user account was deleted or not
  • The date the user account was deleted

Finally, for each column displayed, the administrator can filter objects returned, which is important for larger data sets. For example, administrators in large enterprises can filter the output to display a list of end users that have sent or received more than a certain number of email messages. These customization principles apply to other reports as well.

Additional Office 365 reporting tool configurations

The Office 365 reporting tool has several other configurations that admins will find useful. If, for example, you need to hide end users' names from reports, select Settings from the navigation menu, then Services & Add-Ins and then Reports. In the Reports window, enable Show an anonymous identifier instead of the user name in all reports option and click Save. After a few minutes, hexadecimal text strings will replace those users' names.

Another valuable feature is the ability to export useful report information. To do this, choose the export option on the report's main page. Report data will be downloaded in a comma-separated value file that can be opened and analyzed in Microsoft Excel or stored.

Microsoft continues to update its Office 365 reporting tool features, so admins should regularly review reports to see what new ones are available.

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