The News: This year, at Microsoft’s Ignite 2020 Conference, the company revealed a series of updates to its Edge Browser focusing on employee productivity, privacy and security. Read the full news update on Microsoft’s Blog.
Analyst Take: Microsoft Edge had a significant list of enhancements that it was able to feature at this year’s Microsoft Ignite 2020 event. Here are four that caught my attention. Below are the overviews from Microsoft (Italicized) and my analysis of the solutions and their importance for Microsoft’s current and prospective users of the Edge Browser.
Prevent Data Loss on Endpoints
One approach to keeping data under corporate control is through data loss prevention (DLP) software. Remote work has blended contexts at home and made this even more important. As end users bounce between work and personal states, accidents can happen, and sensitive data might land in an unsecure location. Generally available in October, Microsoft 365’s latest solution, Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP), functions to help protect against this scenario—and it’s natively supported in Microsoft Edge on day one of its release. It alerts end users to non-compliant activity (like accidentally moving a sensitive file into an unprotected location) to help prevent data loss when they’re working from the browser. Better guardrails for end users and better compliance tools for organizations. It’s a win-win.
Take: Remote work has put exponential pressure on systems and administrators. Knowing that a mistake won’t lead to massive data losses by someone that doesn’t have the full guard rails up is important. What I like most about this is the native support for Microsoft Edge upon release. It’s more about ecosystem of having your data, apps and browser work together seamlessly. This is a good example of how Edge can provide that level of protection.
For end users juggling apps during remote work, being able to easily access what they need is a boon. For IT pros, peace of mind comes with having end users working in a browser protected by the latest security technologies. Microsoft Edge addresses both with Internet Explorer mode. IE mode simplifies the user experience by allowing them to access business-critical legacy sites without leaving Microsoft Edge—Internet Explorer stays closed, and they juggle one less app. And since end users stay in Microsoft Edge, IT pros know they’re working from our latest browser with our latest security capabilities. Internet Explorer mode is a great tool and soon will be even easier to manage for IT pros. Coming soon, IT pros will be able to manage their Enterprise Mode Site list from the cloud. Instead of locally hosting the XML site list, they’ll be able to easily access and manage it anywhere, whether at home or back at the office.
Take: While updates and migrations to the newest versions and having native apps for Edge will be a goal in the near-term. Short-term, having the protection of Edge even for web based applications that would typically run or run optimally in Internet Explorer is important. This is another native integration that I like to see as users wont have much to consider. IT leaders can remove I.E. altogether without eliminating access to the apps that the employees need–all with best of breed Edge security capability. Further, the Enterprise Mode Site List gives administrators even more access to keep the safe sites updated seamlessly for those using them.
Managing an entire device whenever it’s used to access corporate data isn’t ideal for end users and frankly, we’ve heard that IT departments would prefer not to as well! Mobile application management (MAM) as part of a unified endpoint management solution is both the future and the ideal state—IT pros can manage only the activity in an app that is related to work and then can leave the rest of the device alone. App Configuration in Intune will soon allow IT pros to do that using Azure Active Directory profiles in Microsoft Edge. If on a personal device, end users can login with their work identity and the organization will only manage that experience. IT departments get the control they want for compliance, and end users can work from the device that best suits them—even if it’s their personal device—without handing over the keys.
Take: I like the idea of separating the device from the application and the usage–within reason. The data and most nefarious type activities would take place in the application anyhow, and moreover, most employees are trying to work and be as productive as possible with their devices. The ability to control the applications that are work related while leaving everything else alone gives the appropriate locus of control to IT and the user. It also provides a runway for more BYOD where a company can safely manage app usage without being intrusive on a personal device. This is intersection of Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Management is considerate to the modern work style and increased dependence on personal devices and remote work.
This year the theme for Microsoft Search is more coverage and more convenience. To ensure that each time an employee searches they’ll be covering more of the information within their company, we’ve added support for more connectors; now there are more than 100 available across our ecosystem of partners. Additionally, we’ve added Power BI to the types of files you can find, available in the WORK tab on Bing.
To make all of that information more accessible, we’re adding search to more places employees are already working. Coming soon, employees will be able to find files they’re working on and people they’re working with right from the Windows Search Box. Another new integration point for Microsoft Search is in Sidebar Search.
Take: This one is pretty straight forward. Being able to search in one place for everything that is both web and device based has been something every user, everywhere has long desired. The ability to plug in something like Power BI to find data visualizations seamlessly with Dynamics 365 queries and also Teams queries and other web searches is more user friendly. As file sprawl grows, having easier access across the entire file system all in the browser is simply a more efficient way of working.
The impending Enterprise News tab and PDF Validation functions that are coming are also a nice touch to make the browser an even more friendly place to start your day and spend time as well as make sure that those PDF files you are receiving are legit and not tampered with. Small, but important incremental advances that will further expand the search capabilities within Microsoft Edge.
Overall Impressions of Microsoft Edge Announcements at Ignite 2020
Microsoft had a significant hill to climb facing the market dominance of Google in the browser, and with Internet Explorer having been deemed antiquated over the past several years. Edge has been a pivotal moment for Microsoft as this browser has risen to the challenges of modern browsing and has met not just productivity needs, but security needs of its users. With remote employees reportedly spending 60% of their time on the browser when using their PC, apps have to work but also be sensitive to security and privacy–this has been the key focus of Microsoft with its continued investment and enhancements of Edge.
With full integration of Microsoft Edge to Microsoft 365 security out of the box, I see a winning combination for safer browsing for a growing population of users spending more time in browser. This means better protection against malware and phishing attacks, plus greater peace of mind for users worried about their data being captured without consent and those pesky trackers that follow all of us around the web.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.