SharePoint Online security tips

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You want to rest easy knowing your SharePoint data is keeping with security and compliance regulations. Get up to speed with these actionable SharePoint security tips.

While the cloud has been around for years now, a lot of IT pros remain skeptical about the compliance standards of their cloud provider.

That’s worrying, no? Well, cloud security depends on two things: one part depends on the provider, while another part depends on how you manage your company’s access and usage of the environment. Take Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online, for example.

Learn more: 5 crucial SharePoint security tips you need to know

On the Microsoft side of things, the corporation has a pretty good track record for cloud security, and its Trust Center keeps you updated with all the latest news and information about how Microsoft is managing the cloud.

What are the security issues related to SharePoint Online?

SharePoint Online is part of Microsoft 365, operating as the ‘cloud version’ of SharePoint.

For many companies, the big advantage of any cloud-based solution is that it reduces the need for you to host and maintain a server in-house. This means you save time and money; your IT staff spends less time on maintenance and more time on operations.

But, by storing company data in the cloud, you do lose some control over how those servers are managed and maintained and hand over a lot of responsibility to Microsoft. That can make some Compliance and Security Officers worry.

But is SharePoint Online a risky platform? Well, not necessarily any more than SharePoint on-premises. You can pretty much guarantee that Microsoft’s data centers have better firewalls and greater general protection than the servers in the basement of your building.

But, on the other hand, storing data in the cloud means it’s easier for anyone with a password to access your environment and take your data – they don’t have to be physically in the same building as your servers.

So how can companies deal with the new challenges of data and user security in the cloud?

3 tips for managing your SharePoint Online security

1. Keep safety top of mind while sharing your SharePoint Online content with externals users

Adding external users to a SharePoint environment has improved significantly in Microsoft 365, where SharePoint content can be shared.

  • Sites and documents can be shared using a Microsoft account or a work or school account in Azure AD from another organization
  • A direct guest link to documents can be sent to grant anonymous access to specific documents
  • Guest access in Microsoft 365 Groups lets you add guests to the group if you want them to be able to access the SharePoint team site automatically

2. Manage group permissions in SharePoint Online

For IT admins, Microsoft 365 Groups is key for modern workplace governance because it has a sense of centralized management.

When a number of sites have to be shared with the HR department, it can be done either by giving permission to each of the users or by sharing the data with a group. 

In the first scenario, when an HR employee leaves, their permissions have to be revoked individually. When managing permissions for a group, the user simply needs to be removed from that group. 

Who can add members to Groups? Learn about permissions for owners, members, and guests

In larger companies, it can even be beneficial to assign Active Directory (AD) groups to SharePoint groups. Group membership is then normally managed at the Active Directory level. 

By assigning the AD groups to SharePoint, group membership changes only need to be applied in Active Directory. In SharePoint Online, the same logic applies – so just make sure you’re doing this consistently and have a process in place for when an employee leaves the company. 

3. Get information and resources on security in the Microsoft Trust Center

Microsoft is aware that one of the biggest problems with storing data in the cloud is the perception of trust. Data stored in “on-premises” systems can be secured by internal IT personnel, which allows for a better level of confidence, even if such a solution still includes some degree of risk. 

For companies who tend to be more risk-averse, cloud technology can be a worrying prospect. To help with this, Microsoft has created a standalone site called the ‘Microsoft Trust Center‘, which covers everything regarding security. This includes:

  • Audit reports: Verify technical compliance and control requirements, and stay current on the latest security, privacy, and compliance-related information for Microsoft’s cloud services. 
  • Azure Blueprints: Templates that help development teams to build and start up enterprise environments in accordance with their organizational compliance. 
  • Other documents and resources: Perform security and risk assessments of Microsoft’s cloud services, and leverage a wealth of information to help you meet regulatory compliance objectives. 

SharePoint Online in Microsoft 365 is a secure system

Security is a concern for companies using cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft 365. The cloud presents a change in how data is stored, with additional layers of control and access taken away compared to the “traditional” on-premises environment.

However, of all the cloud providers, Microsoft 365 has to be among the most secure and is almost certainly safer than most companies’ standard firewalls.

Of course, using SharePoint Online opens you up to different kinds of risks, but the tools it provides mean system admins and users should be able to control data effectively.

There’s always going to be a slim risk that some rogue employee or contractor could try and breach your systems, yet by implementing security best practices, permissions, and so on, the damage those individuals can do becomes limited.

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