Posey's Tips & Tricks

Microsoft's Continuous Improvements to Office 365 Reporting

Microsoft has added a ton of new ways to track usage in its cloud services over the past few months.

I have been using Office 365 for several years, and have generally been happy with the experience. Even so, I have always thought that the administrative portal could be improved. Admittedly, things are gradually getting better, but I have always thought that there was something of a disconnect between the Office 365 applications with regard to the Office 365 Admin Center. It was as if Office 365 were a collection of standalone applications that were loosely cobbled together to be offered as a bundle (which isn't that far off from the truth).

As I explained in a previous post, Office 365 is eventually going to be getting a brand new administrative interface that looks and feels a lot like Azure. I have not yet had the opportunity to spend quite as much time using the new interface as I would like, but it does seem to yield a more cohesive management experience.

Regardless of whether you like the new Office 365 administrative interface, or you prefer the old one, I highly recommend periodically taking the time to look around the administrative interface to see what management options and tools are available to you. Microsoft doesn't always scream from the rooftops when they add a new feature or capability to Office 365. I have lost count of the number of times that I have logged into Office 365 over the years and discovered something new in the administrative interface. Such improvements are often discussed on Microsoft's Office Blog, but unless you read the blog on a regular basis, you are likely to miss out on some of the update announcements.

So what has Microsoft been doing with the Office 365 administrative interface lately? Well, aside from making the transition to the new, Azure-like interface, Microsoft has added some new reporting options.

A few months back, Microsoft introduced a new reporting dashboard in the Office 365 Admin Center. This reporting dashboard, which Microsoft sometimes refers to as the Activity dashboard, is designed to give administrators an overview of how users are using Office 365. Such information can potentially be useful, even at a very high level. Imagine, for instance, that your organization has 100 users, and the Activity dashboard reveals that only 70 of them are actively using Office 365. Office 365 is billed on a per-user, per-month basis. In this type of situation, you may be able to use the information from the Activity dashboard to save some money by canceling the unused subscriptions.

The Activity dashboard doesn't just show you how many users are logging into Office 365. The dashboard allows you to drill down into the various Office 365 applications in order to access application level usage information. Right now, the application level reporting is a work in progress. Microsoft is still in the process of creating reports for the individual applications. Even so, Microsoft has recently given Office 365 customers usage reports for SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, and Yammer. These new reports are in addition to the previously existing reports such as the E-mail Activity Report and the Office Activations report.

The SharePoint Site Usage Report is designed to assist administrators with monitoring storage consumption across SharePoint sites. Not only can admins use this report to monitor activity across sites, but the report also displays the amount of available storage on a site-by-site basis, along with information on how SharePoint sites are being used for file storage.

The OneDrive for Business Usage Report is also designed to help administrators to better understand how storage is being used. This report outlines storage and sharing activity across OneDrive for Business. This information can be viewed in aggregate form, or on a per user basis. Administrators can even use the report to see the number and sizes of the files being stored.

The Skype for Business Report is primarily designed to show the amount of time spent in Skype meetings. However, the report also includes information on meetings organized, meeting participation information, and information on calls and instant messages.

Finally, the Yammer report provides basic Yammer information such as read and post activity.

The reports that I have discussed have all been added within the last few months. It will be really interesting to see what other reports Microsoft decides to create, or how they might further improve on the existing reports.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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