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Microsoft Previews New Portal for Configuring Office 365 ProPlus Policies

Microsoft this week introduced a preview of a new Office Client Policy Service for organizations using the Office 365 ProPlus productivity suite.

The Office Client Policy Service preview is a Web portal that can be accessed here. It lets IT pros who are Office 365 administrators configure many user-based policies for Office 365 ProPlus implementations, and it'll work across devices that aren't necessarily joined to an organization's domain. That aspect makes it easier to enforce policies on unmanaged devices that may be personally owned but used for business purposes.

The policies come into effect when users log on to use their Office 365 ProPlus applications, such as Excel, PowerPoint or Word. The preview is currently limited. It just supports "a subset of the user based policies defined in the ADMX templates." Moreover, "all machine-based policies are not included," Microsoft's announcement clarified.

Organizations can only use the Office Client Policy Service if their Office 365 ProPlus end-user accounts were created in Azure Active Directory, which is Microsoft's identity and access management service, or synchronized to Azure AD. The use of Azure AD-created security groups also is required. The Office Client Policy Service additionally requires "at least version 1808 of Office 365 ProPlus," per Microsoft's "Overview" documentation.

Organizations don't need to be using Microsoft Intune or another mobile device management service to use the Office Client Policy Service.

If an organization already has existing policies created for Office 365 ProPlus implementations, it's possible to select them from within the Office Client Policy Service portal and then make any needed changes, according to the documentation.

Microsoft offers Office 365 ProPlus as a standalone product, and also offers it as part of the Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans, as described at this page. Other plans, such as Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium, provide access to Office applications but those apps go by the "Microsoft 365 Business" name.

The Office Client Policy Service preview, though, requires using the Office 365 ProPlus product, so users of the Office 365 Business plans are out of luck. The preview also can't be used with Office Professional Plus 2019 or Office 2016 Standard edition products, per Microsoft's documentation.

Microsoft already offers an Office Customization Tool Web portal for configuring Office 365 ProPlus that works with its Click-to-Run technologies. However, the policies made by the Office Customization Tool are preferences that end users can change.

In contrast, the Office Client Policy Service offers greater control for IT pros. For instance, the policies set using the Office Client Policy Service are "similar to Group Policy enforcement," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft views the Office Client Policy Service as being complementary to Azure AD. However, Office Client Policy Service settings will "take precedence over policy settings implemented by using Group Policy on Windows Server," Microsoft's documentation clarified.

The preview of the Office Client Policy Service isn't available for some Office 365 ProPlus users. It's not available to organizations using "Office 365 operated by 21Vianet, Office 365 Germany, Office 365 GCC, or Office 365 GCC High and DoD," per Microsoft's documentation.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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