Azure Information Protection- part 4: the AIP Viewer-client

In part 3, I discussed the end user side of Azure Information Protection: How can users classify and label document by using the Microsoft Office apps. To get the ribbon inside the office apps, as mentioned before, you need to install the AIP client on your Windows device. Besides the ribbon, the client also is a full client app to label content and share it with externals. It also is a viewer for other (than Office) supported formats, like a protected .pdf file (which will be a .ppdf file). You can check here which file formats are supported with the AIP client-viewer, for protection and classification.

So, what is the flow of sharing a classified and protected document with an external (or internals who weren’t part of the users in the RMS template)? Remember, a classified and protected (with RMS) document can only be shared with internal users, within your organisation, out of the box- set in the RMS template. Sometimes you want to share a document with someone outside your org. The AIP Viewer/client has shell integration, so the only thing you need to do is to right-click on your document and clic
k on “Classify and protect”.


The AIP Viewer/client will open you you will see the same labels as in the ribbons of your Office apps. Here you can change the classification of a document (when setting a lower classification, optionally with a justification) and you can check “Protect with custom permissions” . Then it will be possible to select permissions: like Viewer- View Only, Reviewer- View/Edit, Co-Author and Co-Owner. You set these permissions for groups of user, which you can add manually. Optionally, you can set an expiration date. After applying the settings, you can send the document to new internal users and external users, you have added.

From that moment on, you will be able to track the document. At the top of the Viewer, you see “Track and Revoke”. When you click on that button, your browser will open and you will see an overview of your document: when was it shared with others, the list of users it was shared with, who viewed, denied access, expiration date etc. There also is a timeline of activities and a map with geo locations of your viewers. At the button, in black, you see the Revoke Access button. This way, you can monitor the usage of your document and take action when needed.



There are no ribbons in, for example Adobe Reader. However, you can still label and protect .pdf files if you want. Again, the AIP Viewer/client supports several file formats. Just right-click on a .pdf file and click on “Classify and protect”.  You can now label your .pdf file or label + protect it. Meta data and optionally protection is being added to the file. With pdf files, you can see the AIP logo being added in the icon, as shown in the picture.

With the Azure Information Protection Viewer/client, users can now easily share content with others, but in a very controlled way. They intentionally need to take steps to do so. Even if a person you have shared a document with shouldn’t be allowed to view that document anymore, the user can quickly revoke access to the document.


Azure Information Protection- part 3: the end user with the Office apps

I have written a couple of posts around Azure Information Protection- what the solution is and the admin side of the solution. In this post, I would like to discuss the end user side of Azure Information Protection. What do end users see and how can they use classification, labeling and share documents? Luckily, it is very simple from an end user perspective, and that is a great thing!

I have mentioned it before; AIP starts with the creation of a document. When a user is creating a document, either a default classification/label has been applied by AIP (based on a company’s policy) or a user classifies/labels the document (also based on the company’s policy around document classification). From that moment on, optionally encryption applies with access control, a user policy and tracking+revocation possibilities.


After installing the AIP plug in on a user’s Windows system ( which you can download for free from here), when a user opens Word, Powerpoint, Outlook of Excel, the user will see a new ribbon in the Office app’s interface with the labels. If the automatic default label policy is applied, one of the labels will be grey, thus applied. On the left in the ribbon, you also can see which label is applied.

Which label to chose from all depends on the classification/labeling policy of documents within an organization. Needless to say you need to train/educate your users about the labels and what they stand for. Within the user interface, when a user hoovers over the labels, a textbox pops up with a description of that specific label. Companies can put in their description of liking. Also an open door but don’t use too many labels and add a clear description so users will understand easily which label to pick with different kind of content.

I discussed automatic classification and recommended classification in the post on the admin side of AIP. So, what’s the flow there and how does it look from an end user? Let’s say all documents with the word “draft” need to be classified internal or confidential. A user created a Word document, is typing away and somewhere is the word “draft”. Now the user wants to save the file on its machine (and it doesn’t matter where the user wants to save it). After picking the location and hitting save, the user will be prompted to change the classification of the document, with a reason (wording is up to the company’s policy). The user can change the classification of the document or dismiss the recommendation. Remember, AIP isn’t to prevent intentional behavior or fraud. In this case, the user will be made aware of the situation and can decide, after thinking about it, to change the classification or not. Also, you have the option to enforce the policy automatically, so users don’t have a recommendation. After changing the classification, the user will see the marking, set my the companies policy in the back end of AIP.

In the above case, meta data has been added to the document. When you right-click the document and open the properties, you will see and extra tab called “custom” where you can see the meta data. Besides meta data, the document, in this case, also has RMS attached to it. A users most likely doesn’t know about this and in my opinion, shouldn’t know this. The user classifies the document and based on the classification, the document gets encrypted, has specific access control and user policies attached.

Because of the specific classification/label and the attached RMS template, the user cannot just send the document to people outside the organization (RMS templates apply to users/groups inside the organization/(Azure) Active Directory/Azure tenant. If, by accident, a user would send the document to someone outside the organization (or maybe a user inside the organisation who wasn’t in the RMS template user/groups list), that recipient of the document couldn’t authenticate to open the document. With Echange Online and the Data Loss Prevention tools, you even can set rules on the AIP classifications/labels. Exchange Online and AIP work together.

AIP is easy to use for end users. Success depends on a clear, easy to understand company policy around classifying and labeling content and education of the users. Awareness how to handle content is one of the major benefits when using AIP. It is fair to say it can prevent user mistakes till a certain level but it won’t help you when someone intentionally is trying to get around the system.

My next post will be about the AIP client and sharing documents externally.

Azure Information Protection- part 2: Admin portal

In this blog, I would like to show and explain to you the back end side/admin side of Azure Information Protection. What does it look like, what can you configure, which options do you have. As I mentioned before in part 1, setting up/configuring and using Azure Information Protection is quite easy. Defining the corporate data policy will require some thinking.

Azure Information Protection (AIP) can be found in the Azure Portal and can be added to your dashboard. From there it is very easy to jump to AIP and start configuring.

First item you will see is the policy. In my screenshot you see a policy called “Global” and applies to all users in my tenant. I can add multiple policies and apply those to different groups within my tenant/organisation. So, different groups can have different classifications and labels. In my opinion, keep things simple.

So, everything I will talk about after this, all settings apply to my policy “Global”.

The next part in the AIP portal are the labels. Default labels are defined but you can radjust them- different names, colors and descriptions but also add more labels and sub labels. These labels are what users will see as a ribbon in the Windows Office apps- Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Word (I will deiscuss the end user part in another post). Basically, these labels represent your content policy. You translate that policy in labels.

Below the label section, you find some more settings; the title end users see in the ribbon and the tooltip. Also, if all documents and emails must have a label; in other words, is it required for users to classify documents and email or not. A pretty good setting if you want to enforce classification. Another great setting to start using classifying content is the setting to have a default label applied for documents and emails. This means that e new email or a new document automatically will have a classification- in my case; “General”. Users will be able to change the label. You can configure that in the case of a lower label/remove label by a user, a justification needs to be entered by that user. This is being logged in Azure so you can trace all this. Removing a label can be done, but a user always will do this on purpose/with a reason and never by accident.

As I mentioned before, you can name the labels as you want. The description part is pretty important. This description is shown to end users when they hoover over the labels in the Office apps. Good descriptions will help users use the right labels and thus protect the right documents and emails.

Optionally you can attach a Microsoft Right Management Service template to a label. You have to configure this template in the RMS portal . I will discuss the options in RMS in a different post but to summarize it; with an RMS template you can define with which users/groups  the document with that specific label can be shared and what these users/groups can do with that document/email, among other settings.

You also can configure visual settings with your labels like:

  • header/footer text,
  • color,
  • font,
  • watermark,
  • alignment.



One of the best settings are saved for last: automatic labeling/recommendations. Within AIP, you can define 1 or multiple conditions within a label. When a document/email matches that condition you can either automatically apply that label to the document/email or visually show the user a recommendation with a reason.

In my example, a user will see a recommendation to classify/label the document/email as Confidential- Internal Recipients, when a document contains the word “draft”. You can define custom conditions, like phrases. You can set it to exactly matching or match as expression. There also are built in conditions like IBAN and Swift. In this case, you can automate/enforce classification based on what you believe is important, and you can take human error out of it.

Hopefully this post gives you a general understanding of what you can do on the admin side with AIP.


Azure Information Protection- part 1: Document+email protection overview

In one of my earlier post, I wrote about VDI and if the concept is dead. One of my points was that VDI was/is used for content security reasons. Place all your desktops virtually in a central data center, and automatically, the assumption is that content will be protected as well. I have heard this use case many times but I believe there is a better approach to deal with content protection: truly protect your content; your documents and emails. Besides true protection, make your users aware what kind of content they are dealing with. Make them think twice before they send content to others, for example.

Azure Information Protection is a cloud-based solution that helps you to classify, label
and protect documents and emails. This can be done automatically (rules set by administrators), manually (by users) or both- where users are given recommendations. Optionally you can monitor and respond which means you can track & trace content and revoke access.

By using labels you add classifications to files and emails. This is done by adding metadata in clear text to files and email headers.

So, there are 3 components to Azure Information Protection:

  1. Classification/labeling: as an organisation you must think about your content- documents/emails first. There needs to be a organisation wide policy on how to classify/label content. Call it sensitivity levels, like: Personal, General, Confidential etc. You need to describe which content will get what classification/label. This policy will be implemented in Azure Information Protection. I sometimes call this the awareness phase: as an organisation, you need to think documents/emails, get aware of the sensitivity and translate that to labels. As a user, because of the policy, you will become aware of the guidelines set by the organisation how to handle specific content, and become more aware of its sensitivity. Besides coming up with classifications/labels, as an organisation you also need to think about the results/consequences within a classification/label. Is there a result within a label? Does a label require protection? That’s component 2,
  2. Protection: if you decide/agree as an organisation that a specific classification/label needs protection, you will need to define what kind of protection; encryption, access control, expiration data etc. That’s a second policy you need to think about. Do realize that not all classifications/labels will get protection in most cases, as far as I see it. So, as an example: documents with a label “General” aren’t protected and can be send to everyone, opened by everyone. etc. Documents labeled as “Confidential” might have a protection policy- only shared internally, only viewed and not edited, etc. When there is a protection policy in place, attached to a classification/label, users can track&trace the document and optionally revoke access to it. Component 3,
  3. Monitor and Respond: when a document is classified/labeled and protected, a user can monitor the usage of that document when he/she shares it. Via the Azure Information Protection client, a user can monitor who has opened the document and from where. That user also can revoke access to that document.

The beauty of Azure Information Protection is that it can classify/label and protect data no matter where the documents are; file shares, OneDrive, Sharepoint etc. It is very intuitive and easy to use for users through buttons. I will cover what Azure Information Protection looks like from an admin perspective, from a user perspective and use cases in different, coming posts. Stay tuned. If you want to know more/read more, click here.

Windows 10+Azure AD: register or join? Turn on Auto Enrollment to Intune?

In Windows 10, under Settings- Accounts and Access work or school, you have a couple of actions to pick from: setting up a work or school account, join the Windows 10 device to Azure Active Directory or join it to a local Active Directory. Personally I know  the local AD and I do understand Azure AD but what is setting up a work or school account? And how is that different than Azure AD? When will I use one or the other?

Let’s start with setting up a school or work account. With this option you register your Windows 10 device in Azure AD. So, this isn’t an Azure AD join. The use case behind this is Bring Your Own Device. Personal owned Windows devices being used for work as well. By registering your personal W10 device in AAD (Azure AD), you will enjoy the benefits of Single Sign On to your company’s cloud apps, seamless multi-factor authentication and access to on-premises apps via the Web Application Proxy and ADFS Device Registration.

Device registration is possible for Windows, IOS and Android devices. In fact, registration is the only option for IOS and Android devices since they cannot be joined to AAD.

In Azure (the Azure Portal- Active Directory- Applications- Intune), you can turn on “Auto Enrollment” to Intune. What this means is that when Windows 10 devices are registered by users, those devices are automatically being enrolled in Intune. You can set this up for all users, none of them or by group. After enrollment, IT can manage your device by applying device and application policies. My question is: do you want BYOD/personal devices being enrolled automatically into Intune after registration? Thinking out loud, I would say no. Not automatically. Maybe registering a device, so that the user can benefit from SSO is more than enough for that user. And also thinking but the upcoming W10 Creators Update with fancy Mobile Access Management features, maybe that is enough and there is no need to manage the device. I can imagine that a user doesn’t want IT to manage his/her own personal device. This could change if that user would like to access more company resources, like email. In that case, conditional access could require the user to enroll his device in order to get access to mail. It’s up to the user to do that or not. Do realize, with IOS and Android devices, there is no choice of registering and/or (automatically) enrolling the device. It always is both. You enroll those devices and then they are registered in AAD.


So, now Azure AD join. Here, the use case is corporate owned devices. And again, only Windows devices can be joined. Besides the SSO, Multi-Factor Authentication benefits like with registering devices, a join adds a couple of other features: Phone/PIN sign in and AAD cloud Bitlocker key storage, to name a couple. Would you auto enroll those devices into Intune automatically? In this case I would say yes. The devices are corporate, users have access to many resources so you would like to manage and protect these devices and users. Automatically enrolling the devices and deploying policies is a great way in doing that.

I won’t discuss the local AD join because it’s been around for ages and it’s known to the public. I always like to say it is the “old school” way of Windows device management: AD with SCCM and GPO’s. The new way in my opinion is AAD join/registration with Enterprise Mobility Management- Intune. However, know it is possible to register a local AD joined Windows device to AAD.

Some background resources can be found here:

  • Differences between AAD join/registration here,
  • Automatic enrollment,
  • Managing AAD joined devices with Intune,
  • Windows 10 AAD join

Credits to Pieter Wigleven and Bjorn Axell, both Microsoft colleagues for helping me out!

Windows 10 Creators update: Office Mobile App Management happiness!

In my previous post, I discussed one of the great possibilities in Intune: managing the mobile Microsoft Office apps on Android and IOS. I truly like this feature and immediately I was thinking; what if….what if this would be possible on Windows 10 as well?! What I totally missed was an official blog post from Microsoft discussing the Windows 10 Creators update. Among many cool updates, there will be a great new feature: Mobile App Management for the Office apps on Windows 10. All the features I discussed i the previous post for IOS and Android will apply for Windows 10 as well. You won’t need to enroll your personal Windows machine anymore to access corporate resources/data in a secure way. The MAM policies will give you a great experience, setting up the apps and accessing emails and data and providing security for corporate data. Do check out the clip.


Microsoft Intune+mobile Office apps = Greatness!

Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, OneNote, OneDrive, etc, who doesn’t know these applications? Most of you know the apps from a corporate point of view and I think it is safe to say the Office suite of products is the corporate standard. As we know, there is another world besides the laptop/desktop/Windows based one: the mobile devices world. And besides desktop/laptop vs mobile, we also have a corporate vs private world. To make it even more exciting, the mixture of all worlds is happening all around us.

Wouldn’t it be great to use the same productivity apps you are used to use among all these different devices? What maybe isn’t known to many people is the fact Microsoft has developed many apps for IOS and Android. You can use the complete Office suite on your mobile devices. Find the Microsoft apps on iTunes here. So, if you want to have the same experience on your mobile devices, or even on your Apple Macs as on your corporate device, you can. The Office Suite is developed for all platforms.

Great, users can have the same experience, on Windows, Mac and mobile devices. But when these mobile devices are used professionally, IT would like to manage at least the productivity apps. It is great you can access and consume corporate data by using the Office apps, but you would like to secure the data as well.

To do this security, other MDM/MAM (Mobile Device Management/Mobile Application Management) vendors have created their own productivity apps. Their own email clients and data clients which previews Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Those apps are not what end users know and like. Also, it isn’t the core business of these MDM/MAM vendors to develop Office/productivity tools.

With Microsoft Intune, it is possible to let users use what they know and like and secure the Office apps in multiple ways:

  1. Traditionally, you can enrol your device in Intune and manage the device and the Office apps: MDM-MAM,
  2. It also is possible to use the apps and secure them without enrolment: MAM Only
  3. If you currently are using another MDM tool, you still can use #2 by using Intune for the MAM part.

Bullit 1 is pretty clear: you enrol the device and policies are being pushed regarding the device and apps, by using Intune. With #2 and #3, the application policies are being pushed after users sign in, within the office apps on IOS and Android, with their accounts in Microsoft Azure/Intune.




So, what can be configured using MDM-MAM or MAM only?

  1. You can allow/deny copy/past from the Office apps to other native apps,
  2. You could allow copy/paste from native apps to the Office apps,
  3. You can set a PIN on all apps for another level of security,
  4. You can specify that links need to open in the Managed Browser,
  5. You can prohibit “save as”, to prevent users to save a corporate document on another, unmanaged location.

With Intune and the Microsoft productivity apps, users use familiar apps for productivity, and which are built for that purpose and IT can secure access to and from these apps, and secure corporate data. Check out this Microsoft blog for more details and screen shots. Also, check out this website to see more apps that can be managed by Intune.

Is VDI dead?

Just Google the title and you will find many articles around thoughts/opinions that VDI is dying or already dead. Well, dead is not the case in my opinion but dying is for sure. And to set the scene, I’m not sure DaaS is the answer either. I have been promoting VDI for years and years but since since early last year, I have been struggling with the concept. It has become so complex and costly. To be clear, I do believe in the solutions VMware and others make though. They are mature and deliver an OS and apps in a decent way. I just think VDI isn’t the right concept anymore.

VDI was meant to make the corporate desktop cheaper and easier to manage and on top of that, to make it easier to access corporate resources from a broad range of devices. Security also was a reason to go VDI. To keep information inside (your) data center.

Again, I believe VDI solutions are very mature and offer you a decent experience. I also believe there are use cases where VDI is a great fit (maybe for a small group of contractors). However, is VDI the way to go for your majority of users in your organization? That I doubt. Let’s be honest and objective about VDI- it is an artificial solution. It is unnatural how you use the OS and legacy apps by making them accessible over the network, remotely using a display protocol. This and all the components you need to set it up has an effect on the cost and user experience. Maximize a full HD video and it won’t be as crisp as locally on a laptop/any other device. Normal features like a communications solution like Skype needs extra attention or isn’t fully supported. Multi-media needs extra attention and likely extra hardware like GPU’s. My statement, a local experience will always be the best experience, no matter how mature a VDI solution might be.

Now the other side; the solution itself. VDI has become very complex. Take a look at all the components you need to setup, to create a VDI environment; you need central hardware like compute and storage, graphics hardware, connection brokers, DMZ components, data bases, additional components to make the VDI solution better manageable and efficient, load balancers and if you want redundancy, you need to do it twice. Just check out a couple of reference architectures and check the components, ports, considerations you have to make to make it all work. It isn’t easy anymore. Also, I’m truly questioning if VDI is the cheaper solution. Also because a lot of environments are over sized. IT departments going for a bigger environment than needed just to be sure.

Is security a good reason to implement VDI? Well, that could be and I’m sure there are use cases for VDI around that topic. However, in general, when you talk about data security, solve that challenge on the data level instead of putting every desktop in the data center. There are great tools out there that can help you label and protect your data. Malware/anti virus protection needs to be done no matter which way you go. Also, security around app access is pretty much the same in a virtual or physical world.

In the end, it is about apps, security and data. You need to manage those in VDI and decentralized/physical environments. In some cases, management might be easier in a VDI environment, and sometimes in a decentralized/physical one. But does a couple of wins there justify setting up a complex VDI environment where, most likely you will lose on user experience?

In my opinion, going back to the physical/decentralized way is (partly) the new way of handling end user computing. Of course, you need to combine that with separation of data from the OS, a new way of managing the OS (light way and through Enterprise Mobile Management) and your move to the cloud with apps/data. I believe that will give you a better user experience, is easier to setup and comes for a better price. And you should be able to access corporate resources from more devices as well. In a different way but but with the same result; great user experience and productivity.