For all of us who are in productivity business on Microsoft’s platforms, the company Acceleratio is known for their top-class SharePoint and Office 365 products, which include SPDocKit – a Swiss-knife like SharePoint administration, governance and documentation tool, which is actually a must have for each SharePoint on premises environment. For the past few weeks, I had a privilege to test their newest product, the CloudKit 365, which is intended to be the ultimate Office 365 reporting and management tool outthere.
So, what is CloudKit 365? In short, it is a web based service, still in it’s preview, which collects the information about your Office 365 tenants, and offers – for the moment – reporting and documentation features. Management and governance capabilities are announced to arrive sometime soon. This blog is about the experiences with the preview version of CloudKit 365 as it is in September 2015.
When you log into CloudKit 365, in the main screen you can see all your Office 365 tenants, and the information when the information was the last collected (“loaded”).
Obviously, in order for this to work, CloudKit 365 will need to know your tenants, including the administrative passwords. So – again, obviously – you need to trust CloudKit 365 to allow it to store your password. If you don’t want to leave your password on their servers (hosted in Microsoft Azure), you don’t – there is an option for using password only for the current session, and destroying it afterwards, without permanent storage on servers. I find that to be really cool for the sensitive info. The drawback is that you need to enter your Office 365 admin password into CloudKit 365 each time you want to load the information, but that is a drawback I can live with.
Loading a site info is a backend process which lasts between one minute and few hours, based on the amount of data you have stored in your tenant. Office Demos (“Contoso”) tenants are usually loaded in less than 5 minutes, so the whole process is actually quite fast. It’s cool that you are informed by an email when tenant loading is completed. Once it is done, you can click on the “reports” link, and get a nicely designed with the most important info about your tenant. You can immediately see the mailbox sizes, site storage and resource usage, admin and user info, and eventually – if set up – the dirsync info. Cool.
The real stuff is accessible through the menus on the left side. You can pull the Office 365 (administrative) reports, Exchange reports, and SharePoint reports – for now.
There are various Administrative reports, including the company profile dashboard, reports about partners, policies, domains, users, groups, billing, etc etc. Basically, all the info about your tenant consolidated at one place.
One of the coolest functions there is the “Manage in Office 365” link in the top right corner, which contextually brings the user to the very place in the Office 365 interface, where this info or data can be modified. After two months of using CloudKit 365, I found myself more and more using it to get to the Office 365 native functionalities. Very cool.
Of course, user must be logged in the respective Office 365 tenant in the same browser session, in order for this to work.
One of the most important reports – in my opinion – are the users and administrators report, giving an easy overview of the different tenant users, and especially administrators. This is of great importance in the large organizations, where different administrative tasks are delegated to multiple users and roles.
Group membership overview, of the underlying Azure AD Groups, is also easily accessible through the Office 365 reports.
One of the most thorough report sections are – of course – Exchange reports. Exchange in the cloud is anyway one of the first associations users have about Office 365. No wonder that the Acceleratio team has paid the special attention on this part of the product.
Through the Exchange reports, we can easily get the most used mailbox information and usage statistics reports:
But there are also way more Exchange-specific reports, which CloudKit 365 offers at a glance, like Admin Role member reports…
… or the retention policies reports, Journal Rules, IRM reports, Data Lost Prevention, Outlook Web App Policies… As you can see, there is really a plenty of information within a mouse click. And Exchange administrators are going to love it.
Of course, the SharePoint reports are for me the most interesting part of the whole product. And this is where CloudKit 365 really delivers.
We can get the tenant-based SharePoint info, including compatibility range, storage and resource quotas, external sharing settings etc etc.
It is then very easy to jump to the site collection level, to get the usage information and site collection properties.
Drilling further down, we find the reports we recognize from the SPDocKit – SiteCollection Reports which include reports about Unique permissions, Site Collection hierarchy, External Users etc.
The subsite and list reports deal with hierarchies and permissions for the respective lists and subsites.
Reports on the user level offer pretty detailed permissions reports for specifiied users.
Even if we know these reports from the SPDocKit, it is cool to see that Acceleratio transferred their technology to this new product as well, offering us a similar level of information and reporting capabilities for Microsoft’s cloud flagship.
There is another feature which was taken over from SPDocKit: Snapshots. CloudKit 365 is able to save the time-specific info about your Office 365 tenants – so called snapshots – which can be later used for the diagnostics, and determining the cause of potential issues. In this preview version of CloudKit 365, it is still not possible to compare the snapshots like with SPDocKit, to immediately get the changes that happened within two snapshots, but it is a safe bet that this feature is coming.
As expected, each report generated by CloudKit 365 can be exported as a PDF or XLSX file. This makes CloudKit 365 a perfect tool for documenting the Office 365 tenants, even in this early preview version.
We need to keep in mind that this is still a preview version of CloudKit 365, which in this iteration mainly focuses on reporting and documentation functionalities. But, even at this stage, it is an extremely valuable service for Office 365 health and configuration monitoring, as well as documenting Office 365 configurations, Exchange mailboxes, SharePoint sites, users and permissions.
With prices starting from 149 US$/tenant/year, CloudKit 365 is financially very attractive. As new features arrive to the product, this could be a real bargain. Let’s wait and see. If CloudKit 365 gets more management and governance capabilities, it has all the chances to become for Office 365, that what it’s older brother SPDocKit is for SharePoint: the ultimate management tool.