In the old days, when everything surrounding a company’s data, information, and documents was stored by hand, protecting that data was fairly easy. You locked it away somewhere only a privileged few had access to and gave those people a key, code, or some other way to access the data. We changed the way we store data when we switched to keeping most of it in the ever-omniscient cloud. With this in mind, we also needed to change the way we protect it. For Microsoft, this is where AIP – Azure Information Protection comes into play. With AIP, a company can easily classify, label and protect their documents. Whether you opt for an administrator who defines the rules to protect sensitive data, choose to label data yourself, or use the combination where you are given suggestions prompted by the rules set by the administrator, Azure Information Protection allows you to safely store all of your valuable information. Once you have protected your data, you will still be able to track and control how it’s used. Not only will this help you analyze your data for business, but it also gives you the power to avoid any misuse of the original data.

What does this mean in practice? For example, when sending an email, security labels will be added to the header and the footer. This allows for all the recipients’ awareness of the mail’s security level, as well as allowing other services such as data loss prevention solutions to classify the mail through metadata embedded in the footer.

What is the technology behind this? The foundations AIP is set on is Azure Rights Management (from now on referred to as Azure RMS) – the technology also used to protect other Microsoft cloud services and applications such as Office 365. You can also use it to protect data in your private business solutions and apps, both on-premises and in the cloud. By using encryption, identity, and authorization policies, you can apply labels to documents leaving your personal reach and control them to be read-only or even prevent them from being printed. With mails, you can choose not to enable forwarding or the ‘Reply All’ option.

Azure RMS offers you two security templates with the security options already set. You can either use these as the default security solution or customize them to fit your needs. AIP is integrated with Azure RMS, meaning that by creating a label in AIP, you are also creating a parallel Azure RMS template. This template can then be used with all applications and services that use Azure RMS. Not only this, but you can use the same Azure Information Protection label in your entire workflow. Azure Information Protection is integrated throughout all Office apps, meaning you can use the same label in Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Files can also be protected and classified from the Windows File Explorer window, meaning you don’t even have to open a document to label it. If you find this approach to lack control, you can also turn to the PowerShell feature, which allows you to track the way your document is being used, and if needed, to additionally revoke access to an already shared file.

Also important to note is the ability to bring the security with you to other clients, such as Gmail and Hotmail. When sending mail to clients who use these services, you can also use the commands offered by Azure Information Protection, such as the option to prevent forwarding. In case the recipients are unable to open the mail inside of their chosen e-mail service, they are offered a one-time password to read it inside their browser. This allows you control regardless of your client’s chosen mail service.

We have learned that with Azure Information Protection, your data is as good as being kept in your own hands. With numerous options being available to you regarding labeling and classification of documents, users needn’t worry about the possible misuse of their confidential data. Even if this is suspected, you can still control your data remotely. All of this certainly keeps your mind at ease regarding the safety of your sensitive data. For any inquiries about purchasing a Power BI license or any additional questions, feel free to contact me at vedranh@outlook.com