Staying secure with SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online has now solidified itself as a powerful cloud-based content management platform perfect for businesses that encourages collaboration among teams no matter where they are located. It allows users to manage documents and collaborate on them in real time.  

Its high security comes from the fact that it makes up part of the trusted Microsoft 365 platform and it’s a great option for a range of businesses, particularly those who want to be able to seamlessly access and work on documents both in the office and out of it. One key consideration, however, is that permissions and data access remain important no matter how secure the data itself is from a security perspective.  

A shift to the cloud 

With digital transformation at the forefront of technology in business and a term that is regularly discussed by those wanting to grow and futureproof, SharePoint has become a key part of that transformation for many organisations. This has been further bolstered by the move for many businesses to work remotely or take up a hybrid way of working. In line with this, cloud first strategies and hybrid deployments have become a mainstay of business digitisation.  

SharePoint Online– an innovative cloud- based infrastructure  

SharePoint online is Microsoft’s cloud-based file management system that allows businesses to set up a secure environment to store, organise and share information on any device. It allows businesses to give users access to data helping them connect and collaborate more efficiently through the creation of intranet sites, document libraries and lists. With an easy search function and clean visuals its makes keeping your workforce up to date much easier alongside giving users the tools they need to get on with the job in hand from workflows and forms to lists and files.  

Many businesses know the benefits of SharePoint online as a tool for sharing documents and collaboration, but it does also come with rigorous security protocols and protection. One of those key security protocols is its requirement for all users to be authenticated before being able to access any data. This enables efficient ways to collaborate but comes with risks due to the fact that by default users can share internal data whether that be corporate material, financial data or other content material externally.  

The Importance of correctly managing permissions  

Incorrect management of permissions could lead to confidential material being seen by the wrong person or team or in some cases anyone with that initial access to the businesses SharePoint. This means any user could have access to any and all confidential data that the organisation has.  

This means that managing and limiting permissions on SharePoint Online is entirely different from how you would manage them on traditional file servers. SharePoint online introduces a range of default permissions which can in some cases can be easily overlooked as they only cover basic scenarios.  

Whilst these default permissions are built into SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365 and are made to cover most common scenarios, if you are a business that handles a large amount of data, then these default permissions just won’t cut it and will need to be managed more precisely.  

A good example of a potentially problematic default permission in action would be a default group that gives permission to everyone except external users and whilst this blocks any one from outside the organisation accessing the data it also allows every single user access which is likely not appropriate for all businesses.  

Limiting Permissions 

Luckily you aren’t constrained to using those default permissions and SharePoint online actually gives you access to a wide range of intricate permission options. With this in mind we would advise permissions to be group assigned making them secure and easy to manage.   

Alongside default permissions you have options for full control, edit and read as well as some more focused ones such as design, contribute, view only, create new subsites and limited access.  

To ensure security for your business data when it comes to cloud solutions such as SharePoint online there are a few best practice principles that should be applied to ensure your environment is as secure as it could possibly be which include: 

  • Least Permissive Access: Restrict access and permissions to the minimum required for users to perform their tasks. This reduces the risk of unauthorised access to sensitive data or functionalities. 
  • Secure Critical Objects: Prioritise securing larger, critical components or objects in SharePoint Online to safeguard the most important data and resources. 
  • Make permissions simple permissions: Minimise the use of highly specific and granular permissions settings, as they can become difficult to manage and might lead to unintended access or security issues. 
  • Preserve existing permissions: Be cautious not to inadvertently break or modify existing permissions while managing access controls, as this could result in unauthorised access or data leakage. 
  • Employee Training: Educate employees about security best practices, data handling procedures, and the importance of protecting sensitive information. 
  • Data Loss Prevention: Implement policies to prevent the accidental or intentional sharing of sensitive information outside the organisation. This helps in safeguarding sensitive data and complying with data protection regulations. 
  • Regular Auditing and Monitoring: Monitor user activities and access logs to detect any suspicious behaviour or security breaches. Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities and address them promptly. 

By adhering to these principles, organisations can enhance the security of their SharePoint Online deployments and protect their data and resources effectively. Keep in mind that if someone needs access to data, they are likely to ask you.  Often people who have access to data they shouldn’t won’t let you know this, which is why it’s always better to air on the side of caution when it comes to providing access. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the share permission feature should be used with caution as it gives you the ability to share with users who aren’t within your organisation opening up a whole host of security risks. You want to be building a data environment for security not by organisational units.  

How we can help support a transition and management of SharePoint Online 

Whilst everything we have explained may seem slightly daunting, we can assure you that SharePoint online is one of the most secure platforms and one you should definitely be utilising for your business. 

We can make both the transition and management hassle free with a wealth of experience when it comes to managing and implementing SharePoint Online. We can assist with data migrations as well as staff training and provide advice on best practices and improving permissions. 

Once deployed we continue to support the ongoing management of SharePoint Online ensuring it continues to operate efficiently and securely. Alongside this our specialist team can assist with the operation of specific user permissions and updates throughout ensuring compliance and seamless operation.  

Remember SharePoint Online is a secure product, but its only as secure as the people using it – which is why correct management is key.  

If you need help and support migrating to new systems or want to explore the ways our technology services can enhance your business practices increasing efficiencies and reliability, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0333 344 6 344 or email us