Canadian Cancer Society Automates Microsoft Office 365 Governance Policy Enforcement for 2,000 Users and Volunteers with AvePoint Online Services

Critical Needs


  • Automated governance policy enforcement for SharePoint Online
  • Improved SharePoint Online reporting capabilities
  • Flexible backup solution for SharePoint Online

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Success Highlights

  • Enforced governance policies for growing user base of more than 2,000 by monitoring sites around the clock and alerting administrators when unauthorized changes occurred
  • Gained a comprehensive view of SharePoint Online environment by generating reports on settings, security, and content type usage
  • Automatically backed up SharePoint Online and performed fast, granular restores of content without rolling back the entire environment
The more we learn about AvePoint Online Services, the more valuable the tool becomes, and we will continue to expand our use as SharePoint Online grows throughout the organization.
Gerry Holmes Director of Information Technology, Canadian Cancer Society

The Challenge

With a mission that impacts the lives and well-being of people across Canada, Canadian Cancer Society relies on a network of more than 1,000 employees and 100,000 volunteers. As a large, nationwide not-for-profit agency, the organization needs to be efficient, organized, and cost effective. For these reasons, Canadian Cancer Society opted to move from a federated IT model with 10 different divisions and multiple systems to a central environment in the Microsoft Cloud through Office 365. “Microsoft offered us great cost savings through its charity pricing model,” said Gerry Holmes, Director of Information Technology at Canadian Cancer Society.

Along with implementing Exchange Online for email across the organization, Canadian Cancer Society chose to utilize SharePoint Online as a centralized document storage and collaboration platform. In addition to providing the service to employees, the IT team implemented SharePoint Online for its volunteer portal, which was previously hosted on SharePoint on premises. “Giving all of our volunteers access to documents on our portal wasn’t cost-effective before, as it required us to buy Office licenses for everyone,” said Holmes. “SharePoint Online gives us the ability to invite volunteers to access team sites as external users.”

In its use of SharePoint Online, Canadian Cancer Society found that Office 365 brought forth some data governance challenges. Specifically, SharePoint Online’s native capabilities were not enough to manage its user base effectively. “We needed the ability to make changes according to our policies and access reports on who was doing what,” said Holmes.

The AvePoint Solution

After learning that its previous vendor’s SharePoint governance solution offered only limited monitoring capabilities and required on-premises installation, Canadian Cancer Society chose to implement AvePoint Online Services (AOS) – a 100 percent Azure-hosted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution for Office 365 management. “Our previous solution was built for on-premises SharePoint, but AOS offered a nice, hosted solution designed for Office 365 and SharePoint Online,” said Michael DeShane, Senior Application Support Specialist at Canadian Cancer Society.

AvePoint Online Services enabled Canadian Cancer Society to meet its SharePoint Online governance challenges head on through automated policy enforcement capabilities. Using out-of-the-box and custom rules, administrators can rely on AOS to monitor sites around the clock and automatically adjust or generate alerts around unauthorized changes in settings, security, and configurations. “We use AvePoint Online Services to make sure improper permissions are not given out by site collection administrators,” said DeShane. “We’ve defined an acceptable number of administrators, and if that number is exceeded, we receive an alert so that we can investigate who was added and why – allowing us to make changes quickly if necessary.”

With AvePoint Online Services, Canadian Cancer Society IT administrators are also able to analyze usage across the SharePoint Online environment through comprehensive, customizable reports. The administrators are able to use this information to get an overview of activity across the environment to determine any changes that need to be made. “AOS gives us a clear view of who’s accessing what throughout our SharePoint Online environment,” said DeShane. “Running these reports has been useful to determine any security holes that need to be dealt with. For example, I run a report that shows all users with full control privileges to ensure people who aren’t supposed to have elevated permission levels don’t have them.”

In addition to management and administration, AvePoint Online Services also gives Canadian Cancer Society better Office 365 data protection capabilities. The organization uses the solution to back up its SharePoint Online environment to the cloud. With AOS, Canadian Cancer Society can also granularly restore content without having to roll back the entire environment, as Microsoft native abilities require. “AOS' backup and restore abilities are critical as we expand Office 365 to serve employees and volunteers across the country,” said Holmes. “If a team in one province needs a lost or deleted document, we can get it for them quickly without losing new data created and impacting the rest of the organization.”

Throughout its use of AvePoint Online Services, Canadian Cancer Society is able to count on AvePoint’s global, 24/7 support team to help resolve any issues encountered. “Support from AvePoint has always been stellar,” said Holmes. “If we run into a problem or just want to know how to do something, they always take the time to help us and make sure we’re getting the most value out of the product.”

The Bottom Line

With nearly 1,000 employees and 1,000 volunteers already on Office 365 – and plans to add even more volunteers in the future – the ability to manage and protect Office 365 effectively and efficiently was extremely important for Canadian Cancer Society. With AvePoint Online Services, the organization was able to achieve these goals through a single SaaS solution. “We now have better control and recovery capabilities for Office 365,” said Holmes. “The more we learn about AvePoint Online Services, the more valuable the tool becomes, and we will continue to expand our use as SharePoint Online grows throughout the organization.”

About Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

Canadian Cancer Society