Office 365 isn’t just another iteration of Microsoft's Office software (Word, Excel etc.) it's a game changer, and something that any company using Microsoft exchange for email should be aware of and consider next time they are thinking about investing in a server upgrade.
The name Office 365 suggests that this is just another version of the Microsoft Office suite. This is actually rather misleading because it’s a lot more than that. Office 365 is a complete cloud based business productivity and collaboration solution (for those not familiar with Microsoft speak that means it will provide a complete Microsoft business IT platform) that can be purchased as part of a low cost monthly subscription.
Office 365 consists of the practically industry standard Microsoft Exchange email system, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 for information sharing and collaboration, Microsoft Lync for on-line communication (video conferencing, instant messaging, voice and on-line meetings) and Office web Apps for web browser versions of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel etc) there is also an option for purchasing Office 365 with a full desktop version of Microsoft office.
Low cost cloud Exchange e-mail
For most businesses the driver for Office 365 will be the option of moving their on-premise Microsoft Exchange email server to the cloud where for a very competitive monthly subscription fee, each user gets a 25Gb mailbox, an excellent Cloud based Spam filtering solution based on Microsoft Forefront and all the other benefits that a cloud solution can bring such as reduced risk, scalability, and support for mobile devices. With prices starting at £4.00 per user per month the solution offers very good value even just for exchange. Office 365 however has much more value to offer than that.
Microsoft SharePoint (Microsoft's faster growing product) is a web portal that enables you to develop your own environment for sharing Microsoft Office documents (and other things). For document sharing Microsoft SharePoint is a big jump forward from the traditional hierarchical tree folder file system typically in use in most SME businesses providing additional features such as version control, fast search, work-flow, alerts, and the ability to create metadata for improved management.
Although SharePoint provides a much better solution for document management and sharing, it is also the Office 365 product that will provide the biggest entrance barrier for companies looking to move completely to the Cloud i.e.to dispose of all their on-premise servers. SharePoint is very different from the current folder sharing environment upon which so many are so dependant and therefore it requires work and understanding to successfully adopt. That said once the transition has been made there will be no looking back. With a little effort SharePoint can quickly become an indispensable and hugely valuable asset for any business where information sharing and collaboration are important.
Lync offers an integrated solution for online communication. The easiest way to describe Lync is to compare it to Skype as it offers the same features. However the key is the integration bit. Lync integrates with your Microsoft environment which offers some great benefits such as, presence awareness (it talks to Outlook and will automatically show others if you are in a meeting) launching communication from within an e-mail, and it also integrates seamlessly with your Microsoft user accounts.
Office 365 will offer a few businesses a complete IT platform whereby they won't need to purchase any on premise servers at all and for them it will provide exceptional value. For many if not most SME businesses at the moment however, a total transition will be a considerable way off due to having other applications such as large file servers and line of business applications that require on-premise servers. For these businesses Office 365 can still provide great value even just for moving e-mail to the Cloud, but with the added bonus of Lync and SharePoint.
Monday 5 March 2012 18:19:28 by
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