If your company is like a lot of others right now that are debating whether – or when – to make a transition to Microsoft Office 365, you’ll want to make sure your decision is informed by a good working knowledge of the solution. In my experience, many companies aren’t fully aware of everything Office 365 offers or exactly how it works as a cloud-hosted, subscription-based service. In this post, I’d like to focus on five key points that I think will help build a good foundation of information on which to base your decision going forward.
1. Office 365 isn’t just Microsoft Office.
While Office 365 includes cloud-based delivery of Microsoft Office, there’s much more to it than Microsoft’s well-known suite of productivity applications. For one thing, it also provides Microsoft Exchange for email. With Office 365, you no longer have to have Exchange servers on your premises for email; you can shift that entire aspect of IT to the cloud. If your business is already using Microsoft Exchange for email, this means your employees will have the same email interface and processes they have now, but they’ll be delivered as a service instead of through an on-premises hardware solution.
2. But wait, there’s more.
Office 365 isn’t just Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange, either. It also provides cloud access to a variety of other business applications from Microsoft:
• SharePoint for sharing information online with colleagues
• Lync for communications including instant messaging, voice and video
• Yammer for social network-based collaboration and communication
3. There’s also OneDrive for document storage.
OneDrive for Business is Microsoft’s solution for storing, organizing and sharing work documents among co-workers in your business. Office 365 subscriptions include 25 GB of space in the cloud for OneDrive for Business.
4. It’s all accessible on mobile devices.
While Office applications have historically not been accessible through non-Windows phones and tablets, that’s not the case anymore. Microsoft recently updated Office 365 to enable access to applications – including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other components of the Office productivity suite – from non-Windows systems like Apple and Android devices. And by “access,” I mean full access to application functionality. For example, you can create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations – not just view them on your device.
5. Everything’s updated automatically.
If you’re accustomed to working with Microsoft applications through on-premises systems, then you’re familiar with having to constantly keep them up to date by buying the latest versions of the software as they’re released. But because Office 365 is a subscription-based service, that’s not the case; the applications are updated automatically as part of your subscription. So when a new version of, say, Microsoft Office is released, your applications will be updated to that version automatically.
I hope the information I’ve posted here is helpful as you make decisions about Office 365. If you are already using Microsoft for most of your business processes, you and your employees won’t see much difference in the experience of using the applications – only in the way that they’re delivered. It’s definitely something you’ll want to consider as more and more software companies move toward a subscription model. As for whether it’s the right thing for you to do right now, that depends on your specific situation. The timing may be right for you in terms of the economic benefits, or it may be something you want to delay if you’ve just undergone a technology refresh. We’re always here to help our clients with this and other decisions; if we can be of service, please contact us.
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Bill McCharen, COO
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