Microsoft Office 365 - Right for your Business?

Posted on May 06 2013 by David Schulz

Office 365 is well on its way to becoming Microsoft's next Billion dollar product. After a slow initial uptake momentum is growing. Rivercity Solutions Technical Director, David Schulz, discusses the benefits (and pitfalls) of Office 365.

Office 365, Google Apps, the “Cloud” - have you got it? Truth be told many (if not most) service providers having been using Cloud based email, storage, and security services for years. So why the hype now?

There are a number of reasons. Companies like Google and Microsoft have been working creating bundles of services and spending big marketing dollars spreading the word….and on the other hand, there are cloud services like Box.net, Dropbox and Microsoft Skydrive that are driving cloud adoption from the consumer end.

As a business owner this is a very exciting time. The opportunity to make employees more mobile and productive, as well as delivering better value to our customers has never been greater.

Employees can now work the way they want to work – want to use a Mac? No problems. Want to use Microsoft Office on your iPad? No worries. Want to access all of your company’s internal documents on Galaxy Tab? Sure thing. As a business owner, I want my staff to be happy. Ultimately I believe if I let them choose the environment in which they are most comfortable working, they will get more done. All is possible with Office 365 (and a few tweaks here and there!)

I’m happy to be free of a mail server and to not think about capex for new IBM or HP hardware.  I know if the Office 365 service goes offline or my internet drops, I can live without email for a few hours. I also keep a copy of my email locally just as a backstop.

From the Office 365 suite we are using the Business Social Network tool (Yammer) for internal staff communication, notices and messaging. We have Sharepoint for standard documents and basic workflow. We have instant chat and video calls with Microsoft Lync to desktops, laptops, iPhones and iPads.

Traditionally to implement this technology, we would have had to buy 5 or 6 servers and create a complex and time consuming project implementation process – it simply would have been prohibitive in terms of budget alone.

Then there are core systems, critical every minute to keeping our business running - our CRM and our monitoring and maintenance tools that I cannot be without for any period of time. I like the security of being able to control those services, know where they are, and control the recovery process should something go critically wrong.

One of the great benefits of Office 365 is that services can be introduced into to business in stages, with each phase planned and implemented with careful consideration of staff requirements and the change management process.

Regardless, whether you are a green-field startup, or a mature organisation with custom applications and internal servers, there are benefits to be had. If your existing infrastructure is nearing end of life, it is important to consider Office 365 as part of your IT strategy.

In choosing Office 365, cost will most likely be a driver for small businesses only. The businesses that are mobile, don’t run custom applications, and don’t rely heavily on file and document storage. For businesses with more than 10 employees, it may be necessary to maintain at least one server (either hosted in the cloud or on premise), to maintain some services.  

Personally, I’m happy to pay a little more for the new forms of communication and process it enables.  If you want to bring remote staff and offices together, mobilise your staff and business systems, take advantage of new generation hardware – (Android tablets, iPhones, iPads),  it’s time at least to evaluate Office 365.

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