Microsoft Office 365

What it is and why it matters

Office 365 is a Microsoft Office subscription service that allows users to download and install Microsoft Office apps to use with both Windows and OS X. Microsoft's service is growing fast, with over three and a half million paying customers in the first year!

According to Ed Bott with ZDNet, 15% of the Microsoft Exchange user base is now running on Office 365. When you consider the roughly 500 million Exchange mailboxes (between on premise and cloud), that means roughly forty million mailboxes have shifted to Office 365.

About Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 launched in June 2011. It was initially intended for corporate users, but has since expanded to other types of businesses. Microsoft offers Office 365 using a software as a service platform which includes Office applications plus SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and Office Web apps.

The Office 365 Home Premium version comes with the typical Office applications that we all know and love including:

  • Word
  • Outlook
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Access
  • One Note (not available for the Mac)

Five reasons you’ll want to switch to Office 365

1. You can use it on multiple (up to five) devices

One of the biggest advantages to running Office 365 is that each license allows you to run the software on up to five devices. Unlike previous versions of Office, if you have a Windows machine and a Mac, you can use it on both with the same license.

2. Lower up-front costs

An Office 365 Small Business Premium edition is available for $170 per year and includes business class email.  The Office 365 Small Business Premium comes with five licenses, but it is billed per user per year. With the Business Premium addition, each user of the software is able to install and use Office on up to five machines but sharing licenses with other users is not allowed. The Small Business Premium Edition also includes business class email.

In comparison, a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 Professional would cost $599 per user.

It’s easy to look at the prices listed here and forget about the cost of purchasing server hardware, operating systems, business class email software, power, and maintenance. According to Derrick Wlodarz, “on the average, I have yet to see a case where hosting email in house anymore is a worthy endeavor from a cost or uptime perspective”. 

When you factor in these additional capital expenses, suddenly Office 365 becomes a much better deal.

3. Support for touchscreen devices

One of the great things about the new version of Office is that it supports new touchscreen devices and Office 365 has this feature set. Devices like touchscreen laptops and tablets using Windows 8 can get the benefits of Office 365.

4. Improved productivity

Microsoft has made efforts to improve productivity in Office 365. They have invested time and money to try to make both the user and the administrator experience simple and easy to use.

“The idea is that increasing simplicity yields greater productivity. Whether it is an administrator setting up a new employee or a business analyst writing policy and procedure documents in Word. When the technology gets out of the way and you can focus on your job, you become more productive,” said Ken Withee and Jennifer Reed at dummies.com.

5. File sharing made easy

Office 365 now comes with one terabyte of cloud-based file storage. By default, Office 365 keeps your files in the cloud. This allows businesses to make decisions and policies on which files to be shared with other employees or even outside personnel. It also means that employees can work on documents regardless of their location.

Challenges with Office 365

It doesn’t support older operating systems

While it’s great that you can install Office 365 on both Windows and Apple machines, only the current versions (Windows 7 or newer and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and newer) are supported. This means people that are still using Windows Vista and XP, or an older version of OS X, must use the Office 2011 version.

It’s all or nothing

Some people, especially those in the IT world, have grown accustomed to only installing the applications they need. Unfortunately, this is not an option with Office 365. You must install all of the apps, which means you’re going to get tools like Microsoft Publisher whether you want them (or have the disk space for them) or not.

Low bandwidth considerations

Having your files in the cloud is great, but what happens when you end up with a low (or no) bandwidth situation? You can immediately lose access to your critical business files and emails. This is one challenge with any software as a service in the cloud. If your Internet goes down or is extremely slow, you may have to stop working until service returns.

If your organisation uses cloud services, we recommend you use redundant service providers. This way if one goes down, you can switch to your second service until the original service returns.

Successfully moving to Office 365

Here are some things to consider when successfully moving to Office 365:

Organise your active directory

Active Directory (AD) is a Microsoft directory service for Windows domain networks.

Active directory authorizes which computers and users have access to your Windows network. Before moving to Office 365, you need to make sure everything in active directory (A.D.) is properly organised. This will make the transition to business class Office 365 easier.

Remove legacy systems

If you have any computers with Office 2003 or Windows XP, get rid of them as soon as possible. They are not compatible with Office 365 and are no longer supported by Microsoft.

Migrating

Depending on the type of license you purchased, Office 365 may have to be downloaded and installed or run over the Internet. Either way, there is no DVD to purchase and you don’t have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

“The actual migration to Office 365 will be simple compared to the prerequisites. Again, unless you have deep Exchange expertise, hire a consultant. Every situation is a little different and only people that do these migrations regularly can predict how decisions you make will affect you,” says Bryan Beaty with decomplexification.com

Exchange One

If you purchase a version with business class email, you will also be migrating to Exchange One. Doing a thorough audit before the move will help you determine which systems and applications use your email servers. As part of the audit, you will need to determine the size of each mailbox.

Migrating to Office 365 can be a simple transition. The key is proper preparation and making sure your technology and software is up-to-date. Once the migration is complete, your organisation can start to realise the true benefits of the cloud.

R & G Technologies Office 365 Solutions

Are you thinking of migrating to Office 365?

We have experience helping organisations make the transition and can help you see the benefits of increased efficiencies, improved productivity and minimised downtime.

Request a no obligation free Office 365 assessment today.

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