Four benefits of Moving to Office 365

By J. Peter Bruzzese

The recent global recession is still quite fresh in everyone’s minds. From an IT perspective it forced IT administrators to tighten their belts and hold off on upgrades of both hardware and software for quite some time.
The growth of “cloud” solutions (like Office 365) has provided IT teams with another option when considering new hardware and software. Here we’ll take a closer look at the features available, benefits and a key consideration when moving to Office 365.

What is Office 365, and why move to it?

The name is somewhat confusing because it appears to be the next flavor of the Office product suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc…).  In fact, Office 365 is many things, it is a cloud-based, hosted services solution for Office applications, email, collaboration, and more.
Exchange, SharePoint and Lync have moved from a traditional on-premise hosting to Microsoft datacenters (i.e.. their “cloud”). Instead of paying for the software upfront, you pay as a monthly/annual subscription for those services (hence the term Software as a Service or SaaS).

Office 365 has a variety of different packages to choose from and some of them offer the Office Suite as part of the subscription too.  If you choose one of these plans you can put the latest flavor of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on desktops/mobile devices.  And there are a variety of other services offered with Office 365 like OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Office 365 Video and more.

There are some key reasons why a move to Office 365 can benefit your organization from the perspective of an IT team getting ready to decide on-premises vs. cloud.  Let’s consider four benefits for moving to Office 365 and one key user consideration for IT administrators.

Four benefits of moving to Office 365:

No-Cost Server Infrastructure:  If you are looking to modernize your server-side solutions the cost of upgrading your existing infrastructure could be exorbitant.  Moving mailboxes to the cloud eliminates that concern and cost.  Microsoft will worry about the hardware and storage, and you can pay as you grow for easy scalability.

No More Upgrades or Fixes:  Much of the stress of an admin is handling fixes and upgrades for solutions to ensure they are patched properly and as secure as possible.  With Office 365 this is all handled for you.

Availability:  Microsoft provides a 99.9% SLA for availability.  Whereas on-premise you would have to have redundant servers on-site and additional servers in an off-site location to provide that level of availability, Microsoft has it all in place from day one to ensure your users have consistent access to their email and other services.

Services Offered:  As mentioned earlier, Office 365 is a mix of different services.  It’s quite amazing really when you consider all the different tools provided.  You can access the services through traditional means (Outlook connected to Exchange Online) or through browser-based connectivity (Yammer or SharePoint Online through your browser).

Upon logging into your portal you are offered a variety of tools to choose from, and the list is growing!  Note the options in the figure below.  OneDrive, Sites, Delve, Video, Office Online (Word/Excel/Point/OneNote) … offering a compelling price/features proposition.

collaborate_office_online
Office 365 App Launcher – benefits of moving to office 365

So we’ve covered four benefits of moving to Office 365, what could the key consideration be? Here it is…

Training

Take a user who has been on Windows XP with Office 2003 for the past 10 years.  Give them a new laptop running Windows 7/8 (v10 coming soon) and Office 2013.  Introduce the user to the new tools for communication and collaboration like Yammer, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and so forth.  Instead of praising your team the users vent frustration at the dip in performance as they struggle to process all the new upgrades.

Don’t do that to your people.  Going from the menu structure of legacy Office into the new ribbon interface alone will be an overwhelming task for some.  If you have gone with Windows 8, the new interface is quite a step change (even for experienced users).

Support your people.  You want to give them the latest and greatest and you want them to experience the productivity boost that should come with new hardware and software possibilities.

But you must do so through training first.

Manage the change for users through classroom training, with all the benefits of hands on exercises under the guidance and support of an experienced trainer.  Or even run workshop sessions BEFORE you put that new laptop or desktop in front of them with all the new bells and whistles.

And then you might want to provide 24/7/365 support training through a video portal, which perfectly complements any classroom based training. An eLearning portal with an easy to use interface and short searchable learning clips helps users improve and maintain performance.

We are certainly living in exciting times.  Cloud solutions like Office 365 are offering small-midsize business an opportunity to have enterprise grade solutions right at their fingertips, without all the server side heavy lifting being placed on the IT admin.  The end-users will love the new possibilities opened to them and the increase in productivity through new communication and collaboration tools.  Exciting times indeed!

J._Peter_Bruzzese J. Peter Bruzzese (Office 365 MVP) is the CIO of ClipTraining.com, providers of short, task-based video training through an online portal solution.  He is an internationally published author with over a dozen titles to his credit about Windows/Office/Exchange/etc.  He is a technical speaker for Microsoft and others.  He writes a weekly column for InfoWorld entitled “Enterprise Windows” and is a strategic technical consultant with Mimecast.  You can follow JPB on Twitter @JPBruzzese and email him at jpb@cliptraining.com

For information on eLearning services in the UK, ClipTraining partner and UK distributor, STL, can be emailed at info@microsofttraining.net

Further reading

Office 365 Training in the ClipTraining Library
Classroom based MS Office training

36.5 Office 365 Features That Will Boost Your Productivity
What’s In & What’s Out In Office 2013
A well-trained I.T. team: Your company’s secret weapon

 

Why Your Business Must Switch From Windows XP

windows xp support ends
Microsoft’s marketing campaign

Released on August 24th, 2001, Windows XP is widely regarded as Microsoft’s most successful OS, boasting over 400 million active users at its peak in January 2006. Now almost 12 years old, Microsoft have decided to cease support for Windows XP effective April 8th, 2014.

Continued use of the OS after this date runs the risk of being vulnerable to targeted hacking and eventually incompatibility with newer systems.

So what does the future hold for your business post-Windows XP and what is your best option for continuing a relationship with Windows?

A Future Without Windows XP

Recent changes to the Office suite have been highlighted as major contributing factors to the cessation of support for XP compatible systems. Both Office 365 and Office 2013 are both incompatible with Windows XP, leading many businesses to have already made the switch to newer systems including Windows 7 & 8.

Until recently, Windows XP was the most popular Windows OS, being overtaken in August 2012 by Windows 7. This just goes to show how popular Windows XP was and still is among businesses across the globe.

Named XP as a shortened version of the word eXPerience, Microsoft were keen to emphasise the gains that users were to benefit from with the new Windows. This user experience was clearly more favourable than its successor, Vista. In fact, scores of businesses reverted their upgrades from Vista back to XP, citing slower start up and processing speeds.

With support for XP due to cease early next year, many will be questioning why and what’s next. XP users are set to experience some minor compatibility issues when upgrading, for example a number of browser applications written for IE6 won’t migrate over to Windows 7 and IE8. But the benefits that the upgrade will bring should help your business run faster and smoother.

Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Upgrading to either Windows 7 or 8 is relatively straightforward, though the look and feel is certainly much different to that of XP, especially the latter.

Most businesses will likely upgrade to Windows 7. As we mentioned earlier, it’s now the most popular operating system in the World, holding 44% of the market share. Windows 8, the most recent update holds a mere 5.1%, though it’s important to remember that most IT departments will update their systems every 2-3 years and not necessarily as soon as a new OS is released. Windows 8 was released for business in August 2012.

OS Share

Choosing to run Windows 7 will bring with it a number of advantages. Speed and functionality are at the forefront of the benefits. Faster than both XP and Vista, the OS will see a much improved battery life for your portable devices.

Windows 8 on the other hand has been criticised since its launch late last year. Designed with mobile in mind, the OS is optimised for touchscreen technology. Unfortunately for Microsoft, their flagship touchscreen device, the Surface Tablet has seen less than desirable sales and many have questioned the user interface of the desktop system calling it confusing and a far cry from traditional Microsoft OSes.

Both Windows 7 & 8 work seamlessly with Office 365 and Office 2013 as you would expect. This is a major selling point for your company needing to upgrade too. Enjoy complete compatibility with Office Web Applications, SkyDrive and regular updates to your Office suite. Check out our blog on the benefits of Office 365.

Office web apps allow your business to work collaboratively from any location. No longer are your employees restricted to the one PC in the office, now they are free to roam on a number of wireless devices. It’s clear to see where Microsoft is headed with Windows 8 and they’re almost there.

Office 365 could also save your business money in the long term, allowing you to pay only for the subscriptions that you need. You’ll enjoy updates for Office favourites as and when they happen and not just when you purchase a new suite of the box. Here’s 36.5 reasons to join Office 365.

Don’t Lose Touch

windows 8 upgrades
Windows 8 on a variety of devices

Bringing business into the here and now, Microsoft is embracing touch technology in much the same way that many businesses across the globe are too. Company websites need to be compatible with tablets and smartphones and employees aren’t just working out of one location either. Working with Windows 7 or 8 will be a smarter and more efficient way to get things done and is a step towards realising that we’re living in a mobile World.

Compatible with Office 365 & Web Apps, your employees can benefit from their Office suite across five devices. This means that if that Excel document needs updating when an employee is en route to a meeting, they are able to pull out their smartphone and make the changes on Office 365 for iPhone / iPad or Windows Phone.

In Summary

  • Windows XP will be unsupported from April 2014
  • After this time, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates
  • Windows XP also does not support the latest version of Office, 2013
  • Your upgrade choices are the established Windows 7, or the poorly received Windows 8

If your business needs help with its Windows migration and rollout, Best STL are here to offer expert training and advice to help make the move as smooth as possible. Please get in touch, or find out more on how we can assist with company-wide rollouts. We’ve previously supported large companies while they upgrade Windows and Office simultaneously, including a global pharmaceutical group and a large publishing brand. There are many options to consider to assist your users during a system migration, so talk to an experienced training provider who has been there before.