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

 

Should I upgrade to Office 365?

In years gone by, the Microsoft Office Suite would come pre-loaded on your PC or laptop. However, due to a host of market influences including increasing demand for cheaper hardware, many products were boxed and customers were invited to pay only for the applications they needed.

One Office 5 Devices / Microsoft Office

In June 2011, Microsoft launched Office 365, a subscription based service set to benefit everyone. With packages available for personal and business use, you can ensure that you’re not paying for any additional programmes that you won’t use. In return, Microsoft receives regular income each month.

First we’ll have a look at the pricing structure then we’ll discuss exactly what you get in a little more detail and whether you should upgrade your Office suite.

Pricing Model

Whether you’re a small, medium or large sized company, there’s a package to suit your needs. Starting from as little as £39.60 per year / user and peaking at little over £100 per year / user, the tech savvy small business could save some serious money on the subscription model.

Price Plan
PRICING

Advantages of Office 365

It’ll Save You Money!

If you use the complete Office suite, then upgrading to Office 365 could save you a whole load of cash. Out of the box, you could expect to pay close to £400 for everything, when you could be paying as little as £100 per year / user through Office 365. Plus, there are a few bonus features you’ll receive for adopting the subscription model.

Enjoy Anywhere, Anytime Access

For anyone that hadn’t already guessed by the name, Office 365 is available on any computer, all year round. You’re able to download the suite on up to 5 devices, which is great for the modern professional. Integration with SkyDrive allows you to store data on the cloud and use web based applications of your Office from any computer with internet access.

Work Together Simultaneously

The combination of SharePoint technology and Office 2013 allows you to work more efficiently with collaborative work sheets and more in Office 365. Pick up where you left off elsewhere thanks to intuitive syncing and view the latest revisions made by colleagues with a host of new tools and tips. Web apps are almost a mirror image of the desktop versions, with just a few features trimmed (but little you’ll need to worry about).

Enough Storage For An Epic Hoarder

Epic Hoarder

In addition to the 7GB SkyDrive storage that Microsoft is offering everyone. Premium packages come complete with an additional 20GB (27GB in all). That’s a pretty big thank you.

Enjoy the Latest Technology at Reduced Costs

Rather than wait years for all of the updates to come in one package and knock you for six, Office 365 will update periodically, making the transition between newer versions of Office much easier to digest. Not to mention, you’ll be first in line for great new features that others will need to wait for.

IT Departments Love Office 365

Office 365 is managed much the same way as you’d manage an on premises Exchange environment. Active directory allows IT departments to group people and give them a specific set of permissions (access to email / SharePoint etc). We’ll discuss drawbacks to security later, but a massive lure for IT departments is that Microsoft take care of security giving you one less thing to worry about.

It’s Good To (Video) Talk

Enjoy a whole hour of calls to your business contacts across the globe every month with free Skype minutes. Available on Home Office Premium and most Premium Business services, this is a great incentive for signing up to the subscription model.

How Does The Boxed Alternative Stack Up?

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Microsoft typically updates their boxed software every three years. Think Office 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003 & 2000.

For £220, you can grab Office 2013 Home & Business Edition. That’ll give you most of the applications that you love, available on one device, including: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote & Outlook. For an additional £170 (£390), you can include Publisher and Access to those already listed (Office Professional)

So, to do the math, for the comparable package to Office Professional on Office 365 (Small Business Premium), you’d be forking out £302.40 over the 3 years as opposed to £390. Plus, if you were happy to settle for web based applications as opposed to desktop versions, you could get the same service for under £120 (Office 365 – Small Business).

You can argue that nobody updates immediately, meaning you’ll get a little extra bang for your buck, but probably not enough to justify the box price. The only time we’d recommend buying out of the box was if you only use a couple of Office applications. In that case the kitchen sink that comes with Office 365 may not be the best option for you.

100% Owned By You

The same as buying a car outright means that there are no direct debits coming out each month, the boxed versions simply incur a one off payment. All you need to worry about is the insurance, tax and price of petrol (or staff costs, electricity and training – check out Best STL‘s training schedule here).

Sure, it can actually work out more beneficial to get one on finance. Continued support and warranty, plus the guarantee of an upgrade after the lease period expires. Ok, you’ll be paying £200 per month for the foreseeable future, but you’ll have a shiny new car and all the support you could wish for.

If It Ain’t Broken…

With your office ticking over just perfectly should you really go changing your software? Although subscription models seem to be the way of the future, surely we can all savour the moment for a little longer?

Is It Easy To Switch?

Energy. Liverpool, North West.

Yes. Making the change to Office 365 is no different to upgrading your existing package from say 2010 to 2013.

There are of course, more noticeable changes than in regular updates, including the ability to work via web apps and collaborate with colleagues via the cloud. It’s recommended that you offer Microsoft accredited training to your employees to ensure that everyone is up to speed with new features and able to get the most from the package.

What About Security Concerns?

Well, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. The Microsoft has a huge team dedicated to the security of your data. But, vulnerable to attacks or not, they are happening:

cloud-security

Eran Feigenbaum, director of security for Google Apps states that “Any online presence that’s saying they’re not seeing targeted attacks is not being forthright or doesn’t have the insight into what’s going on.” Even Google themselves have seen breaches in Gmail security and to believe that Microsoft is immune would simply be naïve.

Stuart McClure, former McAfee Chief Technology Officer makes a bold statement – choosing a safe (cloud based) service can be like “picking a dog with the least fleas”. Sure it’s a tad sensationalist, but his message is clear, “If you’ve got sensitive data that you don’t want compromised, then don’t put it on the cloud” It sort of makes sense, after all, once on the cloud, it’s no longer being hosted in house – who really owns (or worse still has access to) your data?

In my opinion, I’d say that it pays to be mindful of security concerns but not to let this cloud your decision (excuse the pun).

Conclusion

Office 365 is a robust package that really does offer something for everyone. In terms of pricing, the upgrade is a no brainer. Most subscriptions offer desktop versions of Office, available on 5 devices (that alone blows the boxed model out of the water), plus it also boasts additional SkyDrive storage and Office web apps anywhere, anytime.

Security will always be an issue when talking about cloud storage, however, unless you’re dealing with particularly sensitive data, you’re probably in safe hands with Microsoft’s dedicated security team.

Want to use WordPowerPoint or Excel like a pro? Attend one of Best STL’s training courses available London and UK wide.

Read more: https://www.microsofttraining.net/b/#ixzz2TBLrM2kW