Benefits of Microsoft Office 365: making the most of the cloud

If you’ve found this article, perhaps you are considering purchasing Office 365? We’ve already looked at the benefits of cloud computing once before, but we felt that it was worth relating the benefits to a clearly defined product that is available in the UK market.

With Office 2016 coming soon and already available on OS X, we felt it prudent to let our audience get some advice on how they could use cloud computing to improve efficiencies. So, let us introduce you to the offering and then walk you through the positives, because we’re upbeat like that!


What is Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud version of Office that serves users of Office 2010 and Office 2013. A purchase grants every user 1TB of cloud storage with their minimum contractual commitment of one year. It also comes with a variety of features with every license, including:

  • Sharepoint
  • 50GB Exchange mailbox
  • Office Apps
  • Skype for Business

So, how can your organisation benefit from using 0365? We’ve spoken with end-users and IT staff and come up with the following five business wins.


Top 5 Advantages of Using Office 365

1. Conferencing and sharing with Skype for Business

Skype for Business combines the globally recognised Skype brand with the business capabilities of Microsoft’s earlier Instant Messaging service, Lync. It allows for a range of functions including instant sharing of files, chat facilities, and video calling.

Connections with calendar functions, appointments, and call features mean that someone’s availability is automatically broadcasted. And the ability to send short messages is particularly helpful for knowledge workers who are out in the field.


2. Scalable packages that are flexible to changing needs

The range of Office 365 packages deliver a solid core of server space for each user, meaning that businesses of any size can scale up or scale down their individual requirements quickly. That level of flexibility is particularly useful for small businesses, who don’t have to be so concerned with internal server capacity.

If the worst happens and a business needs to downsize, then it is a matter of scaling down server capacity and reducing licenses. And when things are going well, it’s easy enough to invest in extra cloud-based server space to accommodate new hires.


3. Secure backups on servers with the strictest security processes

Office 365 has an impressive safeguarding process, which essentially involves your drives being backed up eight times in two different data centres. That means virtually unassailable protection against acts of God (although in the UK, we’re obviously less prone to tornadoes and hurricanes than our US cousins).

On top of that, the Microsoft servers are highly protected by strict security processes. As a result, your data is safe from unwanted intrusions. And Microsoft have gone on the record in favour of customer privacy: your data is your own. They may own, the box, but they don’t look at what you put in the box!


4. Collaborative project management on One Drive & Sharepoint

Working in the cloud adds a certain degree of efficiency to project management and document control. This video from Microsoft highlights some of the benefits of using sites within Sharepoint to maintain the focus of a project with multiple contributors:

Simply put, an employee can upload a document for all their collaborating group to see, and their peers can leave individual comments on revisions. This prevents multiple documents being birthed from an original, and reduces time lost on uncertainty around whether all edits have been implemented.


5. Everything accessible on almost all devices

Some people find it surprising that Microsoft debut a lot of their products on OS X. But the war-cry of Android lovers everywhere – “Apple systems are too uniform” – actually stands them in good stead for Microsoft releases.

The beauty of having a cloud-based Office suite that can be accessed by PCs and iPhones alike is clear: all of your employees can contribute, and from virtually any location. That delivers added value to the collaboration aspect.


Before you buy…

There’s a few things that you should consider before you plump for a purchase. To take full advantage of the service offering make sure you:

  1. …have someone available who knows what they are doing – adding paths between multiple shared mailboxes and setting up Sharepoint sites takes a bit of know-how. If you don’t have a Microsoft qualified IT pro in your office, consider an activation service.
  2. ...have a good internet connection – using the cloud to securely host your data and making conference calls requires a fair amount of bandwith and connection speed. To get the most out of cloud computing, consider upgrading your internet connection: it will help with productivity in the long term!

Conclusions

Office 365 has a wealth of useful apps and package features that would be beneficial for many businesses considering hybrid or cloud computing. However, a certain degree of expertise in setup is required, and people are still getting used to cloud computing with Microsoft apps.

Unless, of course, the majority of employees are working in the field or from home. Then you would need to ensure that they all have access to a solid internet connection. And that they don’t spend all day watching The Jeremy Kyle Show instead of doing their job.

In all seriousness, though, it seems like Office 365’s online apps are steadily gaining recognition as a cloud computing solution that can rival those made six years ago by Google. And with UK business relying heavily on Microsoft for office applications, the release of “O 2016” could help more businesses and individuals embrace the cloud.

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