What you need to know about Office 365

 In Hardware and Software

Office 365 has changed the business IT environment dramatically – it is a revolution in the way businesses gain access to their core Microsoft Office software and email exchange services.

Why Office 365 is relevant to you

Office 365 centres around their exchange email product. Exchange allows synchronised access to emails, calendar, contacts and notes from any device. If you, like many small and medium enterprises, run an in-house exchange mail server; then Office 365 is very relevant to you when it comes time to upgrade your mail server.

This is because Microsoft have scrapped their Small Business Server offering that included Microsoft Exchange and have made licensing for onsite exchange servers very expensive. As an example, a job we recently performed in a six person business cost $7000 less for an Office 365 solution than a more traditional on-site mail server deployment.

Additionally, like all cloud products, Office 365 takes away the risks and costs associated with running a server in your office. Given how important email flow and access is these days, not having to worry about the uptime of a server in your office is a big consideration. Office 365 also provides a very generous 50GB of data per user mailbox, allowing your people to grow their mailboxes without incurring server hard drive upgrade costs.

Office 365 is also relevant to you if your emails run through the POP or IMAP hosting that is normally part of a basic website hosting package; because you’ll be able to harness all the benefits of the Microsoft online exchange as well!

What exactly is Office 365?

For business and enterprise users, Office 365 offers plans including email and social networking services through hosted versions of Exchange Server, Skype for Business Server, SharePoint and Office Online, integration with Yammer, as well as access to the Office software and storage space on Microsoft’s cloud storage service OneDrive. There are desktop apps for Windows and Mac; and mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

The range of Office 365 subscription plans is designed to fit any small and medium-sized enterprise:

  • Office 365 Business Essentials: This is the entry level plan and includes the core cloud services for running a business – business class email and calendaring, online versions of MS Office programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, online meetings, instant messaging, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing.
  • Office 365 Business: This is essentially just a subscription to the Microsoft Office product and allows each licensed user to install Office on five devices. This plan by itself is the least valuable one as it does not include any of the collaboration tools that come with the other plans.
  • Office 365 Business Premium: This combines everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans and offers incredible value.
  • Office 365 Enterprise: This plan is aimed at larger businesses. It is essentially the Business Premium plan with lots of extras. For example this plan comes with the litigation hold feature for email (all emails ever sent and received are kept for the life of the service), a feature often used by legal firms or companies with high levels of compliance. Also, if you operate a terminal server and you require the Office software, then this plan is the only one you can use.

What are the benefits?

We’ve already pointed out the cost savings, but there are other reasons why Exchange Online is a better way to host email for your business.

  • Easy administration of email: Email with Office 365 is hosted in the cloud, and administering it is easier. Most of its settings and configurations are available in a simple web interface.
  • Security: One major consideration in moving to a cloud service is security. Office 365 delivers multiple encryption options to protect your data in transit and ‘at rest’. Spam filtering and virus protection are automatically enabled on all inbound and outbound email messages by Microsoft Exchange Online Protection.
  • Large mailboxes: Each user gets 50GB of mailbox storage and can send messages up to 150MB in size.
  • Outlook support: Users can connect supported versions of MS Outlook to Exchange Online, so they can use their email the way they’re accustomed to using it.
  • Web-based access: For web-client access, Outlook Web App provides a premium browser-based experience that matches the look and feel of the full Outlook program.
  • Outlook app: Get more done on your phone and tablet with the Outlook app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
  • Inbox management: Stay focused on the most important messages with Clutter, which applies machine learning to clean up your inbox and set up rules that match the way you work.

In terms of office applications and collaboration tools, Office 365 presents a number of advantages over Office 2016 Professional (it’s non-cloud counterpart).

  • Collaboration and Communication: With SharePoint Online, you can manage documents, enable workflows, and participate in social platforms with your organisation. You can meet online with HD video conferencing, screen sharing and real-time notes and use a site mailbox to collaborate with your team.
  • Mobility and Accessibility: Access your files anywhere. With the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote you can access, create, and edit any of your files from any computer or mobile device with an Internet browser. They can also be accessed in a variety of mobile platforms.
  • Competitively Priced: You can pay monthly or yearly, and you automatically get new features as they’re released and the next version of Office when it comes out. You can buy Office 2016 on its own, for a one-time price that gives you a licence you can carry on using as long as you like, but when the next version of Office comes out you’ll have to pay again to get it.
  • Convenient file storage and syncing: Each user gets 1TB of OneDrive storage where you can securely store all your files and share them with your colleagues. Files are synced across devices and you can access them anywhere – even when you’re offline.

How we can help

Email is probably the most important business communication tool you have; and your most comprehensive archive. You don’t want an Office 365 migration to disrupt your business; and you certainly don’t want to lose any data.

A successful Office 365 migration requires pre-assessment, planning and proper configuration. You need someone who knows what they’re doing. We’ve successfully migrated hundreds of mailboxes and we can migrate yours, too – with minimal downtime.

Image designed by luis_molinero / Freepik

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