What is Office 365?
Traditionally, Microsoft Office has been a software application that you download and install onto one or more PC's under a single or multiple user license agreement.
First introduced in 2010 and expanded in 2013 to include new plans, Microsoft Office 365 is a pay-as-you-go subscription version providing ONLINE access to various software and services removing the need to have your own Microsoft Small Business Server. Typically the plans can include:
- Microsoft Office Suite (word, publisher, excel etc)
- Microsoft Exchange Online (hosted email)
- Microsoft Lync 2010 (communications server)
- Sharepoint Document Management (document server)
- Skydrive Storage
- Malware Protection
So is MS Office 365 right for you and your business?
The Pros of Office 365
- Your applications can be accessed via any device (including mobile), through any web browser as long as you have the correct permissions and access to an internet connection, (even wi-fi).
- Reduced capital expenditure
- Instead of paying for new versions, Office 365 upgrades are automatically included within your subscription
- Multiple users can have access to the same documents, for example you can store documents in Sharepoint 2010 and have the ability to make changes, review versions or even leave notes for colleagues.
- Removes any infrastructure headaches should you need to undertake office relocation.
- Greater server stability, with a high uptime Service Level Agreement. (assumes network reliability)
The Cons of Office 365
- Your data is stored in 'the Cloud' in Microsoft Data Centers so you are reliant on both network and bandwidth. If your internet connection fails you will lose access to your software and data until it is restored
- You have very little control over this 'cloud' environment your data is stored in, whilst there are uptime guarantees any datacentre infrastructure failure can have a direct impact on the availability of Office 365. If Microsoft or other high end data center provider outages do occur , small businesses have no leverage.
- You may consider there to be higher security risks associated with 'online' data storage. If this is a key factor for your business, there are upgrade options available but they could be cost prohibitive.
- Application performance may be slower over an internet connection, especially if you have home based users with inferior internet connectivity and broadband speeds. This could have the knock on effect of reducing productivity
- There are limits to the number of email recipients you can have within a 24 hour period
Ultimately if you are considering switching to Office 365, you need to evaluate its suitability based on your own individual business requirements. How would your business be affected if you were unable to access the applications? Are the possible security implications an issue? What budget do you have available? Do you have any internal IT support? Will you still need a local server for certain requirements?
With any IT decision it's always better to seek help to identify the impact on your business and how to minimise any potential risk.