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Why you need Office 365
I received an email from an HVAC company out in Ontario that wanted to know what the deal was with Office 365 and Microsoft Office 2013. They are looking at upgrading from Microsoft Office 2007, but are confused by the positioning of each of the Microsoft Offerings and emailed in for some advice. Seemed like a great topic to cover for this month’s article.
I first saw the use
of “cloud-based” technology when I was working with
Open Automation Software and they were putting the finishing touches on
their Live Data Cloud product. It is a product that provides
end-users with the ability to host live data using a standard internet
connection from anywhere and any number of clients and data sources.
With tablets and mobile devices soaring in popularity the market saw a shift away from CD based software licenced products, and a rise in software products being offered as subscription based services. Google and Adobe have shifted to this model, and it was inevitable that with the new Windows 8 OS hitting the market, that Microsoft would follow suit with a new subscription based offering.
Anyone who has used a PC knows that if a user wanted a copy of Microsoft Office it was purchased on a CD and installed, or the free trial version of the already installed Office copy was activated on a PC. That is what we were all used to, but now we are operating in the cloud.
The New- Let’s Break it Down
When someone asks which version of Microsoft Office 2013 do they purchase the normal response is “What are they trying to achieve”?
The Free version – That’s right Microsoft is giving some of it away for free. I suspect that this is to directly compete with Google Docs and Open Office. Keep users loyal to Microsoft by giving them a free version to use – with limited functionality. This is all achieved through the use of the ever powerful web apps features. An end-user can sign up for an email address at Outlook.com and receive a free web-based email account that includes a contact book, calendar, and around 7 GB of online storage in what Microsoft has named SkyDrive. As a fan of the new Hawaii Five O series I always chuckle when I hear the detectives send crime scene photos to the SkyDrive and wonder how much Microsoft paid for that promotional slot.
Once an end-user is
logged into their account they can create files in
the four essential Microsoft Office programs: Word, PowerPoint, Excel
and OneNote. Everything that an end-user creates is stored to the
SkyDrive online. Now the functionality of these programs has been
restricted so if an end-user is trying to manipulate complex Office
files, there is probably not enough under the hood of the free version
to get the job done. A business that needs Outlook to manage task
lists, and calendars for example, would have to purchase the Microsoft
Office Home & Business 2013 or Office Professional. The costs
range depending on the retailer but generally from $220.00-$400.00.
Once again an investment in software for a business based on an
expensive model that may work for some businesses, but what if there
was a more economical way?
The Office 365 Difference
Office 365 is a
subscription based service where an end-user, or
business, does not purchase software - it is rented. I really
the flexibility that the plans offer and the fact that they take into
account that an end-user will own multiple devices that they can use
Office 365 on. What does that mean as an end-user? What it
means is that by purchasing a Microsoft Office 365 home Premium
subscription it enables end-users to register Office 365 on a desktop,
a tablet, a couple of laptops and even on a Mac. If an
end-user gets a new device and wants to replace an existing registered
device it is as easy as using the Office 365 control panel to activate
The entire family have access to all the Microsoft Office 2013 programs for one low subscription price. There is no more worrying about using the latest version of Office 365. Being a cloud-based service the latest versions and updates are automatically available to end-users as long as the subscription remains current.
Note – When looking at the Business versions of Office 365 instead of using a shared drive (SkyDrive) they use SharePoint to enable collaboration.
will greatly benefit from the fact that the email
component of Office 365 is Exchange Online. This provides small
businesses the ability to leverage a Microsoft Exchange Server
for its business without having to bear the huge costs of purchasing
one. Custom URLS can be configured using Exchange Online so
emails sent and received will come from
www.yourcompany.com. There are web versions of Outlook and a desktop client that can be installed. The web version appears very similar to the desktop version, and many people that I have spoken with actually prefer it to the desktop client. I have found that it has a few different color schemes, but is very easy to navigate and use.
Getting the mail sent to a mobile device was an extremely seamless process when I made the switch. Everything functions extremely well. Email and calendar syncing are extremely quick. According to the Office 365 website it supports iOS, Windows Phone 7, Android and Blackberry. I have heard that there have been some exchange issues with the new Blackberry Q 10 from some clients that I have, but I could not find anything on the web that spoke to these issues. I know that my Android made the transitions seamlessly and has no issues.
What else is in the Office 365 box?
Aside from getting the big four: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook end-users can have access to SharePoint Online and Microsoft Lync. (Other Microsoft Office programs are available at additional costs.)
SharePoint is essentially the backbone that Office 365 has been built on and provides end-users with the tools to encourage collaboration between co-workers and eliminate wasted time on common projects by providing a secure storage area that has the ability to have both internal and external-facing websites. This can provide project teams with many different options as the need to securely share documents and plans between different locations increases.
Microsoft Lync basic access comes with all Office 365 subscriptions (additional features are available at extra costs) and is the newest version of Microsoft Live Messenger. Unlike the MSN Messenger, Lync is more business focused with the ability to not only have instant message chats but also audio and video conferencing. Being as so many people work in virtual offices, Lync is a fantastic tool to have video calls, or conference calls. It even works on mobile devices so you truly can take your contacts anywhere you need to be.
What about Support?
Microsoft took care of this issue by being proactive and establishing that it will provide support for all Office 365 subscribers. That means that small businesses are not tied into having costly support contracts with third party vendors, or retaining an IT position. All support is handled by Microsoft through a toll free number or via the web interface.
In closing it is no
question that I am a fan of Office 365. It
works well for my business needs, and no matter what device I have in
my hand at the time, I can get the job done. Getting the job done
at a reduced overhead cost is something that every business strives
for. If your company is thinking about making the upgrade from Office
2007, 2010 – 2013 then strongly consider moving to Office 365.
The functionality is robust, and the cost savings are substantial.
I hope that takes a
little confusion out of what they differences are
between the newest versions of Microsoft’s Office. I look at it
as Office 365 being Microsoft Office 2013, but built with the
flexibility and mobility of today’s modern business in mind.
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