Small businesses can save a lot of time and money by using hosted software tools and taking advantage of the power of cloud computing. Software as a service (SaaS) is good for small businesses since they only pay for what they need, and another person does the work of backing up and protecting the data.
Microsoft recently introduced Office 365, which is designed to meet the software needs of small businesses. Although this looks like a simple online version of Microsoft Office, the service includes many more features than that.
Cloud Computing and Microsoft Apps before Office 365
Before they launched Office 365 Microsoft had already offered several cloud computing tools some of which you may have used. These were Windows Live Sky Drive and the newly launched Office Web Apps which are stripped down and online versions of Word 2010, Powerpoint 2010, Excel 2010 and One Note 2010.
Office 365 takes the place of existing Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) and Microsoft Office Live Small Business.
Different Versions of 365
Office 365 is available in three versions – one for small businesses, one for enterprise and another for students. There is no way to upgrade directly from the small business version to the enterprise version. So you would have to choose the right one the first time. Fortunately, each version comes with a free 30-day trial.
Office 365 plans for professionals and small businesses is meant for businesses with up to 25 users and costs $ 6 per user per month. Applications included in it are the free Office Web Apps, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online as well as Microsoft Lync.
Office 365 Enterprise Edition brings in desktop versions of Microsoft Office Professional and many other features. You will probably find BPOS users to upgrade to Office 365 because the applications in BPOS are designed to seamlessly work in the cloud.
What Does Small Business Version Include
Since Web Apps are already free for everyone, we shall focus on other Office 365 features for small businesses. Lync, SharePoint, and Exchange Online tools are what you are pay subscription for in Office 365
Microsoft Exchange Online manages your professional email and information such as scheduling, calendars, and contact information. As part of Office 365 subscription, it includes anti-spam and anti-virus protection and 25 GB of online email storage for every user. It provides employees with access to email with a variety of different OS such as including Windows, smartphones, and tablets running on Android and Apple computers running Mac and iPhone running on iOS.
In a word, it handles the sending, receiving and security of your mail.
Microsoft SharePoint Online manages the exchange and collaboration of documents. For example, a company can save all the templates and other documents centrally on the SharePoint site. Therefore, anyone working anywhere in the world can access if they have access to the Internet through a web browser.
You could also use SharePoint Online features for collaboration with others. Employees in each location can work together on documents without having to transmit them back and forth. You can also create a corporate intranet in SharePoint that will allow you to create an internal portal for your company that will provide your employees with information and access to the information they want.
The intranet is easy to configure and only adds and manages the content. Microsoft manages access and hosting as part of the SharePoint installation. You also get a simple business website that you can customize if you wish.
Microsoft Lync Online is a communication system with tools that allow users to communicate with other users and possibly with the Lync users of other companies through audio and video transmissions, secure instant messaging and web conferences.
In addition to the cost, support is the main difference between the SME and Enterprise editions. In small business edition, you have access to free online support, but not to exclusive support staff. Enterprise edition gives you access to advanced set up of IT and live support 24 hours a day.
In addition, Enterprise Edition also brings the desktop version of Office Professional Plus, which offers more features than pared down web applications. While you pay for the small business service each month, you can choose between a monthly or annual enterprise edition contract and pay between $ 10 and $ 27 per user per month. Microsoft also offers plans for employees who share a computer and only require infrequent access to emails and files. This feature costs from $ 4 to $ 10 for each user per month.
Although the configuration is simple, configuring Office 365 for your business requires a degree of knowledge of IT so that your existing system can transition without problems to the hosted online service. You must provide the employees with the necessary permissions and access the tools and functions they need.
In general, the need for local IT support for small businesses should be lower, since much of the software that is normally hosted and managed locally comes from the cloud.