It was a lot easier talking about software in the pre-cloud days. Even though it was software, there was still something that you could hold… a box, a disk, a CD… software was still sort of a thing. When you talked about “Microsoft Word” or something similar, it was that thing that had been contained in that box… and an upgrade meant a trip to the store to get a new box.
But with the wide spread of the internet and the rise of cloud-based services, software has literally and figuratively moved out of the box. What are we even talking about when we say “Office 365“? What is it? Where is it? What does it all do and include?
When we’re talking Office 365, we’re actually talking a whole world of tools, everything from productivity apps that run on all manner of hardware, to cloud-based tools for sharing files and holding meetings online.
In this week’s Connections post, we will take a 10,000 foot look at the entire suite of services available as part of Office 365. (you can also check out our earlier article about the implications of moving to Office 365)
Office 365 is email, contacts, and calendars. For a lot of companies, this is the main reason for moving to Office 365. Although the services of rivals such as Google’s Gmail have continued to improve, Microsoft still holds the crown for corporate email systems. With Office 365, you get Microsoft’s industry standard Exchange Server software for email and calendar, accessible through the cloud. That means all the benefits of Exchange without the hassle of maintaining the associated hardware and licenses. Microsoft took these tools, already built for communicating, sharing, scheduling and contact information, and made it easily accessible on whatever devices… emphasis on the plural… you want.
Office 365 is also the latest in productivity apps. Again already an industry standard, Microsoft’s software for writing, number-crunching, and presentations – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – now become as accessible as your email, available on all manner of devices as well as versions that run purely on the web. Writing a report, running the latest sales figures, making last minute edits to the big shareholder presentation… now you can do it all nearly anywhere.
Office 365 is the digital version of your company library and central filing, accessible from anywhere. Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud-based file storage and sharing service, included in Office 365. You may not store everything there (there was always still a need for a company safe, even in the real world), but OneDrive gives you the ability to have both your files and your apps available together in the cloud.
Office 365 is also a phone system, video calling and instant messaging. Skype for Business gives you and your staff the ability to have good old-fashioned conversations, or run video conference calls to ‘dial in’ staff to staff meetings and training, from wherever they are. Or simply fire a quick one-line question to someone, as if you’d just walked past their office and poked your head in. Skype even ties into Office 365‘s calendaring capabilities and will automatically show if you are available. For example, if someone has a meeting or call booked in their calendar, you can see right in Skype, the online equivalent of a closed office door.
Office 365 can be more casual communication and collaboration as well. Tools like Yammer and Sites can act as your company water cooler, bulletin boards, resource binders, and forms cabinets, even when staff aren’t physically together.
Office 365 also delivers abilities that don’t really have a real world equivalent, for example video sharing for training and marketing.
In other words, Office 365 brings together a set of tools and services that allows your company to easily:
- collaborate – work simultaneously on reports, spreadsheets, and presentations, from anywhere you have an internet connection
- communicate – email, voice and video calls, instant messages, casual exchanges, all within the company’s own systems
- share information – give people access to the information they need, inside and outside of your company, with just a few clicks of a button