Office 365: Are you ready to step into the cloud?

Dec 18, 2015

It is a powerful tool for your business…

Email. Spreadsheets. Documents. The information you need to run your business. Where you need it; when you need it.

That’s the promise of the mobile office, which is finally becoming a functional reality.

In particular, Microsoft’s Office 365 product offering — the flagship bundles of their most popular productivity products — is delivering on that promise for the modern company (see our overview of Office 365 functionality).

Office 365 email services work exceptionally well, keeping what is often the most critical line of communications for your company running smoothly across multiple devices. A proven 99.99% uptime means effectively no interruptions to that flow of mail, and multiple data centers means a hardware failure no longer puts your entire corporate email history at risk. Whether you’re on a Mac or Windows PC, Android or iOS smartphone, Office 365 accounts connect easily, syncing email, appointments, tasks, and contacts across platforms.

Office 365 also allows you to better integrate industry-standard productivity apps like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint into your business. Now available on all the major platforms and devices,  you and your staff will not waste time fighting file compatibility issues, or outdated versions. Using the web-based apps, you don’t even need the software installed on the computer you’re using.

By adding OneDrive and Sharepoint for cloud-based storage and sharing of information, your company has the ability to work together in a way that was impossible even just a few years ago.

But it requires a change in thinking…

Aside from the day-to-day tweaks and adjustments that any change in software entails, there are two big philosophical shifts that Office 365 requires. First is a shift to an ongoing licensing model — think leasing rather than buying — for the tools you use. Second, ownership, access, and control of corporate data will also require a change in thinking.

One of the biggest changes in the Office 365 model is that you no longer buy the software as a product, but rather lease access to the software as a service. No more CDs or DVDs in a box, for those of you who even remember such unicorns, or worse, have to pay again to replace lost or damaged media. From a financial standpoint, it means shifting the costs from a one-time capital expense that can depreciate over time, to an ongoing operational cost.  The benefit, as with leasing a car or truck, is that you always end up driving the latest model.

Despite all the positives, it might not be the right fit for your company…

For example, Microsoft does not allow custom applications on their servers, so if your company has special software designed to connect directly into an Exchange email server, Office 365 would not necessarily work for you. A full understanding of your computing environment, and communication with your key software vendors, is vital before making a decision to migrate to Office 365.

Another concern could be that some offerings are what computer people refer to as “throttled”, meaning that there can be data limits. For example, SharePoint Online limits the number of total pages your Sharepoint site can contain and restricts add-ons.

Many companies in Canada also have concerns about regulatory restrictions on where their data is stored, so Office 365 storing information on US-based servers could be an issue.

So what’s the next step?

If you are thinking of taking your company to Office 365, make sure you get solid advice from people who not only have experience with Office 365, but who know you, your company, and your strategic goals. Consider bringing in some expert guidance to help you navigate the transition from start to finish.

An experienced hand helps you avoid downtime and lost data as you move between platforms, ensures solid communication with your staff about the impending changes, and matches the right mix of tools and licenses to your company’s unique needs.

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