The Cloud is the latest big buzzword in the tech industry. Although Microsoft is usually late in entering new fields, its products are generally solid, simple, and reliable. The Office 365 is the software giant’s big entry into the cloud service industry and a rival to Google’s longstanding cloud-based productivity suite- Google Docs.
A Guide To Office 365 For Businesses

This guide has been written for individuals and small business owners who wish to gain an understanding of Office 365 – what is included, how it works and how much it will cost.

What Is Office 365?

Let us start this guide by looking at what Office 365 is and how it works. It is essentially a subscription-based online service suite that gives you access to various Microsoft Office software and services, including Word, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Excel, and the others.

Office 365 essentially takes popular Microsoft Office software applications and makes them accessible from the cloud. Microsoft launched it for beta testing in October 2010. The official launch of Office 365 was on June 28, 2011.

With Office 365, you can access enterprise-level Microsoft Office services and software, including Exchange email and calendars, with through a web browser with no extra software installation required. The subscription model of Office 365 is similar to most other cloud services – you pay for access to software and services from certain computers for a small monthly fee.

How Much Does It Cost?

Office 365 is free to try (see the official Office 365 website), but the Home Premium package starts from $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month. It comes with 20 GB storage on SkyDrive and 60 minutes of calls on Skype per month. You can access Office applications on up to five devices, including computer, tablets, and Macs.

The Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription costs $12.50 per user per month or $150 per year. It supports up to 10 users and each of them gets a 25 GB SkyDrive account, shared calendars, and simpler web-based administration.

The Office 365 Midsize Business package is available for $15/month for each user, with an annual commitment. This option supports up to 250 employees, along with a 25 MB storage limit on email attachments and a web-based admin portal for managing or setting email policies and access rules.

What Applications Does Office 365 Feature?

Like previous version of Microsoft Office, Office 365 is available in different packages, each of which has its own list of applications. Here is a quick look at the applications available:

  • Office Professional Plus- includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, SharePoint Workspace, and Lync
  • SharePoint Online- a powerful collaboration tool for businesses
  • Exchange Online- an enterprise-grade online email solution
  • Lync Online- a business-ready instant messaging and conferencing tool

SharePoint online is a popular collaboration and document management tool, and Office Professional Plus comes with all the applications that have been the staple of Microsoft Office Suit for all these years. You can use Office on up to five machines with the Office 365 Home Professional edition.

If your business uses multiple devices, this could be a huge cost-saver. A single subscription will be enough to cover multiple desktops and laptops in your office space. Office Professional includes the latest versions of standard Office software, including Word, Excel, and Outlook.

SharePoint Online requires a special mention among Office 365’s applications. It is a web-based alternative to the SharePoint Server solution and offers a number of comprehensive collaboration tools for businesses.

All Office 365 subscription packages come with the program, but the feature set is only fully available on high-level enterprise subscriptions or an additional cost. You can choose one depending on the kind of collaborative work is done in your office.

SharePoint will help improve collaboration between team members and reduce the various frustrations that people face when working in large and fragmented groups. SharePoint streamlines document versioning, co-authoring, and securely storing files in the cloud.

Office 365 Functionality

Below are the areas in which Office 365 offers maximum functionality:

File Sharing

  • You can share or access up-to-date documents securely and control who gets to see what from the admin page
  • You can create a central place for accessing documents and other business information from almost anywhere
  • You can group your sites by team, project, or function and store your personal documents on the cloud
  • The files can be created, edited, and shared with others in real time
  • Teams can be assigned tasks and you can see them on a timeline to track project progress

Conferencing

  • You can access company forms, policies or bulletins and add or respond to comments and status updates so everyone can know
  • You can share and view ideas through blogs and wikis
  • You can receive and send ongoing updates on specific sites, documents, or people through your Newsfeed

Website Creation

  • You can create your own website with Office 365 and get a personalized domain name
  • You can add comments and share buttons on your website to reach new customers and update customers with an easily usable blog
  • The creation process is easy to follow; there is no need for special skills
  • You can easily insert videos, photos, and other content and change the layout of the website
  • You can previous changes to see what works best and publish pages in seconds

Is Office 365 Easy To Configure?

Out of the box (if it had one), Office 365 is a doddle to setup and configure. If you using Office 365 for business use then you may wish to consider getting some external outsourced help, especially if you are an existing exchange/SharePoint user that is looking to migrate everything to the Office 365 platform. We used Our IT Department (click here), but no doubt you have your own.

The Advantages Of Office 365

  • The comprehensive suite of software and services are an attractive and cost-effective option for smaller organizations where customization is not that important
  • Turnkey configuration and unrestricted access anywhere and anytime makes it easy to deploy and using
  • Depending on the size of your organization, your needs, and the subscription package you choose, Office 365 can save a lot of money and free you from capital outlays associated with on-premise software solutions.

The Disadvantages Of Office 365.

  • Compared to other cloud-based services, Office 365 is more expensive per gigabyte of storage
  • Microsoft does not guarantee a 99.999 percent uptime, and the Service Level Agreement may be questionable to some companies
  • Some of the features and applications come along with the subscription and are added to the cost, whether you use them or not
  • There are limitations in the functionality of onsite and online versions of certain Office programs like SharePoint, although it may not affect all companies
  • Like any other cloud-based service, Office 365 does not offer much flexibility or control; you use Microsoft’s infrastructure and capabilities instead

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

David specializes in writing useful technology guides for blogs and directly for Information Technology organisations.

One comment on “A Guide To Office 365 For Businesses

  1. Office 365 is a great application. I love the fact that you can access and save everything from the cloud, there is nothing more annoying then being halfway through a document, only for your computer to crash, losing everything! I wouldn’t be without it now.

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