Microsoft recently announced a new product, Office 365 which will allow users to access Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online over the internet for a monthly subscription fee. Office 365 is a replacement for BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) which was good but more expensive.
This marks the beginning of offering enterprise class services for businesses of all sizes. Microsoft is marketing the key benefits of Office 365 as 24/7 phone support, purpose-built migration tools that help getting users up and running faster, no more server patching, updating or upgrading and variable pricing option for accurate forecasting of IT expenditures and predictable annual costs. The scale and price of the package is customisable, ensuring you’re business gets what it needs and only pays for what it needs. Microsoft Office, SharePoint and Exchange will probably be familiar but Lync Online might be a new one for some people. Lync Online provides a range of communications capabilities which span from presence, instant messaging and audio/video calling to a rich online meeting experience which includes PC-audio, video and web conferencing.
Office 365 is a cloud-based business solution which enables all of your business productivity tools to be available no matter where you are. There are different versions to choose from: Small Business, Enterprise, and Education. The Office 365 for small business includes web-enabled tools designed specifically for smaller businesses and professionals who are looking for cloud-based productivity tools without the IT hassles. The solution for enterprises is designed for organisations that are looking to move into the cloud whilst remaining in control of their IT services. There is also a version for educational institutions that can help save money and give students access to familiar next-generation productivity tools.
One of the great things about Office 365 is that it doesn’t have a learning curve for anyone familiar with Office. All the programs associated with it are ones that your business probably already uses; Office 365 connects them in the cloud so you don’t have to learn anything new. You can connect to your applications through any computer or smart phone including iPhone, Blackberry, Android or Windows phone.
It’s also pretty inexpensive.
It’s free for the first 30 days and from then on is just $6 per month (UK pricing to come) for the small business version. Pricing becomes a little more complicated for enterprise users but it is tailored to the needs of your businesses including the option to access only the services you choose and pay-as-you-go pricing options. The pricing of Office 365 is said to make it a more competitive match against Google Apps. Whilst Google Apps has a lot going for it, Office 365 has the juggernaut known as Microsoft backing it with their productivity tools – tools people already know how to use.
More information can be found in a couple of places:
There is the Blog by Allen, Office 365 Product Manager
There is an article on TechCrunch
And of course Office 365 itself