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What You Need to Know About Microsoft Office 365

By Tom Snyder, COO
Q: My company wants to use a cloud-based office productivity suite. Why should we use Microsoft Office 365?

A: Simple: Microsoft Office 365 has evolved into a mature suite of productivity apps that are tightly integrated with the on-premises version of Microsoft Office, allowing your employees to work and collaborate across the two without interruption or confusion.

Additionally, Microsoft Office 365 enhances all the rich, familiar features of the on-premises version of Microsoft Office, with online services that further boost their productivity. This also means the learning curve is minimal. We bet that if you migrate your Outlook email and calendar to MicrosoftOffice 365, for example, your employees will barely notice the change!

Q: How does the cost compare to other cloud service productivity tools?

A: Frankly, Microsoft Office is the undisputed standard in businesses around the world. Even if you don’t use it, your customers, vendors, and partners probably are. So while other cloud-based services may seem more affordable, you’ll still need to invest in Microsoft Office for compatibility reasons anyhow. Why not standardize and reap your cost savings that way?

Q: What does Xantrion like about Microsoft Office 365?

A: Because it’s based in the cloud, Microsoft Office 365 has additional functionality, availability, and cybersecurity. Increasingly, cloud-based applications, have less downtime, improved security and better auditability for IT compliance purposes than their on-premises counterparts. In addition, moving to cloud services is a good choice for firms with employees who need to access and work with their files from anywhere, for better file sharing, collaboration, and mobility. While it’s true that you can give users access to servers that reside in your office, the odds of losing power or internet service make this a poor choice versus cloud services. And because cloud service providers push out upgrades and patches automatically, you’re always using the most up-to-date and secure version of the software without any need for action from your IT team.

Speaking of security, Microsoft Office 365 keeps your company’s information safe in the cloud with multiple layers of cybersecurity, including encryption and granular rights management. It has also been independently verified to meet global cybersecurity and compliance standards, including ISO 27001, FISMA, HIPAA, FERPA, EU Model Clauses, and the Cloud Security Alliance.

The pay as you go model of most cloud services is also appealing to most companies. By licensing software, like Microsoft Office 365, by the month, you avoid the large expense of a one-time purchase and give all your users access to the latest version of the software. No more compatibility problems as someone tries to open the Excel 2016 spreadsheet created by someone else using Excel 2003.

Q: What about the additional cloud-based applications in Microsoft Office 365?

A: Microsoft Office 365 includes a number of useful business applications that rely on the cloud and online connectivity in general. Skype for Business offers instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, and content sharing. Microsoft OneDrive provides secure online file sharing in the cloud.

All of these applications and more come bundled in Microsoft Office 365, and they’re integrated with the core applications of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook in a way that makes them even more convenient.

Q: Do I actually need those other business apps, though?

A: Not all of the applications included with Microsoft Office 365 are useful for small and midsized businesses. For example, Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social media platform, isn’t really relevant in a small company where everyone knows everyone else and can just walk down the hall for a conversation. Microsoft One Drive for business handles one-to-one exchanges of large files easily, but Xantrion feels it’s not quite ready for more demanding usage, like sharing terabytes of data among 50 employees. And Groups, Microsoft’s new self-service approach to allowing end users to create dynamic silos of information for teams, and Planner, a collaboration and project management platform, are still too new to recommend.

Q: Do I have to use all the applications in the Microsoft Office 365 bundle?

A: Not at all! Even though Microsoft Office 365 is less about the individual applications than the way they all work together as a single platform, you can choose the parts you do and don’t want to use.

All the same, Xantrion is keeping an eye on the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem for you. We know that applications that aren’t useful for small and midsized businesses today could become more so as Microsoft continues to develop them — or as your business grows.