Microsoft Office 365 review

 In Cloud

Recently I had a look at the beta release of Microsoft Office 365, the latest edition of Microsoft’s productivity suite available in the cloud. Cloud has become such a buzz word that most of my readers may possibly have some form of allergic reaction. You shouldn’t. It really makes sense.

For years now IT for many companies has become a form of an investment. If you want a mail server you had to go and buy your tin, then you need to go and buy an OS which will sit on top of your shiny new tin. In addition to this you need to install your mail server application. On top of that you need someone who will set it up for you and look after it on an on-going basis. Most small businesses cannot afford an in-house person so you need to sign up to a contract with a support company. This is quite an expensive option, but often required. No one will treat you seriously if you start sending business emails from or domain.

However if you would like a cheaper alternative you can look at hosted email services available on the market today. It’s a far more cost-effective option. You are no longer required to buy a server and licence it and you are giving the headache of maintaining it to someone who knows how this needs to be done (in theory at least).

Microsoft Office 365 works similar to hosted exchange services. So why should you care? Well, for the price of hosted exchange mailbox Microsoft offers you so much more.

The P1 plan for Office 365 costs from £4 per user per month. What do you get from Microsoft for this price?

– 25 GB mailbox which you can configure and administer yourself online

– licenced Outlook 2010 for that user

– you get access to you emails via Outlook Web Access (publicly available web front end) or your mobile device via active sync

– calendar functionality which can be shared inside your organisation and can also be consumed on your mobile device.

– spam and virus protection thanks to Forefront Online Protection for Exchange.

– Microsoft Access Services which will take care of your database needs

– SharePoint which you can use inside of your organisation for collaboration and file storage

– Publicly available website which you can use as your business website (no need for external hosting contract)

– Lync server which is Microsoft’s take on Unified Communication. You will get access to Lync client software (it will be familiar to you if you ever used Skype or Live Messenger) which allows you to send Instant Messages to your colleagues or partners  as well as initiate a voice call or even a video call. Lync is also able to exchange messages with Windows Live Messenger users. You can setup online meetings including audio, video and web conferencing with people inside and outside of your organisation

– And last but not least a web version of Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint.

As you can see this is a substantial offering for £4 per month. This solution can comfortably replace the need for a mail server, file server (you are storing your documents in the cloud), SharePoint server, web hosting contract and online meeting service.

In the next post I will walk you through the process of setting up your beta account to explore Office 365 in more detail.

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