Office 365 – What you need to know
Office 365 is a collection of applications and cloud services provided as a subscription service by Microsoft. You can use these to be productive across a variety of devices from just about anywhere. Several subscription models are available. Each is tailored to various business sizes and usage types. Most plans include the latest version of Microsoft Office as a desktop install. This means that you do not need to be connected while you work. All the plans include the online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Office 365 is even available for home users and works out a lot cheaper than a once-off purchase of Office as you get a 5 device/user license with a single license purchase.
What you need to remember is that the license is valid for 1 year and needs to be renewed annually. The break-even point for a home version is only after 6 years (where the Office 365 for 5 users starts costing more than the outright purchase of 5 Office licenses.
One of the major perks is a huge 1TB of storage on Microsoft One-Drive. For the home package, this is per user for up to 5 users. You also get 60 Skype minutes per user per month for free. Microsoft keeps Office 365 up to date with the latest version of Office at no extra cost. You get a free Microsoft email address (usually @office.com, but there are a few to choose from) and as a business, you can even add Exchange in the cloud-hosted on Microsoft data centres.
Office 365 is also compatible with both IOS and Android mobile devices and of course Windows Mobile. Even Linux users can use Office on the Web through their browser. The web-based applications are fully functional and while they might not be quite as snappy as the desktop applications, they work well on anything more than a 4MB/s ADSL link.
What Applications are included?
All your favourite office applications and more. Microsoft has included Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive and on the PC versions, added MS Publisher and MS Access. All the usual office software as a leased option instead of an outright purchase. What once was a Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) is now an Operational Cost (OPEX) with benefits. Office 365 files are compatible with Office 2010 and 2013. Office 2007 also works, but you’ll lose some functionality.
What must I keep in mind?
- Is your network ready – in an office environment, Office 365 can increase your internet usage by up to 40% so make sure that you have factored in the extra capacity.
- Microsoft designed Office 365 to use the Internet as your LAN. DO NOT try to cram users into a server running Office 365 – your performance will suffer. The Office suite was designed to work from user device to cloud with no intervention. Any other architecture in an attempt to stick to familiar or legacy structures is doomed to fail.
- EACH installation needs at least a 1GHz processor, 2GB RAM on 64bit systems and 3GB of disk space. These are the MINIMUM requirements.
- Home Premium – 1 license for 5 users / devices
- Small Business accommodates up to 25 users.
- Midsize Business accommodates up to 300 users.
- Enterprise for over 300 users.
Most organisations considering the cloud worry about security but Office 365 offers the same user-level security options and Trust Center as the desktop version. Rights Management Service (RMS) supports encryption and lets you set permissions. Users will have a reasonable amount of security at their level. Microsoft saves all Office 365 data in specialised data centres where security is a primary concern. In a nutshell, small to medium businesses will have better security using Office 365 than they can (probably) afford on their own.
If you plan on staying with Microsoft for your office, Office 365 is the way to go. You can also migrate your current MS Exchange mailboxes to Office 365 with Exchange and the migration is reasonably easy. The only issues will be very large mailboxes (more than 10GB) which take a long time to migrate and can have some synchronisation issues. Personally, I have migrated mailboxes as large as 25GB without any major issues.