Office 365: Does it matter for Niagara, St. Catharine’s or Hamilton business?

Microsoft officially releases their Office 365 in Public Beta. The United States and 37 other global regions open to the public beta of Microsoft’s new cloud service for Office, email and sharing.

Why should your Ontario business care? In a recently published news release Microsoft announced the public beta of their much-anticipated next version of their cloud computing service. Office 365 takes many of the applications used in business today and moves them to the cloud. Word, Excel and PowerPoint now run Online. BlackBerry, iPhone and other smart phone service run int the cloud and email, telephone and data sharing is now online.

This is nothing new for Microsoft. The cloud has been a Microsoft vision for the past 5 years. Starting with Kevin Turner (COO Microsoft) announcing Software + Services. Microsoft Live for consumers and Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) which is being retired and replaced with Office 365.

Office 365 is a direct answer to customer demand for affordable and pay per use type of service. In addition to increased pressure from Google and their enterprise application plus a wrath of other smaller companies who are also moving into this cloud services space.

But, what really matters to your Niagara Region business? We recently stumbled upon the Microsoft news release announcing Office 365 in public beta.

Office 365, Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps for Business, just became available to the public for beta testing. With this move, Redmond comes closer to delivering a package of tools to companies seeking e-mail, word processing, Web-based meetings, and scores of other services that work on PCs and mobile devices alike.

But wait a minute, wasn’t Google Apps Google’s answer to Microsoft’s dominance in the productivity space? After all, Microsoft has held a steady lead in such desktop software for decades. It wasn’t until 2006 that Google released Docs, a bare-bones online word processor formerly known as Writely. Docs still barely scratches the surface of the features found in Microsoft Word.

That’s all true, but Google offered collaboration as a killer feature while Microsoft dragged its heels in migrating Office to the cloud. Office Web Apps–online counterparts to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint–didn’t reach the masses until nearly a year ago.

Users of the free Google Docs only need to press the Share button to invite anybody to a document and watch each others’ edits happen live. People who didn’t “get” what Microsoft SharePoint does, or didn’t want to pay for a corporate account, could tinker with collaboration instantly in Google Docs. That kind of lightbulb moment radically shifted the way many people work.

Why These Services Matter

The cloud–just another buzzword for anything stored online–is where the future of productivity lives, after all. More and more workers take their work away from their desks onto mobile devices, and bring their own smartphones and tablets to work.

Office 365 and Google Apps for Business promise to manage the nitty-gritty, back-end tasks that many businesses pay IT staff to handle. Their cloud services can free a company to get things done without a tech whiz.

There are potentially big savings in migrating tools to the cloud. Online meetings reduce the need for business travel, and Web and mobile apps enable workers across oceans to work on the same page, literally, at the same moment. Plus, outfitting employees with software that works in a Web browser means there’s little need to install local applications, then manage updates and patches. You may not even need to equip workers with computers–or outfit headquarters with a server room and IT staff.

What’s Inside

Office 365 combines online editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, with Exchange for mobile calendar and e-mail access. There’s also SharePoint for an intranet and shared documents; and Lync for IM, online meetings, and audio and video calls. An extra fee covers Microsoft Office Professional Plus software, including Outlook for e-mail and calendars. Read more about what’s inside Office 365 here, and tour its tools for end users and business managers.

Solve-IT specializes in helping Ontario business understand technology and which IT solutions work best. As a trusted Hamilton IT support firm we work with large and small businesses to help them maximize the use of IT. Allow us to help you understand which cloud service is best for your business, it starts with a phone call to our office and ask to speak with Brett directly about any questions you have about the cloud and cloud services in your Ontario business.