What Am I Buying With Office 365?

Article Jonathan Bray Dec 15, 2011

When it comes to cloud computing the question many IT managers are asking themselves is “should I, or shouldn't I?” It's a subject that, if you'll forgive the expression, is clouded with uncertainty; it's clearly a great idea, but there are big questions surrounding it. What happens if the Internet connection goes down, or outside forces slow connection speeds to a crawl? How does my workforce remain productive? Wouldn't it be better just to stick to desktop applications?

The good news is that Microsoft Office 365 offers the best of both worlds. You can opt to work completely in the cloud, with Microsoft's Office Web Apps offering basic document editing tools, and Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint and Lync providing full, enterprise-class messaging, sharing and collaboration tools. Or you can choose to install the full Office Professional Plus suite locally, keeping only Exchange, Lync and SharePoint in the cloud.

The big difference with Office 365 is in the licensing model. Instead of having to buy licenses in batches and by the year, Office 365 is based on a monthly subscription model, allowing you to add licenses as your business expands and remove them when they're no longer needed. That has the potential to save your business time and money.

With Office 365's subscription model, there's no longer any need to purchase capacity you don't require, nor any need to worry if the number of installations you have on-site exceeds the number of licenses you've purchased. It's all done for you, in the cloud. And rather than having to deploy the software yourself, the applications are simply downloaded and installed from Microsoft's servers. Need to add an extra seat? Just extend your plan by one user, create the account and, in one fell swoop, an email and Office license is created, ready for install direct from that user's account space. Office 365 will even keep the software patched and up to date for you, so you can be sure every user in your company is running the same software.

On the messaging side of things, the benefits are even more obvious. With Exchange hosted online, there are no upfront infrastructure costs to worry about. No server hardware to buy, maintain or upgrade, no storage limitations to worry about or email backup. Office 365 deals with that all for you, and will scale with your organisation, so as you add users so it grows. And Exchange Online not only provides all the traditional messaging services you've come to expect, but it also includes built-in malware protection with Forefront Online Protection for Exchange; another worry off your mind.

With Office 365, the watchwords are flexibility and value for money. It will grow and shrink with your workforce as necessary, and if you need anything beyond the 'Plan' you've selected, you can add items piecemeal, via the administrative interface online. And with predictable, monthly, per user costs, it's far less complex to budget for and easier to manage. You have to wonder why Microsoft didn’t come up with this pricing model before.