What Microsoft’s Office 2013 and 365 Update Mean for Small Business
Microsoft’s new update for Office 365 is a subscription-based service that provides the new Microsoft Office 2013 suite via a cloud-pricing model. It carries with it many new options that will make work more mobile, collaboration easier, and it represents a powerful set of tools that are easily accessible for the small and medium-sized business.
Cloud technology is at the heart of Microsoft’s huge update of this established office productivity suite and this exploding new area of technology is seamlessly integrated with applications that are familiar to most office workers: Word, EXCEL, PowerPoint, etc. Entering the fray against Google Apps, which offers similar cloud-based services, Office 365 represents Microsoft’s first big step towards integrating cloud services and mobility into the core of its flagship Office offering.
Office 365 has a somewhat higher cost per user than Google Apps, depending on which features you pick from the a la cart style subscription service. Annual cost per user for Office 365 ranges from $72 to over $200 depending on the “plan” type, compared with a flat $50 per year for Google apps. Which one you chose will likely depend on how reliant your business is on specific capabilities of Microsoft Office and how highly you prize convenience and compatibility. Small business computing requirements vary greatly from company to company, and both offerings have pretty clear pros and cons: your choice should take into consideration areas such as user re-training issues, and what types of MS Office users you have (e.g., “casual users” vs. “power users”).
Some of the new features coming to Office 365 include:
- Integration of SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage system, to allow you to access your documents and other files from a wide range of devices. This is a huge perk, and will make collaboration and information sharing much more seamless than ever before. SkyDrive will be the default document storage option -a forward-looking approach, but also one that many businesses will want to think twice about.
- The ability to access Office from touch-screen devices (particularly Microsoft’s Surface tablet, of course).
- Skype compatibility.
- Office 365 will also allow you to create and edit your documents offline. Of course, to do this, you’ll need the Microsoft Office software on your PC – which you don’t need on any computer connected to the internet (in that case, Office 365 will suffice). Microsoft does offer syncing between 365 and various versions of Office licensed applications, however, which leads us to…
- Same “look and feel” that users have come to expect from Microsoft Office applications. Given that Google Apps is cheaper and so many capable programs are being released for free, this is probably Office 365′s biggest advantage. Many small businesses are reliant on Office already, so this will require no IT overhaul, and any training that small businesses have provided for their employees already will carry over to the new system. In other words, if employees need to be trained, it will just be in the new, cloud-specific stuff – not in the way Office functions. Office 365 will be an attractive option for people who will benefit from a less rocky transition to new IT small business solutions.
Microsoft is obviously looking to cater to the modern on-the-go highly-collaborative workplace and is targeting businesses that can benefit from their new product’s many features.
Small business office application requirements come in many shapes and forms – even if your organization is relatively small, issues such as migrating e-mail from on-premise Microsoft Exchange add an additional level of complexity. With so many options and potential pitfalls, talking to the experts at www.TerraCloud.com is a good first step as you plan to move forward.