Moving To Office 365

There are a number of advantages in moving elements of your premise-based Microsoft Office suite of tools and enablements to the Cloud. Beyond matters of streamlined administration and the elimination of certain local burdens (infrastructure, end-point clients in the case of one option, remote access issues, etc.), there is affordability and economy. Given the number and specific population of products in likely use by any organization, a comprehensive analysis of all situations is beyond our scope here, so let’s take a high-level look at both common and differentiating features for various Office 365 options.

Office 365 is actually a set of subscription plans for access to MS Office applications, as well as productivity services as enabled by the Cloud. The latter include Lync (web conferencing), and Exchange Online (business e-mail that is hosted), along with OneDrive (online storage) and Skype (audio/video conferencing). With simple internet connectivity, organizations’ users have the ability to work anytime, anywhere – home, office, coffee shop, airport lounge, hotel room, etc. – and system administrators have a reduced set of burdens by virtue of Cloud-enabled products and services.

Microsoft offers several plans – initially, let’s consider the three plans targeted toward small-to-medium organizations, in order of cost: Office 365 Business Essentials; Office 365 Business; and Office 365 Business Premium.

For those on a budget, Office 365 Business Essentials serves quite well at $5/user/month and an annual commitment. Absent the annual commitment, it’s $6. With this plan, as with all others, you get online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Let’s look at the other elements that are common to all three plans, and then some differentiators between plans, to include price:

Common: All three plans give you file storage with 1 TB of storage per user. Your business-class e-mail includes calendar and contacts with a 50 GB inbox. Each plan provides for unlimited online meetings, IM, and HD video conferencing. Each plan also provides for a corporate social network that enables employee collaboration.

Differentiators: In order to get up to 5 full and installed sets of Office applications on desktops (PCs or Macs), and Office on up to 5 tablets and 5 phones, you have to purchase either Office 365 Business at $8.25/user/month, or the Office 365 Business Premium at $12.50/user/month. In the case of Business, the price goes to $10/user/month absent an annual commitment; the Business Premium version goes to $15. All three plans have user maximums of 300.

Beyond the initial three, larger organizations will want to consider one of three Enterprise versions. These provide for unlimited users, and include robust features for the added price and the required annual commitment: There is a corporate video portal for uploading/sharing videos across the organization. A centralized Enterprise management of applications allows Group Policies, Telemetry, and Shared Computer Activation. A number of business intelligence (BI) components are added as well. SharePoint Online, Excel, and Power BI combine to enable the gathering of data for purpose of exploring, viewing, analyzing, and sharing of data for better business understandings and decisions; this empowers users with a “self-service” BI that pairs nicely with the collaboration elements of the social network.

Add Compliance and Information Protection and an eDiscovery Center, and organizations with strict compliancy, accreditation, licensing, etc., will want to consider and leverage an Enterprise edition.

Organizations considering the move to Office 365 will want to do a comprehensive survey of their present Office product suite, how it’s being utilized, and where gaps exist between its utility and business/stakeholder requirements. Once those are known, it should be a fairly simple matter of choosing one of several 365 plans according to utility, gap fulfillment, and the cost that the organization and budget is willing and capable of bearing.

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