Traditionally, businesses have been accustomed to having their own on-site servers to host their documents and emails. While this model provides full control over the IT infrastructure, it also incurs heavy initial costs and ongoing hardware support requirements, including disaster recovery plans.
In recent years, particularly with the massive increase of Office 365 users, more businesses, particularly those that have been newly established, have made the decision to use the Cloud to help them run their company.
But what is the Cloud?
The Cloud is essentially a network of computing resources, such as storage, servers, applications and services, that can be used on-demand anywhere and at any time via the Internet.
What are the benefits?
Aside from the obvious advantages of not having to maintain your own server infrastructure, depending on how your business uses Cloud services, there can be a range of benefits –
- On-demand access from any location. All that is required to access your business data is an internet connection and a suitable device, whether it’s a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
- A scalable solution. Should your business outgrow its initial storage or processing limits, additional resources can be provisioned on demand and with no loss of service.
- Resource pooling. Cloud servers will often be sited at multiple locations around the globe, providing optimised data access speeds and eradicating or minimising the effects of an isolated instance of hardware failure.
My business already uses older versions of Microsoft Office that work fine. Why should I switch to Office 365?
Microsoft’s traditional licensing model involved buying a license outright to a use a product, whether it was the whole office suite or one of its components. While this did incur high initial costs, it meant that the software could be used indefinitely, albeit without being entitled to access to future versions of the software.
Office 365 has adopted more of a ‘pay as you go’ model where users are licensed by month or year to use all products in the suite. This has some obvious advantages –
- No upfront costs. Office 365 user licenses are charged monthly or yearly, with additional licenses being purchased on demand
- Up-to-date software. All users are always entitled to use the very latest product versions, ensuring that all your employees are using same software, preventing potential compatibility issues and easing training and on-boarding.
- Cloud storage. Files traditionally stored on local PCs can now be synced to the Cloud, providing an additional backup layer. These Cloud files can also be easily collaborated on and shared.
- SharePoint. With specific editions of Office 365, SharePoint is included, making collaboration even easier. SharePoint can be used as data and file storage, but also as a company intranet site, negating the need for an on-site SharePoint server.
- Microsoft Flow. A recent addition to the Office 365 suite is Flow, which allows for the simple creation of automated, cloud-based process flows which can automated some of your business’ repetitive tasks. Examples include receiving a push notification on your mobile phone when you receive an email from your boss or automatically saving email attachments to your OneDrive Cloud storage.
- Web-based applications. Not at your own PC but need to work on a file? No problem – simply access Office applications through a web browser or even on your smartphone.
Are there any downsides to Office 365?
As with all cloud-based services, there is a reliance on an internet connection. While a dropped connection won’t prevent your employees working completely, files and emails won’t be synchronised until a connection has been restored, so a backup internet connection could be a consideration. However, as there is no requirement to connect from a specific location, employees can be just as productive working from home.
How else can the Cloud help my business?
Once you’ve made the move to Office 365, the next logical step for a growing business would be Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s Cloud CRM (Client Relationship Management) offering. By moving manual processes to Dynamics 365, your business can experience huge advances in productivity. Furthermore, seamless integration with Office 365 ensures a consistent software experience for your employees.