Cloud-computing is without doubt one of the big buzz words of the modern world’s technology arena. While cloud-based applications and services targeted personal users and small businesses have been around for decades (e.g. Hotmail, Dropbox, Google Docs), the most recent years have seen the proliferation of more complex, enterprise level applications and management tools hosted in the cloud.
With these applications available, companies now face alternatives to on-premise and, in many cases, more resource intensive solutions. ERP, accounting and CRM systems, email and storage hosting solutions, document management applications and conferencing tools are just a few examples of the business tools now available in the cloud.
Microsoft’s flagship of cloud-based business applications is Office 365 – a comprehensive suite of business tools targeted at organizations of all sizes. The present blog briefly describes the applications included in Office 365:
Exchange Online is Microsoft’s cloud-based business-class email solution. An extensive browser- based client grants users access to emails, calendar and contacts from PCs, tablets and phones. Exchange Online integrates seamlessly with Outlook, and easy to use and free migration tools help make the transition to Exchange Online smooth. Exchange Online starts at $4/user/month and includes 25GB mailbox storage, anti-malware and anti-spam protection.
Lync online is an enterprise-level IM and conferencing tool that allows users to communicate in real time using instant messages, video and audio sharing. With Lync Online you can make voice calls through your computer to other Lync users within or outside of your organization, and Lync makes it easy to set up and manage meetings – either from the Lync IM Client or directly from Outlook. Either way, it only takes a few seconds.
During Lync meetings participants can share desktops/screens, use virtual whiteboards and invite additional attendees on the go. Additionally, Lync Online allows non-Lync users to attend meeting which makes the application suitable for company presentations, demos or other sales and marketing related webcasts.
Set up a Lync meeting directly from Outlook:
You can invite meeting attendees from your Outlook address book or by typing in email addresses. Alternatively, you can share the auto generated meeting URL via intranets, websites, social media sites, email newsletters etc.
Office Web Apps is a browser based application that allows users to view and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote directly from the browser (supported in Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox). As such, all it takes to access and edit your documents is a computer with internet connection. In addition, most modern smartphones allow users to view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files using Office Web Apps.
Office Web Apps can either be purchased with SharePoint online as a standalone solution or as part of a of an Office 365 plan (SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud based file hosting service provides Office Web Apps for consumers and small-business users).
SharePoint Online is a comprehensive cloud-based web application for document management, resource sharing, collaboration and internal and external communication. With SharePoint Online companies can:
- Share and collaboratively work on documents while automatically track all changes, recent versions and contributing authors and editors
- Easily manage and route documents for approvals within and between organizational departments
- Create intranets, extranets and public websites (see examples of websites made in SharePoint)
- Get valuable insight into your organization with business intelligence capabilities and dashboards
- Create automatic workflows and task automation
- Set up and manage communities
In a recent blog series, FMT Consultants’ Senior SharePoint Consultant Josh Jackson exemplified how SharePoint can help organizations improve business processes within the areas of Finance, Operations, Sales and Human Resources.
Microsoft SharePoint is also available as an on-premise solution.
Office Professional Plus includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, OneNote, InfoPath, Lync and SharePoint Workspace. Users of Office Professional Plus can install the suite on up to five devices and are guaranteed to have access to the latest version of its applications.
How much does Office 365 Cost?
Office 365 comes in different plans ranging from $4/user/month for Exchange Online to $20/user/month for the entire package. In addition, the individual applications are offered separately with prices starting at $5.50/user/month for Lync Online, $12/user/month for Office Professional Plus and $10/user/month for SharePoint Online together with Office Web Apps.
Note all prices listed in this blog post are as of November 14. 2012.
Written by: Jakob Bechgaard, Marketing Coordinator
FMT Consultants, LLC