Pieter van der Westhuizen

What is Office 365 for your end-users?

Office 365 has been around for only a few months now, and it is starting to gain momentum. I’m sure like me, you must be wondering what is Office 365 and how it could benefit your customers. It isn’t easy to say what Office 365 is in one sentence, but if you have to: it is a reliable and secure communication, collaboration and productivity solution hosted by Microsoft in the cloud.

Essentially, it allows you to access you contacts, e-mails, calendars and documents from anywhere and on virtually any device. It does this by providing you with a web version of your favourite Microsoft Office applications, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint.

What is the cloud?

Cloud computing or "the cloud" is a marketing term for software and services that is provided to end-users without them having to know the configuration or location of the system that provides the service. Applications that are hosted in the cloud are delivered via the internet and can be accessed from web browsers or even mobile devices, whilst the data used by the application is also stored in a remote location. Businesses don’t need to make large investments in their local IT infrastructure and it also reduces the need for in-house IT support.

What does Office 365 offer?

Microsoft’s cloud-based service offerings for Office 365 include:

  • Office Web Applications
  • Exchange Online
  • Lync Online
  • Sharepoint Online

Exchange Online

With Exchange Online you can access your e-mail, contacts and calendar from virtually anywhere, including your desktop pc, laptop, cellular phone or tablet all whilst protecting you against span and malicious software. Users can easily connect Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010 to Exchange Online and use all the Outlook functionality they have become accustomed to. If your users are on the go and do not have a pc or laptop with Microsoft Outlook installed they can still access their e-mails, calendar and contacts via the Outlook Web App which looks very similar to the desktop version of Outlook and provides a familiar user interface. Users can easily manage their e-mail with a 25GB mailbox and send e-mail up to 25MB.

When you sign up for Office 365 you are assigned a unique domain name e.g. yourcompany.onmicrosoft.com and the users will have e-mail addresses for that domain e.g. pete@yourcompany.onmicrosoft.com. However, if you do have your own domain you can easily set it up to work with Office 365 and enable your users to set up their own professional e-mail addresses e.g. pete@yourcompany.com.

Exchange Online

Users can also schedule meetings by sharing calendars and seeing their colleagues’ availability from the online calendar.

Exchange Online includes Microsoft Forefront® Online Protection for Exchange which will take care of any spam or viruses.

Lync Online

Lync Online makes it easy for users to find and connect with their colleagues and conduct online meetings which can include audio, video and web conferencing. Users can share their desktops, presentations and even online whiteboards with both their colleagues and people outside their organisation.

Lync Online includes a Microsoft Live Messenger style instant messaging application, which also allows for PC-to-PC video and audio calls.

SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online helps users to create sites to share information and documents with their colleagues and customers. Users can keep their organisations or team’s documents online so that the latest version will always be available to whoever needs it.

SharePoint Online

SharePoint online can keep everyone in sync by tracking project milestones and sharing documents with ease. It also integrates seamlessly with both the online and offline version of Microsoft Office and users would be able to publish, share and edit their Microsoft Access applications on their team’s site.

If the user has a small business and require a public facing website they can design their own web presence with the build-in website designer, which includes a host of ready-made website templates. They are also able to use a custom domain name e.g. www.yourcompany.com

Office Web Applications

Office Web Apps allows users to easily access, view and edit their documents directly from any mayor web browser. This includes Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. Users are able to work simultaneously with other users in Excel spreadsheets and OneNote notebooks whilst seeing who is editing which part of the document. Users can also access their Office documents from their mobile devices, a fact that I’ve tested with great success on the iPad.

Office Web Apps - Microsoft Word

Subscription to the desktop version of Office Professional Plus 2010 is included in the monthly subscription fee if the user chooses to use the E3 subscription plan.

Above all these benefits there are also the 99.9% uptime guarantee, giving your users the peace of mind they demand and allowing them to focus on their business and not their IT infrastructure.

These are just some of the features and benefits of Office 365. If you have not done so yet, have a look at Ty's great video about Office 365 and I encourage you to sign on for the Office 365 trial and review it yourself.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, keep coding!

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