Microsoft Office 365: What Exactly Is It?
When some clients would ask us what is Office 365, we would watch as their eyes glazed over during our detailed description. We learned quickly to keep our explanation as short and clear as possible. We will do that here.
Office 365 is a bundle of software and cloud services, which typically include email and contact, calendar and document management. The included services depend on the plan selected.
To see an introduction of Office 365 for Business, check out the following video:
The name Office 365 refers to you having the ability to access your office from anywhere at any time (365 days a year). For instance, if you want to continue working at home on a Word document you started at your office, you can do this on by logging into your Office 365 account at home. You can even edit this file on your smart phone or tablet.
Office 365’s Popularity Has Grown
Since its introduction being over six years ago, Office 365 has become very popular. According to one source, Office 365 had 120 million users as of September 2017.¹
Despite this popularity, many businesses and personal users have still not adopted it. Why? Often, we run into companies who purchase a website domain and email/website hosting as a package. Email is thrown in as extra service. When their sales reps complain about not being able to share a calendar, the businesses later find out their email services do not meet their needs. Office 365 can solve these issues, plus it offers many other capabilities.
Office 365 Review: Pros and Cons
In this post, we outline some of the benefits you could experience from moving to Office 365. Also, we mention its drawbacks. Whether or not it is an appropriate option for you or your business, it depends on your specific situation.
Believe it or not, we still run into businesses which post daily meetings and events on an office bulletin board. What about their field employees who do not pass by the office? How do employees find out about changes to the schedule?
Office 365 includes a whole host of tools, which make a business and personal user more productive. Because it allows for shared calendars, contacts and files, which can be viewed and updated in real time on any device, no employee is left out in the cold about what is going on in his or her business. Also, they don’t have to waste time trying to contact other employees to update them.
Want to be able to work better as a team on a project? Want to be able to edit a document at the same time from various locations and track the changes?
We run into some businesses where employees work on docs one at a time and then email the changes to others. This method couldn’t be more time consuming and inefficient.
Through an application called OneDrive or logging into their Office 365 portal, employees can create, edit, share and collaborate on project documents. Office 365 also comes with Skype and Lync, which allow employees to schedule and conduct online group meetings and chat sessions. They can share screens with others to look at project documents or to present to one another.
Increased Flexibility and Scalability
In the past, for email many businesses have had to purchase and install an in-house server, along with Microsoft Exchange licenses. This represents a huge upfront expense, not to mention the large ongoing cost of maintaining the server, software and licenses. Before they knew it, their hardware was outdated and they had to buy a new server. Or the company had doubled its employee count and its technology infrastructure could not keep up.
Office 365 allows for great flexibility with organizational changes. This point is crucial for small businesses. If a business doubles (or halves its employee count), it can easily add (or remove) Office 365 user licenses in a matter of seconds. Office 365 can scale up with a business’s growth.
Because the monthly subscription cost of Office 365 is consistent, businesses can easily predict how much their monthly expense will be. Unpredictable, expensive server repairs and upgrades are a thing of the past.
Improved Security and Disaster Recovery
Have you ever thought about how secure your or your company’s email service is? Most businesses don’t think about this.
Microsoft uses the latest technological advancements to protect its Office 365 clients. This is the same technology Microsoft uses to protect itself and its enterprise level clients. Other smaller email providers simply do not have the resources to protect you and your information.
Office 365 protects you by scanning incoming emails for malware and virus threats, before anything loads onto your computer. If anything is detected, the system will block it or send you a warning message.
God forbid a natural disaster were to happen somewhere in the US or abroad, Microsoft has data centers in many locations. This redundancy protects your email and important documents from disastrous events, like last year’s Houston flooding.
Unlike other email and cloud services providers, Microsoft financially guarantees a 99.9% uptime. If this service level is not meet, then they will reimburse clients. Records show that Microsoft has always met this service level. You can be sure that your Office 365 email, document and cloud services will always be working. This reliability is vital to businesses at any time, but especially crucial when an important deadline needs to be met. Imagine not being able to email an important contract to a client. How would you feel?
Poor Technical Support
While Office 365 has some great features, some of its aspects can be improved. For instance, customer service has always been an issue with Microsoft and any large tech company. When you have a problem with Office 365, don’t expect to contact Microsoft and resolve it right away. You may have to go through a number of voice prompts and wait in the queue a half an hour until you finally speak with someone at Office 365 tech support. In recent years, Microsoft has greatly improved their support by offering more options like chat and scheduled call backs.
File Sharing Issues
Another aspect that could be improved about Office 365 is its file sharing applications and services. Similar to Dropbox, Office 365 uses an application called OneDrive to sync documents on your computer or mobile device. If you make changes to a file in a OneDrive folder on your office PC, then you should see those same changes in the same OneDrive file when you are at home.
Sometimes, we run into issues with files not syncing from from PC to another or one user to another and have to spend time trying to determine why. If you don’t name a file properly or its name is too long, it may not sync. Microsoft details specific file/folder naming conventions you need to follow (see invalid file names and types). These limitations of the file sharing service can be annoying.
Also, Microsoft offers several different file sharing applications with very similar names, which can be very confusing. Both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are both applications for file sharing and syncing. OneDrive is supposed to hold your personal files, while OneDrive for Business holds your business information. You can run both of these applications on your computer at the same time. Because their names and icons are very similar, it can become difficult to sometimes know which one you are working in.
Finally, Microsoft is notorious for introducing updates which throw off a perfectly working system. We have seen some instances where updates to the Office software (from 2013 to 2016) or Operating system (Windows 7 to 10) have disrupted Office 365 file sharing or other services.
While it has some drawbacks, Office 365 can be a great tool for individuals and businesses. It can increase their productivity and ability to collaborate with others. In addition, Office 365 provides great administrative and financial flexibility to businesses by allowing them to scale up or down according to their organizational needs and changes. Finally, Office 365 email, file sharing and cloud services come with greater security and reliability than many competitor products.
To get some additional information about Microsoft Office 365, please check out the references below.
- Zdnet.com “Microsoft Office 365 now has 120 million business users.” Link to Article
- Microsoft.com Different O365 Plan Options
- Office.com O365 Support Page