What is the cloud?
The cloud is a term used for internet services. Many of us already use this in some form, whether it be searching the web with Google or keeping in contact with colleagues on social networks, such as LinkedIN and Facebook. It’s most relevant to businesses for email and file sharing.
Is it secure? Your data will be more secure than it has ever been because of the systems used by hosting companies to protect it, which follow the latest and most stringent security regulations. Each user has their own credentials to use the data you store, ensuring you control who has access to potentially sensitive documents and files.
Why do I need it? The cloud can provide small business with security and efficiencies normally affordable only to larger corporate environments. Cloud services are also available anytime anywhere, which means that access to your business data and communications systems are no longer limited to within the walls of your company.
But I already have email With cloud-based email, you can access your email wherever you are, whenever you want on multiple devices. Budgeting for your systems becomes much easier too; you just pay a monthly fee per person. This negates the need for expensive server or software upgrades and the teams you invest in to look after them.
What else can I do with it? Once your business email is in the cloud, you can add bolt-on services, much like you do with your mobile phone contract. These services include document sharing and storage applications that allow you to access company documents from any computer; others allow employees to collaborate on documents, chat in real-time and display their presence showing who is busy, at lunch or available to talk; and hold online meetings reducing the need for excessive or unnecessary employee travel.
How can it improve my business? Few services in today’s financial climate can offer more effective, instant communication and reduced overheads, in one simple package. Cloud services do this. Your business becomes truly mobile and prepared to operate in any environment, at any time. And by default, you’ve also created a robust business continuity plan.
What is Office 365?
"Secure, anywhere access to email and calendars, Office Web Apps, instant messaging, conferencing and file sharing"
Moving to the Office 365 cloud comes with some key features and benefits. Namely, your organisation gets to continue to use the software you have been using for years, but you now get to shift the burden onto Microsoft. In addition to shifting the burden to Microsoft, there are some other key benefits.
Productivity is a great word that management-consultant types love to use. In the real world though, productivity can be summed up in a simple question: Can you do my job easier or not? Microsoft has invested heavily and spent a tremendous amount of time trying to make the user and administrator experiences of Office 365 as easy and simple as possible.
The idea is that increasing simplicity yields greater productivity. Whether it is an administrator setting up a new employee or a business analyst writing policy and procedure documents in Word. When the technology gets out of the way and you can focus on your job, you become more productive. Try using a typewriter instead of a Word processor. Whoever thought copy and paste would be such a game changer?
Accessing your enterprise software over the Internet has some big advantages. For one, all you need is your computer — desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone — and an Internet connection or phone coverage. Because the software is running in a Microsoft data center, you simply connect to the Internet to access the software.
Another benefit of accessing centrally located data is that you always have a single source of the truth. If you make a change to a document from your tablet at home and then your colleague views the file from their phone, they will see the most up-to-date document. Gone are the days of e-mailing Excel documents between machines with long file names.
With SharePoint Online (part of the Office 365 package) a single file, say Forecast_Q1_2011.xlsx, lives out in the cloud (meaning in Microsoft’s globally distributed billion dollar data centers). Because the document lives in the cloud, the security permissions can be set up to allow anyone in the organization, regardless of geographic location, to view the document.
Security can be as strict or as lenient as desired. For example, you may want everyone in the organization to be able to see a company policy document but only want a select group of individuals to edit the document. In addition, SharePoint takes care of all the versioning and even lets you check out a document to edit so that nobody else can edit it at the same time.
Need to collaborate on the document in real time? No problem. You can do that by using nothing more than your web browser.
Microsoft does not always come out with the best software. Remember Windows Vista? Shiver! Instead of running far away and never looking back at Windows again, users simply held their collective breath until Windows 7. And thank you for hurrying Microsoft!
One thing Microsoft did incredibly right is recognize that users don’t want to give up the things that make them comfortable. Office 365 hasn’t changed your favorites one bit. The only difference is that now they are seamlessly connected to the enterprise software living out in the cloud. In other words, your favorite applications are cloudified.
One of the coolest features about SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 is that you can work with SharePoint without ever having to leave the Office applications. For example, you can fire up Word, check out a document stored in SharePoint, make some changes, check it back in, review versions, and even leave some notes for your colleagues.All without even having to know that SharePoint is handling the content management functionality behind the scenes.
With Microsoft taking on all the responsibility for security and reliability, your IT team can rest on their laurels. Letting Microsoft do the heavy lifting frees up the IT team to do more important things such as helping users get the most out of enterprise software.
Microsoft understands if you aren’t fully comfortable about letting them do the heavy lifting. To address some of the questions, however, Microsoft has extensive service level agreements to help put your mind at ease.
IT personnel like to know exactly what everyone is doing with their systems at all times. If something goes wrong, then it is probably due to user error. Your systems do what they are supposed to do. Microsoft has gone out of its way to create an unprecedented level of control for administrators. But that is not all. Not only do administrators have control over the environment, but it is also actually designed to be simple in nature and intuitive.