And now, we bring you our top 15 reasons to choose Office 365 instead of an on-premise alternative

 

cloud computing

1: Security

Starting with one of the most important factors in choosing a cloud service, security has been the big stumbling block for many companies considering a move to the cloud. Microsoft's online services have been designed with security in mind. Office 365 applications are accessed through 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption so that if a transmission is intercepted by someone without authorization, they won't be able to read it. Antivirus signatures are kept up to date, and security measures are applied in accordance with the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing initiative. Exchange Online uses Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) to protect mail messages from malware, and it uses anti-spam filtering and antivirus with multiple virus engines.

The Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) is applied to Microsoft Online Services development, deployment, and maintenance. Microsoft monitors the systems continuously for suspicious activity and has a robust incident response protocol in place. Microsoft also does regular security audits. You can read more about the security of Microsoft Online Services in this whitepaper.

2: Reliability

After security, the most commonly mentioned area of concern regarding cloud services is reliability. Downtime means lost worker productivity and ultimately costs companies money. Microsoft Online Services provides a service level agreement (SLA) and has a 99.9 percent scheduled uptime. Microsoft has multiple datacenters located all over the world, hosting redundant network architecture. If there is an outage at one datacenter, another can act as a backup. Customers hosted by the first datacenter are transferred to another, with as little service interruption as possible.

3: Compliance

Compliance with government and industry regulations is a big deal in today's business world. Microsoft Office 365 services have been certified as compliant with ISO 27001 standards, completed SAS70 Type I and II audits, and achieved the EU Safe Harbor seal. Microsoft has also added controls for helping customers comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

4: Compatibility

In today's economy, many companies can't upgrade all of their desktop systems to the latest operating system. That's not necessary to use Office 365. Microsoft Online Services supports not only Windows 7 and Vista (SP2), but also Windows XP SP3. Even XP Home edition or Media Center edition can be used, although it doesn't support federated identity. Mac users can also access the Office 365 applications, using OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

The online Web portal for administration works with Internet Explorer 7 or later, Mozilla Firefox 3.x, or Apple Safari 3.x. The Outlook Web App can also be accessed with any of those browsers or with Google Chrome 3 and later versions.

5: Up-to-date versions

With Office 365, companies and their users get all the features and functionality of the very latest versions of Microsoft's server products. The services run on Exchange 2010 SP1, SharePoint 2010, and Lync. Client software is Microsoft Lync 2010 for Windows (Communicator for Mac), and the enterprise edition includes the licensing for Office 2010 Professional Plus.

6: Single sign-on

Assuming your network is running Server 2008 Active Directory on-premises, you can configure Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) to achieve single sign-on, so that users can log on to the domain and be automatically authenticated to Office 365.

7: Exchange Online

Exchange Online gives you the benefits of Exchange Server 2010 without the cost and overhead of deploying it in-house. User mailboxes up to 25 GB are supported (administrators can reduce the capacity on a per-user basis), and personal archives provide more storage space. Attachments up to 25 MB are allowed. Users can restore deleted items, including items deleted from the Deleted Items folder. Even if an item has been permanently deleted or manually purged, it can be recovered if you enable Single Item Recovery (disabled by default). And if you, as administrator, delete a user, you can request that the mailbox be recovered for 30 days after the deletion.

Users connect to Exchange Online via Outlook 2007 or 2010, with such features as Outlook Anywhere (RPC-over-HTTP) and Cached Exchange Mode. With Outlook 2010, you get all the new Exchange 2010 features, such as conversation view, ignore, MailTips, personal archive, protected voicemail, and voicemail preview.

Users can also connect via Outlook Web App if they don't have the Outlook client installed, over any of the most popular Web browsers. There is a Light version that supports older and alternative browsers.

Mac users can use Microsoft Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition (free update for those who use Entourage 2008). IMAP and POP access are supported, and Exchange Active Sync for mobile devices (Windows phones, Palm devices, iPhone/iPad, and some Android and Nokia devices) is also supported.

8: SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online makes collaboration easy. You get 500 MB of storage per user account with a storage quota of up to 100 GB per site collection. Your company can have up to 1 TB total storage. Your SharePoint sites work with all Microsoft Office 2010 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, InfoPath, SharePoint Designer, and SharePoint Workspace. Sites can be accessed via IE 7/8, Firefox 3, or Safari 3.1.2 and through mobile devices including Windows Mobile 6.5.x, Windows Phone 7, Apple iPhone 2.0 and above, and Nokia E and N series.

With Microsoft Office 2010 applications and SharePoint Online, two or more users can edit the same document at the same time. If you don't have Office installed, you can use Office Web Apps to work with your documents in a Web browser. Also supported is PowerPoint broadcasting, which lets you broadcast your slide shows across the Internet even to people who don't have PowerPoint. And you can manage documents offline and have everything automatically synchronized back to the server when you reconnect -- a big plus for those who worry that cloud computing means being unable to get work done if you don't have an Internet connection.

Your SharePoint sites are protected against viruses and malware by Forefront Security for SharePoint.

9: Lync Online

Lync Online is the communications service component of Office 365. You can also purchase it as a standalone service, for providing users with instant messaging, audio and video calling between PCs (PC to PSTN calling is in the works but won't be available at release), Web conferencing, and presence. With the Lync 2010 client software (available at no extra charge), users can send IMs (the text of which is encrypted) and display presence status and monitor presence status of others. Lync integrates with Outlook so users can find and communicate with others from within Outlook ("click to communicate"). Presence information can also be updated based on Exchange calendar information, and it integrates with SharePoint Online. Users can also transfer files during IM conversations.

Users can connect to Lync Online directly over the Internet (without having to be on the corporate network via VPN or RAS), but file transfer is not available in that situation. Thanks to the federation feature, users can also IM people in other organizations that use Lync Online or host their own on-premise Lync servers. This requires that a federated relationship be set up by the administrators in both companies.

Users can attend online meetings with audio, video, and Web conferencing using the Lync client or using a phone with a PSTN audio conferencing service. Data sharing, including desktop and application sharing, whiteboard capability, and document sharing, is supported.

10: Office Web Apps

Microsoft Office Web Apps is part of Office 365, but it doesn't take the place of the full-featured Office applications; it supplements them. For sophisticated document creation and manipulation, you need a rich local application. But there are times when you're away from your Office-equipped computer and need to do a quick edit. That's where Web Apps come in. No matter where you are or what computer you're using, you have access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and you can create or edit content and post it to your SharePoint site or save it in your SkyDrive folder.

You get the same familiar interface you're used to with traditional Office applications, and documents display the same way they do in the desktop apps. You can even view files on many popular mobile devices, including Windows phones, iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, and devices with Opera Mobile 8.65 or Openwave 6.2 and later.

Supported file types include both older Office formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt) and the new XML-based formats (.docx, xlsx, pptx). Users can print Word documents and multiple users can edit a document simultaneously.

11: Updates

Microsoft will automatically apply updates every 90 days instead of manually applying every 3 years on each desktop.

12: Disaster Recovery

Microsoft has realtime backups and a 99.9% guarantee uptime. Data will never be lost again as it can be restored in virtual realtime.

13: Financial Savings

There are multiple areas of cost savings when it comes to moving into the cloud. Know that this can vary greatly depending on your organization's size, licensing agreements with Microsoft, etc. Overall the savings fall into three separate areas: Infrastructure, User licensing, Migration savings. 

  • Save on server and storage costs, server licensing, power consumption, etc. If I was building a highly available SharePoint farm with disaster recovery in mind for 50,000 users I may have 14 servers and all corresponding licensing. While I could virtualize a lot of that, I would still have a bunch of physical hardware and storage needs that would need to be refreshed over time. Moving to the cloud allows Microsoft to assume resource allocation and maintenance allowing your IT department to focus on the customer needs, instead of infrastructure needs.
 
  • Per user licensing is comparable, typically cheaper than on-premise licensing. While Office 365 licensing is per month, it adapts to the needs of your organization. Instead of buying enough licenses to cover the maximum number of users in your organization, you can adapt your licenses to fit your needs at any time. For example, retail organizations that use Office 365 can scale up or down the licenses needed based on season.
    Subscription based licensing also provides for using the software on premise if needed in a hybrid scenario (sever licenses would still be required). Subscription licensing is essentially the same as Software Assurance, meaning you are always licensed for the latest and greatest.
    Extranet licensing is free, by default organizations get 10,000 licenses for external partners.
     
  • Migration savings. Are you migrating to new hardware or new versions of software every 3 years? With a move to the cloud you can leave large scale migration projects behind.
   

14: Reduced IT implementation and Support effort

With any implementation and ongoing administrative effort, this will be minimized as the core foundation of the service will be managed by Microsoft. Any effort is now reduced as there is more predictability and less effort on implementations and ongoing troubleshooting.

15: IT focus from mundane to impactful

With so many hardware, software and network variables that could be at fault, of which ‘the business’ side of any firm doesn’t care, IT can now focus on impactful work and be recognized for it. Instead of replacing servers, swapping harddrives, updating drivers, and on and on, that doesn’t need to take place. IT can now perform visible work that is recognized and makes the rest of the firm happy with what has been accomplished as they can now see the benefits.

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