Office 365 – Why Small and Medium Businesses are Making the Switch
Office 365 is a cloud-based software-and-services offering, providing Microsoft applications you are already familiar with, plus some you may not know, on a subscription basis. It is especially popular with small and medium businesses (SMBs) as it offers tried-and-tested, seamless integration of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint along with email, document sharing, conferencing and much more.
An additional benefit of using Office 365 is that all components can be managed and configured through our user-friendly online portal. Another significant plus is that the Office 365 platform uses a rolling release model, which means your software is automatically updated once per quarter.
Since it is run in the cloud, your staff can access any files within Office 365 easily, wherever they are. They no longer need a PC. Simply use a tablet or smartphone. Everyone is completely portable.
For businesses, adopting Office 365 allows companies to cut down costs, by shutting down outdated file and email servers since ownership of that infrastructure is taken on by Office 365. IT budget is no longer wasted on replacing servers and software. Plus, IT staff time is recovered as they no longer worry about the minutiae of server patching and hardware failures.
As we already noted, a key advantages of Office 365 is that it receives regular automatic updates. For example when Microsoft released Office 2016 – Office 365 subscribers were able to upgrade at no additional cost. If you employ power Office users (often millennials) who want to be ahead of the curve and always work with the latest features, an Office 365 subscription is a perfect solution.
Non “Digital Natives” will benefit from the 365 subscription. All users get 1TB of online storage, as well as Offices new online telephony system Skype for Business.
Office 365 grants your staff access to the entire Office suite — online, on their desktop, and on mobile devices. If they store your files in the cloud, they’ll always be able to access and work with documents, regardless of location.
Potential Disadvantages of Office 365
For some businesses the downside is that O365 uses a subscription model, meaning you have to pay a monthly or yearly fee. For small businesses who hardly ever use Office and have no need for 1TB of OneDrive storage, this expense may not be worth it. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, you can choose from several free alternatives to Microsoft Office.
Even with the free solutions available, you’ll need a Microsoft account. While this is becoming a standard for logging into Windows, it can be annoying if you have to log into Microsoft Office on your desktop before you can save a file. If you use the same accounts for Windows and Office, however, this shouldn’t be an issue.
How does Office 365 compare to Google Apps for Business, its closest competitor?
In short, Office 365 is a mature, polished product that gives you stability and security compared to its closest competitor.
Especially if you have multiple locations remember to check the strength of the internet connection in your main location and remote offices. Lastly don’t forget to test the strength and connectivity of your mobile devices. Checking system requirements can save you a huge sum of time and money in the long term.
We were recently brought in to clean up a botched migration for a new client. With 98 staff, they had a complex migration ahead of them due to legacy systems and a third-party email application.
It was important the migration was quick, so communications between the head office and its satellite offices weren’t disrupted and productivity didn’t suffer. However, instead of checking that individual employees were following instructions to update devices and OS, the firm’s managers merely assumed staff members were doing so. The migration took several days longer than planned and when it was finally deployed across their organization the service was clunky and had limited functionality.
Our client didn’t have a plan in place to mitigate any impact on productivity. When they brought us in we had to perform a technology facelift right away, purchasing new licenses and increased the costs of fixing their poorly-performing system.
A thorough investigation into your workforce’s client devices, OS, browsers and applications can prevent this situation from happening to your company. Always upgrade the system before an Office 365 implementation to avoid unnecessary business impact.
3. Don’t Use a Cookie Cutter for your email migration
Migrations are not a cookie-cutter process. Every business has different needs. A successful migration requires careful planning. Start shaping your ideal migration method from two factors: the importance of email history and who needs access.
Choosing the right email migration method could save you anywhere from hours to weeks of disrupted user experience. Therefore before agonizing between a cut-over, staged or hybrid migration, the foremost question you must ask is whether your staff needs email history at all.
Can your specific staff simply start fresh? Do you need all your archived mail? Look at whether it’s a viable option to move archived mail to the cloud, as Office 365 provides virtually unlimited archive storage. However, make sure your decisions are based on necessity, not habit. Not everything archived is important.
Once you’ve ascertained the importance of email history and who needs access, you’re ready to differentiate between the types of migrations available.
Additionally before cutting over make sure your firewalls and other security measures won’t be a problem, as odd configurations of proxies and security settings can slow migrations down drastically.
An alternative to using a cut over method is a staged migration. This is where data is migrated in smaller batches for a longer period of coexistence between the hosted and on-premises server. This is a great option for businesses with a network connection that performs poorly under heavy loads.
4. Building it doesn’t mean they’ll come
Before you start the migration process, it’s critical to communicate and have a dialogue with your staff. A common error is not effectively communicating the reasons why you’re migrating to Office 365 and then shocking your staff with a completely new interface.
Its human nature to hate change. Many members of your staff will have a system or a certain process for how they perform their daily work. Any new technology is going to disrupt that. So not only do they need to know why you’re switching, they need to know how it’s going to benefit them personally.
Explain why your company is switching to Office 365. Tell them about the time savings, flexibility, collaboration, organization…whatever your goals are for the change, communicating them to staff at every level will help you secure buy-in and support for the switch.
Find some internal 365 champions. We encourage the companies we work with to enlist the help of people who can learn the system and speak to the benefits of the migration by becoming Power Users. These employees should be positive, relatively tech savvy individuals who are eager to try out new technology because they will be the ones that help you to roll out Office 365 to the rest of your employees.
Training will be critical. The worst thing that a SMB can do when migrating is not offer sufficient training. Dedicate significant time and resources to train your employees on the changes that will come with moving to Office 365.
Setting up Office 365 requires the careful navigation of a surfeit of possibilities and potential problems. It’s important to invite the help of IT consultants and other experts if you’re struggling to avoid negative outcomes. If you’re feeling apathetic, remember Office 365 will be underpinning everything your business does and taking the time to strategize a smooth deployment will be well worth the effort.