What is Office 365?

by Douglas Schlosser

Office 365 has been around for a while, and it is really starting to gain momentum. I’m sure you must be wondering what Office 365 is and how it could benefit our users. It isn’t easy to say what Office 365 is in one sentence, but if you have to: its Microsoft’s reliable, secure communication, collaboration and productivity solution in the cloud.

Essentially, Office 365 allows your users to access their contacts, e-mails, calendars and documents from anywhere and on virtually any device. It does this by providing your users either with a web or desktop version of Microsoft Office applications, which includes Microsoft Access, Excel, Lync, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint, Publisher, SkyDrive and Word.

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, the data used by the each application is also stored in a remote location. The benefit to business is that they don’t need to make large investments in their local IT infrastructure and it also frees up in-house IT resources to work on other business related projects.

What does Office 365 offer?

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

  • Office Web Applications –
  • Office Desktop Versions – for O365 Small Business Premium, Midsize Business, E3, E4 plans
  • Exchange Online
  • Lync Online
  • SharePoint Online
  • SkyDrive

Exchange Online

With Exchange Online your users can access e-mail, contacts and calendar from virtually anywhere, including their desktop pc, laptop, cellular phone or tablet all while protecting against span and malicious software. Users can easily connect Microsoft Outlook 2010 or 2013 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 50GB mailbox storage space.

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 i.e. dschlosser@arrowsi.onmicorosft.com. However, if your organization has its own domain, as I’m sure most do, you can easily set it up to work with Office 365 and enable your users to set up their own professional e-mail addresses i.e. dschlosser@arrowsi.com .

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

Hosted voicemail with auto attendant capabilities is also included with Exchange OnLine. Hmmm… Might be a solution for your aging or unsupported voicemail platform???

Exchange Online includes Premium anti-malware protection and anti-spam filtering.

One last quick thing about Exchange OnLine, an organization can setup a hybrid Exchange environment where some of your users mailboxes are OnLine and some are OnPrem.

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 organization.

Lync Online allows your users to conduct meetings over the web with HD video conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Additionally your users can share presence, IM, and audio calling with the over 300 Million connected Skype users. Lync Online doesn’t allow for hosted enterprise voice therefore organizations need to deploy Lync OnPrem.

SharePoint Online

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

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.

Office Applications

Office Web Apps allows users to easily access, view and edit their documents directly from any mayor web browser. This includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote file s via a web browser. Users are able to work simultaneously with other users in Excel spreadsheets and OneNote notebooks while seeing who is editing which part of the document. Users can also access their Office documents from their mobile devices (IPhone, iPad, and Android phones), I use the iPad version with great success.

Office Professional Plus 2013 is included in the monthly subscription fee if your organization chooses an O365 Small Business Premium, Midsize Business, E3, or E4 plan.

Now all these benefits would mean nothing without an SLA. Office 365 gives organizations peace of mind knowing that services are available with a guaranteed 99.9% uptime, financially backed service level agreement (SLA).

These are just some of the features and benefits of Office 365. If you have not done so yet, I encourage you to sign up for an Office 365 trial and see for yourself.

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

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The thoughts and opinions in these blogs belong to the individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Arrow Systems Integration.