Keep it simple

“It’s the simple things in life” a saying that is used to describe life’s simple pleasures. The things that usually don’t cost a lot but generally leave a great impression. Fish and chips sitting on a beach, ice cream in the park… you get the picture.

So often businesses sink thousands of dollars into an IT solution they really don’t need. They usually don’t come to that conclusion until they deploy the solution to their users and find that the application is too complex, requiring extensive training and at the end of the day turns the users off. The turn off then for most businesses when it comes to IT solutions is really simple, how complex is it and how much will it cost me? Migration plans aside there is a low-cost, simple solution available to answer those questions. Microsoft Office 365 is a solution that I now consider a simple IT solution that will suit most small businesses out there.

Over the last few weeks I have assisted a number of friends move to Office 365. The pitch was simple and I thought I would share the simple reasons why they chose Office 365 over any other cloud solutions.

Setup

The setup of Office 365 is a lot simpler than what it was with its predecessor (BPOS). Within a few clicks even a novice is able to set up a tenant and start to provision users.  This is a big thing for me, if a user is unable to sign up in a few clicks it shouldn’t be classed as a cloud service. I know, having worked on teams before tasked with designing portals and platforms to provision users in a Telco environment. As with anything involving user accounts and email there will be some DNS changes required, I aim to talk about this in a future post.

Applications

The main strength in Office 365 is the fact that you are able to tell users to work as they always have.  This is important at both ends of the spectrum, a small business really can’t afford the downtime to retrain employees just as larger businesses can’t afford the hit on productivity to deploy a new unfamiliar user interface. Office 2010 and Office:Mac 2011 are unchanged by using Office 365. They are only enhanced by the services Office 365 provides. If you have never had a Small Business Server or an Exchange Server running your email then the difference is even more apparent. Some of the wow moments that to me were quite simple had the biggest impact on the customers I worked with. To list a few:

  • Contacts – Now my contacts are synchronized between all of my devices, and, if I mis-place one or my notebook is nicked again I still have them!
  • Calendar – As with the contacts, my calendar is available on all of my devices and I can now also see what my employees are up to at a glance!
  • Email – the Email experience in Office 365 is slick and fast. When moving from a POP account I now have a REAL backup of my mail in the cloud, this includes sent items and folders, something POP and some IMAP solutions don’t support. With an Autodiscover DNS record (ill explain this in a later posting) I am now also able to set up email synchronizing on just about any device/client by entering only my email address and password! How could it be easier?

What computer?

The experience is now almost parity between Mac and PC as well, which makes a difference when you are working with a previously disconnected workforce. No longer do people all need to run Windows to get the enterprise features of collaboration and communication. The release of Lync 2011 for Mac (replacing communicator 2011:Mac) has bought the Mac platform into line with the PC version of the Office suite. At this stage however only the PC version of Office 2010 is available under subscription in Office 365, however I believe this may change in the future.

Office 365 has come of age, now is the time to move. In the coming weeks I hope to explain the simple things you can do ahead of time to ensure your deployment runs as smoothly as possible.

Sign up for a trial of Office 365 here

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  1. #1 by scott on January 14, 2012 - 6:15 am

    Agreed, it is a good idea for small businesses – reduces complexity. Other more specific application requirements can also be found in the cloud: today I spent the afternoon doing technical diagrams with https://www.lucidchart.com in lieu of Visio. Nice, and the free version still allows 60 objects, which many users will not require.

  1. Before you start… « IT Professional Services

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