99 problems but the cloud ain’t one: 365 and Office in the cloud

The cloud-based office productivity software market is expected to reach $17 billion in 2016. That’s more than a 400 per cent increase from 2009 when the market was valued at $3.3 billion.

With the success of cloud-based applications and their pay-as-you-go model, it shouldn’t be surprising that the cloud version of one of the most widely used desktop application packages would grow to become a popular choice for businesses. I’m of course referring to Office 365; Microsoft’s leading productivity and work software package delivered via the cloud.

What’s the fuss?

Mobile devices and cloud technologies at large have drastically changed the way we work. Most office workers don’t need to be ‘tied to their desk’ or even be in the office itself to get things done.

Office 365 is designed to further enable and reflect this trend by delivering anytime, anywhere, access to Microsoft applications through (virtually) any device. Simplifying application management further, it also offers businesses a fully integrated solution – including built-in communication, collaboration and social-networking capabilities. The integration of these tools helps enable teams to better share, communicate and collaborate – something that is not only helpful, but essential to being successful and effective in the modern workplace.

Also offering cloud storage, documents saved on Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business can be shared with others to simultaneously collaborate on the documents and create a common site where all work is automatically saved. Solutions such as Microsoft Yammer and Skype make it easy to communicate via text, voice video and more.

Mobility of the technology today is not only demanding of collaboration but is essential to be successful and effective in the day to day life. As is the case with most cloud solutions, adopting Office 365 also reduces and can even eliminate upfront capital investments with an OpEx model. And by delivering it as an online subscription, businesses no longer need to buy or upgrade to each release of Office, but will instead have updates installed every time there’s one available.

Do I need to consider anything first?

Yes. Before making the move to Office 365, every organisation needs to carefully evaluate what’s involved for a successful deployment. Here are a few:

  • No one size fits all: There really is no single “Office 365,” but rather different options with varying levels of application functionality. Mixing and matching of plans is definitely an option, one that you need to evaluate thoroughly.
  • On-premises, cloud or hybrid: As well as applications, customers can also mix and match cloud and on-premises capabilities. A hybrid approach involves moving some users to the cloud while keeping others “on-premises” for compliance or operational reasons – though users will of course not feel the difference, and you get to use the same tools across online and on-premises servers.
  • Preparing your infrastructure: Moving applications and services to the cloud inevitably increases the demands on your network infrastructure. End users are accustomed to the high performance of locally provided services, so when moving these local services to cloud-hosted Office 365, it’s important to anticipate performance issues and other complexities that can arise during, and after, the migration. Working closely with managed service providers (MSP) can be vital to helping prepare infrastructures for these changes.
  • Provisioning your Office 365 environment: In principle, making the transition to Office 365 involves setting up the appropriate accounts, the access permissions, file integrations and, in the case of existing users, transitioning current premise-based solutions to the cloud. This process can be simple, but in cases involving the migration of multiple data sources and application integrations, many businesses choose to draw on the expertise of a managed service provider.
  • Compliance & Security: Concerns over security keep many organisations—especially those in healthcare and financial services—from moving to the cloud, but those concerns are lessening. With Office 365, security is truly inbuilt; starting from encryption of the data to the different levels of privacy that can be applied with both administrators and people at the user level able to control what and with whom documents can be shared with. Employing certified security frameworks based on International Standards Organisation (ISO/IEC 27001:2005) standards, services such as cloud-access security solutions help detect activity and usage of data across Office 365 in order to analyse actions and activity sequences to identify possible data theft or abuse.
  • Support: Ongoing account support is an important consideration in any Office 365 implementation and is one of the major factors that brings organisations to deploy the package through a MSPs. With a good MSP, support issues can be opened via phone, email and on the web using a customer-facing portal. Many will also offer 24x7x365 support helplines, and where internal staff are unable to address an issue, an MSP is also able to own the relationship with Microsoft support services and leverage existing relationships

While there are many things to consider before implementing Office 365, the benefits of the Software-as-a-Service model has meant that many analysts have predicted that the cloud will become the primary way most people access their office applications.

Today’s Office 365 allows organisations to break down traditional office siloes to enable better knowledge sharing, manage and predict costs, always remain up to date with the latest product suite, and continues on the path of better enabling users to work from anywhere, anytime.

Vivek Vahie is a Senior Director of Service Delivery at NaviSite

Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock