Whatever size of business you run, there are certain staple software products that have always been present and most of them have come courtesy of Microsoft.
The monthly spread sheets, the weekly reports and the daily emails all benefit from the Microsoft's Office software suite and employees at all levels have the ability to use these intuitive programs.
But when you are part of a small business, there are many barriers to bringing in this natural choice of software. Microsoft recognised this and wanted to come up with a new model to make Office the first and easy choice for companies on the lower end of the head-count scale.
Enter Office 365.
CAPEX be gone
The most difficult part for any small business setting itself up right now is cost. When it comes to IT, the price of a server alone could employ a new member of staff or pay many months of office rental space.
Then there's the cost of all the software licences, the hardware to join it up and the specialist to come in and deploy it all. You could find yourself looking at more cash than many small businesses can stomach.
By choosing Office 365, these up-front costs can be forgotten like the bad dream they are. Office 365 is all run externally from your location and in the cloud. This means all you need to take advantage of the system is a PC and an Internet connection.
Storage, servers, software and everything else in between is hosted by Microsoft, meaning any maintenance, updates or issues are dealt with by them, not by you.
All you need to do is go to the website, sign up and start using the software you might have previously thought was too pricey to get hold of or too complicated to integrate.
It's all about the OPEX
With the capital expenditure out of your hair, all you have to think about is the operational costs.
As we have already shown, you can cross off maintenance and updates from this list already, saving massive amounts of cash to spend on the core of the business, rather than keeping the lights on.
But with Microsoft Office 365, it makes it even simpler for companies to keep track of their budgets. For small business it costs just £4 for each person using the system per month.
This is significantly cheaper than the days of buying full licences and gives you the flexibility to add or remove users as your business grows or employees move on, without costing you the earth.
For this £4, there is access to all the familiar tools, such as Exchange email and calendars, Word and Excel web-apps and even Microsoft's Lync service for instant messaging and VoIP phone calls over the web.
That is a much more appealing view of OPEX than ever before.
We all know Microsoft
As we have mentioned already, the Office productivity suite from Microsoft is something we have all used in most of our jobs and many of us were even taught it at school.
There are other office suites available but they lack the intuitive nature and familiarity that all employees get when opening up a Word document or sending an email over Exchange.
Small businesses just don't have the time to spend on training up their staff on new computer systems and often aren't even able to have a dedicated IT person.
By choosing Microsoft's Office 365, that one techy is not needed - be it for the set up or on-going use of the system - as, let's face it, we all know where we are at with Microsoft and the company will deal with the rest.
Safe and secure
When it comes to your data, it doesn't matter what size of business you are; you want it to be kept safe.
Unlike other cloud offerings for office suites, Microsoft Office 365 is not stored on the other side of the world but in the company's Dublin data centre.
Being hosted in a nearby data centre gives some much needed peace of mind and covers small businesses from complex EU regulations, that many might not have the expertise to sift through if they were looking at other offerings.
On top of that, it is the same data centre by used some of the biggest enterprises in the world. This means small businesses can enjoy the extra security measures they could only dream of being able to afford and put in place internally, good enough to keep the biggest of businesses protected from hackers and other threats in the IT space.
As well as being safe, you need constant access to your data too and Microsoft gives you 99.9 per cent uptime guaranteed. Even if this service level agreement or SLA isn't achieved, Microsoft will give you service credits, giving you free access as an apology.
Small business doesn't mean small IT
Before cloud computing, small businesses were at a disadvantage to larger firms when it came to IT.
With Microsoft Office 365, even the tiniest of firms can get their hands on the best business software and the top level of security, for a price point that won't break the bank.
Click here for more information on what the Office 365 small business package includes.