When Microsoft killed the Small Business Server product last year it took away the one function that we implemented the most of for small businesses and that was an in-house Exchange Server. For those people that wanted control over their communication data this was a big thing. The cost difference of having to install a full blown Exchange Server setup vs. what was needed in SBS is a large expense and one that is beginning to be hard to justify. Can we really expect an under 25 user office to put up a full blown Exchange Server to support their employees? In most cases the answer is no!
So what do you do now to get beyond this cost barrier and still have enterprise communication capabilities? Microsoft’s answer is Office365. We have began deploying offices as small as one user to as large as you want to deploy on Microsoft’s cloud product with fairly good results. This past week we had a few indications of Microsoft’s growth pains but they are quickly updating their system and tweaking it to make it better and better everyday. I am thoroughly impressed from a user basis of what they have been able to accomplish and I like the prospects of where it is all going.
Microsoft’s whole suite of Office Productivity packages are available from the cloud now as an ongoing SaaS (software as a service) model and it is becoming more and more reasonable to buy into this approach. If you are a traditional office worker you may not need your Office software on multiple devices but if you are more mobile, take work home, have multiple devices that you use than the SaaS model makes a lot more financial sense.
Let’s take Microsoft Office for instance. If you are a single workstation worker, than you only need this suite of programs on one machine. Paying $229 for a perpetual license for that machine may make a lot of sense. However, if you also like to work from your home office machine or your laptop than taking that cost and multiplying it three times becomes awfully expensive, a total of $657. If you go with Office Pro that amount approaches $1,000. With the Office365 Small Business Premium package your cost is $150/user annually and you can install office Pro on up to 5 different devices for that user. Now this package is limited to a maximum 25 users in the company but for many small office environments/businesses this will be a great fit.
So what do you get for this annual fee? Microsoft Office Pro with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher and Lync. You have access to Office Web Apps which include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files via a web browser. Hosted email, you get business-class email, shared calendars, 25GB of storage space per user and the ability to setup your own domain name. Simple file sharing through SkyDrive with 7Gb of personal storage that syncs with your Pc. You can easily share these files internally or externally and control who sees or can edit them. Web conferencing and IM using your Lync communications program. You can conduct meetings over the internet with HD video conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Share presence, IM and audio calling with Skype users. You get a public website to market your business with a website that is easy to set up using your own company domain name with no additional hosting fees. All of this and a guaranteed 99.9% uptime/availability.
While $150/user annually by itself sound like a lot, the services that you get the and the enormity of the enterprise functions that you receive for that money are great and I feel are easily justified. As we are refreshing more and more of our Small Business Server installations the move to a SaaS model is making more and more sense.