Office 365 can be a good fit in certain circumstances. If you’re thinking about it, here are the basic facts you need to know before you buy in. If you have any questions, give us a call. Our freindly Microsoft certified engineers are always available to guide you for the fit that’s right for your business.

There’s been a lot of hype about Office 365, and you might be considering it for your Sacramento business or organization. Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud version of Office. If you think that Office 365 might be the right step for your organization, be sure to read 10 things you should know about moving to Office 365.

First, let’s start with the basics.

1. What’s the cloud?
The cloud is an industry term for an off-site file hosting service. When working with Office 365 files, you upload and synchronize files with Windows SkyDrive (Microsoft’s cloud). If you want to access files from different locations or devices that don’t have Office, this works to your advantage. You can also store files locally; your files belong to you.

2. The three faces of Office
Most of us have been using the desktop version for years. Office 365 and Office Web Apps are recent additions to the family. Office Web Apps is a free and limited Internet version of Office that’s integrated with SkyDrive. You’ll use Web Apps to view and edit files on devices that don’t have Office installed.
Office 365 is a subscription-based plan that offers Office functionality in the cloud. It’s a hybrid (of sorts) between the desktop version and the free web apps. Excuse the marketing hype, but Office 365 offers desktop functionality with web-based convenience supporting multiple devices. That last part is what matters to users and clients.

3. What you’ll need
Office 365 requires Windows 7 or 8. Mac users need OS X 10.6 (or later). You’ll also need Internet access to install Office 365 and to activate and manage your subscription (once a month). You’ll need a compatible browser. IE 9, Firefox 12, Safari 5, or Chrome 18. Regarding hardware, at the very least, your local system will need the following.

  • 1 GHz processor or Intel processor (for Macs).
  • 1 GB or RAM (32-bit); 2 GB RAM (64-bit).
  • 3 GB of available hard disk space; 2.5 GB for Macs.

4. The subscription costs
A small business with 25 or fewer users can purchase Office 365 Small Business. If you pay by the year, you’ll pay $5, payable in an annual fee of $60 (per user). If you prefer to pay as you go, you’ll pay $6 a user per month.

  • Small Business accommodates up to 25 users.
  • Midsize Business accommodates up to 300 users.
  • Enterprise for over 300 users.

5. What you’ll get
The apps you get depend on your subscription choice. Most PC plans include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, OneNote, and even Publisher. The Mac business versions don’t include OneNote, Publisher, or Access.

6. Compatible formats
Office 365 files are compatible with Office 2010 and 2013. Office 2007 also works, but you’ll lose some functionality. You can use Office Web Apps with these files. Office 2003 users have limited access with an appropriate compatibility pack, but that will end in January 2014.

Office 2013 users considering Office 365 so they can share files with others who don’t have Office do not need Office 365. They can save Office 2013 files to SkyDrive and invite others who don’t have Office to view them. Invitees don’t need a SkyDrive account or Office to view files on SkyDrive (but they will need an invitation).

7. Perks
Office 365 subscriptions offer more than software. Subscriptions come with 27 GB of storage on SkyDrive, free website hosting with applicable tools, and 60 Skype minutes per month for landline calls.

8. Who needs it?
I can hear the wheels turning. If Web Apps is free, why purchase anything at all? (Nice try!) Web Apps is seriously limited. It’s great for viewing. It also offers basic editing and formatting features, but not much else. It isn’t a substitute for the desktop version or Office 365. Just remember that Office 2010 or 2013 users don’t need Office 365 to work in the cloud. However, if you want the convenience of working with your files on multiple devices that don’t have Office, Office 365 is a great addition for you.

Initially, home users might balk at paying $100 a year for Office, but Office 365 Home Premium supports five desktops and five mobile devices. You can’t possibly buy that many licenses for less. Office 365 can save multiple-unit families money.

9. Free alternatives
Google Docs is by far Office 365’s closest competitor. It’s reliable and secure. The free (personal) version is a functional tool that you can use with your business software, but it’s very limited and not always compatible or user friendly.  Google isn’t a free replacement for business software.

10. Office 365 security
Most organizations considering the cloud worry about security. Office 365 offers the same user-level security options and Trust Center as the desktop version. Rights management Service (RMS) supports encryption and lets you set permissions. Users will have a reasonable amount of security at their level. Offsite, files are saved in specialized data centers where security is a primary concern. In a nutshell, small to medium businesses will have better security using Office 365 than they can (probably) afford on their own.

Here are just a few facts you should know about Microsoft’s cloud security.

  • Office 365 applications use encryption; transmissions intercepted by anyone without authorization can’t be read.
  • Microsoft Office 365 is certified as compliant by accepted industry (ISO) standards.
  • Controls are in place to comply with HIPPA and FERPA.
  • Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft had this to say about Office 365 security concerns. “…Office 365 supports the most rigorous global and regional standards such as ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II, EU Safe Harbor, EU Model Clauses, the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the US Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the US Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). To meet evolving needs, we also plan to support IPv6 in Office 365 for Government by September of this year, and we’re taking steps to soon support Criminal Justice Information Security (CJIS) policies.”

    Bonus! I know I promised to only give you 10 reasons, but there is one more worth writing about.

    11. Can I use Office 365 offline?
    Office 365 runs offline. You must connect to the internet every 30 days to maintain your subscription. Office 365 will let you know when it’s time to connect.

    So if you are thinking about making the switch, give the Tech Support at CNS a call. We’re Microsoft certified, and we’ll help you make the best decision (even if it’s not moving your company to the cloud). We are honest, and a small Sacramento business, just like you.