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Making the most of the cloud

14 Nov 2011

Anyone with a hotmail account will know about the anywhere, anytime access benefits of applications in the cloud. Now, though, cloud computing has moved to new heights, and is offering a host of business benefits.

One of the main advantages is the flexibility to pay for only the solutions you require, and only when you require them. If your organisation’s staffing requirements change you can simply add or reduce the number of licenses your business requires.

However, this flexibility also creates a challenge, as it allows small businesses to afford business tools previously only the big corporate could access. So how do you know what you need?

For starters, not all cloud-based solutions are created equal. Our advice is to stick with solutions from major vendors. We have not come across any other solution that offers the same breadth of enterprise-level tools, integration and business benefits as Microsoft’s Office 365.

The tools on offer include:

Microsoft Exchange Online

This brings enterprise-level mail systems to businesses of all sizes, including shared calendars and contacts, email integrated with mobile devices, forwarding rules, and group contacts. Exchange also helps protect against viruses and spam with filtering and custom rules built into the system.

SharePoint Online

This allows you to create sites such as customer information pages and document libraries; manage projects via work flows and integration with Microsoft project; provide document security via permissions; and enable document version control.  Need to get that report finished quickly? Integration with Microsoft Office 2010 allows for multiple contributors to work on and edit a word document simultaneously.

Lync Online 

Mobility is the next big thing in business, and with this Unified Communications (UC) tool you can interact seamlessly with partners and colleagues out of town using everything from instant messaging to video conferencing and virtual meetings. By using Lync and integration with the other Microsoft applications you can also view team presence – need to contact the originator of an excel spread sheet urgently? See if they are online directly from within excel, or contact the originator of an email again direct from within Outlook to see if they are available and start an immediate conversation.

Microsoft Office Professional 

Instead of incurring a large upfront cost when purchasing basic tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, now you can subscribe to the full suite of Office products as part of the Office 365 offering. You can even download and install the full application directly onto your device so you can work offline and have the full rich feature set of office functionality.

Office Web apps

These provide many of the features of the full Office product available on almost any device via the web, and the ability to co-author documents.

Office 365 will also integrate with your on-premise Microsoft solutions, which for many users are an already familiar set of business applications.

Acronym Limited has supplied integration services for many companies, and can assist you with the deployment, data migration and setting up of these solutions on any combination of PCs, Macs and smartphones. We have experience in deploying and integrating both cloud-based and hybrid solutions.

To learn more about how Office 365 can help your business reduce its IT costs and improve business productivity, Acronym will be holding an Office 365 seminar in Auckland at Microsoft House on November 30.