365 Q&A

365services

Office/365 gives an organisation, from 2 to 2,000 employees, the ultimate choice in flexibility. It can be arranged to suit the least demanding worker on the factory floor through to the power user at Corporate H.Q. Features that once could only be configured by the largest enterprises due to the high costs involved are now available to individuals. This section covers 20 of the common questions we have encountered.

1. What is Office/365?

Microsoft have created a subscription service that supplies all of their products, without any of the headaches or risk associated with owning servers and equipment needing IT support contracts or staff. They have been able to do this due to advances in server hardware technology and operating systems where they have led the way. These now deliver computing power and storage over the internet in a secure and flexible way built to industrial strength.

2. How is Office/365 delivered?

A choice of six different monthly subscriptions contain a mixture of software and storage features suited to different user and business types. A professional subscription class delivers the latest 2013 versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc., combined with Lync for communications with Sharepoint and SkyDrive for file and document storage. Some subscriptions let each user have five copies of software to cover all their PC’s.

3. Will I have to work differently?

With Office/365 you can use your PC as you always have but with the choice to work with services and storage in the cloud for better protection and efficiency.

4. I am happy with the present versions so why change?

The new 2013 versions are easier to use, have more features and work together better. For example, a PDF document can be directly opened and edited in Word. The 2013 versions also have internet equivalents so software can be used from any internet connected PC at any time to connect to your documents in the cloud. Modern business expectations have moved on a lot since the 2010, 2007 and 2003 versions were released.

5. Will I be able to work more flexibly?

The flexibility of the services will allow business management and staff to work from anywhere (home, villa, weekend sailing cruise) and anytime (day or night, weekend, bank holiday) from any device iPhone, Blackberry, Windows mobile, iPad, Android tablet etc.,  without the need to buy extra software or struggle with VPN connections.

6. Will I be able to work better?

A key feature of the service is too be able to work closer with colleagues, sharing documents and enabling content searches across the business. Extensive collaboration features give control so that partners and clients can be involved so that a high quality of service can be delivered to improve communications and efficiencies.  Ease of access to other Microsoft services for Customer Relationship Management, Project Control and Enterprise Resource Planning also opens up a range of new possibilities.

7. We also use Apple equipment, is that supported?

Microsoft have taken the high ground and welcome Apple iPhones and iPads,  Android and Blackberry platforms in the community. RIM Canada run the Blackberry services on behalf of Microsoft.

8. Could we just adopt 365 for some users?

The 365 services have been designed to co-exist with existing mail and databases. This allows a business to have some users on cloud email with the others remaining on-premise, email addresses remain the same and there is no difference or delay. This allows a business to prove the service and start a migration path when it chooses. The beauty of this approach is that for the users who would quickly benefit from the mobility and collaboration features they can be equipped immediately before their colleagues.

9. Why is the Cloud good for business?

The term ‘cloud’ describes services that you subscribe to on a pay-as-you-go basis where you don’t have to worry about owning equipment. The infinite amount of capacity available delivers huge scaling ability where you pay for what you use without having to make size projections and commit to spare capacity or backups.  The computing power responds to demand to deliver consistent service levels so there is never a ‘busy end of month’ slowness.

Subscription services can be delivered cheaper due to economies of scale. A business benefits as costs are visible upfront without any support contracts or hidden extras. The pricing evidence from Amazon Web Services, a leading cloud infrastructure provider, shows how their prices have kept falling from year to year.  It suits Microsoft as well, they are looking forward to only having to support one version of software and build better relationships direct with their customers.

10. Is the Cloud reliable?

The phrase ‘everything fails, all of the time’ is the mantra of cloud service providers. For this reason the datacentres and supporting infrastructure are built with staggering amounts of duplication, replication, fault tolerance and global resilience that even the most sophisticated of business enterprises would find difficult to match. A typical usage example is Netflix on the Amazon cloud, they use software known as the ‘chaos monkey’ which randomly injects havoc by switching off equipment to fully stress test all the recovery mechanisms.

11. Is the Cloud secure?

Microsoft has bet the bank on their success and the embarrassment of failure is not an option. Security is the most fundamental issue and the most paramount in their service delivery. All the expertise they now deliver with in-house and server systems is embedded in Office/365 alongside a list of international accreditations in tune with government and market sector compliance obligations.

12. Can I trust Microsoft with security?

Microsoft have been at the forefront of computer system technology for more than thirty years and know that their success relies on protection mechanisms which are second to none. Millions of businesses around the world rely upon the integrity of Microsoft server and desktop software every second of the day. Their latest and most sophisticated techniques are built into the Cloud Office/365 service and the 2013 desktop products.

13. We have always owned our own systems, why should we change?

Microsoft are in the business of technology, it is their core competency. They have embraced delivering systems as a utility in a highly secure and reliable way. Nowadays no business would seek to generate its own electricity as was the case before the industrial revolution. Today the same applies to computing services on an industrial scale.

14. How can Microsoft look after our systems better than we can?

Microsoft has the expertise and scale to enforce levels of management that are more intense than any business organisation could achieve. Their levels of staff management extend down to the most junior engineer where they monitor their personal circumstances at home, including social and family relationships. Sophisticated techniques to segregate duties and adopt mixed working patterns reflect the complexity adopted by the biggest security companies. Most businesses or hosting companies, when put under the microscope, rely on key individuals which is a classic failure risk.

15. How can I compare our security arrangements with Office/365 security?

The headings from a Microsoft whitepaper can be used to compare your current practices;
1.Built-In Security.
Including 24-Hour monitored physical hardware, isolated customer data, automated operations, secure network, encrypted data.
2.Security Best Practices.
Security development lifecycle, traffic throttling to prevent denial of service attacks. Prevent, detect and mitigate breach.
3.Customer Controls.
Enabling advanced encryption, enabling user access, customer-end federated identity and single sign-on security provisions, two factor authentication.
4.Enabling compliance.
Data loss prevention, auditing and retention policies, eDiscovery, data spillage management, enabling anti-spam/anti malware.
Independent verification and compliance. ISO 27001, FISMA, HIPAA BAA, EU Model Clauses, Cloud Security Alliance.

16. It sounds good but what are the alternatives?

Many independent providers, at local and national level, offer managed hosting services and have invested large sums of money in traditional equipment and datacentres. They will continue to offer the standard Microsoft server based products. They cannot compete with the industrial scale and capability of Microsoft nor offer the cloud flexibility.  To make the most of their investment they are reluctant to embrace the new way of Office/365 and lose existing customers. The most well-known desktop alternative for word-processing and spreadsheets delivered as a service is Google apps.  These are more basic and very different from the business capable Microsoft products that office users are comfortable with. They do not integrate well with other suppliers’ products and make collaboration harder.

17. Is there a compelling argument to adopt Office/365?

Yes. It includes the savings made from having no equipment or support costs, with the benefits of more efficient working using capable and trusted technology that is modern, which delivers high reliability systems that deliver business advantage which until now only the biggest of organisations have been able to arrange.

18. How can our business get on-board with Office/365?

You could move to Office/365 without using any experienced support. A route to ‘get it right first time’, with no risk, would be working with an accredited Microsoft partner who understands your business and systems requirements so that a risk managed migration could be planned and executed. This might be staged in different ways to ease the change for timing or budget purposes, it could also result in a partial hybrid approach to allow existing investments to be fully exploited before being phased out, scaled down, or relocated up to a cloud infrastructure.

19. How could we learn to exploit Office/365 in the future?

An accredited Microsoft partner would be able to support your use of the technology and advise on best practise and the latest developments in tune with your needs. With Microsoft delivered services little technical support is needed but, where it is, or for any configuration issues, then the partner can easily work on-site or remotely, ‘on-demand’, as the business delegates.

20. How would we choose a Microsoft partner?

A good partner should have the skills to be able to understand your business, combined with technical solution expertise. The partner would have evidenced skills proven by Microsoft competency tests, along with experience of systems planning and migrations, including Enterprise scale Office/365 quality assurance. The ideal partner would also be committed to the successful adoption of Office/365 in a managed way that would exceed expectations.