Lots of news today on Microsoft Office 365, their new cloud offering, which released today. For those of you tracking this, this was previously known by the awkward name of BPOS (Business Productivity Online Software). Basically, it is Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Online and Live Meeting (the last two used to be called Lync and combines instant messaging and web conferencing) and the Office suite.
Clearly this offering is set to go head to head with Google Apps. The Microsoft offering is more expensive, but there are some BIG advantages. Chief among those is the fact that most of us are familiar with them. We know how to navigate and use Microsoft Applications. Can you learn a new interface? Sure you can, but at the end of the day, all pro this and anti that aside, I use my computer to be productive, and I'll pay a bit more to be productive. I know how to use Microsoft software, so I prefer it, and am productive using it. If I save $100 a hour, but waste hours in productivity because I have questions, or don't know how to do something, or can't get support as easily, I'm not making a good decision.
Aside from this there is another real advantage - the Microsoft suite, unlike Google, does not need an online connection to work. The applications have offline modes and will sync when you are back online. In the real world, that is sort of a big deal.
All of this aside, the real question you should ask yourself is - do I need this? Is this compelling? The answer is 'it depends'. There are scenarios for small business, or some types of large enterprise, where this may make tremendous sense. There are also questions around data storage and its configuration that MUST be considered before you implement. There are still lagging legal questions around data protection and ownership in the cloud, concerns on uptime (remember the Amazon issue???) as well as the simple inability to have cloud apps cleanly integrate to non cloud apps (need that Line of Business application to talk to exchange?).
I've been saying it for two yearsÂ… cloud computing is coming, but it will not be the panacea promised, nor is it really going to be about cost savings in my opinion. It is about fit. It is about productivity and business needs and capital usage. It is a complex question that deserves some discussion. Talk to your IT manager, or contact us and talk to a consultant. Whatever you do, look before you leap.
Be it in the cloud or on your PC, always practice Happy Computing!