Microsoft has been strongly recommending that present and future clients move towards the cloud to support their ever growing needs. The Office 365 platform has been constantly growing in capabilities and stability. Over the next few months the new version will begin rolling out to existing customers and will become available to new customers on February 27th. There is already a consumer version available, known as Office 365 Home Premium that was released on January 29th.
The new Office 365 brings all of the products up-to-par, minus a few very specific scenarios, with what the on-premise installations can do. Moving forward Microsoft is building for the cloud first and on-premise second. This shift will make their products more useful allowing them to get the updates to their customers every 90 days instead of every 3 years.
Forrester Consulting reported that "Office 365 improves productivity, provides IT peace of mind, and reduces total cost of ownership compared to similar on premises implementation", in their study 'The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Office 365'
The new release will start with the 2013 versions of Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and Office. The cloud products do not have version numbers because of the frequent updates. They have also stated that this will be the last transition for existing clients. A transition means that if I was on the current version of Office 365 I would have to wait for Microsoft to schedule my environment to be upgraded. Microsoft has said that their intent is to have all existing customers transitioned by November of this year.
With the newer capabilities, larger organizations including government and education are signing up and improving productivity and saving money. You may have seen the news from Microsoft; check out their Customer Blog to see things like
"Toyota Motor Corporation announced the company will provide Microsoft Office 365 to more than 200,000 employees of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. and other affiliates in North America to streamline its communications and collaboration capabilities."
“Microsoft today announced new academic institutions that are adopting Microsoft Office 365, to improve communication and collaboration across campuses while meeting security, privacy and other regulatory requirements mandated by the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).”
“U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be implementing Office 365 for Government for its 600,000 employees. The VA chose Office 365 to reduce costs without sacrificing security and privacy while enhancing reliability with geographically diverse disaster recovery.”
“Nonprofit saves $40,000, boosts IT efficiency 62 percent with cloud collaboration solution”
Your organization may be asking itself quite a few questions to determine if moving to the cloud is the right move. The questions that follow are some of the more popular ones that I have been asked.
Where can Office 365 save us money?
There are multiple areas of cost savings when it comes to moving into the cloud. Know that this can vary greatly depending on your organization's size, licensing agreements with Microsoft, etc. Overall the savings fall into three separate areas: Infrastructure, User licensing, Migration savings.
- Save on server and storage costs, server licensing, power consumption, etc. If I was building a highly available SharePoint farm with disaster recovery in mind for 50,000 users I may have 14 servers and all corresponding licensing. While I could virtualize a lot of that, I would still have a bunch of physical hardware and storage needs that would need to be refreshed over time. Moving to the cloud allows Microsoft to assume resource allocation and maintenance allowing your IT department to focus on the customer needs, instead of infrastructure needs.
- Per user licensing is comparable, typically cheaper than on-premise licensing. While Office 365 licensing is per month, it adapts to the needs of your organization. Instead of buying enough licenses to cover the maximum number of users in your organization, you can adapt your licenses to fit your needs at any time. For example, retail organizations that use Office 365 can scale up or down the licenses needed based on season.
Subscription based licensing also provides for using the software on premise if needed in a hybrid scenario (sever licenses would still be required). Subscription licensing is essentially the same as Software Assurance, meaning you are always licensed for the latest and greatest.
Extranet licensing is free, by default organizations get 10,000 licenses for external partners.
- Migration savings. Are you migrating to new hardware or new versions of software every 3 years? With a move to the cloud you can leave large scale migration projects behind.
How does Microsoft tackle compliance requirements?
Microsoft is a leader in compliance and verification for the cloud. The following industry standards are met and verified by 3rd parties.
Where is our data?
Who has access to our data?
- Access is strictly limited, logged and audited.
- Reports are always available upon request with regards to who accessed your data.
- See the Administrative Access page for more information.
Check out Microsoft’s Office 365 trust center for more details with regards to compliance and data access.
What type of disaster recovery is available?
- For Exchange Online, Microsoft has a near instantaneous Recovery Point Objective (RPO), which essentially means no loss of data.
- For SharePoint Online, Microsoft has 1 hour RPO, meaning that it always has a copy of the data equal to or less than an hour old.
- For SharePoint Online, backups are performed every 12 hours and retained for 14 days.
- More information is available and updated on a frequent basis in the Office 365 Service Descriptions.
Office 365 promises and delivers on a wide array of communication and collaboration solutions in a costs effective and secure approach. If you have more questions as to how Office 365 can play a role in your organization please ask.