Cloud services have been a hot topic in the IT industry for the last half decade. More and more technologies are shifting to a cloud based model making it easier to deliver services and shift revenue to a monthly recurring model. Microsoft Office is no exception and offering Office as a cloud delivered application was a natural progression.
The offering meets the demands of an increasing number of cloud-first organizations, allowing for easier access, improved collaboration and enhanced productivity and efficiency. However, the service has also proved to be somewhat confusing, particularly as businesses adopt virtual desktops and the way people work continues to evolve. Let’s unpack the solution a bit.
Office 365 in the Market
Office 365 cloud services was first launched in 2011 to its fair share of criticism. It’s not feature rich, it’s late to market, businesses do not want a subscription based model, the list goes on. But Microsoft wasn’t going to let Google Apps (G Suite) run without stiff competition. Microsoft was persistent and continued to invest resources in their platform and now O365 is in almost every IT conversation I have as a DaaS Sales Engineer.
O365 now has about 26 million users (as of Q2 ‘17), is a $7.4 billion revenue stream for Microsoft (its largest revenue source) and continues to add 1 million subscribers per quarter.
Here are the basics:
Office 365 is the online version of Microsoft’s most popular Office services (Word, Excel, etc.). You pay a monthly fee (per user) for the right to use the online Office services versus paying a one-time fee and owning the license. Most plans also allow users to install the traditional desktop Office Suite on up to five devices. Depending on your plan, additional services may also be included – such as hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business.
Why You Should Be Excited About O365
Moving some of the most widely-used business applications in the world to the cloud created a host of benefits. Organizations are able to continue using the applications that were already in place, but now aspects like collaboration and patching are easier.
Online versions of your favorite office applications have great collaboration tools allowing multiple people to easily edit the same document. Gone are the days of emailing different versions of a document.
- As a subscription based offering, version upgrades are included. Businesses no longer need to budget for hefty upgrade cycles when a new desktop version of Office is released. The online services continually get new functions and features.
- Much like virtual desktops, O365 easily integrates with Active Directory, which makes administration easy for IT.
- When compared to its desktop counterpart, O365’s online services eliminate some of a company’s IT maintenance tasks, such as patching and possibly some infrastructure costs if hosted Exchange services are used. (This benefit only applies to the online version of O365. If users install Office Suite applications on their desktop, then local patching is still required.)
Why You Shouldn’t Be Excited About O365
For all the benefits provided by a cloud-based Office solution, O365 does have some hang-ups, particularly for organizations that are using the online-only services rather than installing applications on local endpoints.
- Power users of some applications, especially Excel, may find the more obscure features missing from the online counterpart.
- New features automatically roll out to the online services, and these new features can appear (or disappear) with little to no notice. To make matters confusing for users, major updates could change how features are accessed.
- A fluctuating work force might make it hard for businesses to commit to the correct number of O365 licenses, resulting in over commitment and purchasing unneeded licenses.
- Microsoft licensing terms for O365 are definitely more complex!
- There is a lack of granular options to pick and choose (a’ la carte style) only the services or applications you need. If your business only needs Microsoft Word, O365 may not be the most logical decision since you’d have to license the entire suite.
Office 365 and VDI
As organizations continue to look toward cloud solutions, it’s likely that Office 365 will become even more popular. And since it’s a cloud-based service, it’s compatible with other moves to the cloud, such as accessing O365 from a virtual desktop.
The key when implementing Office 365 is understanding the licensing options, particularly if you do plan on deploying it on a virtual desktop (which makes the licensing even more interesting). It can be a worthwhile endeavor for cloud-minded companies, though, since virtual desktops are hosted in the data center with an abundance of bandwidth, resulting in connections to O365 services being very robust.
Check out part 2 to learn more about Office 365 licensing!
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