Microsoft’s Office 365 at its very basic level, takes your Microsoft Exchange Server and moves it into the cloud. This means that not only can you receive email, on your desktop, just like you did with an on premise Exchange or SBS server but gives you all the other capability you get with Exchange, like Calendar and Contacts and Tasks and Public Folders on any device anywhere.
So whether you are a ‘Road Warrior’ or just need to work from another office or home, you can get your email, diary and contacts on your laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet or someone else’s device via the web application.
Office 365 takes the old system of having one set of licences for Exchange, and another set of licences for Office and splitting them into a variety of subscriptions that you can mix and match for your business. If you have a user that just needs occasional access, you can get the basic option with just an email address and they use the web. If you have a user that just needs Office applications, there’s one for that too.
The subscription can be taken out monthly or if you want to save a bit of money and reduce the admin burden, you can pay for them annually.
Office 365 though, does mean that, when you make the change, there will still be a cost to migrate from one to the other, as Office 365 will need to be configured for your business, all the users will need to be migrated, then all their historical emails will need to migrated to the new system. There are a number of pitfalls along the way, and its definitely recommended that you have a partner to help you with this.
Office 365 does have a few key benefits over moving to a new Exchange server though.
Office 365 means that you no longer have to worry about running your own server, with not only the cost of the hardware and software, usually a few thousand pounds but the ongoing cost of running the server, all that electricity, but the extra cost of keeping it cool in summer. Add the cost of ongoing hardware maintenance, and it will probably pay for itself in that alone. So no longer do you have to worry about that expensive piece of hardware, whirring away in your computer room, that’s now someone else’s problem.
Office 365 is a buy it once affair, yes you are paying for it via a subscription or rental model, but you only do it once. Any further updates are provided within the solution and you get them automatically. You never need to work out how you will do the migration again, worry about server specs, worry about possible downtime, It’s all included in the deal.
Office 365 allows you right-size the system to suit your business at any time. Let’s say for example you have 30 employees in year one, 15 employees in year 2, and 50 employees in year 3. With Office 365 you just get the number of subscriptions you need and pay for what you need. If this was an Exchange Server, you’d need to buy 30 upfront, you wouldn’t get anything back for year 2 then would have to buy extra for year 3, and yes that is full price. Then of course, if the server you bought was good for 30 users, you had extra capacity unused in year 2, and would need to upgrade the hardware in year 3, or even buy a new server.
So overall Office 365 wins in the areas of flexibility, mobility and scalability. And that is before you add in the extra capability you get with SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business. These free added extras give you Team Collaboration Tools (inside and outside the organisation), File Synchronisation and Internet text, phone and video chat, to really supercharge your business.