I’ve taken the time to participate in a free 30-day trial of the new Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based version of its popular programs. It officially launched on June 28 and has been highly discussed since then as a new option for small businesses. As someone who is self-employed, I really have no need for cloud-based office program. I just cart my laptop around, back up my information, and that’s about it. However, a small business with employees who telework or work outside the office may find the features of Office 365 useful to keep up productivity.
With Office 365, you can do everything from instant messaging and online meetings to email migration and website development. It’s essentially a virtual office to where files can be shared, projects can be started, and content can be created for the company website or blog. The great thing about Office 365 is it comes with all the Office programs you already know and trust: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote etc. It’s certainly a lot easier than having an IT person maintain all those programs on site and all those programs are there to use for a monthly fee, no installation necessary.
It’s also really cheap for small businesses. For businesses under 25 people, it’s $6 a month per user. For companies above this size pricing ranges from around $10-27 per month. A subscription to Office, for instance, can save a startup company thousands on initial software expenditure, meaning they can pay as they start to make money rather than at start up. True, it’s not free like Google Docs, but I think with Office 365 you have a little more control of what kind of access each user has (if you’re the administrator), and many more features and programs than what Google Docs offers.
If hesitant to put all your office work on the cloud, or if unsure if your business would really need the 24/7 accessibility of these services, then participate in the free trial like I did. You can get things started, use the full range of features, and really see if the service improves productivity or makes communication easier.