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Office 365 goes commercial

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Microsoft has announced the commercial launch of Microsoft Office 365, a cloud productivity service designed for small and large businesses. Using Office 365 will cost R46.50 per month depending on the company size.
Depending on user options, Office 365nwill cost from as little as R46.50 per user per month.

Microsoft’s Melanie Botha saysncloud-based solutions like Office 365 can help businesses lower capitalnexpenditure costs and deliver powerful productivity tools to itsnusers, with appropriate layers of security and compliance.

“Peace of mind is the biggest benefitnfor SMEs. Knowing that someone else is taking care of everything is great.nKnowledge workers enjoy new software features and upgrades as soon as they arenavailable. Costs for the move to Office 365 are predictable and spread overntime as operating expenses (opex) instead of capital expenditures (capex),nputting a smile on the face of the finance guy,” said Botha.

Botha believes Office 365’s availabilitynon a month-to-month basis will be a boon for SMEs. The subscription includesnonline versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync to deliver e-mail, documentnmanagement and unified communication services to business of all sizes. Certainnsubscription plans also add Office Pro Plus to deliver offline capability innWord, Excel, Outlook and other Office desktop products.

Technology industry analyst ArthurnGoldstuck says SMEs and startups have the most to gain from cloud solutionsnlike Office 365, as they do not need to invest heavily in infrastructure. Hisnresearch suggests that only 9% of South African SMEs are currently using cloudncomputing in their businesses – but those that do are more profitable thanntheir less tech-savvy counterparts.

“Cloud computing offers more benefits thanndrawbacks to SMEs, yet a lack of understanding of these benefits means uptakencontinues to be slow. Despite this, there is a clear edge for those who do makenuse of it; after all, cloud computing is an enormous cost saver to anynbusiness, and cutting costs is a key element of profitability,” said Goldstuck.

The National Small Business Chambern(NSBC) has been one of the early adopters of the solution, which offers usersneasy access to productivity and collaboration software on a monthlynpay-as-you-go basis.

CEO Mike Anderson says the Chambernitself is “happily” running its Microsoft productivity suite from the cloud,nand he believes that there will be a greater uptake of the solution once SMEsnclearly understand what these solutions can do for them and the costsnassociated therein.

“For the SME, it’s all about what thesensolutions can do for me and how they affect my bottom line: they need to knownhow it can save them time and money and affect their bottom and top linesnpositively,” said Anderson.

Microsoft’s Botha says that Office 365nis suitable for all size businesses, from Enterprise to SMEs, in that itndelivers cost-effective, flexible access to enterprise-class solutions whilstnaccelerating various business benefits like simplified access to information,nstorage and ROI.

“Moving to the cloud with Office 365ndoesn’t require a business to change the way it works, because the service isnbased on familiar productivity tools people know and trust, such as MicrosoftnWord, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and more. Employees get new ways tonwork together with ease, on virtually any device or mobile phone, andnbusinesses get the reliability, security and IT controls they need in thencloud, even without a dedicated IT staff.”

Botha concludes by saying that thencurrent healthy state of South African bandwidth means the timing of Office 365nis ideal. “South Africa’s broadband provision has improved dramatically innrecent years. Office 365 also enables economical use of bandwidth resources,nleveraging innovation in the latest version of Office platform.  .”

Previously available on a trial basis innmarkets, Office 365 is now commercially available. Businesses can try it fornfree for 30 days by signing up at www.office365.com and there are alreadynover 150 local Microsoft partners who are certified and able to advise theirncustomers on how to evaluate and purchase the service.

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