The number of organizations that have yet to move at least some portion of their IT to the cloud is shrinking thanks in part to solutions like Microsoft Office 365. In the first of this multi-part series, we’ll discuss why Office 365 isn’t your typical cloud-based application suite and what that means for your business.
What Exactly is Office 365?
To determine where Office 365 fits into your IT strategy, it’s vital to first understand what exactly it is — and what it is not. Since most readers are at least familiar with Microsoft Office, we probably don’t need to start by defining the components of Office. However, there are various configurations of Office 365 that give you some ability to select the components your business needs. Click here to see the current plans.
When discussing ROI, it’s important to understand that Office 365 is not just Microsoft Office accessed through your browser. In describing their offering, Microsoft makes a helpful distinction between Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Software + Services.
Software-as-a-Service – With SaaS, the application (and often the data as well) resides in the cloud on an infrastructure that is completely managed by a third party. Business applications deployed via SaaS that you may be familiar with include Salesforce.com and Concur.
Software + Services – This model combines the cloud with a traditional on-device implementation. That is, the software is delivered via the Internet, but then it resides on your device: PC, Mac, tablet, smartphone, etc. Related services such as updates are then delivered over the Internet. Your data can reside in the cloud or on-device.
Microsoft is a little more detailed when they speak about the differences, but these two descriptions hit on a vital differentiator: where the applications reside. So, why is this such an important factor?
Availability is one of the reasons so many organizations resist moving their business applications to the cloud. Organizations like Microsoft do a pretty good job on their end of guaranteeing uptime. (Microsoft currently offers a financially backed 99.9% uptime guarantee.) But what about those times when your Internet connection goes down or your employees are working remotely and don’t have access to a connection? When the application resides on your device, you don’t need a connection to keep working. The Software + Services model offers a tremendous advantage over SaaS, especially for organizations that have a lot of remote employees.
That said, there are ways to use SaaS applications like Google for Work in offline mode. The challenge for administrators (and users) is that this needs to be configured before you are without your Internet connection. In many ways, this exemplifies the approach these two leading organizations take to the cloud. Google demonstrates an “all cloud all the time” attitude, whereas Microsoft is pushing hard on a “cloud first” approach, but recognizes that a hybrid of cloud and on-premises at some level is more workable for most organizations.
In our next post, we’ll dive into the ROI of Office 365 and examine the business case for moving from on-premises Office or another productivity suite to Office 365.