Microsoft Office 365 Nudges SMBs Into The Cloud

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Microsoft’s Jacob Jaffe responds to Google’s criticism of Office 365 and explains how its cloud credentials will benefit the SMB market

Yesterday saw the launch of Microsoft Office 365 – the company’s suite of cloud productivity services designed for business. Microsoft hopes the new service will propel the company’s popular Office software into the cloud computing era, and help it to challenge Google Apps in the cloud productivity space.

eWEEK Europe attended the launch event in London, where Microsoft and its partners were keen to show off the new service, which brings together online versions of Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange and Lync, as well as document programs such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The service is now available in 40 markets worldwide, and BT, Telefonica and Vodafone will be integrating the software into their existing offerings for SMBs in the UK.

Not one size fits all

We spoke to Jacob Jaffe, head of Information Worker Online, Microsoft UK, who explained that Office 365 is not necessarily intended to be a replacement for on-premises Office software, but can be run alongside it.

“We have a number of different packages that customers get to choose from in terms of what capabilities are right for them. And if a customer already has Office today, then they can choose to just add Office 365, or the online capabilities that Office 365 delivers,” said Jaffe. “If they don’t have Office today or maybe they have an old version of Office, and they would like to have Office – the client – as part of their subscription they can do that too. So it reinforces the point that it’s about choice. It’s not one size fits all and you get to decide what’s right.”

Jaffe said that Office 365 is particularly well suited to small business users, as it enables them to access services that have previously been restricted to large enterprises, without the burden of having to run and manage the technology themselves – something that many small businesses do not have the resources to do.

“We’ve explicitly chosen to focus on our small business customers because they’ve really not been able to benefit from the kinds of capabilities, the kind of functionality and the kinds of scenarios that you saw expressed today,” said Jaffe. “1.75 million small businesses will now be able to have the kinds of capabilities that our enterprise customers have had for a while in a way that’s cost effective, and they don’t have to worry about the management.”

However, Jaffe said that Office 365 would also have benefits for larger enterprises, that currently use services such as SharePoint, Exchange and Lync in an on-premises way. These companies can now decide whether they want to continue investing their resources in maintaining a managed environment, or pass that responsibility over to Microsoft in the cloud.

Royal Mail, Aviva and GlaxoSmithKline are among the large enterprises that have signed up to use Office 365.

“Office 365 is designed for customers of all sizes. From a small operation with a handful of employees, all the way across the spectrum to some of our largest enterprise customers, and everyone in between. I think the key there is that, not only do we cover that spectrum but we let people make the choice for themselves in terms of what service is right for them,” said Jaffe.

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