Considering Office 365? It’s not as clear-cut as you may think

Considering Office 365? It’s not as clear-cut as you may think

Microsoft Office 365 can be a boon for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) because it offers value-added apps at affordable monthly subscription rates. Also known as O365, it primarily includes all the amazing productivity apps that millions of professionals around the world are familiar with (e.g., Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook) plus OneDrive, its cloud-based file storage and sharing service.

Most business packages include the web and desktop versions of Office apps, which means that firms can update their software licenses without having to shell out for expensive lifetime licenses. Moreover, some plans include collaboration tools such as SharePoint (Microsoft’s mobile intranet service) and Teams (Microsoft’s communications hub). These tools work well with Office apps, allowing your staff to accomplish tasks remotely and efficiently from practically any smart device they're authorized to use.

Related article: What Are the Benefits of Office 365 for Small Businesses?

However, if you’re thinking about subscribing to Office 365, your thinking may be based on some assumptions that don’t necessarily hold up under scrutiny:

Assumption: O365 is always cheaper

While it appears that software rental is lighter on IT budgets, firms that take the long-term approach to IT investments know that perpetual licenses can offer huge savings after a few years. Then again, subscriptions include many perks unavailable to perpetual license owners, such as web and mobile versions of productivity apps, file storage and sharing capabilities, and automatic feature updates.

If your firm decides to rent instead of own software licenses, you’ll have to figure out which subscription plan is best aligned with your business requirements. If you’re struggling with that decision, an MSP with years of experience in optimizing business-IT alignment will be able to help you choose the package that’s best for you.

Assumption: Deployment is easy — just install, login and go!

While deploying O365 might seem simple and straightforward as just letting installers run and finish, there are in fact many hurdles to overcome:

  • System requirements – Machines with outdated processors and insufficient available disk space and/or random access memory (RAM) can either be unable to run O365 or suffer performance slowdowns.
  • Installation on staff’s mobile devices – While letting staff use O365 on company-issued or personally owned mobile devices can help increase productivity, it also raises data security issues.
  • Migration issues – Deciding on what data to let go, archive, or make available for immediate use is difficult. Also, setting up the migration channels requires technical expertise to ensure that data loss is prevented and data integrity is maintained.
  • Roles and permissions settings – Defining and setting employees’ roles, where they can access company data, what types of data they can access, and what they can do with it is a tedious task that is critical to internal cybersecurity.
  • Deployment downtime – Installing a system as massive as Office 365 across a department or your entire organization takes time away from IT administrators and affected employees. Deployment timing must therefore be strategic to minimize the hit on productivity.

A top-notch MSP is perfectly equipped to help you deploy as efficiently, effectively, and painlessly as possible.

Related article: Security tips for Office 365 migration

Assumption: The need for support will be minimal, or easy to obtain when required

If you encounter an issue with O365, you’ll need to take that up directly with Microsoft. However, since Microsoft deals with customer concerns all over the globe, don’t expect yours to be resolved as soon as you’d like it to be. Furthermore, if you have existing support agreements with Microsoft on their legacy apps, you may not have the same level of support within O365. If you stay in a hybrid environment (between owned and rented), it could be a very confusing and frustrating support experience.

Subscribing to O365 means being at the complete mercy of Microsoft’s support cycles, so be sure that you’re fine with that before going all in on O365.

Assumption: It’s all the same Office apps. So no new training is required, right?

While the O365 standard apps (like Word, Powerpoint, and Excel) may seem quite familiar, it doesn’t take too long to realize there are some striking differences. Plus, with all the new features and integrations that O365 apps have, it will be such a waste not to use the ones that foster greater individual productivity, team synergy, and interdepartmental cooperation. It would be a mistake to assume that staff will make the transition seamlessly on the familiar apps, or will even have a clue on why or how to use all the new apps. Comprehensive training should be considered a necessity when planning for an O365 migration.

Another aspect of O365 that your IT department has to deal with is the forced upgrade cycles. While these automated upgrades can be seen as convenient, they may spell trouble for your organization if users begin to have trouble adopting the updates or outright resist them. However, since upgrades are part of what O365 users buy into, you need to be prepared to provide additional (perhaps even perpetual) training for your employees and factor in the time they’ll have to spend overcoming new learning curves.

If your IT staff already have their hands full with mundane maintenance and monitoring tasks, outsourcing to an MSP may be a cost-effective means of freeing up your IT department for higher-value endeavors, such as employee training.

Assumption: All my old files will work just fine in O365

While any document created in the desktop Office suite can be opened in their web counterparts in O365, many features and formats may not translate well (or may not be available at all), causing confusion and frustration among users (which, in turn, will hit your help desk or increase support tickets to Microsoft). Some documents will need to be heavily modified or re-created entirely to work or look as intended in O365.

Related article: How to protect your Office 365 data

Document integrity is crucial for error-free communications, and maintaining multiple versions of the same document for the sake of accommodating online versus desktop software users is inefficient and potentially damaging to your business. Build in time in transition to determine if important documents can be accessed, edited, and produced as needed.

The power, utility, and familiarity of Microsoft Office applications is undeniable, and Office 365 can be the logical extension of those benefits— if you deploy it properly and use it optimally. Let XBASE help you determine if O365, full desktop Office, or a hybrid of the two is the best option for you. Drop us a line to get started.

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