Article provided by Westcon
The office is no longer limited to the cubicle down the corridor but extends to wherever a person has an internet connection and a mobile device. As such, the modern workforce requires productivity solutions that enable them to do their jobs no matter their physical location. In a digital environment, it is about empowering individuals with the means to work more efficiently.
Ideally, these tools are cloud-based and provide real-time access to the documents, files, and resources needed for a person to do their job. And contrary to popular belief, just because the data is hosted in a data centre such as Microsoft Azure, does not mean internet access must always be available. Instead, most offerings offer the ability to synchronise information once the connection is restored. Working in such a cloud environment has the added benefit of giving users access to the latest version of the software.
“This means the need to update and patch software continually manually is a thing of the past. With cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365 adopting a subscription model, companies no longer need to purchase expensive software every few years to access new features. Instead, new updates are automatically installed when they become available, and any security holes are patched without any administrator assistance,” says Prebashini Reddy, Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and Volume Licensing (VL) Product Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa.
Suddenly, managing corporate budgets has become a more efficient process as subscriptions can be taken on a device basis. Because the data centres on which these solutions are hosted must comply with strict regulatory compliance, always-on availability is a priority. In the case of Microsoft, the company guarantees a 99.9% uptime. Companies, therefore, do not have to worry about redundancy on a software basis. However, they must ensure that they have business continuity plans in place when it comes to their connectivity.
“Because office suites provide a variety of bundled offerings, pricing is also flexible. For example, Office 365 ProPlus works out to R182.40 per user per month while the enterprise-focused Office 365 E5 is R532 per user per month. It just depends on the needs of the company,” says Pete Hill, executive director at Greendata.
Understanding the Office 365 options
Office 365 ProPlus is ideal for entrepreneurs looking to access productivity tools while still getting ample cloud file storage. With all the standard Office applications part of this option, as well as OneDrive storage, this is perfect for those looking to get their business off the ground quickly and effectively.
Once the groundwork is laid, the entrepreneur can consider bolting on Office 365 E1 to this offering. This provides several business services such as email, access to Office Online, the Microsoft Teams unified communication tool, and others.
The next step up is Office 365 E3. It combines all the features of the previous two offerings and includes significant security and compliance enhancements. This encompasses data loss prevention, legal hold, and access to unlimited personal cloud storage.
Finally, Office 365 E5 builds on this and incorporates advanced security, analytics, and voice capabilities. This is ideal for large business environments that require access to powerful tools such as PowerBI to extract more value from the data at their disposal. It also provides protection against sophisticated cybersecurity threats such as phishing and zero-day malware (malicious software not discovered yet).
“Office 365 provides a myriad of options designed to meet any budgetary and corporate requirement. Its affordability extends to home users looking for a trusted platform to collaborate with family and give children more effective tools to manage their schoolwork,” says Reddy.
According to Hill, Office 365 creates an ideal environment for any level of user to work from anywhere with applications that are always updated.
“And with OneDrive PC folder backup, the software automatically backs up files in the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders on a computer to provide an added layer of protection should include a person’s laptop get stolen or lost,” says Hill.
Of course, the real benefit with Office 365 and other productivity suites lie in its ability to deliver collaboration functionality across the organisation. As more people work from home or adopt flexible office hours, this becomes essential to ensure all tasks and projects are completed, and team members know precisely the responsibilities of individual employees.
“Office 365 creates an ecosystem that incorporates all relevant services business will need to drive growth and create differentiation. It is about working faster and smarter by tapping into the potential that comes from combining all these applications in a centralised environment. Any company requires a combination of email, calendaring, word processing, and spreadsheets. The value lies when these are integrated to give information workers a fresh perspective on the data the organisation has collected,” adds Reddy.
Furthermore, having access to the right kind of productivity suite delivers professional collaboration features that differentiate an organisation from its competitors. And by automatically taking care of any regulatory and cybersecurity requirements, this environment provides the perfect means for the company to remain focused on creating products and services that customers want by spending less time stuck on administrative functions.
“Having the continuity of updates provided in Office 365 as well as being able to access innovative technologies when they become available, can make a significant difference in running a business more effectively. For example, injecting artificial intelligence into Office 365 brings with it a level of automation that changes the business focus towards delivering on more strategic functions. To truly benefit from these and other features, decision-makers must invest in employee training to empower users to understand the offerings available and how best to take advantage of them,” adds Hill.
It is about harnessing the tools required for teamwork in a digitally-led environment. Accessibility and flexibility are two of the most vital functions delivered through such a collaborative system. Data is available to every employee who needs it, and they can work much more efficiently with others from this unified environment.