O365 — So much more than email!

The driver for many businesses to go to O365 is email, specifically Exchange Online, and there is nothing wrong with that.  As I noted in an earlier post, the combination of O365 and Windows Server Essentials is a damn fine successor to SBS and that is all based on the premise that your email is in the Cloud.  But you are missing great chunks of “goodness” if you stop at just email!  There is much, much more that you get for your O365 subscription dollars.

The 800 pound gorilla, even more so than Exchange Online, is SharePoint Online.  SharePoint is the Swiss Army knife of O365 as it can do and be so many things to your organization.  It can hold files and contacts, it can track things, it can do light project management, it can be a catalogue; it can be bent and moulded to do so many things that it can be quite mind boggling.  With some thought up front and help from SharePoint experts like my colleagues on the SharePoint team at itgroove, SharePoint can manage and even automate a large number of your business processes.  O365 gives you many SharePoint tools that would be out of reach, financially, to most small businesses in terms of running SharePoint on-premise.  But the sky’s the limit (pardon the pun) if you look to the Cloud with O365 and SharePoint.  From my viewpoint, it is madness to NOT leverage SharePoint in O365 even if you only start by using a few libraries to store certain classes of files.  The salient point here is that you get it with your subscription so why “waste” your money by ignoring the tool?  It’s there, explore it!  Trust me, it is worth the effort.

Then there is Lync.  Lync is instant messaging “crack” for the corporate world and it surprises me how many small businesses ignore it.  Lync provides IM and desktop sharing collaboration tools along with PC-to-PC (and tablet and smartphone) voice/video calling in a tight little package.  It’s not earth shattering by any means but, again, it is part of your O365 subscription so why not use it?  Lync integrates a “presence indicator” which links through with other Microsoft products (Outlook, SharePoint) to give others an indication of your status which is a nice little bonus.  The presence indicator lets others know, at a glance, if you are available or busy or even away.  The IM, desktop sharing and voice/video features work wherever you are so long as your device has an Internet connection.  And Lync lets you communicate with people outside of your organization if they are also on O365 or have other federated Microsoft services within their organization.  You can communicate with me on Lync, as an example, as we use Lync heavily inside itgroove.  Yes, other tools also offer similar capabilities but they lack some of the integration that Lync provides and, again, you get Lync as part of your O365 subscription.  I think Lync is the unsung hero of O365 as it just waits patiently in the background to do your bidding.  If you have O365 and aren’t using Lync I urge you to check it out.  I think you’ll be pleased with what you see.

And did I mention the public-facing website?  Yup, you get this with your O365 subscription, as well.  Many businesses, certainly small businesses, use the (very basic) email system that comes along with the website package they bought from  their website hosting company.  When they move to O365 they often keep the website in place with the website hoster (and maybe have ongoing DNS issues if the hoster is brain-dead).  My question is “why”?  Why do this when you have a pretty decent website hosting ability with your O365 package?  O365’s public website service can do many of the same things as most third-party web hosts and the list of tools and plug-ins for the service is constantly growing.  It is certainly as easy to use the website design and build features of O365 as many other services that are targeted at small business and, again, it is all part of your monthly subscription.  From my viewpoint, this one is an easy win for most small businesses.

And, finally, let’s talk Office, specifically the Office licenses you get with many of the O365 subscription plans.  You know what Office is, you probably can’t live without it (try taking Excel away from your accountants, you’ll be prying it out of their cold, dead fingers before you can get it away form them).  If you have the O365 subscription plan that provides Office then you get up to 5 copies of Office per user!  Say what???  Yup, you read that right, 5 copies per user.  Even persons that are mathematically challenged like me can do the sums and figure out that this is a smoking deal. 

OK, let’s recap.  For your monthly subscription fee (let’s say approximately 16 bucks per user if you are on the Small Business Premium plan) you get Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, a public website and 5 copies of Office per user.  For 16 bucks?  Try finding that kind of value anywhere else with any of your other business tools; I doubt that you will.  So make every one of those dollars work for you by making the most of what you get.  Like I said in the title, “O365 – so much more than email”!