Microsoft Office 365 – Pros and Cons

What is Office 365?

Traditionally, Microsoft Office has been a software program that you download and install on one or more PCs under a single or multiple user license agreements.

First introduced in 2010 and expanded in 2013 to include new plans. Microsoft Office 365 is a pay-as-you-go subscription version that provides ONLINE access to various software and services that eliminate the need to have your own Microsoft Small Business Server. The plans can typically include:

  • Microsoft Office Suite (words, publisher, excel, etc.)
  • Microsoft Exchange Online (hosted email)
  • Microsoft Lync 2010 (Communication Server)
  • Sharepoint Document Management
  • SkyDrive storage
  • Malware protection

So is MS Office 365 right for you and your business?

Benefits of Office 365

  • You can access your applications through any device (including mobile), through any web browser, as long as you have the right permissions and access to an Internet connection (even wi-fi).
  • Reduced capital expenditure
  • Instead of paying for new versions, Office 365 upgrades are automatically included in your subscription
  • Multiple users may have access to the same documents, for example, you can save documents in Sharepoint 2010 and have the ability to make changes, review versions, or even leave notes to colleagues.
  • Removes any infrastructure headaches if you need to relocate the office.
  • Greater server stability with a high uptime service level agreement. (assumes network security)

Disadvantages of Office 365

  • Your data is stored in the ‘cloud’ of Microsoft Data Centers, so you rely on both network and bandwidth. If your Internet connection fails, you lose access to your software and data until they are restored
  • You have very little control over this ‘cloud’ environment in which your data is stored, while there are uptime guarantees that any data center’s infrastructure failure can directly affect the availability of Office 365. If Microsoft or other high end Data Center – provider interruptions occur, small businesses have no leverage.
  • You may consider that there are higher security risks associated with ‘online’ data storage. If this is a key factor for your business, upgrade options are available, but they may be prohibitive.
  • Application performance can be slower over an Internet connection, especially if you have home-based users with poorer Internet connection and broadband speeds. This can have the effect of reducing productivity
  • There are limits to the number of email recipients you can have within a 24-hour period

Ultimately, if you are considering switching to Office 365, you should evaluate its suitability based on your own individual business requirements. How would your business be affected if you could not access the applications? Are the possible security implications a problem? What budget do you have available? Do you have internal IT support? Do you still need a local server for certain requirements?

With any IT decision, it is always better to seek help to identify the impact on your business and how to minimize any potential risk.