It is the obligation of business IT support providers to advise their clients about digital technologies that can improve your business. In our view, Microsoft 365 is undeniably the leading business software other tech firms strive to rival. Packed with a raft of dynamic applications, Microsoft 365 has practical solutions and multiple benefits for companies of all sizes.
The cloud-based software is not your run-of-the-mill endpoint management solution. Whether you choose Microsoft’s Business Premium package or the Enterprise E3, both subscriptions fulfil every business need you have in the digital landscape.
Whichever subscription you opt for, you will find a raft of apps, templates and file types specifically geared towards business users. The cloud version of Microsoft’s office suite also gives you more storage capacity, easier access to folders and files, the mobility to work on multiple devices from remote locations and easy-to-use software that enhances productivity collaboration and performance.
This article discusses the tools offered by Microsoft and the benefits of its cloud-based Office 365 toolkit. If you want to know more about specific tools, check out our article, Microsoft 365 Cheat Sheet. In this article, we are going to focus on the undeniable benefits of Microsoft 365.
1. Absolute Flexibility
Microsoft 365 is available in two different formats; a subscription-based cloud version or a traditional perpetual licence. The latter is a local version which is limited to one user per licence and can crank the cost up to around £300-£500 depending on the number of users.
Other limitations with the licenced software restrict users from retrieving files from a centralised storage space. You have to be on the business network to retrieve files – which ordinarily means being at the office. What’s more, the non-cloud version can only be installed on one PC and is not accessible on a mobile device.
The traditional licence also keeps you rooted in traditional ways of working – which ultimately upends the demands of your employees to work flexibly. For example, multiple PC’s can access files from a centralised folder stored on your network but two people cannot access the document at the same time. This means there is a risk that two different versions will be saved. One could override the other if the user chooses to replace the existing document.
The cloud-based version of Microsoft 365, on the other hand, enables two or more people to access the file at the same and work on the document simultaneously from remote locations. Any edits or additions made to the document are flagged with the author’s id and a comment box which can be accepted denied or replied to.
In short, cloud subscriptions give you more flexibility than traditionally PC-loaded software. The custom-built solutions of Office 365 in the cloud reinforce your firm’s mobility by allowing users to access files across a range of devices from any location. Up to five devices are allowed per person. This means you can work in Excel, Word or Powerpoint from a tablet or smartphone, laptop or remote PC.
Moreover, OneDrive, and SharePoint enable multiple users to access a file and work on the same document at the same time. All revisions will be saved in the same document with a label identifying the author. So all in all, the cloud-based Microsoft 365 package promotes the Modern Workplace and lends a hand to the way today’s employees want to work.
2. Excellent Collaboration Tools
A study conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) showed that projects fail or miss deadlines because of a lack of communication during a project. And this was back in the day when everybody was working together in the office.
One of the concerns C-suite executives have is how well their employees will be able to communicate and inspire ideas when they are working in remote locations. If we’re being honest, only time will tell, but the new-generation Office 365 is primed for collaboration.
Whereas the local version of Microsoft Office isolates users and limits how they work, Microsoft 365 simplifies teamwork by providing centralised access to any files stored in the cloud – providing the employee has authorised to retrieve a particular document (more on that later).
When it comes to collaboration, one of the key benefits of Office 365 is Microsoft Teams – a messaging app that provides a “workspace for real-time collaboration and communication”. Here, you can create as many individual projects, groups and workstreams as you need.
As you would expect, you can create private channels and groups and employees can only engage in any one channel with an invitation. But once your teams are connected, users can have a conversation in real-time, share ideas, brainstorm via video, share screens and access files from a secure environment. Teams also work with iOS and Android platforms and new members can retrieve the cast history to get up to speed.
The ultra-connectivity Teams provides, theoretically gives you all the tools you need to enhance collaboration and stay connected with your teammates. Due to the number of channel choices, there may be a slight learning curve to work out an effective system of recording conversations – just as you do in the office – but having a centralised location of project-specific communication should help collaborators to manage and execute projects more efficiently.
Remote tools also make it easier for business IT support providers to work with staff members that are experiencing tech problems. Oftentimes, it’s easier for technicians to take control of the caller’s device and resolve the issue locally – but from a remote location.
3. Enhanced Productivity
The latest editions of Microsoft 365 provide you with a dynamic productivity suite that enables distributed teams to collaborate easily in a virtual environment. We’ve already mentioned some ways M365 enhances productivity and you will no doubt get more inspiration as you read through this article, but in a nutshell, the list of collaboration tools includes:
- Microsoft Teams
- One Drive for Business
- Office 365 Groups
- Outlook Email
- Skype for Business (instant messaging, online meetings, broadcast)
- Delve Boards
- Office 365 Video
Although some productivity tools are new to M365, the functionality of the new-generation software is almost identical to legacy Microsoft programs save for a few updates and a new look. This means your staff is already familiar with how the tools work and significantly reduces the time it takes trying to understand the new tools.
In addition, the sophisticated task management tool Office 365 Planner helps team leaders to coordinate schedules, assignments, deadlines and workflows to keep their team on track. You can build teams with a distributed workforce and even add freelancers, independent contractors and consultants without compromising security.
It’s also worth mentioning that cloud-based servers are also easier to maintain than in-house servers thus there is less risk of downtime. Indeed, Microsoft claims the optimal uptime of M365 is around 99.97%. With less time spend offline, your employees have more opportunities to meet their targets.
Moreover, IT support providers can monitor your business network from a remote location. using advanced technologies, trained professionals are able to identify system errors that could cause downtime, and fix the issue before it becomes a problem. This is one of the genius ways that IT support providers can promise clients optimal availability of your business network.
4. Advanced Cloud Security
Given cybersecurity threats are a primary concern to businesses (or they should be), cloud-based servers with advanced security tools are a priority. IT security solutions are even more relevant for companies that deploy work-from-home strategies.
One of the key selling points of the latest-generation Microsoft 365 is the cutting-edge package of threat detection and anti-malware technologies. The comprehensive endpoint protection includes no fewer than three cybersecurity tools, namely Microsoft Defender, security center and Secure Score.
The benefits of Office 365’s new security solutions boast rich reporting capabilities that enable IT teams to monitor business networks and flag up unusual behaviour and unauthorised logins. As I alluded to above, you can restrict user access to certain files, folders or apps.
For example, if you store a file in a shared folder that is visible to everyone but it contains sensitive information, you can set access permissions on the file to editor, contributor, or read-only. And even then the file is only accessible by invitation.
With integrated solutions right across Microsoft 365 services, IT security teams can detect and divert spam into secure folders, identify common cyberattacks such as malware, ransomware, viruses, phishing attempts, and malicious links and reduce malicious threats normally handled by security admins.
Microsoft Secure Score enables you to assess vulnerabilities and provides recommended solutions that will give you more control over your network security measures.
5. Improve Customer Experience and Engagement
Customer experience and customer engagement are crucial to the overall success of a company. Listening to and understanding your customer’s pain points and taking positive action from their feedback is a strategy that takes you from zero to hero.
However, curating actionable customer feedback is not that straightforward. There are some useful pieces of software, of course, but gauging customer satisfaction often feels as though there are too many moving parts.
The latest version of Office 365 includes a couple of useful tools that customer-facing business users will find invaluable, namely Microsft Dynamics and Forms.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is specifically designed to enhance customer engagement and interaction. Already regarded as a market-leading CRM system, Dynamics delivers a comprehensive toolkit of systems and strategies that gives marketers and sales teams valuable data they can use to understand the needs and behaviours of your customers.
For example, you can reach customers across all your social channels, utilise AI bots and launch surveys to give you a 360-degree view of the marketplace.
You can enhance Dynamics by taking advantage of Microsoft Forms which seeks to gather vital data through easy-to-create surveys, polls, and questionnaires. The forms give you the option to add multiple-choice answers so you can make the quizzes personalised and contextually interactive.
The forms can also be distributed via email and social media platforms and accessed online through a web browser with a single click. If market research is important to your company, Microsoft Forms delivers a smooth process and a seamless customer experience.
6. Automatic Updates
Automatic updates are another of the attractive benefits Office 365 has over perpetual licences. Whenever Microsoft add new tools to the software, users have instant access to them simply by activating the latest version which typically takes several minutes to upgrade.
This is not true of a Microsoft licence. Once the software has been purchased, you only have access to the tools in that version. You won’t have access to any updates until the licence is renewed – which means you don’t get the benefits of the latest upgrades until you pay for them.
One of the most significant benefits of Office 365 updates is Microsoft’s obvious investment in cybersecurity. With cybercrime becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, software companies have an onus to continuously improve their security measures.
This is because software can be exploited by hackers. Whenever a piece of software is sent on to the market, the security measures are only as good as the existing coding. Clever hackers, however, can find gateways in the coding that enables them to bypass security permissions etc. This is why Microsoft and the other tech behemoths spend billions of $s a year on ‘ethical hackers’ that are employed to identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited before the bad actors do.
The huge advantage of purchasing the cloud-based version is that automatic updates occur more regularly and eliminate the need to manually install security patches to reinforce your system servers to protect sensitive data. This means your IT support providers can focus on maintenance and innovation rather than having to install the latest version of the software onto every device.
7. Affordable Scalable Subscriptions
Depending on the number of users accessing Office 365, the cloud-based service is less expensive and enables organisations to scale up at affordable rates. Adding and removing users can be performed in a matter of clicks and takes about 30 seconds to set up.
With the subscription model, you pay a nominal fee per user per month. So for firms that expect to add a handful of new users or have a fast turnaround of staff, you will probably gain more from the cloud-based Office 365.
However, that is not always the case. If you have a large number of users that work from the office rather than remotely, the less expensive option may be to purchase the traditional plug ‘n’ play software straight from the box. The question will be what you lose going down the traditional route over the modern cloud option.
If you are not sure which option is the most cost-effective, feel free to consult one of our knowledgeable IT support professionals to discuss effective cost-reduction strategies.
8. Customisable Apps
Although Office 365 is ideally suited to businesses that use legacy Microsoft products, the applications are open and scalable APIs. This ensures the programs work with other industry-leading solutions, such as Shopify, SAP, Quickbooks, iOS and Android etc.
The capacity to customise apps presents several advantages that can be highly useful and important for project developers. Apps created in Office 365 are easy to share both within the company and with clients, partners or investors.
In addition, Microsoft 365 Power Apps gives you the ability to customise applications and transform your operational processes. Thanks to a range of pre-coded scripts, the software is extremely user-friendly and provides a wide range of solutions anybody with the most basic development skills can use.
For example, you may want to customers a feature in Power BI, Flow and Azure to enhance the software capabilities in a way that makes your life easier or performs a task that is unique to your business. The customisation may be a combination or integration of standard Office 365 applications and services or something completely unique.
9. Improves the Communication of Ideas
We’ve already spoken about how communication is a critical aspect of any business, both for internal and external use. Yet a surprising number of people struggle to express their ideas in writing or orally. But modern technology can help people to find expression they can’t quite fathom in their minds.
Microsoft Editor is one such tool. The application seeks to provide a fast-track solution to improve the user’s ability to communicate by offering rewrite prompts. Editor can help users write concisely and with more clarity by offering phrases that form a clearer sentence.
The AI-powered service also highlights spelling and basic grammar errors. It’s available across a variety of platforms including Word and Outlook together with standalone browser extensions for Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. It even checks for potential plagiarism.
10. Predictable Spend
The digital landscape is competitive enough and can be difficult for companies to earn their market share. With the increase in living costs, materials, transport and energy, it’s understandable that companies in the UK are searching for solutions that enable you to tighten the reins on their spending.
Taking advantage of Office 365s predictable monthly billing can help account managers to keep an eye on outgoings. And without the possibility of unplanned costs, there is less risk of overspending.
Subscriptions are available for a nominal fee as you can see from the table below.
Enterprise E3 subscriptions
Perpetual Microsoft Office licences require an annual upfront payment. Microsoft keeps its prices a closely guarded secret by not advertising the cost of perpetual licences on their website.
Office Home & Business 2019 is currently priced at £249.99, but as we saw in 2019, Microsoft is prone to price hikes in an attempt to push companies into signing up for a cloud subscription.
Office 365 IT Support Providers
Despite all the benefits of Office 365, the software is not without its limitations. If you are considering investing in Microsoft 365 you should contemplate whether it is a better option to deal with Microsoft directly or whether to use an IT support provider to do the legwork for you. Microsoft’s support desk is notoriously bad.
IT support providers swerve the limitations of Office 365. For example, Microsoft only offers a disaster recovery service for up to 90 days. This means you could lose data without realising it unless you have alternative cloud backup solutions.
Another irksome condition is that Office 365 packages are bundled in relation to the subscription you purchase. However, it could be the case that your business has no need for some of the services you are paying for.
With an outsourced IT support service, you can choose which applications you need and only pay for those services. You also avoid the hassle of dealing with Microsoft’s questionable customer services department which leaves little to be desired.
MicroPro fills the gaps Microsoft 365 fails to resolve. Our team of experienced IT professionals use advanced technologies to ensure your business network is always backed up so you never lose your work.
In addition, we enhance the benefits of Office 365s cybersecurity tools by using 24/7 monitoring and streamlined patch management.
Our disaster recovery service and a reliable WiFi network also help to minimise downtime and data loss. This is never a certainty when cloud servers are hosted on a standard infrastructure offered by telecommunication providers.
We can also help you with problematic configurations. Not all business networks are compatible with Microsoft’s one-size-fits-all software. Although Microsoft 365 is customisable and can work with your existing tools and third-party software, correctly configuring a hybrid network requires experience.
The benefits of Office 365 do deliver a powerful package at a relatively affordable price. It is arguably the most cost-effective solution on the market considering its multitude of applications and security solutions.
That said, the whole package may not work for every business – which is when partnering with an experienced outsourced IT support provider pays dividends.