How the New Microsoft Office 365 Can Work for Small Business

Microsoft Office365 from AT&TThe idea behind the new Office 365 is that there are two key needs for small businesses these days: mobile accessibility and streamlined IT. After all, time spent dealing with tech headaches is time you’re not actually working on your business. Office365 seeks to streamline your tech by providing all your productivity apps through one cloud-based service, and can include the Microsoft Office Suite so many of us have come to rely on.

Exchange Online
Exchange email is probably not a new idea for you. The trouble is, running an exchange server for email is complicated and not cheap. Microsoft has figured out how to have exchange email live online, so you can sync and manage email, calendars and contacts across devices. There are even shared calendars, just like the real (now old-fashioned) deal.

SharePoint Online
This is Microsoft’s cloud-based answer to your normal office server. You can use it to share MS Office and web apps documents, collaborate on documents in real-time, and create microsites for specific projects.

Microsoft Lync
Office 365’s videoconferencing feature. There’s screen-sharing and instant messaging, and it works like Skype to tell you when contacts are online.

Office Web Apps
We talked about Office Web Apps in greater detail earlier this week, but basically it’s MS Office in the cloud, so you can get it on any device.

Bottom Line
Microsoft has put all their best online productivity tools into one package to compete with Skype, Google Apps, and with themselves: the future of productivity is mobile and cloud-based, and they get that. That’s why Office 365 will let you recreate your office environment on just about any device, including tablets and smartphones, and works across operating systems (Windows 8, iOS, Android). A small business can rapidly deploy Office 365 without having to worry about what device employees have and how it will interact with their email server.

So what does this all cost? Well, it’s priced per user, so it may be more affordable than you think. Plans for individuals start at $6 a month per user, while the enterprise plan starts at $8 a user. You can also order services a la carte, so the best bet is to take a look at all the plan configurations and see which is right for your business. Take a look at all the Office365 options being offered by AT&T.