Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) is the collective name for the suite of workplace productivity tools from Microsoft. There are very few people these days who are lucky enough to get through a working week without having to use a computer, and for those of us less fortunate, the chances are that at some point in our lives we will have used either Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. It's these ubiquitous apps, among others, that Microsoft has packed up into a service that much to the delight of business workers the world over is available for consumption three hundred and sixty five days a year, day or night, from any location.
At Impelling we understand that using these applications is far from the most exciting thing you can do with a computer, but they are essential tools for getting work done and people in businesses need a way to collectively do that work with as little friction as possible. Our Managed IT Support service is actually designed around the entire principle that if you need to use a computer as part of your job, it should be as easy and frictionless as possible, but that's another blog post for another day. In this post we'll be focusing on the Microsoft 365 Cloud Solutions aspect of the service, explaining why it's our preferred choice of platform ahead of apps and services that do similar things, and answering the all important question… What are the advantages of using Office 365?
Ah yes, remote working, the thing we were all talking about during the pandemic and still can't shut up about. Bear with me though, I do have a point. If your usual routine for working on a document with someone else goes something like shouting "Oi Dave. Did you get that document I sent over?" across the office, and Dave happens to be working from home, you're going to be a little bit stuck.
Documents that you create with Microsoft 365 live in the cloud, so first off you don't actually need to send Dave anything. You can just invite him into your document and like magic you'll see him making edits, correcting your typos and toning down some of the more extreme political statements that made it into the document. Doing things this way ensures there's no confusion over versioning too, nobody can accidentally add their edits to an older document that was sent weeks ago, everyone involved is always editing the latest most up to date document, spreadsheet or presentation.
Collaboration in this way is further aided by Microsoft's latest, slightly odd, slightly purple creation - Teams. I say slightly odd because nobody - even those who work for Microsoft - has ever been able to tell me concisely what Teams does. Instead, I just seem to get told "it keeps getting better and better". That's partly because Teams does a lot, and yes they do keep adding features, but also partly because the Teams conception (its modern form at least) seems to have happened on one of those nights early on in lockdown where the full extent of the pandemic was only just beginning to sink in, and with a lack of alternative options excessive alcohol intake was the only way many of us could cope. As a result some strange decisions were made. I decided to shave all my hair off for example. Microsoft made Teams.
None of that stops it being useful though. Teams allows you to do anything from co-ordinate whole projects to chat about small changes on individual files. It links in beautifully with your organisation's email structure meaning video calls, chats, and collaboration on files with your colleagues feels easy and surprisingly natural. Teams can even replace your company's entire phone system if you want it to, allowing for a fluid bridge between desk phones, mobile devices, and video calls alike.
The truth is we don't need Teams to figure out its identity because it's quickly becoming the central tool at the heart of many an organisation. It's a natural place to start almost any task at work, and it's being adopted and embraced because it's intuitive and it does that all important task of removing friction to make necessary computer work that little bit easier. Best of all Teams is free. You'll still need to buy a Microsoft 365 license, but all of the functionality is included at no additional cost.
Planning a good data security strategy should be a little bit like preparing for a siege. One method of defence on its own probably isn't going to keep out the hordes of attackers, but if you have several layers of defences all working together, you might just stand a chance.
We love Office 365 (or Microsoft 365 to be more precise) because it provides a number of tools that can be leveraged to build up an all important multi layered security strategy. Multi factor authentication, encrypted email, and advanced threat detection are just some of the features available.
Fancy names for fancy features that probably don't mean much to your average Word, Excel, and Outlook user I know, but the point is there's no other comparable product to Microsoft 365 that offers you as many tools that can be leveraged to build a robust layered defence. The downside is that there's a lot of configuration, and without professional help it's unlikely organisations can achieve good levels of security. But that's where your IT support provider comes in. Here at Impelling we take data security seriously, and building effective siege defences for our customers is all part and parcel of the service.
The youths of today won't remember a time when you had to boot your workstation and connect into the mainframe before you get any work done. Microsoft's birth was in this period, and it's only recently that they moved away from the on premise centralised server model, to embrace a more 21st century cloud based approach with Microsoft365.
This means, believe it or not, there are still many businesses operating with a server on site that does things like co-ordinate logins, store emails, and offer shared drives for storing documents. With Microsoft 365, all of this stuff happens "in the cloud". It all works in more or less the same way, it's just Microsoft manages things for you, and connections happen securely over the internet instead of internally through your buildings network.
As you can imagine, doing things the modern way and getting on board the Microsoft 365 cloud train has a number of benefits. The most obvious one is that businesses don't need to buy and maintain an expensive, often noisy server, and find somewhere to keep it on site. Less capex, quicker setup times, and a lower skill barrier to get running are all other great reasons to go serverless with Microsoft 365.
Among the other advantages of Office 365 is the ability to do your work on the go, using nearly any type of device. Emails on your phone while you're on a train. Check. Updating an excel spreadsheet using an iPad from a hotel room on the other side of the world. Check. Showing off to colleagues by joining a Teams video call using your fancy new fridge. Check.
With all your files in the Microsoft 365 cloud, it's easy to get to them, and with iOS, Android, and web based versions of most Microsoft apps available you can do your work from nearly any device.
Single sign on (or SSO if you want to sound clever the next time you find yourself at a social event stuck talking to someone who works in IT) is another great answer to the "why Office 365?" question. Single sign on allows your IT provider to set up apps and services to accept logins via your Microsoft 365 account. The benefits for doing this are twofold, first as a user it makes the login process so much smoother. Usually you'll be logged into your Microsoft account anyway, and generally services that work with SSO will recognise that and just let you straight in. It's lovely.
The other great benefit SSO brings is security. Again I'm going to stress that anything security related needs to be configured properly by professionals, but when done right SSO through Microsoft 365 brings an extra layer of security.
Rounding off the advantages of Office 365 are a couple of points about how we consume software. Back in the olden days software was sold in boxes. I remember a time upgrading the family PC with my dad where we sat loading a box of floppy disks into the computer one by one, and then typing the code from the box into the computer to activate it and make it all work. Thankfully the internet has made it so that we don't have to truck a box full of disks to every user every time they want to update, and Microsoft 365 handles updates seamlessly, and automagically via the internet. There are no license codes to type in or manage either, which means users get the most up to date versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel etc.
Impelling are a Microsoft Partner, which not only means we're accredited and have Microsoft's stamp of approval on our technical ability, but it also means that we have access to competitive pricing on Microsoft 365 solutions. Microsoft 365 sits at the core of our managed IT service, and our team really know how to best leverage it to ensure that it's a tool that can help drive an organisation forward. Get in touch if you'd like to find out more about how Impelling can help your business.
Ed Hardie, Technical DirectorA software developer by trade, Ed takes on the technical challenges involved with running a digital business. Still actively involved with the development of many projects, Ed keeps a close eye on the emerging trends and technologies within the industry. Read more posts by Ed Hardie