While most people have heard of Office 365, not everyone understands what it is, let alone the expansive advantages offered by an Office 365 license. As a Technology Integration Specialist, I spend a lot of my day talking about Office 365, both at work and at home. It is not uncommon for me to ask people if they use Office 365 at their place of employment. Most often, the answer is "Yes." Inquiry then takes over and I usually follow up by asking what all they use it for. Typically, people reply with "we use it for email," or "I use Outlook, Word and Excel mostly." Rarely do people answer in a way that demonstrates they are actually utilizing the tools and getting the full value from their investment. This begs me to ask—What good is the technology we are paying for, if we don't know how to use it to their best advantage?
And that is why I love my job. It provides me the opportunity to step up and share all the benefits of Office 365 and, in turn, truly impact users' work lives and the success of entire businesses. Office 365 has the ability to become a game changer for any business, regardless of their size. This is not an exaggeration. The suite of apps included in Office 365 can and will change how you work for the better.
I will save my ramblings on all the great applications included with the standard Office 365 licenses for another blog post. In this article I want to share what I believe to be the 5 key Office 365 benefits:
- Mobility & Accessibility
- Collaboration & File Sharing
- Enriched Communication
- Integrations & Customization
- Enhanced Security
Mobility and Accessibility
Probably one of the most recognized of the Office 365 benefits is mobility. Forbes reports that 50% of the workforce will soon be remote. With Office 365, remote employees are able to work as though they were present in the office. So, when workers are at a conference for a few days or have a sick child and need an unexpected work-from-home day, they'll be able to carry on with business as normal. Or if you have employees, branches, or sister companies that you are geographically separated from, it no longer has to feel like your work is isolated or disconnected. Office 365 connects the team and allows for 24/7 access to all work resources from almost anywhere.
Utilizing the cloud for file storage allows you to instantly access any file, photo or email whenever or wherever you need to. SharePoint and OneDrive for Business allow you the ability to work on a document using one device, then continue editing from a different device later. You no longer need to worry about properly ejecting that USB-thumb drive that you constantly misplace or emailing files to yourself. Instead, you can login to your Microsoft account and have access to all of your documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. This could have saved me hours of tears and months of work eight years ago when I lost my cute thumb-drive keychain that held all of my personally created teaching curriculum in Chicago. Fast forward a few years and, thanks to Office 365, I recently just delivered an entire PowerPoint presentation for a Client off of my iPhone after my laptop died.
While the cloud is reliant on the internet, work does not have to stop when connectivity stops. If internet is not available, files in OneDrive or SharePoint can be synchronized locally for instant access from your device. In addition, most Office 365 packages allow you to install the full offline versions of the Microsoft programs users are most familiar and comfortable with. So, even when you are without internet access, you can still load up a program like Word or Excel and carry on working as normal. Then, once there's connection to the internet, all the changes are synced and pushed back up to the cloud.
This brings us to my next Office 365 benefit.
Collaboration and File Sharing
Having files stored in the cloud allows employees to seamlessly connect with the documents, information, and projects they need to perform their jobs. SharePoint makes it easy to create and share business information from a single location and allows users to see real-time edits or additions their colleagues are making to a document. It also saves each version automatically, so you can revert to older versions easily and even see who has made changes.
Gone are the days where you send around an email attachment and keep updating the file name to v.6, v.7, v.8…. and forget which number is actually the current version. Employees no longer need to e-mail back and forth with each other asking opinions, implementing changes and then sending an updated version back for approval again. Regardless of device, or user, everyone is seeing the most up-to-date version of the document eliminating the risk of two employees working simultaneously on separate copies of a document. Everything happens in real-time and is tracked, allowing collaboration and teamwork to prevail.
I mentioned above that most Office 365 licenses include download of the full version desktop Office Application, now would be a good time to point out that those Office Apps automatically update monthly with the newest features, keeping all users on the same version of Office, and eliminating annoying compatibility issues as well.
File sharing is easy. There's no need to attach large files to emails. When attaching a file you have the option of attaching a cloud link or you can simply copy and paste the URL and the recipient can access the documents at their end, in real time, at the same time as you. The cloud sharing security provides the ability to be as strict or lenient as desired for your collaboration needs. Alternatively, if you do just want to attach a copy of a file or only allow someone access to reach and not edit a document, those options are available as well.
What about sharing with customers? Hired Contractors? Or other external users? No problem. Collaboration with people outside your organization is simple. You can see what clients are editing, or what contributions a freelancer has made the same way you would see changes made from another user inside your organization. Contrary to what many people think, external users do not even need their own Office 365 account in order to access shared items. You can still securely and easily share files with non-Microsoft users.
Collaboration may be easy with Office 365, but the Microsoft Teams platform is what really makes it efficient and valuable by facilitating some of the best collaboration possible and filling the gaps in business communication.
That is our next noteworthy of the Office 365 benefits.
Microsoft Teams is one of the newer Office 365 products that allows companies to customize their collaboration solutions. It offers a breadth of tools providing productivity gains and enriched communication. Team communication fosters knowledge sharing, which generates productivity and creates a healthy company culture with increased employee engagement. Microsoft Teams provides the ability to work with others across your organization in an environment where all the resources you need are centralized. Teams enables communication between users, groups, and even structured teams. It even allows guests external to your business to participate. Each conversation can be tailored with specific features to help make teamwork as efficient as possible. In addition, users are quick to adopt Teams as a communication tool because it still allows for creativity and innovation.
The chat function on Microsoft Teams allows you to have threaded conversation. It stores your private chats, Team conversations, conference calls, and other meetings into one, searchable, easy to find place. The ability to easily share files in the conversations eliminates the headaches of having to search through thousands of emails to find what you are looking for. Now it is easier than ever to piece together everyone's contributions when developing projects or have full transparency with team information.
Each team is given its own email address as well, so now instead of CCing all ten people in your department on that client email, you can CC the Team and the email will automatically appear (and stay archived) in the Team conversation. This has proven to be one of the most loved features I share with clients!
Thanks to Microsoft Teams, you now have everything at your fingertips. And when I say everything, I mean much more than just chats, meetings and other communication tools… that brings me to the fourth of the Office 365 benefits.
Integrations and Customizations
If you believe in the philosophy 'work smarter, not harder', then this benefit is for you.
I mentioned how Teams acts as a centralized location for collaboration tools. While it does connect to email, calendars, documents, and all of your Office Applications, the integrations don't stop there. Many of the popular third-party software programs can be integrated and tied into Teams or installed as Outlook plugins as well. The Marketing Team can stream their twitter updates or YouTube channel right inside the Team. Project Leaders can connect to Zoho, Asana, Trello, or one of many other PM tools available for integration. The possibilities are practically endless!
Office 365 also has built in applications like Delve and My Analytics that provide invaluable data and insight into the work you do. The Business Analytics built into Office 365 help you gather, organize and analyze your data. Dashboards are created and used to evaluate and better understand the analytics, which in turn allows employees to work most efficiently. Microsoft now has AI powered features built into PowerPoint presentations that suggest layouts, designs and images to make presentations easily customizable and always looking professional.
While it is nice to have all of your tech tools and resources accessible from one easy location, it is even better when these tools work together, or when you have the ability to customize them and improve or automate many of your day-to-day tasks. SharePoint and OneDrive give your company the capability to streamline and automate key processes. As we mentioned before the cloud makes it easier than ever to transmit data, track information, manage documents, and work together without confusion or delays. With Office 365, you can take this even further and customize processes and business solutions using Microsoft Flow and PowerApps. These Office 365 Applications allow you to develop personalized solutions that best suit the unique needs of your staff members, maximizing ease of use and productivity.
Utilizing integrations and the customization features available in Office 365 can increase your employees productivity ten-fold. And a more productive workforce means better business efficiency and profitability.
The last, but definitely not least, important benefit I want to highlight with Office 365 is…
Security is a major concern for businesses today. Ransomware attacks, fraud schemes and other cyber threats are emerging by the day, in both multitude and complexity. Having inadequate security could expose your company to a major breach, data losses, and compromise the integrity and reputation of your entire business. Microsoft knows that one of the most important considerations when choosing a cloud-based service is security. Office 365 for business includes built-in security elements that protect users from external threats, as well as features that allow administrators to setup internal access controls and protective policies.
Office 365 applications utilize data encryption, both when accessing the data as well as when it is just being stored. Office 365 leverages 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption which is one of the most secure, widely used encryption methods. If you are anything like me, that technical jargon can be a foreign language. In plain terms, 128-bit encryption primarily refers to the length of the encryption or decryption key. For example, it would take 2128 different combinations to break the encryption key. It is considered secure and practically unbreakable because it would take massive computational power and impractical timeframes to be cracked.
Office 365 also comes with its own built-in threat detection which scans your emails and attachments and protects you from malicious content and malware. In addition, the admin center allows for a variety of reports that monitor user behavior, and help ensure compliance with any internal policies.
Many companies have raved about Microsoft's ability to assist with their Mobile Device Management (MDM), and Identity Security. If a user loses their smartphone or laptop, Office 365 allows the administrator to remotely wipe all office 365 data and email from that device, without having to delete or disable the account; the user still has full access to their account and information from their other devices.
Alternately, O365 Mobile Application Management (MAM), can offer control over the Office apps and data without infringing upon personal applications or data for BYOD scenarios. Office 365 Plans are available that include MDM, MAM, and additional security options to allow organizations to adhere to enterprise data security, privacy and compliance standards in a way that best fits their need and culture.
So, what's next?
These are only a select few of the Office 365 benefits for business delivers. Want to learn more about Office 365? Do you need help creating or implementing a plan to utilize all of the great apps and features available with your licenses? Or maybe you are interested in hearing how you can migrate to Office 365 and start transforming your business? Whether you are new to Office 365 or are an existing Microsoft customer, InsITe can help you increase your return on investment and get the most out of your licenses.