I’ve been a skeptic about cloud and mostly writing it off as a fad but once in a while you see where different types of cloud infrastructure can come together to form a beautiful solution that empowers the end user. Keep in mind that Office 365 is more than just Office but a suite of applications running in a data center with most of the mundane administration taken out of the experience. This service is built on enterprise grade architecture and data centers so even the smallest user reaps the benefits of the backend design. This post isn’t to get deep into the details of cloud architecture but more to talk about what Office 365 means to me.
One of the most heavily used features for me is SkyDrive Pro because I am finding myself using the same device less throughout my day or I am test driving a new operating system but don’t want to be tied down to the details with migrating data. Think of this as your file server for your documents that can be accessed from a web browser or a native Windows application. If you are in a bind there are web based versions of several common Office applications so you can open and edit from a web browser. You can also share the data with co-workers inside the organization or people outside the organization if the security settings for the account are set to do so. Since I run a small business being able to share accounting data between my bookkeeper and accountant is critical. Rather than emailing out easy to sniff emails with attachments or forcing people to use cumbersome encryption tools I can use their Microsoft or Office365 accounts to give them access.
When I would be on Microsoft campus for MVP Summit one of the things I quickly picked up on was the religious use of OneNote by some of the product managers. I had gone through training from Franklin Covey years before and I thought this might be a helpful progression in my note taking. Hands down having indexed notebooks that can be pulled up on a laptop is great but being able to get at notes on your phone is even better. I’ve become a convert to the point that I even collect other people’s blog articles and papers into a special OneNote notebook. I would say the key isn’t to try to use OneNote exclusively overnight but try making task lists and notes first then if you feel comfortable try using it to take notes in real time.
Device support beyond Windows phone is necessary to survive in today’s mobile device market and I’m glad that Microsoft has made versions of Office 365 for iPhone and Android. It is common to see users using more than one mobile operating system and in some cases having more than one device that is a certain form factor such as a smart phone. I know you aren’t going to write a paper in Word on a phone but I’ve tweaked slide decks and done informal run-throughs of a presentation before a meeting. It comes down to agility when you are in a less than ideal situation.
If you have a business partner or classmate you need to share and edit documents with they can sign up for a Microsoft account online and use the touch friendly web based versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Word and more. And if they happen to be a home user I find the Office 365 Home licensing enticing as it can be installed on up to five Windows PC or Apple OS X devices. In addition the suite can be installed onto another five Android and iPhone devices. Office 365 home is a great way for families to stay legitimate with Microsoft licensing and not have to shell out big money when there is an upgrade or a need for extra licenses. I definitely think this will be the way of the future for Office in the home and small business, I believe the enterprise customer will eventually get on board but will be more conservative when it comes to embracing cloud services such as Office 365 but I definitely do not see this being any sort of fad that will be disappearing any time soon.
If you are a TechNet or MSDN subscriber check out the trail subscription included with your benefits. If you want to do a single user pilot it is less than ten dollars Canadian a month to do so. For more information and to sign up for Office 365 go to the following page and give it a test drive: http://www.microsoft.com/MicrosoftOffice365