Not everyone needs to be on Office 365 cloud service. If you are running a small business or you need an office suite for home use only, then Office 2019 will most likely be enough.
However, with Microsoft attempting to shift everyone to their subscription service, you might want to rethink whether it should already be the time to make the leap from the traditional perpetual-license versions of Office to an Office 365 subscription.
In theory, making that switch offers multiple advantages. You get a predictable cost instead of having to budget for upgrades every few years. You can install Office apps on multiple devices without activation hassles. Continuous updates and improvements remove some of the headaches of having to buy, install and manage upgrades every few years. You also get access to an ever-expanding assortment of cloud-based services.
But making the decision to switch is just the first step. Much more important is choosing the right Office 365 edition. And with more than a dozen editions to choose from, it’s easy to make the wrong decision but hard to make the right one.
KEY CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE THE SHIFT
Microsoft Office 2019 is still around and we don’t know if Microsoft will really take it out from its products soon. But you might want to assess these points to know if you should already start doing the shift. Besides, it will be a big hassle to abruptly go to the other side when you are not prepared, much more when you are running a business with a couple of employees who use the office suite in their daily tasks.
Security and compliance
When migrating any corporate information to the cloud, security and compliance are often the top concerns. However, when researching cloud initiatives with your security colleagues, you will find that they are often very supportive of moving to the larger cloud providers like Microsoft. The truth of the matter is that an Office 365 tenant is typically more secure than your on-premises environment.
Why and how? Well, Microsoft has put a lot of effort into ensuring the technology that holds corporate data is secured. Their infrastructure is top notch, highly available, redundant, and patched. Are all of these true of our own infrastructure? If not, then Office 365 is already more secure than your onsite deployment.
Some organizations immediately shutdown the idea of shifting to Office 365 because of the monthly subscription fee. Now, the reality of this is that there is an expense tied to moving to cloud. It’s not free, but it’s not off the charts, either.
When you move to the cloud you are accepting the fact that you are paying someone else to keep your infrastructure up to date. This means that you are no longer in the business of buying servers and storage, patching, maintenance windows, cooling a datacenter, and having staff to run it all. In other words, it’s shift from your capital budget to your operating budget.
One other thing to remember in your financial strategy is that you should expect to have a period where your data is both in the cloud and you will still be maintaining your onsite infrastructure, creating some cost overlap.
It’s important to consider whether or not there will be any residual effects to functionality when moving to Office 365. Things will be different and there will be some learning curve for users but in general, you will find that most things work very similar if you already have Microsoft products in your organization. Just plan for some user training.
That being said, there are definitely some functionality differences to considered in advance of a deployment. Here we go:
- Do you need a seamless experience, so that your business users can still access all their information as if it was on-premises? In most cases the answer to this question is a resounding yes, so make sure you research and implement identity options such as Active Directory Federation Services or similar. Having a plan to provide the single sign on experience your users expect is fundamental to the success of your project.
- Test and then pilot the areas of Office 365 you expect to deploy to your organization. Their feedback will drive the success or failure of this project. IT departments today deploy what the business needs, and not whatever they want. In my experience, proper testing is necessary or your project will fail.
- Know that with Office 365 there are layers of redundancy of data, recycle bins, version control, and retention policy, but there are not any actual backups. Before you can decide if you will be comfortable without backups, take some time to understand the inner workings of Microsoft’s options and then compare these against the recovery and uptime expectations of your organization.
Should we consider hosted email, too?
What about putting your email in Office 365 Exchange Online? Microsoft’s Exchange Online is one of the most preferred email hosting service out there. If you have a business and you want to look professional to your clients and partners – which should be the case – you should consider getting your own email domain than using free email services.
Does this affect your job?
Does cloud really have the potential to take away our jobs in IT? First, the reality is that we are a long way off from any organization moving to all cloud, and there is still much to learn and do should we actually get there. Keep in mind that as we shift to a cloud strategy it means that technical staff has the time and opportunity to expand their wings and learn other types of technology.
Even in the event that someday we see all organizations achieving an all cloud strategy, there is still work to be done—consider cloud to cloud migrations, for example. Also remember that IT supports the business, and that businesses runs on technology. We will always be there to help them.
OFFICE 365 OPTIONS
Now, after doing some assessments and you find that Office 365 is really what your business needs, then here are three options you can choose from for shifting to Microsoft Office 365:
Office 365 Home
If your business is literally a one-person shop, you might be tempted to choose an Office 365 Home subscription over one of the more expensive Office 365 business editions. That decision might even make sense if your requirements are modest enough.ge Image
Despite the name, there are no license restrictions to prevent you from using Office 365 Home in a business setting. For less than 100 USD per year, each subscription is tied to a single Microsoft account and gives you access to the full suite of Office desktop programs: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, with Publisher and Access available on Windows PCs only.
It also upgrades the free OneDrive cloud storage associated with your Microsoft account to 1TB and upgrades your free Outlook.com account to a 50GB ad-free mailbox.
You can share this subscription with up to five different Microsoft accounts, each of which gets to install the Office desktop apps and has its own 1TB OneDrive allotment and upgraded mailbox.
Despite the name, there are no license restrictions to prevent you from using these apps in a business setting.
Who it’s best for: Sole proprietors who already have a business email address and simply want convenient access to the latest Office desktop apps on up to five PCs.
Office 365 Business Premium
Each Business Premium subscription costs 150 USD per year. Like the Home edition, it allows you to install the Office desktop programs on up to five PCs. It also includes Exchange Online email, with a custom domain, 1TB of secure OneDrive for Business cloud storage, and a collection
of online collaboration features, including SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. Recent additions also include customer relationship management tools.
The biggest difference between home and business editions starts with who manages the account. Each Office 365 Home subscription is managed by an individual user with a Microsoft account. Business and enterprise subscriptions belong to an organization and are managed centrally, with an administrator assigning licenses to users in the organization.
The Business Premium plans include Exchange Online email that is tied to one or more custom domains associated with your business.
The Business Premium plans include Exchange Online email that is tied to one or more custom domains associated with your business. You can create email aliases (such as email@example.com) to make your small business look a bit bigger.
Business and enterprise plans include security features you can’t get with a Home or Personal subscription, including multifactor authentication, self-service password reset and alerts for security issues such as possible breaches.
Although you can buy one license at a time, the business editions of Office 365 include management tools that are designed for a dedicated IT department or a consultant. If you want to manage your own Business Premium subscription, make sure you’re comfortable with technical tasks such as configuring DNS and MX records for your email domain.
Who it’s best for: Small businesses that want each employee to have full access to Office desktop apps along with a custom email address associated with the business.
Planning for growth: Office 365 Enterprise E3
Microsoft offers a dizzying menu of options for its enterprise customers, including Office 365 ProPlus ($12 a month), which includes just the desktop programs and OneDrive for Business storage, as well as the Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 packages, which bundle online services with those apps.
Although these plans are intended primarily for large corporations, they might make sense for a small business such as a law office or health services consultant that has to comply with industry-specific regulations such as HIPAA. In addition to the services included with a Business Premium plan, the $20-a-month Enterprise E3 plan offers security and compliance tools, such as the ability to place a legal hold on an email account and data loss prevention tools.
An Enterprise subscription also future-proofs your growing business. Unlike the Business Premium plan, which limits the total number of users to 300, you can purchase an unlimited number of enterprise licenses and mix and match the ProPlus, E1, E3 and E5 plans. Here, too, the management interface can be daunting and is best left to a professional consultant or a managed service provider.
Who it’s best for: Businesses that need to project a professional image with email and file-sharing tied to a custom domain, as well as those who have to comply with industry-specific regulatory requirements.