The concept of cloud computing is growing all the time and recently Microsoft have jumped on the band wagon. Office 365 is Microsoft's answer to cloud computing. If you have heard of or are using Google Apps then you are aware of cloud computing. Office 365 is Microsoft productivity suite offers tools so small, medium and large business access to email, documents, contacts and calendars via a browser from any computer. It is not a new version of Microsoft Office. Within the suite you have Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Lync Online, all running via the cloud.
Office 365 is a full browser based solution that incorporates virtually anywhere-access to webmail, document management and collaboration solutions for professionals, small and medium businesses. The suite can be used on most devices including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.
If you already use Microsoft software such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Office 365 works with these solutions. Microsoft stress it is an easy to use administration console which allows IT administrators easy control of user accounts, access rights, and organisation-wide deployment.
Security wise it uses the latest defences against viruses and spam. Disaster recovery is handled via multiple datacenters and automatic failovers and provides a 99.9% uptime guarantee. The Office 365 Enterprise Plan allows users will be able to connect to SharePoint services using secure https SSL-encrypted connections. In simple terms this means there is a cryptographic system for the secure transmission of documents over the internet. However only enterprise users will get this protection, professional and small business plan users will not get SSL-encrypted defences.
Like all cloud computing solutions Office 365 reduces the time and cost IT technicians would spend patching, upgrading, or updating servers. Plus you have the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere on virtually any device. The plans designed for medium sized businesses offer 24 7 IT help either via phone the web or email and there are plenty of online tutorials. Price wise there are pay-as-you-go options, and you can try for free for 30 days.
Whether this takes over from Google Apps for Business, which I believe is the leader in cloud computing presently, only time will tell. Google claims that it has got over 30 million active users of Google Apps which is a substantial amount. There are various other companies providing cloud-based business e-mail, productivity and collaboration tools such as Zoho, VMware and IBM, but Google is obviously Microsoft's closest rival. Have two large companies such as Google and Microsoft competing to be the leader in Cloud computing can only be a good thing in the long run.