Why I Love Office 365

OK, so my company is a Microsoft partner, and we’re supposed to like everything that they throw our way right? That’s actually not true. I’ll certainly give most things that they do a fair shot. It’s also true that I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of capability for either ease of use, or for the way that Microsoft products work well together, but as I noted in a previous post, I only gave up my BlackBerry when Microsoft came out with a product that was worth using.

My company is small (currently 6 people) and widely distributed. Cloud solutions make perfect sense to us,and we have been using Exchange Online for over 2 years now. Our requirements for SharePoint went beyond what was possible in BPOS’ offering, but since migrating to Office 365 6 months ago, the  new SharePoint online fits the bill, and more and more of our corporate assets live there now.

UnlimitedViz is currently primarily a SharePoint services company focused on Business Intelligence, and a significant portion of those services involve architecting SharePoint environments at a lower level, which involves sizing servers, making resource decisions, etc. I personally love designing solutions and watching them come to life. We are certainly more than capable to maintain our own SharePoint infrastructure, so why would we want to use an admittedly more limited version of the product that is maintained by someone else?

Pretty much because it’s maintained by someone else.

As mentioned above we’re small, and we need to be focused on what we do best, which is providing services to our customers, and building product. Maintaining internal systems, no matter how good we are at it, is a distraction, and a significant cost, both capital and operational. The per user cost of Office 365 is pretty simple to justify from just a cost standpoint, but there are many more benefits that are brought to the table.

No matter what the location of a team member, they can easily access what they need to. Lync brings that down to the voice and IM communication level. No need to mess around with access methods, VPNs, Firewalls, Reverse Proxy servers and the like. We can get to our content easily on site, at home via whatever device we happen to need. Granted, I could set that stuff up on-premise, but now I don’t have to! I also know that my data is safe, and the performance is going to be good. Two months ago, Exchange online suffered an outage for about two hours (the only hiccup I’ve experienced so far). My initial reaction was “what can I do to fix this”, but that was quickly superseded by  “It’s not my problem to fix”, so I just sat back and got other work done.

As we bring more customers onto Office 365, supporting them just gets simpler. A simple client request can be acted upon immediately by launching a browser window, and connecting to their site, seamlessly. With most onsite installations, I need to start a virtual machine, connect through a VPN client, and then hope that the correct tools are installed on the VM, or the client site, depending on the access mechanism. I try to keep a VM image available for every type of VPN client used, which is a hopeless and necessary task due to the incompatibilities between clients. In my opinion, the world will be a better place when VPN clients are eliminated (or at least consolidated”).

Customers using Office 365 don’t need VPN clients, and it makes it that much easier (and cheaper for them) for us to support them.

There a a whole bunch of great features about Office 365 (Shared OneNote files accessed via Windows Phone, browser and client is a good one, not to mention Lync), but the reason that I really like it is that it’s solid, it works, and it lets my business focus on using its tools, not maintaining them.

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