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Grow Your Business Technology

Office 365 Levels the Playing Field for Small Businesses

Christopher Pyle, President and CEO of Champion Solutions Group/MessageOps, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Microsoft Office 365 has revolutionized the marketplace for entrepreneurs, giving the small business owner the opportunity to compete with larger businesses.

Office 365 is essentially enterprise-class communication and collaboration software for small and medium businesses. In the past, small businesses would use Popmail, Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo; their options were limited to whatever was free or inexpensive. The enterprise-class of software, including exchange and outlook, has always been powerful enough for large corporations but unaffordable for small businesses.

While small to mid-size businesses haven't been able to compete with larger entities' software productivity models, they have always had the advantage of greater flexibility and market response; much as a canoe doesn't have the sheer power of a cruise ship, it can change direction at a much quicker pace. Now, in addition to their advantageous flexibility, there is no upfront capital requirement for software as service programs. Office 365 works on a pay as you use it basis with a monthly contract, making it easy to add or retract seats as needed due to the absence of any mandatory long-term commitment.

It is a dramatic shift in competitive advantage that not only are small businesses nimble, but now combined with the enterprise class technology of Office 365, they run on the same engine as the huge "cruise ship" corporations.

A small business can now have email, calendaring, instant messaging, high definition web meetings, a professional-grade website and collaboration through SharePoint just for a few dollars a month per person. When this enterprise-class suite only costs a company between four and 15 dollars a month per person, there is no reason mom and pop shops can't compete with the more recognizable brands.

Office 365 is built in the cloud, and is a GO redundant beta center, meaning that a company's access is always on. The cloud allows small businesses to take advantage of the built-in data redundancy plan. This is an extremely practical function: as recently as Super Storm Sandy there was a widespread loss of server functionality, power and data. Many small businesses lost important documentation because they were not able to afford the security of a cloud data recovery systems. This is no longer the case, as boutiques and mid-size companies are moving to Office 365 at a blinding pace.

"Champion alone has migrated tens of thousands of mailboxes from hundreds of small and midsize businesses to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud," says Pyle. "The adoption of Microsoft's software-as-a-service solution gives the small business owner unprecedented security, redundancy and collaboration."

The impact of this change is clear: the competitive balance is shifting heavily toward small businesses. No longer the sole domain of the high-end corporation, web meetings with high definition cameras, live chat collaboration, federation (instant messaging customer service so customers do not have to spend valuable time waiting on hold) and professional websites are now easily attainable for any size business.

Because the current generation of new employees are more tech-savvy than any generation previous, Office 365 includes full functionality and access on up to five devices for all products. Even though businesses pay per individual user, each user can have access on all of their respective devices.

This means that an employee who is traveling for work will be able to whip out his or her iPad, Galaxy or any other mobile device, and access 25 gigabytes of mailbox space, the full versions of word, excel, powerpoint, outlook, one note and all the other popular MS Office software. This all comes on a per seat basis, sparing the need to go to a store in person, businesses can just order online and pay the same way.

The new class of workers entering the marketplace expects their employers to have tools like Office 365 because they've been utilizing them for years. If small businesses care about longevity, attracting talent is key — and having the Office suite of software is vital to attract and retain quality employees. When a business does decide to migrate to Office 365, working with a certified cloud provider has many benefits, such as help with:

  • Assessments / proof of concepts
  • Migration Services
  • Data recovery plans
  • Templates
  • Security
  • Ongoing Support

 The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.

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