Office 365 - Why Move to the Cloud?

Hi. My name is Rick Rietz. I'm Director of Consulting Services at DMC. I've spent 20 years in consulting helping small, medium, and large Fortune 500 companies implement IT solutions. This video is intended to help you determine if it's time to move your business to the Cloud. I'll be focusing most of this discussion on Microsoft's Office 365 Cloud offerings.

Let's start by looking at some trends. A few years ago, Forrester did some research and forecasted that there would be 1 billion smartphones in use by 2016. In 2012, we hit 1.2 billion, 4 years earlier than expected. IT systems need to support mobile devices.

Most businesses now have people from three different generations working together. Each generation has their own style and preferences when it comes to using technology. Keeping all three generations happy is a huge challenge for IT. Today, more than half of businesses already have a Cloud solution in place. Any business looking to invest in a new system or replace an aging system should at least consider a Cloud-based solution.

The idea with Office 365 is that you will have a very efficient way in which you can bring your business into the Cloud.  So let's start with some definitions related to Office 365. First of all, you have to understand where you've been in the past, and that starts with on premise systems. On premise systems are typically systems where you've purchased the hardware, you've purchased the software, and you have to manage it yourself. That's evolved overtime, and there's now some professional organizations that'll offer hosting services.  Essentially, you're renting their hardware and their software, as well as their people to maintain those servers and software systems.

Lately, we've really seen a big move towards what's called the Cloud. And with the Cloud, you're also renting these applications and hardware, but it's in a pooled computing environment. So that really lets you take advantage of some of the economies of scale and that'll really drive down the costs of having these systems, and also reduce the cost of when you expand your business and need to grow that infrastructure.

When we're talking about the Cloud, I think you'll notice there's a lot of different drawbacks, some benefits, and just some other things to think about if you're about to move your business into the Cloud. First off, let's take a look at what people are looking for out of their IT departments these days. People work a lot differently than they did a few years ago; people are very mobile these days. They're using all different types of devices, not just a PC or a laptop, but they've got tablets, they've got mobile devices – this is called the consumerization of IT in that people expect to be able to work at work just like they do at home. So, they expect instant access to all different applications no matter where they are or what device they have handy. A lot of people also want to bring those devices to work. With Office 365, Microsoft is trying to give IT the ability to say 'yes' to all of these different demands.

Office 365 has a number of components. First off there’s Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint; that's offered in a variety of different ways. You can install it on your PC or you can use a browser to access those web applications. Exchange, that's email. SharePoint, that's document management, intranet, workflows, and Dashboards. Finally, you have Lync. Lync is designed to give you instant messaging capability, instant video sharing, instant chatting, instant desktop sharing so you can do instant meetings on-the-fly no matter where the people on your team are located.

So, let's talk about some of the drawbacks of looking at a Cloud solution. First off, you're going to have to give up some control. The infrastructure is going to be managed my Microsoft, and in addition, if you have some on- premise systems and you're hoping to feed data from one on premise system into the Cloud or vice versa, that's going to be a little more challenging for you. Finally, authentication; that's something you're going to have to need to evaluate, and there are a few different options for that.

Other things to think about: You are going to rely on somebody outside your organization to maintain this infrastructure on Office 365. The major server upgrades, those are going to be delivered throughout the year so that's good in a lot of cases, but if you're an organization that's maybe a little bit slow to adapt to change, you're going to have to put in some processes to speed that adaptation process up; do a little bit more training so people are familiar with new features when they come out. You're going to have to stay current with those platform upgrades.

A question I get a lot is: What if the internet goes down? If the internet goes down, it's actually not the end of the world. A lot of the Office 365 applications include offline capabilities, such things as Exchange/Outlook can work even though you're not connected to the internet. There's also something called SkyDrive (a.k.a. OneDrive). SkyDrive Pro allows you the same thing; access to documents and information that you might have stored in SharePoint. You can work on those even though you're not connected to the internet. Also, you'll always have the ability to go to a coffee shop, you could work from home, you could work from a neighbor's house - anywhere that has an Internet connection even though yours may be down.

Then there are some real big benefits. You can use Office 365 pretty much anyplace, anytime. Microsoft has a financial guarantee of 99.9% uptime, and they're really the only major Cloud provider that gives you any financial backing to their services. They include 24x7 support; that's via email as well as by telephone. They also include backup: geo-redundant backup. They have multiple datacenters, and all your data will be housed at one datacenter and replicated to another.

New features: Microsoft is actually delivering those to the Cloud before they're delivering them to on premise systems these days. So that's going to be a trend that continues in the future. They've really made it easy for you to share information with other employees as well as some of your vendors.

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the dollar benefits. It's going to be a very low upfront cost, basically nothing. You're going to pay as you go each month. It's a subscription-type of model, so you're not purchasing anything upfront. As I mentioned earlier, all of the upgrades and new versions are included in the subscription; you're not charged extra. Microsoft takes care of applying those updates for you as part of your regular subscription price. The phone and email support is also included. If you add so-and-so many new users, that doesn't mean you have to purchase an additional server.  That's all still included on a per-user subscription model.

If you'd like to learn more about Office 365, we'd welcome an opportunity to talk with you. DMC is a Microsoft Gold Partner, very experienced with Office 365, Azure, SharePoint, CRM, and full lifecycle custom application development as well. If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call. Thank you.

Rick Rietz, Director of Consulting Services, DMC, Inc. 2222 N. Elston Ave., Suite 200 Chicago, IL 60614 (312) 255-8757