Microsoft’s Office 365 has often been touted as the best productivity suite on the planet – which is a hard title for any piece of software to live up to, but many users felt that in the past few years, it has really delivered. There is now greater integration between apps than ever before and the software suite seems to be embracing the mobile generation and offering applications that help people to work on the go. 2015 saw some fantastic apps and services from Office 365, many aimed at collaboration across devices and documents. Apps like OneNote, OneDrive and Skype for Business are becoming industry standards and it feels like Microsoft has finally taken the cloud to its heart and is looking to the future.
So let’s take a closer look at some of the developments and releases in 2015 and look at how they could impact on small and medium businesses like yours.
Skype for Business
It was back in 2014 that Microsoft announced that Lync would be replaced by Skype for Business. So how’s the software working out? It seems that Skype has proved popular with small businesses who may not want to invest in a full VoIP telephony system and who are already familiar with the Skype interface. The basic Skype for Business service works out cheap, around £1.30 on a per-user basis, and offers a raft of useful features. You can host video meetings of up to 250 people and the app supports land lines and mobiles. In addition, integration with Office 365 means you can initiate calls from Outlook calendar and share screens and documents without leaving the program.
Skype’s AES encryption offers a high level of security and you have great control over accounts and which members of your staff can access which program features, so administrators have a great deal of control. With Skype for Business, you can set up a quite sophisticated conference room. And if you’re willing to upgrade to £3.50 per user each month, you can enjoy HD video and Outlook schedule integration and the ability to record meetings. The main advantage is that you get a system that integrates calls of all types, be they from landlines or mobile, so you can save money on your traditional phones if your business makes a lot of calls.
OneDrive for Business
OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service and it’s appeared in various guises over the years. But 2015 saw it settle as a key component of the Office 365 operating system. And it’s being heavily promoted currently, with Microsoft giving away large amounts of storage as a way of encouraging people to keep their data, pics and music in OneDrive. This makes it a good option for people who use devices like tablets and mobile phones to do business as these tend to have limited storage and need backing up. When it comes to business users specifically, OneDrive can help store your most important data as you have 1TB of storage space per user as part of your Office 365 plan. But as the IT manager you get the option to allocate storage as you see fit.
The main advantage of OneDrive for business is that it makes collaboration easy. A “Shared with Everyone” folder simplifies document sharing and you can select who sees what. Document management has also been improved and users can follow documents and be updated about changes made. They can also check documents in and out, when they are working on them, to prevent others making changes. Some users have complained that OneDrive for business can be quite slow when it comes to downloads – but it seems that the app is very much here to stay for the time being.
Everyone knows Microsoft’s famous Office Suite. It was released back in 1988, so many of us have grown up using Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. Indeed, Office sets the standards for many other business applications. Office 2016 was released back in July of last year and came with a fresh new look and host of new features not only for Windows users but also for Macs and Mobile. Again, collaboration has been enhanced with a share button in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. People you’re sharing with are clearly listed and can choose to communicate with them via email IM or Skype. Outlook has a new feature too – a list of recent files that pops up when you want to add an email attachment. The most recent file is usually the one you’re seeking. So it brings some much needed convenience to emailing.
With Microsoft adding more and more regular features to Office, it seems the best way to get the application is via subscription rather than as a software package, but this is still an option in the 2016 version.
Office 365 Planner
The end of 2015 saw the release of a preview version of Office Planner, a project management tool. This is supposed to help arrange teamwork, create plans and assign tasks within a group via an easy to follow and mainly visual interface. It also acts as a hangout where you can chat about projects and get updated on progress. First reports show that the app is useful when it comes to brainstorming and collaboration. All tasks and projects can be seen at a glance in one dashboard which notifies group members when changes are made. It looks like this app will really take off, based on feedback by early adopters.
Office 365 Groups
Another late release in 2015 was Office 365 groups in Outlook. This is yet another collaboration tool that simplifies sharing inboxes, documents, calendars and notebooks when working on projects in public or private groups. People can easily post messages and share ideas with the option to start a Skype for Business call when urgent decisions need to be made. An Outlooks group app means you can continue this group work, on the go. This app works on the latest version of Outlook for Windows.
If you want to know more about any of the recent releases for Microsoft Office 365, you should give us a call here at Damson Cloud. We have a wide range of experience in all of Microsoft’s offerings, and we’d love to help you out. Let us find you a solution that boosts your business.