By Ed Mullin
Because you are probably using Office…
Because you are paying for Office…
Because it’s free!!!
Yes, Microsoft has made its signature product set, the Microsoft Office Suite, including Word, Excel, Access and Outlook available in the cloud for free to registered 501c3’s under 3,000 seats. O365 users also get a free SharePoint intranet space as well as an externally facing SharePoint Internet site. This means that you could actually get rid of your current web hosting and use the free SharePoint Hosting to build your publicly facing website.
The information on qualification and the details on various plans can be found at: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/non-profit/compare-office-365-for-nonprofits-plans-FX104081605.aspx
But beyond the awesome price (free) for a set of enterprise productivity products, why would a nonprofit want to switch to Office 365?
The answer to that questions depends greatly on what you are using today.
If you are already using Microsoft products then moving to the cloud version means:
- You will always have the most up-to-date versions of Office.
- Instead of a network “share drive” you can store your documents in the cloud and get to them from anywhere you have an internet connection. And you won’t have to use some clunky VPN.
- Your information will be secured by Microsoft professionals that are available 24x7x365 to support your systems.
- You can use SharePoint for your intranet and extranet, as well as your internet site.
- All the products work seamlessly together.
- For each user seat you utilize, you actually get five copies of office. For example, you could use one on your tablet (including iPad), one on your office desktop and one on your home desktop.
- By having your intranet and file sharing area in the cloud you can collaborate with others much more easily by creating project sites, team sites and shared file storage areas.
If you are not currently using Microsoft products for email, file sharing, or tasks like word processing then moving to O365 means:
- You will now have access to a collection of the best office productivity products that are the Fortune 500 industry standard.
- Perhaps instead of using products from various vendors such as DropBox, Google, SalesForce.com and Apple, that may or may not integrate, you’ll be able utilize a set of products that were designed to work together and that have a standard user interface. This greatly reduces training efforts within the organization. It also makes getting training and books a breeze as these are established products that many vendors support with “how to” books and training courses.
- You will get integrated group calendaring and tasking.
- You’ll get enterprise features like email archiving and the ability to put “legal holds” on user emails, which protect your organization even if an employee leaves. It is often very difficult to perform removal of file sharing rights and email archiving if you utilize individuals personal email accounts or profiles from services like Gmail or Apple.
- You get free website hosting in SharePoint which could mean you could get rid of that bill from your webhosting service.
- It’s easy to find IT companies to support your hard infrastructure because it’s based on an industry standard that is ubiquitous.
- The products are easy to use and very full featured. You won’t believe the number of features you have been missing.
How to try it out:
Changing the software that your organization runs on is not something that should be done without a lot of forethought. First you should take a “test drive”. Microsoft has made it very easy to sign up for a trial of Office 365, but if you want a guide in this process, contact a Microsoft Gold partner in your area. They will be happy to lead you through the process. And really “test drive” the product, not just look at it on the show room floor. What I mean by this is to have people in your organization actually perform their tasks using the O365 trial and make sure you pick people who perform various roles in the organization. The trial is full featured and you can actually build it out completely and then “make it live” when you decide to use it “in production.”
Office 365 has a great number of features and we’ve only covered the basics. There are answers to many frequently asked questions at: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/non-profit/office-365-for-nonprofits-FX104085114.aspx#bkFAQ
Ed Mullin, CIO/Principal, LCG Technologies
Ed can be reached at email@example.com