In a sweeping revamp of its Office 365 product line, Microsoft today unveiled a new Small Business Premium edition of the cloud-enabled productivity suite.
First launched in 2011, Office 365 is Microsoft's answer to the booming cloud-based business application market. Also available in midsized and enterprise flavors, the offering blends locally installed Office applications with cloud-enabled collaboration, communications and online document syncing and sharing.
A Hybrid Approach to Small Business Software
In a challenge to Microsoft’s venerable Office software product slate, rivals like Google have floated cloud-based apps in recent years. Microsoft, on the other hand, is betting that a hybrid approach to business software is the way to go.
Julia White, general manager for Microsoft Office, told Small Business Computing that Office 365 Small Business Premium is a "new premium offering that now includes the whole Office suite experience." And it's affordable too, she added. Office 365 Small Business Premium costs $150 per user per year, which translates to $12.50 per user per month, a discount from the month-to-month subscription cost of $15.
It's a bargain, claims White. For that price, small businesses get cloud-based, big-business features, such as profiles and documents that roam with users along with the core Office applications. The Small Business Premium bundle includes Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Access and Lync.
Other features include HD videoconferencing and website-building tools and Web hosting. Office 365 Small Business Premium offers 25 GB of cloud storage for email and shared calendars. If users don't have access to the desktop software versions of their Office application, they can stream the software to any Internet-connected Windows 7 or 8 PC with the Office in Demand feature.
Documents authored or edited in Office 365 Small Business Premium are always up to date; provided you have an Internet connection, changes synch across devices -- PC, Mac and Windows tablets -- courtesy of Microsoft's cloud infrastructure.
Microsoft designed the Office 365 Small Business Premium for organizations with a headcount of 10 or fewer employees, and White said that small businesses get the functionality that they expect from Office minus the administration and user management features that are really only applicable to big enterprise environments.
For instance, a small business owner can set up users as easily and quickly as they sign up for popular consumer cloud offerings via the Office 365 Web-based administration console. User setup takes seconds, according to the company. Likewise, administrators can manage email accounts, set control access and establish document sharing policies from anywhere and without a background in IT.
Software updates that grind everything to a halt are also a thing of the past, according to White. As Microsoft updates Office 365, the service pushes out the changes automatically and non-disruptively.
Office 365 Small Business Premium, with support for up to a maximum of 25 users, is available now.
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