Cloud computing continues to be the great equalizer for small business by making technology more affordable and accessible than ever before. And with the recent availability of Office 2013 and revamped Office 365 plans, small business owners may want to take another look at the value proposition offered by Microsoft's subscription-based Office 365.
Here are three compelling reasons why an Office 365 subscription may make sense for smaller businesses.
3 Reasons to Choose Office 365
1. Low upfront cost
Small businesses can sign up for an Office 365 plan – that meets their exact requirements -- for a predictable monthly fee. Compare that to setting aside funds to purchase new hardware servers, software licenses and CALs for the requisite server operating system and Exchange Server. This hefty, upfront investment could set back a typical small business by thousands of dollars.
On Microsoft's cloud computing front, Office 365 subscription plans offer a monthly fee that can go as low as $4 per user/month for businesses interested only in hosted email. In addition, small businesses can buy subscription-based access to the desktop version of Office 2013 productivity suite for about $15 per user/month under the Office 365 Midsize Business plan.
2. Multiple licenses
Another big plus that Office 365 plans offer, aside from the low upfront cost, is that small businesses can install the desktop apps on up to five PCs or Macs per user. This is perfect for businesses that embrace BYOD, as it allows employees to install the Office productivity suite on a second laptop or Windows 8 tablet such as the Dell Latitude 10 or Lenovo Tablet 2.
The Office 365 Midsize Business plan, for example, costs $15 per user/month and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Lync and InfoPath. The slightly cheaper Office 365 Small Business Premium offers the same software minus InfoPath.
3. Exchange online
Hosted Exchange used to cost about $20-$25 per user/month when Microsoft first made it available. The mainstream popularity of cloud services today however, has forced traditional software vendors such Microsoft to redesign Exchange for the cloud. The market pressure resulted in a robust Microsoft-hosted Exchange Online service at a highly competitive price: as low as $4.00 per person per month.
Unless your company has compelling legal or compliance concerns, Exchange Online offers a far more appealing cost-of-ownership proposition than an on-site Exchange deployment. Moreover, Exchange Online also includes spam and malware protection, which costs extra if you buy an on-premises solution.
For more information on how Exchange Online and Microsoft Outlook can benefit your small business, be sure to read my article Empowering your SMB with Microsoft Outlook.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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