Microsoft has received some criticism regarding adoption rates of Office 365 in the international marketplace. However, in the arena of small businesses and SMEs it may well have found its groove.
For years Google Apps has been attracting SMEs to its suite of online offerings including Docs, Spreadsheets and Drive, which may now number at least 5 million online businesses.
Office 365 may be making a dent in Google’s armor, with recent reports by InfoWorld suggesting that more than 90% of Office 365 customers may be small businesses with employees numbering 50 or less.
And, it appears that a large majority of these customers are new, not existing.
“Suites like Office 365 and Google Apps, which are either free or moderately priced on a monthly or annual subscription model, give many small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to have better email and collaboration software than they’ve been able to afford, and because the applications are hosted and managed by vendors, with much less IT maintenance work,” said InfoWorld.
This gives an SME virtually the same infrastructural footprint as a company 5-10 times its size. The transition to Office 365 has not been without risk, however. Many have complained about complicated migration paths or vague directions from Microsoft itself.
The failure to help automate the process did not help the Microsoft Public Relationship efforts, but by all accounts the tech giant would have learned a valuable lesson in its attempt to embrace cloud computing and challenge Google Apps.
This is largely a big reason for the increasing attractiveness of using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services from leading cloud web hosting companies. Consuming these hosted SaaS services frees up employee time while also reducing capital investment and operating costs almost immediately. The infrastructural layer is completely managed, orchestrated and fine-tuned by the hosting provider in a ‘blackbox’ environment allowing a SME to focus on new product implementations and delivery.
Meanwhile, because Office 365 is designed to work in hybrid cloud/on-premise environments and to thus be able to interact with on-premises instances of Outlook, SharePoint, Office, Exchange, Lync, and other Microsoft products it often requires on-premises upgrades to desktop and server-side software, said InfoWorld.
This escalates on-premise complexity overhead, sucking up staff time and resources, which would have been better spent on new product or application development.
On the other hand, cloud infrastructure providers such as Virtual Internet offer dedicated account directors to help plan migrations from legacy IT into a SaaS-based computing model.
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