Office 365: What you should know??

The topic of cloud computing continues to dominate the IT landscape. Cloud computing allows organizations to get fast access to computing resources, without constantly having to invest in new infrastructure, train new personnel or license new software. With the benefits of cloud in mind, many IT and business leaders no longer ask themselves whether to move to the cloud, but rather ‘how’ and ‘when’, and are looking for answers. So, let’s explore Microsoft’s new Cloud offering “Office 365”

What is Office 365??

“Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription service that combines the familiar Microsoft Office Web Apps with a set of web-enabled tools that are easy to learn and use, that work with your existing hardware, and that come backed by the robust security, reliability, and control you need to run your business.”

In simple terms it is set of services hosted online (or as they say today “in the cloud”) and you can subscribe for them based on your needs.

The Microsoft Office 365 service offering combines the familiar Office desktop suite with the latest, cloud-based versions of our next-generation communications and collaboration services: Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online. These services work together seamlessly to provide the best productivity experience on PCs, phones, and browsers*. Office 365 is powered by the same Microsoft email and collaboration products that businesses have been using for decades

What is included in Office 365??

The following are part of Office 365

– Microsoft Office Professional Plus

– Microsoft Exchange Online

– Microsoft SharePoint Online

– Microsoft Lync Online

Why Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365 takes the industry’s most recognized set of productivity and collaboration tools and delivers them as a subscription service. With our cloud services, your organization can lower overall costs and deliver the right set of tools for the right users, all with appropriate layers of security and compliance. Microsoft is a trusted provider—millions of customers use the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services suite today. And, Office 365 includes a financially-backed service level agreement, allowing you to feel confident that you chose the best cloud solution.

Cost savings.

In these difficult economic times, many customers look at online services as a way to shift from the large, ‘lumpy’ capital expenditures associated with upgrading every few years to a more predictable monthly operating expense. In case studies of Microsoft Online Services customers, companies have claimed between 30-50% cost savings.

Focus resources on high value-add projects.

The simplified administration and offloaded operational maintenance of the cloud services enable you to make the most of your IT people resources, to focus on projects that are core to your business and drive competitive differentiation.

Gain greater efficiency in your processes.

More efficient processes can be enabled through the elimination of multiple infrastructure platforms, by moving to one cloud solution. Or being able to execute business processes more effectively by being able to reach all parts of the organization, enabling better collaboration between teams who are distributed throughout the world.

Drive greater value from IT investments with latest technology.

Provide your employees with access to the latest technology making them more productive, and quickly leveraging your IT investments. It not only makes your employees more productive, it maximizes the value you get for your investment. Online services can greatly accelerate this process. And the ability to purchase exactly what you need now and expand later if necessary enables you to ‘right size’ those investments.

How Office 365 works??

The Microsoft Online Subscription Program allows you to quickly subscribe to Office 365, deploy services, and manage your user licenses through a simple online management tool.

Various plans offer different combinations of services and products to meet the needs of your organization.

• Microsoft Office 365 is licensed on a flexible, per-user per-month subscription plan with predictable annual costs and without a contract, enabling you to scale the services when it makes sense.

• Microsoft manages the IT infrastructure and activates the software so that you can very quickly deploy Office 365 services. Only a PC, Internet connection, and browser are required for activation.

There are three versions for Office365;

1. Small Business,

2. Enterprise

3. Education

Small Business Definition: Organizations with 1–25 users (max 50) and virtually no IT department

Enterprise Definition: Organizations with more than 50 users (bigger companies)

The Enterprise edition comes in 4 flavours (E1 – E4), while there’s only 1 Small Business plan (P1).

    

       

Cloud Services: Answering the real world questions

Given the current IT scenario which changes by hour, and where change is the need of the hour we have to deliver more with minimum resources. In other words we need to “DO MORE WITH LESS”; whoa these are not my words :-). These were uttered by Steve Ballmer of Microsoft and just got embedded in my mind. Today everything is being service-oriented and to add to that an economy recovering from a recession has added more fuel in enterprises turning towards Service Offerings. Proliferation of the Internet has given the opportunity to provide real-time access to consumer and business products, software and solutions, without the requirement that an end user personally own the underlying resource. Cloud services are accessed over the Internet via user-friendly web interfaces; they are location independent and do not drill a hole in your pockets 🙂 Why all the hype around cloud computing? Just two words: cheaper & faster. The pay-as-you-go benefits are so compelling that today many have turned towards cloud offerings or are planning towards the same. Given this fact what are the pros & cons, what type of cloud suits me and is the service interoperable with what we use today are some of the intriguing real-world questions which should surface in our minds whilst choosing a cloud offering. I have tried to answer these three questions below i.e.

  1. Security
  2. Public v/s Private
  3. Interoperability

Security is a key area of concern for Cloud Services The key steps to mitigate security concern for cloud services will involve the following

  1. Move non-sensitive data and preferably on a trial basis on the cloud for e.g. Digital content, streaming media, video, music, etc.
  2. Handle the security/encryption at your end instead of leaving it for the service provider
  3. More secure registration process for the cloud to prevent misuse/spamming
  4. Better Auditing and good control should be there on the data hosted on the cloud.
  5. Proper paperwork/agreements need to be put in place in case of highly sensitive data i.e. Terms and Conditions, SLA’s and NOC’s etc
  6. Backup the data regularly at your end instead of relying on the service provider. Though there should be provision of backing up data from the service provider.
  7. Get Information on the infrastructure of the service provider where the data is to be hosted.
  8. Ensure Data Confidentiality and Data isolation for highly sensitive data

Public or Private Cloud: What works best? Public and private clouds both have their own place considering the current economic scenario for that matter. Even if we ignore the financial fact then to lot remains to choose between the private and the public cloud. Both work best for different scenarios. Following are the key differences to make a choice between the two. Public Cloud:

  • For Less sensitive data
  • Low cost
  • Less amount of data to store
  • Store data with Lower Shelf life
  • Less/Compromised security
  • No full control over data or infrastructure
  • No Data Isolation
  • No Maintenance costs

Private Cloud:

  • For sensitive and critical data
  • Costlier than public cloud but can be managed
  • Huge data to store
  • Store data with higher shelf life
  • More secure
  • Total control over data as well as infrastructure
  • Data Isolation
  • Maintenance costs

Interoperability: Cloud Services The basic idea of a cloud platform to be interoperable is to have ability to use various languages, tools to design, develop, debug and deploy applications to the cloud infrastructure standards data access, identity management, deployment packages, ability to seamlessly access services hosted on other clouds (private to public cloud and public cloud to another public cloud) For e.g. Microsoft Azure allows using multiples languages (.NET, PHP, Ruby, Python or Java) and various development tools (Visual Studio or Eclipse) to build applications which run on Windows Azure and/or consume any of the Windows Azure platform offerings from any other cloud or on premise platform. Windows Azure platform also supports multiple Internet protocols including HTTP, XML, SOAP and REST.