Microsoft Office 365 Can Benefit Small Businesses, Channel Partners

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

Microsoft launched the cloud-based Office 365 suite, providing opportunities for businesses and channel partners.

With the release of Office 365, Microsoft's newest cloud service that brings together Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online, small businesses have an opportunity to move into the rapidly expanding cloud-computing space with the aim of making collaboration easier and reducing costs. As Microsoft launches its latest media blitz heralding the launch of the service, small-business owners and channel partners can take advantage of the platform to streamline their own business and serve client needs at the same time. 

BlueEdge Consulting, which helps companies move to cloud computing, is adopting Microsoft Office 365 to improve efficiency and is recommending it to customers, explained owner Kevin Miller. Miller said he expects that using Office 365 will save him two hours a day and improve his responsiveness to customers. By selling Office 365, he said he could help customers better protect their data and save money, while boosting his revenue.

"Office 365 provides a single portal for doing everything. Lync Online combines instant messaging and conferencing. SharePoint Online has more capabilities than earlier versions of [the platform]," he said. "With Exchange Online, email archiving is built in. And with some subscription plans, customers get the full Office Professional Plus. The service is everything that my customers wanted."

Exchange Online provides a personal archive that Miller and his customers use to locate older email messages, either in Outlook or Outlook Web App. SharePoint Online, the collaboration component, gives users a central place to store contacts, calendars and documents. Miller said he plans to move all customer-related documents, such as pricing spreadsheets, contracts and referrals, from his computer to SharePoint Online, which he will be able to access from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, the company's Online Service for customer management. Miller notes he also accesses Office 365-based documents on his Windows Phone.

Whereas BlueEdge has been selling Business Productivity Online Standard Suite to an average of one customer a month, Miller said he expects to sell Office 365 to two customers a month. "I'm expecting Office 365 to double my Online Services business," he said. "Migration tools are built right into the service, which will make it easy to get customers running on the service. My customers are just as excited about it as I am."

Another Office 365 user is David Kroenke, who runs a business specializing in writing college-level texts on the use of technology in business, works with a team of editors and designers all over the United States. "Textbook publishing is a complex, detail-oriented process with the potential for a zillion errors to creep in. It's also time-critical," he said. "We can only publish in late December or early January. Our team relies on emails and file servers to share chapters, but everyone knows the problems with that: People don't read their emails, or they don't get an attachment, or you can't identify the latest document version on the server, or you want the version that is two versions before the current one."

Kroenke said Office 365 makes it easier than ever to work with people all over the country. If he wants to show a diagram or document to our team, he uses Lync Online to share it using video conferencing, and employs SharePoint Online to track documents, screenshots, tasks and calendars, as well as send out alerts and keep track of the numerous documents and versions of text that go into creating the books.

"The best part is, I'm no longer working as an unpaid server administrator," he said. "I'm a writer of technology textbooks, which is what I want to be. Eventually, I could figure it out, but I never wanted to apply the latest service pack to Windows Server, or remember to upgrade SQL Server first—or is it the other way around? Somebody does want to do that; let him or her do it for us in a Microsoft data center. And, yeah, I'm saving money on servers and software, too."