04/07/2011

By Adrian Booth, Communications Consultant at AB Communications

I was thinking about how cutting edge it would be to take my business IT into the cloud when I realised that my teenage son who spends hours with his mates on Xbox LIVE, got there way ahead of me.

What he’s doing is not a million miles from what happens when business colleagues get together for online conferencing with a program like Microsoft Office 365, which uses Lync Online to link voice and video over IP via laptops, phones or desktop computers. Admittedly there are fewer car chases and explosions in your average business meeting, but the parallel illustrates how this cloud technology is not something beckoning abstractly from the horizon; engaging with the cloud is rapidly becoming the norm.

I’ve used Hotmail as my personal email for years and now I think about it, my emails have been sitting in the cloud all that time. These days you can share photos and much more on all kinds of social sites too. We’ll all have our own examples, but the fact is we’re in the cloud already.

So I’ve started looking seriously at Office 365, considering the various attributes and the impact they might have on a business.

No doubt about it, remote access to all your documents is very appealing and fitting for a modern business world, where mobile working and efficiency improvements go hand-in-hand. Any business with a team working in the field needs access to company data on the move. It is easy to see that a business able to update orders, contacts, leads and priorities from almost anywhere could leap forward with a system that drives access on mobile devices such as laptops and even phones.When we add the dynamic capabilities of remote interactive working for holding online team get-togethers or conferences with colleagues, partners, suppliers or customers; the system looks increasingly invaluable for generating a culture of common understanding. You can transform any conversation to include high-resolution video, application, and desktop-sharing and be fully present in meetings without making the physical trip.

I guess I hardly need mention that this approach is very suited to a world in which transport costs are in an upward spiral. Effective conferencing capabilities for a scattered team reduce travel costs of course.

Available on a month-by-month basis at a cost from £4 per month, per user, there’s lots of information about Office 365 available online. Take a look at www.microsoft.com/en-gb/office365/online-software to find out more.

Watch the video of Gill Le Fevre, IW Online Services Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, who explains how Office 365 addresses the challenges that small businesses face.

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