03/05/2011

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Marcus Leach, Fresh Business Thinking: This is Marcus Leach reporting for Fresh Business Thinking. We are here at Microsoft to speak to Gill Le Fevre about Microsoft Office 365.

Gill Le Fevre, IW Online Services Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft:

The big challenge with being a small business owner is that you have to be an expert in so many things away from the core focus of what your business does. Over the last decade, one of those subject areas that you have to be an expert in is technology. Now there are huge advantages to how technology can help a small business work faster, be more productive and essentially get more done but along with that goes this huge requirement to have expertise that is far away from many small businesses' core reason for being, lots of time and quite a bit of money. What Office 365 does is change that entirely, so a business can have the best technology, the best infrastructure, to help them succeed without needing to make huge investments of time or money.

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is a range of products and services from Microsoft that you'd normally only find in a medium or larger business. In terms of the specific product names we are talking about - Exchange, Sharepoint, Lync and Office Web Apps. What that really translates to is email, calendars, sharing documents, instant messaging and web conferencing and then editing documents over the internet. All of this is provided by Microsoft for £4 per user per month, which when you think about how that translates into what you spend your money on, it's about the price of a sandwich and a drink.

What does Office 365 offer to small businesses?

Using Office 365 streamlines day-to-day business life in so many different ways. Your email is available regardless of which computer you are at. if you have got a laptop and a PC, they can synchronise seamlessly. If you are out and about and you've just got a smartphone with you, you can access your email there. The same with calendars, you can always be kept up to date with yours and colleagues diaries. Document management is a fantastic benefit to small businesses who are often out and about. Any web browser will enable you to then access your documents, open them up and edit them if need be. We have one customer who writes books and he's an independent consultant and he write books for a living. So he's often at different client's sites interviewing, recording people's views and he used to have to carry everything around on a USB stick or a laptop and he was paranoid about losing things. With Office 365, what he's now able to do is simply dial into one central copy of his documents from whichever PC he happens to be at.

How does Office 365 address the challenges that small businesses face?

With small businesses you've typically got fewer people trying to do more, get more done everyday. I think often you see these businesses and the individuals in them being stretched in so many different directions. Office 365 can really help there. First of all with Lync, the web-conferencing software, you no longer need to physically go to as many meetings and be in as many places. You might want to have an introductory meeting with a new client or customer face-to-face but then after that you can resort back to web-conferencing for the quick updates and the shorter meetings as a project or delivery progresses, so you are saving a huge amount of time from that side of things. Then when you are out and about you can be much more flexible and respond to things faster so if something changes in your diary or you get an urgent email, you are able to respond to things much more quickly and to be more agile. All of which gives you much more time to concentrate on what you do best.

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